The best way to begin a study of this it to look at God, the Rock of our salvation. The key passage to begin with is Deuteronomy 32, which might be called the Song of the Rock, though it is usually called the Song of Moses because Moses wrote it. You remember that when Israel came out of Egypt, the Israelites were thirsty, and God told Moses to strike the rock to give them water. God’s cloud sat upon the rock; and when Moses brought the rod of judgment down on the rock, it passed through the cloud. In this way, God told the people that He would take upon Himself the judgment that they deserved, and that when He did so, living water would be given to them. Thus, God told them that He was their Rock, and that He would give them water (Exodus 17:2-6). Naturally, when God the Rock made covenant with Israel, He wrote it on stone (Exodus 24:12).
For years after that, Israel wandered in the wilderness. This wilderness was full of rocks and huge stones. They were all around Israel as she travelled, and they surrounded the people as they gathered to Moses to hear the song of Deuteronomy 32.
Deuteronomy 32v3-4: “Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”
In other words, God is constant and unfailing to His people. Like a rock, God does not change from day to day, from time to time.
Deuteronomy 32v15-18: “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. 16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. 17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. 18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.”
Moses warns them of turning to other “rocks”
Deuteronomy 32v30-31: “How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.”
The gods of other nations are like little rocks without much to them. Israel would be foolish to forsake the True Rock, because in time God would destroy these pebbles.
Deuteronomy 32v37: “And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted”
When Samuel was born, his mother Hannah celebrated God as her Rock.
1 Samuel 2v2: “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.”
David also celebrated God as his rock
1 Samuel 22v2-3: “And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; 3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.”
1 Samuel 22v32: “For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?”
1 Samuel 22v47: “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation.”
2 Samuel 23v1-3: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, 2 The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. 3 The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”
The Psalmist says
Psalm 18v1-2: “I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
Psalm 28v1-2: “Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. 2 Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.”
Psalm 31v1-3: “In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness. 2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me. 3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”
Psalm 42v9: “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
Psalm 95v1: “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”
Isaiah also delights to call God the Rock of Israel
Isaiah 17v10: “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips:”
We can summarize what the Bible says about God as our Rock by taking note of five things. First, the rock points to strength. A rock is hard and firm, and if it is a large rock, it is pretty much unbreakable.
Second, God presents Himself as a rock to hide in, a fortress. God put Moses in the cleft of a rock to protect him from God’s consuming glory (Exodus 33: 22); and since this rock is said to be a place “next to Me“ commentators have often associated it with Jesus Christ, our Protector.
Third, God as Rock points to judgment. If a large rock falls on you, you are crushed, and just such a judging rock is God. Jesus called Himself “the Stone which the builders rejected,” and said that “every one who falls on that Stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Luke 20:17-18). Falling on the Stone and being broken is an image of salvation, but the Stone falling on you is an image of judgment. Along these lines, we remember that the prescribed method of execution in the Bible was by stoning (Deuteronomy 13:10, etc.). Daniel’s vision of world history saw the Kingdom of Christ as a “stone cut without hands” that would strike and shatter the kingdoms of the world (Daniel 2). In an ambiguous passage, the saints are said to rejoice when they dash the children of Babylon against the rock (Psalm 137: 9) — but in the light of Luke 20:18, does this point to destruction or salvation? Since the Church has always seen the waters of baptism as waters of judgment unto salvation, baptismal fonts have often been made of stone.
Fourth, God as our Rock is the foundation of His house, His Kingdom. The wise man builds his house on this Rock (Matthew 7:24-25). Christ is chief Cornerstone, and we are all living stones (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6).
1 Peter 2v4-9: “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:”
Fifth, a mighty rock gives shade, a picture of God’s provision and protection. We have seen that God’s glory-cloud gave shade to Israel in the wilderness (Isaiah 4:6; 25:4). A large shade-giving rock is like this cloud, in shape and function. God’s people, as His images, are also like rocks. God is the Great Rock, and we are little rocks. We have already mentioned Rocks, Gold, and Gems 73 how we as living stones are built on God as our foundation, His living temple. Isaiah 32:2 speaks of how Christians minister to one another as rocks, “Each will be like a refuge from the wind, and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.” The best known passage that speaks of this is Matthew 16:18, ‘And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My church.” The name Peter means rock, but it is not the same as the word for the Rock upon which Christ builds His church. That second word means “great rock” or “bedrock, foundation.” Thus, Peter is a little rock, a “chip off the True Rock,” as it were.
The Stones of Havilah
Genesis 2v10-12: “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.”
Eden is the land of food, and the outlying lands are lands of other raw materials. The Bible conceives of commerce between these lands, so that those of Adam’s descendants who lived in Eden would have to engage in trade with those who had moved downstream to Havilah. In this way, precious stones would be brought from Havilah back to Eden to adorn the sanctuary.
When Israel came out of Egypt, she sojourned in the land of Havilah while the Tabernacle and the High Priest’s garments were made (Genesis 25v18). Here in this land of rocks were made many items of gold and onyx. Indeed, the only reference in the Bible to the onyx stone, outside of Genesis 2, is in connection with the High Priest’s garments. The shoulder stones of the “ephod” were made of onyx, and had the names of the twelve tribes put upon them.
