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The meaning of Ring in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

(Anglo-Saxon, Hring, "ring"): The word renders (the American Standard Revised Version) two Hebrew words (in the King James Version and the English Revised Version three) and two Greek words. Tabba'ath, the principal Hebrew word, is from Tabha', "sink," either because the ring is something "cast" or molded, or, more probably, since the principal use of the ring was as a seal, because it "sank" into the wax or clay that received the impression. In Exodus, Tabba'ath, "ring," is a detail of furniture or equipment, as the rings of the ark through which the staves were thrust (Exodus 25:12, etc.), rings for curtains, in the high priest's ephod (Exodus 28:28; Exodus 39:21), etc. Its other use was perhaps the original, to describe the article of personal adornment worn on the finger, apparently in the Old Testament always a signet-ring, and as such an indispensable article of masculine attire. Such a ring Pharaoh gave Joseph as a symbol of authority (Genesis 41:42); and Ahasuerus gave Haman (Esther 3:10); with it the royal missive was sealed (Esther 3:12; Esther 8:8 twice, Esther 8:10). It was also a feminine ornament in Isaiah's list of the fashionable feminine paraphernalia, "the rings and the nose-jewels" (quite likely rings also) (Isaiah 3:21). Either as ornaments or for their intrinsic value, or both, rings were used as gifts for sacred purposes from both men and women: "brooches, and ear-rings, and signet-rings" (margin "nose-rings") (Exodus 35:22); "bracelets, rings (the American Standard Revised Version "signet-rings"), ear-rings" (Numbers 31:50 the King James Version). chotham, "signet," mentioned in Genesis 38:18, Genesis 38:25; Exodus 28:11, Exodus 28:21, Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:6, Exodus 39:14, Exodus 39:30; Jeremiah 22:24; Haggai 2:23, etc., was probably usually a seal ring, but in Gen. 38 and elsewhere the seal may have been swung on wire, and suspended by a cord from the neck. It was not only an identification, but served as a stamp for signature. galil, "circle" (compare "Galilee," "Circle" of the Gentiles), rendered "ring" in Esther 1:6; Song of Solomon 5:14, may rather mean "cylinder" or "rod" of metal. Earring (which see) in the King James Version is from totally different words: nezem, whose etymology is unknown, aghil, "round," or lachash, "amulet"; so the Revised Version (British and American). The "rings" of the wheels in Ezekiel 1:18 (the King James Version) are gabh, "curved," and mean "rims" (American Standard Revised Version), "felloes." Egyptians especially wore a great profusion of rings, principally of silver or gold, engraved with scarabaei, or other devices. In the New Testament the ring, daktulios, "finger-ring," is a token of means, position, standing: "put a ring on his hand" (Luke 15:22). Perhaps also it included the right to give orders in his father's name. To be chrusodaktulios, "golden-ringed," perhaps with more than one, indicated wealth and social rank: "a man with a gold ring" (James 2:2).

See also EARRING; SIGNET; SEAL.

Philip Wendell Crannell


See more on the meaning of Ring in the Bible:
Ring {Easton's Bible Dictionary}

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