I am honored to offer a few reflections about Hershel Shanks in this special festschrift issue. It is also my privilege to unveil a recent discovery, published for the first time here in the pages of BAR, as my gift to Hershel to thank him for his lifetime of work promoting the archaeology of the Bible: the discovery of a potential seal of Isaiah the prophet.
Whether or not the bulla we found in the Ophel excavations is the bulla of the prophet Isaiah, it remains, nevertheless, a unique and fantastic discovery.
Finding this bulla leads us to consider the personality and the proximity of the prophet Isaiah as one of the closest advisors to King Hezekiah—not only with regard to the events of his time, but also in assessing them from an informed perspective and foreseeing their influence over future events.
As is the case with the bulla of Isaiah, Hershel’s identification is not a simple one, for he is not just an archaeological investigator, a historian, or a scholar, nor is he merely a reporter or an editor, but he is, in fact, a unique mixture of them all. Like the prophet Isaiah, Hershel is very caring and enthusiastic about current events pertaining to Israel and the greater Near East, in this case those relating to excavations, discoveries, and studies of Biblical archaeology. He can analyze these events from a position of a skilled “hunter,” offering scholars the platform of BAR for introducing their work to the general public in clear language and a colorful presentation. Creating this valuable link between scholars and the public in the sphere of Biblical archaeology was his “prophetic” vision.
It took him years to establish a relationship of trust and mutual acknowledgment with the scholarly world, as well as to gain the recognition that he was but a conveyor of academic research. From Hershel’s viewpoint, BAR is only part of the large puzzle that is studying and reviving the world of Biblical archaeology. Thus he has always encouraged both renowned and young scholars alike, continuously following the work done not only by individuals, but also by institutions, universities, and governmental authorities—in difficult times as well as in times of great finds and glory.
Hershel gave his soul to see his vision materialize. Now, based upon the firm foundation he has established, for his sake and ours, may his prophecy continue to flourish.