Ancient Hebrew Seals
Featured on this stamp series are archeological finds of ancient Hebrew seals from the time of the kings of Israel. A reproduction of the seal itself and a stylized animal derived from each seal are shown. The animals depicted are a horse, a lion, and a gazelle. Inscribed on the tabs in modern Hebrew letters, in addition to the expression "Ancient Hebrew seal," are the phrases on the seals in ancient Hebrew script: "To Tamah son of Miqnemelech"; "To Shema servant of Jeroboam"; and "To Netanyahu Ne'evadyahu."
The most famous of these seals is the one from the beginning of the 8th century BC, the time of the Kings of Israel & Judea, that depicts the roaring lion and the inscription "LeShema eved Yeravam", which translates into "[belonging to] Shema, servant of Yeravam" (Jeroboam II, King of Israel, 786-746 BC). The inscription is written in the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet - an abjad offshoot of the ancient Semitic alphabet, identical to the Phoenician alphabet (this alphabet dates to the 10th century BC, and was used as the main vehicle for writing the Hebrew language by the Israelites; the Jews stopped using it in the 5th century BC when they adopted the Aramaic alphabet as their writing system for Hebrew, from whence the present Jewish "square-script" Hebrew alphabet descends).
The seal was discovered in the important archeological site of ancient Meggido, Israel, during the first excavations there that were carried out between 1903 and 1905 by Gottlieb Schumacher for the German Society for the Study of Palestine. Unfortunately, the original seal had found its way to Topkapi collection in Istanbul, Turkey, where it got lost during WW-I.
Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world, as it guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and an ancient trade route which connected the lands of Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of several major routes, Megiddo and its environs have witnessed several major battles throughout history (the last one took place in 1918 during WW-I, between Allied troops, led by General Edmund Allenby, and the defending Ottoman army).
The Meggido archeological site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BC - the same time as the destruction of the First Israelite Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and subsequent fall of Israelite rule and exile. The Book of Revelation of John mentions apocalyptic military amassment at Armageddon, a name derived from Har Megiddo (Hebrew) meaning Mount of Megiddo. The Meggido archeological site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
The stamp series, named "[Jewish] Festivals [of the Hebrew year] 5718", was issued in 1957. Design: M. Karoly.
The roaring lion of the seal appears on the half Sheqel coing that was issued in 1980 and remained in circulation until 1985. It also appears on the emblem, designed in 1952, of modern Megido Regional Council.