Seal Impression of Nathan-Melech

Tiny First Temple find could be first proof of aide to biblical King Josiah: Rare seal impression from 8th century BCE, bearing the name Nathan-Melech, found in dig at large Iron Age administrative center in Jerusalem’s City of David by Amanda Borschel-Dan

Two minuscule 2,600-year-old inscriptions recently uncovered in the City of David’s Givati Parking Lot excavation are vastly enlarging the understanding of ancient Jerusalem in the late 8th century BCE.

The two inscriptions, in paleo-Hebrew writing, were found separately in a large First Temple structure within the span of a few weeks by long-term team members Ayyala Rodan and Sveta Pnik.

One is a bluish agate stone seal “(belonging) to Ikkar son of Matanyahu” (LeIkkar Ben Matanyahu). The other is a clay seal impression, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King” (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech). Nathan-Melech is named in 2 Kings [23:11] as an official in the court of King Josiah. . . .

But is this the very same biblical Nathan-Melech? That’s still a matter of interpretation.

Update 2019-04-04:

Christopher A. Rollston

The clay bulla consists of two registers. The first register reads: LNtnmlk (“Belonging to Nathan-Melek”) and the second register reading: ‘bd hmlk (“Servant of the King”). The reading is certain, as all of the letters are clear. I would date the script to the mid-7th century BCE (ca. 675-625 BCE). Indeed, I would be quite disinclined to push the date down into the early 6th century, primarily because the morphology and stance of several of the letters (e.g, nun, lamed, and especially the kap) reflect the hallmark features of the mid-7th century Old Hebrew script, not the further developments that are part of the Old Hebrew script of the late 7th or early 6th centuries BCE. . . .

Finally, some reference is in order regarding the possible identification of Nathan-Melek the Sārîs (2 Kgs 23:11) and Nathan-Melek ‘bd hmlk of this Old Hebrew bulla. (1) First and foremost, it must be emphasized that this personal name is rare. Indeed, as noted, it is attested in the Hebrew Bible for just one person. (2) Second, the figure Nathan-Melek in the Hebrew Bible is connected with King Josiah (r. ca. 640-609 BCE) of the second half of the 7th century BCE, and this is also the most convincing palaeographic date (and the archaeological context as well). (3) Third, the Nathan-Melek of the Bible and of this bulla both have royal titles. (4) This data converges to make it probable that the figure of the Bible and the figure of this bulla are one and the same. Nevertheless, it must be conceded that the two titles are different (although arguably someone referred to as a sārîs could also be referred to as an ‘bd hmlk, or conversely, could be understood to have risen to the position of an ‘bd hmlk). Ultimately, therefore, I would contend that although it is not absolutely certain that the biblical Nathan-Melek and the epigraphic Old Hebrew Nathan-Melek are the same, I would consider it most likely that we are indeed talking about one and the same. Of course, fate can sometimes be cruel, and sometimes the most convincing of assumptions proves to be false. Thus, because we do not have a patronymic for Nathan-Melek in the Bible or on the bulla, and because the titles are not identical (cf. 1 Sam 8:15; 2 Kgs 24:12), certitude remains just beyond reach. But, as for me, I am entirely comfortable considering it most likely, or virtually certain, that 2 Kings 23:11 and this bulla refer to the same person.


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