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Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?

Evidence of the prophet Isaiah?

耶路撒冷发现千年印章猜测为圣经先知「以赛亚」签名

(作者: Eilat Mazar,The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

(取自:Biblical Archaeology Review 44:2, March/April May/June 2018)

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2018年03月05日 报道

希伯来大学考古学家埃拉特·马扎尔(Eilat Mazar)表示,耶路撒冷圣殿山(Temple Mount)附近第一圣殿(First Temple)遗迹出土的粘土印鉴也许由先知以赛亚(Isaiah)在公元前8世纪亲手制作。

本周,马扎尔在一次新闻发布会上宣布了这一惊人的发现。他表示:“我们在一次考古挖掘中发现了一块印鉴,它可能属于先知以赛亚。”

马扎尔的团队在耶路撒冷圣殿山南墙脚下的俄菲勒(Ophel)的挖掘工作中发现了一块印鉴。今年第二季度的《考古圣经评论》(Biblical Archaeology Review)期刊中发表了一篇名为《这是先知以赛亚的签名吗?》的文章,该文章提出了这一可能性。

该篇文章写道,印鉴上刻有字母,看起来像一只吃草的母鹿,该图案是“犹大王国象征祝福和保护的图案,尤其是在耶路撒冷地区”。

然而,这块椭圆形的印鉴并不完整。在其清晰的部分,第一圣殿时期的希伯来字母似乎可以拼出姓名l’Yesha’yah[u](属于以赛亚)。下面一行刻有部分单词“nvy”,大概指的是“先知”。

马扎尔说:“因为印鉴在nvy词语结尾部分略微受损,所以我们不知道这个词是否以希伯来字母aleph结尾。如果是的话,这个词就是希伯来语的‘先知’,那这块印鉴就确实属于先知以赛亚。”

在文章中,马扎尔提到另一种可能性,即以赛亚的印鉴铭文与圣经先知无关。她表示:“如果nvy这个词不是以aleph结尾,那它可能只是个人名。虽然它未出现在圣经上,但它的确出现在印鉴上,并在一个罐子把手上留下印记,所有这些都来自未经证明的私人收藏”。

她说:“但是,以赛亚的名字很清晰。”


先知与希西家王之间千年历史的联系


学者认为,著名的圣经人物先知以赛亚活跃于公元前八世纪末至公元前七世纪初。

以赛亚印鉴发现于靠近一位英雄墓室基坑基岩的铁器时代层的湿筛材料中。1986-1987年,这些材料出现于首次发现的结构附近。目前,据推测该地曾是一个“皇家面包房”。

耶路撒冷圣殿山南墙脚下的俄菲勒挖掘现场。(图片来源:Andrew Shiva)

2015年,马扎尔的团队发现了一块完整的重要印鉴,上面刻有“犹大希西家王”的字样。以赛亚印鉴的发现地点距该印鉴发现地点仅三米。希西家王在位时间约从公元前727年持续到公元前721年,他是犹大王国的第12位国王。公元前721年,以色列北部落入亚述人手中。约二十年后,希西家王利用良好的防御工事成功击退了亚述人对耶路撒冷的围攻,其中包括一条如今仍可看到的管道。

2015年发现希西家王印鉴时,马扎尔称其为“迄今发现最可能属于希西家王的物品”。

本周,马扎尔在新闻发布会上表示,以赛亚和希西家王的印鉴在如此接近的地方出土是在常理之中的。

马扎尔说:“如果这块印鉴属于以赛亚,那它在刻有希西家王印鉴发现地点不远处出土也不奇怪。以赛亚和希西家王的关系在《圣经》里有详细的描写。”

《圣经》中的几个事例表明以赛亚是希西家王的精神导师。以赛亚安慰希西家王以色利人可以在围困下生存下去。马扎尔在《考古圣经评论》(看下面全文)的文章中写道:“以赛亚的名字在《圣经》中共出现39次,其中14次都是和希西家王的名字一同出现的。没有任何人比希西家王更接近先知以赛亚。”

