THE EARTHLY INHERITANCE SERIES of BIBLE SUBJECTS
Various Bible study guides in subjects pertaining to
New Earth prophecy, as taught by Paul Phelps.
For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD,
they shall inherit the earth. Psalm 37:9
THE JEWEL STONES OF ISRAEL'S TWELVE TRIBES
Bible quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version
except for my own translations or as otherwise indicated.
This study guide identifies the twelve Biblical jewels
that represent the twelve tribes of New World Israel.
A Bible study project by Paul Phelps.
After several years of study this writing was completed in 2000.
God has in times past appointed a jewel to represent each tribe in Israel, of
Jacob’s twelve sons. Each jewel was set into the High Priestly breastpiece and
engraved with a tribe name. God does everything with purpose, and we want
his wisdom, for “the price of wisdom is above pearls. The chrysolite of Ethiopia
cannot compare with it, nor can it be valued in pure gold.” (Job 28:18-19) The
Biblical jewels are impossible to identify in their Hebrew names, for they have
been unused and forgotten since many centuries ago. But God has guided us
and given us his assurance after a long search. We have followed three rules:
1. Every gemstone should be soft enough to engrave by the usual engraving
techniques known in ancient times (Ex. 28:9-11,21). These stones could not be
harder than quartz crystal, hardness 7. (Few jewels are less than hardness 5.)
2. These jewel stones should be large enough to engrave names upon, to be
easily readable from an arm-length distance. The High Priestly breastpiece is
almost 22 cm wide (a span or half-cubit), allowing for stones up to 5 cm width.
3. The jewels must have been available in Egypt at about 1500 BCE, whenever
Moses led his people out of Egypt. The jewels came from Egypt (Ex. 12:35-36).
Jesus promised his twelve disciples that they will rule Israel’s twelve tribes
when he comes as King (Matt. 19:27-28). This makes a connection between the
twelve tribes and the twelve apostles in the Messianic age. This is important
because Rev. 21:19-20 lists twelve jewels with the apostles’ names engraved
on them. Apostle John evidently viewed New Jerusalem from all the four sides
because he described the gates on each side; Rev. 21: 12-14,
It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates
twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the
twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates; on the north
three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.
And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are
the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The viewing sequence of John’s vision is clearly specified, proceeding from
the east side, to the north side, to the south side, and lastly to the west side.
Thus the jewel stone list of Rev. 21:19-20 should follow this viewing sequence,
and in this way we may know which jewel belongs to which gate. The twelve
jewels are in four groups corresponding to the four sides of the city wall, three
in each group. The Bible doesn’t say how John viewed the three gates of each
side, but for west Asian people the traditional viewing pattern has always been
from right to left—because of the west-Asian manner of writing their languages.
Apostle John viewed the gates from right to left.
Some of the stones in Rev. 21:19-20 may be identified by their Greek names
in the Greek Bible but many Greek jewel names are as hard to identify as the
Hebrew names in the Old Testament. Nonetheless we have conclusions for all
twelve jewels and these conclusions are helpful in the study of Bible prophecy
relating to Israel’s twelve tribes. These are the jewel names in Greek: ÍASPIS,
SÁPPHEIROS, CHALKEDÓN, SMÁRAGDOS, SARDÓNYX, SÁRDIOS, CHRYSÓLI-
THOS, BÉRYLLOS, TOPÁZION, CHRYSÓPRASOS, HYÁKINTHOS, AMÉTHYSTOS.
This is the name order as given in Rev. 21:19-20.
ÍASPIS is the first gemstone listed in Rev. 21:19-20. This was evidently the
jewel most admired because the entire outer wall of the heavenly city is made
of this stone (Rev. 21:18). The heavenly city is radiant with the light of ÍASPIS
(v 11) and this jewel stone also decorates God’s throne (Rev. 4:3). Many Bible
versions have translated ÍASPIS as “jasper” in the belief that these names have
a common origin, but the name “jasper” is now known to be of Persian origin.
Jasper is a cheap stone used mostly in interior decoration (much like marble).
But ÍASPIS was described as “a very rare jewel” (Rev. 21:11).
