|Easton's Bible Dictionary|
Commonly a ring engraved with some device (Genesis 38:18, 25). Jezebel "wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal" (1 Kings 21:8). Seals are frequently mentioned in Jewish history (Deuteronomy 32:34; Nehemiah 9:38; 10:1; Esther 3:12; Cant. 8:6; Isaiah 8:16; Jeremiah 22:24; 32:44, etc.). Sealing a document was equivalent to the signature of the owner of the seal. "The use of a signet-ring by the monarch has recently received a remarkable illustration by the discovery of an impression of such a signet on fine clay at Koyunjik, the site of the ancient Nineveh. This seal appears to have been impressed from the bezel of a metallic finger-ring. It is an oval, 2 inches in length by 1 inch wide, and bears the image, name, and titles of the Egyptian king Sabaco" (Rawlinson's Hist. Illus. of the O.T., p. 46). The actual signet-rings of two Egyptian kings (Cheops and Horus) have been discovered. (see SIGNET.)
The use of seals is mentioned in the New Testament only in connection with the record of our Lord's burial (Matthew 27:66). The tomb was sealed by the Pharisees and chief priests for the purpose of making sure that the disciples would not come and steal the body away (ver. 63, 64). The mode of doing this was probably by stretching a cord across the stone and sealing it at both ends with sealing-clay. When God is said to have sealed the Redeemer, the meaning is, that he has attested his divine mission (John 6:27). Circumcision is a seal, an attestation of the covenant (Romans 4:11). Believers are sealed with the Spirit, as God's Mark put upon them (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). Converts are by Paul styled the seal of his apostleship, i.e., they are its attestation (1 Corinthians 9:2). Seals and sealing are frequently mentioned in the book of Revelation (5:1; 6:1; 7:3; 10:4; 22:10).
Noah Webster's Dictionary
1. (n.) Any aquatic carnivorous mammal of the families Phocidae and Otariidae.
2. (n.) An engraved or inscribed stamp, used for marking an impression in wax or other soft substance, to be attached to a document, or otherwise used by way of authentication or security.
3. (n.) Wax, wafer, or other tenacious substance, set to an instrument, and impressed or stamped with a seal; as, to give a deed under hand and seal.
4. (n.) That which seals or fastens; esp., the wax or wafer placed on a letter or other closed paper, etc., to fasten it.
5. (n.) That which confirms, ratifies, or makes stable; that which authenticates; that which secures; assurance.
6. (n.) An arrangement for preventing the entrance or return of gas or air into a pipe, by which the open end of the pipe dips beneath the surface of water or other liquid, or a deep bend or sag in the pipe is filled with the liquid; a drain trap.
7. (v. t.) To set or affix a seal to; hence, to authenticate; to confirm; to ratify; to establish; as, to seal a deed.
8. (v. t.) To mark with a stamp, as an evidence of standard exactness, legal size, or merchantable quality; as, to seal weights and measures; to seal silverware.
9. (v. t.) To fasten with a seal; to attach together with a wafer, wax, or other substance causing adhesion; as, to seal a letter.
10. (v. t.) Hence, to shut close; to keep close; to make fast; to keep secure or secret.
11. (v. t.) To fix, as a piece of iron in a wall, with cement, plaster, or the like.
12. (v. t.) To close by means of a seal; as, to seal a drainpipe with water. See 2d Seal, 5.
13. (v. t.) Among the Mormons, to confirm or set apart as a second or additional wife.
14. (v. i.) To affix one's seal, or a seal.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
sel (substantive chotham, "seal," "signet," Tabba`ath, "signet-ring"; Aramaic `izqa'; sphragis; verb chatham, (Aramaic chatham); (sphragizo), (katasphragizomai, "to seal"):
I. Literal Sense.
A seal is an instrument of stone, metal or other hard substance (sometimes set in a ring), on which is engraved some device or figure, and is used for making an impression on some soft substance, as clay or wax, affixed to a document or other object, in token of authenticity.
