Jeremiah, Prophet of the Bible, Brought Back to Life

Clay bullae from the City of David, Jerusalem, provide new evidence for Biblical figures

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in March 2012. It has been updated.—Ed.

The relationship between archaeology and the Bible is not always an easy one, but sometimes they come together in striking agreement as witnesses to history. Two small clay bullae (seal impressions) found in the course of Eilat Mazar’s City of David, Jerusalem, excavations are bringing Jeremiah, prophet of the last kings of Judah, back to life.

clay bullae from the time of Jeremiah

These clay bullae (seal impressions), discovered by archaeologist Eilat Mazar during her excavations of the City of David, Jerusalem, bear the names of two royal ministers mentioned in the Bible’s story of Jeremiah, prophet of the Old Testament. Photos by Gaby Laron, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University.

The first of the clay bullae, which surfaced during Mazar’s excavation of what may be King David’s palace, bears the name “Yehuchal [or Jehucal] ben Shelemyahu [Shelemiah]” (pictured above left). The second was found in the First Temple period strata underneath what has been identified as Nehemiah’s Northern Tower, just a few yards away from the first, and reads “Gedalyahu [Gedaliah] ben Pashur” (pictured above right).

Our free eBook Ten Top Biblical Archaeology Discoveries brings together the exciting worlds of archaeology and the Bible! Learn the fascinating insights gained from artifacts and ruins, like the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where the Gospel of John says Jesus miraculously restored the sight of the blind man, and the Tel Dan inscription—the first historical evidence of King David outside the Bible.

These two men are mentioned together in the Bible as ministers of King Zedekiah (597–587 B.C.E.). As the Babylonians closed in on Jerusalem during the last years of the First Temple period, Jeremiah, prophet to Judah’s last kings, advised Zedekiah and the people of the city to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar’s men so that their lives and city might be spared. But not everyone liked Jeremiah’s message, including Gedaliah son of Pashur and Jehucal son of Shelemiah. According to Jeremiah 38:1–13, the two ministers had Jeremiah thrown into a pit because they did not like the message of surrender he was preaching to the people of Jerusalem.

Biblical Archaeology Review readers have already been introduced to these tiny but amazing clay bullae in recent articles by Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar about her excavations in the City of David, Jerusalem,* but now visitors to Edmond, Oklahoma, can see them at their world premiere at the Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College. The Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered exhibit, which continues through October 2015, features the two clay bullae as well as dozens of ceramic artifacts from Jerusalem during the First Temple period—including figurines, royal seal impressions, and one of the largest ancient vessels ever found in Jerusalem.

Herbert W. Armstrong College provided support for Eilat Mazar’s City of David excavations.

Based on “Strata: Exhibit Watch: Jeremiah Brought Back to Life,” BAR, March/April 2012, and “Strata: Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Who Urged Imprisonment,” BAR, September/October 2015.


* See “Jeremiah’s Opponents,” sidebar to Eilat Mazar, “The Wall That Nehemiah Built,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2009; and Eilat Mazar, “Did I Find King David’s Palace?” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2006.


13 Responses

  1. Michael Banak says:


  2. Paul Szydlowski says:

    Regarding clay bullae found, last I checked in April 2017 when in Jerusalem, the bullae were still not on display in Israel Museum. According to my iquiry to Dr. Eran Arie, Frieder Burda Curator of Iron Age and Persian Period Archaeology at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, they are anticipated to be on display around June or July 2017.

  3. King David’s Palace and the Millo | says:

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  4. Kurt says:

    God’s Word for Us Through Jeremiah
    “To all those to whom I shall send you, you should go; and everything that I shall command you, you should speak.” (Jer. 1:7) Jeremiah’s life changed forever when he heard that command from God. From that moment forward, his overwhelming concern was to announce “the word of Jehovah.” That phrase appears repeatedly throughout the book of Jeremiah. In the last chapter, Jeremiah relates the capture of Jerusalem and the exiling of its last king, Zedekiah. Yes, Jeremiah continued teaching and exhorting the people of Judah to obey Jehovah until events made it clear that his work was complete.
    Regarding the work that Jehovah gave him to do, Jeremiah said: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jer. 15:16) Such rejoicing and contentment are set before all today whose hearts move them to speak on behalf of the true God. You thus have good reason to keep proclaiming Jehovah’s message, as did Jeremiah.
    Read more:

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  11. Bud Chrysler says:

    Jeremiah was lowered into a dungeon that was located in the court of the prison ( Jeremiah 38: 6). The court of the prison was in the king of Judah’s house (Jeremiah 32: 2). The Jehucal bulla was found near a huge cistern in an area which could easily be described as the court of the prison. The Gedaliah bulla was found nearby under a tower which is clearly described by Nehemiah, “…the tower which lieth out from the king’s high house, that was by the court of the prison…” Nehemiah uses this tower as a landmark when describing his repair of Hezekiah’s mid-slope wall. The tower was not built by Nehemiah!

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