All posts by randymccracken

I am a teacher at Calvary Chapel Bible College York and the author of "Family Portraits: Character Studies in 1 and 2 Samuel".

The First Century Synagogue at Magdala

The First Century Synagogue at Magdala

magdala
An aerial view of the area of Migdal, the location of ancient Magdala. Magdala can be located to the left of center in this picture. The city of Tiberius, is located approximately 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) south of Magdala and can be seen in the top of the picture.

Whenever, I have the opportunity to visit Israel, the inevitable question that is asked is, “What was your favorite place to visit?” There are always perennial favorites like, Tel Dan, the City of David, or the Garden Tomb, but I’m always excited to see something I haven’t seen on previous trips. On my most recent trip (March 4-12, 2016), I would have to say the first century synagogue at Magdala qualifies as my favorite place.

The synagogue at Magdala was only recently discovered in 2009. The discovery occurred as a result of the Magdala Project. This project was the vision of the Legionaries of Christ, a group whom Pope John Paul II had asked to take charge of the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center in 2004. The vision was to create a similar center in Galilee for prayer and hospitality for visitors. As with every building project in Israel, it is important to first do some preliminary archaeological investigations, so that ancient remains are not destroyed. It can be said without exaggeration that the Magdala Project hit the motherload when, not only a portion of the ancient first century town of Magdala was uncovered, but especially when a synagogue at Magdala, dating from the first century was discovered! Listen to the words of Dina Gorni, one of the directors of the archaeological excavation: “It is a kind of a miracle, I think. We didn’t know there was any ancient material on this site. We knew of material further south, where there had been extensive excavations. We were only digging here as a precautionary measure before a building project began.” (Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/stunning-find-from-time-of-jesus/#r7rL5xUJroSoJzjE.99)

The Significance of the Synagogue at Magdala

Why is the synagogue at Magdala such an exciting find? There are several reasons. First, Gorni notes that it is only one of seven synagogues in all of Israel that is dated to the 1st century A.D. Second, and more significantly, it is the oldest synagogue that has ever been found. Dates range from 50 B.C. – 68 A.D. for the life of the synagogue. Some would even date its beginnings to 1 A.D. It seems certain that the synagogue was destroyed by the Romans in 67-68 A.D. during the First Jewish Revolt. This means the synagogue dates to the time when the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple) was still standing. Third, for Christians, this means the synagogue at Magdala was in use during the life and ministry of Jesus.

The synagogue at Magdala: frontal view
The synagogue at Magdala: frontal view

Although there is no mention of Jesus teaching in the synagogue at Magdala, it seems likely for several reasons: 1) The gospels testify to Jesus preaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee (Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:39); 2) Jesus’ association with Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala) makes it possible that he met her in Magdala (although she could have met him elsewhere); 3) The journey from Nazareth to Capernaum (a major center of Jesus Galilean ministry) would have involved passing by (or going through) Magdala (Capernaum is 5 miles further north along the Sea of Galilee). The Lexham Bible Dictionary states: “Jesus’ two journeys between Nazareth and Capernaum also would have taken Him through Magdala, which is situated between the two locations (Matt 4:15, Luke 4:16, 31). The journey from Cana to Capernaum depicted in the Gospel of John (John 2:1, 12) could also have taken Jesus through Magdala” (Ryan, J. [2012, 2013, 2014, 2015]. Magdala. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press). This means that when standing in the synagogue at Magdala, looking around at the mosaic floor (see photo immediately below), the rows of stone benches, and the frescoes still visible on the walls (see the last photo in this article), we are probably seeing the very site where Jesus would have taught, and where Mary Magdalene would have worshipped. As those associated with the  Magdala Project point out, some of the worshippers at this synagogue would certainly have been witnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus, including perhaps the feeding of the 5,000, as well as other miracles he performed in Galilee. Who knows, perhaps Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magadalene (Luke 8:2) in Magdala. Maybe even in the synagogue itself (cf. Mark 1:21-27).

This photo shows some of the mosaic floor. A pillar of the synagogue and the Magdala Stone can be scene on the left-center.
This photo shows some of the mosaic floor. A pillar of the synagogue and the Magdala Stone can be scene on the left-center.

