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The identification of the ancient Hebrew stones of the Breastplate with modern gems has been achieved by the following process:

1) The Hebrew names of the gems were translated into Greek by the writers of the Septuagint (referred to as the “LXX” in this study) before the time of Christ. Other ancient writings, particularly the Aramaic Targums, and post-Biblical Rabbinic literature, supply further evidence on the color and other characteristics of the gems.

2) Greek names identical to those used in the Septuagint, for the most part, were used to denote the Hebrew gems by Josephus, writing in the New Testament period, and he was in a position to see the Breastplate stones himself, as they existed in the Second Temple period, and to verify their equivalence with the Greek gemstones whose names he used.

3) Identical Greek names, for the most part, were used by John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation in the New Testament period.

4) The Roman scholar Pliny wrote in the same period as Josephus and John, and he gave detailed descriptions of these and other gems known to Greek and Roman writers of his era.

5) A thorough treatment of these ancient sources can be found in J. Braun (Braunius), Vestitus Sacerdotum Hebraeorum, 1680. In the 19th century the British scholar C. W. King used the descriptions of Pliny and other Classical writers to identify the ancient gems with their modern equivalents, based mainly on their use in ornaments and artifacts which had been discovered by archaeologists and antiquaries in the modern era, and preserved in museums, these being King’s particular field of expertise. The reference “King” in the following notes is to King’s findings and identifications in his two principal works, The Natural History of Precious Stones and of the Precious Metals, London 1867, and The Natural History of Gems or Decorative Stones, London, 1867. Please note, these identifications do not depend on King’s own conjectures regarding the Biblical Breastplate stones, as he was only secondarily interested in those, and did no detailed research on the ancient sources which allow them to be correctly identified. Rather, King’s extensive knowledge of the Classical and medieval sources has been principally drawn on, in order to identify the stones under their Classical and medieval names with modern gems. Then the stones under their Classical and medieval names have been equated with the Hebrew gemstones by the process outlined above.

Hebrew Name : Odem.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: Red-Earth-Colored or Flesh-Colored Stone. The letters of the Hebrew name are the same from which is formed the name Adam, and Adam was so called because his flesh was formed by God out of the red earth.

Targum Name: Samkan, Simmuktha, Samketha, Ahmar.

Meaning of Targum Name: Red Stone. From “smek” to be red, as of meat, or of someone under the influence of wine, and “hamar”, to be red, be hot, to ferment, boil up.

Greek Names in Old Testament (LXX): Sardion. (Josephus: 1. Sardion [BJ 5. 234] 2. Sardonyx. [AJ 3. 168])

Greek Name in New Testament: Sardios.

Meaning of Greek Name: Fuller’s-Earth-Colored Stone. Latin “Sarda” Greek “Sardes” was a kind of fuller’s earth found in Sardinia (probably identical to the Hebrew “Sered” which Kimhi translates “red chalk”). Evidently the stone was the same ruddy color as this earth. (Josephus’ second name, Sardonyx, represents just another type of Sard, see under Pitdah.)

Latin Vulgate Name: Sardius.

KJV Name: OT and NT: Sardius.

Modern Name: Carnelian. (Sardios = Carnelian King.) Sard is a borrowing from the Latin and Greek name, and Carnelian is a borrowing from another Latin name for the same gem, the “flesh-colored stone”, from the Latin carnis, “flesh”. A red variety of fibrous cryptocrystalline quartz, which is called in modern terminology “chalcedony.” All the stones in the Breastplate are forms or compounds of quartz or silica (SiO2). The name quartz comes from the Anglo-Saxon word querklufterz which means “cross vein ore.” It represents the precious blood of Jesus the Messiah, by which His Gemstones, meaning, the Twelve Patriarchs, the sons of Israel and founders of the Twelve Tribes, along with the Twelve Apostles, who Jesus promised were to reign, each one over a Tribe of Israel in the Age To Come, were redeemed on the Cross of Calvary. Carnelian, therefore, represents the Incarnation, the taking on by the Messiah of the image of blood-red flesh in order to save Adam’s fallen race. The New Testament describes Jesus as the Express Image of the Person of God. The word “image” here denotes the likeness of a king or other prominent person as embossed on a seal-ring. The blood-red carnelian was one of the most popular gemstones for such seal-rings in the age of the Apostles.

Hebrew Name : Pitdah.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: Prize. The Hebrew name comes from the root p-d (see on this root Gesenius, Lexicon, s.v. Bdd), meaning to seize as of prey or a prize by an animal, to spoil, to rend, to take, take back, redeem etc.

Targum Name: Yarkan, Yarketha, Akik.

Meaning of Targum Name: Tawny Colored Stone. The color indicated by the root meaning of the name is something between pale, green, yellow, tawny, and waxy. It is used to describe the color of gold and bronze (yellow, tawny) and also to describe the paleness of an afflicted face, and of wax, as well as the greenness of herbs. Epiphanius says it was a layered stone, and the lower layer was “eruthros” (Greek) beyond the ruby, the word eruthros denoting variously the color of nectar, wine, blood, copper, and gold. The gem’s reddish element, therefore, tended to a more radiant, golden, or orange shade than the deep red ruby. The same is implied by the Targumic name Akik, which is Arabic for a gem of a reddish hue, obtained in the form of a pebble from a “stream” (akik, hence the name).

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Topazion. (Josephus: Topazos.) Greek Name in New Testament: Sardonyx.

Meaning of Greek Names: 1) Topazion, Topaz, is supposed to be a borrowing from the Hebrew: the Hebrew letters ptd (with the ending -h) becoming tpd, with p and t transposed, then tpz, d interchanging with z. tpz in Aramaic means to “leap at,” literally to “crouch and spring,” and similarly the Greek topazo means to “aim at.” According to Pliny the name topazion was of Middle-Eastern origin and meant something prized or to be sought out (leaped, or aimed, at). 2) Sardonyx = Fuller’s-Earth-and-Bone-Colored-Stone. The first part of the name is “sard”, the red-earth or flesh colored stone (equivalent to the Hebrew Odem), and the second part of the name is the Greek “onyx” meaning nail, claw or bone or a stone of that texture and color. The dual meaning represents the same idea as the stone’s Hebrew name Pitdah, the “prize” of an animal, the flesh rent by a claw. This was a layered stone, a red (“sard”), overlaid by a creamy, or preferably, honey-colored, layer (“onyx”), the latter variously described as “golden, green, yellow” etc. The color of a Sardonyx was anciently compared to that of the flesh under a finger-nail. Sardonyx was one of the many types of onyx, which featured layers of different colors, or were variously patterned. Onyx was also called Alabastron or Alabastrites. Alabastron means “Something not taken in the hand,” which looks like a translation of the ancient name: “something leaped, or aimed, at (but not yet taken).” The ancient Topaz, — a different gem from the modern one so called, — was a variety of Alabastron (Onyx), according to Epiphanius. The name denoted originally a stone with two layers: the inner or central layer was red (eruthros), and the top layer passed it off to its purchasers immediately following its discovery as “Alabastron” (Onyx) — in other words, and in the terminology of the Roman Imperial period, it was a Sardonyx, i.e. “the sardian, or red, onyx,” red overlaid with a honey-colored layer. Hence Pitdah is called Topazion in the LXX, — its earlier and original Greek name, — but in the Apocalypse of Roman Imperial times the same gem is called Sardonyx. In this later period the name Topazion or Topazos had come to denote, in a more general way, gems of a golden honey color, green or yellow, including Peridot and Chrysolite. Therefore the Yashpheh (see below), a yellow, patterned, Onyx, is called Topazion in the Apocalypse.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Topazius; NT: Sardonyx.

KJV Names: OT: Topaz; NT: Sardonyx.

Modern Name: Sardonyx. (Sardonyx = Sardonyx King.) Sardonyx is a borrowing from the Greek name. It is a variety of fibrous cryptocrystalline quartz, the same chemically as sard but with white or creamy shades, streaks, or bands. The mixture of bone and flesh symbolized by the onyx and the sard in the sardonyx speaks of the Redeemed Bride, the “Prize” of the Lion of Judah, which yet is “of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5. 30). Christians must die, like the prey of the lion, to their past sinful life, and be born again, baptized by the Spirit into the flesh and bone of the Messiah’s Body, before they can be of use to Him. When first discovered in “India” (meaning Cush, Ethiopia, according to Epiphanius), this stone was sold to someone in the Egyptian capital of Thebes, and was subsequently worn by the Queen of Egypt on her crown. It is, therefore, in type, the jewel of the Egyptian Bride-Queen of the Son of David (Solomon), and of the Gentile Church-Bride of Jesus the Messiah, the greater Son of David.

Hebrew Name : Bareket.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: Sparkling like Lightning, or Morning Star. The Hebrew word from which this name is formed refers usually to a flash of light from the sky, of lightning or a thunderbolt, and secondarily to the glittering of metal or of a gemstone. The allusion in the Hebrew name to lightning and glittering light suggests the stone was seen as being more of a bright golden tint than green, as the Rabbinic sage Kimchi pointed out. This is confirmed by the Targumic name Barkan Zepran, see below.

Targum Name: Barkan, Barkatha, Barkan Zepran.

Meaning of Targum Name: Same as the Hebrew, and Zepran = “saphron, yellow” (Jastrow, Talmudic Dictionary, s.v. prn), hence “Yellow Bareket.”

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Smaragdos. (Josephus: Smaragdos.) Greek Name in New Testament: Smaragdos.

Meaning of Greek Name: Thunderbolt Stone. Smaragdos or Maragdos is a borrowing (with exchange of m for b, g for k and d for t, and the addition of an optional initial s) from the Hebrew bareket. The Greek marage or smarage, like the Hebrew barak, means thunder(bolt).

Latin Vulgate Name: OT and NT: Zmaragdus.

KJV Names: OT: Carbuncle; NT: Emerald.

Modern Name: Chrysoberyl. (Smaragdos = Chrysoberyl King.) Literally the name means “Golden Beryl.” When polished it can be mistaken for a yellow diamond. It is a yellow variety of the stone called in earlier ages Emerald (the latter a borrowing through the French esmeraud from smaragdos). Emerald in modern usage denotes a brilliant green gem, the mineral beryl, but the color of the ancient Smaragdos could vary through the spectrum of yellow and green. Chrysoberyl is a beryllium aluminum oxide, not related to the mineral beryl (which is a silicate). It contains the rare element beryllium. According to the Rabbinic Commentary on Numbers, Bemidbar Rabbah, the color of the stone (and the tribal flag corresponding to it) was a third part red, a third white and a third, literally, “dark” (shahor, describing a deepening or intensification of the original color, as if by charring, therefore dark green/blue/red, or deep purple, or, black). One set of sources points to a golden yellow color, another to a mixture of red, white and purple. This might lead one to suppose a contradiction in the sources, but in fact, they are in harmony, as this stone experiences what is known as the “Alexandrite effect,” whereby it appears precisely red and dark purple, with flashes of white, in incandescent light, as opposed to its normal radiant golden yellow or amber shade in daylight. This is because incandescent light lacks the greenish blue wavelengths of natural daylight. Bemidbar Rabbah assigns the Birthstone to Levi, whose tribe was that of the High Priest himself, and it was he who wore the Breastplate with its scintillating gems in the sanctuary, lit by the seven-branched lamp-stand, or Menorah. In daylight the gem would appear golden yellow, in the enclosed sanctuary, in the light of the Menorah, red, white and dark purple. Any substance which appears to the naked eye to be red, white, and dark purple, appears to be so, precisely because the light in the greenish blue area of the spectrum has either been absorbed by it, or, as in the case of incandescent light, is absent. When white light falls on a substance, and the green range, out of the full range of white light, is absorbed by it, the color that results, and is visible to the naked eye, is red; when yellow light is absorbed, the color that results is dark purple; and when no relevant light is absorbed, the color that results is white. In this case the greenish blue light was absent in the incandescent light of the Menorah, and therefore the gem gleamed a stormy red and dark purple with flashes of white in that light. Appropriately, it was called the “Lightning Stone,” Hebrew Bareket. Amber (greenish-yellow) is the color of the Light of God (Ezekiel 1. 4, 27, 8. 2). Thus the color-change in the gemstone of Levi indicated that when the original Light of God was absent, viz. in the artificial light of the Menorah, representing the temporary dispensation of the symbolic Law of Moses, stormy Divine judgment resulted. The particular form of Chrysoberyl called Alexandrite (whence the designation “Alexandrite” effect) also shows in daylight a “light wave” effect, which has been thought to have led to its being called in Pliny the “Lightning” stone (Ceraunius) or the “Star” stone (Asteria). These two names correspond precisely to the two meanings of the Hebrew name Bareket, “Lightning” and “Morning Star.” Symmachus actually renders the Hebrew Bareket as Keraunios (Ceraunius). The gem represents Christ as the Morning Star, transitioning from Night to Day. He was Himself the Law in physical form (the gem at night-time, in incandescent light), but took upon Himself the judgment of the Law, and died to the Law on the Cross, in order to bring us Life and Light through the resurrection (the gem in daylight sunshine), according to the Morning Star message of the Apostle Paul.

