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LMLK seal

The LMLK seal denoted a jar as belonged to the king and jars bearing LMLK seals have been found throughout Judah (although primarily at Lachish and Judah). Judean "royal stamp" storage jars date to the late 8th century BC and are attributed to Judean king Hezekiah, and contain the impression of a stamp on one or more of their handles. Evidence suggests that these stamped jars were part of a centralized system to distribute the produce of Judean royal agricultural estates to soldiers and administrators. Almost two thousand of these impressed jar handles are known today.

These handles show a four-winged beetle or a two-winged sun disk with two inscriptions: LMLK, meaning belonging to the king; and the name of one of four cities, either Hebron, Ziph, Socoh, or MMST (the latter is still unidentified). Thus, these stamp impressions have three elements: (1) a paleo-Hebrew inscription reading LMLK (lamelek), which means belonging to the King; (2) a royal symbol, either a two-winged sun-disk or a four-winged beetle; and (3) one of four palace names: Hebron, Ziph, Sukoh, or mmst (an other unknown place name).

The winged beetle and sun disk were solar images from Egypt, but despite this foreign design their meaning was decidedly Israelite. The prophet Malachi described Adonai as the sun of righteousness with healing in his wings, and the use of solar imagery to represent Adonai was at least as old as the 10th CENT BCE. In addition to Hezekiah’s royal seals, private individual seals from the late 8th CENT BCE also show symbols of the sun, like the four-winged beetle on the red carnelian seal of Hananyahu.