Precious Metals and Gems in the Bible

From Issue: Discovery 6/1/2000

What we have treasured through the ages has not changed much. We can go all the way back to the second chapter of Genesis and read about the gold of Havilah (Genesis 2:11-12). The Bible tells us that Abram was rich in gold and silver, and Solomon’s treasures were legendary (Genesis 13:2; 2 Chronicles 1:15).

The ark of the covenant and other items for the tabernacle were lavished with gold, as was the temple in Solomon’s time (Exodus 25-26; 1

Kings 6:19-22).

A handy list of valuable gems from Old Testament times can be seen in the description of Aaron’s breastplate. This was a special item of clothing worn by the high priest of Israel. Attached to fine cloth, and mounted on gold, were twelve precious and semi-precious stones. Each stone represented a tribe of Israel. Here is the arrangement listed in Exodus 39:10-13:

sardius, topaz, emerald turquoise, sapphire, diamond jacinth, agate, amethyst/beryl, onyx, jasper.

(Some Bible versions give slightly different names because it is very hard to translate the original He­ brew words.)

At the other end of the Bible we find the apostle John using all sorts of precious stones and metals to de­ scribe his vision of heaven (Revelation 21:10-21). This New Jerusalem had walls of jasper, and the city it­ self was made of pure gold. The walls had twelve foundations, each decorated with a precious stone, and it had twelve gates, each made from pearl. Here are the gemstones that John saw on the foundations:

jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst

It is no coincidence that these are similar to the gemstones on Aaron’s breastplate. But in John’s vision of heaven, the foundations represented the twelve apostles, while the gates represented the twelve tribes of Israel. The Holy Spirit wanted people to see a connection between the New Jerusalem and the Old Jerusalem. In the old city, the high priest served the twelve tribes of lsrael, but in this new city, there will be a place for all the faithful children of God. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a beautiful home waiting for us in heaven if we love God and keep His commandments?


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