On June 10, our Armstrong International Cultural Foundation hosted the premiere of the “Seals of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Discovered” archaeological exhibit at Armstrong Auditorium in Edmond, Oklahoma. Dr. Eilat Mazar, who found these artifacts just yards apart from each other in Jerusalem, was the keynote speaker. I believe she is one of the most outstanding archaeologists in the world.
There are many critics in the field of archaeology, which causes quite a lot of confusion. But Dr. Mazar offers the solution: “Let the stones speak.” That’s a dramatic statement—one that she repeats quite often. It provides tremendous insight into the archaeology profession.
Our partnership with Dr. Mazar goes back 50 years to when our predecessor, Herbert W. Armstrong, supported her grandfather, Prof. Benjamin Mazar, with various archaeological projects in Jerusalem. Dr. Mazar and I have different religions and beliefs, but we share a fervent passion for archaeology. You can’t find an archaeologist with a more impressive body of work. This special bond has yielded many unique, Bible-proving finds, including the clay seal impressions of King Hezekiah and, most likely, the Prophet Isaiah.
These seals speak to us, as Dr. Mazar always says. The Bible and secular history help us to understand their message.
In our exhibit brochure, we wrote, “The Hezekiah bulla is the only seal impression belonging to an Israelite or Judean king ever to have been found in controlled, scientific excavations.” Written in Hebrew on the seal are the words: “Belonging to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, King of Judah.”
Dr. Mazar believes that this seal was made after Assyria’s invasion and Hezekiah’s miraculous healing. “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). This is one of 16 Bible verses in which both Hezekiah and Isaiah are mentioned.
Hezekiah was the greatest king of Judah, after King David. He cried out to God in prayer, reminding Him of his obedience (verses 2-3). God was impressed by his prayer of faith, so He healed Hezekiah and added 15 years to his life (verses 4-6). God also promised to save Jerusalem from the brutal Assyrian empire (verse 6).
Hezekiah wanted a sign that he would be healed. Isaiah gave him the option of the sun going forward or backward by 10 degrees, as measured by a sundial. Hezekiah chose backward, since the sun moves forward all the time. God performed the miracle, strengthening Hezekiah’s faith in the process. What could be more impressive than a sign like that, proving God’s total control over the universe?
The Hezekiah seal bears the image of a sun flanked by a pair of downturned wings, a symbol of God’s protective power. God is a sun and a shield (Psalm 84:11). He shelters His people under His wings (Psalm 91:4; Ezekiel 16:8). In other words, God protects the faithful.
The following verse makes me think the Prophet Malachi possessed one of King Hezekiah’s seals: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Malachi 4:2).
Malachi goes on to write about the Day of the Lord in verses 4-6. This is a message for the latter days—not just for the time of Hezekiah. In time, this message will reach everybody who has ever lived. Hezekiah’s seal is not so much about him as it is about the God who controls the universe.
God healed Hezekiah when he was about to die! He took Jerusalem under His wings and protected the city from the Assyrian King Sennacherib, who had already captured 46 other Judean cities.
Compare the seal of Hezekiah to Malachi 4:2 and you have one of the greatest hopes in the Bible. It’s about the righteous God of Hezekiah and Isaiah, the being who will soon rule the world.
Even today, our Savior will perform miracles for us—if we trust Him like Hezekiah did. Tying the Hezekiah seal to Malachi 4 really makes me emotional. It brings God into the picture in a most spectacular way!
The Jewish nation—and the entire world—need to understand the meaning of this seal. The scientific community is still debating the validity of the Isaiah seal. Here’s another quote from the exhibit brochure: “This bulla dates right back to the eighth century b.c., precisely at the time of Isaiah.” Overwhelming evidence supports this seal belonging to the Prophet Isaiah. Even if it didn’t, only high-ranking officials had their own seals. Would it not be a major coincidence if we actually found the seal of a different important Isaiah right next to the seal of King Hezekiah?
The events of the Bible are verified by secular history. “Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them” (2 Kings 18:13). This is a historical fact. Sennacherib captured those 46 cities in just 12 to 18 months! These were well-fortified cities, but the dominant superpower of the age wiped them out as if it were no big deal.
[Sennacherib] laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him. Sennacherib documented his siege of Lachish in massive carved portrayals, known as reliefs, on the walls of his palace in Nineveh from left to right. These impressive reliefs display the gradual destruction of Lachish and the torture and enslavement of thousands of Jews.
Hezekiah was so shaken by the annihilation of Lachish that he stripped all the gold and silver off the pillars and doors of the temple and presented it to Sennacherib in an attempt to buy protection. But when Sennacherib received this pathetic bribe, he immediately began marching on Jerusalem. Hezekiah had done so much to clean up Solomon’s temple after years of abuse and disrepair, yet he ripped it apart because he didn’t look to God’s man, Isaiah, for advice. He lacked faith. This was a massive mistake.
Hezekiah quickly learned from his faithless error in judgment. “And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord” (2 Kings 19:14). This was a threatening letter from Sennacherib. Hezekiah brought it to God and cried out for deliverance.
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer! “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake” (verses 32-34).
The mighty Assyrian army arrived at Jerusalem and camped outside its borders, prepared to launch the inevitable attack. One morning, the watchmen inside Jerusalem looked out and saw 185,000 Assyrian corpses! An angel of God had killed them all! (verse 35). Sennacherib returned home to Nineveh in shame (verse 36). Worldly historians are perplexed about why Jerusalem survived. This is why.
Sennacherib recorded the history of his grand accomplishments on his palace walls. He also commissioned three clay prisms on which he boasted of his conquests. The Taylor Prism reads, “As for Hezekiah the Judahite, who did not submit to my yoke: forty-six of his strong, walled cities, … I besieged and took them. … [Hezekiah] himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city.” You can view this artifact today in the British Museum.
Sennacherib’s account ends there! He never explains the outcome of his campaign against Jerusalem.
Isaiah and Hezekiah were men of tremendous faith who worked together. God empowered these men and worked a stunning miracle to preserve Jerusalem.
Historians generally don’t accept that Sennacherib’s army was wiped out by a death angel. But think about it: Something horrible must have happened for Sennacherib to return home disgraced and to not finish his account of the Jerusalem campaign. Not long after his return, he was worshipping his pagan gods when two of his sons murdered him (verse 37). He must have really embarrassed them somehow. Another of his sons became king.
A monstrous army disappeared overnight because of the powerful faith of two men! Not a single arrow flew over Jerusalem’s walls!
Isaiah prophesied to Israel and to Judah, but he wrote his book for the latter days—the time we’re living in now. We live at a time where our number one problem is the question of human survival. We need God’s help like never before. We need the faith of Isaiah and Hezekiah. God blessed them with miraculous miracles seldom heard of, even elsewhere in the Bible. He can save us as well.
Regardless of the destruction that men cause today, very soon there will be no end to the government of God and to the peace and justice it brings (Isaiah 9:7). That’s the message of the seals of Isaiah and Hezekiah. That’s something to look forward to.