希西家王和以赛亚的印鉴现和此前挖掘工作发现的其他陈列在一起。2005年至2008年,大卫城山顶挖掘出了一座大型建筑的结构。据推测,该结构为圣经人物大卫王的宫殿,马扎尔发现了一块印鉴,上面用第一圣殿所在时期的希伯来语刻有圣经人物耶利米(Jeremiah)记载的以色列高级官员名字的铭文,刻字为“犹甲(Jehucal),示利米雅(Shelemiah)之子,Shovi之子”。数年后,距犹甲印鉴几米处又出土了一块属于第二高级官员的印鉴,刻字为“基大利(Gedaliah),Pashur之子”。耶利米也有记载该印鉴。之后,数十块印鉴陆续出土。

最近,马扎尔重新开放了俄菲勒挖掘点。目前,她正工作于自2013年便开始挖掘的 House of the Medallion。此外,她还在挖掘一处第二圣殿时期的罕见而没有人迹的洞穴。

这一发现并没有受到同行的肯定,一些人也反对马扎尔的假设,称nvy后面缺少aleph的字样使该假设缺乏依据。

闪米特语教授克里斯托弗·罗勒斯通(Christopher Rollston)在接受《国家地理》采访时说:“确定第二个单词为‘先知’的关键就是字母aleph。但这块印鉴上并不能识别出aleph,所以完全不能确认上面的铭文。这块印鉴属于先知以赛亚的假设是十分吸引人,但我们尚不能肯定这样的假设”。

以色列碑铭研究员、希伯来大学讲师哈该·米斯该夫(Haggai Misgav)博士在脸书上表达他对该假设的怀疑。肯定了罗勒斯通对“aleph” 缺失的怀疑,他写道,印鉴应该与一堆先知以赛亚的文物一同出现,单此一件很可能是因为它并不属于以赛亚。他说道:“但如往常一样,总有许多人急着欢呼‘我们证明了《圣经》’。”

尽管马扎尔也承认缺失的aleph可能会导致不同的结果,但她表示该发现依然十分重要。

马扎尔在文章中写道,“不管在俄菲勒挖掘现场发现的是不是先知以赛亚的印鉴,这都是一次独特而神奇的发现。”

她补充:“这块印鉴的出土有助于研究以赛亚的性格,以及他作为最亲密的导师与希西家王的关系。这不仅有助于了解他所处的时代,亦可以帮助(我们)从一个知情的角度评估和预测他们对未来的影响。”

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ISAIAH’S SIGNATURE.
 Uncovered in the Ophel excavations, this seal impression (bulla) may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah. At the top of the bulla are the remains of a grazing doe, a symbol of blessing. The name Isaiah appears in the middle register, and the letters nvy appear in the lower register. Adding an aleph to the damaged left end of the lower register would complete the word to nvy(’), which means prophet in Hebrew.
 

King Hezekiah is one of the most important kings in the history of Israel. While scholars debate the historicity and literary embellishment of the reigns of David and Solomon, the reign of Hezekiah witnessed the defining event that engendered the tradition of Jerusalem as the inviolable city of God — an event corroborated by the extra - Biblical account inscribed on the Sennacherib Prisms. Despite the conflicting details, Sennacherib’s inability to destroy Jerusalem confirmed both Hezekiah and Jerusalem as God’s chosen. And it was the prophet Isaiah ’s participation in the episode, and Hezekiah’s trust in his counsel, that is credited with the salvation of Jerusalem from the Assyrian menace.

