Signet

SIGNET. The Eng. tr. for four different Heb. words used in the OT.

1. חֹתָ֗ם, חוֹתָם, H2597, seal or signet-ring. This term is first used in connection with Judah’s dealings with his daughter-in-law, Tamar, as with a harlot (Gen 38:18). He gave her his חֹתָ֗ם in order to guarantee payment for his lying with her in sexual intercourse. It was clearly of great value to him and to her for identification.

The root of the word means “to seal” or “affix a seal.”

The same word is tr. as “signet” in Exodus 28:11, 21, 36, and also 39:6, 14, 30, in connection with the engraving on the stones the names of the sons of Israel. These stones were to be worn on the shoulder of Aaron. The same type of engraving was also to be used on the gold plate worn on Aaron’s turban.

There is also the Heb. word tr. as “signet” in Jeremiah 22:24. The context shows that it is a precious and highly regarded ring. Likewise in Haggai 2:23, the “signet ring” is likened to one highly regarded and favored. One may conclude that the חֹתָ֗ם was of great value to the owner’s name and reputation. The RSV also trs. the participle of the verb חָתַם, H3159, once as the name “signet” in Ezekiel 28:12.

The term חוֹתָם, H2597, is found several times tr. also as “seal” (1 Kings 21:8; Job 38:14; 41:15; Song of Solomon).

2. חֹתֶ֫מֶת, H3160, sealing apparatus, a tr. in the context of Genesis 38:25. It is synonymous with חֹתָ֗ם of v. 18 (see above).

3. עִזְקָה, H10536, the Aram. word meaning signetring. It is found only in Daniel 6:17. This ring is used to seal the stone put over the den of lions where Daniel was cast by order of King Darius.

4. In addition to the above, RSV renders the word טַבַּ֫עַת, H3192, the word for a common ring, as “signet” in Genesis 41:42 (that ring given by Pharaoh to Joseph to establish the latter’s authority; cf. also Esth 3:10 and 8:2). In Numbers 31:50 it refers to one of the jewels given by Israelites to honor God. These jeweled rings were later worn by the rich women of Israel and would be taken away from them as evidence of God’s disfavor (Isa 3:21).

The signet was used to impress its owner’s signature on various seals and documents. The ring was pressed into a soft substance, thus leaving the mark of the ring on the seal permanently. Some of these rings were made of precious metals and jewels.

Their use dates back to the Egyptians and Babylonians. Some signets were worn around the neck, others on the finger. Many examples of such signets have been found in Egypt and Babylonia. See Seal.

See also

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