2,700-year-old bulla signifies ownership by royal steward Adoniyahu
A volunteer looking through dirt that had been excavated from Robinson’s Arch in 2013 found a 1-cm impression of a seal. The impression, or bulla, would have sealed a paper or container and marked the identity of the author or owner. This clay seal impression references the name Adoniyahu, the royal steward. Adoniyahu appears several times in the Hebrew Bible and most notably as the name of King David’s son.
The Royal Steward was the highest ranking position in the king’s court of Judah. The bulla dates to the seventh century B.C.E., the period of the kingdom of Judah’s prominence.
In Hebrew, the seal reads:
אשר על הבית (bottom)
The literal translation is:
Which would mean:
Belonging to Adoniyahu
the Royal Steward.1
This find follows the recent discovery of another meaningful seal impression. As announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority in March, that bulla translates to, “Nathan-Melek, Servant of the King.” A Nathan-Melek is mentioned once in the Bible, in connection to King Josiah of Judah. There can be no certainty that this bulla refers to that Nathan-Melek, though the timing is right.
The Nathan-Melek seal impression was found inside the ruins of a two-story building in Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. A team from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University led the excavation of the building as part of the Givati parking lot excavations, south of the Temple Mount.
The bullae of Adoniyahu, the primary official serving a biblical king, and Nathan-Melek, a figure who might be referenced in the Bible, are meaningful discoveries. These tiny pieces of clay from the First Temple period provide archaeological evidence of the history of lands and peoples of the biblical period.
1-Translation by Robert Cargill, BAR Editor
Nathan-Melek: Servant of the King
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History of Bethlehem Documented by First Temple Period Bulla from the City of David
Bible Artifacts Found Outside the Trench: Israelite Clay Bullae
How Ancient Taxes Were Collected Under King Manasseh
Fit for a Queen: Jezebel’s Royal Seal
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