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(3/2019) Seal impression of an Eunuch from the time of King Josiah found in Jerusalem

matan melech bulla

Seal impression of “Natanmelech / Servant of the king“. Photo credit – Eliyahu Yanai, City of David.

 

Jerusalem in the time of the Old Testament was based mostly around the Gihon spring, in the area called now “City of David” or by local Arabs – “Silwan”. It is a narrow slope descending from the Temple Mount down to the meeting point of the Kidron and the Hinnom valleys.

Since the 1980’s an ongoing excavation and development project is held at the site by “Elad” organization, yielding numerous exciting discoveries, from different periods.

The latest discovery relates to the last years of Jerusalem, before the violent destruction of the city by the Babylonians, in 586 BCE. The artifact is a seal impression (“Bulla”), bearing the name “Matanmelech, the King’s servant” (Hebrew: “Natan Melech / Eved Hamelech”).

city of David

Western slopes of the Biblical Jerusalem above the Gihon Spring.
(C) Danny Herman

The name “Natan Melech” appears only once in the Bible, In II kings 23:11, and refers to a high ranking eunuch in the administration of King Josiah. His title “Servant of the King” is a bit misleading, as it actually refers to a high ranking clerk in the administration of the Kingdom. The style of the letters fits the time frame of King Josiah, as well as the place of the discovery, and so although we cannot be completely certain that this seal impression is actually of the Biblical figure of Natan Melech, it is tempting to suggest so.

Gihon Spring

The stairway leading to the Gihon Spring.
(C) Danny Herman

All the other seal impressions found so far in the excavations “City of David” date to the time frame of the last 150 years of the Kingdom of Judah. Most famous was the discovery made in 2016 of a seal impression of “Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah“.

On the other hand no seal impressions of Biblical figures were found yet from the time of the foundation of the Kingdom of Judah, dating to the time of David and Solomon.