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Small, 2,700-year-old clay seal punches above its weight in Jerusalem


Wailing wall in Jerusalem Credit: Neil Howard/Flickr/Creative Commons

Wailing wall in Jerusalem Credit: Neil Howard/Flickr/Creative Commons

A small artifact has made a huge impact on the history of Jerusalem. While working in an area referred to as the Western Wall Plaza in Old Jerusalem, archaeologists discovered a small clay seal that belonged to a former governor of the city.

The seal, the size of a small coin, is 2,700 years old and depicts two men wearing striped robes facing each other. Its inscription reads “Belonging to the Governor of the City.”

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the seal was either distributed by the governor of Jerusalem as a souvenir or it was included with a shipment of goods.

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah with the small seal Credit: Yoli-Shwartz Israel Antiquities Authority

Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah with the small seal Credit: Yoli-Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

Whatever the case, it establishes that Jerusalem as Israel’s capital well into the First Temple period and reveals a strong administrative center that was already producing what was essentially a souvenir item.

Speaking on behalf of IAA, Dr. Shlomit Wekler-Bdolah director of the dig said:

“This is the first time that such an impression was found in an authorized excavation. It supports the Biblical rendering of the existence of a governor of the city of Jerusalem 2,700 years ago.”

The discovery was made in January 2017 as excavators were screening dust that had collected on the ground during work being done on the walls of an ancient building from the First Temple period.

IAA released information about the find in December 2017, shortly after American President Donald Trump announced he would be moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city.

Israel is the only nation in the world where international embassies are not found in the country’s capital. In an effort to appease the Palestinians, nations set up their embassies in Tel Aviv, 70 kms away.

Since the US made its announcement, several world leaders have announced they will now be moving their embassies to Jerusalem as well.

Jerusalem governors held positions similar to today’s mayors and in ancient times were typically appointed by the king. There are two passages in the Bible that refer to Jerusalem’s governor by name.

The first refers to a governor named Joshua who served during King Hezekiah’s rule. Hezekiah became King of Israel around 716 BC (2,700 years ago):

Then he brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates which were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the city gate. (2 Kings 23:8 NASV)

During the reign of King Josiah (640 BC to 609 BC), there is a reference to Maaseiah, who was part of a team taking responsibility for repairing the temple:

Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah an official of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the Lord his God. (2 Chronicles 34:8 NASV)

Sources:

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