Reference: Seal, Signet
The existence of seals is attested for the early dynasties of Egypt, and for an equally remote period in the history of Babylonia. The first mention of a seal in the OT is in connexion with the patriarch Judah, who fared forth with his staff in his hand and his seal hung round his neck by a cord (Ge 38:18 RV), precisely as was the custom of every Babylonian gentleman in the days of Herodotus (i. 195). The seals hitherto found in Palestine show little initiative on the part of the Hebrews in this branch of the fine arts, the great majority plainly showing the predominant influence of Egypt, or to a less extent of Babylonia.
As regards material, almost every variety of precious stone was used for this purpose, although ordinary limestone, and even baked clay, were used by those who could afford nothing better. An almost equal wealth of form is attested by the extant seals. Thus the scarab and the scaraboid forms were distinctive of Egypt, as the cylinder was of Babylonia. Other seals, again, were conical in shape, while the square form is not unknown.
Most of the extant seals bearing evidence of a Hebrew origin, however, are oval in outline. This was also the usual form for seals intended to be set in the bezel of a ring. In this case it was customary to wear the ring on one of the fingers of the right hand (Jer 22:24; cf. Ge 41:42). The distinctively Jewish type of seal is marked by two features: (a) the absence of figures, Divine or human, in the field, and (b) the presence of two parallel lines, set close together, which cross the field longitudinally, and divide the inscription into two parts. The legend, as a rule, contains the name of the owner, preceded by the preposition signifying 'belonging to'
Stones on which words, letters, or symbols are engraved. Anciently these were pierced, and by a cord or chain were hung from the arm or the neck, or they were set in rings and worn on the finger. The design was impressed on pieces of clay which were attached to official documents, which in the East are not considered authentic without being sealed. Ex 28:11; Es 8:8,10; Job 38:14; Da 6:17. The seal was also used to ensure security, or to preserve the sanctity of things not to be revealed. Isa 29:11; Da 12:4,9; Mt 27:66; Re 20:3; 22:10.
A covenant was sealed by Nehemiah and those with him. Ne 10:1. The believer, in crediting what God says of man, and of God's salvation, virtually attaches his seal (vouches for the fact) that God is true. Joh 3:33. "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his God's side; and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity man's side." 2Ti 2:19. This is an illustration of a double-seal turning on a pivot, of which either side could be used.
The roll in Revelation 5 had seven seals, so arranged that by breaking one seal a certain portion could be unrolled; and each seal was broken in succession until the whole was revealed.