Photo Credit:
The Elihana seal, together with a figurine of a woman from the First Temple period, which symbolized fertility and was also exposed in the Giv‘ati parking lot. / Photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Who were Elihana bat Gael and Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu? Two seals bearing these Hebrew names were uncovered in a large building dating to the First Temple period in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out in the Giv’ati parking lot at the City of David, in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. “Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon,” the researchers say.

After nine years of excavating by the IAI, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation, archaeologists at the site succeeded in reaching the strata of ancient Jerusalem dating to the First Temple period where a surprise awaited them: the two seals inside a structure built of magnificent ashlars (hewn stones). The researchers believe that the well-constructed building was used as an administrative center.

A general view of the site. / Photo credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.
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According to archaeologists Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, excavation directors on behalf of the IAI, “Personal seals, such as those of Elihana and Sa‘aryahu, were used for signing documents, and were frequently inlaid as part of a ring that was worn by the owner. In antiquity they designated the identity, genealogy and status of the owner of the seal.”

On the woman’s seal, which is made of semi-precious stone, appears the mirror-writing of “to Elihana bat Gael,” inscribed in ancient Hebrew letters. The female owner of the ring is mentioned here together with the name of her father.

According to Dr. Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, “Seals that belonged to women represent just a very small portion of all the seals that have been discovered to date. This is because of the generally inferior economic status of women, apart from extraordinary instances such as this. Indeed, the name Elihana does not appear in the Bible, and there is no other information regarding the identity of the woman, but the fact that she possessed a seal demonstrates her high social status.”

Dr. Misgav adds, “Most of the women’s seal that are known to us bear the name of the father rather than that of the husband. Here, as in other cases, this might indicate the relatively elevated status of Elihana, which depended on her original family, and not on her husband’s family. It seems that Elihana maintained her right to property and financial independence even after her marriage and therefore her father’s name was retained; however, we do not have sufficient information about the law in Judea during this period.” The name Eliha is known from a contemporary Ammonite seal and is the feminine form of the name Eli, known from the Bible. The script appearing on the seal is remarkably similar to the script on Ammonite seals, and this might indicate the foreign origin of the artisan who carved the seal and possibly the foreign origin of Elihana, who apparently came from east of the Jordan River.”

The Book of Proverbs (31:13-23) states that an ideal wife is responsible for providing for the needs of her household when her husband is engaged in public and legal affairs at the city gate – “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands… Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” An archive of documents preserved in the Judean desert from the time of the Second Temple indicates, among other things, the business of Babatha bat Shimon, a female land owner who had legal status. But, generally speaking, evidence of legal and financial independence in the bible and archaeology are rare.

The second seal that was exposed in the excavation was also in mirror-writing and bears the inscription “to Sa‘aryahu ben Shabenyahu.” The name Sa‘aryahu appears on a sherd from Arad, and means “God [answered] from the storm.” (see Job 38:1).

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7 COMMENTS

  1. More archaeological evidence that the present day land of Israel is the historical land of Israel and belongs to the JEWS. Arabs are living a lie disbelieving in the evidence! Pure contempt…..One principle that will bar a man into ever lasting ignorance is contempt prior to investigation!

  2. It is the land of the Jews, ancient and their modern day decendents. The Arabs of the Levant weren’t even Arab originally. They were forced to learn Arabic and either convert to Islam or pay a price. Even then, Jews still lived among them and kept the culture (oriental Jews). The Romans changed the name to Palestine after they conquered the land and the subsequent Arabs and Ottoman Turks kept the name in use to deny the Jews a claim to the land. After the invasion of the Ottoman empire, the British kept Palestine under mandate as a bargaining tool. The Ottoman Turks then struck a deal with the British to not interfere with the genocide of the Armenians and gave them the go ahead to build the Suez canal on then Ottoman territory. The British then placed the house of Saud in power to exploit the oil wealth in that region. History is full of answers. No one is taught this in history class. Blame only perpetuates false opinions in those who aren’t aware of the facts and act out of fear of persecution.

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