Contract (συνάλλαγμα, 1 Maccabees 13:42), a business agreement or formal compact. SEE BARGAIN. Various solemnities were used in the conclusion of contracts among the ancient Hebrews. Sometimes it was done by a simple joining of hands (Pr 11:21; Eze 17:18), and thus the Hindoos, to this day, ratify an engagement by one person laying his right hand upon that of the other. Sometimes, also, a covenant was ratified by erecting a heap of stones, to which an appropriate name was given (Ge 31:44 -54); that made between Abraham and the king of Gerar was ratified by the oath of both parties, also by a present from Abraham to the latter of seven ewe lambs, and by giving a name to the well which had occasioned the transaction. Festivities appear to have accompanied the ceremonies attending such alliances, for Isaac and Abimelech made a feast on concluding their covenant (Ge 26:30; Ge 31:54). A similar practice also obtained among the heathen nations. The Scythians are said to have first poured wine into an earthen vessel, and then the contracting parties, cutting their arms with a knife, let some of the blood run into the wine, with which they stained their armor; after which they themselves, together with the other persons present, drank of the mixture, uttering the direst maledictions on the party who should violate the treaty. Another mode of ratifying covenants was by the superior contracting party presenting to the other some article of his own dress or arms. Thus "Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" (1Sa 18:4); and at the present day, the highest honor which a king of Persia can bestow upon a subject is to cause himself to be disapparelled, and to give his robe to the favored individual. In Nu 18:19, mention is made of a covenant of salt (q.v.). SEE OATH.
Among the Hebrews, and, long before them, among the Canaanites, the purchase of anything of consequence was concluded, and the price paid, at the gate of the city, as the seat of judgment, before all who went out and came in (Ge 23:16,20; Ruth, 4:1, 2). From the latter book we also learn that on some occasions of purchase and exchange, the transfer was confirmed by the proprietor plucking off his shoe at the city gate, in the presence of the elders and other witnesses, and handing it over to the new owner.
The earliest notice of written instruments, sealed and delivered, for ratifying the disposal and transfer of property, occurs in Jer 32:10-15, which the prophet commanded Baruch to bury in an earthen vessel, in order to be preserved for production at a future period as evidence of the purchase. No mention is particularly made as to the manner in which deeds were anciently canceled. Some expositors have imagined that in Col 2:14, Paul refers to the canceling of them by blotting or drawing a line across them, or by striking them through with a nail; but we have no authority whatever, from antiquity, to authorize such a conclusion. — Thomson, Land and Book, 2:382-384. SEE COVENANT.