Israel Antiquities Authority

The prophet’s line. This small clay juglet containing 17 bullae (clay impressions of personal seals) was discovered in a storeroom at Lachish, 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem. One of the bullae bears the Hebrew inscription “Belonging to Jeremiah, son of Zephaniah, son of the prophet.” This inscription has led scholars to speculate that the seal may have belonged to a descendant of the biblical prophet. The back of the bulla bears traces of papyrus fibers and string, indicating that it was once used to seal a scroll.

In the Bible, Zephaniah has one of the most elaborate genealogies of all the prophets: He is “Zephaniah son of Cushi son of Gedaliah son of Amariah son of Hezekiah” (Zephaniah 1:1). That is, he’s the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. The prophet lived, the verse continues, “in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah”—that is in the second half of the seventh century B.C.E., during the decline of the Assyrian empire. Thus his son or grandson may well have lived in the early sixth century.