Rocks, minerals, metals and gemstones have always played an important role in the lives of humans. Even before recorded history began, they were being used for tools and decorative purposes. They also played an important role in the lives of the Children of Israel and in lessons taught by writers in both the old and new testaments. The following are highlights of those Biblical references.
The Garments of Aaron
Exodus 39: 10-13
Aaron (the brother of Moses) was the first High Priest. As such, he was responsible for daily offerings, functions and regular feasts of the Tabernacle. There were three annual feasts: at Passover, at Pentecost and at Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
In Exodus chapters 28 and 39, we are told about the holy garments worn by the High Priest. They included the following items:
The Turban and Crown (Exodus 28:36-39) – On his head is the white linen turban. Around the base of the turban is a crown of gold, saying "HOLINESS TO THE LORD".
(Exodus 28:31-35) – The blue garment is called the robe (The Robe was purple and scarlet). Underneath the robe, High Priest wore a white fine linen woven tunic.
(Exodus 28:6-14; 39:2-7) – The Ephod is the apron-like garment worn over the robe by the High Priest. It was made in four colors: blue, purple, scarlet and white of fine linen. These are the same colors that were used in the Tabernacle and could be seen at the Door to the Outer Court, the Door to the Sanctuary and in the Veil.
An interesting feature of the Ephod was that gold threads cut and hammered from gold plate were interwoven with the other colors of the Ephod (Exodus 39:3).
The Shoulder Stones (Exodus 28:9-12) – A precious stone (onyx) was mounted on each shoulder piece of the Ephod and the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were inscribed on the stones – six on each.
The Breastplate (Exodus 28:10-30) – Worn over the Ephod was a square breastplate embroidered with gold. It held twelve precious stones set in gold filigree: sardius (ruby), topaz, carbuncle (garnet), emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx and jasper. Each stone was engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Exodus 39:10: "And they set in it four rows of stones: a row with a sardius (ruby), a topaz and an emerald was the first row.
v11: "The second row, a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond;
v12: "The third row, a jacinth (ligure), an agate and an amethyst;
v13: "The fourth row, a beryl, an onyx and a jasper. They were all enclosed in settings of gold in their mountings."
The Breastplate was folded double to form an inside pocket. Exodus 28:30 states that the Urim and Thummin were kept in the pocket. Urim means 'lights' and Thummin means 'perfections'. They were probably two jewels or crystals.
When an important decision was to be made, the question was presented to the High Priest. He would stand before the Lampstand, holding the Urim in one hand and the Thummin in the other. The light from the Lampstand was reflected from the Urim and the Thummin onto the stones of the Breastplate containing the names of the twelve tribes. This reflection provided up to 24 combinations (2 x 12) of the letters present in the names of the tribes. Since there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the flashes of light could produce strings of letters.
As God breathed through the Ark, the Veil would move permitting a breeze to flicker the flames in the Lampstand to momentarily alter the angle of direction of the light onto the Urim and Thummin, and thence to the Breastplate. Thus God was able to communicate directly with the High Priest and answer the enquiry.
Part of Job's description of wisdom and understanding
v1: "Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined.
v2: "Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore.
v3: "Man puts an end to darkness, and searches every recess for ore in the darkness and shadow of death.
v4: "He breaks open a shaft away from people; in places forgotten by feet they hang far away from men; they swing to and fro.
v5: "As for the earth, from it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire;
v6: "Its stones are the source of sapphires, and it contains gold dust.
v7: "That path no bird knows, nor has the falcon's eye seen it.
v8: "The proud lions have not trodden it, nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
v9: "He puts his hand on the flint; he overturns the mountains at the roots.
v10: "He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing.
v11: "He dams up streams from trickling; what is hidden he brings forth to light.
v12: "But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?
v13: "Man does not know its value nor is it found in the land of the living.
v14: "The deep says'It is not in me' and the sea says, 'It is not in me.'
v15: "It cannot be purchased for gold nor can silver be weighed for its price.
v16: "It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in the precious onyx or sapphire.
v17: "Neither gold nor crystal can equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
v18: "No mention shall be made of coral or quartz, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
v19: "The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold..."
Part of Ezekiel's lamenatation upon the king of Tyrus
v13: "You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius (ruby), topaz, and the diamond, beryl, onyx (agate), and jasper, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created."
The Gems of New Jerusalem
Revelation 21:18 - 20
v18: "The construction of its wall was of jasper: and the city was pure gold like clear glass.
v19: "The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,
v20: the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius (ruby), the seventh chrysolyte (peridot), the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprasus (quartz), the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst."