What was the significance of these gemstones? (Exodus 39:10–14) 8 They fashioned the breastpiece—the work of a skilled craftsman. They made it like the ephod: of gold, and of blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and of finely twisted linen. 9 It was square—a span long and a span wide—and folded double. 10 Then they mounted four rows of precious stones on it. The first row was carnelian, chrysolite, and beryl; 11 the second row was turquoise, lapis lazuli and emerald; 12 the third row was jacinth, agate, and amethyst; 13 the fourth row was topaz, onyx, and jasper. They were mounted in gold filigree settings. 14 There were twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.
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The breastpiece with the twelve specified stones was fashioned according to the instructions that God had earlier given to Moses in Exodus 28:15-30. Other than the fact of the twelve stones corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel, I am not aware of any particular significance of the twelve particular types of stones that God selected (sardis, topaz, carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, diamond, jacinth, agate, amethyst, beryl, onyx, and jasper) with respect to a correspondence of each stone with any particular tribe. The stated purpose of the stones being on the breastpiece was to bring the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel), and the twelve tribes that they founded, to continual remembrance before God (Exodus 28:29).
Exodus 39:14 tells that the 12 precious stones on Aaron's breastplate were, "according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes." These are identical to the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:19, 20). Set in the breastplate, one on either side, were two brilliant stones, called the Urim and Thummim. The high priest could learn the will of the Lord by these stones. According with Talmudic rabbis, and historian Josephus' writings, when questions were asked, if light encircled the precious stone at the right, the answer was affirmative; but if a shadow rested on the stone at the left, the answer was negative. In 1 Samuel 23:9-12 we read how David called for the priest to bring the ephod and ask for the will of the Lord. There is a significance in the high priest’s wearing the names of all Israel over his heart as he performed the temple work which symbolized God’s judgment - the breastplate was also called “the breastplate of judgment” (Ex 28:15). The names engraved on the stones were a type of the names of those who overcomes, which Christ will confess before His father and the angels (Rev 3:5).
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