THE GREAT SEAL OF THE UNITED STATES
By Ira B. Howell M.D., R.A.M.
How many people in their busy daily pursuits realize that, wherever they go, they always carry with them (that is, if they have it) the Great Seal of the United States on the greenback of the one dollar bill? Each American soldier likewise goes to battle with the Great Seal on his buttons. But how many pause for a moment to study the symbols on it?
History has shown that it is the nature of nations, as well as individuals, to live by symbols. From the very earliest times in man's development, various emblems and signs were used by the peoples of the earth with which to identify themselves. The twelve tribes of Israel, for example, were each identified by a separate emblem. The lion symbolized Judah; the serpent Dan, and so on.
Of all countries and peoples in the world we of America possess the strangest of all emblems — the Great Seal of the United States. The Seal itself was thought of and adopted by the Founding Fathers. From the records available on the history of the Seal, it is known that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, after being appointed by the Continental Congress as a special committee, first prepared and submitted separate designs before they adopted the one we now have.
Would one believe, for example, that he would find the Hebraic six-pointed star of David on the Seal? Of course not. Yet it is there. Right above the eagle on the obverse side, formed by thirteen stars and encased in a cloud (a symbol of the Biblical cloud appearing above the Tabernacle of the congregation of the children of Israel). The number 13, usually accepted as being unlucky, seems to play a dominant part in both the obverse and reverse sides of the Seal. Though this may be partially based on the fact that there were thirteen original states, it seems the signification goes further than that. That there happened to be just thirteen states and not any other number is no mere coincidence.
On the obverse side, besides the thirteen stars forming the Shield of David, we find the words E Pluribus Unum, thirteen letters, and meaning "One Out of Many." The eagle, another Biblical symbol, holds in one of his talons a olive branch with thirteen leaves, and in the other thirteen arrows. Our flag covering the eagle's body, has thirteen bars — seven standing out as in the seven-branched candlestick.
On the reverse side of the Seal we find the Pyramid standing in a wilderness and built in thirteen layers of stone. Above it, in the headstone, is the all-seeing eye of our Creator, and the words Annuit Coeptis — meaning "He hath prospered our beginning," and again thirteen letters written over the Pyramid. Below it we find: Novus Ordo Seclorum," meaning "An Old Order of the Ages Is Born Anew."
To fully realize the significance of the number 13 we must again go back to the early history of Israel and endeavour to understand the difference between the terms Israel, Hebrew and Jew. Perhaps a lot of people would be surprised; that is, some would be, if they were told that Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Joseph, and a lot of other Biblical characters were not Jews. Why do I say this? Eber, the grandson of Shem, was the first Hebrew, as his very name — Eber (Eberi, Ebrew) — itself signifies. His descendants, in cluding Abraham, were all Hebrews. The words Israel and Jew (Jehudi) had not yet come into the world. "Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob" — all Hebrews.
The Bible record shows that Jacob was surnamed Israel; namely, Yis-sar-el ("God will rule"), because he "had ruled with man and prevailed." Thus, Jacob was the first Israelite in the world, but he was also a Hebrew.
The 120 Pilgrim Fathers who reached America on the Mayflower in 1620 left England because of religious differences. They broke with the Church of England because, as a body of people, they not only believed differently from the ruling Church, but by the very act of their separation they also proved to be different in character. To know what type of people these Pilgrim Fathers were and how they looked upon the Old Testament one can judge from a little incident occurring just before the Mayflower left England. Cotton Mather took his Bible and opened it to II Samuel, 7-10, and read: "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime." After the reading of this passage from the Bible, he said: "We are now going to that land."
In the first design of the Great Seal that was submitted to the Continental Congress by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the reverse side showed Moses with the Israelites safe on the shore, while the Egyptians were being drowned by the Red Sea.