Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Seal of Jezebel

A Dutch researcher believes that she can connect a seal discovered long ago with the famous wife of King Ahab.  From Haaretz:

For some 40 years, one of the flashiest opal signets on display at the Israel Museum had remained without accurate historical context. Two weeks ago, Dutch researcher Marjo Korpel identified article IDAM 65-321 as the official seal of Queen Jezebel, one of the bible's most powerful and reviled women.

Israeli archaeologists had suspected Jezebel was the owner ever since the seal was first documented in 1964. "Did it belong to Ahab's Phoenician wife?" wrote the late pioneering archaeologist Nahman Avigad of the seal, which he obtained through the antiquities market. "Though fit for a queen, coming from the right period and bearing a rare name documented nowhere other than in the Hebrew Bible, we can never know for sure."

Avigad's cautious approach stemmed from the fact that the seal did not come from an officially-approved excavation. It was thought to come from Samaria in the ninth century B.C.E., but there was no way of knowing for certain where it had been found. And that has been the scientific hurdle that Korpel - a theologian and Ugaritologist from Utrecht University and a Protestant minister - set out to conquer.

In her paper, scheduled to appear in the highly-respected Biblical Archaeology Review, Korpel lists observations pertaining to the seal's symbolism, unusual size, shape and time period. By way of elimination, she shows Jezebel as the only plausible owner. She also explains how two missing letters from the seal point to the Phoenician shrew....

But speaking as a private person, I am in my mind 99 percent sure that it belonged to Jezebel," she says after some coaxing.

However, Korpel is not an archaeologist, and her research of archaeological findings is essentially textual. "I have thought about this. But many research fields see important discoveries by researchers from related fields," she says. "I admit my solution for the seal of Jezebel is quite simple. But then, so was the invention of the paper clip."

See also this update in Haaretz which explains why Jezebel is spelled incorrectly on the seal.

If you have access to older issues of Biblical Archaeology Review, you can see a photo of the seal in the March/April 1993 issue, page 28.  Or you can see it online here.

Update (10/11): This Dutch website has a photo of the seal with each letter identified.

HT: Joe Lauer

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4 Comments:

  • Just a question.

    The Bible says that Jezebel (1 Kings 21:8) "So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth."

    Does this mean that she just used the seal of Ahab and that she doesn't have a seal of her own?

    By Anonymous easterangel, at Thu Oct 11, 06:04:00 PM  

  • "A Dutch researcher believes that he can connect..."

    Please note that the article refers repetitively to Marjo Korpel as a woman.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Thu Oct 11, 10:27:00 PM  

  • G.M. - thanks. I've made the correction.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Thu Oct 11, 10:37:00 PM  

  • Easterangel - I think it only means that in this instance Jezebel wanted the authority of her husband for issuing this death warrant. I don't think it rules out Jezebel having her own seal.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Thu Oct 11, 10:46:00 PM  

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