The prophet Isaiah’s signature?
An intriguing discovery has been made at the Ophel excavation site, just south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.1 Found about 3 m away from the biblical King Hezekiah’s seal,2 which provided concrete evidence to secular archaeologists of his historicity, is another 2,700-year-old clay seal (bulla), possibly belonging to the prophet Isaiah. Both items were discovered in 2009, with King Hezekiah’s seal being made known to the public in 2015 and the Isaiah seal in 2018. In the Bible, Isaiah is depicted as an advisor to King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 19–20 and was of course an important figure giving us the prophecy of the virginal conception (Isaiah 7:14), the divinity of the Messiah, and the servant songs (Isaiah 42:1–9, 49:1–13, 50:4–11, 52:13–53:12) which describe in detail the Messiah’s mission, death and penal substitution.
What is on the seal?
The damaged bulla has three registers (segments), with the top register displaying the remains of a grazing doe, a sign of blessing and protection, the middle register containing the full name of Isaiah (Hebrew יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yəshaʻyā́hû), and the lower register containing the letters nvy (Hebrew nun vav yod נבי). If, on the damaged lower register the Hebrew letter aleph was added to the left end, it would finish the Hebrew word meaning prophet (נָבִיא, nāvî’)
Archaeologist and author of the article, Eilat Mazar (1956–2021), contends that the bulla may have once read, “Belonging to the prophet Isaiah”. However, due to the difficulty presented by the damaged area, with no definite confirmation of any missing letter(s), nvy may also just be a surname Navi which was used during the same time period. It does however confirm that the name Isaiah was in use at that time in Israel.
Considering the evidence
While this find may be scintillating due to the location and wording, and it may very well be the first archaeological reference of the prophet Isaiah outside of the Bible, caution should be exercised when considering its use. The Bible’s history, accurate from the creation in Genesis through to revelation, does not need any ambiguous archaeology to try and disprove skeptics. Especially as there is such a large established body of evidence already supporting it as demonstrated on creation.com. For example, you can read about a clay tablet detailing one of Nebuchadnezzar’s court mentioned in the book of Jeremiah or an interview with archaeologist Dr Clifford Wilson.
Christians, living in a skeptical world may eagerly look to point those skeptics to the most recent Bible-affirming discoveries, but evangelism (sharing the gospel) and apologetics (a logical and reasoned defence of the faith) should never rely on half or mistruths. That’s why CMI has articles such as: Arguments we think creationists should NOT use and point out when evidence once used to suggest that dinosaurs could be still living today should no longer be used. So while this find may be very interesting, it is not without its problems, and any discussion involving this seal should take them into account.
References and notes
- Mazar, E., Is this the prophets Isaiah’s signature? Biblical Archaeology Review, March – June 2018. Return to text.
- Impression of biblical king’s seal found in Jerusalem, bbc.com, 2 December 2015. Return to text.
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