A Seal Impression of Isaiah the Prophet


To commemorate the retirement of Hershel Shanks from the Biblical Archaeology Society which he founded in 1975, Eilat Mazar published an article in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review about a bulla (seal impression) that was found in the Ophel area. The title of the article is “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” The seal was discovered back in 2009, but only came to light after cleaning by wet-sifting.

This is the seal with the Isaiah inscription. Clicking on the image shows a video explaining the importance of this find. Credit: Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar.

As expected, this find has been widely published here, here, here and in many other places. Here is an excerpt from the latter report:

The clay impression is inscribed with letters and what appears to be a grazing doe, “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem,” according to the BAR article.

The oval-shaped bulla, however, is not intact. On its legible portion, there is an inscription with First Temple Hebrew letters that seem to spell out the name l’Yesha’yah[u] (Belonging to Isaiah). On a line below, there is the partial word nvy, which presumably spells out “prophet.”

“Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at end of the word nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, which would have resulted in the Hebrew word for ‘prophet’ and would have definitively identified the seal as the signature of the prophet Isaiah,” Mazar said.


Drawing by Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie of the Isaiah Bulla, a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression which potentially belonged to the biblical prophet Isaiah. (Illustration: Reut Livyatan Ben-Arie/© Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor/© Eilat Mazar)

The above drawing by Reut shows that there is space on the bottom register for the missing aleph. Reut is well known to us from the Shiloh Excavations directed by Scott Stripling.

Although the identification is not 100% watertight, it is unlikely to have belonged to anybody but the Prophet Isaiah who supported King Hezekiah through difficult times.

The seal was found in trash that had been dumped outside the city wall of the time. The seal of King Hezekiah on which we commented in a previous post was found nearby.

During the reign of King Hezekiah, many refugees from the Assyrian invasion of the northern tribes came to Jerusalem for protection. As the city on the Eastern Hill was too small to accommodate the new comers, they settled on the Western Hill. Eventually, King Hezekiah built a new city wall around this hill to protect it from invasion.                                                                            The arrow points to the location where the seal was found, not far from the Temple Mount.


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