Signet rings (Esther 8)


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Illustration: Tutankhamon’s signet ring

Signets were a type of seal, worn either as a ring or on a cord around the neck and used to leave impressions in clay or wax. The impression functioned as a signature to authorize or authenticate a document, or to indicate that something had been sealed shut by the signet’s owner. Although the use of signet rings is attested from early times (Genesis 41:42), in the ancient Near East cylinder seals and scarabs (stone beetles used as talismans, ornaments or symbols of resurrection) were also common.

Seals on finger rings became more popular from the fifth century B.C. onward, and most Biblical examples come from the late pre-exilic (Jeremiah 22:24) or Persian period. King Darius used his signet ring to seal the stone over the lions’ den (David 6:17), and rulers gave signet rings to individuals as signs of high office and to enable them to implement official business. King Xerxes first presented his signet ring to Haman, authorizing him to dispose of the Jews (Esther 3:10 ff). Later, Xerxes reclaimed the ring and bestowed it instead upon Moredecai, who issued an edict permitting the Jews to defend themselves against any attackers (8:2, 8). In Haggai 2:23 God selected Zerubbabel as his representative, likening him to God’s own signet ring, as though God’s name were stamped upon his representative as a verification of his office.


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