When King Hezekiah was crowned king of Judah, in 727 B.C.E., he maintained the policy of his father, Aḥaz, who had asked the Assyrian king to come and save him from Peqaḥ ben Remaliyahu, king of Israel, and Reẓin, king of Aram - Damascus. These two kings had attacked Judah in concert and besieged Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 15:36–37). Hezekiah stayed loyal to the Assyrian king Sargon II (727–705 B.C.E.), who ruled during most of Hezekiah’s reign, while the surrounding kingdoms of Israel, Ḥamat, and those of the Philistines—one after the other — rebelled, were defeated, and became Assyrian vassals. It was only after Sargon II’s death, in 705 B.C.E., that Hezekiah rebelled fully against Assyria. Yet according to the Assyrian annals, in 712 B.C.E. Hezekiah also had been involved in a rebellion — led by the Philistine city of Ashdod — against Sargon II, which resulted in the conquest of Ashdod and its transformation into an Assyrian vassal. However, only a heavy tax payment was seemingly imposed on Hezekiah, who probably paid on time, thus saving himself and his kingdom from a similar fate. Subsequently, Hezekiah led regional preparations for a rebellion against Assyria, which eventually broke out after Sargon II’s death.

During most of his reign, Hezekiah’s policy of avoiding confrontation with Sargon II — and the relative freedom he experienced by not becoming an Assyrian vassal — enabled him to focus on Judah’s internal affairs. Under his rule, Judah became a center for all the people of Israel, including the inhabitants of the former Kingdom of Israel, and the Temple in Jerusalem played a major role as the holiest place for all. Hezekiah is described in 2 Kings as the greatest king, second to King David, “his father”: “There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him” (2 Kings 18:5).

In Hezekiah’s time, two palaces had been already functioning in Jerusalem for more than 200 years: King David’s Palace in the City of David (注1 “The site of the Ophel is part of the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park under the auspices of the Nature and Parks Authority. The renewed Ophel excavations from 2009 to 2013 were directed by Eilat Mazar on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and funded by the generous donations made by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York. ”), used as the Lower House of the King (Nehemiah 12:37), and King Solomon’s Palace in the Ophel, used as the Upper House of the King (Nehemiah 3:25). The Upper House of the King was built in the open area of the Ophel — to the south of the Temple Mount and about 820 feet north of the fortified City of David.1 These palaces served as comprehensive complexes and were used both as the residence of the king and his family and for the multiple activities related to the king and the kingdom. The Temple and the new palace complex in the Ophel were surrounded by a massive city wall during King Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 3:1).(注2 “Eilat Mazar, Discovering the Solomonic Wall in Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, 2011); Eilat Mazar, “The Solomonic (Early Iron Age IIA) Royal Quarter of the Ophel,” in Eilat Mazar, ed., The Ophel Excavations to the South of the Temple Mount 20092013 (Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, 2015), pp. 459–474. ”)

Both palace complexes probably underwent multiple changes and renovations since their construction, but a significant, reinforcing enterprise, undertaken by King Hezekiah in the Lower House of the King, also known as the House of Millo (2 Kings 12:20 [v. 21 in Hebrew]; 2 Chronicles 24:25),(注3 “Eilat Mazar, The Palace of King David. Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005–2007 (Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, 2009), p. 67. ”) was particularly worth mentioning in the Bible, due to its sophisticated and extensive nature (2 Chronicles 32:5).(注4 “Eilat Mazar, “The Stepped Stone Structure,” in Eilat Mazar, ed., The Summit of the City of David Excavations 2005–2008 (Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, 2015), pp. 169–188.”)Under Hezekiah’s orders, this complex functioned as a palace-fortress, reinforced as part of his defensive preparations against the imminent Assyrian attack (2 Chronicles 32:5).

Structures built by King Solomon (1 Kings 3:1) were found beautifully preserved in an area about 328 feet long and 33–82 feet wide in the northeastern outskirts of the Ophel. These structures consist mainly of a segment of the fortification wall with the city gate and its large tower, and parts of royal buildings that were integrated within the fortification line. Due to the steep slanting of the bedrock in this area facing the Kidron Valley, the fortification wall and its integrated buildings were built on particularly massive foundations set straight on bedrock. These structures were preserved to a height of 13–16 feet, uncovered at only 3–7 feet beneath the present surface level.


THE OPHEL.
Looking northwest, this photograph identifies the location of the Ophel site immediately south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The arrow points to Area A2009, where King Hezekiah’s and Isaiah’s bullae were found.

