Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Possible Seal Impression of the Prophet Isaiah Discovered in Jerusalem

Eilat Mazar believes that she may have discovered a seal impression that belonged to the prophet Isaiah. The bulla was found south of the Temple Mount along with a couple dozen other seal impressions. The discovery is reported in the just-released issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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 Naturally, this bulla is far more intriguing than all the others found adjacent to Hezekiah’s bulla....

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....

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?

The full story is in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, and stories based on that can be found at National Geographic and The Times of Israel.


  • Hi Dr. Bolen, Unfortunately, this bulla fragment is not from the Prophet Isaiah. It reads belonging to Isaiah (son of) Nobai or belonging to Isaiah the Nobian--- a man from the town of Nob where the priests were from near Jerusalem. So it is basically saying belonging to Isaiah the Priest. Dr. Robert Deutsch and Dr. Michael Heltzer analyzed the impression of 'Oreb the Nobian in one of their books(its name escapes me at the moment). It has a bird in the top register, 'Oreb in the second register, and NBY in the third register. This impression is 693 in Avigad's and Sass's Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals. This current bulla fragment has the grazing doe facing right in its top register, belonging to Yesha'yahu in the second register and NBY in its third register. Thank you for everything that you do! Sincerely yours, Michael Welch

    By Blogger Brenda Welch, at Fri Feb 23, 04:13:00 PM  

  • Thank you, Michael, for this information.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Fri Feb 23, 08:21:00 PM  

  • Thanks, Michael! Great insight as usual. My initial hunch when I saw the reports yesterday agreed with you on this one, but primarily because the grazing-doe icon doesn't harmonize with the prophet Isaiah's personality/persona (but obviously this is just my imagination). But the great thing about seals is that there's a good chance additional impressions will be found in the future to settle the matter. Some additional points about WSS 693 that might be helpful to people who don't own a copy, is that it's on a jar handle rather than a bulla, it lacks provenance, its icon's style differs greatly, its paleography differs greatly, & its outer border differs greatly from the Isaiah seal.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Sat Feb 24, 11:59:00 AM  

  • Stephen Meyers is now selling replicas of this bulla in his IBSS store. I think I've mentioned this before but it's worth repeating: his replicas are inferior to those of Kris Udd, but they're more affordable & can be excellent conversation pieces.

    By Blogger G.M. Grena, at Thu Mar 08, 08:38:00 PM  

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