Rosette seal on jar handles (credit: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive)

A recent archeological dig lends credibility to the Biblical account that Jerusalem was burned and its residents taken into captivity by Babylon some 2,600 years ago. This marked the end of the kingdom of Judah. Researchers sifting through charred ruins uncovered an official seal used at the end of the First Temple period.

On July 26, 2017, an article written by Amanda Borscel-Dan for The Times of Israel reported that archeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) had excavated a row of rooms filled with ash and covered over by collapsed layers of stone. These rooms contained dozens of smashed pottery jars. Several jars were affixed with a seal depicting a petalled rose. The “rosette” seal was used by the government just prior to the overthrow of Judah. That tragic event, which involved the destruction of the temple, is today commemorated by an annual day of fasting and mourning–Tish B’av. In 2017, Tish B’av fell on August 1.

According to Dr. Joe Uziel, archeologist and co-director of the IAA excavation, “These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty. Classifying objects (with seals) facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields. The rosette, in essence, replaced the ‘for the King’ seal used in the earlier administrative system.” It was the rosette seal that allowed the IAA to confidently date this excavation at 2,600 years ago.

Dr. Joe Uziel describes where the rosette seals were found. (credit: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

The period during which this seal was in use ended with the 587 BC fiery destruction of Jerusalem described in 2 Kings 25:8-10.

“In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the Month–that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon–Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” – 2 Kings 25: 8-10 (ESV)

Burned-out room excavated by Israel Antiquities Authority. (credit: Eliyahu Yanai, Courtesy of the City of David Archive)

In a YouTube video produced by AAI, Dr. Uzel gave viewers a tour of a room in the process of being excavated. It seems to mirror the Biblical account. “We have a very clear destruction level showing burnt signs and you can see all the black set of marks. Those are pieces of charcoal which burned and collapsed in the room,” says the archeologist.

This most recent dig, conducted cooperatively by the AAI and the Weizmann Institute, took place on the east slope of the city. Whether the excavation was inside or outside the old city is debatable. “Traditionally, the area we’re standing in was thought of as being outside the city walls.,” states Dr. Uziel. However, the city may have expanded beyond 7th Century BC walls uncovered in a dig almost 60 years ago. According to the AAI, Jerusalem underwent constant growth throughout the Iron Age, resulting in the construction of numerous walls and the possibility of buildings constructed beyond the walls.

Uziel added, “Buildings dating to the same period just to the south of this excavation don’t show signs of destruction. So, it seems like not all the buildings were destroyed in a single event; but maybe specific buildings were destroyed and other buildings were abandoned and left.”

This finding also seems to match the Biblical account of Jerusalem’s destruction, which states that while it removed most of the city’s residents, it left a remnant.

“And the rest of the people who were left in the city . . . Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.” – 2 King 25:11-12 (ESV)

Some buildings may have beens spared for those residents remaining. What do you think?

Small ivory statue (credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)

The current excavation also indicated Jerusalem’s residents possessed a degree of wealth and sophistication beyond what had earlier been thought. Researchers uncovered several ornamental artifacts among the cinders. In particular, a small ivory statue of a woman with an Egyptian hair style displays the “high caliber of the artifacts’ artistic level and the skill par excellence of the artists during this era,” states the IAA.

Other items discovered in the rooms excavated so far include charred wood, grape seeds, fish scales and bones. These will be carbon-dated by the archeologists, according to The Times of Israel.

Click the play button below to hear more of Dr. Uziel’s comments and explore for yourself the details of the excavation, at the Israeli Antiquities Official YouTube Channel. Above all, keep thinking!

Video: “Evidence of Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem Found at the City of David”