from the Science of Correspondences Elucidated by Edward Madeley
(The Substance and Form of the Breast-Plate, and Arrangement of the twelve precious Stones.)

As the breast-plate of Aaron (Ephod) formed one of the most magnificent appendages to his sacerdotal dress, and at the same time, from the varied brilliancy and translucency of the precious stones, called Urim and Thummim, which were set upon it, was appointed to be the medium whereby responses from heaven were obtained in the Jewish church, it is interesting to examine its construction, and to inquire in what manner the extraordinary effects ascribed to it were produced.

It has been doubted by some whether the breast-plate formed one square, or two squares in one, making an oblong square, because it is described as being four-square doubled : and it has likewise been supposed that the four rows of precious stones, which were set in it, were to be reckoned from right to left in such a manner, that the three stones of each row should be placed laterally, or even with each other. Accordingly some engravings have represented the plate on Aaron’s breast, and the rows of stones set upon it, in the way and position just described.

The breast-plate itself was made of gold, of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen : its form being that of a square when doubled; it had two rings at the upper ends, and two at the middle of the sides, whereby it was fastened to the ephod: and each of the precious stones, twelve in number, was set in a socket of gold, and had the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved upon it. Which particular name was inscribed on one stone, and which on another, does not appear from the description given in the Word : and it would be very difficult if not impossible for us at the present day to determine this point, since the order of the names in other parts of the Word varies on different occasions, each name at one time denoting more or less of the good and the true properly signified by it, according to the nature of the subject treated of, the arrange ment in each case adopted, and the relation of the one to the other and to the whole.

(1.) Ex. xxviii. 15-21. Thou shalt make the breast-plate of judgment with cunning work, after the work of the ephod thou shalt make it ; of gold, and of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine twined linen shalt thou make it. Four-square it shall be, being doubled ; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof. And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones : the first row shall be a sardius, (a ruby,) a topaz, and a carbuncle : this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, (a chrysoprasus,) a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, (a cyanus,) an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, (a Tarshish,) and an onyx, and a jasper : they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names; like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve TRIBES.

In Ex. xxxix. 8-14, nearly the same words as the preceding are repeated in this chapter; but with this difference, that the former appear in the shape of a command, the latter as the command executed.

REPRESENTATION OF THE BREAST-PLATE with its Precious Stones, their Colors, and Signification.

Since, the precise arrangement of the names of the twelve tribes, or the distinct appropriation of them to the particular stones of the breast-plate, cannot now be ascertained, and for the reasons above stated need not, it is sufficient for us to know that the stones themselves, together with the names inscribed upon them, represented all the goods and truths of heaven and the church; that those on the right side (of the high-priest) represented the celestial love of good and the celestial love of truth, or in other words, love to the Lord and mutual love; that those on the left represented the spiritual love of good, and the spiritual love of truth, or in other words, charity towards the neighbor and faith from that charity ; while the three stones in each row denoted the perfection and fulness of each kind of love, from its beginning to its end. This signification arises as well from the colors of the stones, as from their number, which was in each row three.

We will therefore now consider the rows in their order; and from the color, transparency and brilliancy of each, endeavor to point out their true signification.

The first Row,, consisting of a Ruby (Sard), a Topaz, and a Carbuncle. There are two fundamental colors, from which all the rest by combination with each other and with certain degrees of shade or color less media, are derived. These two fundamental colors are red and white; of each of which there are several varieties. The red, being a peculiar display of the primary or most essential quality of fire, is considered in the Sacred Scriptures as expressive of the good of love with which it corresponds: and the white, being a peculiar display of the secondary property of fire, in the same Writings denotes the truth of wisdom with which it also corresponds. Now as the modifications and variegations of natural light with shade produce colors of every description, so the modifications and variegations of spiritual light or truth with ignorance, produce all the varieties of intelligence and wisdom. And hence the precious stones in the breast-plate of Aaron become representative either of higher or of lower degrees of wisdom, (which is always to be understood as inseparable from its love,) according to their brilliancy and transparency, and at the same time according to the kind of light which predominates in them, whether it be red or white. If the red predominate, it is a mark of celestial or most interior affection: but if the white have the ascendancy, then the affection and consequent perception denoted, are of a spiritual or more exterior character.