Two Significant Finds from the Synagogue at Magdala

The Magdala Stone. The menorah, the jars, and the pillars to the Temple are clearly visible in this view.
The Magdala Stone. The menorah, the jars, and the pillars to the Temple are clearly visible in this view.

Besides the synagogue itself, there are two other important finds. One is a coin that dates to 29 A.D. This coin was found in the synagogue and firmly dates it to the time of Jesus’ ministry. The second important discovery has become known as the “Magdala Stone” (see photo above). In the main hall of the synagogue, a square stone was found with reliefs carved on the top and all four sides (only the bottom is blank). One of the reliefs depicts a menorah surrounded by amphorae (jugs) and pillars that represent the Temple in Jerusalem. The significance of the menorah (the 7-branched candlestand that stood in the Holy Place) is that it is the oldest known carving of a menorah. Since it dates to the time when the Temple was still standing, and since it is pictured in the relief as being inside the Temple, it is thought that it is a good representation of what the menorah would have looked like.

This photo is a closeup of one of the walls of the synagogue in Magdala which still shows signs of the colorful frescoes which once adorned its walls.
This photo is a closeup of one of the walls of the synagogue in Magdala which still shows signs of the colorful frescoes which once adorned its walls.

For further information on the synagogue and other archaeological discoveries at Magdala, as well as the Magdala Project, click on the links to the following youtube videos: MAGDALA and Discovery at Magdala.

Also see the following articles: First-Century Synagogue Discovered, and Ancient Synagogue Unearthed at Magdala.

 

Beyond Reading the Bible: A New Podcast

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Beyond Reading the Bible: A New Podcast

My friend and colleague Lindsay Kennedy is pictured above. Besides our combined efforts on Beyond Reading the Bible, check out his blog at mydigitalseminary.com
My friend and colleague Lindsay Kennedy is pictured above. Besides our combined efforts on Beyond Reading the Bible, check out his blog at mydigitalseminary.com

I am excited to announce that my colleague Lindsay Kennedy of mydigitalseminary.com and myself have embarked on a new adventure. We have created a podcast entitled Beyond Reading the Bible. The podcast is designed to help people go deeper in their study of the Bible. Many can sympathize with the experience of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39). As the eunuch was travelling back home he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit directed Philip to join himself to the chariot. As he read, Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The eunuch’s response was classic: “How can I, unless someone guides me?” We all need to read our Bibles more, but there are times when we become frustrated as we read. We may think to ourselves, “I have no clue what is going on here, ” or “What does that expression or word mean?”

Check out Beyond Reading the Bible, a podcast dedicated to helping others grow in their understanding of the Bible.
Check out Beyond Reading the Bible, a podcast dedicated to helping others grow in their understanding of the Bible.

As teachers at Calvary Chapel Bible College York, Lindsay and I both have a desire to see people, not only grow in their understanding of the Word, but also grow in their understanding of how to approach the Bible in order to better grasp its message. A number of good podcasts teach the Bible, we will do some of that as well. But one of our primary goals is to help equip others with Bible study tools, and methods that will help them grow and develop good Bible study habits. While we might all agree that we need to read our Bibles more, our goal is to help others go “beyond reading the Bible,” so that understanding accompanies one’s engagement with the Word.

What Can I Expect to Hear on Beyond Reading the Bible?

6a00d83452e61269e200e54f1b792f8834-800wiOur first two episodes are already up and running. The first episode is entitled “The Big Picture.” After introducing ourselves and our desires and goals for the podcast, we begin by discussing the importance of getting the big picture of the Bible, or any book of the Bible, and present two examples of how to go about that. Our second episode is entitled, “Study Tools.” Lindsay and I thought it important to follow up episode one with some suggestions on important study tools that can help people in their understanding of Scripture. Of course we are both book worms and could have talked endlessly on this subject! However, we held it to a reasonable 30 minutes. 🙂 Episodes to follow will include a variety of topics such as literary approaches to the Bible including such things as the importance of knowing genre. We will also discuss the culture of the biblical world and demonstrate how knowing key concepts can transform your understanding of certain passages and ideas in the Bible. For example, in one podcast we will talk about patronage in the 1st century world and learn how that contributes to a fuller understanding of the biblical concept of “grace.” We will also do overviews of biblical books in order to get “the big picture,” and we will discuss how we go about doing that.

