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Exodus Tetsaveh
  Ki Tisa
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28:18 The second row: carbuncle, sapphire, beryl.
Vehatur hasheni nofech sapir veyahalom.
28:19 The third row: jacinth, agate, amethyst.
Vehatur hashlishi leshem shvo ve'achlamah.
28:20 The fourth row: chrysolite, onyx, jasper.

These stones shall be placed in gold settings.
Vehatur harevi'i tarshish veshoham veyoshfeh meshubatsim zahav yihyu bemilu'otam.


  (Chizzkuni; Shiltey Gibborim 46; Me'Am Lo'ez). Nophekh in Hebrew. Ancient Greek sources translate nophek as anthrax denoting coal (Septuagint; Josephus loc. cit.). This is usually interpreted to mean a mineral that is red, the color of burning coal (Pliny 37:25; Theophrastus, On Stones 18). It is hence rendered as carbuncle (Vulgate), from carbo, Latin for coal. This denotes a particularly brilliant red garnet, but can also denote a ruby or ruby spinel.

Some sources, however, take 'coal' in its literal sense and state that nophekh was a black stone (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). The Midrash (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7) states that the colors of the stones on this row were 'sky-blue, black, white.' There is evidence (see note, this verse, 'sapphire'), that the first two colors are transposed, and the reading should be 'black, sky-blue, white,' so that this would agree that the nophekh was black. Some say that it is related to pukh meaning stibium, a black powder (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9, from 2 Kings 9:30).

There are sources, however, which indicate that the nophekh was indeed a blue stone (Saadia; Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). Those sources which would transpose the Septuagint translation with the previous stone (see note, this verse, 'topaz'), would also render this as emerald (Targum; Bachya; cf. King James).

The nophekh was the stone of Judah (Targum Yonathan, etc.). Others say that it was the stone of Reuben (Tzioni, BeMidbar). See Ezekiel 27:16, 28:13.

  Sapir in Hebrew. In Greek it is also translated as sappheiros (Septuagint). This, however, denotes any blue stone, and some say that the sapphire of the ancients was really the lapis-lazuli (cf. Pliny 37:39). Some sources, however, state that the Biblical sapphire was actually a clear colorless stone, identified either as crystal (Radak, Sherashim) or diamond (ibid.; Ibn Janach; Saadia; see note on Exodus 24:10).

Some sources identify the sapir with the emerald (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14), but this appears to be a transposition with the previous word. The same is true of the Midrash (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7), which has it as being a black stone. Some sources would have it as being a red stone (Ibn Ezra here on Exodus 24:10, from Lamentations 4:7). Josephus renders it as jasper, but his is probably a transposition with the next stone in the Septuagint, which in turn is a transposition with the last stone (see note, this verse, 'beryl').

The sapphire was the stone of Issachar (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Other sources, however, state that it was the stone of Dan (Targum Yonathan), whose banner and stone were blue. A third opinion is that it was the stone of Simeon (Tzioni, BeMidbar).

  (Bachya; cf. Chizzkuni; Douai-Rheims translation). Yahalom in Hebrew. This is a bluish-green precious stone, midway between the emerald and aquamarine in color.

The Septuagint has iastis, which, if a transposition is assumed, is rendered by Josephus as iaspis, denoting jasper (cf. Vulgate). However, since jasper is usually identified with yashpeh (Exodus 28:20), it can safely be assumed that the translation of the last stone in this line was transposed with the last stone of the fourth line (see Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5). The correct translation in the Septuagint here would therefore be byrilion, (which in our editions of the Septuagint is the translation for shoham, cf. Josephus, Wars 5:5:7, but in Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5, is the translation of yashpeh). The beryl of the ancients is described as being a yellowish blue-green (cf. Pliny 37:20). It is surmised that the word may denote a type of precious jade.

Some say that the burla mentioned in ancient sources (Bachya) is the pearl (Toledoth Yitzchak; MeAm Lo'ez).

Many sources however, identify the yahalom with the diamond (Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9; Radak, Sherashim; Shiltey Gibborim 46). The Midrash also identifies it as a white or clear gem (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that this is the chalcedony.

The yahalom was the stone of Zebulun (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). Others say that it was the stone of Naphtali (Targum Yonathan), which was greyish. A third opinion is that it was Gad's stone (Tzioni). See Ezekiel 28:13.

  Leshem in Hebrew. Greek sources translate this as ligurion (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities). This is a bright orange stone like the jacinth, often likened to the carbuncle (Pliny 8:57) or amber (ibid. 37:11). Many other sources have it resembling the topaz in color (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim; Cf. Bachya; MeAm Lo'ez).

Other sources, however, see it as a blue stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; Shemoth Rabbah 38:8). Thus, some sources identify it with turquoise (Shiltey Gibborim) or beryl (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14).

While the order in our versions of the Septuagint is 'ligure, agate, amethyst,' in one place Josephus has 'agate, amethyst, ligure' (Wars 5:5:7). Other sources also appear to agree that the leshem is an agate (cf. Saadia). The Targum renders it kankirey which is seen as coming from the Greek kegchri, grains, because it is a stone with a granular pattern (Arukh, s.v. kanker).

The leshem was the stone of Dan (Targum Yerushalmi; BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). This stone was given to him because Leshem was an important city in Dan (Joshua 19:47; Shiltey Gibborim 46). Others say that it was the stone of Gad (Targum Yonathan) or Ephraim (Tzioni).

