God, Science and the Bible: Discovery proves existence of another biblical figure

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Discovery proves existence of another biblical figure

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An intriguing artifact was uncovered during the excavation of a structure that might be King David's palace in Jerusalem (see "Remains of King David's palace found in Jerusalem?," The Good News, September-October). Excavators found a bulla—a hardened clay impression bearing the imprint of a seal—bearing the inscription "Jehucal, son of Shelemiah, son of Shevi."

Who was this Jehucal, and what is the significance of this find?

This same "Jehucal, the son of Shelemiah" (also referred to as "Jucal," a shortened version of his name) is mentioned twice in the biblical book of Jeremiah. Apparently he was a senior official serving in the court of Zedekiah, king of Judah, shortly before Jerusalem's destruction by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

Jeremiah 37:3 Jeremiah 37:3And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now to the LORD our God for us.
American King James Version×
mentions Jehucal being sent by the king to ask Jeremiah to pray for Jerusalem's deliverance from the besieging Babylonian army. Not long after, in Jeremiah 38:1-4 Jeremiah 38:1-4 [1] Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying, [2] Thus said the LORD, He that remains in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goes forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live. [3] Thus said the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it. [4] Therefore the princes said to the king, We beseech you, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words to them: for this man seeks not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
American King James Version×
, Jehucal and several other officials go to the king asking that Jeremiah be put to death for undermining the morale of Jerusalem's inhabitants, after which Jeremiah is handed over to them and thrown into prison.

Many seals and seal impressions such as the one bearing Jehucal's name have been found in the Holy Land, most bearing the names of various government officials. Small pieces of soft clay were typically used to seal documents, much as wax seals were used in more modern times. Officials would press their seals into the soft clay, leaving an impressed lump, which would later harden into what is called a bulla.

Many critics of the Bible, attempting to undermine its detailed history and record of prophetic fulfillment, claim that the books of the Old Testament aren't accurate accounts of real events written at the time they happened. Instead, they argue, the books weren't written until centuries later, well after the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were defeated and forcibly exiled from the Holy Land by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

Yet this claim—to which many critics still hold—has been repeatedly disproved by discoveries such as this bulla. After all, how could a seal or impression bearing the name of a biblical figure—in this case a rather inconsequential government official—have been created centuries before the person was written about in a supposedly invented biblical account?

Jehucal is only the latest of literally dozens of biblical figures whose existence has been proven by archaeology. If you'd like to learn more about how the biblical record has been repeatedly verified by archaeological discoveries, download our free article series The Bible and Archaeology.