Hebrew Name : Nophek.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: Stibium-like Ornamental Stone. The Hebrew root from which this word is formed produces also the Hebrew word puk meaning 1) sea-weed or the pigment of sea-weed and 2) stibium, antimony or kohl. Stibium was a dark eyeliner applied by women to the eyes both as a protective layer around, and as a beautification of, the eyes. “Stones of puk” are said to have been put into the Temple in Jerusalem and may be presumed to have had an ornamental or beautifying function such as stibium had for the eyes. The other meaning “pigment of sea-weed” for puk suggests a green color for the gemstone Nophek, whose name is derived from the same root. The eyeliner known as puk had a dark green form as well as an almost black form. This is confirmed by the New Testament Greek name (see below).

Targum Names: Izmargadin, Izmorad, Kadkedana, Kohal.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Izmargadin etc.: a borrowing from the Greek Smaragdos 2) Kadkedana: related to the Greek Chalcedon or Charchedon, though it makes sense in Hebrew and Aramaic, and is, therefore, not simply a transcription of the Greek: Kadkod in Biblical Hebrew is Kadkodin or Kadkedana in the Aramaic of the Targums, from the root k-d-d, to pound, strike fire, this a reduplicated form, conveying the sense “repeated strikings for fire.” 3) Kohal = kohl, literally “coal, ember, charcoal”.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Anthrax. (Josephus: Anthrax.) Greek Name in New Testament: Chalcedon (some texts: Carchedon and Anthrax).

Meaning of Greek Names: 1) Anthrax (Latin Carbunculus) means a burning coal or charcoal (like Aramaic Kohal). 2) Chalcedon. The name Anthrax (Carbunculus) is a translation of the Hebrew Kadkod, Aramaic Khohal, “Coal, Ember.” The word “Coal” originally signified the charcoal-like substance or color of the eyeliner, stibium, antimony, but in the Classical world, where the eyeliner was not in common use, it conveyed the impression rather of a dark red ember, so Anthrax (Carbunculus) came to denote a dark red gem, particularly the Ruby. The Nophek, accordingly, has been wrongly thought to be a ruby or garnet. Several different red gemstones were included in the antique designation “Ruby,” including Spinel, and Almandine Garnet. Modern mineralogists differentiate between Spinel and the true Ruby, but even as late as the nineteenth century, the terms were used interchangeably. Both are almost pure corundum (alumina). Garnet is of a different chemical composition, but can be difficult to distinguish from the other two with the naked eye. The name Spinel comes from the Greek word spinos or spinther, meaning “spark,” and is therefore the precise modern equivalent of the ancient name Kadkedana or Chalchedon/Carchedon. The Anthrax of the LXX (translating Nophek) was exchanged for Chalcedon in the New Testament, doubtless because retention of the LXX’s Anthrax in the Roman Imperial period would give the false impression that the gem was red, not green. Chalcedon was a green Spinel. Chalcedon is the form in the Received Text and Calcedonius is the Vulgate’s Latin translation. Other texts of the Apocalypse read Carchedon or substitute Anthrax, or remark that Carchedon is also called Anthrax. The Chalcedonius (also spelled Carchedonius) is one of the twelve types of emerald (Smaragdus) described by Pliny in his Natural History which was found near the Asian (Turkish) town of Chalcedon. It is said to have been of a dark green hue like the feathers in the tail of a peacock. These not only are of a dark green color, but are also located around eye-like patterns (compare the root meaning of the Hebrew name and its connection with eyeliner). Probably the Greek topographical name Chalcedon (Kalkhedon but also Khalkhedon) was derived from a Semitic form like the Aramaic Kadkedana, on account of the abundance of the mineral in that locality. The Semitic d is sometimes exchanged for l and r. Kadkedana would thus become Kalkedana or Karkedana and Greek Kalkhedon, or Karkhedon. The equivalent Hebrew word Kadkod is rendered “Karkhedonion” by Symmachus in Isaiah 54. 12. The particular gems from the Asian Chalcedon were not of the finest quality. Elsewhere Pliny describes this stone as a Iaspis (which is different from the modern “Jasper”), of a turbid hue. The Iaspis of the ancients, as a general term, denotes a green translucent gemstone. (An exception was the most precious variety of Iaspis, see under Yahalom, which was a translucent purple.) Pliny notes particularly that certain specimens of the stone had a flesh-colored mark in them, corresponding to the variety of Chalcedony known nowadays as Bloodstone. In folklore the mark is supposed to represent the Blood of Christ. The green emerald color represents the Light of God (the Divine Nature in Christ), and the red, the humanity (the Human Nature in Christ). The Creed of Chalcedon, composed in the early Christian centuries at the town of that name in Asia, claimed to define the two natures in Christ, but, like the gems mined there, was of an inferior quality. The stone in Rev. 4. 3, which is described as being similar in appearance to an “Iaspis and having Sardios-like elements,” with a “Smaragdos-like” irridescence, appears to be the highest-quality Chalcedonian Bloodstone, the Iaspis being the dark green translucent alumina, mixed, as it was in the Bloodstone, with “Sard-like”, i.e. fiery red, flesh-colored, or blood-like, elements, the gem in whole being a type of Smaragdos. The reference is also to the first and last of the twelve sons of Israel, as Reuben’s Birthstone (carnal nature) was a Sardios, the first in the Old Testament (carnal) order, and Benjamin’s stone in the Camp Order (spiritual nature) was a Garnet (Hebrew Achlamah, Greek Amethystos, infra), the last in the New Testament (spiritual) order, Rev. 21. 19-20, the Garnet in antiquity being also termed a Carbunculus, and not distinguished from the Anthrax (Carbunculus) which featured amongst its varieties the Chalcedonian Iaspis. Likewise, Benjamin’s Birthstone (carnal nature) was a type of Sardios (Sardonyx = Topazion = Yashpheh), and Reuben’s stone in the Camp Order (spiritual nature) was a Iaspis (Nophek = Chalcedon = Iaspis). Hence both Reuben and Benjamin are represented, as respects their carnal standing, by the Sardine element in this combined stone, which is the red, opaque (fleshly) element, and, as respects their spiritual standing, by the Iaspis, the emerald, translucent (spiritual) element.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Carbunculus; NT: Calcedonius.

KJV Names: OT: Emerald; NT: Chalcedony.

