A clay seal bearing the inscription “Natan-Melech, servant of the king” (found in the City of David in early 2019) dates back to the First Temple period – its Biblical roots cannot be ignored.
Natan Melech is mentioned in the book of II Kings as a servant of King Josiah. He lived near the entrance to the temple, close to the courtyard where the horses had been kept that were used in sun-worship before Josiah disposed of both the horses and the chariots that they had pulled.
The name is mentioned in the Bible once:
He did away with the horses that the kings of Yehuda had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance of the House of Hashem, near the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts. He burned the chariots of the sun. II Kings 23:11
Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) notes that the fact that this official was mentioned by his first name alone indicates that he was known to all, and there was no need to add his family lineage. The title “Servant of the King” (Eved HaMelech) appears often in the Bible and describes a high-ranking official close to Israel’s kings.
According to Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who were responsible for the dig in which the seal was found, the building where the seal and other artifacts were found was destroyed in the sixth century BCE – likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE.
The seal impression that was uncovered was deciphered by Dr. Mendel-Geberovich, who, according to the script, also dates it to the middle of the seventh century to the beginning of the sixth century BCE.
“Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together,” Mendel-Geberovich said in a statement.
“The discovery of a public building such as this, on the western slope of the City of David, provides a lot of information about the city’s structure during this period and the size of its administrative area,” Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a statement. “The destruction of this building in the fire, apparently during the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE, strengthens our understanding of the intensity of the destruction in the city.”
Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation which operates the City of David National Park added: “This is an extremely exciting find for billions of people worldwide. The personal seal of Natan-Melech, a senior official in the government of Josiah, King of Judah, as described in the second book of Kings. The ongoing archeological excavations at the City of David continue to prove that ancient Jerusalem is no longer just a matter of faith, but also a matter of fact. It is truly fascinating to watch how archeologists have uncovered more than twelve layers of Jerusalem history in what used to be a parking lot until just few years ago.”