Under this view of the subject we see the reason why the first row or order, consisting of a ruby, a topaz, and a carbuncle, denotes the celestial love of good, together with its wisdom, namely, because red or flame-colored light predominates and sparkles in each of those stones. The prophet Ezekiel, alluding more particularly to the stones of this order and to their signification as here given, calls them stones of fire, when he addressed the fallen king of Tyrus in these remark able words: ” Thus saith the Lord God, Thou sealest up the sum full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God ; every precious stone was thy covering; thou wast upon the holy mountain of God ; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Thou hast sinned; therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God ; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire,” Ezek. xxviii. 12 to 16.

The ruby is a much-admired gem, of a deep red color, with an admixture of purple. In its most perfect and best colored state, it is of exquisite beauty and extreme value. It is often found perfectly pure and free from blemishes and foulness, but much more frequently debased in its value by them, especially in the larger specimens. It is of very great hardness, equal to that of the sapphire and second only to the diamond. It is various in size, but less subject to variations in its shape than most of the other gems, being always of a pebble-like figure, often roundish, sometimes oblong, larger at one end than the other, in some sort resembling a pear, and usually flatted on one side. In general it is naturally so bright and pure on the surface, as to need no polishing ; and when its figure will admit of its being set without cutting, it is often worn in its rough state, and with no other than its native polish.

In our common English version of the Bible, instead of the ruby, the translators have named the sardius. But the sardius, being a kind of cornelian verging most frequently to a flesh-color, though sometimes to a blood-red, is neither so valuable nor of so deep a hue as the ruby; and therefore does not so properly answer to the Hebrew word odem, as the ruby does. Some authors call the stone here meant a pyropus, from the resemblance which its color bears to fire or to flame.

The modern topaz appears to be a different gem from that of the ancients: and indeed the same may be said of several, if not all, of the other precious stones. That which now bears the name of a topaz may be described as follows: When perfect and free from blemishes, it is considered a very beautiful and valuable gem: it is, however, rarely to be found in this state. It is of a roundish or oblong figure in its native or rough state, usually flatted on one side, and generally of a bright and naturally polished surface, tolerably transparent. They are always of a fine yellow color; but they have this, like the other gems, in several different degrees. The finest of all are of a true and perfect gold-color, and hence sometimes called chrysolites; but there are some much deeper, and others extremely pale, so as to appear scarcely tinged with yellow. The original topaz emulates the ruby in hardness and the diamond in lustre. The most valuable kinds are said to be found in the East Indies; but they are rarely of any great size. The topazes of Peru come next after these in beauty and in value. Those of Europe are principally found in Silesia and Bohemia, but generally with cracks and flaws.

The Hebrew term, pitdah, rendered topaz here and in the English Bible, is, however, by Jerome, Rabbi David, and others, called the emerald, which is a precious stone of a green color, and very different from either of the modern or the ancient topaz. This latter, from its being classed with the ruby and the carbuncle, in all probability exhibited a beautiful flame-colored appearance which in some specimens might also have been enriched with a fine golden tint. To this may be added the circumstance of its being a production of Ethiopia, and not of the places referred to by our modern jewellers. Job, in his estimate of the value of true wisdom, sets it far above rubies, above the topaz of Ethiopia, and above the purest gold, chap, xxviii. 18, 19 ; which is an association that seems to justify our conclusion, that the ruby and the topaz bore an affinity with each other, and jointly with pure gold yielded a most exalted signification.

The carbuncle is a very elegant gem, of a deep red color, with an admixture of scarlet. Its name in the original implies brightness and splendor as of lightning. This gem was known formerly by the name of anthrax. It is said to glitter in the night, and to sparkle much more than the ruby. It is usually found pure and faultless, and is of the same degree of hardness as the sapphire. It is naturally of an angular figure; its usual size is near a quarter of an inch in length, and two-thirds of that in diameter in its thickest part. When held up against the sun, it loses its deep tinge, and becomes exactly of the color of burning charcoal ; whence the propriety of the name which the ancients gave it. It is found in the East Indies, and there but very rarely.

The second row, consisting of a Chrysoprasus (Emerald), a Sapphire, and a Diamond. This order or row of precious stones denotes the celestial love of truth, together with its wisdom, and answers to the external of the celestial kingdom, as the first row does to its internal. The stones of the former row derived their signification from their redness ; but the stones of this row derive it from their blueness which partakes of a reddish tinge: for it is to be noted that there is a blue derived from and tinged with red, and likewise a blue derived from and tinged with white. The blue from red, which prevails in the stones of this row, denotes the celestial love of truth; but the blue from white, which prevails in the stones of the next or third row, denotes the spiritual love of good. The affections of the human mind here represented by colors, though not easily discriminated by one who reflects but little upon them, are yet to be considered as distinct from each other, as the stones of the two rows when compared together. In each case the stones appear brilliant and resplendent; but the one kind shows an affinity with red light, and the other an affinity with white light. So likewise of the affections above mentioned, the one has more immediate reference to the good of love, and the other to the truth of wisdom.

The chrysoprasus is described by some as of a pale green color, with an admixture of yellow ; and the name itself seems to imply as much, being compounded of the Greek word chrusos, gold, and prason, a leek. In Hebrew the term is, nophek, which is rendered differently by different translators. Jerome makes it the carbuncle; the Septuagint calls it anthrax ; Onkelos and the English translators, the emerald; and others suppose it to be the ruby. Then comes Rabbi David, who in his book of Roots pronounces it a black precious stone. See Le Dieu in loc. and Leigh’s Critica Sacra, 3d edit., 1650. But it is well known, that the gems or precious stones of the ancients differed in many respects from those which bear the same names among the moderns; and therefore nothing can be positively concluded against the nophek of the Scriptures, now called the chrysoprasus, being of a cerulean or blue color with a distant tinge of red.

The sapphire is a pellucid gem, which in its finest state is extremely beautiful and valuable, being nearly equal to the diamond in lustre, hardness, and price. Its proper color is a pure blue; in the finest specimens it is of the deepest azure ; in others it varies into paleness in shades of all degrees between that and a pure crystal brightness and water without the least tinge of color, but with a lustre much superior to the crystal. It is distinguished into four sorts, viz., the blue sapphire, the white sapphire, the water sapphire, and the milk sapphire. The gem known to us by this name is very different from the sapphire of the ancients, which is said to have been of a deep blue, veined with white, and spotted with small gold-colored spangles, in the form of stars, etc. Moses describes the appearance of heaven under the feet of the God of Israel, to be like a paved work of a sapphire-stone, Ex. xxiv. 10. And the prophet Ezekiel says, that the throne which was in the firmament over the heads of the cherubim, had the appearance of a sapphire-stone, Ezek. i. 26 ; x. 1. The ancients had an extraordinary esteem for this stone; and those who wore it about their persons, considered it as a passport to good fortune and happiness. The finest sapphires are brought from Pegu in the East Indies, where they are found in the pebble form, of all the shades of blue. The occidental are from Silesia, Bohemia, and other parts of Europe : but though these are often very beautiful stones, they are greatly inferior both in lustre and hardness to the oriental.

The diamond is a clear, bright stone, perfectly translucent, which, though naturally colorless like the purest water, is eminently distinguished from all others of the colorless kind by the lustre of its reflections. It derives its name in the original language from its extreme hardness, as it exceeds all the other precious stones in that quality, and can only be cut and ground by its own substance. It is found sometimes in an angular, and sometimes in a pebble-like form : but each kind, when polished, has the same qualities in proportion to its perfection and purity. In its native state it is sometimes bright as if polished by art; but more frequently its surface is obscured with foulnesses of various kinds ; and sometimes it is, as the diamond-cutters call it, veiny, that is, it has certain points inconceivably hard on its surface. Like all other transparent minerals, the diamond is liable to be tinged by metalline particles, and is sometimes found with a cast of red, sometimes blue, sometimes green, and not unfrequently yellow. That with a cerulean tinge, delicately announcing its distant affinity with red, appears to have been the diamond that occupied the third place of the second row of precious stones in the breast-plate of judgment. The places whence we obtain the diamond, are the East Indies, particularly the island of Borneo, Visapour, Golconda, and Bengal ; also the Brazils in the West Indies.

The third Row, consisting of a Cyanus (Ligure), an Agate, and Amethyst. This row is the first or inmost of the spiritual class, and therefore denotes the spiritual love of good: for the two preceding rows represented the internal and the external of the celestial class. By the spiritual love of good is meant charity ; and by the spiritual love of truth is meant faith derived from charity. The stones of this row were of a cerulean or blue color on a white ground ; consequently they were of a distinct order from the stones of the second row, which were likewise cerulean, but on a most delicate red ground.

