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.

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

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy