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!
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church