Although it had been found before the 1960’s, it was only this week that it was brought to my attention in this month’s Biblical Archeology Review (Mar/Apr 2008, p.32) that an ancient seal with the name Jezebel on it had been discovered. In the ancient world seals were used to make an impression into clay that would serve as the signature of the owner of the seal.
This seal is 1 1/2 inches long, which is larger than most. It also contains Egyptian and Phoenician symbols of royalty. The images on this seal also indicate it belonged to a female. Seals belonging to women are rare. There have been thousands of seals discovered but only 35 belonging to women. There have been 24 seals belonging to royal sons but only two belonging to a royal daughter.
Most convincing is the four Hebrew letters placed around the seal that spell the name of the owner. The Hebrew letters are יזבל which translate into English as YZBL and is pronounced JEZEBEL. This is the seal that would possibly have been used to seal letters calling for the death of the prophets of YHWH and also, of the letter sent to Elijah by the queen calling for the removal of his head.
“Based on copious evidence from other ancient Israelite and Judean seals and seal impressions, we should expect to find a ל (”belonging to”) somewhere on the seal, preceding the proper noun. This expectation is not conclusive, of course, but it is quite reasonable—and the only place a missing ל could go would be in the broken area at the top of the seal. In my opinion, doubting the ל would be like finding a busted baseball and doubting that it ever had stitches.”
The extant inscription on the actual piece reads יזבל, but Jezebel’s name is spelled איזבל in the Tanakh—hence the need to reconstruct the missing letters. As you can see from the second photo, Korpel proposes to read לאיזבל, which would be the preposition ל (here, “belonging to”) + the proper name איזבל.
Avigad's cautious approach stemmed from the fact that the seal did not come from an officially-approved excavation.
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