BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Clay Seals Give Clues to Wealth of Biblical Jerusalem

Also reveal possible evidence for biblical figures from the time of the Jerusalem Temple

Clay Seals Give Clues to Wealth of Biblical Jerusalem

Clay seal (bulla) of Hisilyahu son of Immer, member of a priestly family of the Jerusalem Temple.
Credit: Zachi Dvira

A new study, published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, has examined fresh evidence of the treasuries and storehouses of Jerusalem during the First Temple period (c. tenth–sixth centuries B.C.E.). The study focused on clay seals, or bullae, recovered from the Temple Mount Sifting Project and other recent excavations in the area of the City of David. Analysis of the bullae, which were commonly used to sign and seal valuable documents and containers, revealed that Jerusalem likely had substantial royal and cultic treasuries in the decades prior to the Babylonian destruction of the city in 586 B.C.E. One seal might even shed new light on a particular biblical figure from the Book of Jeremiah.


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For the study, more than 60 clay seals recovered from both the Temple Mount and a royal building from the City of David were analyzed. The team noted that as many as 40 percent of these seals from the royal building bore imprints of textiles, indicating that they were likely used to store valuable goods, including silver and other metals that were used to pay taxes and temple dues. The seals from the royal building date to the Iron Age IIB (c. 925–700 B.C.E.). Interestingly, many of the seals bear the Egyptian name Bes, which fits with other evidence that the Judahite kingdom hired Egyptians to perform administrative duties. Additionally, one seal appears to be the personal seal of King Hezekiah, while some have suggested another may be the seal of the prophet Isaiah. Given the high percentage of such seals and the prominent positions and names they contain, the team concludes the seals most likely originated from the city’s royal treasury.

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A large percentage of seals recovered from the Temple Mount also bore fabric imprints. One seal, which dates to the Iron Age IIC (c. 700–586 B.C.E.), bears a name that has been read Hisilyahu son of Immer. The name Immer is known from the Bible, as well as other seals from the time, and was the name of a major priestly family during the First Temple period. The study suggests that the Hisilyahu referenced by the seal might even be the brother of Pashhur son of Immer, a chief officer of the Temple who, according to the Bible, attacked the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:1–6). As chief officer of the Temple, Pashhur would have been closely involved with the Temple’s administration and treasury. If Hisilyahu was indeed the brother of Pashhur, they would have worked closely together, overseeing the Temple treasury in its final days before the Babylonian destruction.


Read more in Bible History Daily:

First Temple Seal Impression Found by Western Wall

Persian Period Bullae Found

Sifting Project Reveals First Temple Bulla

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