One of these buildings, adjacent to the city gate on the northeast, was discovered during the 1986–1987 excavations.(注5 “Eilat Mazar and Benjamin Mazar, Excavations in the South of the Temple Mount, the Ophel of Biblical Jerusalem, Qedem 29 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1989), pp. 29–48; Mazar, Discovering the Solomonic Wall, pp. 53–100. ”) The building’s ground floor, preserved to a height of about 13 feet, was last used by the royal bakers up to its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. The sophisticated administration of the royal bakery required a high official in charge and a well - organized supply system of high - quality food products, such as flour, oil, and sweetening agents like bee - honey, date - honey, fig - honey, and fresh and dry fruits. It also required a well - organized storage place and baking spaces. Within the ground floor of this building, which we named the Royal Building or the Building of the Royal Bakers, were found some large jars (pithoi). On the shoulder of one of these jars, an inscription in ancient Hebrew indicates that it belonged to the high official in charge of the bakery (the end of the word “bakery” is missing, but its reconstruction in this manner is quite certain). On another large jar, which most likely contained date-honey, a palm tree design was incised. It is evident that the building was used by the royal bakers at the end of the First Temple period, and it may have had the same use in Hezekiah’s time.

Some idea of the building’s function during Hezekiah’s reign is provided by the many finds revealed during the 2009 excavations at the foot of its outer, southeastern wall.(注6 “The excavations in Area A2009 were supervised by Hagai Cohen-Klonymus. The contents of especially significant loci were sent to the wet-sifting facility in Emek Ẓurim, directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Dvira under the auspices of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation. ”) There, only two small, undisturbed areas remained (each about 3 by 3 ft and 3 ft high) — remnants of the piled debris accumulated outside the building — since Herodian and Byzantine constructions destroyed the rest. This debris yielded fragments of pottery vessels, ivory inlays, zoomorphic four-legged figurines, and two kinds of anthropomorphic figurines—one with pinched face and the other a female with a prominent bosom of clear fertility significance. The assemblage also included four - winged and two - winged lmlk seal impressions on jar handles and 34 seal impressions stamped on a soft piece of clay (bullae). Most of the bullae bore Hebrew names, but some were free - standing bullae used as receipts.(注7 “in the second volume of the renewed Ophel excavations series. ”)


THE TOWER, BAKERY, AND WALL.
Archaeologist Eilat Mazar stands in Area A2009 of the Ophel excavations. This area contains the Iron Age walls of the Small Tower (left), the Building of the Royal Bakery (center), and the Straight Wall (right) — all part of the city wall in King Hezekiah’s time.

Each of the Hebrew bullae, measuring about 0.4 inches in diameter, had been stamped with a seal bearing the name of its owner. These were created by first placing soft clay on a tied ligature and linen sack or papyrus, whose negative impressions are clearly seen on the bulla’s reverse side, and then pressing the seal against the clay. Among the bullae found in the debris, only five show papyrus negative impressions on their reverse side. One of these is the bulla impressed with the personal seal of King Hezekiah.(注8 “Eilat Mazar, “A Seal Impression of King Hezekiah from the Ophel Excavations,” in Mazar, ed., Ophel Excavations, pp. 629–640.”)

Seven of the bullae found in the debris, all with coarsely woven linen negative impressions on the reverse, appear to have belonged to the relatives of an important individual named Bes, a name of an unclear meaning neither found in the epigraphic material of the period nor known from the Bible.

Three of these bullae belonged to one of Bes’s grandsons named “Yerahmiel son of Nahum son of Bes” and one to a second grandson named “Ahimelekh son of Pel[?] son of Bes.” The names on the other three bullae, although clearly belonging to sons and grandsons of Bes, could not be identified. That all the bullae of the Bes family mention three instead of the usual two generations, emphasizes the status of Bes as the head of the family, most likely well known in the manufacture of the products held within these coarse linen sacks — or in the administration associated with it. Although only five names of the Bes family were deciphered, including the name Bes itself, none contains elements of the divine name Yahweh, pointing, perhaps, to the non - Judahite origin of the family.


