An Emblem of Authority
Dan 6:17 "Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of
the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and
with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning
Daniel might not be changed." (NKJ)
The "signet ring," also known as a "seal" comes from the
Hebrew word "hotam" and the Greek word "sphragis" and was
used universally in the ancient world. It was a portable
instrument used much like we use a signature today, but much
more important. They would seal or stamp a document, or the
door of a house, or a tomb, etc. It was also an emblem of
Authentic ancient documents contain seals. The way they did
it was to cover it with "ink" and press it. Most often it
was attached to a ring and worn on the finger or else it
hung from the neck on a string or on the arm. Many shapes
have been discovered ranging from cylindrical, square and
round, to oval and pyramid shape. The engraver was a common
occupation in ancient times.
The ancient Egyptians most familiar form of a signet ring
was made of stone, round on one side and flat on the other.
The flat side was very elaborate and bore the inscription,
usually containing symbols, hieroglyphic letters, and the
scarabaeus or sacred beetle. The beetle was worshipped by
the Egyptians as well as the Phoenicians and other cultures.
Examples of these seals are known as far back as the Fourth
Dynasty, c. 2550 B.C. Sometimes they were made of blue
pottery or porcelain or a lump of clay, impressed with a
seal and attached to the document by strings.
In ancient Mesopotamia around 3500 BC the cylinder seal was
first used. At Uruk (Erech in the Bible, Gen. 10:10) which
is modern Warka, two small square tablets of gypsum plaster
were uncovered that contained impressions of cylinder seals.
They were apparently rolled across soft clay, a package or
jar was sealed with wet clay and the seal was rolled over
Soon after, the Persians introduced the stamp seals. The
Uruk seals display amazing beauty. Henri A. Frankfort,
formerly research professor of oriental archaeology at the
Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, made
monumental studies in the development of the cylinder seal
from the prehistoric period to the dynasties of ancient
Sumer and Babylon down to the Persian period. See
Frankfort's book, Cylinder Seals where he discusses his
research of over 1000 discovered seals.
One interesting seal is the Lapis Lazuli seal of Queen Puabi
(or Shubad) uncovered by Woolley at Ur. Also the well-known
seal of Darius the Great displays the king in his
two-wheeled chariot between two date palms.
"Cylinder seals found in ancient Mesopotamia were incised on
various hard surfaces including gold, silver, rock crystal,
blue chalcedony, carnelian, marble, ivory, jasper, glazed
pottery, and simple baked clay. Often seals contain both
pictures and written material. Jar-handle seals were also
common from c. 2500 B.C. These were used not only in signing
Babylonian clay documents but in safekeeping jars containing
valuable papers or commodities for shipment to distant
lands. A cloth was placed over the neck of the container,
soft clay smeared on top of the binding cord, and the
cylinder rolled over the wet clay. If the seal was
undisturbed at its destination, the merchandise was safe." -Merril
The Hebrews used the seal as an ordinary piece of equipment.
It was mentioned throughout the Bible in many different time
periods. Even on the breastplate of the high priest there
were engraved gems of the twelve tribes.
Christians are Sealed by
the Holy Spirit
There are many metaphors in the Bible using the "seal" or
"engraving" of the Lord as something that is set and
permanent. Christians are forever "sealed with the Holy
Spirit of promise" Eph. 1:13.
This verse we are discussing teaches us much of how things
were done in ancient times. The king (Darius) was committed
to keep his word, and he sealed the stone which imprisoned
Daniel even though it was against the king's wishes. Darius
even fasted the whole night for a miracle concerning the
Jewish God, Yahweh, to somehow preserve Daniel's life.