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It is hard to imagine an archaeological discovery coming out of Israel that is not exciting. Some, however, make more headlines than others. Many of the discoveries that capture the world’s collective attention are those that lend further credence to the idea that the Bible contains an accurate chronicling of ancient history. Sometimes, the biblical events that archaeological discoveries support are major such as the asteroid that leveled Sodom and Gomorrah or ancient documentation of Jesus of Nazareth’s crucifixion. Other discoveries are smaller and may be less interesting to the average person, but they get archaeologists and scholars just as excited as uncovering a new city.
One could argue about which category should hold the latest find from the City of David National Park in Jerusalem. Archaeologists were excavating the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David when they uncovered the remains of an ancient building. Based on the stones which made it and size of the building, the building was at last two stories tall and was probably the home of someone very wealthy.
“This house was not a regular dwelling,” said Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “It was probably the house of a very rich person, maybe an officer or someone from the administration of Jerusalem.”
Based on a small bulla, a seal impression, found in the remains of the house, that rich person may well have been someone mentioned by name in the book of 2 Kings.
“This is the bulla of one Natan-Melech Servant of the King,” said Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich from the Hebrew University and the Ancient Jerusalem Research Center. “Since he is not mentioned by his last name, only his first name, we can understand that he was a pretty famous person here in Jerusalem during the mid-seventh century at the time of King Josiah.”
According to the Bible, Natan-Melech was an official of King Josiah, a position that would fit both Shalev’s statement that the house belonged to someone from the administration of Jerusalem and Mendel-Geberovich’s assertion that the owner of the bulla was famous.
“The one million dollar question is, ‘Am I holding in my hand the bulla of the same Natan-Melech that was mentioned in the Bible?’” said Mendel-Geberovich. “Well, I can never say that for certain, but what I can say is that there is an overlap in three things. First, the name Natan-Melech, which is rare. Second, the period we are talking about — mid-seventh century B.C., King Josiah. Third, the fact that we have the title. So, Natan-Melech was someone who was close to the king.”
All of these facts suggest that the Natan-Melech mentioned on the thumbnail-sized bulla is none other than the official mentioned in 2 Kings. This makes the tiny seal impression yet another extraordinary discovery that was once hidden in the soil of the Holy Land.