SEEK THE CONTEXT: Biblical Texts, Language, Cultural Background & Meaning. Context Changes Everything!

First Temple Seals Found in Jerusalem

First Temple Seals Found in Jerusalem

A volunteer looking through the dirt that had been excavated from Robinson’s Arch (near the Western Wall) found a 1-cm impression of a seal in 2013. After closer examination, some archaeologists believe it is a First Temple seal. The impression, or bulla, would have sealed a scroll, a jar or a container and marked the identity of the author or owner. What connects this artifact to the First Temple era is the writing.  The find is estimated to be 2,700-year-old bulla, which ascribes it’s ownership to the royal steward Adoniyahu.

Curiously, 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. And the bulla dates to the seventh century B.C.E., the period of the kingdom of Judah’s prominence. That is why it is connected to the days of the First Temple.

In Hebrew, the seal reads:

לעדניהו (top)
אשר על הבית (bottom)

The literal translation is:

Belonging to Adoniyahu,
who is over the house

Which would mean:

Belonging to Adoniyahu
the Royal Steward.

This find follows a recent discovery of another meaningful seal impression. The text of 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 from the Bible, 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.

Source: Biblical Archaeology, Jonathan Laden


I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.

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