Today has been a bulla day on my Facebook feed and e-mail inbox. Today the finding of an important bulla was announced and the news went viral in the archaeological community.
For my followers who are not familiar with archaeology, a bulla is a seal impression. It is typically a small piece of clay that has been pressed with an inscribed seal on a document or other item. A bulla is usually only about a centimeter in size so they are very easy to overlook. Sometimes large quantities of dirt are wet sifted to look for bullae if there is a high likelihood that they may be found.
A bulla is an important find as it gives information about the people associated with an archaeological site.
About 50 years ago at Lachish a small juglet was found with 17 bullae contained in it. Someone was the ancient equivalent of a stamp collector. The bullae and juglet are now in the Israel Museum. See: Lachish at the Museum
One of the bulla found at Lachish was inscribed. “Belonging to Shebnayahu servant of the king”. Shebna is mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah chapter 22. You can read more about Shebna at my friend Steve Rudd’s website. The link is in the picture above.
The bulla whose discovery was announced today by Eilat Mazar is possibly of Isaiah the Prophet. The inscription definitely says Isaiah, but there is some discussion as to whether the second part says prophet. There is some very good evidence that it is.
You can find out more about the bulla, including a link to a nice video at Luke Chandler’s website. Isaiah’s Personal Seal Found?
Another good article is Has the seal of Isaiah the prophet been found? by Ferrell Jenkins.
Something very intriguing is that the Isaiah bulla was found only one meter from where a bulla for King Hezekiah was found in the Ophel Excavation headed by Eilat Mazar. Since King Hezekiah and Isaiah were often together it strengthens the possibility that the bulla announced today belonged to Isaiah the prophet.
The pictures of the two bullae come from the Eilat Mazar team. They look big in the pictures, but remember that they are only about a centimeter in size.
A large number of bullae were found in the same area, so it will be interesting if other biblical names were found among them.
There is an article in the upcoming issue of Biblical Archaeological Review. I hope my copy comes soon so I can read more about it.