“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Isaiah 1:1).”
It has often been said of the books of the Bible that we no longer have the “autographs,” that is the original letters penned by the author’s hands. But what if we could just glimpse the signature of one of these ancient writers? A recent archaeological discovery may have actually provided us with the “signature” of the prophet Isaiah in the discovery of a clay seal among the debris piles at an excavation site in Jerusalem (1). Among the pottery fragments, were some 22 clay seal impressions and this one piece translated as “Isaiah the Prophet” and includes the mark of King Hezekiah.
The article from the Daily Beast provides biographical information about Isaiah and the importance of the book in the Bible attributed to him but claims that “subsequent generations added to his words and work. The majority of scholars believe that the book of Isaiah should be divided into two…sections, with each being attributed to a separate author.” While the article and scholars who hold to this theory do not deny the historicity of Isaiah, they reject the notion that the Prophet wrote the entire book of Isaiah. The most commonly held view among these critics is that the first 39 chapters are one work and the remaining 27 are from the pen of another writer.
A little more than 70 years ago another archaeological discovery put a major dent into this theory of “two Isaiahs” that originated in the 18th century. In 1947, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, was discovered an entire parchment of the book of Isaiah that was more than 1,000 years older than any previous extant manuscript. What was astonishing to many was that the scroll was not divided in two, but rather the complete work virtually unchanged for a millennium (2).
What difference does this discovery of the seal of Isaiah make? For starters, if its authenticity is confirmed, it is proof that not only did the Prophet Isaiah exist, but that as the first verse of the book states, he did indeed have close personal affiliation with the kings of Judah, and in particular Hezekiah. So, when we read of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36-37), an historical event attested to archaeologically by the Taylor Prism (on display at the British Museum), we can have assurance that what the prophet wrote was done so as a contemporary to the event and key historical figures of that period. If we can have such trust in Isaiah’s account historically shouldn’t we also trust his prophetic words of the deity and deliverance of Christ (Isaiah 9:6, 10:21)?
Those who insist upon the “two Isaiahs” theory must reject the direct affirmation that all of Isaiah was from the pen of this single prophet by New Testament writers. Matthew attributed the ministry of John the Baptizer (Matthew 3:3) to Isaiah alone (Isaiah 40:3). Similarly, he does so again with Jesus’ miraculous healings (Matthew 8:16-17, Isaiah 53:4). Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch from Isaiah 53 to which he immediately insisted upon being baptized into Christ (Acts 8:30-39).
This discovery, of a small piece of clay, is reminiscent of another archaeological enlightenment only 11 years ago when another clay tablet was translated providing a seemingly mundane payment receipt from one of Nebuchadnezzar’s court officials (3). But this particular court official was called out in the Bible (Jeremiah 39:3 NIV). A British museum expert mused, “If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power.” How much more power with this new discovery should the “narrative of Isaiah” take on?
“And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead (Hebrews 11:4c).”
- Don Shackelford, Th.D., Truth For Today Commentary Isaiah, Resource Publications, 2005, p.7