Lasting Impressions: New bullae reveal Egyptian-style emblems on Judah’s royal seals
by Robert Deutsch
I remember it vividly. It was September, 1991. I was a new, although not exactly a young, scholar, still working toward my master's degree at Tel Aviv University. Professor Benjamin Mazar, the doyen of Israeli archaeology and former president of Hebrew University, invited me to a salon he regularly held in his apartment. In attendance was the most illustrious scholar of ancient epigraphy at Hebrew University, Professor Nahman Avigad, as was the distinguished epigraphic authority and my friend and mentor, Professor Michael Heltzer of Haifa University. Naturally, the discussion focused on a set of new inscriptions that were coming to light, the most exciting of which were included in a hoard of bullae (singular, bulla) - flattened lumps of hardened clay bearing seal impressions - that Professor Avigad had published in his 1986 book, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah: Remnants of a Burnt Archive.a Toward the end of the afternoon, I recall Professor Avigad, who was already an old man, wistfully expressing the hope that before he died he would see a seal or seal impression of a Judahite king.
This article as it appeared in BAR
Unfortunately, Professor Avigad went to his grave the following January at the age of 86,b not knowing that he had indeed seen the seal impression of one of the most important Judahite kings, Hezekiah, who ruled from 727 to 697 BCE. In the Bible, Hezekiah is celebrated for purging the Judahite religion of foreign influence, centralizing the cult in Jerusalem, and withstanding a siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian monarch, Sennacherib. Archaeology has also revealed much about Hezekiah's reign.c One of the bullae in the hoard that Avigad had published in 19861 was, in fact, impressed with the seal of that great Judahite king. But Avigad didn't recognize it.
Avigad cannot be faulted, however. The seal featured a two-winged scarab (dung beetle) pushing a ball of mud or dung. But in the impression, only four letters of the seal owner's name had survived: the Hebrew letters nun, yod, he and waw, that is, nyhw. The last three of those letters formed a very common name-ending, yahu, a form of the divine name Yahweh, the personal name of the Israelite God. But of the first part of the seal owner's name, only one letter was left, a nun, or n, and so Avigad guessed that the name on the seal was Adoniyahu. In fact, part of the letter that Avigad took for a nun was not entirely preserved; it was actually a qof, or q. The preserved letters on the seal were not nyhw but qyhw, which spell the end of Hezekiah's name in Hebrew, H.ezqiyahu. (Remember, the letters on the seal predate the Babylonian Exile 586 BCE and look quite different from the square Aramaic script still in use today, which Jews brought back from Babylonia.)
We now know what Avigad could not know, because a new crop of bullae bearing impressions of Hezekiah's seal has been making its way into public view from the antiquities market since the mid-1990s. Some of these bullae are being published here for the first time.
The first one that I was able to inspect came into my hands in 1997.2 Enough of the inscription had survived in this bulla that its inscription could be read: "Belonging to Hezekiah son of Ahaz, king of Judah." That same year I mentioned this more complete bulla of Hezekiah's seal in my book, Messages From the Past;3 in 1999 Professor Frank M. Cross of Harvard University published it in Biblical Archaeology Review.d The impression on this bulla is so similar to the one on Avigad's bulla that Professor Cross (and I, initially) thought that both bullae were made from the same seal. After a closer examination, however, I have concluded that they must have been made from different seals, because the bullae differ very slightly. For example, look at the left wing of the bulla that Avigad published (bulla #1): A single line appears above the cross-hatching on the upper edge of the wing. Now compare that with the wings of the scarab in the bulla published by Frank Cross (bulla #2). Above the cross-hatched wings, especially discernible on the right wing, are two lines. The seals from which the impressions were made are extremely similar, but not identical. The court functionaries who sealed royal documents must have had more than one copy of the king's seal.
This papyrus, containing a receipt for a loan of grain, is one of several found among the remains of a fifth-century BCE Jewish colony on the Egyptian island of Elephantine. Egypt's dry climate preserved the papyrus with an intact bulla and cord still bound around it, as documents may have looked during Hezekiah's reign some three centuries earlier. Because clay bullae were not baked like pottery, but were air-dried on the documents they sealed, most bullae bear the imprint of the papyrus grain and the cords they once held in place.
If the two bullae were impressed by different seals, can we indeed complete the missing letters on the Avigad bulla with the name of Hezekiah from the Cross bulla? As it happens, we can, thanks to three previously unpublished bullae that have very recently been made available (two of which are bulla #3 and bulla #4). One of the seal impressions was slightly crushed before it dried and hardened, unfortunately leaving both the image and the inscription incomplete. But enough is legible to confirm that it was made by the same seal4 that produced the bulla that Avigad could not recognize as belonging to Hezekiah. The second of the three bullae is well preserved but not fully impressed.5 A third one, which I have seen but which is not shown here, is in excellent condition and leaves no doubt that it bears the very same seal as Avigad's - and its inscription reads "Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz, King of Judah." I can offer neither a picture nor a drawing of it, because it is being marketed by an antiquities dealer.
Thus we now have a total of six bullae, each of which has a two-winged scarab and the identical inscription: "Belonging to Hezekiah son of Ahaz, King of Judah." Four have one line and two have two lines above the wings.
A new surprise emerged with two other recently unveiled bullae that are inscribed with Hezekiah's name but have an entirely different royal emblem. Instead of a two-winged scarab, the seals feature a two-winged sun disk. Six rays shoot out of the top and bottom of the sun disk and two downward-curving wings project from the sides (unlike the upswept wings on the seals with a scarab). On either side of the disk is an Egyptian ankh, a symbol known as "the key of life."
Although the artifacts shown here were all unearthed at archaeological sites in modern Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, they look like they may have come from Egypt. Through most of the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BCE), Egypt's robust cultural and economic hegemony extended across the Sinai Peninsula and up the Mediterranean coast as far as the southern reaches of Anatolia (modern Turkey). Well into the Iron Age (1200-586 BCE), during the reign of the Judaite king Hezekiah (727-697 BCE), Egypt still exerted strong influence in the region. Author Robert Deutsch suggests that by then, however, some symbols of Egyptian origin had been accepted as transcultural emblems of royalty that could be appropriated by any sovereign, such as Hezekiah, who might want to project an image of dominance and power.
These assorted anthropoid clay coffins dating to the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550-1200 BCE) were found at Deir el-Balah in the Gaza Strip. Their lids have characteristically Egyptian poses.
Both bullae are made from the same seal. One is in excellent condition;7 the other, much less so.8 The well-preserved bulla (shown in the magazine illustration) is made of black clay and has a complete seal impression. Like most bullae, it is tiny - barely a half-inch wide and even less than that in height.9 A deep groove around the edge indicates that the seal was probably originally set in the metal bezel of a ring.
Above and below the two-winged sun disk is an inscription identical to that appearing on the Hezekia bullae with the two-winged scarabs: "Belonging to Hezekiah son of Ahaz, King of Judah."
So now we know that Hezekiah had at least two royal emblems: the two-winged scarab and the two-winged sun disk.
This should not surprise us, given what we have seen on nearly 4,000 so-called l'melekh jar handles that have been firmly dated to Hezekiah's reign.10 Before being baked, these clay storage jar handles were impressed with a stamp seal containing an icon and an inscription, much like the other royal seals we have been discussing. Each jar handle inscription begins with the word l'melekh, which means "Belonging to the king." Following this designation of the king's ownership is the name of one of four cities, each of which was probably an administrative center.
The icons on these l'melekh handles vary. Some bear a four-winged scarab. Others have a two-winged sun disk with six rays that is similar to one on the newly revealed bullae impressed with Hezekiah's name. (No l'melekh handles show scarabs with two wings.) I wouldn't be at all surprised if someday we also find a seal or bulla of Hezekiah that has a four-winged scarab on it!
