Precious stones have, and will, play a vital and fascinating role in the Bible. Our Creator, long before he made man, used stones such as diamonds, rubies and emeralds to adorn one of the greatest beings he could create by fiat - Lucifer (Ezekiel 28:13). Much later, he commanded Moses to create a special breastplate for the nation's High Priest that contained twelve large gems that each represented one of the tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:17 - 20).
In the near future, God the Father will place his presence and throne on the earth through a New Jerusalem he will create. One of the hallmark features of the new city will be its wall, which will contain twelve gemstones used for its foundations (Revelation 21:19 - 20).
This study series will delve into ten major English translations (ASV, ESV, HBFV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV and NLT) to discuss twenty-two gemstones found within the pages of God's word. The stones covered include the Agate, Amethyst, Beryl, Carbuncle (Red Garnet), Carnelian, Chalcedony, Chrysolite, Chrysoprase, Coral, Diamonds, Emeralds, Jacinth, Jasper, Lapis Lazuli, Onyx and Sardonyx stones, Pearls, Peridot, Rock Crystal, Rubies, Sapphires, Topaz and Turquoise.
This study series will also discuss the special topics of the exact placement of stones within the High Priest's breastplate and the linkage between the gems found in New Jerusalem with the twelve apostles.
Gemstones, highly prized in Biblical times (Proverbs 17:8), continues to be a coveted commodity. The searching, mining, manufacturing, selling, recycling and other activities related to these minerals provides countless jobs around the world. Their value and importance to world trade is substantial.
For example, although the United States accounts for only a small percentage of world gemstone production, it is the planet's largest market for both diamond and non-diamond gems. In 2013, the total value of its market for all natural gems (including diamonds) was estimated to be $24.7 billion dollars. America imports these stones from 115 other countries and territories. For the year, its precious stone trade with the rest of the world was valued at slightly more than $44 billion dollars. The total value of natural non-diamond gem production in the world, in 2013, stood at $2.5 billion (USGS 2013 Minerals Yearbook for Gemstones).
The first mention
The first of many precious stones in the Bible is mentioned in the book of Genesis. It is referenced in relation to the creation of man and the Garden of Eden.
Scripture tells us that God, in the eastern part of a land called Eden, created a beautiful garden in which to place the first human (Genesis 2:8). A river that went through Eden provided the water for the garden (verse 10). Outside of Eden and its garden, the river parted into four main branches. The first branch, called Pishon, flowed into a land where rare raw materials were known to exist. Another branch of the river was the Euphrates. Onyx stones are not only the first, but also most frequently mentioned, special stone in Scripture.
Gemstones have a long history as a gift of the highest value and worthy of royalty. The queen of Sheba (who was likely from Arabia) made a special trip to visit King Solomon and see for herself if he was as wise as she had heard. She brought gemstones with her as one of the many gifts in which to honor him (1Kings 10:1 - 2).
The queen (who, according to some Biblical commentaries, may have eventually become one of his wives) not only gave Solomon a great quantity of gemstones, but also 120 talents of gold valued today roughly at $157 million U.S. (assuming $1,200 per ounce price - verse 10). During Solomon's reign, above the riches he was regularly given, he and the King of Tyre entered into a business partnership to bring still more precious stones to Israel (1Kings 10:11, see also verse 22).
An End Time commodity
The merchants of the world, just before the Second Coming of Christ, will MOURN the loss of Babylon the Great which provided them a means to become wealthy from, among many things, gemstones. Their loss will be so GREAT that Scripture records TWICE, in a single chapter, their lament (Revelation 18:11 - 12, 15 - 16).