Another bulla has been found – this one is a bulla of Azariah from Old Testament. Azariah was the son of the High Priest Hilkiah who has an important role in ancient Israel.
Israel, as per its usual history, had once again fallen from following God and judgment would soon be pronounced upon it. Josiah was the King at the time and was apparently unaware of what he was supposed to be doing. The Kingdom had fallen so far away that they were worshiping pagan gods, idols, and sacrificing their children.
Hilkiah was the High Priest under King Josiah and apparently had been doing some spring cleaning. While searching through the Temple, he came upon a book of the Law (Torah) in about 623 BC. This was only a few short years prior to the utter destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
The King was so moved by what he had found that he tried his best to turn the clock back and lead Israel back to God. He would destroy idols, restart sacrifices to Yahweh, and try (ultimately unsuccessfully) to lead Israel out of the wilderness.
Bulla of Azariah from the Old Testament
Most modern Christians have little need for the Old Testament which is a shame. The feeling by much of modern Christianity is the Old Testament laws have been replaced by the commandments of Christ.
Unfortunately, this has led to increasing illiteracy with respect to the Old Testament. As we note in this website, there are many types of Christ in the Old Testament. In fact, Christ is found in every book of the Old Testament – often in a hidden manner.
The modern-day ignorance of most things Jewish has led to minimal appreciation of Christians’ Jewish history. We no longer know the history of Israel, its Kings, Prophets, and why they are important. Some Messianic Jews believe parts of ancient history are being acted out today.
One of the most important people in the Old Testament was the High Priest Hilkiah who with King Josiah tried to lead Israel back to God.
One of his sons was named Azariah. While he does not have a significant role in the attempted redemption of Israel, he is mentioned in genealogies (Ezra 7:1, and 1 Chron. 6:13).
Parenthetically, this shows the importance of the genealogies listed in the Old Testament. While most Christians skim over these genealogies quickly, there is nothing in Scripture that is not important.
History of Azariah
Israel is in trouble – again. This time, things are getting really serious.
It is the year 605 BC and King Jehoiachim is King of Judah. There are only two tribes of Israel left with the northern ten tribes having been conquered long ago by the Assyrians. Only a remnant of Jewish people occupy the northern cities of Israel – mostly it is a wasteland.
Cities that once housed thousands are now destroyed with their inhabitants slaughtered to taken into slavery. It is difficult to know which is the worst. The Assyrians are brutal people and treat their slaves harshly, and those who fight against them brutally.
Jeremiah was an ancient great prophet of Judah who would eventually witness the destruction of Israel. Years before, he was given messages from God to take to the people and the King trying to get them to repent. Even though King Josiah had brought back Temple worship, the people soon fell away after the righteous King died.
Jeremiah and Johoiakim
Jeremiah is directed by God to dictate a warning through his scribe (Baruch whose bulla has also been found). The warning is to Judah and was given to the new King Jehoiakim. He was the second son of King Josiah (1 Chronicles 3;15) whose birth name was Eliakim.
After Josiah’s death, Jehoiakim’s younger brother Jehoiahaz (also known as Shallum) became King of Judah. His reign was short-lived for only three months until he was overthrown by Pharaoh Necho II, and made Jehoiakim King instead.
The Pharaoh had killed King Josiah at Megiddo and returned three months later deposed Jehoahaz taking him to Egypt where he died. Jehoiakim ruled as a vassal of the Egyptians and had to pay a heavy tribute to keep his throne.
He did not want to follow his older brother into Egypt to die.
History goes on and the Egyptians (and their Assyrian ally) were defeated by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. Assyria then ceased to be an independent power and Egypt withdraw after its defeat to its own country.
Most Christians with any familiarity have heard of this Babylonian King. After defeating the Egyptians at Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Jehoiakim changed allegiance from Egypt to Babylon in order not to be crushed by their military might. This was the first of the three invasions of Nebuchadnezzar in 605
Parenthetically, this was the year when the best and the brightest of Jewish citizens were taken to Babylon – including Daniel. It is thought that this year (605 BC) started the 70-year captivity which ended in 536 BC.
