Shema, Servant of Jeroboam (II)

Credit:, Israel

In the Bible, God can direct the course of history through human agents. In Exodus 10, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, so when Moses asked to allow the Israelites to worship in the desert, he refused, and the Egyptians were punished with additional plagues. “Then the Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.” Even after begging Moses to remove the plague, he would not change his position. “Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.”

In 2 Kings 14, Jeroboam II King of Israel was not a righteous king. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.” Yet God still restored Israel’s fortune through Jeroboam. “The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. And since the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.” Jeroboam is described as having had a successful reign, including capturing Damascus and Hamath.

Working backwards from later events, biblical scholars and archaeologists estimate that the biblical Israelite king Jereboam II reigned from approximately 786 BCE through 746 BCE, a period that the archaeology shows to have been an expansionary one for the kingdom of Israel.

Beyond the estimated time frame, there appears to be archaeological evidence for this King Jeroboam II.

In the ancient Near East, seals were used for administrative matters, for ensuring communications were authenticated and for record keeping. One such seal was unearthed at Megiddo, a location within the ancient Israelite kingdom.

In the Bible, there are two kings of Israel named Jeroboam. The first one, Jeroboam I, is remembered as the king who led the ten northern tribes to seceded from the Davidic United Monarchy of twelve tribes. The second, Jeroboam II, is described as a king who ruled 150 years later.

Archaeologists working at Megiddo discovered a seal that featured a lion and the inscription “Belonging to Shema servant of Jeroboam” – “L’Shema eved Yeravam.” From the seal alone, it is not known if this seal relates to the first or second Jeroboam. Indications are that it refers to the latter. The motif of a lion is more typical of seals from the 8th century BCE. And an epigraphic analysis of the letters suggests a later form of the archaic Hebrew alphabet that dates to the 8th century BCE, the period associated with the second King Jeroboam.

The image above is of a replica of the Seal of Shema.