Bible Review 1:1, Spring 1985

“As The Seal Upon Thy Heart”

Glyptic roles in the biblical world

By William W. Hallo

Over 50 years ago, Robert Hatch Kennett described Ancient Hebrew Social Life and Custom as Indicated in Law, Narrative, and Metaphor1 in one of the celebrated Schweich Lectures, a series dedicated to illuminating biblical issues in concise but authoritative fonm. More recently, Roland de Vaux covered the same ground in much more massive fashion in his Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions.2 But neither of these surveys had very much to say about seals. Perhaps these tiny objects, the work of the glyptica artist, were thought too insignificant to merit systematic attention, or not sufficiently unique to Israel. For seals are a typical hallmark of ancient Near Eastern civilization in general, and they are particularly characteristic of Mesopotamian culture. Their role can best be studied in the light of the comparative textual data from the ancient Near East, and of the material remains recovered by archaeology. With the help of these resources, the study of seals will be rewarded with new insights into biblical law, narrative and metaphor.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.