Long ago, Yigael Yadin (1917-1984), one of Israel's pre-eminent archaeologists, asserted that the l'melekh stamps represent royal emblems.11 Some scholars doubted this - but these bullae end the debate and prove Yadin correct. We now know that Hezekiah had at least two royal emblems, which appear both on royal seals and on jar handle seals dated to his reign.
Hezekiah seems to be the first Judahite king to adopt a royal emblem with an icon on it. A seal impression bearing the name of Hezekiah's father, King Ahaze (735-725 BCE), is aniconic: It has no royal symbol, only an inscription.12
Why would King Hezekiah, acclaimed in the Bible for his elimination of foreign influences from Judahite cult practices, adopt Egyptian iconographic elements - elements that were both foreign and pagan - as his royal emblems?
This is a topic of intense debate. Frank Cross argued in Biblical Archaeology Review that although Hezekiah's two-winged scarab was an Egyptianized icon (that is, one created by non-Egyptians to look Egyptian), it was really mediated through Phoenician iconography.f Meir Lubetski took Cross to task for this in a later issue of Biblical Archaeology Review,g arguing that Egypt, not Phoenicia, was the direct source of the symbol. Biblical Archaeology Review readers in turn took issue with Lubetski's thesis.h (Lubetski also misread the inscription.)13
An ivory plaque (center) depicts the Egyptian god Heh crouching between two ankhs and holding a palm branch in either hand. It is dated to the Late Iron Age (1000-586 BCE) and was found in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of israel.
An ivory head of the Egyptian goddess Hathor that dates to the late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BCE) was unearthed at Megiddo.
A statuette of a pregnant woman wearing an Egyptian wig, which was discovered in the Phoenician cemetery at Ahziv, dates to the seventh or sixth century BCE.
A late Bronze Age faience amulet found in Israel depicts the Egyptian dwarf god Bes, protector of women and childbirth.
In my view, neither Cross nor Lubetski is quite correct, although Cross is closer to the truth. Egyptian influence is abundantly evident in Palestine throughout the Bronze Age (3000-1200 BCE). For example, we find large quantities of Egyptian and Egyptianized pottery for as far back as the Early Bronze Age (3000-2200 BCE) from Arad in the south to Megiddo in the north. Hieroglyphic inscriptions have been discovered in Arad, Megiddo, Beth-Shean and elsewhere. Egyptianized anthropoid coffins from the 13th century BCE (Late Bronze Age) have been unearthed at Deir el-Balah in Gaza in the south and at Beth-Shean in the north. Rich Egyptian-style burial offerings have been found at numerous locations, from the southern site of Tel el-Far'ah to Lachish in central Judah and Beth-Shean in the north.14 In the Iron Age (1200-586 BCE), faience artifacts, such as amulets depicting a variety of gods and goddesses from the Egyptian pantheon, are found at almost every ancient site in Israel. Egyptian iconography was also used in highly prized ivory carvings found at Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.15
Even Hebrew writing can be traced indirectly to Egypt. Hebrew script is based on the script of the Phoenicians, who in turn borrowed extensively from the Proto-Canaanite and Proto-Sinaitic alphabets, which in fact developed from Egyptian hieroglyphs.
At the time the seals and corresponding bullae of Hezekiah were being produced, many other examples of Egyptian influence were present in Judah. Egyptian hieratic numbers are used on Hebrew dome-shaped weights and ostraca. The Egyptian ankh is widely used on seals. The Egyptian god Bes is frequently painted on storage jars, as at Kuntillet 'Ajrud, or appears as an amulet; later Bes is found on fourth-century BCE Samarian coins. The Judahite Ashtoret or Asherah (a common pillar figurine) wears an Egyptian hairstyle. Sphinxes and griffins found in Israel wear crowns of Egypt's upper and lower kingdoms. An oblong frame resembling that of an Egyptian cartouche (a sovereign's name enclosed in an oval) appears on several seals and bullae - but unlike those in Egypt, it contains no royal name.
Winged sun disks, similar to those on our bullae, appear on three Israelite Hebrew seals of the eighth century BCE.16 This emblem is found even more often in Phoenician iconography. For example, the icon is on five Phoenician seals17 and two Phoenician/Punic gold pendants of the seventh to sixth century BCE, one found at Carthage, in Tunisia, and the other at Motya, in Sicily. These both have winged sun disks with six rays.18
Table of letters
Egypt probably exerted the strongest influence on Judahite iconography, but elements from other cultures - Canaanite, Mycenaean, Assyrian and Hittite - can be clearly discerned as well. Aramaic and Assyrian motifs are also common in both Judahite and Phoenician art.
Judah was hardly the only ancient culture to borrow iconography from its neighbors. Phoenician cities, including Tyre, Sidon and, especially, Byblos were awash in Egyptianized material culture. In like fashion, the royal emblems Hezekiah adopted - the winged scarab and the winged solar disk - were common in both Phoenician and Aramaic iconography.
The motifs adorning the emblems of high officials and royalty throughout the ancient Near East were drawn from a fund of symbols and images common to the whole region. Once a symbol had been associated with authority, rule, domination or power, it was appropriated by those who wished to embellish their public image.
I believe that this is what happened in Israel and Judah. Although winged sun disks and scarabs had originated in foreign lands, by the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, when they appeared on Hebrew seals, they were already quite old and bereft of any religious significance. They were used solely for their decorative value and their connotation of power19 - and should be regarded as Israelite/Judahite. When Hezekiah adopted the two-winged scarab and the two-winged sun disk with six rays as royal emblems, he was simply appropriating generally accepted icons of royal power and not importing meaning from either Phoenicia or Egypt.
We also learn much from the inscription on the bullae, "Belonging to Hezekiah son of Ahaz, King of Israel." The ubiquitous lamed (l), which means "belonging to," regularly appears as a prefix to the name of the owner. The words "son of" are in brackets to indicate that the words are not actually there, but are understood. The omission of bn, or "son of," is not a mistake. We know that it is an intentional omission because it is regularly left out of inscriptions even when there is sufficient space. Of 57 different seal impressions on storage jar handles from the time of King Hezekiah, only two include the word bn; the rest omit it.20
The spellings of key words in these seals are quite interesting because they tell us something about the development of the language. Hebrew is written without vowels. In the tenth century CE, scribes developed a system of "pointings," subscripts and superscripts that were placed under and over letters to indicate vowels. These are still used in Hebrew prayerbooks in the United States and elsewhere, but not in modern Hebrew newspapers and books in Israel. Nevertheless, at an earlier stage in the evolution of Hebrew orthography (spelling), a few consonants were also given vowel values (he, or h, served as a and waw, or w, served as o or oo). When used as vowels, these letters are called matres lectionis, mothers of reading. When these vowels are included in ancient inscriptions the spelling is said to be plene, full. When they are omitted, the spelling is said to be defectiva, defective.
It's a rare thrill when an ancient artifact turns up bearing the name of a person mentioned in the Bible. In the newly revealed group of bullae, four are imprinted with the seals of high officials in Hezekiah's court. Three bear the inscription "servant of Hezekiah", a term that does not denote a particular office but indicates that the seal's owner is an elite member of the king's court.1 Of these three, one bulla now allows us to add a name to the short (but growing) list of archaeologically attested Biblical figures.2
The Book of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 31) tells what happened after the pillars, sacred posts, shrines and altars outside Jerusalem had been smashed and destroyed as part of Hezekiah's religious reforms: The people from the countryside brought large quantities of "grain, wine, oil, honey and all kinds of agricultural produce" (2 Chronicles 31:5) to the Temple in Jerusalem, along with tithes of cattle and sheep. So much was brought that special storehouses were established in the city. The keeper of the East Gate, Kore, was placed in charge of these freewill offerings, with several men under him "in offices of trust". One of these men was named Amariah, or in Hebrew, Amaryahu (2 Chronicles 31:15).
Bulla A bears the seal of "Amaryahu son of Hananyahu."3 Here is the inscription: "Belonging to Amaryahu, son of Hananyahu, servant of Hezekiah".
