Archaeologists may have found Isaah’s “autograph” during excavations in Jerusalem. This clay impression (bulla) was uncovered a few years ago along with others, including one belonging to King Hezekiah. It was finally announced this morning in a press release. Dr. Eilat Mazar has an article on this find, calling it “a unique and fantastic discovery” in the upcoming issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
The damaged bulla bears the inscription, “Yesha‘yah[u” (Isaiah), followed by the word “nvi” which, with the addition of the Hebrew letter aleph, would mean “prophet.” The area where the missing aleph should be located is damaged, so we can’t know if it was originally there. Without the missing aleph, the word “nvi” can be translated as a place name (“from Nob”). There is room for the missing letter, so is this the prophet Isaiah’s personal seal?
The illustration below shows how the full circle around the inscription allows room for additional letters. The middle line in this drawing imagines the last letter of Isaiah’s name along with a letter for the word “the,” which would be expected if the bottom word is “prophet.”
Isaiah the prophet is frequently named alongside King Hezekiah in the Bible, so it is notable this Isaiah impression was found only feet away from Hezekiah’s personal seal. It could have belonged to another Isaiah, but several scholars who have weighed in say this seal could have belonged to the famous prophet.
Even though this could be the seal of the biblical Isaiah, we lack the letters that would confirm it. (This sort of thing happens a lot, but then we’re talking about very old, breakable objects.) This impression was found in a proper excavation, which makes it more authentic than many others seals we encounter. (Have you noticed how many seals on display in the Israel Museum have “Provenance Unknown” on the labels? How many of those might be fakes?)
As mentioned above, the Isaiah bulla was found just a few feet away from an intact seal impression that belonged to King Hezekiah, shown below.