But the father said to his servants… Put a ring on his finger…
– Luke 15.22
The ring could easily be understood as a sign of wealth and prosperity, contrasting with the squandered wealth earlier in the story.
However, what if the ring means more than this?
As far back as 3500BC in Mesopotamia, signet rings have been used as a means of identification. Often rings would be destroyed when the wearer died, meaning that surviving ancient signet rings today are incredibly rare and valuable.
This passage doesn’t spell out that the ring was a signet ring, however lots of rings which were worn in those days would have had different designs and themes which would still confer an element of identity on the wearer.
The son had taken all his inheritance, he had disavowed his father.
Here, the father instructs his servants to put a ring on his lost son’s finger.
Perhaps this act is more than just generosity. Perhaps, in this phrase which we can all too easily skip over, this act is the moment in which the lost son is formally acknowledged and accepted as his father’s son once again?
Reflecting on this, I’m reminded of the following passage from Romans:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…
– Romans 8.14-17