Isaiah’s Signature Uncovered in Jerusalem: Evidence of the Prophet Isaiah?
by Megan Sauter
Excavations in Jerusalem have unearthed what may be the first extra-Biblical evidence of the prophet Isaiah. Just south of the Temple Mount, in the Ophel excavations, archaeologist Eilat Mazar and her team have discovered a small seal impression that reads “[belonging] to Isaiah nvy.” The upper portion of the impression is missing, and its left side is damaged. Reconstructing a few Hebrew letters in this damaged area would cause the impression to read, “[belonging] to Isaiah the prophet.”
If the reconstruction stands, this may be the signature of the Biblical prophet Isaiah—the figure we encounter in the Books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announces this exciting discovery in her article “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” published in the special March/April/May/June 2018 double issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
Mazar’s team found the seal impression in an undisturbed area of Iron Age debris (dated to the eighth–seventh centuries B.C.E.) right outside the southeastern wall of the royal bakery, a structure that had been integrated into the city’s fortifications and had operated until the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. All of the excavated dirt from this area of the Ophel was wet-sifted, meaning that it was placed on a sifting screen and washed with water. This process revealed multiple finds—including Isaiah’s seal impression and an impression of the Judahite king Hezekiah—which had been missed during traditional excavation methods. Since each of these impressions has a diameter of about half an inch and is the same color as the dirt, it is easy to understand why they were not spotted in the field.
Isaiah’s seal impression—called a bulla—was created by first placing a soft piece of clay on top of a ligature tied around a linen bag. Isaiah’s seal was then pressed into the clay, thereby sealing the parcel with his personal signature. The clay hardened and survived through the centuries, thereby preserving Isaiah’s signature…