Several dozen seal impressions have been discovered in excavations in the City of David. These bullae date to the period after the fall of the northern kingdom in 722 BC and the archaeologists suggest that the names on them may belong to refugees who immigrated to Jerusalem at that time.

The IAA press release is here, and the story is reported in a number of news sources. The Times of Israel incorporates many photographs and one video into its story.

The dozens of clay imprints were used on letters and documents which were bound by string and sealed by wet clay pressed with the sender’s mark or name. The impressive trove was discovered at recent digs uncovering three Late Iron Age buildings frozen in time by the destruction caused by the 586 BCE Babylonian siege. The discovery was made by a team of Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists led by co-directors Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf.
Among the dozens of bullae is a rare find of an intact sealing, bearing the name “Ahiav ben (son of) Menahem,” referring to two kings of Israel but found in the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, Jerusalem.
According to co-director Ortal Chalaf, these Israelite names and other findings point to the possibility that after the destruction of Israel, refugees fled the Kingdom of Israel for the Kingdom of Judah, and settled in Jerusalem. After settling, the use of their names on official correspondence shows that these Israelites gained important roles in the Judaean administration, said Uziel.
“These names are part of the evidence that after the exile of the Tribes of Israel, refugees arrived in Jerusalem from the northern kingdom, and found their way into senior positions in Jerusalem’s administration,” according to the two co-directors.

The full story is here.

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This series of posts examines the historical reliability of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts by comparing these books to other ancient textual sources and the archaeological record. Supplemental information of additional interest is often given as well.

John the Baptist is one of the eight people mentioned in Luke 3:1-2. In this passage John is actually referred to as “John son of Zechariah” after his father Zechariah who experienced a vision in the Temple that foretold of his son’s birth. The full story of Zechariah’s experience in the Temple is found in Luke 1:5-25, with the conclusion of John’s birth narrative depicted in Luke 1:57-66.

John had an extensive ministry introducing Christ and his messianic kingdom to the nation of Israel (e.g., John 1:19-42), though he was eventually martyred for his faith as recounted in Mark 6:14-29.

Further information on his martyrdom can be found at this prior post in this series: Luke & Acts: Historical Reliability – 4.

In addition to his portrayal in the New Testament, the 1st-century Jewish historian Josephus describes John, his ministry, and his death. Here is a portion of what he wrote:

“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; . . . ” (Antiquities 18.5.2.

Josephus further indicates that John was imprisoned and eventually murdered at the hilltop fortress of Macherus. Below you can see the location of Herod’s fortress. This map comes from the Satellite Bible Atlas, a resource that we highly recommend.

The next photo depicts Macherus looking from the east with the Dead Sea in the background. With steep sides surrounded by deep ravines, it presented a difficult target to attack. Still, the Jews who defended it during the first revolt against Rome (c. AD 70) eventually surrendered rather than face the full Roman military onslaught.

The photo below gives a close-up of the current remains of the fortress itself on the summit of the hill.

By way of final note, National Geographic has an article exploring the claim by some that actual bones from John the Baptist have been preserved in a church in Sophia, Bulgaria. Obviously this claim is pretty far-fetched, but the article is an interesting read in any case.

For other similar correlations between the biblical text and ancient sources, see Bible and Archaeology – Online Museum.