He had to pay more tribute to Nebuchadnezzar including some temple artifacts, also handing over some of the royal family and nobility as hostages.
Jehoiakim is considered a ruthless tyrant committing atrocious sins and crimes. He is thought to have lived in an incestuous relationship with his mother, daughter-in-law, and stepmother. He was in the habit of murdering men and then take their wives whom he raped and seized their property.
Jeremiah railed against Jehoiakim knowing he might be executed. There was another contemporary prophet named Uriah ben Shemaiah who also criticized the King – he was subsequently executed. (Jeremiah 26:20-23).
As all of this was going on, Egypt then re-invaded and neutralized the Babylonians for a short while. Jehoiakim switched allegiance back to the Egyptians in 601 BC. This turned out to be a deadly mistake as Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem.
He was furious that King Jehoiakim and become a traitor to him. The second invasion by Babylon occurred in 598 BC.
The siege lasted for about three months with Jehoiakim dying before the siege ended. Jeremiah was not too upset about the death of this ruthless tyrant and noted (Jeremiah 22:18-19) that
“his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night.
Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century AD, wrote that Nebuchadnezzar killed Jehoiakim along with high ranking officials and then commanded his body “to be thrown before the walls, without any burial.”
The people then appoint Jehoiakim’s 9-year-old son Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) to become king. He is then deposed only three months by Babylon; Josephus reports Nebuchadnezzar was fearful Jehoiakin might try to avenge his father’s death. Jehoiakin is then taken to Babylon. Zedekiah, Josiah’s son and Jehoiakim’s younger brother, then becomes king at 21 years old. Babylon is able to repel Egypt from Israel and places Zedekiah as King over Judah. Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king of Judah after swearing allegiance of Babylon.
End of the House of David
This appears to be in agreement with a Babylonian Chronicle which states,
The seventh-year: In the month Kislev the king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Hafttu. He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month Adar he captured the city and seized its king. A king of his own choice he appointed in the city and taking the vast tribute he brought it into Babylon.
Despite warning from Jeremiah and multiple other family and advisers, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon entering into an alliance with the Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar was not pleased and invaded Israel (2 Kings 25:1). The siege lasted for thirty months, “every worst woe befell the city, which drank the cup of God’s fury to the dregs (2 Kings 25:3).
Babylon finally was able to capture Jerusalem. Zedekiah and his followers attempted to escape and made it out of the city into the country; however, they were captured. Zedekiah and his family were then taken to Riblah; after seeing his sons put to death, Zedekiah was then blinded, and taken with chains carried captive by Babylon where he remained in prison until he died.
At that point, Nebuzaradan then destroyed the city, and Solomon’s Temple was destroyed.
Zedekiah is the nephew of Jehoiachin; once he is deposed, he will be the last of the House of David.
Back to Bulla of Azariah from Old Testament
Hilkiah was the High Priest for King Josiah while his son Azariah was the High Priest with the evil king Jehoiakim. The finding of a bulla which has on its surface “belonging to Azariah son of Hilkiah.” Archaeologists believe it is a bulla of Azariah from Old Testament. It was found in Jerusalem during an archaeological dig in 1982 and is currently located in the Israel Museum. It is dated to 605 BC with Azariah mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13 and Ezra 7:1.
Modern archaeology has found literally hundreds of bullae from the time of the First Temple. These bullae were meant to seal an official document with an impression made by an official seal.
This bulla of Azariah from Old Testament demonstrates the historicity of a relatively minor character in Old Testament history.
The seal ties the official document together so that it can not be changed without breaking the bulla or seal. Often there is a second unofficial copy of the original made so that interested parties could see what was written on the actual document.
If the copy is challenged, then the seal to the original could be broken and the official document evaluated to settle disputes. The original would then be resealed and put back into storage.
There was an actual official enclosure called a Scriptorium which would house these official documents. Parchments are actually made of paper which has long since deteriorated. However, the clay bullae associated with these parchments have survived over many hundreds of years.
They bear witness to their owners – many of them actual Biblical personalities. They also help to authenticate the Biblical narrative played out by these people whose existence has now been firmly established.
Likely this bulla of Azariah from Old Testament will be followed by new discoveries in the years ahead.