Archaeologists have discovered what might be the first physical evidence of the prophet Isaiah – a biblical figure revered across all of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – whose wise words are said to have helped King Hezekiah protect the Kingdom of Judah from an Assyrian invasion.
In an article titled "Is this the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?” published in the Biblical Archaeology Review, archaeologist Dr Eilat Mazar explains that the 2,700-year-old stamped clay seal was discovered during an excavation in Jerusalem on the former site of a royal bakery near the walled Temple Mount compound.
“We appear to have discovered a seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah, in a scientific, archaeological excavation,” Dr Mazar, a prominent Israeli archaeologist from of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said in a statement
“We found the eighth-century B.C.E. seal mark that may have been made by the prophet Isaiah himself only 10 feet away from where we earlier discovered the highly-publicized bulla of King Hezekiah of Judah.”
The small clay seal, no larger than a thumbnail, is chipped and has faded over the centuries. However, the researchers believe that it was once engraved with the words “belonging to Isaiah the prophet”.
The clay seal clearly states “Yesha‘yahu”, the Hebrew name for Isaiah, followed by the word “Nvy”. This alone does not mean much, as the word Nvy could simply be a surname of a different Isaiah. But if the word Nvy ended with the Hebrew letter aleph, this would create the Hebrew word for “prophet”, acting like his signature.
“Because the bulla has been slightly damaged at [the] end of the word Nvy, it is not known if it originally ended with the Hebrew letter aleph,” added Mazar.
“The name of Isaiah, however, is clear.”
There are a few other hints that this seal is the real deal. First up, it dates back to around the 7th century BCE when Isaiah is believed to exist. It was also found barely feet away from another seal belonging to King Hezekiah, a king whose reign is documented in the Book of Isaiah.
Isaiah is one of the most famous prophets of the Old Testament. According to the Biblical text, he and his counsel helped King Hezekiah to protect the Kingdom of Judah from an Assyrian invasion during the 8th century BCE. Of course, religious texts are not always the most factually reliable sources. Nevertheless, as discoveries like this show, certain parts of books like the Old Testament can be understood as a historical record.