How Do I Begin Listening to Beyond Reading the Bible?

To answer that question, I’ve swiped a paragraph from Lindsay’s blog, as he explains it well. Take it away Lindsay–“The podcast can be found on the iTunes Podcast store or by searching for “Beyond Reading the Bible” from the Podcast app on one’s iPhone/iPad. Alternatively, episodes can be listened to from the Beyond Reading the Bible website.” Thanks Lindsay! I also want to extend a word of thanks to Lindsay, who is the technological brain behind this effort, as well as the one who birthed the whole idea for this project. In conclusion, let me note that our Beyond the Bible website will also include resources, and links to posts on our individual blogs that relate to the topic we’re discussing. And of course, there is space for making comments or asking questions. We hope you’ll give Beyond Reading the Bible a try and come back for future episodes.

Has Jesus’ Home Been Found?

Has Jesus’ Home Been Found?

Jesus' home in Nazareth is located only a few miles away from the Sea of Galilee where a major portion of his ministry occurred.
Jesus’ home in Nazareth is not far from the Sea of Galilee where a major portion of his ministry occurred.

It sounds like a title to simply grab headlines doesn’t it? Throughout the centuries claims have been made to have pieces of the cross of Christ, or an actual nail used in crucifying Jesus. On and on the claims go. During the Byzantine and Middle Ages pilgrimages were frequently made to see such so-called “relics.” So when someone claims that Jesus’ home in Nazareth may have been discovered, it is quite natural to expect that claim would be met with a great deal of skepticism. However, when a reputable magazine like BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review) lists Jesus’ home as one of the top ten discoveries of 2015, it’s at least worth investigating.

The Original Discovery of What May Be Jesus’ Home

Sisters of Nazareth Convent where Jesus' home may have been discovered.
Sisters of Nazareth Convent where Jesus’ home may have been discovered.

Although the discovery has only made headlines this past year (see the article by the Daily Mail here), the story actually begins in the 1880s when an ancient cistern was accidentally discovered at the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. The nuns and others associated with the school began excavating the area and uncovered a number of ancient features including Crusader period walls and vaults, a Byzantine  cave-church, Roman period tombs and other structures. The nuns created a small museum from the coins, pottery, glass, and other objects that were uncovered. Previously, construction on the convent had revealed a large Byzantine church which included mosaic floors and marble fittings, rebuilt during the Crusader period. Jesuit priest Father Henri Senès carried out further work in 1936, including making detailed drawings of the discoveries.

Recent Excavations in Nazareth and the Evidence for What May Be Jesus’ Home

The exterior of the house that may have been Jesus' home, showing a doorway which is still preserved to its original height.
The exterior of the house that may have been Jesus’ home, showing a doorway which is still preserved to its original height.

The Nazareth Archaeological Project which began in 2006, is the first professional archaeological excavation to take place on this site, although discovered long ago. This recent excavation project has revealed “a lengthy chronological sequence of well-preserved structures and features” (Ken Dark, “Has Jesus’ Nazareth House Been Found?,” BAR, Mar/Apr. 2015). These include the features mentioned above plus “a rectilinear structure with partly rock-cut and partly stone-built walls” (Ken Dark, BAR). Further investigation confirmed that this structure was a house from the earlier Roman period, built in either the 1st century AD or shortly before. A doorway survives to its original height and part of the original chalk floor is still visible. The date is confirmed by cooking pottery and other items  (including a spindle whorl) which also date to this period. The discovery of limestone vessels also suggests that this was a Jewish home, since limestone was not considered subject to impurity.

The forecourt of the tomb can be seen in this photo. Note the stone on the right and the two niches inside for bodies. These tombs cut right through the house
The forecourt of the tomb can be seen in this photo. Note the stone on the right and the two niches inside for bodies. These tombs cut right through the house

The age of the house is further confirmed by a curious feature. Two Roman period tombs cut through the house. Archaeologist Ken Dark confirms that the tombs are 1st century AD but were made after the house had already been built. Of course no Jew would have had a tomb in their house while the house was being occupied. It is interesting to speculate why the tombs were built. If this was the boyhood home of Jesus, were the tombs built by unbelievers to desecrate what had come to be considered a sacred place? Or, what seems to me less likely because of the uncleanness associated with tombs, would some zealous believer have wanted to be buried in the boyhood home of Jesus? These are questions that cannot be answered, but the presence of the tombs further confirms the date of the house.

