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, 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, 25 Exodus 28:11, 21, 36 Exodus 39:6, 14, 30 Jeremiah 22:24 Haggai 2:23, etc., was probably usually a seal ring, but in Genesis 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 Songs 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).