Stones, large and long, but not high, are the characteristic of Jewish architecture (Mr 13:1). Robinson mentions one 24 ft. long by six broad, and only three high (Res. 1:233, note 284). Flint stones were used as knives for circumcising (Ex 4:25; Jos 5:2-3 margin). Stones were consecrated as memorials to God by anointing, as that at Bethel (Ge 28:18). The Phoenicians similarly called "meteoric stones" baetylia, and worshipped them. Isa 57:6, "among the smooth stones of the stream is thy portion" (i.e. thy gods, Ps 16:4-5). Gesenius translated "in the bore places of the valley," but what follows confirms KJV, "even to them hast thou poured a drink offering"; compare Le 26:1, "image of stone," margin figured stone.
The "white stone" in Re 2:17 is a glistering diamond, the Urim ("light" answering to "white") borne by the high priest within the "breast-plate" (choshen) of judgment, with the twelve tribes' names on the twelve precious stones, next the heart. None but the high priest knew the name written upon it, perhaps "Jehovah." He consulted it in some divinely appointed way. In our Christian dispensation the high-priest's peculiar treasure, consultation of God's light and truth, belongs to all believers as spiritual priests. If the reference be to Greek ideas, the white conveys the idea of acquittal, the stone that of election. In Zec 12:3 "I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone ... all that burden themselves with it shall be cut to pieces," alluding to the custom of testing youths' strength by lifting a massive stone (Mt 21:44). The Jews "fell" on Messiah "the rock of offense and were broken"; the rock shall fall on antichrist who "burdens himself with it" by his assault on the restored Jews, and "grind him to powder" (Zechariah 13; 14). Christians are "living stones" built up as a spiritual temple on Christ "the chief corner stone" (Eph 2:20-22; 1Pe 2:4-8).
PRECIOUS STONES were much valued in Palestine. They were used in the breastplate of the high priest, Solomon garnished the temple with them, and they also abound in the description of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation. As the most costly things on earth they are selected to typify the graces of Christ as reflected in His saints. Ex 28:17-20; 1Ch 29:2; Re 21:18-21.
MEMORIAL STONES. Large stones, or heaps of stones, were often raised to commemorate an event, or to be a witness of some compact. Ge 28:18; 31:45-46; Jos 7:26; 15:6; 1Sa 6:15; 7:12. In the exploration of Palestine many large stones have been found, which apparently had been erected as memorial stones. Heaps of stones are also found where some enemy was defeated, and if the circumstances are known to the Arabs, every passer by is expected to add a stone.
BUILDING STONES. For the foundation of the temple Solomon ordered "great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones." As Jerusalem was built on two or three hills, to obtain a level place for the temple much stonework had to be erected on the shelving rock, before any part of the temple itself could be commenced. Some of such stonework is still to be seen in situ. Some are 'great stones:' one measures 38 feet 9 inches. They are so beautifully squared that they need no cement between them; they have a narrow draft cut along the edges. There is a quarry under Jerusalem, from which much stone had anciently been taken. See JERUSALEM.
Stones were also used for other purposes. In early days they were made into weapons; circumcision was practised with sharp stones. Ex 4:25; Jos 5:2-3. The law was engraven on stones. Ex 24:12; Jos 8:32; 2Co 3:7. Stones were cast upon land to spoil it for agriculture. 2Ki 3:19,25. They were used in the punishment of stoning. Joh 10:31-33. And given as a token of approval, as the white stone in Re 2:17.
Metaphorically stones represent hardness, strength, firmness: as the 'stony heart.' Eze 11:19; 36:26. The Lord Jesus is the 'stone' which the Jewish builders refused, but He became the head stone of the corner. Mt 21:42. He is also the 'living stone,' to whom the saints come as 'living stones,' and are built up 'a spiritual house.' 1Pe 2:4-5.
Besides the ordinary uses to which stones were applied, we may mention that large stones were set up to commemorate any remarkable event.
Such stones were occasionally consecrated By anointing.
Heaps of stones were piled up on various occasions, as in token of a treaty,
or over the grave of some notorious offender.
The "white stone" noticed in
has been variously regarded as referring to the pebble of acquittal used in the Greek courts; to the lot cast in elections in Greece to both these combined; to the stones in the high priest's breastplate; to the tickets presented to the victor at the public games; or, lastly, to the custom of writing on stones. The notice in
of the "burdensome stone" is referred by Jerome to the custom of lifting stones as an exercise of strength, comp. Ecclus. 6:21; but it may equally well be explained of a large corner-stone as a symbol of strength.
Stones are used metaphorically to denote hardness or insensibility,
as well as firmness or strength.
The members of the Church are called "living stones," as contributing to rear that living temple in which Christ, himself "a living stone," is the chief or head of the corner.