OUTSIDE THE ROYAL BAKERY
two small patches of undisturbed debris from the Iron Age were excavated in 2009. In Patch A, undisturbed layers were found adjacent to the outer wall of the Building of the Royal Bakers and the Straight Wall, both of which date to the Solomonic construction period at the Ophel.

Alongside the bullae of Hezekiah and the Bes family, 22 additional bullae with Hebrew names were found. Among these is the bulla of “Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?].” The obvious initial translation, as surprising as it might seem, suggests that this belonged to the prophet Isaiah.9 “I would like to thank Professor Shmuel Ahituv and Dr. Haggai Misgav, profound and erudite epigraphists with whom I consulted and shared my thoughts.”) Naturally, this bulla is far more intriguing than all the others found adjacent to Hezekiah’s bulla.

All the undisturbed Iron Age layers excavated in this area were wet - sifted, a process through which earth debris is washed with water. The use of this technique resulted in the rescue of hundreds of small finds which otherwise would not have come to light, including all the bullae from the area.


OUTSIDE THE ROYAL BAKERY
 two small patches of undisturbed debris from the Iron Age were excavated in 2009. The undisturbed lower layers of accumulated debris from Patch B were found at the foot of the Small Tower’s outer wall; this debris had been thrown from the Building of the Royal Bakers during the Iron Age.

Also wet-sifted was the material from the lowest half - meter, down to bedrock, of the same Iron Age layers, where a foundation trench(注10 “Locus 09-96 in Area A2009; adjacent to the southern end of Patch A.”) was cut for a wall of a Herodian vault. This material, coming from the northwestern end of the foundation trench,10 included the bulla of Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?]. It was located only 6.5 feet southeast from the wall of the Building of the Royal Bakers, while the bulla of King Hezekiah was found about 13.1 feet southeast from the same wall; thus, less than 10 feet separated the bulla of Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?] and the bulla of King Hezekiah.

The seal impression of Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?] is divided into three registers. The upper end of the bulla is missing, and its lower left end is slightly damaged. The surviving portion of the top register shows the lower part of a grazing doe, a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem, present also on another bulla from the same area.(注11 “In Area A2009. See Tallay Ornan, “The Beloved Neehevet, and Other Does: Reflections on the Motif of Grazing or Browsing Wild Horned Animals,” in Israel Finkelstein, Christian Robin, and Thomas Römer, eds., Alphabets, Texts and Artifacts in the Ancient Near East: Studies Presented to Benjamin Sass (Paris: Van Dieren, 2016), pp. 279–302.”) The middle register reads “leyesha‘yah[u]” (Hebrew: ; [belonging] “to Isaiah”), where the damaged left end most likely included the letter vav (w; Hebrew: ). The lower register reads “nvy” (Hebrew: ), centered. The damaged left end of this register may have been left empty, as on the right, with no additional letters, but it also may have had an additional letter, such as an aleph (’ ; Hebrew: ), which would render the word nvy’ (Hebrew: ), “prophet” in Hebrew. The addition of the letter aleph (’) creates the occupation name (like Baker, Smith, or Priest) for “prophet,” nvy’ in plene spelling. The defective spelling of the same word, nv’ (without the vowel yod), is present on an ostracon from the Judahite site of Lachish.(注12 “Harry Torczyner et al., Lachish I: The Lachish Letters (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1938), pp. 50–51.”) Whether or not the aleph was added at the end of the lower register is speculative, as meticulous examinations of that damaged part of the bulla could not identify any remnants of additional letters.

