THE BREAST-PLATE OF AARON,
CALLED THE BREAST-PLATE OF JUDGMENT,
AND ALSO URIM AND THUMMIM.
[from the Science of Correspondences Elucidated by Edward Madeley]
The Substance and Form of the Breast-Plate,
and Arrangement of the twelve precious Stones.
(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.
As the breast-plate of Aaron 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. But on a more careful examination of the passage above quoted, it will be found that the whole breast-plate was a perfect square, being a span in length and a span in breadth : yet it was a square of a double or twofold character, because it was divided into right and left, to represent a celestial and a spiritual principle : and these again were subdivided, to denote the internal and the external of each: the whole forming four rows in a vertical or upright position, with three stones in each row, and there by representing and signifying the conjunction of all the truths of heaven with the good from which they are derived, and at the same time their high perfection.
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. For examples of this variety in the order of the nomination of the tribes, the reader may consult the following passages:
1. For the order of their birth, Gen. xxix. 32-35; xxx. 6-24; xxxv. 18.
2. For the order in which they are named, before Jacob came to his father Isaac to Mamre, Gen. xxxv. 23-26.
3. For the order when they came into Egypt, Gen. xlvi. 8-19.
4. For the order when they were blessed by their father Jacob, then Israel, Gen. xlix. 3-27.
5. For the order when the heads of the different tribes are named, for the purpose of numbering their armies, Num. i. 5-15.
6. For the order when all the males capable of war, from twenty years old and upward, were numbered, Num. i. 20-43.
7. For the order when they pitched their tents around the taber nacle of the congregation, Num. ii. 1 to end.
8. For the order when the princes of the tribes made their offer ings, Num. vii. 12-78.
9. For the order when they marched, the ark of the covenant going before them, Num. x. 14-28, 33.
10. For the order when the heads of the tribes were sent to spy out the land of Canaan, Num. xiii. 4-15.
11. For the order when they were numbered, Num. xxvi. 5-62.
12. For the order when the princes were appointed to divide the land by inheritance, Num. xxxiv. 13-29.
13. For the order when they stood upon mount Gerizim to bless the people, and upon mount Ebal to curse, Deut. xxvii. 12, 13.
14. For the order when they were blessed by Moses, Deut. xxxiii. 6-24.
15. For the order when the lands were divided by lot among them, Josh, xiii.-xix.
16. For the order when certain cities were given by lot to the Levites, Josh. xxi. 4-7.
17. For the order when the cities so given to the Levites are mentioned by name, Josh. xxi. 9-39.
18. For the order when the new or holy land shall be divided by- lot according to the tribes of Israel, Ezek. xlviii. 2-8, 23-28.
19. For the order when the gates of the new or holy city are described, Ezek. xlviii. 31-34.
20. For the order when twelve thousand of each tribe are sealed, Apoc. vii. 5-8.
REPRESENTATION OF THE BREAST-PLATE
With its Precious Stones, their Colors, and Signification.
Celestial Love of Good-Celestial Love of Truth--Spiritual Love of Good--Spiritual Love of Truth
With respect to the names appropriated to each stone, it is probable that some one of the preceding orders of nomination was observed, though not particularly stated in the letter of the Word. The order of their birth is generally supposed to have been the order adopted for the breast-plate, probably because that was the order observed on the two onyx-stones placed on the shoulders of the ephod, as in Ex. xxviii. 10. But this being matter of conjecture only, some incline to that arrangement of the tribes, which represented the celestial order subsisting among the angelic societies in heaven, because in their judgment it is the most perfect. Such appears to have been the order of their encampment, as given in Num. ii. 3-21,* when they were arranged according to the four quarters, the standard of the camp of Judah at the head of three tribes being in the east, that of Reuben at the head of three other tribes in the south, that of Ephraim in like manner in the west, and that of Dan in the north, with the camp of the Levites and the tabernacle of the congregation in the midst. For Judah was the first of the tribes, and bore the highest signification; while Dan was the last, and denoted what was lowest in heaven and the church. Similar was the order when they marched, the ark of the covenant going before them, Num. x. 14-28, 33. And probably they were in the same position in relation to the four quarters, as that above described, when Balaam beheld them at a distance, and exclaimed, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel ! " Num. xxiv. 5.