1. Prevalence in Antiquity:
The use of seals goes back to a very remote antiquity, especially in Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria. Herodotus (i.195) records the Babylonian custom of wearing signets. In Babylonia the seal generally took the form of a cylinder cut in crystal or some hard stone, which was bored through from end to end and a cord passed through it. The design, often accompanied by the owner's name, was engraved on the curved part. The signet was then suspended by the cord round the neck or waist (compare the Revised Version (British and American) "cord" in Genesis 38:18; "upon thy heart.... upon thine arm," i.e. one seal hanging down from the neck and another round the waist; Songs 8:6). In Egypt, too, as in Babylonia, the cylinder was the earliest form used for the purpose of a seal; but this form was in Egypt gradually superseded by the scarab (= beetle-shaped) as the prevailing type. Other forms, such as the cone-shaped, were also in use. From the earliest period of civilization the finger-ring on which some distinguishing badge was engraved was in use as a convenient way of carrying the signet, the earliest extant rings being those found in Egyptian tombs. Other ancient peoples, such as the Phoenicians, also used seals. From the East the custom passed into Greece and other western countries. Devices of a variety of sorts were in use at Rome, both by the emperors and by private individuals. In ancient times, almost every variety of precious stones was used for seals, as well as cheaper material, such as limestone or terra-cotta. In the West wax came early into use as the material for receiving the impression of the seal, but in the ancient East clay was the medium used (compare Job 38:14). Pigment and ink also came into use.
2. Seals among the Hebrews:
That the Israelites were acquainted with the use in Egypt of signets set in rings is seen in the statement that Pharaoh delivered to Joseph his royal signet as a token of deputed authority (Genesis 41:41 f). They were also acquainted with the use of seals among the Persians and Medes (Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8-10 Daniel 6:17). The Hebrews themselves used them at an early period, the first recorded instance being Genesis 38:18, 25, where the patriarch Judah is said to have pledged his word to Tamar by leaving her his signet, cord and staff. We have evidence of engraved signets being in important use among them in early times in the description of the two stones on the high priest's ephod (Exodus 28:11; Exodus 39:6), of his golden plate (Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:30), and breastplate (Exodus 39:14). Ben-Sirach mentions as a distinct occupation the work of engraving on signets (Sirach 38:27). From the case of Judah and the common usage in other countries, we may infer that every Hebrew of any standing wore a seal. In the case of the signet ring, it was usual to wear it on one of the fingers of the right hand (Jeremiah 22:24). The Hebrews do not seem to have developed an original type of signets. The seals so far discovered in Palestine go to prove that the predominating type was the Egyptian, and to a less degree the Babylonian.
3. Uses of Sealing:
(1) One of the most important uses of sealing in antiquity was to give a proof of authenticity and authority to letters, royal commands, etc. It served the purposes of a modern signature at a time when the art of writing was known to only a few. Thus Jezebel "wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal" (1 Kings 21:8); the written commands of Ahasuerus were "sealed with the king's ring," "for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse" (Esther 8:8, 10; Esther 3:12).
(2) Allied to this is the formal ratification of a transaction or covenant. Jeremiah sealed the deeds of the field which he bought from Hanamel (Jeremiah 32:10-14; compare Jeremiah 32:44); Nehemiah and many others affixed their seal to the written covenant between God and His people (Nehemiah 9:38; Nehemiah 10:1).
(3) An additional use was the preservation of books in security. A roll or other document intended for preservation was sealed up before it was deposited in a place of safety (Jeremiah 32:14; compare the "book.... close sealed with seven seals," Revelation 5:1). In sealing the roll, it was wrapped round with flaxen thread or string, then a lump of clay was attached to it impressed with a seal. The seal would have to be broken by an authorized person before the book could be read (Revelation 5:2, 5, 9; Revelation 6:1, 3, etc.).
(4) Sealing was a badge of deputed authority and power, as when a king handed over his signet ring to one of his officers (Genesis 41:42 Esther 3:10; Esther 8:2; 1Ma 6:15).
(5) Closed doors were often sealed to prevent the entrance of any unauthorized person. So the door of the lion's den (Daniel 6:17; compare Bel and the Dragon verse 6:14). Herodotus mentions the custom of sealing tombs (ii.121). So we read of the chief priests and Pharisees sealing the stone at the mouth of our Lord's tomb in order to "make the sepulchre sure" against the intrusion of the disciples (Matthew 27:66). Compare the sealing of the abyss to prevent Satan's escape Revelation 20:3). A door was sealed by stretching a cord over the stone which blocked the entrance, spreading clay or wax on the cord, and then impressing it with a seal.
