(With my thoughts and comments in italics.)

In a dream there was an eagle with his wings spread wide, then he swooped down and picked up the right side of the bottom of the Great Seal of the United States and peeled it away from the right to left. It took the 13 arrows in the right talon that symbolize war, then it took the tail feathers symbolizing the Supreme Court, and then it took the olive branch symbolizing peace. The underlying seal was not torn just the symbols removed. The shield above was left on the seal which represents the Congress. The head of the eagle turned toward the bundle of arrows then the eagle moved from right to left.

In the Great Seal, the Eagle faces toward the olive branch symbolizing the nation’s preference for peace, except on the president’s seal during war which has the eagle facing toward the bundle of arrows symbolizing the nation’s willingness to ensure peace through war.

This dream woke me up and made me wonder; what was the symbolism of the dream? Have we lost our unity?

In the Bald Eagle’s stronger right talon, Thomson placed the olive branch suggested by the second committee whose designs had female figures representing Peace and Liberty holding the olive branch. The Eagle faces toward this ancient symbol that Thomson called “the power of peace.”

In its left talon, the Eagle holds the power of war symbolized by the bundle of 13 arrows.

On a scroll in the Eagle’s beak, Thomson put the motto E Pluribus Unum suggested by the first committee.

In the dream the eagle dropped the banner translated “Out of many, One,” in order to take up (through war) the bundle of 13 arrows, (separation of our values from the fabric of our nation). The 13 arrows represent the fact that we cannot be broken because of our UNITY. We are bound together as a symbol of our common faith in God.

If you look on the back of a one dollar bill you will see the words, “In God We Trust.”

The stronger right talon represents “Power through Peace.”

Thirteen: America’s Number On the Great Seal

The number 13 is found many (seven) times in the design of the Great Seal.

Specified in the description of the Great Seal:

  • 13 stars in the constellation over the eagle’s head
  • 13 stripes in the shield upon the eagle’s breast
  • 13 arrows held in the eagle’s left talon
  • Latin mottoes and date:
  • 13 letters in E pluribus unum on the scroll carried by the eagle
  • 13 letters in Annuit Coeptis above the pyramid & eye
  • 26 (2×13) letters in “MDCCLXXVI” plus “Novus ordo seclorum” at the base of the pyramid
  • Other:
  • 13 is the number of symbolic elements (10) plus mottoes (3) on the two sides of the Great Seal
  • 13 is the number of men appointed by Congress (10) plus consultants (3) chosen by the committees to design the Great Seal.
Eagle: In the center of the seal is a bald eagle (our national bird). The eagle holds a scroll in its beak inscribed with the Latin motto E pluribus Unum – which means Out of Many, One (one nation created from 13 colonies). The eagle grasps an olive branch in its right talon and a bundle of thirteen arrows in its left. The olive branch and arrows are symbols for the power of peace and war.

Shield: A shield with thirteen red and white stripes covers the eagle’s breast. The shield is supported solely by the American eagle as a symbol that Americans rely on their own virtue.

The red and white stripes of the shield represent the states united under and supporting the blue, which represents the President and Congress. The color white is a symbol of purity and innocence; red represents hardiness and valor; and blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

Cloud: Above the eagle’s head is a cloud surrounding a blue field containing thirteen stars which form a constellation. The constellation denotes that a new State is taking its place among other nations.

Great Seal of the United States of America (reverse / back)

Pyramid: The seal’s reverse side contains a 13-step pyramid with the year 1776 in Roman numerals at the base.

Eye: At the top of the pyramid is the Eye of Providence with the Latin motto Annuit Coeptis in the sky above – meaning It (the Eye of Providence) is favorable to our undertakings or He favors our undertakings.

Scroll: Below the pyramid, a scroll reads Novus Ordo Seclorum – Latin for New Order of the Ages. which refers to 1776 as the beginning of the American new era.

The following portion was from Dr Judd Patton.

Face of the Great Seal – Symbolism Explained

The main feature of our national Seal is an American bald eagle with raised wings.  Here in symbolism are the three branches of government as established by the Constitution – the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The head of the eagle represents the President or executive branch; the top of the shield, called the Chief, represents the Congress; and the eagle’s tail feathers symbolize the Judiciary.  You will notice that there are nine feathers, one for each Justice of the Supreme Court.

Now go back to the shield for a moment.  The vertical lines, thirteen of them, stand for the original thirteen states.  If you could see the Great Seal in color, you would notice that the shield contains six red stripes and seven white stripes.  The Chief (top of the shield) would be blue.  According to Charles Thomson, “White signifies purity and innocence; Red, hardiness and valor; and Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.”  Of course our flag would have the same color symbolism.