Modern Name: Spinel. (Chalcedonius, Carchedon, Anthrax, Carbunculus = Spinel King.) The Nophek was of an olive-green hue. The particular variety known as Chalcedon/Carchedon was called Lychnis (“Lamp,” the same Greek word used for the Menorah in the Apocalypse, Chapter 1), because it was believed to flash fiery sparks in the dark. It is a curious fact that Spinel is phosphorescent in ultra-violet light. It is formed naturally in octahedral crystals, with six angles, like two pyramids united at their bases. “Sapphire” is the popular name given to blue translucent corundum (alumina), “Oriental Topaz” to yellow, “Ruby” to red, and “Oriental Emerald” to the very rare green variety. Spinel has a tendency to show gradations from one color to another, in the case under consideration here, from green to blood-red, which is a type referred to by the medieval Arabian writer Ben Mansur in his description of the Laal (Spinel). In modern terminology “Emerald” means dark green beryl, and “Oriental Emerald” green translucent corundum. Pure corundum is only surpassed in hardness by the diamond. The ancient term Adamas, commonly translated “diamond,” referred originally to corundum, and was only applied to what we know as diamond, when the latter became a more common commodity in the west, around the turn of the Christian era.

Hebrew Name : Sappir.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Brightened Stone. The Hebrew name comes from the word saphar, lit. to scratch or scrape, then to polish, to be made radiant or beautiful (whence this meaning is adduced), and also to inscribe, to write.

Targum Names: Shabzez, Sappirinon, Simporyana.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Shabzez, or Shabziza is probably a deformation of the Hebrew sappir or of the same name as passed down into some foreign language; 2) Sappirinon, Simporyana is the same as the Hebrew sappir and the Greek sappheiros.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Sappheiros. (Josephus: Sappheiros.) Greek Name in New Testament: Sappheiros.

Meaning of Greek Name: The Greek name is a direct borrowing from the Hebrew. The name has passed over from Greek and Latin into English as “sapphire”, but the Greek sappheiros and the Hebrew sappir were not the modern sapphire but the very different Lapis Lazuli. Lapis Lazuli is more strikingly and intensely blue-colored even than the sapphire, and is often flecked with little patches of gold. This marking or flecking with bright patches is perhaps what is referred to in its Hebrew name. Its rich sky-blue color, and its golden flecks, symbolize the starry heavens, and represent the heavenly origin of the Son of God. The root meaning of its Hebrew name, to “inscribe, write”, reflects the fact that the names of God’s saints are for ever written in heaven.

Latin Vulgate Name: OT: NT: Sapphyrus.

KJV Name: OT and NT: Sapphire.

Modern Name: Lapis Lazuli. (Sappheiros = Lapis Lazuli King.) The name Lapis Lazuli comes from the Persian word lazhward meaning blue, in allusion to its color. Lapis Lazuli has been highly valued for many thousands of years. The most famous locality for fine quality Lapis Lazuli is the same ancient deposit high in the mountains of Afghanistan where it was originally mined at least 6000 years ago. It usually occurs in crystalline limestones as a result of contact metamorphism and is characteristically recognized by its color. Lapis Lazuli is sulphato-silicate of sodium and aluminum.

Hebrew Name : Yahalom.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Striking Stone. The Hebrew name comes from the word halam, lit. to strike, hammer, fix, attach, plaster, be close or friendly, be viscous, dreamy. It is used, amongst other things, of being “smitten” with wine. It connotes the dreamy appearance of the gem and also its fragibility, which is only of a hardness of 7. It can be smitten and broken relatively easily.

Targum Names: Sabhalom or Sibhalom, Kadkodin, Eyn-igla.

Meaning of Targum Names: Same as the Hebrew Yahalom. For Kadkodin see under Nophek and for Eyn-Igla under Achlamah.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Iaspis. (Josephus: Iaspis.) Greek Name in New Testament: Iaspis.

Meaning of Greek Name: All the ancient versions give the Greek name Iaspis (Jasper) to the Hebrew Yahalom when referring to the Breastplate stone. Commonly the Greek Iaspis was green, but the most precious variety (as one would expect to find in the Breastplate) was purple, according to Pliny. Pliny’s description of the purple Iaspis shows it was the purple quartz crystal known today as Amethyst. The Targumic name Kadkodin is treated under Nophek, where it will be seen that the Kadkodin, like this gem, is referred to also as a “Iaspis” (“Jasper”). The Targumic name “Eye of a Calf” connotes the same affable, or dreamy, quality as the Hebrew name. According to the Rabbinic Commentary on Numbers, the gem looked like the moon, which is a good description of its tendency to fade from purple (the purplish gray color of the non-illuminated portions of the moon) into gleaming white. The stone symbolizes the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus as the Comforter on those who believe truly in His life-giving sacrifice, affecting Its recipients like wine, flooding their spirit with streams of joy, energizing them with visions, dreams, revelations, and supernatural gifts, calming fears, washing away the stains of sin, and bubbling up within them unto everlasting life.

Latin Vulgate Name: OT and NT: Iaspis.

KJV Names: OT: Diamond; NT: Jasper.

Modern Name: Amethyst. (Iaspis of the precious purple hue = modern Amethyst King.) A translucent quartz crystal of a purple shade, Pliny’s Jasper (Iaspis) from Phrygia and Cappadocia. Note: Pliny’s Jasper has a wider application than the modern gem so called. The modern Jasper is a variety of the mineral Quartz (SiO2). Quartz (silica) is the most abundant single mineral on earth. It makes up about 12% of the earth’s crust, occurring in a wide variety of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. Quartz varieties are commonly separated into two groups based on the size of the individual grains or crystals; macrocrystalline quartz, in which individual crystals are distinguishable with the naked eye, and cryptocrystalline quartz in which the individual crystals are too small to be easily distinguishable under the light microscope. The cryptocrystalline varieties of quartz may be separated into two types; fibrous and microgranular. The modern Jasper is a variety of chert, which is the general term applied to granular cryptocrystalline quartz varieties. It is usually opaque. The ancient Jasper, Iaspis, by contrast, was translucent. Iaspis usually denoted a green gem, and the purple, most precious variety, was an exception.

Hebrew Name : Leshem.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Crushing Stone. The name is derived from the root l-w-sh, meaning to knead, crush, amongst other things of prey in the mouth of a beast, hence a variant form is Laish (same meaning), which also means lion (from its power to crush its prey).

Targum Names: Kankeri, Kankirinon, Zozin, Birela.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Kankeri and Kankirinon appear to be transcriptions of the Greek kenchrê = kenchros, and kenchrinon, meaning millet, a small-seeded cereal grass, and anything in small grains, particularly a small jewel, so named because of its millet-like appearance. 2) Zozin is from the root z-w-z = glitter, gleam, shake, move about.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Ligourion. (Josephus: 1. Ligourion [BJ 5. 234], 2. Ligouros [AJ 3. 168].)

Greek Name in New Testament: Chrysoprasos.

