Tuesday, January 02, 2018

“Governor of the City” Seal Impression Discovered in Jerusalem

At the top of candidates for “best discoveries of 2018,” a seal impression reading “belonging to the governor of the city” was announced today by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The find was made by conservationists in the wall of an Israelite four-room house built on the slope of the Western Hill opposite the Western Wall. The seal impression features two figures and what may be the moon above them.

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Photo by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The “governor of the city” was not the king of Judah, but was the equivalent of the mayor of Jerusalem. This position may be mentioned in two passages in the Bible.

  • 2 Kings 23:8 “Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the shrines at the gates—at the entrance to the Gate of Joshua, the city governor [sar], which is on the left of the city gate.”
  • 2 Chronicles 34:8 “In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler [sar] of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the Lord his God.”

The house in which the impression was made dates to the 7th century BC, which is the time referenced in these two passages. The archaeologist believes that this part of the city was inhabited by high-ranking city officials.

Scholars who studied the seal impression described in this way:

Above a double line are two standing men, facing each other in a mirror-like manner. Their heads are depicted as large dots, lacking any details. The hands facing outward are dropped down, and the hands facing inward are raised. Each of the figures is wearing a striped, knee-length garment.

The story is reported by many sources, including The Times of Israel. The press release is posted on Facebook. Leen Ritmeyer has a brief post, including a diagram of how Jerusalem looked at this time. A 2-minute video is posted here.

Western Wall prayer plaza excavations, tb010312518

Excavation area where seal impression was discovered

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