Although Amaryahu is not an uncommon name, it is very probable that this Amaryahu is the man mentioned in the Bible. The bulla specifically identifies Amaryahu as a "servant of Hezekiah", and the Biblical Amaryahu is clearly a high officer in Hezekiah's court. It is highly unlikely that more than one person with this name would hold senior positions in the royal service at the same time.
Incidentally it is interesting that Chronicles, which most scholars recognize as a late book that was composed after the Babylonian Exile, contains such detailed and, in this case, accurate information. Obviously the author was working from older records, a fact that should not be forgotten when assessing the reliability of the Biblical record. Just because the text is late does not mean that it is unreliable.
Two other (bullae B and C) bear the name of another "servant of Hezekiah".4 Here again is an example of one person having more than one copy of his seal. The official's name is Domla; his father is unnamed. Domla is a shortened version of a name with theophiric (divine) ending, either 'el or yahu, which would make the complete name either Domla'ed or Domlayahu.
Domla means to be patient or silent; the full name would mean "Be silent before the Lord" or "Be patient before Yahweh." The word appears in Psalm 37:7: "Be patient and wait for the Lord." The inscription on the bullae reads: "Belonging to Domla, servant of Hezekiah".
The fourth bulla is impressed with the seal of one Tobshalem, who is identifies as the "commander of the army." The inscription reads: "Belonging to Tobshalem, commander of the army."
This is actually the second time a bulla impressed with this seal has come to light -- I published the first one, from the Moussaieff Collection, in 1997. Because only part of the first letter of the last word of the inscription was preserved on that first bullaand the rest of the word was missingI at the time identified Tobshalem's title as "governor of the city." But I was wrong! The missing letters that have come to light on the newly revealed copy of the bulla make it clear that Tobshalem's position was "commander of the army."6
Although the seals of Amariah and Domla each contain only an unadorned inscription, an elaborate Egyptian lotus bud appears between the two liens of the inscription on Tobshalem's sealanother indication of Egypt's extensive artistic influence in Hezekiah's time.
The backs of all these bullae, including the bulla of King Hezekiah discussed in the main article, bear the impression of the papyrus documents that the bullae once sealed. Often we even see the imprint of the string that tied the documenta mere groove in the clay. This reminds us that however much these bullae and the seals they preserve fascinate us today, they were originally only fasteners for far more interesting and complete messages borne within documents that have long since disintegrated. We can only guess at the import of those ancient messages. The bullae are all we have left.
On the bullae we have been considering, Judah is written in defectiva spelling: yhdh, Yehudah. The plene spelling would insert the vowel in the middle: yhwdh. The pronunciation is the same, but the oo vowel in the middle is more clearly indicated by the letter waw. The name Yehudah is recorded more than 800 times in the Bible, always appearing in its plene spelling, yhwdh.
That the spelling on our bullae is defectiva has chronological significance: We do not see the plene spelling of Judah consistently used in inscriptions until 200 years after Hezekiah's reign. Either the Biblical texts were written down at least two centuries after Hezekiah or the texts we have were later spelling-corrected.
On the bullae, Hezekiah's name is spelled hzqyhw, Hezqiyahu. In the Bible it is spelled this way (2 Kings 18:9, 19:1) and three other ways: with an additional y at the beginning (yhzqyhw, Yehezqiyahu, as in 2 Chronicles 28:12); without the final w (yhzqyh, Yehezqiyah, as in Hosea 1:1); and without the beginning y or the final w (hzqyh, Hezqiyah, as in 2 Kings 18:2).
There is no clear explanation for these variant spellings. Perhaps it shows the chronological evolution of the language, with the texts containing the defectiva spellings being earlier. But the fact that all the bullae spell Hezekiah's name the same way, despite the availability of other spellings, may indicate that all three of the seals impressed in these nine Hezekiah bullae were made in the same workshop.
The source of these bullae raises another big question. All of the bullae hoards that have been recently brought to light came from the antiquities market; not one was found in a scientific archaeological excavation, with one important exception not relevant to this discussion.i It is reasonable to ask whether they could be fakes. The universal answer of all experts in the field is "no." It is simply impossible to fake them. The wet clay bullae were not baked at the time they were imprinted, but dried upon the documents they sealed. They hardened only in a fire that destroyed the documents the bullae sealed. For this reason they are very fragile - and have worn during the last 2,700 years. All have small cracks and surface corrosion, and under a microscope we see small crystals in the cracks and on damaged edges and surfaces. None of this can be duplicated.21
The bullae that are discussed for the first time here seem to be part of a larger group that came onto the antiquities market in Jerusalem in 2001 and were purchased by several individual collectors. One major collection of 109 bullae that has stayed intact, known as the Moussaieff Collection (after Shlomo Moussaieff, who authorized me to publish them in 1997 (in Hebrew; an English version appeared in 1999))22, surfaced in the mid-1990s. The new hoard contains many duplicates of bullae in the Moussaieff Collection. These duplicates suggest that both collections were once part of an even larger group.
A closer look reveals that the duplicates in the new group are more complete or better preserved than those in the Moussaieff Collection. I can only conclude that the group that once included both the new hoard that came to light in 2001 and the Mousaieff Collection was divided into two groups, one containing the more complete and better preserved bullae and the other the less complete and the less well-preserved pieces. The latter group was acquired by Moussaieff. The better pieces were withheld until 2001.
We will never know for certain where they came from, however.j Nahman Avigad assumed that the hoard he published in 1986, which may also be part of the large group, were found in the vicinity of Tel Beit Mirsim in southern Judah.23 Frank Cross thought it likely that they came from an archive in Jerusalem.j Nahman Avigad assumed that the hoard he published in 1986, which may also be part of the large group, were found in the vicinity of Tel Beit Mirsim in southern Judah.k
My guess is that they came from a site known as Khirbet el-Qom, near Hebron, because of a bulla in the Moussaieff Collection that bears the inscription "Epai son of Natanyahu." Epai is an extremely rare name - but it appears on an unpublished bulla in the new hoard,24 further indicating that the two hoards were originally one. Although the names are the same, the seals are quite different; apparently this Epai also had at least two seals. The name also appears twice in a late eighth or early seventh century BCE burial inscription from Khirbet el-Qom,25 along with the father's name, Natanyahu. I suspect that this was the same Epai, son of Natanyahu, whose seals are impressed in the bullae we now have. If that is so, the bullae may well have been produced in Khirbet el-Qom, where Epai, son of Natanyahu, was buried.
Incidentally, the very same name shows up in, of all places, a recently published graffito on a stone block acquired on the Jerusalem antiquities market.26 This is a soft limestone that is very similar to others that came from Khirbet el-Qom - and the graffito bears a close paleographical resemblance to other writing from there. It very likely came from the same place, and it makes us wonder: Who was this Epai, son of Netanyahu? He must have been one important - or ubiquitous - person. Perhaps future finds will enlighten us. The story of archaeology never ends.
- The emblems on the LMLK handles are indeed royal, as proven by the inscription itself: LMLK means "Belonging to the king". Also, a re-cut of the royal seal, as suggested, still requires proof.
The positions of the last four letters in the name of Hezekiah, under the scarab, clearly shows a shift, which weakens your re-cut suggestion.
- Mike Welch & I had posted some lengthy comments on this web page back in 2004 & 2005, but now they're gone; only yours remains, which sounds out-of-context now. Is it possible for you to restore them?
- I don't have them, they were probably not saved
- Fortunately, I found them in my archive. I'll re-post each one separately.
