Archaeology, Main, z30
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Ancient seal discovered proclaiming Hezekiah king of Israel

Hezekiah's water conduit Photo: Kyle Sorkness/Flickr

Hezekiah’s water conduit Photo: Kyle Sorkness/Flickr

At a December 2, 2015 news conference, archaeologist Dr Eilat Mazar from the Hebrew University announced his team had found a seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah at a site being excavated near the Old City of Jerusalem.

The seal reads: “Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz, king of Judah.”

The Times of Israel reports that the seal was among a number discovered in 2009 in a garbage dump near a building used by royal officials. But it was not translated until recently when archaeologists using a magnifying glass read the wording on the clay bulla imprint discovering its significance.

Hezekiah seal: Photo Dr. Eliat Mazar

Hezekiah seal: Photo Dr. Eilat Mazar

The bulla would have certified the papyrus, probably signed by Hezekiah, was an official document of the Royal office. The seal imprinted in clay even had faint fiber impressions on the reverse side from the papyrus.

Speaking at a news conference Mazar said the seal was:

“The closest as ever that we can get to something that was most likely held by King Hezekiah himself.”

The seal is significant in several ways. First it confirms the Biblical account about Hezekiah. It also shows that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, a point challenged by Muslims and their supporters.

Hezekiah who ruled between 716 BC and 687 BC was considered one of Israel’s Godly kings. When he came to power, Hezekiah purged the heathen idols and high places (2 Kings 18). This was in stark contrast to his father Ahaz who had taken the nation down the road to idolatry.

The writer of Kings says of Hezekiah:

“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that after him there was none like him among the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.”

Curiously, the Hezekiah bulla has some Egyptian symbols on it including a ankh and winged sun. But according to Mazar, by Hezekiah’s day these symbols held no spiritual significance and were considered simple decorations.

Nevertheless, these Egyptian icons and others may have caught King Sennacherib’s attention when he attacked Judah. After surrounding Jerusalem, the Assyrian king’s representatives called for Hezekiah’s surrender.

During their early negotiations, they thought Hezekiah was in an alliance with Egypt:

Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him. (2 Kings 18:21 NASV)

However, after Hezekiah insisted his allegiance was to Jehovah only, Sennacherib’s representatives changed their tactics and talked of other kings who had relied on their gods but were defeated (2 Kings 18:33-34).

After refusing to surrender, Hezekiah called on God for deliverance.

The prophet Isaiah delivered a message to Hezekiah that he would deliver Israel and did so by sending a plague into the Assyrian camp killing thousands, severely weakening the Assyrian army and forcing Sennacherib to withdraw.

Vulnerable, Sennacherib was later assassinated on his return to Assyria.

Hezekiah also showed military savvy. Anticipating an attack by the Assyrians, he constructed a 1,777  foot tunnel (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:3-4) connecting Jerusalem with the Siloam pool ensuring a water supply during any siege.

According to the Chronicle passage, the construction also prevented an invading army from using this water source.  If God used water to spread the plague among the Assyrian troops, this conduit may have played a role as the invaders needed to use a separate water source.

This tunnel discovered in 1838 is today a prominent tourist attraction. An inscription carved on the inner walls suggests there were two teams digging from either end, who after a much trial and error met in the middle.

There have been other seals discovered with Hezekiah’s name on them including one of his father that read: “Belonging to ‘Ahaz’ (son of) Yeotam, King of Judah.” Unfortunately, it is uncertain where these were found limiting their archaeological significance.


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