Meaning of Greek Names: 1) Ligourion means the “Ligurian Stone,” Liguria being a country in the Celtic realms of the South of France. There was a gem called Lygkourion which is thought to be identical with this, and the first element in that stone name is the Greek word for lynx, a large wild cat which could be classified as a layish (“lion”) in Biblical Hebrew and whose name seems, in fact, to be simply a transcription from the Hebrew word. “Lynx” was also a name given to a tree whose sap (“ouros”) exuded to form amber, which was imported into the Classical world from “Liguria,” the “Amber Land.” Thus Lygkourion means an “amber-colored” stone. 2) Chrysoprasos means “The Gold-leek-green Stone” and is descriptive likewise of its color. Pliny describes it as the third type of Beryllos (Beryl) of a leek-like green color, varying between that of Topaz (green or yellow) and gold. The Targum on the Song of Solomon similarly gives Birela (Beryl) as the equivalent of the Hebrew Leshem. The Targumic names Kankeri and Kankirinon (Greek kenchrê, kenchrinon) connote an appearance as of grains of grass (millet), reminiscent of Pliny’s “leek-green” analogy. The stone symbolizes the firmness of divine judgment, lion-like in its ferocity and power. All judgment has been committed to the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Ligyrius; NT: Chrysoprasus.

KJV Names: OT: Ligure; NT: Chrysoprasus.

Modern Name: Jacinth (Zircon). (Lygkourion = Jacinth King.) Jacinth resists weathering better than any other gem, and hence is well termed “the crushing stone”. The Lyngkourion or Jacinth was the Arabian Chrysolithos (King), one variety of which, according to Epiphanius, was the Chrysopastos or “gold-spotted,” the latter, in turn, being treated as a form of Chrysoprasius (= Chrysoprasos) in Marbodus. This Chrysoprasius was purple (or, dark blue) with golden spots. The pattern and color are confirmed by the assertion in Bemidbar Rabbah that the Leshem was “like Lapis Lazuli,” as Lapis Lazuli is dark blue with golden flecks.

Hebrew Name : Shevo.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Seized Prize. The Hebrew word shavah from which this name seems to be derived means to take into captivity, to seize as spoil of war.

Targum Names: Tarkeya, Arekin, Beyrulin.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Tarkeya probably means “Turkish”, that is the “Turkish stone”, turquois, or a gem of a similar consistency and blue shade. Arekin may be a transcription of the gem’s Greek name hyakinthos, likewise a blue stone. 2) On Beyrulin see under Shoham (beyrulin = Gk. Beryllion, beryl).

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Achates. (Josephus: Achates.) Greek Name in New Testament: Hyakinthos.

Meaning of Greek Names: 1) Achates is the name of a river where this stone was found; it means in Greek “No Lack”, and was a by-word for a “faithful friend”, but it has been more credibly derived from the Hebrew akad, meaning “to be banded, striped, bound.” The Rabbinic commentary on Numbers, Bemidbar Rabbah, shows the color was dark blue banded with white. 2) Hyakinthos was the name of a blue (or purple) flower with a white area, bearing on it the letters AI or YI, which mean “Woe!” in ancient Hebrew (ay or hoy). Hyakinthos is the “Woe flower.” Hence the name came to be used of stones found in river-beds of a similar color to the flower. This gem is precisely dark blue with a white band. The Hebrew verb akad believed to underlie the Greek name of the gem, Achates, is used of the “binding” of Isaac to the altar by Abraham, which is a type of the “binding” of Jesus to the Cross. This complements the allusion to the cry of mourning, “Woe”, in the alternative name of the gem, Hyakinthos. The gemstone represents the vicarious suffering of Calvary. Righteousness (the white band in the stone) was imparted to sinners through the binding of the Savior to the Cross, and the cleansing by the Water of the Word (blue ground) of the Gospel, typed by the water that gushed from His pierced side.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Achates; NT: Hyacinthus.

KJV Names: OT: Agate; NT: Jacinth.

Modern Name: Agate. (Agate striped dark blue and white King.) This particular variety, shading off around the edges into a gleaming white, was called Perileukos (“Surrounded by White,” according to Epiphanius). He states this was also considered a type of Hyakinthos, confirming the correctness of the equivalence of the New Testament Hyakinthos and the LXX’s Achates. Epiphanius’ description of the Perileukos combines the three known characteristics of this stone: 1) that it was an Agate (Achates), as in the LXX; 2) that it was a variety of Hyakinthos, as in the Apocalypse; 3) that it was striped dark blue and white, as in Bemidbar Rabbah.

Hebrew Name : Achlamah.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Hebrew name comes from the root ch-l-m, which is an intensification of the root h-l-m of Yahalom, supra, lit. to strike, hammer, fix, attach, plaster, be close or friendly, be viscous, dreamy. This is a purple-colored stone, but is of a much deeper violet hue than the Yahalom, sparkling, translucent, and with a fiery red inner glow. The intensification in the color parallels the intensification in the pronunciation of the root of the name.

Targum Names: Eyn-igla, Eyn-egla, Eyn-egel, Zemargedin.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Eye of a Calf (Eyn-igla, Eyn-egla, Eyn-egel); 2) Zemargedin: a transcription of the Greek Smaragdos.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Amethystos. (Josephus: Amethystos.) Greek Name in New Testament: Amethystos.

Meaning of Greek Name: The (Un)intoxicated Stone. The Greek name is formed of two elements: 1. a-, which means either “very, truly” or, contrariwise, “not” or “un-” (like the “un-” in “unreal”, “unreliable” etc.) and 2. methystos, “drunken, intoxicated”. The name might mean, therefore, “Very drunken”, or, “Not drunken”. It was believed in popular superstition to prevent drunkenness (the initial a- interpreted in the second sense). Its wine-like color, its association with youthful desire (infra), and its ambiguous name, suggest it connoted spiritual or emotional intoxication, equivalent, or, as opposed, to literal, that is, alcoholic, intoxication. The stone symbolizes the deepest, abiding, presence of the Holy Spirit, stimulating the sanctified soul with the revelation of Jesus, to a state of Perfect Divine Love (see infra on the name Paederos).

Latin Vulgate Name: OT and NT: Amethistus.

KJV Name: OT and NT: Amethyst.

Modern Name: Almandine Garnet. (Amethystos [Paederos] = Almandine Garnet King.). The hue of this type of Amethystos was the most admired in Classical times, and the gem was known as the Paederos, “Youthful Desire.” The Garnet was classed as a Carbunculus (literally, a “burning coal”, usually a Ruby or Spinel) in ancient times, the fiery flashes of which, especially in the green and yellow varieties, gave rise to the Greek name Smaragdos (from Bareket, “lightning”, see under Bareket). Hence, presumably, the Targumic name Zemargedin for this gem.

