Archaeology news: Royal seal linked to Biblical king Hezekiah unearthed in Israel

LMLK seal: Archaeologist discusses the ancient artefact

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have uncovered the royal seal during excavations in the Arnona neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The clay seal has been linked to the Kingdom of Judah, an Iron Age kingdom that stretched across the Southern Levant from 930 to 586 BC. These types of seals are known as LMLK (read: lamelekh) seals, which stands for the Hebrew letters “lamedh mem ladh kaph”.

The ancient Hebrew script translates to “of the king” or “belonging to the king”.

The first LMLK seals were issued around the year 700 BC during the reign of Hezekiah, 13th king of Judah.

Hezekiah is one of the most prominent Biblical monarchs in the Old Testament and is even mentioned in the New Testament’s Gospels in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

Hezekiah’s own personal seal was uncovered during excavations at Jerusalem’s Ophel in 2015.

The IAA said of its latest discovery: “The seal was found alongside an enormous collection of seal impressions.

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“The impressions were stamped with the letters ‘LMLK’ (belonging to the king) written in ancient Hebrew script and the name of the ancient city in the Kingdom of Judah.

“Other seals are associated with private individuals which bear the name of a senior official of the Kingdom of Judah or a wealthy individual.”

LMLK seals are often adorned with two-winged or four-winged figures indicating their royal status.

According to Jeremy Stein of the Center for Holy Land Studies, the seals were imprinted into the hands of jars as a sign of ownership.

These may have been jugs containing tax collections or royal possessions being divided across the kingdom.

At the time of Hezekiah’s rule, modern-day Israel was split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah.

Jerusalem was the seat of power in the south, while Samaria was the capital in the north.

Mr Stein said: “Most likely what we see is that these are coming from the time when Hezekiah is king and the northern kingdom is being ravaged or already has been destroyed by their enemies to the north, the Assyrians.

“The Assyrians are making their way all the way down to the south under their king Sennacherib to eventually sack Jerusalem.

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“On the way, they sack cities sich as Lachish and utterly destroy it.”

It is possible the LMLK seals were stamped on jars containing riches the king of Judah has divided among different cities in anticipation of an attack from the north.

Doing so would have prevented royal treasures from falling into the hands of the enemy by sacking just one city.

Mr Stein said: “By looking at these we can understand a little about history that we see inside the Old Testament, and hold a piece of Hezekiah’s kingdom specifically in our hands.”

In 2015, archaeologists claimed to have discovered the seal or bula of Hezekiah at a raised area near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the City of David, the Ophel.

The seal only measures about one centimetre across and was one more than thirty found at the time.

An inscription on the seal was translated as: “Belonging to Hezekiah (son of) Ahaz King of Judah.”

Much like the LMLK seals, Hezekiah’s bula features a two-winged figure.

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