The Seal of a Servant of YHWH

Credit:, Harvard Semitic Museum

In Exodus 3, Moses was tending to his father-in-law Jethro’s flock when God appeared to Moses from the flames of a burning bush. God revealed to Moses that he had seen the Israelite suffering and that he was appointing Moses to go to the Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Moses asked God what his name is. “God said to Moses, I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you. God also said to Moses, Say to the Israelites, YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

In the ancient Near East, seals were used to signify ownership or authority. A seal could be used to create an impression on wet clay, affixed directly to a letter, or be tied through a hole in the seal to the threads at the edge of document.

The Seal of Miqneyaw is a red jasper seal that appeared on the antiquities market in Jerusalem. The text on the seal reads “Belonging to Miqneyaw, servant of YHWH.” The letters are written in negative, meaning in reverse, so that when stamped the letters appear correctly. The language on the text is notable for the language “servant of YHWH,” as in the Bible Moses is referred to similarly: “and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” And it is significant for being the oldest seal to feature the name YHWH.

The seal is written in the archaic form of the Hebrew alphabet, not on our modern day Hebrew letters. This alphabet evolved over time, originating as objects whose first letter was used to represent a sound, to more abstract forms. Based on the shapes of the letters, the seal is estimated to have originated in the early half of the 8th century BCE, during the Iron IIB period.

The Seal of Miqneyaw, shown above, is kept at the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East.