Exodus 28:18
And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
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28:15-30 The chief ornament of the high priest, was the breastplate, a rich piece of cloth, curiously worked. The name of each tribe was graven in a precious stone, fixed in the breastplate, to signify how precious, in God's sight, believers are, and how honourable. How small and poor soever the tribe was, it was as a precious stone in the breastplate of the high priest; thus are all the saints dear to Christ, however men esteem them. The high priest had the names of the tribes, both on his shoulders and on his breast, which reminds us of the power and the love with which our Lord Jesus pleads for those that are his. He not only bears them up in his arms with almighty strength, but he carries them in his bosom with tender affection. What comfort is this to us in all our addresses to God! The Urim and Thummim, by which the will of God was made known in doubtful cases, were put in this breastplate. Urim and Thummim signify light and integrity. There are many conjectures what these were; the most probable opinion seems to be, that they were the twelve precious stones in the high priest's breastplate. Now, Christ is our Oracle. By him God, in these last days, makes known himself and his mind to us, Heb 1:1,2; Joh 1:18. He is the true Light, the faithful Witness, the Truth itself, and from him we receive the Spirit of Truth, who leads into all truth.An emerald - Rather the garnet, which when cut with a convex face is termed the carbuncle.

A sapphire - Not the stone now called the sapphire; the lapis-lazuli is most probably meant.

A diamond - There is no trace of evidence that the ancients ever acquired the skill to engrave on the diamond, or even that they were acquainted with the stone. The "diamond" here may possibly be some variety of chalcedony, or (perhaps) rock crystal.

15-29. thou shalt make the breastplate of judgment with cunning work—a very splendid and richly embroidered piece of brocade, a span square, and doubled, to enable it the better to bear the weight of the precious stones in it. There were twelve different stones, containing each the name of a tribe, and arranged in four rows, three in each. The Israelites had acquired a knowledge of the lapidary's art in Egypt, and the amount of their skill in cutting, polishing, and setting precious stones, may be judged of by the diamond forming one of the engraved ornaments on this breastplate. A ring was attached to each corner, through which the golden chains were passed to fasten this brilliant piece of jewelry at the top and bottom tightly on the breast of the ephod. No text from Poole on this verse. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. The first of these stones is by both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan rendered an "emerald", as by us; and which is described by Pliny (k) as of a green colour, exceeding delightful and pleasant, and to which he gives the third place among precious stones; though by many the stone here called Nophec is thought to be the carbuncle, and is so rendered by the Septuagint; the carbuncle of the ancients is no other than what we call the, "ruby"; and which Braunius (l) thinks is here meant, and so Abarbinel, which is just making an exchange of the last stone of the first row for this; and De Dieu observes, that if any chooses to render the preceding stone an emerald, as Braunius does, he must render this a carbuncle or ruby; and if he renders that a carbuncle, then he must this for an emerald. The next stone is "the sapphire", of which one would think there could be no doubt, it is the very Hebrew word itself that is here used; which Ruaeus (m) says is of a sky colour, and sparkles with golden spots or specks, with which agrees Job 28:6. The third stone of this row is the "diamond" or adamant; and that this stone is meant seems clear from its name Jahalom, which comes from a word which signifies to break; and from hence a hammer has its name, because this stone pierces, cuts, and breaks other stones, but cannot be broken itself. On these three stones were engraved, according to the Jerusalem Targum, the names of the three tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun; but more truly, according to the Targum of Jonathan, the names of the tribes of Judah, Dan and Naphtali, and so Jarchi; for the names here, as on the onyx stones, were according to the order of their birth.

(k) Ut supra, (Nat. Hist. l. 37.) c. 5. (l) Ut supra, (De Vestitu Sacerd. Heb. l. 2.) c. 11. sect. 2, 7. p. 661, 667. (m) De Gemmis, l. 2. c. 2.

And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond.
18. an emerald] Heb. nôphek, ἄνθραξ, carbunculus [a red stone, called ἄνθραξ and carbunculus because in the sun-light it flashes like a burning ‘coal,’ Theophr. de Lap. 18]: Ezekiel 27:16; Ezekiel 28:13. As is generally agreed, the red garnet, a species of carbuncle.

a sapphire] Heb. sappir, σάπφειρος, sapphirus: Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 10:1; Ezekiel 28:13, Job 28:6; Job 28:16, Song of Solomon 5:14, Isaiah 54:11, Lamentations 4:7, Revelation 21:19. Not, however, our ‘sapphire,’ which was ‘almost unknown before Roman imperial times,’ but the opaque blue lapis lazuli (so Revelation 21:19 RVm.), as is shewn by the description of the Greek and Roman ‘sapphire’ by Theophrastus and Pliny as sprinkled with gold dust (ὥσπερ χρυσόπαστος, ‘inest ei et aureus pulvis’), with allusion to the particles of iron pyrites, easily mistaken by their colour and lustre for gold, frequently found in the lapis lazuli (cf. Sapphire in DB. and EB.; and Job 28:6 ‘And it hath dust of gold’).

a diamond] Heb. yahâlôm, ἴασπις, jaspis: Ezekiel 28:13. Ἴασπις, jaspis, seem so naturally to correspond to Heb. yâshepheh in v. 20, that many suppose an accidental transposition to have taken place in either the Heb. or the Greek text: if this be granted, yahălôm will be represented by ὀνύχιον here and Ezekiel 28:13, and by βηρύλλιον in Exodus 39:13. What the yashălôm was, is, however, uncertain. ‘Diamond’ has nothing to recommend it: there is no evidence that this stone was known to the ancients. RVm. sardonyx (cf. Revelation 21:20), a stratified stone, consisting of layers of red and white (hence the name, the ‘sard’ being red, and the ‘onyx’ whitish), and in ancient times often with a layer of dark brown as well; well adapted for engraving, on account of the variety produced by the different strata (EB. Sardonyx). For the symbolism attached to the three colours, see the quaint verses quoted in DB. s.v. Onyx.Verse 18. - The second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. Here all the names must be wrong, for none of these three stones could be cut by the ancient engravers. Probably, carbuncle (or garnet), lapis lazuli, and onyx are intended. The precious stones were to be upon the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, stones of memorial for the sons of Israel; and Aaron was to bear their names before Jehovah upon his two shoulders for a memorial, i.e., that Jehovah might remember the sons of Israel when Aaron appeared before Him clothed with the ephod (cf. Exodus 28:29). As a shoulder-dress, the ephod was par excellence the official dress of the high priest. The burden of the office rested upon the shoulder, and the insignia of the office were also worn upon it (Isaiah 22:22). The duty of the high priest was to enter into the presence of God and made atonement for the people as their mediator. To show that as mediator he brought the nation to God, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved upon precious stones on the shoulders of the ephod. The precious stones, with their richness and brilliancy, formed the most suitable earthly substratum to represent the glory into which Israel was to be transformed as the possession of Jehovah (Exodus 19:5); whilst the colours and material of the ephod, answering to the colours and texture of the hangings of the sanctuary, indicated the service performed in the sanctuary by the person clothed with the ephod, and the gold with which the coloured fabric was worked, the glory of that service.
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