Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Shema Seal from Megiddo

Perhaps you have seen a drawing or a photo of a replica of the Shema Seal. Professors Israel Finkelstine and David Ussishkin, directors of the most recent major excavation at Megiddo, tell us about the discovery.

The first excavation of the site was undertaken between 1903 and 1905 on behalf of the German Society for the Study of Palestine by Gotlieb Schumacher, an engineer who lived in the German community of Haifa. Schumacher cut a 65-foot-wide trench across the mound from north to south and a number of smaller trenches in other parts of the site, identifying six building levels. His most famous find is a jasper seal portraying a roaring lion and inscribed “(belonging) to Shema, servant of Jeroboam.” Shema was apparently a high official of the king of the northern kingdom, either Jeroboam I (end of tenth century B.C.E.) or Jeroboam II (eighth century B.C.E.). This striking emblem of a powerful lion was sent by Schumacher to the Turkish Sultan in Constantinople, who kept it there in his royal collection. It is not clear what happened to it later, but today its whereabouts are unknown. (“Back to Megiddo.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan/Feb 1994).

McKinny dates the reign of Israelite king Jeroboam II from 793 to 753 B.C. He says there was a sole reign of 29 years and a joint reign of 12 years with Jehoash (Regnal Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel: An Illustrated Guide, 21). The biblical reference says,

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. (2 Kings 14:23 ESV)

On one of my earliest tours, either 1967 or shortly thereafter, I purchased a metal desktop paper weight replica of the Shema seal. It may have been at the shop at Megiddo or at the Rockefeller Museum. It is certainly larger than the original jasper seal. The photo which I recently made of my “seal” is slightly different in detail from the one included in Ussishkin’s study in Coogan, et al., Scripture and Other Artifacts, 410-428. (See also Pritchard, The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 75.)

This is a replica that I bought during one of my earliest trips, perhaps in 1967. I think it may have been at Megiddo or at the Rockerfeller Archaeological Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This is a replica that I bought during one of my earliest trips, perhaps in 1967. I think it may have been at Megiddo or at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ussishkin describes the original seal:

The seal of Shema is an unpierced scaraboid of jasper measuring 37 by 27 by 17 mm; it portrays a roaring lion and contains the inscription … “(belonging) to Shema, servant of Jeroboam.” (419)

I thought this photo might be useful to teachers who like to have good images to use in their classes.

Earthquakes felt in Galilee

The Times of Israel reports that two earthquakes were felt in and around Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee last night. The report describes a “wave of earthquakes” that have hit the area in the past week.

The Great Rift, which we wrote about recently in a series of post on the Arabah here, runs all the way from northern Syria through Lebanon, Israel, the Arabah, and into eastern Africa. In Israel the area is called the Jordan Valley or the Dead Sea Rift, It is not surprising that earthquakes are mentioned frequently in the Bible. The prophet Amos dates his visions to “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The earthquake he makes reference to must have been so memorable that everyone would know what he was talking about. Zechariah (14:5) also calls attention to this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Jesus, in predicting the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans, said, “and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:7; see Luke 21:11).

We have a wonderful example of the power of an earthquake in the Jordan Valley at the site of Bethshan [Bet-she’an, Beth-shean], about 25 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 749. This photo shows the evidence brought to light during recent archaeological excavations in the city.

Earthquake damage at Beth-shean in the Jordan Valley. FerrellJenkins.blog.

Earthquake damage at Beth-shean in the Jordan Valley from A.D. 749. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Below we have a closeup of some of damage remaining from A.D. 749.

Closeup of the earthquake damage at Bethshean in A.D. 749. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Closeup of the earthquake damage at Bethshean in A.D. 749. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If you would like to see more material about earthquakes in the Middle East just put the word earthquake in the search box.