Rare: Archaeologists unearth biblical King Hezekiah's royal seal

by Michael Foust, Guest Reviewer |
Ouria Tadmor/Eliat Mazar

JERUSALEM (Christian Examiner) – Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered a royal seal from the Old Testament King Hezekiah in what is being called a first-of-its-kind discovery related to any Israel or Judean king.

The tiny clay seal, called a bulla, is about the size of an adult fingertip, measures nearly half an inch across, and bears a script reading in ancient Hebrew: "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah." Accompanying the script is a two-winged sun – which is said to proclaim God's protection – along with two ankhs, symbols of life.

It is but the latest archaeological discovery that affirms the biblical narrative.

The books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah tell the story of Hezekiah, who was one of the "good kings" of Judah and who was the first leader of that southern kingdom immediately after the northern kingdom, Israel, fell to the Assyrians. He was a contemporary of and knew the prophet Isaiah.

The seal was uncovered by archaeologists from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and students and alumni from Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma.

The seal was "most likely held by the king and nobody else," said archaeologist Eilat Mazar of the University of Hebrew. In a special video about the discovery, Mazar called Hezekiah "one of the most important figures in the Bible."

"And now we get to touch him, as close as we can get," she said.

The seal would have been used to seal a document written on a papyrus "rolled and tied with thin cords," a press release from the university states.

Although the Old Testament tells of many so-called "bad kings" of Israel and Judah, the biblical narrative is mostly positive in its description of Hezekiah, who took the kingship about a dozen generations after King David. David ruled over a united kingdom, while Hezekiah reigned over part of the divided kingdom after it was split in half.

Second Chronicles 31:20 says Hezekiah "did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God." Similarly, 2 Kings 18:5 says Hezekiah "trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him."

Hezekiah, who reigned for 29 years, is remembered favorably in part because he destroyed pagan idols and temples, countering the actions of his wicked father King Ahaz. He even destroyed the "bronze serpent that Moses had made" because the people had started worshipping it (2 Kings 18:4).

Hezekiah was king when the Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel and when the Assyrians were threatening Judah. He then prayed, "O Lord our God, save us, please ... that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone" (2 Kings 19:19). In the end, God did spare Judah from the Assyrians.

The university press release said the discovery was 'the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation."