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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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There seem to have been two kinds of seals in use among the Hebrews. A notion appears to exist that all ancient seals, being signets, were rings, intended to be worn on the hand. But this was by no means the case; nor is it so now in the East, where signet rings are still, probably, as common as they ever were in ancient times. Their general use of seals was very different from ours, as they were employed not for the purpose of impressing a device on wax, but in the place of a sign manual, to stamp the name of the owner upon any document to which he desired to affix it. The name thus impressed had the same legal validity as the actual signature, as is still the case in the East. This custom was ancient, and, no doubt, existed among the Hebrews (; ; ). These seals are often entirely of metal—brass, silver, or gold; but sometimes of stone set in metal.

If a door or box was to be sealed, it was first fastened with some ligament, over which was placed some well-compacted clay to receive the impression of the seal. Clay was used because it hardens in the heat, which would dissolve wax; and this is the reason that wax is not used in the East. There are distinct allusions to this custom in ; .

Signet rings were very common, especially among persons of rank. They were sometimes wholly of metal, but often the inscription was borne by a stone set in silver or gold. The impression from the signet ring of a monarch gave the force of a royal decree to any instrument to which it was affixed. Hence the delivery or transfer of it to any one gave the power of using the royal name, and created the highest office in the state (; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; comp. ).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Seal'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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