In 1272, while in western China Marco Polo wrote, “Chalcedony and jasper,
which are taken for sale to Cathay (the populous eastern provinces), and such
is their abundance that they form a considerable commerce.” This is a key, for
the gemstones that Marco Polo thought were chalcedony and jasper are in fact
white jade and spinach jade from Xinjiang Province in west China. These two
nephrite jades have colours similar to chalcedony and jasper, (familiar stones
in Marco Polo’s home country Italy). This helps us to identify both jewels from
Revelation 21. CHALKEDÓN is white jade, and ÍASPIS is spinach green jade.
Jade jewels are costly; the white and green jades are both elegant jewel stones
and well suited to carving. Modern chalcedony gets its name from Chalcedon,
an ancient Greek seaport of the eastern Aegean Sea known for the jewel trade.
But Pliny the Roman historian described CHALKEDÓN as different from modern
chalcedony. (In his time white jade was evidently marketed under that name.)
SÁPPHEIROS is a Greek name—having a similar origin as the Hebrew name
SAPÌR, which in time past referred to the deep blue coloured stone now called
lapis lazuli, found in Afghanistan. Lapis lazuli is a very good stone for carving.
Modern sapphires were named for this stone, but modern sapphires were not
known in ancient times and are too hard for carving.
SMÁRAGDOS was always known to have been a clear or translucent jewel,
of emerald green colour, corresponding to the Hebrew BARÈKET, or BARKÀT.
Modern emeralds are included here because they were known to Greeks, and
they were found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs. But modern emeralds are
too hard for carving. Ancient jewel names were not the modern mineral terms
that are used today: they were only labels to indicate an outward appearance.
Therefore two or more jewel stones may have been included within one name.
SMÁRAGDOS refers to emeralds but it also refers to the emerald green jadeite
that is found in ancient Egyptian jewel treasures. In olden times emerald jade
was obtained from the European Alps and Tibet—and it is suitable for carving.
Jadeite comes in a variety of colours including lavender jade.
HYÁKINTHOS is hyacinth blue (a smoky colour, Rev. 9:17). It is the lavender
variety of jadeite. The Hebrew name AKH’LAMÀH means ‘dream-stone.’
BÉRYLLOS is known to have been a sea green coloured gem. Amazonite is
the gem that matches this description. In ancient Egypt it was a favourite gem
because if its colour, a blue-tinted green. The corresponding Hebrew name of
this ancient jewel is NÒFEKH, (meaning ‘turquoise coloured’ or ‘embellished’).
Modern beryls were named from the ancient BÉRYLLOS because of similarity
of colour but they are not the same stone. So far as known, the modern beryls
were not yet discovered in ancient times. In any case modern beryl stones are
too hard for engraving.
TOPÁZION is a name derived from a Red Sea island now known in Arabic as
Zebirget, but earlier known as Topazos. This identifies the jewel with certainty.
In the gem trade it is known as Olivine and Peridot. It is a transparent crystal,
yellow-green in colour, like olive oil. Olivine is the mineral name but strongly
green ones are called Peridot. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder described
this gemstone by the name Topazos, (and the best jewels are from that island).
The Hebrew name PITDÀH is linked by tradition to the name Topazos.
The quartz gems are the ones that remain and we will describe them later in
this study guide. We identify colours as well as names, and we’ve divided the
jewels into four groups corresponding to the four sides of the heavenly city, as
Apostle John described them and listed them, from right to left (Rev. 21:12-14).
We indicate the Greek and Hebrew names, the modern names and the colours.
These are the jewels, as indicated in Rev. 21:19-20.
1. Green jade
2. Lapis lazuli
3. White jade
4. Emerald jade
7. Citrine quartz
9. Olivine, Peridot
11. Lavender jade
12. Amethyst quartz
The jewels inscribed with the names of Israel’s tribes signify earthly people.
The jewel stones chosen by God to represent earthly Israel do not include any
jewels above hardness 7. Costly high brilliance sparkle gems such as rubies,
emeralds, sapphires and diamonds picture the Church in heavenly splendour.
