The seal was unearthed while sifting through the debris removed from archaeological excavations near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. The coin-sized clay seal also called bulla, was imprinted with three lines in ancient Hebrew script: 'in the seventh' 'Bethlehem' and 'to the king'.
"It seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem," the Discovery News quoted Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, as saying.
Belonging to the group of "fiscal" bullae, the clay seal was most likely placed on a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce, such as wine or wheat, which was sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in Jerusalem in the 8th or 7th century B.C.
"This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Biblein an inscription from the First Temple period (1006-586 B.C.) which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah and possibly also in earlier periods," the director said.
Bethlehem, located just south of Jerusalem, is first mentioned in the Bible in the verse "in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." which was the place where Rachel, the matriarch of the Jewish people, died and was buried.
Bethlehem is also the setting for the Book of Ruth, and is King David's hometown, the most celebrated king in Jewish history.
Bethlehem is mentioned as the birthplace of Jesus in the New Testament.