This map taken from Ken Dark's article in BAR shows the site of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, as well as other significant sites in Nazareth.
This map taken from Ken Dark’s article in BAR shows the site of the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, as well as other significant sites in Nazareth.

But what evidence connects this with possibly being Jesus’ home? The churches that have been built on the site are strongly suggestive of this being considered a sacred area. In fact, Ken Dark notes that great efforts were made by both the Byzantine and later Crusader churches to completely encompass the house, thus protecting it from further destruction. Why build a church on this site and why go to the trouble to protect an old house? The most obvious answer is that the house was considered to be a special place. What house in Nazareth could be considered more special by future generations of Christians than the house of Jesus? Of course, this involves making some intuitive leaps, but there is one other piece of historical information that is intriguing. An ancient pilgrim text written in 670 AD by abbot Adomnàn of Iona  known as the De Locus Sanctis, speaks of making a pilgrimage to Nazareth and seeing two churches. One can be identified as the Church of the Annunciation (well known in Nazareth). The other church is said to be built over vaults that contain a spring and two tombs. Between the tombs Adomnán says there was a house in which Jesus was raised. The church is called The Church of the Nutrition, meaning, “the upbringing of Christ.” Adomnán’s description is clearly speaking about the same house that has been uncovered and now sits in the Sisters of Nazareth Convent. Is the tradition reliable? Who can say? But the fact that a church had been established on this site before Adomnán’s trip in 670 AD suggests that the house had a long tradition of being identified as Jesus’ home.

Is the House in Nazareth Jesus’ Home?

Another 1st century house has been discovered in the recent excavations in Nazareth.
Another 1st century house has been discovered in the recent excavations in Nazareth.

The best answer to this question is given by Ken Dark himself when he states, “Was this the house where Jesus grew up? It is impossible to say on archaeological grounds. On the other hand, there is no good archaeological reason why such an identification should be discounted. What we can say is that this building was probably where the Byzantine church builders believed Jesus had spent his childhood in Nazareth.

Besides the house that may be Jesus’ home, archaeologists have uncovered another 1st century house in Nazareth across from the Church of the Annunciation (see photo on the left). I’ve made a number of trips to Israel, but I have only been to Nazareth on one occasion and even then, we were just passing through on a bus. I inquired why tours never seemed to stop in Nazareth and was told that there was simply “nothing to see.” I asked that question back in 2006, the same year that the Nazareth Archaeological Project began. Thanks to the recent efforts of archaeologists, our knowledge of ancient Nazareth is slowly being transformed. I imagine if I were to ask the question again, the answer would be quite different!

(For another informative article on the archaeological excavations on Jesus’ home, see the Bible Blender by clicking here. Of course, if you have a subscription to BAS library you can see the original article by clicking here.)

Where Will the Battle of Armageddon Be Fought?

Where Will the Battle of Armageddon Be Fought?

The battle of Armageddon is pictured in the Book of Revelation as the final battle where God defeats evil.
The battle of Armageddon is pictured in the Book of Revelation as the final battle where God defeats evil.

Although the word Armageddon comes to us via the Bible, it has entered the modern vernacular as a term that refers to doomsday, or a cataclysmic event. Biblically speaking, it is the final battle to end all wars when evil is dealt a decisive blow. In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John describes it this way: “And the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth, and of the whole world to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty….And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:12-14, 16).

Tel Megiddo and the surrounding valley is frequently identified as the site of the battle of Armageddon.
Tel Megiddo and the surrounding valley is frequently identified as the site of the battle of Armageddon.

Most bible scholars and commentators preoccupy themselves with when Armageddon will occur, based on their understanding of Revelation and end-time events. When asked where the final battle of Armageddon will take place, the usual answer is the valley of Megiddo in Israel. This identification is based on breaking the word “Armageddon” into its two parts. “Ar” is the English equivalent to the Greek and Hebrew rendering which is “Har.” “Har” in Hebrew means “mountain.” The second part of the word “magedon” (one “d” in the Greek, not two) is usually thought to refer to the city of Megiddo. Because the ancient city of Megiddo was built and rebuilt many times over the centuries, a tell or small mound has developed. This is the result of the ancient practice of building one city on top of another. Thus Megiddo has the appearance of being a small hill or mountain as can be seen in the photo to the left. Armageddon, or Harmageddon is thus interpreted to mean “the mountain of Megiddo.”

