Zev Radovan

“Gemaryahu, son of Shaphan,” the name impressed on this bulla, is the same as that of a scribe in the court of King Jehoiakim (608–597 B.C.) mentioned several times in Jeremiah 36:10–12, 25. The correspondence between the date of the bulla and that of Jehoiakim’s reign is evidence that the small clay disc most probably displays the personal seal of the Biblical Gemaryahu, scribe to the king in Jerusalem.

A bulla is a lump of clay attached to a document and impressed, while wet, with a seal bearing the owner’s name. Once dry, the bulla identified the sender and prevented the document from being opened before it reached its destination. The 51 bullae discovered in the City of David were baked hard when the Babylonians put Jerusalem to the torch in 586 B.C. Thus well preserved, 41 of the bullae are legible; like the one illustrated here, the majority bear inscriptions in the form “Belonging to ‘X’ son of ‘Y.’” Most of the names are known—from the Bible, from papyrus documents and from other bullae and seals.