Israeli archaeologists found what they believe to be a seal belonging to a man mentioned in the Old Testament. While it is hard to definitively claim the seal as belonging to this servant of King Josiah of Judah, the artifact supports the biblical records of the fall of Judah, 586 BC.
Within the ruins of an large public building, the team excavated the impression of a seal dated to the First Temple period. The Tablet reports that the seal reads, “(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King.” Nathan-Melech, is named in 2 Kings, which dates from the 7/6 century BC. He is described as an official with offices located in a prestigious public building within the city.
The ruins of the public building were most probably destroyed during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC. The archaeologists reported evidence that the ruins sustained immense fire damage. The team identified it as a government building from its grandiose size and the high quality of the building materials.
The last years of Judah are recorded in 2 Kings, when Josiah introduced sweeping reforms in attempt to undo the apostasy spread by his predecessor. These reforms were introduced after a forgotten book of Law was discovered in Solomon’s temple, and would see the destruction of ancient Israelite and pagan religious structures, in attempt to bring the focus back on God.
Kings 2 goes on to describe the reforms:
“Josiah brought all the priests from the towns of Judah and desecrated the high places, from Geba to Beersheba, where the priests had burned incense. He broke down the gateway at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua, the city governor, which was on the left of the city gate. “He removed from the entrance to the temple of the Lord the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.”
Of course, Kings 2 also tells us that these reforms came too late and the prophetess Holdar foretells Judah’s demise, citing failure to keep the Law as reason for their destruction.
Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem determined that it would be impossible to definitively link the seal with Nathan-Melech, but said, “it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together.”
Experts from the Tel Aviv University and IAA believe the seal impression is significant when put into context:
“These artefacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king’s closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city,” they said. “The discovery of a public building such as this, on the western slope of the City of David, provides a lot of information about the city’s structure during this period and the size of its administrative area. The destruction of this building in the fire, apparently during the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE, strengthens our understanding of the intensity of the destruction in the city.”