When the Russian archaeologists first reported their findings, they made the mistaken claim that the mysterious seal was written in either ancient Phoenician or Aramaic. Its true ancient Hebrew origins was first proven last week by Jim Davila on his excellent Paleo Judaica Blog. After my own research, I have confirmed that Mr. Davila is correct – the Seal is in Hebrew!
What you are reading here will soon be circulated widely in the international press. Why? As fantastic as this discovery is that we now have a seal written in Biblical Hebrew, it is even more exciting that Mr. Davila’s deciphering of the Seal – which I can confirm is inscribed “L’Elyashiv” (belonging to Elyashiv) possibly mentions a Biblical character!. However to make things even more mysterious, the name Elyashiv is not found only once in the Bible, it is in fact, found 17 times! And the 17 mentions of the name Elyashiv does not refer to one individual, but actually refers to six different individuals who lived over a time-span of nearly 500 years!
Above picture: The gem stone seal found in Russia that says “Belonging to Elyashiv”. In the very near future you will see this photo on hundreds of new articles in the international media, mostly written by Christian Websites claiming it “Confirms the Bible.”
So who was the ancient man known as Elyashiv that was found on the Seal (Hebrew: אלישיב, Elyashib, Eliashiv) and why does this seem possible that we are talking about an ancient seal of an ancient Judean or Israelite official that the Bible tells us lived circa 2400-3000 years ago and not a non-Hebrew from one of the many neighboring states of ancient Judea?
Well for starters, Elyashiv is still a common Hebrew first and last name today. It means “God will answer” or “God restores”. The most famous personality with this name being the former leading Ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv who passed away in Jerusalem in 2012 at the ripe old age of 102.
Above picture: Is it possible that the Seal recently found in Russia belonged to Rav Elyashiv? Although he passed away in 2012 at the ripe old-age of 102, there is a big difference between the year 1910 CE and Biblical times (1000-400 BCE). And while his family hails from neighboring Belarus, which is less than 1000 km from where the Seal was discovered, it is doubtful that it belonged to one of the many ancestors of Rav Elyashiv’s, as most Ashkenazi Jews did not have surnames before the 19th century.
While it is possible that this individual Seal does not refer to an ancient Biblical character, but mentions someone who wrote in a now extinct Northwest Semitic language such as Phoenician, Edomite, Moabite, or Aramaic, others have noted on online talk backs that this seems unlikely:
it seems like its hebrew and not phoenician or aramaic because the seal reads לאלישב/ la alyasheev(elyashiv) which means belongs to alyasheev. this name is common in the hebrew bible. Ezra 10:24 Nehemiah 3:1 1 Chronicles 24:12 and maybe book of esther i cant find the source for that now and on at least a couple of 7th-century BCE Hebrew seals. it seems like a common jewish name and not any other semitic tribal name. if someone got sources for moabites or whoever else with that name then you debunked me but it seems pretty hebrew to me.”
So while it is possible that this individual Elyashiv mentioned on this Seal might have been of a neighboring ancient people, this article is going with the premise that although we don’t have any way of knowing who this exact Elyashiv who lived in Israel in ancient times was, the name was not only a common Israelite and Judean name, but just might have belonged to a Judahite official living in Biblical times.
As Bible Hub tells us, these six characters consist of:
a. descendant of David 1 Chronicles 3:24.
b. priest of David’s time 1 Chronicles 24:12.
d. a singer Ezra 10:24
The Book of Chronicles. which begins with the period of the creation of the world, is largely focused on the time period of David’s United KIngdom of Israel (c. 10th century BCE), and ends with the conquest of the Babylonian Empire by the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE.
While Jewish and Christian tradition believes that Chronicles was written by Ezra in the 5th Century BCE, most scholars believe the book is the work of a single writer sometime between 425 and 400 BCE.
Unfortunately, Chronicles does not tell us anything specific about the two Elyashiv’s mentioned in it, other then saying that the earlier Elyashiv was a Priest during King David’s reign (circa 10th Century BCE) and the other was a descendant of David who lived many years later.
While the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were most likely originally one book and discuss the period of Persian rule in the 5th and 6th century BCE, most Biblical scholars date its composition from the 4th century BCE down to the Hellenistic period. The four different Elyashiv’s mentioned in these two books show us that this name was very popular during the Persian rule of Judea, following the Destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.
Of the six Elyashiv’s mentioned in the Biblical text, Elyashiv, the High Priest during the time of Nehemiah, is the most well known. He was in charge of the other priests in rebuilding a portion of the walls of Jerusalem that protected the northwest approach of the Temple Mount, which were known as the Tower of the Hundred, Tower of Hananel, and the Sheep Gate. His house was located along the central portion of the eastern wall of Jerusalem.
Above picture: Does the mysterious seal found in Russia belong to one of the men who rebuilt the famous Walls of Jerusalem in the 5th century BCE?
Three other Elyashiv’s are mentioned in Chapter 10 of the Book of Ezra, which also dates to the 5th century BCE:
Elyashiv the Singer was one of the many Judeans married to foreign women who was compelled by Ezra to divorce and exile his foreign (non-Jewish) wives, along with their children by these women, due to their alleged idolatry and impurity. The other two Elyashiv’s mentioned also had to say ‘lehitraot’ to their foreign wives and children, exiled due to their forbidden crimes of being married to Jewish men and having non-Jewish mothers – Elyashiv son of Zattu and Elyashiv son of Bani. We unfortunately know nothing of these Biblical divorcees, other then assuming that their second(?) biblical marriages were probably less happy then marriages in the age of online dating.
Above picture: Is the woman on the right wearing the pink dress the foreign wife of Elyashiv who took her children to exile? Maybe the boy in blue on the left is the son of Elyashiv ben Zattu who returned with his exiled mother to her homeland in present day Southern Russia with a token memento to remember his father – his father’s personal seal saying “Belonging to Elyashiv”?
So there we have it. We can now confirm that archaeologists in Russia, excavating the 2,000 year old tomb of a female Sarmatian fighter found an ancient seal written in Ancient Hebrew inscribed with the name of an individual with the exact same name mentioned 17 times in the Holy Bible! ‘But what’, you asked cynically, is this not good enough for you? Do you want to know more? Do you want to know if there is a way of accurately dating the seal using archaeology and linguistics? Do we have any scientific or archaeological evidence or sources of the name Elyashiv? And what the Hell was an ancient seal that originated in Biblical Judea doing in Southern Russia anyways? Find out more in the near future in Part 2 and 3.
On a side note: I am not an expert! I do research everyday on this subject that I find fascinating! Most days I am shocked to find NO NEW INFORMATION. I know more then most on the subject: I have a BA in History. I worked 2 1/2 years in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem, I studied a bit of Archaeology in my two years studying to become a Licensed Israeli Tour Guide, along with many related topics. Once again, I am not an expert. If you are an expert and would like to comment, please do! I also hope that in the time before Part 2 and 3 comes out an expert and non-experts will write more on this fascinating topic so I can update what we now know on this fascinating mystery!