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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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Ἀῤῥαβών is evidently the Hebrew עֵרָבוֹן (erabon', a pledge) in Greek characters. It is a mercantile term which the Greeks and Romans appear to have adopted from the Phoenicians (kindred in dialect with the Hebrews) as the founders of commerce. With a slight alteration in the letters, but with none whatever in the sense, it becomes the Latin arrhabo, contrast arrha; French arres; English earles (in the old English expression Earl's or Arle's money) and earnest. These three words occur in the Hebrew, Sept., and Vulgate in Genesis 38:17-18, and in Genesis 38:20, with the exception that the Vulgate there changes it to pignus. The use of these words in this passage clearly illustrates their general import, which is that of an earnest or pledge, given and received, to assure the fulfillment of an engagement. Hesychius explains ἀῤῥαβών by πρόδομα, something given beforehand. The Hebrew word was used generally for pledge (Genesis 38:17), and in its cognate forms for surety (Proverbs 17:18) and hostage (2 Kings 14:14). The Greek derivative, however, acquired a more technical sense, as signifying the deposit paid by the purchaser on entering into an agreement for the purchase of anything (Suid. Lex. s.v.) This idea attaches to all the particular applications of the word, as anything given by way of warrant or security for the performance of a promise, part of a debt paid as an assurance of paving the remainder; part of the price of anything paid beforehand to confirm the bargain between buyer and seller; part of a servant's wages paid at the time of hiring, for the purpose of ratifying the engagement on both sides. The idea that the earnest is either to be returned upon the fulfillment of the engagement, or to be considered as part of the stipulation, is also included. A similar, legal and technical sense attaches to earnest, the payment of which places both the vendor and purchaser in a position to enforce the carrying out of the contract (Blackstone, 2:30). The payment of earnest-money under the name of arrabon is still one of the common occurrences of Arab life. Similar customs of paying down at the time of a contract "something to bind the bargain" have prevailed among all nations. (See Smith's Dictionary of Class. Antiq. s.v. Aarha.) (See BARGAIN).

The word is used three times in the New Testament, but always in a figurative sense: in the first (2 Corinthians 1:22) it is applied to the gifts of the Holy Spirit which God bestowed upon the apostles, and by which he might be said to have hired them to be the servants of his Son; and which were the earnest, assurance, and commencement of those far superior blessings which he would bestow on them in the life to come as the wages, of their faithful services: in the two latter (2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14) it is applied to the gifts bestowed on Christians generally upon whom, after baptism, the apostles laid their hands, and which were to them an earnest of obtaining a heavenly habitation and inheritance, upon the supposition of their fidelity. This use of the term finely illustrates the augmented powers and additional capacities promised in a future state. Jerome, in his comment on the second passage, exclaims, "Si arrhabo tantus, quanta erit possession the earnest was so great, how great must be the possession!" (See Kype, Macknight, and Middleton on these passages; Le Moyne, Not. ad Var. Sacr. p. 460-480.) In a spiritual sense, it denotes those gifts and graces which the Christian receives as the earnest and assurance of perfect happiness in a future world. (See Clauswitz, De Arrhabosse, Halle, 1747; Winzer, Comment. in loc. Lips. 1836; Schulthess, in Keil and Tschirner's Analecten, II, 1:215 sq.) There is a marked distinction between pledge and earnest in this respect, that the latter is a past-payment and therefore implies the identity in kind of the deposit with the future full payment; whereas a pledge may be something of a totally different nature, as in Genesis 38:1-30, to be resumed by the depositor when he has completed his contract. Thus the expression "earnest of the Spirit" implies, beyond the idea of security the identity in kind, though not in degree, and the continuity of the Christian's privileges in this world and in the next. Moreover, a pledge is taken back when the promise which it guaranteed is fulfilled; but whatever is given as earnest, being a part in advance of the whole, is of course retained. (See PLEDGE).

Earring stands in the Authorized Version as the rendering of three Hebrews words of considerably different import. (See RING).

1. עָגַיל (agil', from its roundness), properly a ring, specially an ear-ring (Numbers 31:50; Ezekiel 16:12), nearly all the ancient ear-rings exhibited in the sculptures of Egypt and Persepolis being of a circular shape. These are the ἐνώτια spoken of in Judith 10:4.

2. נֶזֶם (ne'zem, either from its perforating, or from its use to muzzle in the case of animals), a ring, specially a nose-ring, but also an earring, which two da not seem, therefore, to have materially differed in form. It most certainly denotes an earring in Genesis 35:4; but in Genesis 24:47; Proverbs 11:22; Isaiah 3:21, it signifies a nose-jewel, and it is doubtful which of the two is intended in Judges 8:24-25; Job 42:11. (See WOMAN). Hence also we find לִחִשׁ (lach'ash, properly a whispering or incantation), a charm or remedy against enchantment, i.e., a superstitious ornament, often a gem inlaid in a plate or ring of precious metal, on which certain magic formulas were inscribed, and which was worn suspended from the neck or in the ears of Oriental females (Isaiah 3:20). (See ENCHANTMENT). The " collars" or " chains" spoken of in Judges 8:26; Isaiah 3:19, may also have been a species of eardrop. See those terms.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Earnest'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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