  Sh'vo in Hebrew; achatis in Greek (Septuagint). This is a type of striped or variegated chalcedon (cf. Pliny 37:54). The Midrash also sees this as a grey stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7).

As noted above, the order in the Septuagint on this line is 'ligure, agate, amethyst.' Josephus, however, has 'ligure, amethyst, agate' (Antiquities), or 'agate, amethyst, ligure' (Wars). Hence, according to his reading, the sh'vo would be the amethyst (see next note, 'amethyst').

The Targum translates sh'vo as tarkia which some identify as the turquoise (Arukh, s.v. Trika; cf. Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak; Me'Am Lo'ez). It is hence seen as a sapphire-like blue stone (Lekach Tov; Targum on Song of Songs 5:14). Others see tarkia as related to anthrax, Greek for coal (see note on Exodus 28:18), and hence a black stone (Saadia; Radak, Sherashim). Others see it as a red, carbuncle-like stone, and render it as jacinth (Shiltey Gibborim), an orange-red stone.

The sh'vo was the stone of Naphtali (Targum Yerushalmi, etc.) or, according to some, of Asher (Targum Yonathan) or Manasseh (Tzioni).

  Achlamah in Hebrew; amithysos in Greek (Septuagint). This is a violet or purple stone, that was thought by the ancients to be an antidote for drunkenness (cf. Pliny 37:40). The Midrash also states that it was the color of diluted wine (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). The Greek word comes from a- 'not', and mithysos drunken, and may be related to the Hebrew achlamah, which has the connotation of a dream.

The amethyst has the property of turning yellow when heated. Hence, some sources see it as a (partially?) yellow stone (Saadia; Ibn Janach). It may thus be related to the word chelmon, the yellow of an egg.

The Targum translates this word as 'calf's eye.' This is taken to be a kind of onyx (Shiltey Gibborim) or agate (Josephus, Antiquities). It is also possible that it was an amethyst heated on the edges to give it a yellow border and an eye-like appearance. Some sources translate achlamah as crystal (Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak; Me'Am Lo'ez).

The achlamah was the stone of Gad (Targum Yerushalmi etc.). According to others, it was the stone of Issachar (Targum Yonathan) or Benjamin (Tzioni).

  Tarshish in Hebrew; chrysolithos in Greek (Septuagint; Josephus, Antiquities; Bachya; Shiltey Gibborim). The chrysolite of antiquity is described as being a yellowish stone, the color of amber (Pliny 37:11,42). Traditional sources identify it with the color of pure olive oil (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; Bachya; Toledoth Yitzchak). These sources maintain that the tarshish was the stone of Asher, whose blessing was oil (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7; cf. Genesis 49:20).

Other sources, however, maintain that the tarshish is the aquamarine, a brilliant blue-green stone (Targum; Arukh; Saadia; Ibn Janach; Radak; cf. King James). These sources would identify the stone with Zebulun, whose blessing was to live by the sea (Targum Yonathan; Bachya cf. Genesis 49:13). Others maintain that this was the stone of Joseph (Tzioni).

  Shoham in Hebrew; see notes on Exodus 28:9, Genesis 2:12. Onyx in Greek (Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:5; Vulgate; Chizzkuni; Bachya; Me'Am Lo'ez). This is a stone having bands of black, white and red or other colors. On Exodus 28:9, the Septuagint translates shoham as sard-onyx as does Josephus.

It is therefore reasonable that the order of this line is 'chrysolite, onyx, beryl,' as given by Josephus in one place (Antiquities 3:7:5; cf. Vulgate). In another place, however, he has the order as, 'onyx, beryl, chrysolite' (Wars 5:5:7). In our versions of the Septuagint, the order is, 'chrysolite, beryl, onyx.'

According to the last two readings, the shoham would be the beryl, and this view is shared by many other sources (Targum; Radak, Sherashim). This is seen, perhaps, as an emerald colored jade (cf. Shiltey Gibborim). The Septuagint on Genesis 2:12 translates it as prase. Others see it as a black stone (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7), or a reflective white stone (Saadia; Ibn Ezra on Exodus 28:9), perhaps a white form of beryl.

The shoham was the stone of Joseph (Targum Yerushalmi; Targum Yonathan). Others say that it was Asher's stone (Tzioni).

  (Saadia; Radak; Ibn Janach; Chizzkuni; Bachya; Me'Am Lo'ez; King James). Yaspeh in Hebrew. The Hebrew is apparently cognate to the English. Although the Greek versions have either onyx, beryl, or chrysolite (see note, this verse, 'chrysolite'), there is probably a transposition between this word and sapir or yahalom (q.v.).

The Targum renders this as panterey, which some sources translate as striped or spotted (Arukh, s.v. panther, apantir). However, the word may be related to the Greek pante, 'all,' and thus means 'all-colored.' This Midrash also says that the yashpeh is of all colors (BeMidbar Rabbah 2:7). This suggests a type of opal.

The yashpeh was the stone of Benjamin (Targum Yerushalmi; Targum Yonathan). Some say that it was the stone of Naphtali (Tzioni).

  Some say that the stones fit exactly into indentations, 'filling' the settings (Rashi; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 9:6). Others maintain that the stones were held in the settings with three prongs (Ramban on Exodus 25:7). Other sources indicate that the stones were perforated and woven into the breastplate (Lekach Tov; Rabbi Avraham ben Azriel, Arugath HaBosem, p. 281; cf. Josephus; Antiquities 3:7:5).

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