(6) To any other object might a seal be affixed, as an official mark of ownership; e.g. a large number of clay stoppers of wine jars are still preserved, on which seal impressions of the cylinder type were stamped, by rolling the cylinder along the surface of the clay when it was still soft (compare Job 38:14).
II. Metaphorical Use of the Term.
The word "seal," both substantive and verb, is often used figuratively for the act or token of authentication, confirmation, proof, security or possession. Sin is said not to be forgotten by God, but treasured and stored up with Him against the sinner, under a seal (Deuteronomy 32:34 Job 14:17). A lover's signet is the emblem of love as an inalienable possession (Songs 8:6); an unresponsive maiden is "a spring shut up, a fountain sealed" (Songs 4:12). The seal is sometimes a metaphor for secrecy. That which is beyond the comprehension of the uninitiated is said to be as "a book that is sealed" (Isaiah 29:11 f; compare the book with seven seals, Revelation 5:1). Daniel is bidden to "shut up the words" of his prophecy "and seal the book, even to the time of the end," i.e. to keep his prophecy a secret till it shall be revealed (Daniel 12:4, 9; compare Revelation 10:4). Elsewhere it stands for the ratification of prophecy (Daniel 9:24). The exact meaning of the figure is sometimes ambiguous (as in Job 33:16 Ezekiel 28:12). In the New Testament the main ideas in the figure are those of authentication, ratification, and security. The believer in Christ is said to "set his seal to this, that God is true" (John 3:33), i.e. to attest the veracity of God, to stamp it with the believer's own endorsement and confirmation. The Father has sealed the Son, i.e. authenticated Him as the bestower of life-giving bread (John 6:27). The circumcision of Abraham was a "sign" and "seal," an outward ratification, of the righteousness of faith which he had already received while uncircumcised (Romans 4:11; compare the prayer offered at the circumcision of a child, "Blessed be He who sanctified His beloved from the womb, and put His ordinance upon his flesh, and sealed His offering with the sign of a holy covenant"; also Targum So 38: "The seal of circumcision is in your flesh as it was sealed in the flesh of Abraham"). Paul describes his act in making over to the saints at Jerusalem the contribution of the Gentiles as having "sealed to them this fruit" (Romans 15:28); the meaning of the phrase is doubtful, but the figure seems to be based on sealing as ratifying a commercial transaction, expressing Paul's intention formally to hand over to them the fruit (of his own labors, or of spiritual blessings which through him the Gentiles had enjoyed), and to mark it as their own property. Paul's converts are the "seal," the authentic confirmation, of his apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:2). God by His Spirit indicates who are His, as the owner sets his seal on his property; and just as documents are sealed up until the proper time for opening them, so Christians are sealed up by the Holy Spirit "unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30 2 Corinthians 1:22). Ownership, security and authentication are implied in the words, "The firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19). The seal of God on the foreheads of His servants (Revelation 7:2-4) marks them off as His own, and guarantees their eternal security, whereas those that "have not the seal of God on their foreheads" (Revelation 9:4) have no such guaranty.
On the analogy of the rite of circumcision (see above), the term "seal" (sphragis) was at a very early period applied to Christian baptism. But there is no sufficient ground for referring such passages as Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30 2 Corinthians 1:22 to the rite of baptism (as some do). The use of the metaphor in connection with baptism came after New Testament times (early instances are given in Gebhardt and Lightfoot on 2 Clem 7:6). Harnack and Hatch maintain that the name "seal" for baptism was taken from the Greek mysteries, but Anrich and Sanday-Headlam hold that it was borrowed from the Jewish view of circumcision as a seal.
