Hezekiah's Seal Impression - A Small Dot That Revealed A Monarchy | עיר דוד

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Hezekiah's Royal Seal Impression - A Small Dot That Revealed A Monarchy

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Hezekiah's royal seal impression was discovered in 2009, but only recently revealed to the public. Here's the reason why.

 
There is always a first time for everything. This time it came in the form of a tiny little bulla (seal impression) the size of one’s fingertip, bearing the name of a king of Judah. Read it again, you might have missed it. The excavators surely did. Which might explain why something dug up in excavations conducted in 2009 is only now coming to light.
 
 “This is the first time that a seal impression of an Israelite or Judean king has ever come to light in a scientific archaeological excavation,” said Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is directing the excavations on behalf of the Hebrew University.
 
Small Bulla. Big Plot 
The journey of this little bulla is reminiscent of the plot of an award winning film. The hero of the story is an artifact that not only proves the existence of one of the greatest and morally strong kings of Judah, but also confirms the existence of a Jewish presence and monarchy. 
 
The story goes like this. Once upon a time the royal seal impression of the King of Judah, having served its purpose sealing a highly important governmental document, was chucked out of the window of the Royal Quarters at the Ophel.  It landed in the Royal Dumpster, joining a bunch of other redundant bullae (seal impressions) or so the speculation goes, according to Dr. Eilat Mazar.
 
Fast forward almost 3,000 years, monarchies come and go, wars ensue and little by little, debris covers a long lost ancient city.  The wheels of time turn and after almost 2,000 years of exile, the Jewish people return to their ancestral ground. The return isn’t a bed of roses and claims to the “homeland” are resisted from its inception. Skeptics are not easily pacified and proof of an ancient Jewish presence  needs to be more tangible than a few precious quotes from the Bible. But the Jewish people are not easily deterred and with the revival of the land comes digging literally for its ancestral roots.
 
And so one day the ground stirs above the Ophel. Official excavations started in 2009. Finally it reached the little bulla’s burial place. The insignificant-looking bulla gets scanned through with all the others, but due to the fact that it doesn’t read that easy at first glance, the little bulla gets shelved. Ever felt that the protagonist of the story keeps on being misunderstood? We’re following our plot formula to the “T”.
 
Reut Ben Aryeh, archaeologist and epigraphist, working alongside Dr. Eilat Mazar, explained that during the initial reading of the bulla, it got misinterpreted as “L’Hezkiyah Malkiyah” – nothing exciting per se, probably just another governmental official. There were other letters that were difficult to decipher, and the precious bulla was put on the shelf to be revisited at a more opportune time. 
 
A Small Unnoticed Dot Reveals a Monarchy 
Then one day, "b’et ratzon",  in a favorable time, as we say in Hebrew, Reut Ben Aryeh, systematically reviewing  all the bullae, took another look at the tiny bulla. This time she finds a small miniscule dot that she happened to miss the first time. A glimpse of hope flickers as the odds might finally turn in the bulla’s favor. The dot appears in the middle of the word that reads “Malkiyahu”, forming quite a significant space between the first and last part of the word. Suddenly it takes on a completely different meaning, from probably just being another government official’s surname to actually reading “King of Judah”.  A significant game changer. 
 
Now the bulla reads “Hezekiah”, followed by two letters whose meaning is still unknown, followed by “King of Judah”. The famous King Hezekiah who dug a 150m tunnel into the bedrock just 200 meters south from where the bulla was unearthed, rerouting Ancient Jerusalem’s precious water supply in an incredible attempt to withstand Sennacherib, King of Assyria’s anticipated siege. If you don’t know the story, spoiler alert: Hezekiah, by the help of Divine intervention succeeds and Jerusalem is saved.  The tunnel, as with many other exciting excavations in the City of David, is enjoyed today daily by hundreds of tourists, who walk through those very same waters that lead to the Shiloah Pool. 
 
Once In A Lifetime
The meaning of the other two undeciphered  letters now fell easily and logically into place.  It read: “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz King of Judah”.  And what was once considered trash now becomes a national treasure.
 
Mazar almost gets teary-eyed when she explains this to the press. “This is the private seal of the King, that was most likely held by the King … and we found it…in the Royal Quarter. That means that we are getting as close as possible, tangible as ever to King Hezekiah himself… now we get to touch him.”
 

The little bulla's importance was highlighted when President Ruvin Rivlin made a personal visit to the City of David to view the significant artifact himself. With abundant excitement he shared: “The City of David is the City of David! My family would not have returned to Jerusalem in 5570 if we hadn’t been exiled from this city, and we wouldn’t have been exiled from this city if King David, 3010 years ago wouldn’t have come here and established Jerusalem as the capital, as a place where no tribe rules, except for the royal kingdom.

To come here and witness the historical connection going back generations, of thousands of years of our nation being here, where we have merited not only to see Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish nation under King David’s rule, but in those days, in this time. This certainly fills our hearts with wonder and tells the whole world, “You were right when you identified not only the moral obligation, but the historical obligation to enable the Jewish nation to build its home in the Land of Israel, and while you were doubting whether Jerusalem is our capital or not, you see the King with his seal- affixing history’s seal on the questions you asked.”
 

*Photo of Hezekiah's Seal Impression courtesy of Eilat Mazar. Photographer: Ouria Tadmor

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Lors de notre visite à la Cité de David, nous avons eu l’impression de retourner 3000 ans en arrière
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