The LORD calls the Church saints his special possession; Mal. 3:17. He will give
them new names—and says they are to him a crown of beauty, a royal diadem;
Isaiah 62:2-3. This heavenly glory is for the LORD’s bride.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered
me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself
with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Israel’s tribal gems are valued as semiprecious; they have no great hardness
or brilliance but they are nevertheless very beautiful. The colour of the jewels
is important in understanding the prophetic significance of Israel’s tribes.
The twelve tribal stones are all within the hardness limit of the quartz crystal,
which in fact is sand—quartz crystals pounded to small grains by ocean waves.
Sand symbolically represents earthly people distinct from heavenly people, as
comparing heaven and earth people, in the same way God spoke to Abraham.
I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring
as numerous as the stars of heaven
and as the sand that is on the sea shore.
And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies ...
This indicates the vast number of Abraham’s future descendants (Heb. 11:12)
and also signifies the two different Kingdom inheritances. Both inheritances are
again referred to in Isaiah 66:22,
For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make, shall remain before me, says the LORD,
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
Apostle Paul says Abraham begat two kinds of seed, earthly and heavenly.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise
may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not only to the adherents of the law but also to those that
share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us... )
Apostle Paul explained that the heavenly seed are those coming through faith
from among all peoples (Gentiles) “— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing
of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of
the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14).
And there are two different resurrection bodies—for the two kinds of seed,
the heavenly seed and the earthly seed. 1 Cor. 15:35-48 (v 40 quoted),
There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but
the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another.
The glory promised is for the next world, the new heavens and earth. The
world is now subject to futility, groaning and labouring in hope (Rom. 8:20-22).
Humanity is like clay (Isaiah 45:9; Jer. 18:1-6); we are clay in the Potter’s hands
for we are made of clay (Job 33:6). God made us from dust of the earth—and to
dust we shall return (Gen. 3:19). The nations are as clay pottery in God’s sight.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and
the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them
with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
God spoke of dust in his promise to Abraham (Gen. 13:16): “I will make your
offspring like the dust of the earth” but he also talked about sand: “I will surely
do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be
counted because of their number” (Gen. 32:12).
This speaks of the difference between this world and the next. In this world,
people are like dust of the earth and dust in the balances (Ps. 103:14; Is. 40:15).
But in the New Earth, humans will be compared to sand (Gen. 32:12). As sand
is an upgrade compared to dust or clay, humanity and earth will be upgraded.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; ...
Instead of bronze I will bring gold, instead of iron I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron. I will appoint
Peace as your overseer, and Righteousness as your taskmaster.
Sand grains are crystal jewels and they portend an upgrading of human life
in the New Earth. Sand feels clean because dirt does not cling to it. Likewise,
in the new world sin will not cling to us for the curse will be gone (Rev. 22:3).
We will describe the five quartz jewels in the High Priestly breastpiece. The
Greek name AMÉTHYSTOS has reference to wine drinking. The Hebrew name
for amethyst is LÈSHEM. Amethyst is a quartz crystal easily recognisable by its
purple-violet colour. In nature it is often found with yellow quartz because heat
changes amethyst quartz to yellow quartz, called Citrine. The classical name is
CHRYSÓLITHOS, meaning goldstone in Greek. The Hebrew name is TARSHÌSH.
In Daniel 10:6 an angel appearance is compared to the colour of this gemstone,
“like burnished bronze.” The Citrine is a transparent jewel.
Quartz is found in a translucent or opaque form, in a wide colour range (very
much like jadeite). The mineral-group name is quartzite. Three quartzite gems
were in the breastpiece of the High Priest.
The CHRYSÓPRASOS quartzite stone is the Chrysoprase, (SH’VÒ in Hebrew),
apple green in colour. SÁRDIOS is the Carnelian Sard, deep red in colour, with
an orange-brown tone. Carnelian red (Latin carnalis) is the colour of raw flesh.
SARDÓNYX is the last quartzite jewel, which is sard and onyx layered together.
