Two small bullae (seal impressions) found in the course of Eilat Mazar’s City of David excavations are bringing the Book of Jeremiah back to life.

The first, which surfaced in King David’s palace during her opening season, bears the name “Yehuchal [Jehucal or Jucal in English] ben Shelemyahu [Shelemiah].” The second was found in the First Temple period strata underneath Nehemiah’s Northern Tower, just a few yards away from the first, and reads “Gedalyahu [Gedaliah] ben Pashḥur.”

These two men are mentioned together in the Bible as ministers of King Zedekiah. As the Babylonians closed in on Jerusalem during the last years of the First Temple period, the prophet Jeremiah advised the king and the people of the city to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar’s men so that their lives and city might be spared. But not everyone liked Jeremiah’s message, including Gedaliah son of Pashḥur and Jucal son of Shelemiah:

Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashḥur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashḥur son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah was saying to all the people,

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Those who stay in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but those who go out to the Chaldeans [Babylonians] shall live; they shall have their lives as a prize of war, and live.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘This city shall surely be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon and be taken.’ ”

Then the officials said to the king, “This man [Jeremiah] ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.”

King Zedekiah said, “Here he is; he is in your hands; for the king is powerless against you.” So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern [or pit] of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. Now there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud.

Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch in the king’s palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. The king happened to be sitting at the Benjamin Gate, So Ebed-melech left the king’s palace and spoke to the king, “My lord king, these men have acted wickedly in all they did to the prophet Jeremiah by throwing him into the cistern to die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.”

Then the king commanded Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, “Take three men with you from here, and pull the prophet Jeremiah up from the cistern before he dies.” So Ebed-melech took the men with him and went to the palace of the king, to a wardrobe of the storehouse, and took from there old rags and worn-out clothes, which he let down to Jeremiah in the cistern by ropes. Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Just put the rags and clothes between your armpits and the ropes.” Jeremiah did so. Then they drew Jeremiah up by the ropes and pulled him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard.

(Jeremiah 38:1–13)