Hebrew Name : Tarshish.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: Tarshish is Tartessus, Spain, and the place-name means “Dashing or Subjection” from the root r-sh-sh, crush, oppress, subdue, dash against. In the name of the gem, the reference seems to be to the color of waves dashing against the shore (cp. The Targumic name), and action of the waves sweeping up against the coast may similarly explain the name of the country. In the Song of Solomon 5. 14, the Tarshish stone is said to be set beautifully with gold, and this confirms its identification with the Greek Chrysolithos, which had the same characteristic.

Targum Names: Kerum-yama, Kerum-yama-rabba.

Meaning of Targum Names: Kerum means “color” (particularly yellow or green) and Yama means “Sea” (with Rabba, “great”, the “Great Sea”, or Mediterranean). The name in full means “The Gem Colored Golden Green like the Sea.”

Greek Names in Old Testament (LXX): Chrysolithos. (Josephus: Chrysolithos.) Elsewhere in LXX: Anthrax.

Greek Name in New Testament: Chrysolithos.

Meaning of Greek Name: The Gold Stone. This name likely reflects the use to which the stone was put, according to Pliny, namely as a complement to gold, set beside which it made the metallic gold look silver. It was transparent and refulgent like gold. The stone symbolizes the rushing power of the waves of God’s Spirit in revival, sweeping away all that opposes Him, and exalting the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Chrysolitus, Hyacinthus, Mare (“Sea”, cp. Yama, “Sea”, in the Targumic names); NT: Chrysolithus.

KJV Names: OT: Beryl; NT: Chrysolyte.

Modern Name: Golden Sapphire. (Chrysolithos = Yellow or Golden-colored Sapphire — King.) This is Corundum (“Sapphire”) of a golden yellow hue. The Greek translation Anthrax (meaning red or, as in this case, greenish, Corundum), the Targumic and Vulgate references to “Sea” and the Vulgate translation Hyacinthus (a blue stone), all point to this stone’s being a translucent sea-color. There were two varieties, one of a golden yellow hue, as indicated in this instance by the translation Chrysolithos, and also a watery-blue form, that is, blue Corundum, the Hyacinthus, or modern Sapphire, commonly so called.

Hebrew Name : Shoham.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Dark Stone. The name derives most probably from the biconsonantal root h-m, meaning “to be hot, or, dark.” This stone was of great significance as it was also used on the shoulders of the High Priest’s Breastplate. Two Shoham stones, placed one on each shoulder, bore the names of the twelve sons of Israel, the patriarchs of the tribes, six on each stone “for the names of the sons of Israel” and “according to their births”. (By contrast, the twelve stones of the Breastplate were “for the names of the sons of Israel” only.)

Targum Name: Burela, Birleyvath-chala, Bedulcha.

Meaning of Targum Names: 1) Burela (otherwise Birela), as well as Birleyvath- (otherwise Burelath-) is identical to the Greek beryllos, “beryl”, and chala means “jewelry.” 2) Bedulcha means “crystal”.

Greek Names in Old Testament (LXX): Beryllion. Elsewhere in LXX: Prasinos, Sardion, Smaragdos, Soom [transcription of Heb.] Onyx. (Josephus: Beryllos, elsewhere: Sardonyx.)

Greek Name in New Testament: Beryllos.

Meaning of Greek Name: Beryl. The other Targumic variant Bedulcha = Hebrew Bedolach, translated in the Greek LXX as anthrax (either a fiery red ruby, or a green smaragdos-type stone, the Nophek also being translated anthrax, see under that stone name), or krystallos, crystal. The Greek beryllos is probably derived from the Hebrew bedolach, d and r being interchangeable in that language, bedolach > berolach > beryllos. The Greek Beryllos was similarly a type of Smaragdos, of a sea-green color. The manna is described as being like the color of the Bedolach stone. According to Pliny the best type of Beryllos was from India and was of a sea-green color. It occurs naturally in a cylindrical hexagonal (six -sided) form, such that the name of each Tribe could be inscribed on one of the six sides of the cylinder, on either shoulder of the High Priest. The stone symbolizes the depths of God’s Love towards the Gentiles, in uniting them with His chosen nation Israel in the one Bride body of the Messiah. Hence there were two Shoham stones on the shoulders of the High Priest. The name Shoham speaks of the land of Ham, Egypt, representing the non-Jewish nations amongst whom the Israelites sojourned when they were in exile from the Promised Land, typing the Christian dispensation of the last two thousand years, during the time of Israel’s blindness.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Onychinus, Onyx, Lapis Sardonychus; NT: Beryllus.

KJV Names: OT: Onyx; NT: Beryl.

Modern Name: Emerald. (Beryllos = Beryl/Emerald King.) Beryl is a beautiful gem of a sea-green hue (chemical composition Be3Al2Si6O18 of the class cyclosilicates). It is a relatively common mineral although it does contain the rare element beryllium. Another of its varieties is the intense green (modern) Emerald. The reference in the gem’s Hebrew name and the emphasis on the darkness of its hue in Bemidbar Rabbah, along with the greenness referred to in the Greek names Prasinos and Smaragdos, indicate it was the dark-green Emerald, rather than some other, variously-colored, variety of Beryl. Beryl is found in a clear or honey-colored form, corresponding to the Greek Onyx (which is sometimes used to translate the Hebrew name Shoham), and in a pink or reddish form, corresponding to the Greek Sardonyx (also used to translate Shoham). These other Greek names are not used of the stone as it appeared in the Breastplate, the latter being translated Beryllion (LXX) and Beryllos (Apocalypse), the most prized variety of which was green.

Hebrew Name : Yashpheh.

Meaning of Hebrew Name: The Smooth or Slippery Stone. The name is derived from the root sh-ph-h which means to smooth, purge away defects, scrape off, etc. It is thought to have been taken over into Greek in the form Iaspis (Jasper), though Iaspis amongst the Greeks and Romans came to denote a translucent crystal, different from the Yashpheh of the Breastplate.

Targum Names: Panteyri, Panteyrey, Margenith Appanturin, Margalitha.

Meaning of Targum Names: Margenith, Margalitha, mean “jewel” (sometimes, more specifically “pearl” — a borrowing from the Greek margaritês, pearl) and Panteyri, Panteyrey and Appanturin are derivatives of panteyr, “panther, leopard”, so this gem is the “leopard jewel” or “panther stone” — a reference to its tawny color and its markings like the spots on a panther’s pelt. Spotted fish were termed “panther fish”, and the smooth, slippery, panther stone might easily be mistaken for a spotted fish under water on a river-bed.

Greek Name in Old Testament (LXX): Onychion. (Josephus: Onyx.) Greek Name in New Testament: Topazion.