But as it is possible that some other order than that of encampment may have been required for the breast-plate, which however is not expressed, w e shall venture to offer a conjecture on the reason of its being withheld.* May it not have been, because the names as seen upon the breast-plate in the spiritual world, were not always determined to any one arrangement, but at times shifted from one stone. or from one order of stones, to another, according to the ever-changing circumstances of the church, or of the people who represented the church, either generally or specifically? And as this variety of state was perpetual, and could not have been so well suggested or designated by any fixed order of naming the tribes, may it not have been on this account that the literal sense or the literal record, is silent on the point in question? And yet we are authorized to believe that the names were actually engraven either over, under, or upon the stones in some determinate order, which must therefore have been permanent in the natural world, though variable in the spiritual world. The inconvenience or difficulty which may be supposed to arise from the disagreement here alluded to between what may be called the real fact and the spiritual use to be drawn from the whole description of Urim and Thummim, is entirely obviated by suppressing in the letter all mention of the order of naming the tribes, or the particular application of the names to their respective stones on the breast-plate: which is a peculiarity not exclusively confined to the present case, but may be observed in various other instances to be met with in the Sacred Scriptures both of the Old and the New Testament.
They who are desirous of further information as to facts which really did take place, but which yet were not deemed proper to be admitted as part of the Divine Word, and therefore frequently referred to the books of the Chronicles of the kings of Judah and Israel, (which do not appear to be those books usually called Chronicles, but some others not now extant,) or to some other history collateral with but distinct from the Sacred Volume: see 1 Kings xi. 41; xiv. 19, 29, etc., . Compare also 2 Sam. xx iv. 9, which is a part of the real Word, with 1 Chron. xxi. 5; xxvii. 24, which is no part of the Word, but merely a collateral or supplementary history ; and the variation of the Divine record from what may probably have been the literal fact will immediately appear. Again, compare 2 Kings xxiii. 29, 30, with 2 Chron. xxxv. 20-27 ; and it will be further seen, that several particulars relative to the good king Josiah, which are recorded as facts in the last-mentioned history, are entirely suppressed in the book of Kings, which is a part of the Divine Word.
Similar variations are observable in other historical transactions related in the divine books, when compared with those given in the book of Chronicles : as for example, speaking of the first of David s heroes, it is said in the first book of Chronicles, that " Jashoboam an Hachrnonite, the chief of the captains, lifted up his spear against three hundred, who were slain by him at one time," chap. xi. 11 : but in the second book of Samuel the exploits of the same mighty man are thus described : " The Tachmonite, that sat in the seat, (or, as it might have been rendered, Joshab-bashebeth the Tachmonite,) chief among the captains, the same was Adino the Eznite, he lifted up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time," chap, xxiii. 8. Here the Divine record makes the number of the slain to be eight hundred, while the collateral history gives only three hundred.
In the New Testament likewise, we find a striking variation in the account given by Matthew, from that in the Acts of the Apostles, concerning the death of Judas. Matt, xxvii. 3-5, states that, after Judas had betrayed Jesus, he repented, returned the thirty pieces of silver, the price of blood, and went and hanged himself. Whereas in the Acts of the Apostles, i. 18, it is expressly said, that he " purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out." And it is added, (ver. 19,) that this "was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem ; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood." The reader will here observe, that the Evangelist writes by Divine inspiration, and that the Acts of the Apostles is to be regarded only as a collateral history. That the Word should have been so written, as to comprise in its bosom nothing but the divine truths of heaven, while in its external form it selects just so much (and no more) of the Israelitish history, as was found necessary to embody those truths ; and that at the same time the Church should be able to reap from the whole the spiritual benefit intended, is, to the pious and enlightened mind, matter of astonishment, as well as of eternal gratitude.