This stone is mostly red Sard, but the Greek word onyx (fingernail) indicates a
grey-white coloured overlay. Onyx (Heb. SHÒHAM) is flat-layered quartzite,
pale layers on top, darker colours below. Cameos are often made from it.
Just as ancient Greek names were adapted to modern gems, ancient Hebrew
names were also adapted to modern use, which has confused the true identities
of the Bible jewels, but we are confident that with God’s help we have identified
the jewels correctly. Three have sufficient clarity to be transparent: Amethyst,
Citrine, and Olivine. But in John’s vision of New Jerusalem, probably all of them
were transparent because the spiritual light of God shines even through gold.
The breastpiece jewels listed in Exodus 28:17-20 and 39:10-13 do not identify
the tribal names, so tribe and jewel correspondence has remained a mystery.
Neither does the Rev. 21 description name the city gates by tribe; so we cannot
get the tribe-jewel correspondence by any direct manner. The solution comes
by comparing John’s vision (in Rev. 21) with Ezekiel’s vision of the city of Zion.
These shall be the exits of the city:
On the north side, … three gates,
the gate of Reuben, the gate of Judah, and the gate of Levi,
the gates of the city being named after the tribes of Israel.
On the east side, ... three gates,
the gate of Joseph, the gate of Benjamin, and the gate of Dan.
On the south side, ... three gates,
the gate of Simeon, the gate of Issachar, and the gate of Zebulun.
On the west side, … three gates,
the gate of Gad, the gate of Asher, and the gate of Naphtali.
spinach green (pale to dark)
sapphire blue (with gold flecks)
sea green (blue-tinted green)
yellow-green (olive oil green)
apple green (gold-tinted green)
The gate entry foundation stones of Rev. 21 are the same as the breastpiece
jewels of the Exodus account. In past times these twelve jewels were exhibited
only on the High Priest at especially designated times. But in the Messianic era
they will be on continual display in the city together with other colourful jewels.
I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations
with *sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
your gates of jewels, and all your wall of precious stones.
*(Lapis lazuli, a sapphire-coloured stone)
In the Bible, a basic purpose of gemstones was colour definition, for that was
the most accurate and acceptable way of describing colours. We have our own
translation of the Biblical jewel list. The Hebrew Text only has the jewel names
but we include colours because it is helpful to readers if they know the colours.
v 10, And it was set with four rows of stones:
a row of red Sard, of yellow-green Olivine,
and of emerald green jade, which is the first row.
v 11, And the second row is of sea green Amazonite,
of sapphire blue Lapis lazuli, and of white jade.
v 12, And the third row is of purple-violet Amethyst quartz,
of apple green Chrysoprase, and of lavender jade.
v 13, And the fourth row is of honey gold Citrine quartz,
of pale grey-pink Sardonyx, and of spinach green jade,
enclosed within gold filigree in their settings.
This was the jewel stone arrangement for the High Priestly breastpiece. We
may now identify the appointed tribal names in each row, the first row at top,
looking at the breastpiece from right-to-left as it would have then been viewed.
The first row has the names Levi, Zebulun and Reuben. The second row has
the names Issachar, Benjamin and Dan. The third row has the names Naphtali,
Gad and Asher. The last row has the names Simeon, Judah and Joseph.
The High Priest also attached two stone plates on his shoulders which had
the twelve tribe names engraved on them in birth order (Ex. 28:9-12; 39:6-7),
with six names on one stone and six names on the other. These epaulettes, or
shoulder stones were of sardonyx (Heb. SHÒHAM), the jewel stone of Judah.
This confirms our method of tribe-jewel correspondence for the tribes of Israel
were all put under the authority of Judah. Their king and their Messiah were
appointed to be from Judah. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5).
The tribal name stones carried on the High Priest’s shoulders signify Messiah
bearing the peoples’ burdens, (burdens are put on shoulders). Authority rests
on Jesus’ shoulders (Isa. 9:6). His priesthood is permanent (Heb. 7:24) because
he continues forever.
As permanent High Priest, his priesthood continues through the Kingdom era
that has no end. The jewel stones of the High Priest show forth Kingdom glory.
This is for glory and beauty (Ex. 28:2).
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