D. Miall Edwards
Seal (47 Occurrences)
Matthew 27:66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
John 3:33 He who has received his witness has set his seal to this, that God is true. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
John 6:27 Don't work for the food which perishes, but for the food which remains to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has sealed him." (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Romans 4:11 He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Romans 15:28 When therefore I have accomplished this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will go on by way of you to Spain. (Root in WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS)
1 Corinthians 9:2 If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
2 Corinthians 1:22 who also sealed us, and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ephesians 1:13 in whom you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation,-in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
2 Timothy 2:19 However God's firm foundation stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness." (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 6:3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, "Come!" (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 6:5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come and see!" And behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a balance in his hand. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 6:7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature saying, "Come and see!" (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 6:9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 6:12 I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 7:2 I saw another angel ascend from the sunrise, having the seal of the living God. He cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was given to harm the earth and the sea, (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 7:3 saying, "Don't harm the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, until we have sealed the bondservants of our God on their foreheads!" (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 8:1 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 9:4 They were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those people who don't have God's seal on their foreheads. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 10:4 When the seven thunders sounded, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from the sky saying, "Seal up the things which the seven thunders said, and don't write them." (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 20:3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were finished. After this, he must be freed for a short time. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Revelation 22:10 He said to me, "Don't seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Genesis 6:14 Make a ship of gopher wood. You shall make rooms in the ship, and shall seal it inside and outside with pitch. (WEB)
Genesis 38:18 and he saith, 'What 'is' the pledge that I give to thee?' and she saith, 'Thy seal, and thy ribbon, and thy staff which 'is' in thy hand;' and he giveth to her, and goeth in unto her, and she conceiveth to him; (YLT NAS NIV)
Genesis 38:25 She is brought out, and she hath sent unto her husband's father, saying, 'To a man whose these 'are', I 'am' pregnant;' and she saith, 'Discern, I pray thee, whose 'are' these -- the seal, and the ribbons, and the staff.' (YLT NIV)
Exodus 28:11 According to the work of an engraver in stone, as the engravings of a seal, shalt thou engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel; surrounded by enclosures of gold shalt thou make them. (DBY NIV)
Exodus 28:21 And the stones shall be according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, engraved as a seal: every one according to his name shall they be for the twelve tribes. (DBY NAS NIV)
Exodus 28:36 And thou shalt make a thin plate of pure gold, and engrave on it, as the engravings of a seal, Holiness to Jehovah! (DBY NAS NIV)
Exodus 39:6 And they wrought the onyx stones mounted in enclosures of gold, engraved with the engravings of a seal, according to the names of the sons of Israel. (DBY NIV)
Exodus 39:14 And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, engraved as a seal, every one according to his name, for the twelve tribes. (DBY NIV)
Exodus 39:30 And they made the thin plate, the holy diadem, of pure gold, and wrote on it with the writing of the engravings of a seal, Holiness to Jehovah! (DBY NIV)
1 Kings 21:8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and to the nobles who were in his city, who lived with Naboth. (Root in WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Nehemiah 9:38 Yet for all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, our Levites, and our priests, seal to it. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Nehemiah 10:1 Now those who sealed were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, (Root in WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Esther 8:8 Write also to the Jews, as it pleases you, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's ring; for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may not be reversed by any man." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Job 9:7 He commands the sun, and it doesn't rise, and seals up the stars. (Root in WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Job 38:14 It is changed as clay under the seal, and stands forth as a garment. (WEB KJV JPS ASV WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Job 41:15 Strong scales are his pride, shut up together with a close seal. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 40:9 I have proclaimed glad news of righteousness in the great assembly. Behold, I will not seal my lips, Yahweh, you know. (WEB NIV)
Song of Songs 8:6 Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; for love is strong as death. Jealousy is as cruel as Sheol. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a very flame of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 8:16 Wrap up the testimony. Seal the law among my disciples. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jeremiah 22:24 I live -- an affirmation of Jehovah, Though Coniah son of Jehoiakim king of Judah Were a seal on My right hand, Surely thence I draw thee away, (YLT)
Jeremiah 32:10 I subscribed the deed, and sealed it, and called witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. (Root in WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Jeremiah 32:44 Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe the deeds, and seal them, and call witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the hill country, and in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South: for I will cause their captivity to return, says Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 28:12 Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and tell him, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: You seal up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS)
Daniel 8:26 The vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true: but seal up the vision; for it belongs to many days to come. (WEB RSV NIV)
Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are decreed on your people and on your holy city, to finish disobedience, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Daniel 12:4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run back and forth, and knowledge shall be increased." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)