commonly a ring engraved with some device (Ge 38:18,25). Jezebel "wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal" (1Ki 21:8). Seals are frequently mentioned in Jewish history (De 32:34; Ne 9:38-10:1; Es 3:12; Song 8:6; Isa 8:16; Jer 22:24; 32:44, etc.). Sealing a document was equivalent to the signature of the owner of the seal. "The use of a signet-ring by the monarch has recently received a remarkable illustration by the discovery of an impression of such a signet on fine clay at Koyunjik, the site of the ancient Nineveh. This seal appears to have been impressed from the bezel of a metallic finger-ring. It is an oval, 2 inches in length by 1 inch wide, and bears the image, name, and titles of the Egyptian king Sabaco" (Rawlinson's Hist. Illus. of the O.T., p. 46). The actual signet-rings of two Egyptian kings (Cheops and Horus) have been discovered. (See Signet.)
The use of seals is mentioned in the New Testament only in connection with the record of our Lord's burial (Mt 27:66). The tomb was sealed by the Pharisees and chief priests for the purpose of making sure that the disciples would not come and steal the body away (Mt 27:63-64). The mode of doing this was probably by stretching a cord across the stone and sealing it at both ends with sealing-clay. When God is said to have sealed the Redeemer, the meaning is, that he has attested his divine mission (Joh 6:27). Circumcision is a seal, an attestation of the covenant (Ro 4:11). Believers are sealed with the Spirit, as God's mark put upon them (Eph 1:13; 4:30). Converts are by Paul styled the seal of his apostleship, i.e., they are its attestation (1Co 9:2). Seals and sealing are frequently mentioned in the book of Revelation (Re 5:1; 6:1; 7:3; 10:4; 22:10).
Illustration: Ancient Jewish Seals Illustration: Egyptian Signet-Rings
Used to stamp a document, giving it legal validity. Judah probably wore his suspended from the neck over the breast (Ge 38:18; Song 8:6; Job 38:14). As the plastic clay presents various figures impressed on it by the revolving cylinder seal (one to three inches long, of terra cotta or precious stone, such as is found in Assyria), as "it is turned," so the morning light rolling on over the earth, previously void of form through the darkness, brings out to view hills, valleys, etc. Treasures were sealed up (De 32:34); the lions' den in Daniel's case (Da 6:17); so our Lord's tomb (Mt 27:66).
Sealing up was also to ensure secrecy (Da 12:4; Re 5:1). The signet ring was the symbol of royal authority (Ge 12:20; Es 3:10; 8:10). Clay hardens in the heat, and was therefore used in Assyria and Babylon rather than wax, which melts. A stone cylinder in the Alnwick Museum bears the date of Osirtasin I, between 2,000 and 3,000 B.C. The Assyrian documents were often of baked clay, sealed while wet and burnt afterwards. Often the seal was a lump of clay impressed with a seal and tied the document. Such is the seal of Sabacho or So, king of Egypt (711 B.C.), found at Nimrud (2Ki 17:4).
The importance attached to seals in the East is so great that without one no document is regarded as authentic. Among the methods of sealing used in Egypt at a very early period were engraved stones, graved stones, pierced through their length and hung by a string or chain from the arm or neck, or set in rings for the finger. The most ancient form used for this purpose was the scarabaeus, formed of precious or common stone, or even of blue pottery or porcelain, on the flat side of which the inscription or device was engraved. In many cases the seal consisted of a lump of clay, impressed with the seal and attached to the document, whether of papyrus or other material, by strings. In other cases wax was used. In sealing a sepulchre or box, the fastening was covered with clay or wax, and the impression from a seal of one in authority was stamped upon it, so that it could not be broken open without discovery. The signet-ring was an ordinary part of a man's equipment.
The ring or the seal as an emblem of authority in Egypt, Persia and elsewhere is mentioned in
and as an evidence of a covenant, in
Engraved signets were in use among the Hebrews in early times.
SEAL. The ancient Hebrews wore their seals or signets, in rings on their fingers, or in bracelets on their arms, as is now the custom in the east. Haman sealed the decree of King Ahasuerus against the Jews with the king's seal, Es 3:12. The priests of Bel desired the king to seal the door of their temple with his own seal. The spouse in the Song 8:6, wishes that his spouse would wear him as a signet on her arm. Pliny observes, that the use of seals or signets was rare at the time of the Trojan war, and that they were under the necessity of closing their letters with several knots. But among the Hebrews they are much more ancient. Judah left his seal as a pledge with Tamar, Ge 38:25. Moses says, De 32:34, that God keeps sealed up in his treasuries, under his own seal, the instruments of his vengeance. Job says, Job 9:7, that he keeps the stars as under his seal, and allows them to appear when he thinks proper. He says also, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag," Job 14:7. When they intended to seal up a letter, or a book, they wrapped it round with flax, or thread, then applied the wax to it, and afterward the seal. The Lord commanded Isaiah to tie up or wrap up the book in which his prophecies were written, and to seal them till the time he should bid him publish them, Isa 8:16-17. He gives the same command to Da 12:4. The book that was shown to St. John the evangelist, Re 5:1; 6:1-2, &c, was sealed with seven seals. It was a rare thing to affix such a number of seals, but this insinuated the great importance and secrecy of the matter. In civil contracts they generally made two originals: one continued open, and was kept by him for whose interest the contract was made; the other was sealed and deposited in some public office.