The cyanus called by Jerome, Josephus, and the English translators, the ligure; by others the lazule, or lapis lazuli; and by Kimchi mistaken for the topaz is a beautiful gem, of a fine blue color, and is found sometimes variegated with spots or clouds of white, and with veins of a shining gold color. But most probably the stone in its pure state is that which is meant in the Sacred Scripture by the cyanus.

The agate, or achates, is a valuable gem, variegated with veins and clouds: some having a white ground, some a reddish, some a yellowish, and some again a greenish ground. Cups and vessels are frequently made of agate, which is found in Sicily, Phrygia, and India. The precise color of the stone known among the ancient Jews by the name shebo, which our English translators have rendered the agate, and the German Jews call the topaz, cannot be now ascertained. But from its classification with the other stones of this row, which are known to be cerulean, there is sufficient reason to conclude that this stone also was of the same color, and like them on a white ground, but varying a little from them either in depth of tint or degree of shade.

The amethyst is so called, because in ancient times, when the various charms of superstition were more in vogue than at the present day, it was supposed to be a preservative against drunkenness, or excess in wine; the term in Greek implying as much. But the name in Hebrew, achlamah, is derived from a word which signifies, 1, to dream; 2, to recover from sickness, to grow fat, etc. Aben Ezra says that the stone was so called, because it had the power of causing the person who carried it about with him, to dream. Not to dwell, however, on these and such like fancies, it is sufficient for our present purpose to know, that the gem usually called the amethyst, is of various tints, as purple, violet, blue, etc., and that it is sometimes found nearly colorless, approaching to the purity of the diamond. That which is of a fine cerulean color, with a whitish tinge, appears to be the amethyst of the Sacred Scripture, and the last stone in the third row. They are found in India, Arabia, Armenia, Ethiopia, Cyprus, Germany, Bohemia, and other places: but those from the East are the hardest; and if without spots, they are of the greatest value. They are of various sizes and shapes, from the bigness of a small pea to an inch and a half in diameter.

The fourth Row, consisting of a Tarshish (Beryl), an Onyx, and a Jasper. This last row of stones, and second of the spiritual class, denotes the spiritual love of truth, which is the same thing as the good of faith; the third row as described above, denoting the good of charity. The color of each of the stones of this order approaches to white derived from blue, or to a white with a cerulean tint.

The tarshish, called also by the English translators the beryl, and by some the turquoise, the thalassius, and the aqua-marina, is of a sea-blue color, in some fine specimens approaching to white. Some of these stones are a mixture of green and blue resembling sea-water. According to Pliny, there are some which may be called chrysoberyls, on account of their golden or yellow color. These stones are very different from each other with respect to hardness. The oriental are the hardest, and bear the finest polish; and consequently are more beautiful, and of higher value than the occidental. The former kind are found in the East Indies, on the borders of the Euphrates, and at the foot of Mount Taurus. The occidental ones come from Bohemia, Germany, Sicily, the Isle of Elba, etc. And it is affirmed that some of them have been found on the sea-shore.

Tarshish was also the name of a maritime city, mentioned in various parts of the Sacred Scriptures, as in 1 Kings x. 22 ; xxii. 48 ; Ps. xlviii. 7 ; lxxii. 10; Ezek. xxxii. 12, 25; and is supposed to be the same as Tarsus, the birthplace of the apostle Paul. As it appears to have been distinguished for its commerce and wealth, the name of the city was probably given to the precious stone, as well on account of the resemblance of its color to the sea-water off the coast, as because it was usually brought in the ships of Tarshish from one country to another.

The onyx is a much-admired gem, having variously colored zones, but none of them red. In some specimens the zones are beautifully punctuated. In general the onyx resembles the color of a man’s nail, being whitish on a cerulean ground.

The jasper is a stone of great variety of colors, often of a beautiful green, and sometimes with spots resembling those of a panther; hence called by some of the rabbi the panther-stone. Jerome identifies it with the beryl. But the true jasper of the ancients, or that which is mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, (Apoc. xxi. 11 ; Ezek. xxviii. 13,) was neither green nor spotted, but a clear, white, pellucid and brilliant stone, in some degree resembling the crystal for parity and whiteness, yet still discovering its relation to the family of azures, by the distant but easily perceptible tinge of blue, which suffuses all its substance.

See also: Sacred & Spiritual Crystals and Crystals of the Breastplate Collection


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