Finding a seal impression of the prophet Isaiah next to that of King Hezekiah should not be unexpected. It would not be the first time that seal impressions of two Biblical personas, mentioned in the same verse in the Bible, were found in an archaeological context. In our City of David excavations (2005–2008), the seal impressions of Yehukhal ben Shelemiyahu ben Shovi and Gedaliyahu ben Pashhur, high officials in King Zedekiah’s court (Jeremiah 38:1), were found only a few feet apart.(注13 “Eilat Mazar, The Palace of King David, pp. 66–71.”) Furthermore, according to the Bible, the names of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned in one breath 14 of the 29 times the name of Isaiah is recalled (2 Kings 19–20; Isaiah 37–39). No other figure was closer to King Hezekiah than the prophet Isaiah.


ANTIQUE RECEIPT.
This bulla bears the name Aḥiḥur and has a winged uraeus symbol at its top. Freestanding bullae like this were used as receipts, not to seal parcels or documents.

Could it therefore be possible that here, in an archaeological assemblage found within a royal context dated to the time of King Hezekiah, right next to the king’s seal impression, another seal impression was found that reads “Yesha‘yahu Navy’ ” and belonged to the prophet Isaiah? Is it alternatively possible for this seal NOT to belong to the prophet Isaiah, but instead to one of the king’s officials named Isaiah with the surname Nvy?

With that said, when considering the identification of this seal impression as that of the prophet Isaiah, some major obstacles arise.

Without an aleph at the end, the word nvy is most likely just a personal name. Although it does not appear in the Bible, it does appear on seals and a seal impression on a jar handle, all from unprovenanced, private collections.(注14 “Nahman Avigad, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1997), nos. 227, 379, 693; Robert Deutsch, Biblical Period Hebrew Bullae: The Josef Chaim Kaufman Collection, vol. 2 (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 2011), no. 434.
”) It also appears as bn nvy (“son of nvy”), most likely a name, on two bullae from the end of the First Temple period (early seventh century B.C.E.) stamped with the same seal, both found together in a juglet from Lachish.(注15 “In Lachish Stratum II. See Yohanan Aharoni et al., Lachish V: Investigations at Lachish. The Sanctuary and the Residency (Tel Aviv: Gateway, 1975), pp. 19–22, nos. 6–7.”)

The standard layout of names on bullae is composed of the owner’s name and his father’s name, with or without the additional word bn (“son of”) before the father’s name. Due to lack of space on the small bullae, the word bn (“son of”) was often omitted. Thus, the absence of the Hebrew word for “son of” before the word nvy, like in our bulla, is not uncommon — if indeed Nvy was his father’s name. However, a lack of space was apparently not the case in our bulla, since the letters in both registers were written spaciously, and no attempt was made to find space for the two letters bn.



KING HEZEKIAH’S SEAL IMPRESSION (bulla) mentions his name and the name of his father, Aḥaz, in the upper register, as well as Hezekiah’s title as king of Judah in the lower register. The symbol of the two-winged sun disk flanked on both sides by an ankh extends over the full length of the bulla’s central part. On the back of the bulla is seen the imprint of the papyrus on which the bulla was impressed.

Avigad suggested that the name nvy is derived from the toponym Nov (Hebrew: ), a known town of priests (see 1 Samuel 21:1; 1 Samuel 22:11, 19; Nehemiah 11:32; Isaiah 10:32).(注16 “Nahman Avigad, “New Names on Hebrew Seals,” Eretz Israel 12 (1975), p. 71.”) If our inscription indeed records a toponym derived from the site of Nov, it would still be missing the definite article (“h -” or “ha -” in Hebrew), as seen in the Bible when a toponym is added to a name, such as in “Ahiya Hashiloni” (Ahiya the Shilohite), or “Ahitophel Hagiloni” (Ahitophel the Gilohite). However, more significant is the fact that no other seal or seal impression with a personal name followed by the name of a place — with or without a definite article — has ever been found.

The completion of the existing writing of “nvy” with an aleph at the end — then reading navy’ (“prophet”) — also faces the problem of the lack of the Hebrew definite article “h” (“the”) at the beginning of the word, as seen in the bulla of “the healer” (hrp’) (Hebrew: ) from the City of David, which reads “[to tbslm] son of zkr the healer” ().(注17 “Yair Shoham, “Hebrew Bullae,” in Donald T. Ariel, ed., The City of David Excavations: Inscriptions, vol. 6, Qedem 41 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 2000), pp. 35–36.”)