Finally, notice that the eagle’s beak holds a scroll inscribed with the Latin motto, “E PLURIBUS UNUM” meaning “OUT OF MANY, ONE.”  Our nation became unified as one nation when thirteen original states signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

Next notice what is held in the eagle’s talons.  The right talon holds out an olive branch containing thirteen leaves and thirteen olives. (You need good eyes to count these olives!)  Obviously, the olive branch is a symbol for peace.  Thus the United States always desires peace rather than conflict or war as indicated by the eagle’s face being turned toward the olive branch.

In the left talon the eagle clutches a bundle of thirteen arrows.  The symbolism is again clear.  The United States will defend itself if threatened. Interestingly, in times of war, the eagle is turned to face the arrows.

Above the head of the eagle appears a crest or constellation of thirteen stars against a blue sky, surrounded by rays of light and an encircling cloud.  Clearly each star represents one of the original states – Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.  The significance of the light rays and cloud, known as a “glory” or “breaking through a cloud,” will be explained later.

Symbolism of the Great Seal’s Reverse Side

The symbolism on the backside of our official Coat of Arms is less familiar to most people, but perhaps even more significant and revealing.

Notice the unfinished pyramid. At its base are the Roman numerals MDCCLXXVI that stand for 1776.  The scroll below the pyramid contains the motto, “NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM.” Translated from the Latin it proclaims, “A NEW ORDER OF THE AGES.” Yes, on July 4, 1776 a new order was begun based on “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Now notice that the pyramid, long recognized as a symbol of strength and durability, contains thirteen layers of stone, again symbolizing the original thirteen states.  The unfinished aspect of the pyramid suggests there is room for other states to be added to the nation.  I wonder if our Founders envisioned another thirty-seven states?

At the pinnacle of the pyramid is a triangle containing a single eye surrounded by the sun’s rays known as a sunburst.  What could this possibly symbolize?  The answer is revealed in the thirteen-letter motto immediately above the eye – “ANNUIT COEPTIS.”  Translated into English, it reads: “HE (GOD) HAS FAVORED OUR UNDERTAKINGS.”  Thus the eye symbolizes that God is atop or leading our nations.  Yes, our Founders felt God had established a new order for the ages and that the Coat of Arms should reflect this most noteworthy characteristic of our nation.

Further Insights

Why did William Barton and Charles Thomson choose these symbols of the pyramid, eagle, etc? While our answer cannot be definitive, much can be surmised from the historical record.

Our Founders were strongly religious and Bible students. They, especially Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams, drew a parallel between the Israelite’s deliverance from Egyptian slavery and their own deliverance from England.  Therefore, could it be a coincidence that our national Seal contains a pyramid, foremost monument of Egypt, an eagle, golden radiance or sunburst, and a cloud?  All these symbols were integral to the Red Sea episode.

Consider the Red Sea story and Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh. The Israelites were protected by God by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day (Exodus 13:21).  Remember the scene in the movie The Ten Commandments where the pillar of  fire held back the Egyptians until the Israelites could proceed to cross the Red Sea?  The account is in Exodus 14.  Then, later God reveals that the Israelites were borne on eagle’s wings. “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself (Exodus 19:4). Eagle’s wings were a sign of divine deliverance and protection.

It seems, therefore, that our Coat of Arms revolves critically around Biblical symbols of divine protection, dependence, and favor – the eagle, and the eye with its sunburst “breaking through a cloud.”

Summary and Conclusion

So, there you have it, the plain meaning and significance of our Great Seal.  The number thirteen is “stamped” so to speak on the Seal seven times. Can you find them all?

The structure of America’s government as established by the Constitution (could Isaiah 33:22 have played a part in their thinking?) is represented by the eagle’s head, the shield on the eagle’s breast and the eagle’s tail feathers. As a nation we always prefer peace to war as revealed in the olive branch and arrows. And the eye of God surrounded by the “pillar of fire,” the thirteen stars bursting out of the cloud, the pyramid, and the eagle all symbolize a new nation led by God out of slavery to freedom.

Having just celebrated the Bicentennial, we as Americans ought to reflect on how well we as a nation represent our national Coat of Arms.  In other words, does it still apply to us?  Are we one nation under God? Do we realize that true freedom or liberty comes from God and obedience to His Law?

Our Founders studied the Bible.  Many knew that, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty”  (2 Corinthians 3:17), and that anyone who “looks into the perfect law of liberty (Ten Commandments) and continues therein…this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Moreover, many were convinced that, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12).  John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Our Founders speak to us through the Great Seal of the United States. Through this seal they commemorated coming out of bondage to establish a nation under the authority of God and obedience to His commandments, with liberty and justice for all. It’s a great vision and legacy.  Will Americans capture the vision of our Founders as symbolized in our national Coat of Arms?  This is the crucial question that faces Americans in the years ahead.