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
This is a fantastic, well-written article that presents the most comprehensive analysis of seal impressions made during the reign of Hezekiah by people closely associated with him, & probably by the king himself. What made the most lasting impression on me was how many of these artifacts have surfaced in only the past decade considering the amount of scientific excavation & undocumented chance finds that have been ongoing in Israel for more than a century. I applaud Robert Deutsch for gathering the data, making it available to us, & correlating it to the Biblical record. However, I disagree with the point he made about Yadin's theory that the l'melekh stamps represent royal emblems. Since the icons on King Hezekiah's seals shown here do not match the l'melekh icons, they neither end the debate nor prove Yadin correct. I also disagree with Deutsch's assertion that bullae numbers 1-5 shown here were made from 2 different seals. My research using computer graphics tools, an unskewed photo of #4, & a photo of an unpublished bulla mentioned by Deutsch has led me to propose that a single seal with upward-curving wings was modified at some point in time to enhance the cross-hatching since the inscription & overall icon are identical.
G.M. Grena, 10/09, 12:36 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
Prof. Deutsch's drawings of the 5 bullae with upward-curving wings closely resemble his photos of the bullae, not the original seal. Based on his drawings of the relationship between those four letters, one would be led to believe there were 5 distinct seals! The differences between his drawings & mine are like the differences between Peter Welten's 1969 l'melekh seal drawings & the ones I've published in my LMLK vol. 1 book. These 2 scholars depict the impressions seen in photos while mine focus on the original seals that made the impressions.
G.M. Grena, 10/12/2004, 04:42 PM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
I wish to express my gratitude to Prof. Deutsch for building this public forum, & acknowledge his extensive background with Hebrew, both ancient & modern, as well as his expertise both as an archaeologist & licensed antiquities dealer. In this discussion, I feel comfortable challenging him on several minor points because he has privately acknowledged that my l'melekh seal research is comprehensive & well beyond the elementary level when we originally crossed paths. (I remember it vividly. It was March, 2000. I was a new, although not exactly a young, scholar...) My work with the LMLK Research website is the fruit of his generous mentoring over the course of several years.
The circumstantial proof of the re-cut comes from an examination & comparison of the images (which I intend to publish in a booklet about King Hezekiah). Indeed, when you look at the actual size of a King Hezekiah bulla in person as I have, it seems highly unlikely that the engraver precisely duplicated the inscription & overall icon on 2 distinct seals, yet made completely different cross-hatchings within the wing designs. I concede that this is possible, but argue that the engraver repeated neither the inscription nor the paleographical characteristics on the seal with downward-curving wings (the bulla featured on the magazine cover & title page of this article). If those 2 designs are so radically different (i.e., one was written from top to bottom while the other was from bottom to top; one was broken between the words MLK/YHDH while the other was in the middle of AHZ), I doubt the inscription was copied so precisely on 2 seals with icons having upward-curving wings (bullae numbers 1-5). I maintain my assertion even if the ancient engravers were highly myopic (per Dominique Collon, "Near Eastern Seals", p. 42) & didn't use a magnifying lens as I speculated in vol. 1 of my LMLK book series. I view this as evidence of a touch-up job to deepen the cross-hatchings & bring out the detail--not evidence of a third seal. It is impossible to prove conclusively unless ***both*** seals are discovered, or at least the seal that matches the more numerous, shallow cross-hatchings represented by bullae numbers 2 & 5. And let's hope they're found in a scientific excavation rather than an antiquities shop or some collector's vault so there won't be any controversy over the possibility of forgery as one expert (Dr. Uzi Dahari, Deputy Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority) recently raised over these bullae containing fluorine, a modern tap water additive (Biblical Archaeology Review, Volume 30, Number 5, September/October 2004, p. 54).
As for the symbolism of the emblems, I believe they were Religious primarily & Royal secondarily. But first, allow me to mention an earlier reference to Yadin. In Note #11, Prof. Deutsch references Eretz-Israel vol. 8 from 1967. Six years prior in Scripta Hierosolymitana vol. 8 ("Ancient Judaean Weights & the Date of the Samaria Ostraca", specifically p. 14, which was actually written in 1959), Yadin equated the word "lmlk" with "royal" in the context of sheqel weights, & he speculated further that the sheqel symbol had evolved from the scarab icon on l'melekh seals. I believe his interpretation of the word was correct in this context (as the Hebrew vocabulary is limited), but his interpretation of the icon is doubtful (the sheqel symbol became popularized centuries after the use of the scarab icon on l'melekh seals, which only lasted for a few decades at most, & the Elephantine papyri Yadin referenced utilize a symbol that more closely resembles the letter Tet than a schematic scarab). The interpretation of "lmlk" inscriptions as "royal" dates back even further to at least the excavations at Gezer between 1902-1909 where a small weight was found inscribed "|| lmlk"--obviously denoting 2 royal sheqels. Prof. Deutsch was probably influenced by an unprovenanced weight he published in "Forty New Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions" that had the same inscription & also a sheqel symbol.
After a century of debate, nobody can conclusively demonstrate whether the "MLK" inscribed on the l'melekh seals indicated taxes to the Judean government, produce owned by an earthly king, or offerings to a divine being. Even though "to the king" is a valid reading of "LMLK", the definite article should be bracketed because there is no Hey present, so it's equally possible & more justifiable to read it as "belonging to MLK"--the name of a person or divine being, which Prof. Deutsch himself admitted as a possible reading of a bulla (#5) he published in his 2003 book, "Biblical Period Hebrew Bullae--The Josef Chaim Kaufman Collection".
It seems circular for Prof. Deutsch to adopt Yadin's theory that these were primarily Royal emblems, then state sans evidence that "they were already quite old and bereft of any religious significance" during Hezekiah's reign simply because they appear on this king's seals. Why deny King Hezekiah the opportunity to revive worship activities by employing these icons? That would certainly answer his question as to why the seal of Hezekiah's anti-God father, Ahaz, was aniconic. He notes the reliability of Chronicles but for some reason ignores the depiction by the Chronicler of Hezekiah as a great religious reformer. He also contradicts himself when he references numerous other seals with these emblems he's published that belonged to non-kings. For example, in "Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection" (cited by Prof. Deutsch in Note #16), we see:
"Belonging to Hoshea' son of Silla'" with a scarab (#5),
"Belonging to Naveyau" with a scarab (#8),
"Shallum" with a winged sun (#13),
"Belonging to Shallum Yishma'" with a winged sun (#14),
"Belonging to Yaphah daughter of Shema'ayahu" with a scarab (#26),
"Belonging to Mika'el" with a winged sun (#97),
"Belonging to Rapho'y" with a winged sun & scarab (#103),
"Seal of 'El'amar" with a winged sun (#111),
"Belonging to 'Ilahnur" with a scarab (#112),
"Seal of Bagapata" with a winged sun (#116),
"Belonging to Sidqi" with a scarab (#137),
"Belonging to Ragam" with a scarab (#139),
"Belonging to 'Elhanan son of 'Uri'el" with a scarab (#157),
"Belonging to 'Elan son of 'Amar'el" with a winged sun (#159),
"Belonging to El'azar son of 'Elimelek" with a winged sun (#163),
"Belonging to Beyad'el son of Krzy"--a crazy guy with a winged sun (#169),
"Belonging to Nuri'el" with a winged sun (#176),
"Belonging to Kanunay" with a winged sun (#206),
"Belonging to Sassar'il" with a winged sun (#208),
Surely this small sampling of the entire corpus of west Semitic seals does not represent kings, nor does it necessarily represent servants of kings or relatives of kings; it is simply impossible to prove that all of them were government officials as opposed to wealthy private citizens & business people, maybe even priests/Levites, all of whom must've use seals to safeguard their correspondence.
This points to another difference between Prof. Deutsch & me; namely, he appears to view no distinction between the priests/Levites & military/state officials such as those named in 1 Chronicles 23-24 compared to 25-26 during the days of David & Solomon. It's important to make the distinction between these 2 classes of servants: one that served the earthly king, & one that served the heavenly King. Surely a similar hierarchy remained in effect till Hezekiah's reign since all scholars agree that Jerusalem was more established as a thriving capital by that time than during previous administrations.
Prof. Deutsch equates the man named on bulla A ("Amaryahu [son of] Hananyahu, servant [of] Hezekiah") with the Levite named Amariah in 2 Chronicles 31:15. I believe it's more likely that the priests/Levites had no titles on their seals, & that they were probably the men who stamped many of the jars in conjunction with the l'melekh seals (referred to by scholars alternately as Private, Personal, or Official seals). Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of temples & altars throughout Israel so there must've been priests but where are their personal seals stating such? Is it not possible that these emblems carried that religious association? If it's "highly unlikely that more than one person with this name would hold senior positions in the royal service at the same time," I believe it is just as unlikely that a priest/Levite would call himself a "servant of Hezekiah" rather than a "servant of God" or "servant in the Temple".
No scholar can conclusively dissociate the l'melekh jars from offerings in a worship context. Prof. Deutsch's "bereft" remark surprised me considering that the "chariots of the sun" adjacent to the Temple had to be destroyed by Josiah similar to the way Hezekiah had to destroy the bronze snake of Moses because the religious symbolism embraced by these particular objects (not necessarily their images) had become so strong that Judeans worshipped them! Even if l'melekh jars were temporarily used as military supplies during a short-term emergency, it is impossible to prove that their original, long-term purpose was for the army/soldiers instead of priests/Levites. That's a minor detail in light of his entire article, but it deserves to be challenged by Biblical scholars, theologians, & historians with better academic credentials than I have (i.e., a bachelor of science in electrical engineering). Scarabs were still religious symbols centuries later when Saint Ambrose (bishop of Milan) associated Jesus Christ with one in his commentary on Habakkuk 2:11 (per the Septuagint). Maybe when early Christians associated Jesus Christ with "only begotten" scarabs it was simply fashionable to be retro!
The basic problem with the mindset noted by Prof. Deutsch about Cross & Lubetski in Note #19 is that they assume these icons were pagan from the beginning. It would be easier for Cross & Lubetski to argue about religious significances if they were to approach the subject from a fresh, unbiased, objective view. The problem with Prof. Deutsch's question about the use of "elements that were both foreign & pagan" would be better approached as "elements ***presumed*** to be both foreign & pagan" since it's impossible to prove their point of origin. Recall that Noah was the only man who walked with God during his time, & Abram was likewise the only such man in all of his land. So if it's possible for one person to be right with God & all the others wrong when they too were worshipping a god or gods, is it impossible for one emblem to be perceived & preserved the wrong & right way?
For those who have not read my LMLK vol. 1 book, I would like to point out that I believe these objects referred to by Deutsch & most other scholars as a "winged sun" when used specifically on the l'melekh seals may have represented the Light of God worshipped by the Biblical patriarchs (assuming that the correct interpretation of their context is that of offerings to the one true God) since there are many verses in the Bible associating God with shining light both figuratively & literally (from Genesis 1:3 to Revelation 22:5). I believe that simple-minded, copy-cat pagans equated this with the sun on their seals, yet all scholars assume the opposite--that Israelites merely imitated their neighbors by adding solar attributes to Yahweh/Jehovah. I realize that I am in the gross minority with my belief, but I submit that people who acknowledge the one true God presented in the Bible outnumber the scholars who focus on the large corpus of pagan artwork & attempt to make the Biblical writers fit into that frame the same way they view the Holy Bible as an elaborate imitation of Babylonian, Egyptian, & Greek fairytales.
By suggesting that the only possible interpretation of "MLK" on the l'melekh seals is that of an earthly king or government as Prof. Deutsch does, he leaves me wondering what he thinks about the Biblical use of "MLK" within personal names such as Melchizedek (described as a priest of the most high God in the New Testament) & Elimelech ("God is King"), the name of the Ammonite deity--Moloch, & the one true King witnessed by Isaiah "on a throne, high & lifted up". Is it that far-fetched for me to view the winged light source as a symbol of God whose heavenly Word remains a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105)? Maybe I'm just retro! At the very least, you must admit that these bullae did not end the debate!
G.M. Grena, 10/13/2004, 05:55 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY MICHAEL WELCH IN 2004:
Both Dr. Deutsch and Dr. Grena offer more valuable insights into the Biblical World with their continuing comments. Dr. Deutsch's article is tremendous!!!!! I have to agree with him on several points. The seals were not recut. There is no need for this. King Hezekiah had storehouses of precious stones(2 Chr 32:27-30). Both the two two-winged scarab personal seals and the eight four-winged scarab LMLK seals of King Hezekiah were not recut. When one LMLK seal was very poorly made with letters upside down; it was made anew. Patterns used in copying the seals account for the amazing accuracy. There is a definite connection between the motifs of King Hezekiah's personal seals and the more public LMLK seals. The central device on the two-winged sun disc seals is the same(as noted above by Dr. Deutsch). The three rays of the sun on the top are shorter than the three rays of the sun on the bottom. The sun is an orb. It is globular on both, not simply a flat disc.
If God wanted the LMLK jars to be His receptacles, surely he could have chose better engravers of the seals(there are numerous mistakes on them). Also if the LMLK icons were so important as a visual representation of God's Light, why are the six rays and the central orb seldom seen, say only one impression out of every 800 to 1,000 impressions clearly shows the seals' details. Also why didn't God use His Name YAHWEH on the LMLK stamps. If He was bold enough to have "His" icons used why not be bold and use His Name.
From the personal seals found on the LMLK jars we do have a priest, a lower servant, and a higher "son of the King" "servant" discovered thus far. The LMLK jars represent a kingdom-wide effort of King Hezekiah before the arrival of King Sennacherib and his army.
In conclusion there is much more in common between King Hezekiah's 3 personal seals and the 21 LMLK seals than differences. They both use the scarab and the sun disc motifs. They both "were indeed royal as evidenced by LMLK." Belonging to the KING is the clear interpretation. You have to make the jump from King to GOD. There is no need to do so. When Dr. Grena cites the examples above like Elimelek, he does not translate the name Elimelek as My God is GOD but My God is KING. The word KING is the normal exegetical interpretation.
Michael J. Welch , 10/20/2004, 09:42 PM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
Michael Welch & I are true-blue friends; however, our perspectives on these issues are as distant as the east coast of the USA from the west coast.
Mike speculates that there was no need for a re-cut, thereby avoiding the issue of why the inscription & icon outline would be so precisely duplicated but not the interior icon details. Following his hyperbole, we should expect to find storehouse quantities of precious stones engraved with the exact same design, thereby defeating the purpose of a seal to guarantee authenticity.
Compare for yourself bullae B & C in this article, WSS 686 & 687 (see Prof. Deutsch's Note 16), & Andrew Vaughn's XIVa, XIVb, & XIVc (see Prof. Deutsch's Note 20). The obvious differences in these examples demonstrate the capability of the engravers when attempting to replicate seal designs for the same person; but Prof. Deutsch & Mike could cite those same sources for examples of matching stamps with defects & claim that 2 seals were used, just as they do for these personal seals of King Hezekiah. Andre Lemaire made a similar case against Peter Welten over the l'melekh seals, but even I had to reverse a couple of instances where Lemaire went too far in eliminating similar but genuinely different seals. Now my role is reversed & we have to agree to disagree on this point because it's unprovable until a scientific excavation recovers a pair of identical seals some day. Favoring my side of the argument are the 3 seals of Eliashib, son of Eshiyahu excavated at Arad (see "Arad Inscriptions" by Yohanan Aharoni, 1981, p. 119). If you examine these 3 seals, I believe you'll get an accurate feel for the ability of ancient engravers to replicate seals.
Mike argues that God would have chosen better engravers. According to the Bible, God chose people with superior skills for some tasks (such as Tabernacle & Temple crafts), but people with precisely the ***wrong*** characteristics for other jobs. God chose Moses with a speech impediment for a spokesperson. Saul/Paul killed Christians yet God chose him to preserve the Gospel of Jesus Christ through his epistles before any of the Gospel books were written. However, in Vol. 1 of my LMLK book series I speculated that Isaiah engraved the first set of l'melekh seals for stamping giant pithoi as an ***impromptu*** response to the large quantity of tithes/offerings delivered to the Temple. I don't view it in the same light as God's elaborate design of the Tabernacle & Temple, & neither Hezekiah nor Isaiah needed God's approval to mark jars for tithes.
In response to Mike's question of why the l'melekh stamps don't consistently reveal the icon details if they were supposed to represent the Light of God, the seal designs reveal the details but the stamps were made by imperfect humans the same way God's Word has been written/preserved by imperfect humans. One example: the famous Isaiah manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls contains numerous imperfections (both missing & added words/phrases) along with inconsistent layout & second-hand marginal corrections. If my suggestion for a touch-up job on one of King Hezekiah's personal seals is correct, it simply shows that he was able to exercise tighter control of his own seal than on the bureaucratic l'melekh seals, which would've been under direct control of the high priest--not King Hezekiah.
In response to Mike's question of why "YHWH" was not used on the l'melekh seals, God is named MLK (e.g., the King of Glory) in addition to several other names in the Bible. Maybe by referring to God as MLK, King Hezekiah wanted to ensure that tithers recognized who the true King was. Mike & Prof. Deutsch know perfectly well that The Name ("Hashem") was considered too holy to be written by some Jews, & that may also account for the choice of MLK on jar handle seals. But I'm the first to admit that the l'melekh seal inscriptions can justifiably be read in geographic, military, political, religious, or social contexts with either an earthly or divine king as the focal point. That is why it's premature for Prof. Deutsch to assert that the debate has ended.
Mike's citation of a priest on the l'melekh jar Personal seals would bolster my point that the majority of them belonged to priests, but it's speculative since the seal contains no title; again, this supports the point I made regarding the distinction between servants of the king vs. servants of God.
True, the icons are similar & convey the same representation--religious or royal, & equally true, King Hezekiah's personal seals & the l'melekh seals both contain the word "MLK"; but Mike concluded that there is "much more in common" between them than differences, so let's take the time to list some differences & you--the reader--can use a solar-powered calculator to compare the totals:
1) The light source on King Hezekiah's seal has strictly downward-curving wings compared to the wavy upward-curving wings on l'melekh seals, which is somewhat anomalous when compared to Dominique Parayre's West Semitic corpus referenced by Prof. Deutsch in Note 18.
2) Icon wings on King Hezekiah's seals have cross-hatching details while all l'melekh seal wings are plain.
3) The scarab on King Hezekiah's seal(s) has/have 2 wings & 4 legs pushing dung balls compared to the legless 4-winged scarabs on l'melekh seals whose wings embrace the inscriptions.
4) The inscriptions on King Hezekiah's seals consist of 17 letters & leave no doubt as to whom they belong to; l'melekh seals have only 2, 4, 6, 7, or 8 letters & can be interpreted as towns, regions, people, votives for the government, earthly king, heavenly king.
5) King Hezekiah's seals are only about one-seventh the size of l'melekh seals!!!
6) King Hezekiah's seals were probably set in a ring bezel, whereas the l'melekh seals were either loose or hung from a cord/chain on a necklace or fob.
7) The only impressions we have from King Hezekiah's seals are on bullae; l'melekh stamps are only on jar handles.
8) Only about a dozen bullae of King Hezekiah are known (probably recovered illicitly from a single archive as Prof. Deutsch speculated); hundreds of l'melekh stamps have been scientifically excavated all over Israel, mostly corresponding to Judean cities that were not exclusively military fortresses, but probably everywhere there were priests/Levites per 2 Chronicles 31:15-20.
If the "MLK" of the l'melekh seals should be associated with the same earthly ruler represented by the "MLK" on King Hezekiah's personal seals, why were the engravers given so much artistic license with the icons & why was it important for them to put longer inscriptions on smaller seals?
Mike says you have to make an interpretive "jump from king to God." Long before Yigael Yadin prematurely proclaimed that these icons were royal symbols, Isaiah made that jump when he saw Adonai (not Elohim) high & lifted up, sitting on a throne, & exclaimed, "My eyes have seen the MLK, Yahweh/Jehovah."
Jewish prayer liturgy: "Adonai Melech, Adonai Malchah, Adonai Ymloch L’Olam Va’ed."
An interesting footnote to my earlier comment about Prof. Deutsch's "bereft" statement is that Hashem can also mean "shining". Even the famous Jewish scholar, Rashi, viewed God through allegorical wings & shining light conveyed first by Abraham & Sarah to lost souls! (commentary on Midrash Rabbah xii:5)
How could any unbiased, scientifically objective, open-minded person conclude these symbols were exclusively royal & that the debate has ended?
G.M. Grena, 10/23/2004, 05:51 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY MICHAEL WELCH IN 2004:
Both Dr. Deutsch and Dr. Grena are Great Biblical Scholars. They both have done much to advance our knowledge of the Biblical World. I consider both of them very good friends as well.
Here are just a few more points. When the two "long inscriptions" on King Hezekiah's personal seals are translated, no scholar listed so far has translated MLK, which on both the personal seals and LMLK seals does not have the definite article, Hey, as God. We do not have, "belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, God of Judah." We have ".....King of Judah." Both the 3 personal seals and the 21 LMLK seals appear to be made from patterns or you could call them templates. I guess Dr. Grena overlooked this in my previous response. This accounts for the amazing accuracy between the two two-winged scarab personal seals of King Hezekiah, and the icons of at least the four four-winged scarab 4L class of the more public LMLK seals. There is nothing "hyperbolic" about my statement from 2Chr 32. King Hezekiah did indeed have plenty of precious stones. He did not have to have any of his seals reworked.
Concerning priests, we do have priests with titles, contrary to Dr. Grena's earlier comments, found on seals(WSS#'s28&29;). It should not surprise us to find priests involved in the LMLK jar stamping process. I believe that Oreb the Nobian(WSS#693) is clearly a priest. I believe he was in charge of taking the Tithe of the LMLK jars for the priests. He marked the jars with an incised plus mark designation mark at first and changed it very quickly to incised concentric circles.
I still find it hard to believe that a culture of prophets and priests, like Isaiah and the various Levites and Priests contemporary with him, would give their God, Yahweh, the King of the Universe, their second best. King Hezekiah can have two seals made for him that are so close in accuracy that you can hardly tell them apart. The inscriptions are close to perfect, yet God gets mistakes in His seals and poorly stamped impressions. I am sorry. I just don't get it. King Hezekiah was a godly king. He too worshipped the King of Kings. The only way this shoddy workmanship could pass was a crisis in the Kingdom of Judah; the crisis was King Sennacherib and his Assyrian army was coming. King Hezekiah could let all of these mistakes "slide", just like the actual LMLK seals tended to do on the LMLK jar handles. He knew that either his inscription or the scarab or sun disc motif were close enough for government work during this time of emergency to convey government ownership or his royalty.
Michael J. Welch , 10/23/2004, 04:51 PM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY MICHAEL WELCH IN 2004:
After studying the examples of handles posted on Dr. Grena's LMLK Research Website(which is Very Valuable, Excellent, and Thorough), another conclusion can be drawn about how the contemporaries, possibly the Priests, of King Hezekiah felt about his choice of icons for the 21 LMLK seals, they did not like them. At least one four-winged scarab seal and one two-winged sun disc seal were Xed out with Plus Marks. At least two two-winged sun disc seals were cancelled out with incised concentric circles. Another four-winged scarab seal and two-winged sun disc seal have what appears to be the initial center augering hole of the concentric circles incised on them. So it could very well be that the priests found the iconography of the scarab and two-winged sun disc offensive, but out of respect for King Hezekiah decided to incise their Designation Marks near the seals instead of into the seals.
Michael J. Welch , 10/25/2004, 02:05 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
Mike tends to seize upon anomalies & center his theories around them while ignoring the main body of data. In this case, the vast majority of incised marks on l'melekh jars appear either complementary to or independent of the stamps. Over the past year since I've known him, Mike's offered a cornucopia of theories about the marks, all of which are interesting; but since they're simply brainstorms not based on any ancient text, the counter-position to his latest speculation is equally valid & more justifiable (i.e., government officials made the marks next to the religious emblems because they liked them); in my opinion, neither position is compelling.
Whatever meaning was conveyed by these marks, the archaeological evidence suggests they were not made until after King Hezekiah's confrontation with the Assyrians (i.e., after he was "shut up like a bird in a cage" per the Assyrian records, or after his miraculous healing & miraculous victory over the Assyrians per the Bible). Surely the religious concept of eternal life embraced by scarabs & a deity/angel of light embraced by the other emblem both complement the Biblical accounts of his divine healing & the angelic massacre.
Unlike the l'melekh jars, these bullae published by Prof. Deutsch lack provenance & we have no way of knowing whether they were made before or after the Assyrian conflict; nor can we be 100% certain of their authenticity since children learn in their elementary science class how to grow the crystals that he claimed in this article could not be duplicated. I believe these bullae are authentic, but I'm not gonna build any theories upon them until additional specimens are excavated scientifically. Before venturing into tangent phenomena such as the incised marks, it would be more helpful if Mike &/or Prof. Deutsch would present some evidence to support their position that these emblems were "bereft of any religious significance."
Mike's point about no definite article on King Hezekiah's personal seals is ludicrous since the "Hezekiah Ahaz" phrase obviously defines MLK on that seal. It's the l'melekh seals that lack any qualifier & leave the interpretation open. By the way, God always was & always will be King over the land of Israel evidenced as early as 1 Samuel 12:12, "the LORD your God was your MLK." After establishing the Israelite monarchy, God remained enthroned per Isaiah 6 as I've been referencing. Most Israelites were just too stupid/stubborn to acknowledge that God was the best possible MLK for them. They were always at their best when they were at the mercy of God under the direction of a single spokesperson from Moses to Joshua & all through the record of Judges.
I didn't overlook Mike's hypothetical "patterns"; I spent an entire paragraph emphasizing they would be impossible to prove simply by examining similar stamps, & I rely on the Arad seals of Eliashib to prove my side of the case. Mike has to wait for a scientific excavation to prove his side. It's hyperbolic to think that a king would willy-nilly authorize multiple copies of his own seal for his functionaries just because he has a storehouse full of precious stones; again, Prof. Deutsch contradicted his logic by publishing seals that explicitly name servants of Hezekiah. Why would King Hezekiah replicate his seal for a functionary instead of issuing a unique seal with the functionary's name? Prof. Deutsch's guess may be correct, but so far the evidence supports my side of the debate. It's fun to guess, & he was under no obligation to provide scientific evidence in this article for BAR magazine since it's a commercial publication for the masses, not an academic journal for advanced researchers.
I'm grateful to Mike for bringing 2 Hebrew priests' seals of uncertain provenance to my attention, but I stand by my original point that the Scarab & Light emblems probably conveyed religious symbolism; nor do these 2 seals change the fact that the vast majority of titular seals are of government officials/relatives & not priests.
As for Mike's belief that the culture of the priests/Levites gave God their best, they gave God such a pitiful performance overall from the time of Eli (1 Samuel 2:12) throughout the monarchy that God had to use the Assyrians & Babylonians to remove them from the stage of history. That's pretty dang bad if you ask me! The priestly culture did not appear out of a vacuum during Hezekiah's reign; it was the worship reformation led by King Hezekiah that inspired the people to return to the one true God. Read Micah 1 & Ezekiel 8. Even the remnant that returned from exile ended up turning the second Temple into a den of thieves, & now all we have left on the Temple Mount is a bunch of wailing Jews & Moslem ghouls.
Following Mike's logic that the l'melekh seals were shoddy, thus indicating the symbols were Royal & void of religious significance, one can't help but wonder what emergency faced the scribe(s) who wrote the famous Isaiah scroll decades--if not centuries--before the Qumran caves were sealed in A.D. 70. I suppose Mike will have to conclude the most famous Biblical manuscript in the world was void of religious symbolism! It must seem amazing to Mike that God would bother to preserve such a shoddy piece of workmanship. Forget about the Essenes--some wandering Roman legion must have transcribed this copy of Isaiah since it truly represents "good enough for government" quality! (***smile***)
G.M. Grena, 10/27/2004, 05:50 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY MICHAEL WELCH IN 2004:
Dr. Grena has the right to criticize my views however he sees fit. I will still love and respect him. However his characterization of Jews and Muslims living on the Temple Mount is just not right. It is deplorable.
Here are a few more points. If Dr. Grena would try to make a bulla or bullae with crystals using these methods that children in elementary science classes use, he would find that the boiling water used to create the crystals would dissolve the clay or soil. It just would not work. I hope that Dr. Grena can get back to the point where he can base some theories on these bullae of King Hezekiah. Without them we have no good comparisons of King Hezekiah's seals with the LMLK seals. These bullae can be trusted. Thermoluminesence can be done on the ones that are burned black. Other similar bullae have been tested for their firing date.
I admit that my views have changed based on an increase in knowledge about LMLK handles from Dr. Grena's LMLK Research Website. But I am in great company with my views on the incised Concentric Circles. Both Dr. James B. Pritchard and Dr. Nahman Avigad considered them cancellation marks. The difference between their view and mine is the level of Society the property rights of the LMLK jars were transferred after cancellation. They thought it was into Private Use. Dr. Lawrence Stager rightly concluded, when a handle with incised before firing concentric circle marks was excavated by Dr. Avigad in Jerusalem, a LMLK jar cannot be both the King's Property and a Private Person's Propety at the same time. This example, along with a couple of other incised before firing handles, and a couple of handles found in clear pre-Sennacherib strata with the normal concentric circles incised after firing, "clearly" show that the Concentric Circle Marks were normally made just after the LMLK jars were fired. The anomalies are important. I am sure that they gave Dr. Pritchard and Dr. Avigad the idea like they gave me that a Plus Mark or a set of Concentric Circle Marks incised into the icon seems to be a cancellation of the Kings authority. I just think the property rights were transferred to God or the Priests. Since Dr. Grena has brought up Priests I thought this fit right along with the subject matter. The ratios of LMLK jars with no marks and LMLK jars with Concentric Circle Marks appears to be about one cc jar for every ten LMLK jars; thus, King Hezekiah was tithing the LMLK jars' produce to God. Most of these LMLK handles with concentric circles are found in the Jerusalem area, where the greatest concentration of Priests were. Like I have said before we have Oreb the Nobian, a Priest's seal found on a LMLK type jar handle. He and some other Priests made the Plus Marks and the Concentric Circle Marks which very quickly became more of a Designation Mark near the seal but no longer cut into the seal. I think this makes the most sense and answers the most questions. To me, this would be "proof" that the Priests really did not care for King Hezekiah's choice of the four-winged scarab or the two-winged sun disc. These are my theories on the matter.
Michael J. Welch , 10/28/2004, 11:07 PM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY G.M. GRENA IN 2004:
Molten metal crystallizes only when it cools; water crystallizes when it freezes. Massive, scenic crystals form in the cool environment of caves/caverns (typically ~50F, ~10C). After my previous post, I sent Mike several recipes for crystals, only a couple of which recommended boiling water as an accelerator. Following his usual pattern I mentioned above, he seized upon one option that fit his theory & acted as though no other possibility existed. I wouldn't call his method deplorable, but the adjectives "scientific" & "unbiased" don't quite fit either. In any event, boiling water can be used to form a solution from seed crystals, but the crystals only grow after the carrier (water) dissolves. The bulla would not have to be boiled; a small amount of ambient solution could be applied to the bulla.
Prof. Deutsch noted that these bullae have survived because they were burned (i.e., vitrified) in an archive fire. While sunbaked clay artifacts may easily crumble/dissolve (as I've seen one of my antiquities with cuneiform writing do), vitrified clay remains hard & resistant to water (even if it's boiling).
Mike has a problem: If he believes these bullae of King Hezekiah are susceptible to dissolving in water, he has to agree with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) expert that they contain clay made with modern fluorinated tap water before they were hardened, thereby proving they are fake, thereby damaging the reputation of Prof. Deutsch & his unnamed experts who unanimously agree that microscopic crystals are present on every single one of these bullae (even though he didn't provide photos of any). If, however, he agrees with Prof. Deutsch that they were genuinely made in antiquity & hardened by a fire, then the traces of fluorine can easily be explained as the remnants of a thorough cleansing with modern tap water (boiling or chilly--it wouldn't matter).
I dread the thought of a third alternative--that one of the experts is wrong or lying. Planet earth would fall from its orbit & our galaxy would collapse! Let's hope that Mike can think of the fourth alternative & concede that he was wrong, for the sake of the universe!
It would be pointless for me to attempt to replicate the crystals without any reference photos of the real ones. And maybe it's a good idea to keep such data confidential so that the IAA will have a better chance of detecting forgeries, rather than inviting people to make forgeries for $10,000 as Hershel Shanks did (BAR May/June 2003, p. 6).
Mike's comment about the Circle marks "found in clear pre-Sennacherib strata" is erroneous, but I am to blame for an inaccurate statement on the LMLK Research website. Since this issue has no direct bearing on this article, I'll simply refer the reader to the Updates page of the LMLK Research Website for 11-7-04. Regarding his reference to an undocumented handle excavated by Avigad with Circles stamped before firing: suffice it to say that Stager & Avigad were superceded by Gabriel Barkay in "Jewish Quarter Excavations" (published in 2000), which poses another dilemma for Mike since his respect for Dr. Barkay probably exceeds that of the other 2 scholars he's siding with on this mystery handle.
Since neither Mike nor Prof. Deutsch have offered any evidence to refute my contentions to this article, I am now going to merge this discussion with another minor point I'd like to challenge Prof. Deutsch about, namely, the bulla of Amaryahu son of Hananyahu. Again, I'll refer to the Updates page of the LMLK Research Website for 11-7-04 for a link to a page containing photos of a new specimen from this seal, & I'll make several abridged points here:
1) Following my earlier contention about the distinction between priests & Levites serving God vs. officials & commanders serving the temporal king, I believe it's more probable that this person was of the latter.
2) Out of at least 8 other men named Amariah in the Bible, & at least 13 named Hananiah, I believe it's more likely that the person who stamped these bullae was a descendant of the renowned captain during the reign of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:11) not named in the Bible.
3) It's possible that King Hezekiah named one of his sons in honor of this servant named Amariah (Zephaniah 1:1).
4) The use of the Hananyahu patronym may have been necessary to distinguish between 2 men named Amaryahu holding government positions at the same time, possibly even to distinguish him from a son of King Hezekiah.
5) It is obvious from my photos of this new specimen that Prof. Deutsch's drawing differs regarding the relative positions of the 2 Hets (especially the top one). This could indicate one of the following:
a) This person had 2 nearly identical seals--extremely unlikely considering the 3 seals from Arad I mentioned earlier & the 3 seals of Domla (Prof. Deutsch recently published another Domla variant besides the 2 shown in this BAR article).
b) My bulla is a modern forgery (although it was authenticated by the same Gil Chaya who certified 3 of the bullae published by Prof. Deutsch in this BAR article).
c) Prof. Deutsch's drawings are inaccurate, which gets us back to my original point of contention regarding whether King Hezekiah had 1 or 2 scarab seals.
G.M. Grena, 11/08/2004, 07:41 AM
- ORIGINALLY POSTED BY MICHAEL WELCH IN 2004:
Dr. Grena is mistaken. I have realized all along that if modern tap water is found on ancient bullae that it must come from a washing or rinsing. Dr. Grena asked me to take a look at a few websites about crystals for elementary school children. My point was that any bullae fired or unfired could not stand boiling water. If he does not believe me, he can try it out on his recently acquired bulla. I doubt that he will take my challenge.
Thermoluminesence is the Scientific angle to figure out the authenticity of fired bullae. Not all bullae are fired. The one on the cover of the BAR article happens to be. If its firing date is ancient, say anything around 500B.C. or older, then one has to figure out the contaminants.
Dr. Grena often sets up straw me that he then knocks down. In these instances he is not scientific. He is biased. Take point c just above us. Dr. Deutsch's drawings may be inaccurate, But Dr. Deutsch does not base his conclusions on the drawings themselves. He bases his conclusions on the actual bullae. The actual bullae do show differences, the extra line, which is especially clear above the right wing, the shift in the letters. Dr. Grena proposes that the seal was re cut. Dr. Deutsch and myself say there were two seals. We are all entitled to our theories.
Another example of a straw man is at the end of point nine. Dr. Grena says that since I think the LMLK seals and their stampings were poorly executed because of a rush for time, an emergency, then the Isaiah Scroll must also have been done during an emergency, because it was poorly done. I do not think this. This is not a parallel example. The Isaiah Scroll is a Manuscript, something like thirty feet long and contains hundreds of thousands of letters. The LMLK seals are seals that contain just a few letters.
Dr. Grena also is unscientific and biased when it comes to information he does not like. If it does not fit his preconceived ideas, he modifies it. He just modified some pre-Sennacherib handles on his LMLK Website. He says that he sees the big picture of data, but does he? The concentric circle LMLK handles are a perfect example. He says that the majority were found in 7th century B.C. strata. Guess what? They should be. The majority come from Jerusalem and Gibeon. Were these sites destroyed by Sennacherib? NO When did Sennacherib arrive? 701B.C. When did the 7th century start? either 700 or 699B.C. The important thing in figuring out chronology is not to brush away the "anomalies", but figure out the Big Picture and find out why they are there.
Another example of Dr. Grena's Eisegesis of information is his Prophet Isaiah theory. He mentioned it above and in his book. He noticed that the letters on the 4C LMLK seals were "chicken scratches". So he theorized that the Prophet Isaiah was told by God to institute the LMLK jars for the overabundance of the people's offering to God. These 4C stamps were then stamped on pithoi jars for the overabundance. A good theory, Right? Yet Dr. Grena knows that the pithoi handles are rare. There are only a handful of jars for the overabundance, yet he "scientifically" clings to his theory.
Dr. Grena knows a lot, but he does not know everything. Neither do I. That is why most of these ideas are theories that cannot be judged by science. On these points we have to say that each person is entitled to their views. However when empirical data comes along. Then some theories are out the window.
Both Dr. Deutsch and I have set forth "proof" for our ideas which Dr. Grena chooses not to believe. Dr. Grena has set forth his "proof." Even though Dr. Grena does not think that one should base any big theories on these Unprovenanced bullae, he sure has written a lot about them hasn't he. Now he wants to jump into the subject of another unprovenanced bulla. Life is interesting. Isn't it.
Michael J. Welch , 11/09/2004, 01:21 AM
- Perhaps Hezekiah saw the motif of the winged scarab/sun as a representation of the God of Israel as the "ישב הכרבים"("dwells between the cherubim"),who bears the salvation. Interestingly,Hezekiah is one of the few in the Bible who actually refers to God as "ישב הכרבים" -he does so in his prayer for the salvation of jerusalem .(Kings II 19:15;Isiah 37:16)
- Past and future, are very distant from their own, the key now is to seize, seize the present.
I research the meaning of the Hebrew (Canaanite) letters, I almost done.
and I know now most of the letters names, that nobody knows.
if you interested ?
- Interesting. Share it with me.
- I wrote it in Hebrew, my English is not so well, so it may take me along time to translate it.
Maybe you interest in some letter, let me know.