Nevertheless, Reut Livyatan Ben - Arie, who studied the bullae from the Ophel with me, suggests that there is enough space for two more letters at the end of the second register: a “w” (vav), the last letter in the name Yesha‘yahu, and an “h,” the definite article “the” for the word navy’ (“prophet”), rendering it hanavy’ (“the prophet”). One can wonder why the seal’s designer would choose to insert the definite article at the end of the second register instead of at the beginning of the word navy’ on third register, where there seems to have been enough space. But, as strange as it may seem to us, this division of words is not unusual in ancient Hebrew writing. In fact, a good example of this can be seen in King Hezekiah’s bulla, where the name of his father, Ahaz, spreads over two registers, with the last letter pushed into the lower one. Thus, the spreading of a word over two registers on seals seems to have been accepted, if not common.


THE BES FAMILY BULLAE.
Seven seal impressions (bullae) representing three generations of the Bes family were found together with the bulla of King Hezekiah. The Bes family appears to have been involved in the royal administration or was a supplier. The family’s bullae sealed the coarsely woven linen bags held in the Building of the Royal Bakers.

Except for the bulla of the healer and perhaps that of Yesha‘yahu, no other bullae with the Hebrew definite article “h” at the beginning of a title have been found in an excavation; a few unprovenanced bullae reading “the scribe” and “the priest” are known from private collections.(注18 “Avigad, “New Names,” nos. 21–22, 28”) On the other hand, no seals or bullae with single - word titles such as “prophet” (nvy’), “scribe” (spr), or “priest” (khn) that lack the definite Hebrew article “h” at the beginning are known from excavations or private collections.

The Bible shows support both for the use of the definite article with a title and for its omission. For example, the title “secretary” (mzkyr) appears both with (2 Samuel 20:24) and without (2 Samuel 8:16) the definite article “h,” with reference to the same individual. The same is true for the title “scribe” (swpr), which appears both with (Isaiah 36:22) and without (2 Samuel 8:17) the definite article “h,” with reference to two different individuals.


ISAIAH THE PROPHET? The Isaiah bulla’s top register shows the remains of a grazing doe. Its middle register reads, “leyesha‘yah[u],” which means “[belonging] to Yesha‘yah[u]”; the anglicized name of Yesha‘yahu is Isaiah. This register’s damaged left end probably originally included the Hebrew letter vav (the “[u]” of “Yesha‘yah[u]”), and perhaps a heh (“h”), which would have served as the definite article (“the”) for the following word. The word nvy appears in the lower register. If the Hebrew letter aleph were added to the end of this word, at the bulla’s damaged left end, the word would then read nvy’, which signifies a “prophet” in Hebrew. This would strongly suggest that the bulla belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

ISAIAH THE PROPHET? The Isaiah bulla’s top register shows the remains of a grazing doe. Its middle register reads, “leyesha‘yah[u],” which means “[belonging] to Yesha‘yah[u]”; the anglicized name of Yesha‘yahu is Isaiah. This register’s damaged left end probably originally included the Hebrew letter vav (the “[u]” of “Yesha‘yah[u]”), and perhaps a heh (“h”), which would have served as the definite article (“the”) for the following word. The word nvy appears in the lower register. If the Hebrew letter aleph were added to the end of this word, at the bulla’s damaged left end, the word would then read nvy’, which signifies a “prophet” in Hebrew. This would strongly suggest that the bulla belonged to the prophet Isaiah. The bulla’s back (pictured here) demonstrates that this seal impression originally had been stamped on a coarse linen bag.
 

