The Bible is the Word of God. However, it was written in the Orient, by Orientals, to Orientals of that time and therefore reflects Oriental thought, culture, customs, traditions, mannerisms, figures of speech, parables, phrases, and proverbs as it presents that which God revealed to holy men of God. For the Western world to fully understand the Word of God the Orientalisms used in it must be recognized and understood.

The Signet Ring

The signet ring was engraved with the name of the owner or with some family emblem and was a symbol of authority used in the East to seal legal documents. A document without a seal would not be legal. A merchant's letters and bills had to be sealed. Even today, modern Egyptians and Eastern businessmen wear a seal-ring on the little finger of their right hand. If an Oriental man has a signet ring he keeps it with him at all times and values it as one of his most prized possessions.


It is customary in the Orient for the head of a household to engage one of his poorer relatives as his steward. If it was necessary to employ a stranger as steward, the employer would ask him to make a covenant of salt, which means he would never do anything harmful while holding the position, nor would he allow anyone else to damage the interest of his employer. When the steward is hired, everything pertaining to the affairs of the household is turned over to him. He is given the keys to all properties, the records, and the bookkeeping. He has the family signet ring. He can buy and sell property. He can sign deeds. He can lend money and forgive debts. He can do anything the head of the household can do. He lives in the home as a member of the family.

Faithful Stewards of God's Word

Titus 1:7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God;...

A leader (bishop) in the church is described as "the steward of God."

I Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man so account of us, as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

As a "steward of the mysteries of God" the leader must also be faithful. To be faithful means he stays put on God's Word day after day. As a steward he is responsible for the day to day operation of the church just as a family steward is reponsible for the day to day operation of the household. The "mysteries of God" include that which God kept secret until He revealed it to Paul. The great mystery of the grace of God.

The Greek word used in the text for "dispensation" is from the root word "steward" and could be translated "stewardship." God revealed to the apostle Paul the great mystery of His grace toward believers and set him as steward over this gospel (good news). This information was given to Paul to "fulfil" or complete the Word of God.

I Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

The Greek word for "received" is the key to this verse. "Lambano" indicates manifesting the gift after receiving it. As stewards we are to minister the gift of holy spirit in manifestation one to another.

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As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Proverbs 25:25

Published to the Web June 1996
Michael Cortright