Clay bullae—small, personalized stamps that would be pressed into wax to seal letters in ancient times—have repeated provided crucial insights into the biblical world. Just a few weeks ago, a volunteer found a bulla, dated by archaeologists to the 7th century BCE, bearing the name of “Adoniyahu, the royal steward.” Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
According to the archaeologist Eli Shukron, . . . the role of the royal steward—[literally, “he who is over the house,” or] asher al ha-bayit—appears several times in the Bible and is used for the highest-level minister in the royal court. For example, the title of royal steward was used in the book of Genesis for Joseph’s high-powered position in Egypt.
The new Adoniyahu inscription gives a potential link to a 150-year-old mystery: a First Temple-era, 7th-century BCE rock-cave grave, which is also inscribed with the words “asher al ha-bayit.” The inscription, today found in the British Museum, has a partial name ending with the same three Hebrew letters as that on the new clay bulla.
The name Adoniyahu, [in English, Adonijah], appears in several iterations in the Bible, but not during eras that correspond to the 7th century BCE—the time period of the clay sealing. The most famous Adoniyahu occurs some 300 years before this newly attested Adoniyahu, and is a son of King David. He is called both Adoniyah and Adoniyahu.
There are two other notable Adoniyahus recounted in the Bible. One, a Levite, appears during the reign of Jehoshaphat (circa 870–849 BCE) [and] is mentioned in Chronicles. The other noteworthy Adoniyahu is found during the rule of Nehemiah, which occurs during the Persian era of the Second Temple period, circa 465-424 BCE.