A Bulla (seal) bearing a Biblical Hebrew name dating back 2,600 years has been uncovered from dirt excavated in 2013 beneath Robinson’s Arch at the foundations of the Western Wall.
The bullae stamps were small pieces of tin used in ancient times to sign documents, and were meant to keep the letters closed en route to their destination.
This seal is inscribed with the name of an individual with the most prominent role in the king’s court in the kingdom of Judea. The Bulla (seal), which was used to sign documents, bears the Hebrew name and title: “Adenyahu Asher Al Habayit” which literally translates as “Adenyahu by Appointment of the House”- a term used throughout the Bible to describe the most senior minister serving under a kings of Judea or Israel.
According to archaeologist Eli Shukron, who conducted the initial excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority just north of the City of David at the Foundation Stones of the Western Wall, “This is the first time this kind of archaeological discovery has been made in Jerusalem. The Biblical title “Asher Al Habayit” was the highest ranking ministerial position beneath the king during reigns of the Kings of Judea and Israel, it is undoubtedly of great significance.”
“This tiny bulla has immense meaning to billions of people worldwide,” said Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation which operates the site in which the bulla was discovered and the Archaeological Experience where it was uncovered.
“The personal signet of a senior official to a Biblical King from the First Temple Period. This is another link in the long chain of Jewish history in Jerusalem that is being uncovered and preserved at the City of David on a daily basis.”
The bulla is approximately one centimeter wide, and according to the type of writing that appears on it, dates to the seventh century BCE – the period of the Kingdom of Judea.
It was covered in dirt that was excavated in 2013 until three weeks ago, when it was uncovered as part of the City of David’s volunteer Archaeological Experience by an Israeli teenager.
Batya Howen described the moments of the discovery: “I began sifting through the bucket of dirt by washing it under a stream of water, and suddenly I recognized a small piece of black colored metal. To hold such a significant find from 2600 years ago, from the time of the Kingdom of Judah, is an amazing thing,” she said.
The name Adenayahu that appears on the bulla appears throughout the Bible. This name belonged to one of King David’s sons as mentioned in the Book of Kings. Another individual with that name is mentioned as one of the Levites in the days of Jehoshaphat. Lastly, in the days of Nehemiah, he is mentioned as one of the “Heads of, the people…(Nehemiah, 9:16).
It should be noted that some 150 years ago, French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau discovered a burial cave with the inscription: “Tomb of …..yahu Asher Al Habayit.” The beginning of the name had been erased, but the burial site, on the outskirts of the City of David was also dated to the seventh century BCE, much like the recent bulla. Although discovered by Clermont-Ganneau, the inscription was only deciphered by Prof. Nachman Avigad some eighty years later.
The term “Asher Al Habayit” describes the most senior role in the royal hierarchy in the kingdom of Judah and Israel and it appears for the first time on the list of ministers of Solomon. This role is mentioned in the Bible in reference to a number of figures that have a considerable influence in the kingdom and it describes a senior minister who was very close to the king.
For example, “Abdihu Asher Al Habayit,” in the Book of Kings I, is mentioned as having served in that role in the Kingdom of Israel, under the reign of King Ahab during times of Elijah the Prophet. As part of his tenure, Abedihu acted against Isabel in administering the kingdom and even saved a hundred of the prophets of the Lord after hiding them in a cave.
Also in this role in the Kingdom of Judea during the reign of King Hezekiah was “Elyakim son of Partiah Asher Al Habayit.” According to the book of Isaiah, Elyakim negotiated with Rabshka, one of the ministers of King Sennacherib King of Assyria, who threatened to conquer Jerusalem.