A Newly Discovered Clay Seal May Have Belonged to a Minor Biblical Character

April 1 2019

While excavating the area underneath Jerusalem’s Givati parking lot, in the oldest portion of the city, archaeologists have found two ancient seals, both dating from the 8th century BCE. One, made of agate, bears the stamp of “Ikkar ben Matanyahu”; the second, made of clay, belonged to “Nathan-Melekh, servant of the king.” Amanda Borschel-Dan reports:

Nathan-Melekh is named in 2Kings as an official in the court of King Josiah. The burnt clay impression is the first archaeological evidence of the biblical name. . . . According to [the archaeologist Yiftaḥ] Shalev, while both discoveries are of immense scholarly value as inscriptions, their primary value is their archaeological context. . . .

According to the archaeologist Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University, in the 8th century this area of the City of David became the central administrative center of Jerusalem. A newly unearthed two-story public building, constructed with finely cut ashlar stones, illustrates the beginning of a westward move of the administration area in the large, sprawling city. [This structure], said Shalev, is further down the slope of the City of David than where some archaeologists had envisioned a First Temple-period city wall. Through this evidence of a large administrative center, scholars are beginning to understand that [around this time] Jerusalem saw the beginning of the western spread [of its borders] that continued in later eras, including the Persian and Hellenistic periods. . . .

The name Nathan-Melekh appears once in the Bible, in 2Kings 23:11. An official in the court of King Josiah, the biblical Nathan-Melech took part in the implementation of widespread religious reform. . . . While the biblical account uses a different title [translated as “officer”] from the impression on the ancient clay, the title “servant of the king” does often appear in the Bible to describe a high-ranking official close to the king.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Jerusalem

Israeli Indecision on the Palestinian Issue Is a Sign of Strength, Not Weakness

Oct. 11 2019

In their recent book Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny, Dennis Ross and David Makovsky—who both have had long careers as Middle East experts inside and outside the U.S. government—analyze the “courageous decisions” made by David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzḥak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon. Not coincidentally, three of these four decisions involved territorial concessions. Ross and Makovsky use the book’s final chapter to compare their profiles in courage with Benjamin Netanyahu’s cautious approach on the Palestinian front. Calling this an “almost cartoonish juxtaposition,” Haviv Rettig Gur writes:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli history, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict