First Temple Period Adoniyahu Seal Discovered

Published on October 24, 2019

Who said amazing discoveries had to be massive and made of gold? In fact, important discoveries can be extremely small. Such as a one centimeter wide bulla that was recently found in excavations under Robinson’s Arch.[1] A bulla is a seal that was normally made of clay, wax, or soft metal that typically had an inscription and was used to authenticate commercial and legal documents. This particular bulla is made from clay and dates back to the seventh century BCE, placing it in the First Temple Period and during the Kingdom of Judea.

Even more impressive than its 2,600 year age is the inscription which reads,“Adenyahu Asher Al Habayit.” This can be translated as, “Belonging to Adoniyahu, the Royal Steward.” The name Adoniyahu simply tranlsates as, “The Lord is my Master”, and role of Royal Steward refers to the highest minister in the royal court- a position directly under the king. The term is used multiple times in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, in the Book of Genesis, Royal Steward is used to describe Joseph’s position in Egypt.

This facinating find would have been used to signify the importance of documents that were coming from the Judean king’s court and to testify of their authenticity. While this was the first seal to ever be found belonging to such a high official in Israel, there could be a connection between this seal and a discovery made over 150 years ago. In 1870, a seventh century BCE burial cave was discovered by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau containing the inscription, “Tomb of …..yahu Asher Al Habayit.” The inscription, which is currently housed in the British Museum, only shows a partial name ending, which is the same as that of the recently discovered bulla.

The datings and inscription simliarities between the two finds show a remarkably promising link. Regardless, this recent First Temple Period bulla is an exciting discovery of great significance. It demonstrates that some of the greatest finds are small and easily unnoticeable. Even more so, it makes us aware of the rich history directly under your feet as you walk through the streets of Jersualem.

[1] If you’re interested in learning about Robinson’s Arch, we invite you to participate in our course BA01 Introduction to Biblical Archaeology.


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