Since, therefore, 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, 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. Our jewellers are very nice, though not perfectly determinate, in their distinctions of this gem, knowing it in its different degrees of color under three different names. The first is simply the ruby, the name given it in its deepest colored and most perfect state. The second is the spinel ruby; under this name they comprehend those rubies which are of a somewhat less bright color than the ruby simply so called. The third is the balass ruby ; under which name they express a pale yet a very bright ruby, with a less admixture of the purple tinge than in the deeper colored ones, and of less value. The true ruby comes from the East Indies; and the principal mines of it are in the kingdom of Pegu and the island of Ceylon.
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, 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, an Agate, and an 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, 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 rabbies 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 ofazures, by the distant but easily perceptible tinge of blue, which suffuses all its substance.
The Manner of obtaining Responses from Heaven in ancient Times,
by Means of the twelve precious Stones called Urim and Thummim.
Having seen what was signified by the twelve precious stones in the breast-plate of Aaron, we now come to explain the manner in which responses were given from heaven by their means. We have already stated, and here repeat, that all the diversity of colors in the stones was produced by the modifications and variegations of two fundamental colors proper to light: these are red and white, each in a state of brilliancy and splendor illustrative of their true origin which is fire, and indeed the fire of the sun. From these, through the different degrees of shade, arise all the varieties of color, according to the qualities which different bodies possess of receiving, absorbing, compounding, dividing, reflecting or refracting the incident rays of light. Some bodies also have the property of perverting the rays of light in such a manner, as to extinguish their lustre, and to exhibit either a dead white, or a carbonic red, or a variety resulting from the union of these two colors with a gloomy Mack.
These observations equally apply to the rays of spiritual light, which consist of divine truth proceeding from the divine good of the Lord, and illuminating human as well as angelic minds, in the way of mediate as well as immediate influx, according to all the diversities of intelligence and wisdom in each. For every color in the spiritual world is a correspondent expression of some distinct perception of divine truth: and hence it is, that, according to the appearance of colors in that world, their vivid brightness or their fading hue, the various states of wisdom among the inhabitants, which are no other than so many continual revelations from the Lord, are visibly represented. But this was particularly the case when occasions offered during the theocracy established among the Jewish and Israelitish people, for consulting and interrogating the Divine Being by means of Urim and Thummim.
By Urim in the Hebrew language is signified shining fire, or fire which gives forth light: and by Thummim is signified integrity or perfection, which, in reference to the precious stones, must denote their resplendency, brilliancy, and extreme beauty. These were set in the breast-plate which was then called the breast-plate of judgment, the judgment of the children of Israel, and also the judgment of Urim, because thereby responses were given, and divine truths revealed from heaven. The communication thus opened between heaven and the people of Israel through the medium of the high-priest, was at first adopted in conjunction with that direct intercourse with Jehovah which Moses enjoyed during his life; but after the death of Aaron and of Moses, it was established as the usual and regular channel of making known to Jehovah the requests of the people, and of obtaining from Him, in reply, such answers as the Divine Wisdom might dictate.
The manner in which responses were given by means of Urim and Thummim, is not agreed upon by the different writers on the subject. Josephus in his Antiquities says that the twelve precious stones cast forth a more than ordinary lustre, when the Israelites were to obtain a victory over their enemies, and that by the appearance or non-appearance of this sign, they judged of the state of their affairs; the lustre and brilliancy of the stones foretelling good success, as their appearing dark and cloudy portended nothing but evil. Others are of opinion that the names of the twelve tribes which were engraven on the stones, as also the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, together with the words shibtey Jeshurun, i. e. the tribes of Jeshurun, or of Israel, added to complete the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, were the instruments through which God delivered these oracles. It is therefore supposed that as many of the letters as were requisite to answer the proposed question, raised themselves up above the rest: as for instance, when the Israelites asked the Lord, saying, "Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first to fight against them?" Judg. i. 1; it was answered by the oracle, "Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand," ver. 2. The word Judah, engraven on one of the stones, was raised, and cast forth a great lustre; after which the four letters [meaning] shall go up, raised themselves on the other stones. But as there is no sufficient authority for this opinion, and as moreover the raised letters in this instance do not give the whole of the answer which was delivered, it is not at all probable that responses were given in this way.
The true mode of proceeding and of obtaining answers from heaven on these occasions, appears to have been as follows: The high-priest, (or in his absence, the seer; the prophet, the judge, or the king, who ever it might be that was authorized to put on the ephod, with or without the other appendages of the priesthood,) standing before the ark of the covenant, whether it was in the tabernacle or out of it, and being clothed in all the garments of the sacred office; the mitre on his head, with the golden plate, the holy crown, in its front; the ephod, the robe, the embroidered coat, and the curious girdle, upon his body; together with the breast-plate of judgment, having twelve precious stones set in gold, and names engraven thereon of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel, upon his heart ; a solemn appeal was made to Jehovah; He was literally questioned and interrogated as to the success of undertakings which were meditated; and He was required to make known his will by Urim and Thummim, that is to say, by the sparkling resplendency and vibrations of light from one stone to the other, and at the same time by an audible voice from heaven, or else by a tacit perception corresponding with the splendor of the stones, which might determine the revelation thus communicated to the eye, the ear, and the understanding of the petitioner. Hence, when the question was put by man, the angels who were present, united in the prayer which with them was entirely of a spiritual character, though with the people of Israel it was merely natural; and as all prayer when genuine, has the power of opening heaven, and thereby of ascending to the Lord himself, a response was immediately given by Divine influx, which became perceptible first to the angels, and afterwards to man through their medium, and the medium of light vibrating in the precious stones. As soon as the angels perceived the Divine will by the resplendent colors presented before their eyes in the spiritual world, (it being one of the prerogatives of their high wisdom to be able to interpret those appearances with the utmost accuracy,) they instantly either infused a suggestion, or gave forth an audible sound expressive of the answer so received by them ; and this voice, which appeared to proceed from off the mercy-seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim, (Ex. xxv. 22 ; Num. vii. 89,) was distinctly heard by the priest, the seer, or the prophet, and perhaps by several of the people also who were present, the ears of their spirits being then opened for the express purpose, while the precious stones on the breast-plate were miraculously seen to glitter by the rapid vibrations of light, which were in unison and correspondence with the light or wisdom of heaven.
If the question or interrogation put to Jehovah, spiritually considered, had for its end or object the love and worship of Him alone, in opposition to all other gods and in defiance of all enemies; or if it contemplated the practice and felicity of mutual love, in confirmation or in proof of their love to God; in such cases the vibrations of light most probably commenced either in the first, or in the second row of precious stones, and in imitation of the influx of love into every faculty of the human mind, first successively and then simultaneously pervaded, irradiated, and finally spread a blaze of glory over every part of the breast-plate. And this was an affirmative sign, rendered still more certain and indubitable by the audible voice accompanying it, directing the course they were to take, and thus enjoining them to persevere in that line of duty, which the Divine Wisdom, through the medium of the Word already given, had laid down for their use.
Again, if the question put were in relation to any of the various points of charity and true faith, as weapons of spiritual warfare ; or to speak more literally, if they inquired of Jehovah whether they should proceed against such and such an enemy or not, and whether the event would be successful or unsuccessful; in this case, if they had been previously obedient to the divine commands in other respects, the vibrations of light commenced either in the third, or in the fourth row of stones; and, by pervading and illuminating the whole, gave a positive token of the Divine approbation, which was further confirmed by the audible voice of an angel.
But, on the other hand, if at any time the people of Israel had rebelled, either by relapsing into idolatry, or by other acts of disobedience, and inquiry were made of Jehovah how they were to conduct themselves on any particular emergency, and in the event of their attacking or being attacked by an enemy, whether success would at tend them or not; in this case the lustre of the stones was diminished, the vibrations of the light (if any appeared) were irregular, its brilliancy less vivid than usual, and the response given both to the eye and to the ear of the inquirer was of that negative kind, which sufficiently announced the Divine disapprobation, and the consequent failure of the projected enterprise. On some occasions no answer whatever was returned: and therefore it is written, that "when Saul inquired of Jehovah, Jehovah answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets." 1 Sam. xxviii. 6.
