Biblical Archaeology Review 46:1, January/February 2020

Strata: Adoniyahu Bulla

Another bulla (seal impression) has come to light in Jerusalem. Excavated from beneath Robinson’s Arch, at the Temple Mount’s southwestern corner, the clay bulla has two lines of text written in the paleo-Hebrew script. In Hebrew, it reads:

לאדניהו (top)

הבית על אשר (bottom)

Its literal translation is “Belonging to Adoniyahu, who is over the house,” which means, “Belonging to Adoniyahu, the Royal Steward.” Although the bulla measures just 1 cm in diameter, this small artifact has a large significance. The name Adoniyahu (literally “my lord is Yahu/Yahweh”) appears in the Hebrew Bible, most famously as the name of one of King David’s sons (e.g., 1 Kings 1-2; many English translations say “Adonijah”). It is also the name of a Levite from King Jehoshaphat’s time (2 Chronicles 17:8) and one of Nehemiah’s contemporaries (Nehemiah 10:16).

Since the bulla dates to the seventh century B.C.E., it cannot be connected with any of these biblical Adoniyahu figures, who lived in the tenth, ninth, and fifth centuries B.C.E., respectively. Yet it still sheds light on an important steward in ancient Judah, who apparently had a popular Judahite name. And now we not only know this royal steward’s name but also have his signature.

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