Rings are mentioned many times throughout the Bible, both literally as jewelry that people wore and figuratively to represent concepts like authority and commitment. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the significance of rings in the Bible and what they represented to the people of biblical times. From wedding rings to signet rings to nose rings, rings served important purposes and carried deep meaning.
Rings have been used as jewelry and symbols since ancient times. In the Bible, rings are first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when Pharaoh gave Joseph a signet ring as a symbol of authority over Egypt (Genesis 41:42). Rings were commonly worn as jewelry by both men and women in biblical times, made of materials like gold, silver, and gemstones. Beyond just decorative jewelry, rings also served functional purposes like sealing documents.
Most importantly, rings symbolized relationships and commitments. Wedding rings represented the covenant relationship between a husband and wife. Signet rings and seal rings showed authority and identification. And nose rings signified marital commitment. While styles and materials may have changed over the centuries, the symbolic significance of rings endures.
In this blog post, we will survey some of the key biblical passages that mention rings. We will look at the purposes and symbolism of wedding rings, signet rings, nose rings, and other ring references in the Bible. By understanding the cultural background behind these ring references, we can better appreciate the meaning and importance of rings in the biblical texts.
Whether given as a token of love, a symbol of authority, or a sign of commitment, rings in the Bible represent binding relationships and deep promises. The giving of a ring was not done casually, but with great intention and gravity. As we explore some biblical ring references, we will seek to understand the weighty significance attached to rings in the ancient biblical world.
One of the most prominent symbolic uses of rings in the Bible is to represent marriage covenants. Though wedding rings as we know them today were not specifically mentioned, other rings were given in connection with betrothals and weddings. These rings served as tokens of the covenant relationship between husband and wife.
Here are some examples of rings relating to marriage in the Bible:
- Isaac’s gift to Rebekah: When Abraham’s servant found a wife for Isaac, the servant gave Rebekah a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets as a bridal gift from Isaac (Genesis 24:22). The nose ring likely symbolized that Rebekah was now taken as a wife.
- Wedding rings from Plunder: When the Israelites defeated the Midianites, they kept the plunder. This included the rings the Midianites wore (Numbers 31:50). These were likely wedding rings from the Midianite women who were slain.
- The Marriage Covenant: In the prophecy of Hosea, God stated, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20). This resembles the language of a marriage covenant. Though no ring is mentioned, the binding commitment is the same.
- Ezekiel’s Signet Ring: The prophet Ezekiel was told to inscribe the name of Jerusalem on a signet ring as a symbol of his marriage to the city (Ezekiel 16:11-12). He wore the ring as a sign of the covenant between God and Jerusalem.
- The Prodigal Son: When welcoming back his lost son, the father put a ring on his son’s finger as a sign of restored relationship (Luke 15:22). This ring was a token of the binding commitment between father and son, like in a marriage.
So while we have no record of exchanging wedding rings as our modern custom, other rings served symbolic marital purposes in the Bible. They represented mutual love, commitment, and covenant relationships.
Signet Rings and Seals
Another category of rings commonly mentioned in the Bible is signet rings and seal rings. These rings were engraved with a unique emblem or symbol representing the wearer. Signet rings and seals functioned as signatures, pressed into clay or wax to authenticate documents and mark ownership. As such, they denoted authority, identification, and protection of property.
Here are some biblical mentions of signet and seal rings:
- Joseph’s signet ring: When Pharaoh appointed Joseph over Egypt, he gave Joseph his signet ring, representing the delegation of authority (Genesis 41:42). Joseph then used the ring to seal documents (Genesis 41:42).
- Judah’s signet and cord: Judah left his signet ring and staff cord as collateral when pledging payment to Tamar (Genesis 38:18). These identified him as the owner.
- King Ahasuerus’ ring: King Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Haman to use in his name, giving Haman the king’s authority (Esther 3:10). The king later gave the ring to Mordecai for the same purpose (Esther 8:2).
- Seals on the tomb: Pilate ordered Jesus’ tomb to be sealed and an official signature ring applied, so no one could steal the body (Matthew 27:66).
- Signet rings in visions: In his visions, Ezekiel saw angelic beings whose loins were girded with engraved gemstone seals (Ezekiel 9:2, 10:2). He also envisioned signet rings engraved with images (Ezekiel 23:14).
Clearly, signet rings and seals were connected with authority, identification, and protection. Applying one’s unique seal was like providing an official signature. These rings afforded power and security.
Nose rings appear several times in the Bible, specifically associated with women. Unlike earrings which could just be decorative, nose rings likely denoted marital status and commitment for women in biblical cultures.
Here are some verses that mention nose rings:
- Rebekah’s nose ring: When Abraham’s servant found Rebekah as a wife for Isaac, he gave her a gold nose ring (Genesis 24:22,47). This was part of her bridal gift, possibly indicating her marriage commitment.
- God’s metaphor: Describing how He adorned Israel, God said “I put a ring on your nose” as a metaphor of marriage (Ezekiel 16:12).
- Mentioned in poetry: In poetic verses, the nose ring is mentioned as part of lovely feminine beauty (Isaiah 3:21, Proverbs 11:22).
- Worn by Midianites: Israelite men were commanded to kill the Midianite women who had seduced them, taking plunder like their nose rings (Numbers 31:50-52).
So while nose rings could sometimes just be decorative jewelry, they likely represented marital status for women at times. The giving of a nose ring signified the covenant of marriage.
Other Ring References
Rings are mentioned in a few other biblical contexts as well:
- The wardrobe ring: When the high priest was described, it included a gold ring attaching the breastpiece to the ephod (Exodus 28:28)
- Rings and jewelry: Rings are mentioned along with bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry (Exodus 35:22, Numbers 31:50, Ezekiel 16:11-12). The people gladly offered their gold jewelry for the tabernacle.
- Sign of end times: James stated that misuse of wealth was evidence of the last days. He referenced gold and silver corrosion as an example (James 5:3).
- Parable ring reference: In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father’s ring was a sign of acceptance (Luke 15:22).
So we see rings used in various contexts like jewelry, securing garments, displaying affluence, and conveying symbolic meaning. The small, precious ring carries great significance.
To summarize key ideas about ring symbolism in the Bible:
- Rings represented binding relationships and deep commitments, especially in marriage.
- Giving a ring was a weighty matter, not done casually.
- Signet rings and seals denoted authority and identification.
- Nose rings likely signified marital commitment for women.
- Rings were deeply meaningful as gifts, symbols, and signs of status.
- While styles changed, the emblematic significance of rings endured.
From the book of Genesis to the end of Revelation, rings play an important symbolic role in the Bible. More than just decorative jewelry, rings carried profound meaning for biblical people. They represented relationships, identity, authority, and binding covenants.
The giving of a ring was a solemn ritual indicating change in status and commitment. As such, biblical rings remind us that our covenants and commitments still matter greatly today. Rings still embody deep relational connection and meaning.
Whether exchanging wedding rings, wearing signet family rings, or giving class rings, we continue the ancient biblical tradition of using a ring to show covenant love. That small circular band contains immense significance as a symbols of belonging, authority, and enduring relationships.