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An extraordinary find has been made in Israel: archaeologists announced in an article published on Thursday that they have found physical evidence corroborating the existence of the Biblical prophet Isaiah.
Writing in Biblical Archaeology Review, Eliat Mazar, who headed the dig at which the discovery was found, describes the evidence. According to The Daily Beast, Mazar states that it is “a small piece of clay (an impression left by a seal), a mere 0.4 inches long, which appears to bear the inscription ‘Isaiah the prophet.’”
The new discovery came as part of the excavations at the Ophel excavation in Jerusalem, which had already yielded a 2,700-year-old clay seal impression that had belonged to the governor of Jerusalem, thus proving that the Jewish people had an administrative presence almost three thousand years ago and that Biblical administrative structures were genuine.
Mazar writes that the new find, one of the many clay seal impressions known as bullae found at the site, was near the bullae already discovered to have a mark from a seal of the Biblical King Hezekiah. He notes, “alongside the bullae of Hezekiah … [were] 22 additional bullae … among these is the bulla of ‘Yesha‘yah[u] Nvy[?].’” That is Hebrew for Isaiah the Prophet.
According to the Book of Isaiah, the prophet lived from 691-533 B.C., during the reign of King Hezekiah, who was regarded as the greatest king the Jewish people had except for King David.
At the beginning of Isaiah’s prophetic career, the land of Judea was quite prosperous, but he witnessed the poor being oppressed, people pursuing wanton pleasure, and growing idolatry. Isaiah warned that if such practices continued, both the kingdoms of Judea and Israel would be destroyed. While Isaiah preached to the kingdom of Judah, his contemporary Hosea preached to the kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C., the kingdom of Israel collapsed when Sennacherib invaded. According to Jewish tradition, when Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, who was evil, ascended to the throne, he had Isaiah murdered.
Isaiah has tremendous importance for Jews and Christians; he taught that piety that was devoid of sincerity was wrong. His prophecies regarding the Messiah were interpreted differently by members of both faiths, but both faiths regard him as a powerful harbinger of what is to come.
As Andrew Davies, director of the Edward Cadbury Centre at Britain’s University of Birmingham, told The Daily Beast: “Without Isaiah we’d be missing some of the most sorrowful but also the most hopeful of all religious poetry and some of the greatest theological innovation of all time.”