Life, Hope & Truth

Archaeology Confirms Existence of Biblical King

A recent archaeological excavation has again verified the historical existence of a prominent king mentioned in the Bible. What does this mean to you?

Archaeological Discovery Confirms Existence of Biblical King

A seal impression of King Hezekiah unearthed in the Ophel excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar. (Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar; Photo by Ouria Tadmor)

When archaeologists are excavating a site, what type of ancient location do you think they look for first? You may guess a home, palace, place of worship or maybe a market. Those could all yield interesting finds, but they are not the most archaeologically rich locations. Actually, when archaeologists excavate a site, the first location they usually look for is a trash dump!

Though archaeologists love to find big-ticket items—such as a religious artifact or a statue—the main purpose of archaeology is to learn how people of the past actually lived. Historians and archaeologists seek to learn what everyday life was like in the ancient world.

That’s why trash dumps are so valuable—because that is where the items of everyday life in a society usually end up. Ancient buildings, temples and administrative centers typically turn into piles of rubble—but trash dumps preserve how people lived. Think about it: if archaeologists 1,000 years in the future wanted to learn about life in America today, where would they find the most valuable artifacts—in the White House or in a garbage dump filled with the refuse of everyday life?

Recently, an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem led by Eilat Mazar (Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology) unearthed an amazing find in a trash dump located near the southern wall of the Temple Mount. What they found was a clay impression from an ancient royal seal bearing the name of King Hezekiah of Judah.

According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, the stamped clay seal (also known as a bulla) “measures just over a centimeter in diameter, bears a seal impression depicting a two-winged sun disk flanked by ankh symbols and containing a Hebrew inscription that reads ‘Belonging to Hezekiah, (son of) Ahaz, king of Judah.’” 

The inscription matches the biblical record that King Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz (2 Kings 18:1).

Archaeological Discovery Confirms Existence of Biblical King

The Ophel excavations where the Hezekiah seal was unearthed. Ophel is a high area found between the Temple Mount and the City of David in Jerusalem. (Photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

Significance of the find

King Hezekiah ruled from around 729 to 686 B.C. over the southern kingdom of Judah. This means this seal is around 2,700 years old. Seals like this were used by kings and other authorities in the ancient world to make documents official. We could think of it as an ancient signature. Papyrus government documents would have been rolled up and tied with cords that were held in place by a lump of wet clay. The stamp of the royal seal in the clay denoted the documents’ legitimacy. The Bible confirms the common use of such seals by government officials (1 Kings 21:8; Nehemiah 9:38; 10:1; Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:17).

Interestingly enough, this is not the first seal that bears the name of King Hezekiah. Similar seals have appeared in Middle East antiquities. The problem with previous artifacts is that they were unearthed in illegal and unauthorized excavations by private individuals who then sold their looted finds in the antiquities market for profit.

Legitimate excavations, like Dr. Mazar’s current dig in the Ophel area in Jerusalem, meticulously document an object’s location and stratigraphy—where the object appears in the earth’s sediment, which is a key to determining the dates of discoveries. Without professional documentation, artifacts in the antiquities market cannot have their authenticity confirmed and are robbed of their value to help us better understand the past. Without documentation of when and where an object was unearthed, it is more difficult to determine if it is the work of a skilled forger or a legitimate object of antiquity.

Dr. Mazar’s find is significant because it is yet another legitimate discovery that confirms the historicity of the biblical record. For years, skeptics have questioned the historical records contained in the Bible to try to discredit it and cast it off as invented history. The idea is that if the history contained in the Bible is deemed inaccurate, then the entire document that claims to be inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) cannot be trusted.

But as legitimate archaeological excavations take place in the Middle East, more and more discoveries are unearthed that confirm the events and people found in the Bible. The Biblical Archaeological Society recently published a fascinating list of “50 Bible People Confirmed Archaeologically.”

These finds not only strengthen the confidence of those who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but should help skeptics reevaluate their distrust of the Bible.

Archaeological finds confirming the Bible's accuracy not only strengthen the confidence of those who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but should help skeptics reevaluate their distrust of the Bible.A closer look at the Hezekiah seal

The recently discovered Hezekiah seal is interesting because it bears the image of a winged sun and an Egyptian-style ankh (a cross with handle at the top). Both these symbols have their roots in Egyptian pagan worship. The winged sun represented the sun as the source of life and the ankh represented eternal life. The winged sun is also found in Assyrian images.  

The biblical accounts of Hezekiah’s reign generally speak positively of Hezekiah and label him a righteous king who made reforms to remove paganism from the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:4-6; 2 Chronicles 29:2). Pagan worship had heavily infiltrated Judah under Hezekiah’s father, King Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3-4); and the first years of Hezekiah’s reign (729-715 B.C.) were actually as regent for his father. It should not surprise us to find pagan influences in Judah because during this time Judah allied with Egypt in an attempt to gain protection from the encroaching Assyrian war machine to the north (2 Kings 18:21, 24).

We are told that during his reign, Hezekiah had pagan objects destroyed and disposed of throughout the land (2 Chronicles 31:1). These reforms didn’t happen at one time, but were carried out throughout Hezekiah’s reign.

Perhaps after his father’s death, Hezekiah had more control of the government and could get rid of the pagan symbols used during his father’s rule. Or it is possible that, as a result of the prophet Isaiah’s warnings to not ally or rely on Egypt (Isaiah 31:1, 3) and Egypt’s lack of help during the near invasion of the Assyrian King Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:6), Hezekiah then repented and removed all pagan imagery from his government.

Of course, when it comes to archaeological discoveries, we historians can only postulate theories to explain the context and significance of artifacts.

You can trust the Bible!

Jesus Christ declared that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). This recent discovery supports Christ’s absolute statement and strengthens our confidence in the Bible. When you read the historical accounts in the Old and New Testaments, you can be assured that the events actually happened and the people you read about were real people who actually lived.

But it goes even further than that.

Though the Bible is filled with stories and history, its main purpose is to reveal spiritual truths. The Bible reveals who God is, what He is doing and how He expects us to live.

God invites us to “put [Him] to the test” ({verse_17}, English Standard Version). In other words, He tells us to test Him by putting His spiritual laws into practice and then witnessing the results (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

The historical accounts of the Bible will continue to be confirmed by archaeological and scientific discoveries, but the greatest testimony to the Bible’s accuracy is not the recently discovered Hezekiah seal. It’s the testimony of putting God’s living laws into practice and experiencing the results.

To learn more about how archaeology confirms the Bible, read our other material on the subject:

About the Author

Erik Jones

Erik Jones

Erik Jones is a full-time writer and editor at the Life, Hope & Truth offices in McKinney, Texas.

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