Archaeological Evidence for Isaiah and Hezekiah


 

We go together
like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong
Remembered forever
As shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom
~Grease the Musical

While I have no idea what it means to go together like “rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong,” there are certain people in history that are so closely associated that you can hardly think of one without thinking of the other. In the NFL, one might think of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice almost like a single person. If you are a fan of classic movies, hearing the name Ginger Rogers almost certainly brings to mind Fred Astaire.  In music, it is hard to say Darrel Hall without adding John Oates. They are connected in our collective minds.

Thinking Biblically, there are similar groupings of people whose names flow off the tongue like they were meant to be together: David and Jonathan, Samson and Delilah, Cain and Abel (for bad reasons), Jacob and Esau, and on and on. One significant pair in the Bible from the period of the two kingdoms is King Hezekiah and Isaiah.

Isaiah is, of course, well known because he has one of the largest books in the Bible named after him. Isaiah’s most well-remembered prophesy is read every Christmas and sung every Easter as part of the Hallelujah chorus:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The Bible reports that Isaiah lived in Judah prior to the exile and he counseled the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Of those kings, Hezekiah was the most important. Hezekiah reigned over Judah for twenty-nine years, from c. 715 to 686 BC. As stated on GotAnswers.com, King Hezekiah “began his reign at age 25 (2 Kings 18:2). He was more zealous for the Lord than any of his predecessors (2 Kings 18:5).” His life is described in 2 Kings 16:20—20:21; 2 Chronicles 28:27—32:33; and Isaiah 36:1—39:8.

These three accounts of Hezekiah’s life have become collectively nicknamed as the Hezekiah-Isaiah “Narratives,” for several reasons. First, Hezekiah’s story is the only narrative in Kings involving a prophet whose messages are included in the major prophets. Second, and more importantly in my opinion, people who read the Bible regularly associate Hezekiah with Isaiah because of the way they worked together when the Assyrians plotted their attack on Jerusalem. In fact, “There are 15 occasions in the Old Testament where the names Hezekiah and Isaiah are mentioned in the same verse, or, as Dr. [Eilat] Mazar put it, ‘in the same breath,’” showing the closeness of these two figures.

Since atheists like to question the truth of anything said in the Bible, it is helpful to know that archaeology has developed evidence for the existence of both of these historical figures. And given their closeness in the narratives, it is intriguing to know that the archaeological evidence has a similar relationship.

Back in 2018, WatchJerusalem.com, an interesting site often featuring accessible articles about archaeology in Jerusalem, published an article entitled, Has Eilat Mazar Discovered Archaeological Evidence of Isaiah the Prophet? The answer is found in some bullae excavated from the Ophel.  

A bulla (singular for bullae), for those unfamiliar with the term, is “an inscribed clay or soft metal (such as lead or tin) or bitumen or wax token used in commercial and legal documentation as a form of authentication and for tamper-proofing whatever is attached to it (or, in the historical form, contained in it).”  In essence, it was the seal of the person that was used to assure that the sender was who was claimed to be the sender. For a king, it was essentially a royal seal. For others (and one had to be important to have a bulla), it served the same function as a signet ring would in Medieval times.

Well, according to the article, back in 2009, archaeologists discovered a number of bullae buried on the Ophel. What is the Ophel? According to Jerusalem 101,

The Ophel is part of the Eastern Hill that sits between the City of David and the Temple Mount. The word ‘ophel’ means ‘swell or rise’ and refers to a higher part of the landscape. The Jebusites built their citadel there, as did David, who also added a lot more fortification to this northern part of his city.

The Ophel is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 27 and 33:

  • Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the Lord and did extensive work on the wall at the hill of Ophel. - 2 Chronicles 27:3
  • Afterward he (Manasseh) rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. - 2 Chronicles 33:14

This part of the city was always heavily fortified, as seen in Nehemiah 3:26, Isaiah 32:14 and Micah 4:8. Extensive building took place in this area from the days of David right up to the modern excavation of the Ophel just south of the Temple Mount.