Meaning of Greek Names: 1) Topazion is thought to be borrowed from the Hebrew Pitdah meaning “Prized or Sought Out” (see under the stone name Pitdah). 2) Onychion (Onyx) means “Having the quality of nail or bone.” The ancient Topazion was not the same as the modern Topaz, as it could be filed: the latter would have been classed by the ancients a variety of Smaragdos or Chrysolithos. The ancient Topaz’s semi-translucent, bone-like, constituency is illustrated by the fact that its name alternates variously with the Greek Onychion, Onyx (above) and Sard-onyx (see under the stone name Pitdah), which all contain the onyx (bone, nail) element. A large statue of Queen Arsinoe made of Topaz indicates yellow or green Agate was included under that designation already in Hellenistic times, as Peridot and chrysolite, which were also termed Topaz, do not occur in massive formations. The name Topazion, and the corresponding Onychion (or Alabastron) came to denote a range of different honey-colored gems. In this case, the Targumic name Appanturin, the “Panther” jewel, and the description in Bemidbar Rabbah, identifies this particular Topazion or Onychion as the ancient Pantheros, or Leonina, latterly known as Brocatella Agate, which has a yellow or tawny base, marked with spots like those on a panther’s pelt, of various colors. The stone symbolizes the sure-sightedness of God in watching over His Word to perform It, panther-like in His persistence, perseverance, and determination. The aim is steadfast and unwavering, the fulfillment as sudden as the pounce of the predator on his prey, as instantaneous and untraceable in retrospect as the course of a panther fish through the water, flitting to evade capture.

Latin Vulgate Names: OT: Berillus; NT: Topazius.

KJV Names: OT: Jasper; NT: Topaz.

Modern Name: Panther Stone or Brocatella Agate. (Yashpeh or Appanturin = Brocatella Agate King.)

Gen. 37. 5 “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more … 9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10 And he told it to his father [Jacob-Israel], and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.”

Here, by implication, the twelve “stars” (Heb. Kochav = star or constellation) of the Zodiac, through which the Sun and Moon pass, are identified with the twelve sons of Israel (the eleven brothers, plus Joseph). The Sun is identified with Israel himself and the Moon with Leah (Rachel, Israel’s beloved wife, and the natural mother of Joseph, having deceased by this time).

The same scheme is reflected in the Book of Revelation:

Rev. 12. 1: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”

This passage of Revelation, like everything in that great book of mystery between chapter 4 and chapter 19, relates to Israel, not the Church. Eve-like Mother Israel (the Woman) is the sign of the month Elul, the month of the vine-harvest, and the end of one year of the land and the beginning of a new, when she cries out in the process of bringing forth the Seed, arrayed with the Sun, and the new Moon at her feet (that is the sun and new moon are in the sign of Elul). See THE BIBLICAL STAR-NAMES, section c, subsection b, month 6, Elul, for the meaning of the month name and its symbolization as a virgin, crying out and fleeing. It is the harvest-time for Israel: the Roman Dragon watches for the birth of the Messiah. She gives birth to the one who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron (the Bright and Morning Star, viz. the Messiah). The Israelite Church of the early Apostolic Age is represented by the Moon, which is Leah in Joseph’s dream — the first, but not the favored, bride (Rachel). The twelve stars on her head are the twelve tribes (sons [= suns]) of Israel, as well as the twelve Israelite Apostles, who are appointed by Jesus the rulers of the twelve tribes in the Age To Come.

Josephus Antiquities III. 7. 7: “And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months, or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the Zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.”

Clement of Alexandria, Stromata V. 6: “The twelve stones set in four rows on the breast, describe for us the circle of the Zodiac, in the four changes of the year.”


Odem Reuben (mother: Leah)

Pitdah Simeon (mother: Leah)

Bareket Levi (mother: Leah)

Nophek Judah (mother: Leah)

Sappir Issachar (mother: Leah)

Yahalom Zebulun (mother: Leah)

Leshem Dan (mother: Bilhah, handmaid of Rachel)

Shevo Gad (mother: Zilpah, handmaid of Leah)

Achlamah Naphtali (mother: Bilhah, handmaid of Rachel)

Tarshish Asher (mother: Zilpah, handmaid of Leah)

Shoham Joseph (mother: Rachel)

Yashpheh Benjamin (mother: Rachel)

These are the names of the sons of Israel as they were inscribed on the stones on the Breastplate, and are the birthstones of the patriarchs. They represent the Zodiac signs under which they were born, each stone corresponding to a single sign of the Zodiac, as described in Sefer ha-Zikhronot (the “Chronicles of Jerahmeel”), quoted infra. The stones and Zodiac signs reflect the various natural dispositions of the patriarchs. The stones are allocated to the patriarchs in Bemidbar Rabbah, a Rabbinic commentary on the Book of Numbers, Section II, on Numbers 2. 2, the color of each stone being duplicated, as stated there, in the background color of the flags of each tribe descended from the patriarchs, as follows:

“Reuben’s stone was the Odem, and his flag was colored red, and on it were depicted mandrakes.”

“Simeon was inscribed on the Pitdah, and his flag was colored a tawny shade, and on it was depicted Shechem.”

[Note: “tawny”, lit. “pale,” the color variously translated, according to context, green, yellow, tawny, bronze.]

“Levi’s stone was the Bareket, and his flag was colored one third white, one third black, and one third red, and on it was depicted the Urim and Thummim.”

[Note: “black”: Heb. shahor, lit. “darkened”, which could also mean dark blue or deep purple, or an intense shade of some other color.]

“Judah’s stone was the Nophek, and his flag was something like the color of garlic plants, and on it was depicted a lion.”

[Note: “garlic plants”: in the current text the Hebrew word is written with the consonants sh-m-y-m, and this combination of consonants is usually read shamayim, “sky”. But the stone Nophek, according to the Targums and other ancient versions, was dark green (with fiery red elements), not blue, therefore the alternative way of reading this combination of consonants, shummim, “garlic plants”, is preferable, as these have dark green leaves and reddish bulbs. The comparison of the colors of gems with those of plants was common in the Classical and Medieval periods. The other possibility is that, as frequently happened in the process of textual transmission, one section of the text became misplaced, and what was originally a description of the following stone, the sappir, Lapis Lazuli, which is very definitely “(blue) like the sky”, became attached instead to this stone, the nophek. The possibility becomes a probability in light of the fact that the nophek is traditionally associated with puk, kohal, antimony, and the description of the sappir in the current text is that it was, precisely, “like kehol, antimony”, suggesting an exchange of one description for the other by a scribal slip.]

“Issachar’s stone was the Sappir, and it was colored dark blue, like antimony, and on it were depicted the sun and moon, representing what is written: ‘of the children of Issachar who had understanding of the times.’”

