Biblical archaeological treasures: Signed, sealed and delivered!

A model of the 2nd Temple

“For the Freedom of Zion!” Declared the Hebrew inscription on the ancient bronze coins found in a cave that had been sealed for 2,000 years – ironically just in time for the Festival of Freedom.

Hebrew University archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, came across a cave full of treasures during excavations below the Temple Mount’s southern wall, and close by, seals from King Hezekiah and possibly Isaiah the Prophet have been found!

Treasure Cave

The cave, unearthed in the Ophel dig, contained coins with inscriptions that help us to precisely date them to the years 66-70 AD. But along with the optimistic message on the coins minted by the rebels who were fighting for freedom towards the end of the second temple era were later coins with a different message. At first the Jewish zealots were certain they’d win their country back from the Roman conquerors, but the coins dated 70 AD that were found in the same cave carried a different rallying cry: “For the Redemption of Zion!” By that last year of the rebellion, it had become obvious that their resistance was not going to survive for long, and that the best they could hope for was the eventual redemption of Zion.

Talking to Haaretz newspaper, Mazar reported that the coins were about 1.5 centimeters in diameter, with Jewish symbols such as the Four Species mentioned in the Bible: palm, myrtle, citron and willow, along with a goblet believed to have been used in Temple worship.

“The floor of the cave has a thick layer dating to the Hasmonean period, going by characteristic pottery and coins. That later lasted through the days of King Herod, but not later,” Mazar explained. It was quite large, being some seven meters by fourteen, but there was no evidence that people were living in it. “A likely scenario is that the rebels were stockpiling things in the cave for their future use, including ceramic cookware and other pottery, as well as the coins, but never did use it.”[1]

It was not long after those last coins were minted that Jerusalem was destroyed, just as Jesus said it would be:

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matthew 24:1-2)

We are in the happy position to know that Zion has indeed finally been restored 2,000 years after its destruction, and the discovery of the cave’s contents on Israel’s 70th year, just 50 years since Jerusalem was reunited, is also pretty amazing! But we still yearn for the full spiritual redemption of Zion.

But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:13-14)

Seals of destiny – King Hezekiah and Isaiah

It was in this same Ophel excavation that the seal of King Hezekiah was recently discovered, close to Hezekiah’s tunnel in the City of David. And this February, yet another significant seal surfaced with what appeared to be the name of Isaiah the Prophet! However, the seal was missing a piece and it is not clear whether it in fact was Isaiah the Prophet or another Isaiah. Experts are still arguing about it, although we can say for sure that Isaiah was not only a contemporary of Hezekiah, but according to the Bible, the two men knew each other, met together, and Isaiah gave Hezekiah counsel. We can see this in Isaiah 38 and also in 2 Kings chapter 19:

Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard you.’ (2 Kings 19:20)

According to Eilat Mazar, the fact that the two seals were found within ten feet of one another does “…seem to leave open the possibility that, despite the difficulties presented by the bulla’s damaged area, this may have been a seal impression of Isaiah the prophet, adviser to King Hezekiah.”[2] It’s true that the writing is indeed typical of eighth century BC Hebrew, and there is also strong evidence of the Biblical events of this era, according to Haaretz:

“During Hezekiah’s reign, the kingdom was invaded by King Sennacherib of Assyria, an event described in Isaiah 36-37 and corroborated by the extra-biblical account inscribed in the Annals of Sennacherib Prism, the Rassam Cylinder and also Histories, written by the 5th century B.C.E. Greek Herodotus”.

The article tells us that expert Alan Millard, professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at Liverpool University, “sees no reason to doubt that Isaiah was a real person who lived in the reigns of Sargon II, then Sennacherib – that being the Assyrian king who marched through Judah, conquering 46 of King Hezekiah’s fortified cities, but who mysteriously withdrew after reaching Jerusalem just as victory over the cowed Judahite king seemed assured.” [3]

Rather amazingly, the Israeli broadsheet also comments on the content of Isaiah’s prophetic writings, reporting that,

“Isaiah foretold a number of details about the coming of the Messiah.”

The secular newspaper proceeds to give a rundown of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy to its Israeli audience!

“It is a paragraph by Isaiah that has become one of the most controversial passages in the Old Testament. As the King James Version translates Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.“…

“Isaiah also foretold that the Messiah would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 11:1-5). He predicted that the Messiah would not be accepted by the majority of Israel and instead be a “stone of stumbling” to them (Isaiah 8:14,15). In the book of Isaiah, the Messiah prophetically says:

My back I gave to the strikersmy face did not conceal from humiliating things and spit” (Isaiah 50:6).

“He even gave details of the Messiah’s death, foretelling:

He will make his burial place even with the wicked ones, and with the rich class in death” (Isaiah 53:9).

“Finally Isaiah spoke of the meaning of the Messiah’s death:

The righteous one, my servant, will bring a righteous standing to many people; and their errors he himself will bear” (Isaiah 53:8,11).

“Many Christians today identify the Messiah with Jesus Christ, and view Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the Messiah as fulfilled by the works and life of Jesus Christ.”[3]

Well amen to that. Whether or not that seal actually belonged to the prophet or not, the truth of the Scriptures is coming to light more and more all the time with every archaeological dig. Moreover, Isaiah’s words about the Messiah are still speaking to Israel today – even through the daily paper.

[1] HaAretz, Coins Showing Despair of Jewish Rebels During Great Revolt Found Near Jerusalem’s Temple MountRuth Schuster, 

[2] National Geographic, Has the ‘Signature’ of Biblical Prophet Isaiah Been Discovered?Kristin Romey, Feb 21, 2018
[3] HaAretz, Isaiah the Prophet, Man or Biblical Myth: The Archaeological EvidencePhilippe Bohstrom, 

This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.