General directions for obtaining a response, in regard to Joshua, the successor of Moses, may be seen in Num. xxvii. 18-23.
For affirmative and other responses, and for cases wherein Jehovah refused to give an answer, when inquired of, see Judges xx. 18-28; 1 Sam. x. 22; xiv. 37; xxiii. 2-12; xxviii. 6; xxx. 8; 2 Sam. ii. 1 ; v. 19, 23, 24; 2 Kings iii. 11-19.
Such appears to have been the manner of obtaining responses from heaven among the people of Israel, by means of Urim and Thummim, whenever they were anxious to know the Divine will, or the result of any meditated undertaking. And though to many in the present day it wears the complexion of fable and incredible mystery, yet it ought to be remembered that in the times when it was practised, almost all the nations of the earth were in the habit of consulting, through the medium of their priests, the demons whom they both feared and worshipped: and it cannot be questioned but they also, on innumerable occasions, received from them such answers, wrapt up in artful ambiguity, as still left a conviction in the minds of the inquirers that they were possessed of superhuman wisdom. Of this kind was the famous oracle of Apollo at Delphos, among the heathen Greeks, which, however, with the rest of a similar description, was silenced by the coming of the Lord into the world; at which time the demons or spirits, who acted as familiars to the Pythons and Pythonesses, were removed from their direct association with mankind, and cast into hell.
The Manner of obtaining Responses from Heaven at the Present Day,
by Means of the literal Sense of the Word.
Extraordinary and wonderful as the preceding account of the manner of obtaining responses from heaven may appear at the present day, it is not more so than the revelation of divine truth in the literal sense of the Word, and particularly the discovery now made of its genuine internal sense by means of the science of correspondences. For as the precious stones in the breast-plate of judgment represented all the truths of heaven, so in like manner they represented all the truths of the Word, but in their literal or external form, and consequently in their effect ; while the different colors arising from the modifications of natural light, denoted the variegations of wisdom and intelligence which may be considered as spiritual light, both in angels and in men. And as the brilliancy and vibrations of the light in the stones, together with the audible voice from off the mercy-seat, presented both to the eye and to the ear of the person inquiring the desired answer; so the same but a more blessed effect is in our times produced by the extraordinary light of divine truth from the internal sense of the Word, which is spiritually seen to irradiate and as it were to vibrate through every part of its literal sense, while, instead of any external voice being heard, the best affections of the heart are excited, and the Divine will is clearly understood.
In this way we perceive the present use and perpetual application of that part of the Word, which describes the miraculous intercourse between Jehovah and the people of Israel, by means of the breast plate of Urim and Thummim. This intercourse may still be maintained, though not precisely in the same external manner as with the Israelites of old: and yet there is reason to believe that the same internal modifications and variegations of heavenly light which appeared in former times, do now also actually take place in the human mind, on every occasion of consulting the Word purely for the sake of spiritual information and instruction. Thus a person sincerely desirous of knowing the Divine will in relation to any matter either of doctrine or of life, has only to approach the Lord in his Word under a deep sense of his own unworthiness, and an interior acknowledgment that every good gift descends from above. Let him then interrogate the Lord, or inquire of Him, by reading some portion of the Sacred Scriptures for the express purpose of knowing and doing his will; taking care that no improper prejudice or bias of the mind, induced either by education or habits of vice, be suffered to interpose its influence. It is more than probable that the person so reading the Word, or so inquiring of the Lord, will receive an answer most suitable to his state; the pure and radiant light of heaven will appear before his eyes; that is to say, his understanding will be enlightened to discern all necessary truth; the flame of divine love also will be kindled in his bosom; his affections will be still further purified; and he will be supplied with new power to bring his whole life by degrees into complete subjection to the laws of divine order. This conclusion is justified and confirmed by the words of our Lord, " If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God," John vii. 17.
Author: Edward Madeley