Ben-Gurion University Professor, Yuval Goren, recently announced his authentication of a clay seal impression (bulla) of a servant of King Jeroboam II. This announcement comes ahead of the publication of his scientific study in the Eretz Yisrael journal, which will later to be published in English in the Israel Exploration Journal. The bulla’s impression is almost identical to the much larger jasper seal that was discovered at Megiddo in 1904, and subsequently lost. It bears the image of a roaring lion and a paleo-Hebrew inscription, “l’Shema eved Yerov’am” (Belonging to Shema the servant of Jeroboam). Scholars believe Shema was a servant in the courts of the Israelite king Jeroboam II, who reigned in the 8th century BC. The clay bulla was purchased in the 1980’s without provenance from a Bedouin antiquities dealer for only 10 old Israeli shekels. Given the lack of provenance, and the fact it was purchased so cheaply on the antiquities market, it was believed the seal impression was a forgery. However, Goren developed a strict set of testing protocols involving a series of overlapping tests from a variety of disciplines. One test involved removing a fragment of the clay to examine the mineral makeup and another analyzed the isotopic composition of the patina. He assembled an interdisciplinary team and studied hundreds of authentic seal impressions discovered in excavations to secure a reference point. Goren began testing the artifact five years ago on the condition that it be turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority if it proved authentic. The authentication of the seal impression of Shema, the servant of Jeroboam, if accurate and properly understood, affirms the historicity of King Jeroboam II, son of Joash (2 Kings 13:13).
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