Likewise, prophets did refer to themselves as nvy’ without the definite article “h,” as we learn from the prophet Elijah, who says, “I alone am left a prophet (Hebrew: ) of YHWH” (1 Kings 18:22). On the other hand, in merely two chapters of the Book of Kings, Isaiah is mentioned as “Isaiah,” “Isaiah the prophet,” “Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz,” “Isaiah the son of Amoz,” and “Isaiah the son of Amoz the prophet” (2 Kings 19–20), and in each occurrence the definite article “h” appears with the word nvy’ (Hebrew: ). It would seem, therefore, that there is no strict rule for the use of a title with reference to a persona. In light of the fact that titles appear both with and without the definite article, it is not surprising that the title nvy’ would appear on this bulla without it.


ISAIAH THE PROPHET? The Isaiah bulla’s top register shows the remains of a grazing doe. Its middle register reads, “leyesha‘yah[u],” which means “[belonging] to Yesha‘yah[u]”; the anglicized name of Yesha‘yahu is Isaiah. This register’s damaged left end probably originally included the Hebrew letter vav (the “[u]” of “Yesha‘yah[u]”), and perhaps a heh (“h”), which would have served as the definite article (“the”) for the following word. The word nvy appears in the lower register. If the Hebrew letter aleph were added to the end of this word, at the bulla’s damaged left end, the word would then read nvy’, which signifies a “prophet” in Hebrew. This would strongly suggest that the bulla belonged to the prophet Isaiah. This drawing of the inscription shows the reconstructed vav, heh, and aleph.

A very recent discovery from Jerusalem demonstrates the inconsistent use of the definite article “h” in both titles and professions on inscribed texts. A new bulla, dating to the end of the First Temple period, was uncovered during the IAA excavations conducted opposite the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.(注19 “Tallay Ornan, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, and Benjamin Sass, “A ‘Governor of the City’ Seal Impression from the Western Wall Plaza Excavations in Jerusalem,“ Qadmoniot 154 (2017), pp. 100–103.”) The bulla depicts two figures standing opposite one another, with the writing lsr‘r (Hebrew: ; lesar‘ir) below them in Hebrew, indicating that the bulla belonged “to the governor of the city,” most likely that of Jerusalem. This discovery contributes greatly to the known assemblage of bullae with professional titles inscribed on them and is of special interest to us since it is missing the Hebrew definite article “h” before the word ‘ir (“city”). This title, with the definite article “h,” appears several times in the Bible, where it is also present in the plural form “governors of the city,” as in 2 Chronicles 29:20, which relates events from Hezekiah’s reign. This new information further strengthens our argument that the presence of the Hebrew definite article “h” placed before titles and professions on bullae was neither indispensable nor consistent in that period, but was subject to the discretion of the author.


MUSEUM JERUSALEM, BY MICHAEL MAGGEN/IAA1968-252/7
“SON OF NVY.” Two seal impressions (bullae) from Lachish read “bn nvy,” meaning “son of Nvy.” In this instance, nvy likely is a name. The bullae were found inside a juglet in Lachish Stratum II. One is pictured above.

This seal impression of Isaiah, therefore, is unique, and questions still remain about what it actually says. However, the close relationship between Isaiah and King Hezekiah, as described in the Bible, and the fact the bulla was found next to one bearing the name of Hezekiah seem to leave open the possibility that, despite the difficulties presented by the bulla’s damaged area, this may have been a seal impression of Isaiah the prophet, adviser to King Hezekiah.


CLARA AMIT, ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY
“[BELONGING] TO THE GOVERNOR OF THE CITY,” proclaims this First Temple period bulla uncovered in the Western Wall Plaza excavations in Jerusalem. Two figures face each other above the inscription.


The discovery of the royal structures and finds from the time of King Hezekiah at the Ophel is a rare opportunity to reveal vividly this specific time in the history of Jerusalem. The finds lead us to an almost personal “encounter” with some of the key players who took part in the life of the Ophel’s Royal Quarter, including King Hezekiah and, perhaps, also the prophet Isaiah.(注20 “The author wishes to thank Dr. Viviana Moscovich for her assistance with research and in English copy editing.”)

 

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