So, in 2009, the archaeologists excavating this site (led by the aforementioned Dr. Eilat Mazar) discovered 34 bullae. Thirty of these bullae bore Hebrew names. However, one stood out because it bore the very exciting inscription: ““Belonging to Hezekiah, [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah.”



Wow! Imagine finding the bulla of probably the greatest king of Judah following the split of the kingdom into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. It was like an open door to the past. And in all sincerity, given the location of the bulla (its historical strata), there was strong reason to believe that the bulla is the actual bulla of the King Hezekiah.

But as the commercial says, “Wait, there’s more.”  The Hezekiah bulla wasn’t the only amazing discovery from that strata. For among the remaining bulla, one especially caught Dr. Mazat’s interest because it bore the Hebrew inscription: “Yesha’yah[u] Nvy[?]” -- the ancient Hebrew name for Isaiah.

Isaiah? The Isaiah? Could it be the actual bulla of the first of the major prophets? Unfortunately, the bulla was obviously damaged and so the entire inscription had to be reasoned out rather than just read. You can see from the photo at the top of the page that it is more difficult to read than the Hezekiah bulla. The article goes on to point out how the archaeologists reasoned that the bulla is very likely that of the Prophet Isaiah. I encourage everyone to read the article about the finds for Dr. Mazat’s reasons for believing the bulla to belong to the Prophet Isaiah. You can find the same information discussed in the video, below.



One of the factors that led to the conclusion that the bulla is that of the Prophet Isaiah is the fact that the Isaiah bulla was found in very close proximity to the Hezekiah bulla.

The ruins and artifacts surrounding the Isaiah bulla have been conclusively dated to the First Temple period (in archaeological terms, Iron Age ii). We can know with certainty that the Isaiah who owned this seal lived in Jerusalem between the ninth and seventh centuries b.c. The Prophet Isaiah lived in Jerusalem in the eighth century b.c.

But in this instance we have even more archaeological context. The Isaiah seal was uncovered at the same time (2009) and in the same assemblage (collection of bullae and other artifacts) as the Hezekiah seal. It was discovered just a few feet from the Hezekiah bulla, and in exactly the same strata of soil.

To me, as a Christian and one who appreciates good archaeology, this is a tremendous find. And the fact that the two bulla were discovered in such close proximity really confirms not only the existence of the two men as described in the Old Testament, but gives credence to the accounts in the Bible that tie the two of them together. It strongly suggests that the relationship between the two men existed much as described in the Bible. So, it makes sense that when archaeology discovered evidence that establishes that Hezekiah and Isaiah actually existed, the evidence was found in close proximity.

As a result of these and other finds, we have more reason than ever from archaeology to believe the accuracy of the Biblical accounts.


Comments

Anonymous said…
As an atheist, I am happy to say that much of the Bible almost certainly happened. I do not doubt Jesus lived and was crucified, for example. The existence of King Hezekiah is, I think, pretty well established as history, and personally I think Isaiah existed too.

That does not, however, imply that Isaiah wrote the book that bears his name, or at least not all of it. For example, chapter 40 onwards suggests the captivity was in effect when written.

As for the prophecy, that is that Assyria and Israel would fall before the woman's child got to a certain age.

Pix

Pix
Anonymous said…
Is anyone going to respond to my comment? I want a arguement! This post is ridisculous.

Pix
Well I have a couple of problems, I don't study the OT and I'm not bothered by your argument because I don't depend upon the OT being accurate.


However, I think the history checks out regardless of who wrote it.
BK said…
Pix said, "I want an argument! This post is ridisculous." But Pix also said, "The existence of King Hezekiah is, I think, pretty well established as history, and personally I think Isaiah existed too." Given that those statements are what the post was about, I don't see a reason to argue. We are in agreement.

The rest of your comment was about things that I did not cover in the post. Unlike you, I don't want an argument. I want a discussion. We can discuss those at some other time, but not as part of this post because that's not what the post was about.

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