One of the more interesting fields of interest I have is in biblical archaeology. In a time in which skeptics abound, and critics denounce the reliability of the Bible, archaeologists continue to uncover material that only enhances the reliability of the Scriptures. Recently, Dr. Eilat Mazar of Hebrew University in Jerusalem uncovered a 2,700-year-old seal believed to have belonged to the prophet Isaiah. The dating of the seal lines up with the timeline in which Isaiah was active as a prophet of Israel, and this discovery was made ten feet from another discovery attributed to King Hezekiah of Judah—two finds that further validate biblical records.
In such days, seals were an authentication of the identity of people. The seal would have likely been attached to documents sent by the one whose seal bore either the insignia or name of the sender. In this case, the discovered seal is inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the name “Yesha’yah[u] nvy.” This is Isaiah’s name in Hebrew (Yesha’yah[u]) followed by his title, nvy. The title is likely the Hebrew term translated as “prophet” despite one letter (aleph) missing at the end of nvy on the seal. Therefore, the seal literally communicates, “The Prophet Isaiah.”
In 2 Kings 18–19, the Bible records how King Hezekiah relied on Isaiah’s counsel during the Assyrian siege. The dating of Hezekiah’s reign was from 727 to 698 BC, and this is also the time of Isaiah’s ministry. Isaiah’s ministry spanned from King Uzziah through Jotham, Ahaz, and the first fourteen years of Hezekiah. Isaiah 6 is the earliest description of heaven in Scripture, and the prophet’s writing is among the most quoted in the New Testament as to the proof of Christ as Messiah and His messianic reign.
As far as I am aware, scholars have not really disputed the existence of the historical Isaiah, so this discovery doesn’t undo misconceptions. If anything, it only further enhances what the Bible records—which is Isaiah’s influence in the 8th century BC Jerusalem. Because Isaiah was a prophet of the kings’ court, he would have enjoyed a rather important status in Judah. The editor of Biblical Archaeology Review—Dr. Robert Cargill (PhD, UCLA)—is one who has spent much of his career debunking false archaeological claims, and he thinks Mazar has found “the first archaeological and extra-biblical reference to the prophet.” Graciously, Cargill allowed Dr. Candida Moss (PhD, Yale) to first break the story, which she did here and wrote a follow-up here. Another voice weighing in worth your time is Dr. Christopher Rollston (PhD, Johns Hopkins University [Department of Near Eastern Studies]) who gave his thoughts on his personal website here. Happy reading.