Could the Equation of Armageddon with Mountain of Megiddo Be Wrong?

In his recent book The Unseen Realm, Bible scholar Michael Heiser argues that Armageddon should be equated with Jerusalem, not Megiddo. (If Heiser is correct, this means I need to revise one of my statements in  my post entitled: Tel-Megiddo!) Heiser makes the following points to advance his argument:

  1. Megiddo is a tell, it is not a mountain.

2.  Zechariah 12:9-11 pictures Jerusalem as the place where the final battle against the nations will take place. Interestingly, Megiddo is also mentioned in this passage. Heiser states, “It is crystal clear that the final conflict occurs at Jerusalem, not Megiddo. Megiddo is referenced only to compare the awful mourning that will result.” He continues by also noting, “verse 11 tells us explicitly that Megiddo is a plain, not a mountain!” (p. 370, all italics are the author’s).

417i-jxItJL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_3.  Heiser’s third point  is more complicated and involves knowing a little Hebrew as he attempts to show that the word “magedon” does not come from Armageddon, but from a different Hebrew expression. He points out that there are 2 letters in the Hebrew alphabet that are transliterated with a “g” in Greek and English. Transliteration means writing the letters of another alphabet in the equivalent forms of our alphabet. One of those letters is the Hebrew letter ‘ayin (ע). An ‘ayin is pronounced in the back of the throat like a hard “g” but it is represented in English transliteration as a backwards apostrophe (‘). Heiser notes that the transliteration of the city Gomorrah is ‘amorah. I would add, the same is true for the city Gaza which also begins with an ‘ayin and is transliterated as ‘aza. If the letter “g” in “magedon” is an ‘ayin, then, Heiser argues, that the Hebrew expression would be har mo’ed which means “mountain of assembly.” If you’re unfamiliar with Hebrew, I know that going from “Armageddon” to “har mo’ed” seems like a stretch. But trust me, it works. Heiser notes that this expression is found in Isaiah 14:13. This is a passage usually attributed to Satan’s defiance of God and Heiser treats it fully elsewhere in his book. To fully appreciate his point, it is necessary to read the book. For the full argument on this particular point see pages 370-373.

4. “Jerusalem is a mountain–Mount Zion” (p. 373). Heiser’s point is that when John uses the word Armageddon, he is meaning the mountain of assembly which every one who knew Hebrew would equate with Mount Zion, or Jerusalem.

Megiddo or Jerusalem?

Since David conquered Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, it has been the center and hearbeat of Israelite life. Something rings true to me about the final battle taking place in Jerusalem. After all, even today, Jerusalem remains the focal point of controversy and contention when it comes to the Middle East. Even if it can’t be proven that Armageddon means “mountain of the assembly,” Heiser’s other arguments make sense of an important biblical event that all Christians long to see take place. For more of Heiser’s arguments regarding Armageddon or his book, The Unseen Realm, check out his website at moreunseenrealm.com.

Bulla of Hezekiah Discovered in Jerusalem

Bulla of Hezekiah Discovered in Jerusalem

A bulla of Hezekiah of Judah. It reads "Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah
A bulla of Hezekiah of Judah. It reads “Belonging to Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah

It was recently announced that a clay bulla of Hezekiah King of Judah (727-698 B.C.) was discovered during excavations in the Ophel area of Jerusalem. Although found in 2009, the discovery has only recently been made known to the public. While previous bullae (plural of “bulla”) of Hezekiah are known, this is the first one discovered in an archaeological context (others have appeared on the antiquites market and in the collections of antiquities dealers). A bulla is a small piece of clay, which has been impressed by the owner’s seal. Bullae were used to seal papyrus documents that were rolled and tied with a string (see picture below). In the middle of the bulla of Hezekiah is a picture of a two-winged sun disk. The wings of the sun disk point downward and it has six rays of light projecting from it (3 from the top and 3 from the bottom). On either side of the sun disk (the one on the right is most clearly visible) are ankh symbols from Egypt known as “the key of life.”

