An artifact recently discovered beneath a Jerusalem parking lot contains the first non-Biblical reference to an Old Testament figure in the court of King Josiah. The 2,600-year-old clay impression references the biblical name Nathan-Melech, according to the Times of Israel.
The clay was stamped with a seal that read, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King,” the newspaper reported. Nathan-Melech is named in 2 Kings as an official in the court of King Josiah.
The discovery took place within the ruins of a building destroyed during the destruction of the First Temple. It was found during excavations of a parking lot in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported.
A second seal was found that said it belonged “to Ikkar son of Matanyahu.”
Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation, which operates the park, told the Times of Israel that the mention of Nathan-Melech’s name makes the discovery important.
“This is an extremely exciting find for billions of people worldwide. The personal seal of Nat(h)an-Melech, a senior official in the government of Josiah, King of Judah, as described in the Second Book of Kings.
“The ongoing archaeological excavations at the City of David continue to prove that ancient Jerusalem is no longer just a matter of faith, but also a matter of fact,” he said.
“It is truly fascinating to watch how archeologists have uncovered more than 12 layers of Jerusalem history in what used to be a parking lot until just few years ago,” he said.
Nathan-Melech is mentioned in 2 Kings 23:11. As an official of King Josiah, he implemented religious reforms.
2 Kings 23:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 Then he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire.
The finds are “not just another discovery,” said archaeologist Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The “paint a much larger picture of the era in Jerusalem,” he told the Times of Israel.
“What is (of) importance is not just that they were found in Jerusalem, but inside their true archaeological context,” he said, commenting on the two-story First Temple structure in which the items were found.
Shalev said the building was an administrative center in ancient Jerusalem.
Shalev and Yuval Gadot, an archaeologist and professor at Tel Aviv University, said in an antiquities authority news release that the area shows signs of destruction in the sixth century B.C., roughly the time of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.
“These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city,” the news release stated.
Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem said that it’s a bit too early to be certain that the individual referenced on the clay and the biblical figures are one and the same, but admitted the possibility is strong.
“Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was, in fact, the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” he told the Times of Israel.
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