What are lmlk Stamps and What Were They Used For? -- By: George M. Grena

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 18:1 (Winter 2005)
Article: What are lmlk Stamps and What Were They Used For?
Author: George M. Grena


What are lmlk Stamps and What Were They Used For?

George M. Grena

“These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah” (Prv 25:1).

Five lmlk handles representing five seal sets. Upper right: two-winged icon with only one word in the top register. Upper left: two-winged icon with divided words in both registers. Center: two-winged icon with divided word in the top but an undivided word in the bottom. Lower left: four-winged icon with a professional, lapidarist inscription. Lower right: four-winged icon with an amateurish, cursory inscription. Private collection, Redondo Beach CA.

People who criticize the historicity and reliability of the Biblical records presume that writers with vivid imaginations created the stories and popularized them as non-fiction propaganda. One example is the accusation against King Hezekiah’s worship reformation described in 2 Chronicles 29–31, an academic debate that began in 1806 and has continued for two centuries (Vaughn 1999:1–2). However, when we encounter incidental statements such as the one quoted above tucked away in the middle of Proverbs, it raises questions in our minds: Why Hezekiah’s men? Why not the men of some other king? Why this particular section of this particular book? If we could correlate this statement to some artifact dug up from a context identified with Hezekiah’s reign, it would deflate the claims of critics.

Such an artifact may already have been found: lmlk stamps on storage-jar handles.

Archaeologists find this class of seal impressions in and around Jerusalem, mainly confined to the territory assigned by God to the Israelite tribes of Benjamin, Dan, Judah, and Simeon, which became known collectively as the Southern Kingdom of Judah after Solomon’s reign. Bible and Spade readers may recall photos of lmlk handles presented back in 1973 (Millard 1973: 78), a 1989 feature on Charles Warren, the first excavator of lmlk handles (Fisher 1989), and some notes about several theories in 1991 (Wood 1991b). Now publication of a website with over 500 pages devoted to the research of these artifacts has led to some new insights that Bible students may find helpful ().

Sites in Israel with lmlk handles. By the time of King Hezekiah’s reign, the three tribes east of the Jordan were lost (2 Kgs 10:32–33) and Naphtali had been take...

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