Example of an ancient papyrus (from the 5th century B.C.) still rolled and tied with strings. The back of the bulla shows the imprint of the papyrus grain. Image taken from http://www.archaeological-center.com/en/monographs/m13/
Example of an ancient papyrus (from the 5th century B.C.) still rolled and tied with strings. The back of the bulla shows the imprint of the papyrus grain. Image taken from http://www.archaeological-center.com/en/monographs/m13/

Given Israel’s aversion to symbols, especially by a King known for his sweeping religious reforms (2 Kgs. 18:1-6; 2 Chron. 29), it is somewhat surprising to find this iconography on King Hezekiah’s seal. The use of Egyptian symbols may also surprise many. As far as current knowledge tells us, Hezekiah seems to be the first king of Judah to use a royal emblem with an icon on it. It is also known from other bullae that Hezekiah adopted the use of the two-winged scarab (dung beetle), known in both Egypt and Phoenicia. Thus, we are now aware of two different images that were employed on the royal seals of Hezekiah. There are several passages which suggest a dependence on Egypt by Hezekiah, and this may be why the king’s seals show Egyptian influence. For example, when Sennacherib is laying siege to Jerusalem, the Rabshakeh (an Assyrian official) rebukes Hezekiah for trusting in Egypt (Isa. 36:4-6). Although Hezekiah is not specifically mentioned in Isaiah 30, this passage condemns Judah’s leadership for trusting in Egypt for military aid. As far as the imagery on the seal itself, given Hezekiah’s aversion to idolatry, Robert Deutsch’s conclusion seems correct. He states, “Although winged sun disks and scarabs had originated in foreign lands, by the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, when they appeared on Hebrew seals, they were already quite old and bereft of any religious significance. They were used solely for their decorative value and their connotation of power – and should be regarded as Israelite/Judahite. When Hezekiah adopted the two-winged scarab and the two-winged sun disk with six rays as royal emblems, he was simply appropriating generally accepted icons of royal power and not importing meaning from either Phoenicia or Egypt” (Lasting Impressions: New Bullae Reveal Egyptian-Style Emblems on Judah’s Royal Seals–the whole article is worth reading).

The Bulla of Hezekiah and the Ophel

The bulla of Hezekiah was found in the Ophel which is the area circled in the photo above..
The bulla of Hezekiah was found in the Ophel which is the area circled in the photo above..

As noted above, the bulla of Hezekiah was discovered during excavations of the Ophel in Jerusalem. The Ophel is the area between the Temple Mount and the City of David (see the picture on the right). The bulla was found in an ancient refuse dump near a royal building that dates back to Solomon’s time (mid-tenth century B.C.). I had the opportunity of exploring this area last Spring (2015). The bulla was discovered through a process known as wet-sifting. Wet-sifting is a process utilized by Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Zachi Dvira at the Temple Mount ever since the illegal dumping of tons of soil bull-dozed on the Temple Mount in 1999 by the Waqf. These archaeologists realized that “this discarded earth represented a treasure trove of information relating to the Temple Mount’s history” (see Temple Mount Sifting Project). Since Barkai and Dvira implemented this system of searching through the dug up soil, it has become a staple of archaeological excavations. Many smaller items, like this bulla of Hezekiah, would easily go undiscovered if this method were not employed.

Wet-sifting continues at the Temple Mount and thousands of volunteers participate each year.
Wet-sifting continues at the Temple Mount and thousands of volunteers participate each year.

Well known Israeli archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar was in charge of the excavations at the Ophel. You can watch a very interesting video here showing Dr. Mazar’s explanation of the discovery, and of the bulla of Hezekiah. The same video with an accompanying article can be found at phys.org. The bulla of Hezekiah is not only one of several bullae that exist of the Judean King, it is also one among a number of other bullae that have been discovered that refer to people mentioned in the Bible. Bullae of several of Hezekiah’s court officials have also been discovered (see the link to Deutsch’s article above). We also have a seal impression of King Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, as well as several Judean officials from the time of Jeremiah. Whether archaeological discoveries in Israel are big or small, they continue to help us better understand the ancient world of the Bible.