October 23, 2014, Thursday, 295

Seal of Shema, c. 788 BCE

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<setnav>Bible and Beyond</setnav> Date: c. 788 BCE

Current Location: Unknown

Language and Script: Hebrew; alphabetic

Seal of Shema

General Information:

Jeroboam II inaugurated the longest reign of a king of Northern Israel in 788 BCE. He ruled over a period of unparalleled prosperity, taking advantage of a lapse in strong Assyrian control of the Levant. Jeroboam’s name is preserved on a seal made of jasper that is dated paleographically to the mid-eighth century, ruling out Jeroboam I, a tenth-century king of Israel. The seal depicts a magnificent lion, realistically shown in full-throated roar with its tufted tail erect. Several other seals from the late Iron Age bear the title ‘bd hmlk, “servant of the king,” an indication that the ‘ebed was a high-ranking official of the kings of Israel and Judah. Biblical evidence lends further credence to this hypothesis. For example, one of the royal officials listed in 2 Kings 22:12 is “the king’s servant (‘ebed hammelek) Asaiah” (see also 1 Kings 1:47; 2 Kings 5:6, 25:8).


Circumstances of Discovery and Acquisition: This seal, made of jasper, was found in the Megiddo excavations of 1904; it was discovered accidentally in the excavation dump, not in a stratified level. Although the seal itself was lost en route to the Istanbul Museum, an impression cast in bronze had been made prior to its shipment.