Excavated seal confirms written record of Temple worship

This seal guaranteed the purity of ritual objects used in the Second Temple. (Vladimir Naykhin)

JERUSALEM (JWN)—Archeologists at an Israel Antiquities Authority dig at the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount have uncovered a seal the size of a button that was used in the Temple to signify the purity of ritual objects.

The seal is inscribed with the Aramaic words: daka le’ya, which means “pure for God.”

Archeologists Eli Shukron and Prof. Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa dated the seal to the first century, toward the end of the Second Temple period in 70 CE. They said the seal is similar to those described in the Mishnah and was used to certify that objects that were to be used in the temple were ritually pure.

Jerusalem District Archeologist Shuka Dorfman took the occasion of the announcement of the seal so close to Hanuka to point out the timeliness of the find. “It is written in the Talmud that the only cruse of oil that was discovered in the Temple after the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, ‘lay with the seal of the High Priest’ – that is: the seal indicated that the oil is pure and can be used in the Temple. Remember, this cruse of oil was the basis for the miracle of Hanuka that managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days.”

The importance of the seal has somewhat eclipsed other significant Second Temple finds that were also yielded by the dig. Some older finds from the time of the Hasmonean Dynasty included oil lamps, earthenware pots, and containers filled with oils and perfumes, as well as coins bearing the likenesses of Hasmonean kings such as Alexander Jannaeus and John Hyrcanus.