Continuing my studies in Biblical archaeology, I recently read several articles about Dr. Mazar’s (recently deceased) work in the City of David. To make sure we are all on the same page, the City of David is the designation for the city of Jerusalem as it was when David was king – the city he took from the Jebusites by leading a special forces expedition through a narrow tunnel carved to bring water inside the walls. Turned out it could bring soldiers inside the walls too. But only very bold ones willing to emerge from a small passage one at a time. Had they been detected in the tunnel they would all have been doomed. Anyway – David took the city and built his palace and administrative center there. The old city of Jerusalem as it stands now is not a big place. The city of David was tiny by comparison even with the modest area inside the existing walls. David’s son Solomon enlarged the city by adding the temple mount. But all that is long gone – a couple of major destructions ago. The original city of David was lost to time, buried under various and increasingly larger reconstructions of Jerusalem. Until some enterprising entrepreneur tried to get a permit to build a parking lot convenient to the modern old city. The original City of David was uncovered immediately. As you may guess, the parking lot was never built. But David’s city has emerged – And – with enlargements and improvements – was apparently in use all the way up to the Babylonian destruction. I will list only one of the many interesting things that have been found – a set of Bullae. A Bulla is a seal placed on a closed bag or sealed jar. The soft clay of the Bulla is stamped with a signet identifying the owner of the contents – and allowed to harden in place. Lots of Bullae have been found in the city of David – which makes sense for an administrative center. But the two most important ones were found only a few feet apart. The first – and remarkably whole and detailed – Bulla, with graphics and letters, identifies the owner as King Hezekiah. This is important as it identifies a Biblical king thus substantiating the record of the Bible. In fact, it’s a twofer as it identifies ‘Hezekiah the son of Ahaz’! The second Bulla – found only a few feet away – is flawed in two ways. 1. The top, where the graphic probably appeared, is broken off. 2. Whoever held the clay to impress the seal on it left a big thumb print on the lower left, obscuring the last letter (Hebrew is written right to left). The Hebrew word for prophet(s) is Navi(m). In Hebrew the word should end with an Aleph – indicating a sound much like clearing your throat. Assuming the Aleph was there, it has been obscured by the thumb print. So, forgetting Hebrew for just a moment and pretending the whole thing was in English, it would read – This belongs to Isaiah the Prophe(thumbprint).
Well, Ok. Hezekiah and Isaiah are mentioned in the same breath dozens of times in the Biblical record. Isaiah was the prophet who ministered to King Hezekiah. Isaiah was different from most of the prophets in that he was part of a noble household – the kind of family that would be expected to have a place in the administrative center surrounding the palace and a seal to identify their property. The two Bullae were only a few feet apart. You may be surprised to find that skeptics refuse to accept the Bulla as corroboration of the Biblical record of a specific prophet ministering to a specific king. After all, that last letter is missing. It could say anything. Maybe it says – Isaiah the Prophessor. Isaiah the Propheteer. Something. There are none blind as those who will not see.
Final thought: beyond the corroboration of the Biblical record – we just may have the thumb print of the prophet Isaiah! Bully! I mean Bullae!
First – my apologies for neglecting to put up any blog posts for a good while. Sometimes my life is crazy – well, my life is always crazy but sometimes it’s crazier than others. It’s the only excuse I have so it will have to do. Anyway – I did a thing this fall I have never done before. I put weed and feed on my lawn. I am not a big lawn care guy and have never vied for any prizes for any lawn related endeavors. But our lawn was getting so ugly it bothered even me! So I set out to repair it. I have already made two applications in August and September and tomorrow (Lord willing) will make the final Fall application – with Winter Guard! The ’feed’ component of the treatment made itself known right away. The grass started getting thicker and grew faster. I could have lived without it growing faster. But walking around looking at the lawn for the first week after the first application was an exercise in disappointment. The bag claimed the ‘weed’ component of the treatment killed 250 common lawn weeds. I began to wonder if I must have really uncommon lawn weeds – though I knew this not to be the case: crab grass, purselane, dandelions, buckhorn, lawn ivy, scorpion grass, creeping Charlie, wood sorrel, white clover, thistle - the usual list of suspects were all poking their heads up through the grass of my lawn – and showing no signs of duress. Then, in the second week the lawn ivy just curled up and died – little veins of brown running deep down through the grass, showing itself plainer where it crossed a (still healthy looking) dandelion or buckhorn that had spread out and choked the grass. Well, I thought, that’s something; 1 down, 249 to go! By the time I made the September application the dandelions and buckhorn were getting a little brown around the edges. By a few days after the second application, they were dying wholesale. The scorpion grass followed suit in a few more days. The crab grass generally specializes in the edges of a lawn. By then I had a nice tannish brown border going. Even the thistles were starting to look a little sickly. There remain two prominent holdouts: Creeping Charlie and Wood Sorrel. Hmmm, tough guys huh. But in the last little bit even they have begun to yellow up in a few patches here and there and the final application is still to come. Oddly – or maybe not – the whole exercise put me in mind of Satan and the church – not just IRCC – the whole church. Satan introduces slow poison and is patient enough to wait for it to do its work. Fast catastrophic poisons would get out attention and motivate us to action. But the slow poison is different and after all, only the weakest and least noticeable may be affected first. The stronger individuals and aspects maintain the appearance of health and vitality for quite a while even as the poison is at work. Near the end, perhaps there is still a nice bunchy wood sorrel showing off its attractive yellow blossoms – which doesn’t mean it hasn’t been poisoned and won’t be dead soon. I realize that for the purposes of this post I have flipped the value scale of the weeds I myself am trying to kill. But I remember learning long ago that the real definition of a weed is any plant you don’t want in a particular location. I grew up on a farm and even though you grew corn in one field just a year ago – this year’s volunteer corn is still a weed in the soybeans you are growing now! As a gardener, smart weed is my single most hated weed species. But people trying to create ideal duck and goose habitat actually plant the stuff! My point is, looking at the church as a field, Satan and God disagree about which plants are desirable and which need eradicated. But in the end, God makes the church live and Satan kills it. And, at the end of the day, slow poison has probably served Satan well. Be on guard – and don’t be deceived by the fact that it may take several generations to complete the job – the church will still be dead in the end. Turn away from the poison and to the God who deals in life!
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Pastor of Indian Run Christian Church