Zev Radovan

“Belonging to Berekhyahu, son of Neriyahu, the Scribe” declares this bulla or lump of clay impressed with the seal of the amanuensis, friend and confidant of the prophet Jeremiah. The Hebrew names appear on the bulla with the suffix –yahu, a form of Yahweh, the personal name of the Israelite God. The Bible includes a shortened form of the scribe’s name, without the suffix: When God told Jeremiah of the disasters that would strike Judah if it did not mend its wicked ways, “Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote down in the scroll, at Jeremiah’s dictation, all the words which the Lord had spoken to him” (Jeremiah 36:3–4).

Dating to the late seventh or early sixth century B.C.E., this bulla bears a remarkable human detail: a fingerprint—presumably of Jeremiah’s scribe—appears on the upper left edge. While the public can easily view another bulla, apparently impressed with the same seal (see photograph), the one with Baruch’s fingerprint has just come to light in a recent book that highlights 40 Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician inscriptions owned by private collectors.