Gemstones Background

The Stones of the Ephod

By Jeff A. Benner

And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst. And the fourth row a beryl, 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. (Exodus 28:17-21, KJV)

Each translation uses different words for the stones of the Ephod. Does the Hebrew and Greek texts offer any help in identifying the actual identity of these stones?

First Row

Hebrew: אודם (odem) Strong’s #124
Meaning: Red
Possible Stone: Carnelian
Other Possibilities: Jasper


Hebrew: פטדה (pit’dah) Strong’s #6357
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Olivine
Other Possibilities: Chrysolite, Topaz (The Septuagint uses the word topazios, but the Topaz was unknown at the time of the Exodus)


Hebrew: ברקת (bareqet) Strong’s #1304
Meaning: Lightning/Flash
Possible Stone: Emerald
Other Possibilities: Beryl or Quartz (the Septuagint uses Smaragdos meaning a green stone)

Second Row

Hebrew: נופך (nophekh) Strong’s #5306
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Turquoise (this stone was commonly mined in the Near East)
Other Possibilities: Carbuncle, Garnet, Emerald and Malachite (the Septuagint has Anthrax meaning coal)


Hebrew: ספיר (saphiyr) Strong’s #5601
Meaning: Scroll/Write
Possible Stone: Lapis Lazuli
Other Possibilities: Sapphire (While the Hebrew word is saphiyr, the origin of the word Sapphire, the Sapphire was unknown until the Roman period.)


Hebrew: יהלום (yah’lom) Strong’s #1986
Meaning: Hammer/Strike
Possible Stone: Flint (A stone used to create a spark when struck)
Other Possibilities: Onyx, Diamond

Third Row

Hebrew: לשם (leshem) Strong’s #3958
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Opal
Other Possibilities: Amber, Jacinth, Agate, Amethyst


Hebrew: שבו (sh’vo) Strong’s #7618
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Agate (The Septuagint uses achates meaning Agate.)
Other Possibilities: (unknown)


Hebrew:אחלמה (ahh’lamah) Strong’s #306
Meaning: Dream
Possible Stone: Amethyst (The Septuagint uses Amethystos)
Other Possibilities: (unknown)

Fourth Row

Hebrew: תרשיש (tarshish) Strong’s #8658
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Topaz
Other Possibilities: Beryl, Lapis Lazuli, Amber, Jasper, Serpentine, Olivine, Flint


Hebrew: שוהם (shoham) Strong’s #7718
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Onyx
Other Possibilities: Beryl (The Septuagint uses beryllios), Malachite


Hebrew: ישפה (yash’pheyh) Strong’s #3471
Meaning: (unknown)
Possible Stone: Jasper (The Septuagint uses laspis meaning Jasper.)
Other Possibilities: Ruby, Hyacinth, Emerald