[Note: “dark blue”: Heb. shahor, lit. “darkened”, which could also mean black, or, dark purple, or, dark green, but, according to the ancient versions, and like crude antimony, with which it is compared in the current text, blue, and dark blue (or dark green, or black), when reduced to powder. Crude antimony also has golden gleaming specks in it, like the Sappir, which is Lapis Lazuli. However, it is probable a scribal slip has exchanged the original description of the sappir, “(blue) like the sky”, for the description of the preceding stone, the nophek, “dark (green) like antimony”, as explained under Nophek, supra.]

“Zebulun’s stone was the Yahalom, and the color of his flag was that of the moon, and on it was depicted a ship, representing what is written: ‘Zebulun shall dwell by the shore of the seas.’”

[Note: “the color … was that of the moon”: in this case, according to the information supplied by the Targums and ancient versions, white and grayish purple, including, that is, all phases of the moon, from new (grayish purple when not illuminated) to full (white when illuminated). The Yahalom was the modern Amethyst, the tint of which commonly fades, in a mystical, certainly moon-like, manner, from purple to white, and which has the quality, when heated (or, in lunar terms, illuminated), of turning from purple to white. Presumably, in respect of the colors in the banner, a white crescent represented the light-colored sandy shore and the illuminated portion of the moon, and the grayish purple, the sea and the unilluminated portion of the moon.]

“Dan’s stone was the Leshem, and the color of his flag was like that of the Lapis Lazuli, and on it was depicted a serpent, representing what is written, ‘Dan shall be a serpent.’”

[Note: Lapis Lazuli is the Sappir, which is dark blue with golden specks, whilst the Leshem is the variety of Chrysoprasius described by Marbodus which was purple or dark blue with golden spots.]

“Gad’s stone was the Shevo, and the color of his flag was neither white nor dark blue, but a mixture of dark blue and white, and on it was depicted a camp, representing what is written, ‘an armed band shall band violently against him.’”

[Note: “dark blue”: Heb. shahor, which word can also mean dark purple, or, black, etc., but this stone was a blue color (and banded or striped), according to the ancient versions.]

“Naphtali’s stone was the Achlamah, and the color of his flag was like that of sparkling wine, without a strong red tint, and on it was depicted a hind, representing what is written: ‘Naphtali is a hind let loose.’”

“Asher’s stone was the Tarshish, and the color of his flag was like that of the precious stone with which women adorn themselves, and on it was depicted an olive tree, representing what is written: ‘From Asher shall his food be well-oiled.’”

“Joseph’s stone was the Shoham, and the color of his flag was a very dark shade, and on it was depicted for the two chiefs, Ephraim and Manasseh, Egypt, representing what is written: that their births took place in Egypt. Also on the flag of Ephraim was depicted an ox, representing what is written: ‘the firstborn of his ox’: that was Joshua, who was of the tribe of Ephraim. Also on the flag of the tribe of Manasseh was depicted a wild bull, representing what is written: ‘his horns are the horns of a wild bull’: representing what is written, of Gideon son of Joash, that he was of the tribe of Manasseh.”

[Note: “a very dark shade”: that is, a very dark shade of green, according to the ancient versions, though the Hebrew word, shahor, could also denote dark blue, or, dark purple, or, black.]

“Benjamin’s stone was the Yashpheh, and the color of his flag was like all the colors of the twelve colors, and on it was depicted a wolf, representing what is written: ‘Benjamin shall ravine as a wolf.”

[Note: “the color … was like all the colors of the twelve colors”: the Yashpheh was the Brocatella Agate which incorporated all the colors of the other stones in its panther-like spots on a yellow or honey-colored ground.]

The gemstones are allocated to the twelve tribal Patriarchs also in the Targum to the Song of Songs, 5. 14, but there without color descriptions and with the use of Arabic and later Medieval popular Aramaic names of the stones which make them more difficult to identify (see supra on the Birthstones and the Targumic names):

Reuben was inscribed on an Ahmar [= Odem, Carnelian], Simeon was inscribed on an Akik [= Pitdah, Sardonyx], Levi was inscribed on a Barkan Zepran [= Bareket, Chrysoberyl], Judah was inscribed on a Kahaley [= Nophek, Spinel], Issachar was inscribed on an Izmorad [prob. for Zimporad = Simporyana, Sappir, Lapis Lazuli], Zebulun was inscribed on a Gihar [Braun, Vestitus, refers to the belief in his day that the Gihar was the ancient Iaspis, which was the Heb. Yahalom, the modern Amethyst: prob. Gihar = Zihar = “glistening object, gleaming light, moonlight, moon”, cf. Bemidbar Rabbah, Zebulun’s stone, the Yahalom, likened to the moon], Dan was inscribed on a Birela [= Leshem, Jacinth], Naphtali was inscribed on an Espor [prob. for Izmor(gad) or similar = Smaragdos = Carbunculus, viz. Achlamah, Almandine Garnet], Gad was inscribed on a Tabag [prob. for Topaz(ion) or similar, cf. Topazion = Onychion, Brocatella Agate, i.e. Tabag in this instance = Shevo, Agate] {in the text of the Targum to the Song of Songs used by Braun, Vestitus, Gad’s stone contrariwise was the Espor and Naphtali’s the Tabag, another example of the transposition of passages in textual transmission}, Asher was inscribed on a Prozag [prob. for Prasius, viz. Tarshish, Golden Sapphire, which was translated into Greek as chrysolithos, and the latter into Latin in the Middle Ages as prasius], Joseph was inscribed on a Meribag [prob. for Izmorag or similar = Smaragdos (var. Maragdos), viz. Shoham, Emerald], Benjamin was inscribed on an Apantor [= Yashpheh, Brocatella Agate]: they were like the twelve signs of the Zodiac, illumining like a lantern, bright in their effect as ivory, and shining as glittering jewels [lit. “sapphires”, shabzizin].”

These stones and corresponding Zodiac signs were allocated to the tribes descended from the patriarchs differently from the patriarchs’ Birth Order, when God revealed the Camp Order, or marching order, of the tribes of Israel in the Wilderness. There the tribes were allocated a stone (and corresponding Zodiac sign) according to their calling and work in the Host of the Lord. The difference between the Birth Order and the Camp Order is the same as that between a man’s natural birth and his spiritual rebirth. The nature of the former is carnal and this-worldly, the nature of the latter is God-ordained, according to the man’s calling and purpose in the Kingdom of God. For example, the stone Odem (Carnelian), and the corresponding Zodiac sign Leo, were allocated to the firstborn son of Israel, Reuben, the natural leader of the siblings, in the Birth Order, reflecting Reuben’s pre-eminence in the carnal realm; but in the Camp Order that same stone and its Zodiac sign were allocated to Judah instead, because, in the meantime, Reuben had lost his commanding position through a sexual misdemeanor, and Judah had replaced him as leader of the tribes. The following information relates to that God-ordained Camp Order.

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