No one knows what bdellium is supposed to be. The only other reference to it in the Bible is Numbers 11:7, where we are told that manna was the color of bdellium. Since manna was white (Exodus 16: 31), the bdellium was also white. Notice that Israel only ate manna while she was in the wilderness of Havilah, the land of bdellium.
Gold is much more familiar to us. More than any other metals, gold and silver show forth the glory of God. In every time, in every clime, in every land and nation, gold and silver come to be regarded as valuable. There are two points to be made concerning this.
First of all, gold and silver, especially gold, are heavy. The Hebrew word for “glory” literally means ‘heavy.”
Second, not only is gold heavy, it is also radiant and shining. God’s glory appears as a flaming fire and a burning furnace, and gold more than any other mineral ties into the human tendency to appreciate this glory. The walls of the Tabernacle and Temple were both lined with gold, creating a golden glory environment all around. Similarly, the fiery tree or lampstand in the Tabernacle — an abiding replica of the burning bush — was made of gold, as were many other items.
Stones of Fire
Let us turn our attention now to precious stones. They are, after all, the glory-stones. We enjoy looking at them in coffee table books. We make jewellery out of them. We pay high prices for them, not because they are rare (after all many other minerals are much rarer), but because they are beautiful and thus highly prized.
In Ezekiel 28 we find a description of the King of Tyre
Ezekiel 28v12-14: “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. 13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.”
Some commentators have suggested that the “King of Tyre” is Lucifer (because he is called a cherub), and others have pointed to Adam (because of Eden). In light of the context, however, we should see this “King of Tyre” as the High Priest of Israel. Israel was the true head of the nations, spiritually speaking (Genesis 12: 3; Deuteronomy 28:13). Tyre had been allied spiritually with Israel in David’s time, and thus had recognized the High Priest as her ultimate earthly spiritual leader; indeed, Tyre had helped build the Temple (2 Samuel 5:11-12; 1 Kings 5:1-18; 9:10-14; 2 Chronicles 8:2; Psalm 45:12). Tyre, living downstream from “Eden” in “Havilah,” assisted Solomon in getting gold for the Temple (1 Kings 9:26-28). Tyre had provided these ‘Havilah” raw materials in exchange for table provisions from the Edenic “Foodland” of Israel, thus providing a snapshot of how the priestly nation was to interact with other converted nations (1 Kings 5:9-12),
2 Samuel 5v11-12: “And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house. 12 And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel’s sake.”
1 Kings 5v9-12: “So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire. 11 And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year. 12 And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.”
1 Kings 5v17-18: “And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house. 18 And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.”
I Kings 9v14: “And Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold.”
Job 5v23-24: “For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. 24 And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.”
Genesis 49v13: “Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon.”
Now, however, Tyre had broken faith, and thus the Lord made a long prophecy against her and her prince (Ezekiel 26-28). This apostasy did not occur in a vacuum, however. As Ezekiel had already shown at length (Ezekiel 1-23), it was Israel’s apostasy that had misled the nations. It was the High Priest, the spiritual King of Tyre, whose sin had ultimately caused the Prince of Tyre to go astray.
Now with this background we can understand better the imagery of Ezekiel 28:13-14. Eden, the garden of God, is the land of Israel, and most particularly Jerusalem (Ezekiel 31:8-9, 16; 36: 35). The covering of precious stones is the breastpiece of the High Priest, described in Exodus 28:15-21. The High Priest was the cherubic guardian of the Temple, and his failure to maintain God’s holiness had led both Israel and her ally Tyre into sin. The holy mountain is Mount Moriah, the Temple site. We notice that the gemstones are called “stones of fire” (VV. 14, 16). This is because these stones house fire. If you have a diamond ring hold it up. Notice the fire within? Each of these stones is a tiny image of God’s glory, His fire. The High Priest, whose chest was covered with such fiery stones, thus had his own personal glory-cloud, an image of God’s.
It is because gemstones so pointedly reflect God’s glory that we regard them as beautiful. It is written on the heart of man to appreciate glory, and it takes a great act of the will to pervert this attraction, we delight in a beautiful sunset, in the sound of rushing water, and in gemstones, because each of these images the very glory of God Himself. Fallen man may not want God, but he does want God’s glory.
Not only can we see gemstones as frozen pieces of glory, but we can also see them as frozen pieces of the rainbow. The rainbow is, of course, a manifestation of glory, being made of light and all colors. It appears in the heavens, like the glory of God, and the Bible shows it encircling God’s throne.
The rainbow first appears in the familiar passage Genesis 9:12-16, where God put His warbow in the sky, and said, “When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the eart~ (Genesis 9:16). It is nice for us to look at rainbows and be reminded that God will never again destroy the earth with a Flood, but it is far more important for God to be “reminded” when He sees it. Of course, God does not need to be reminded of anything, but He has chosen to do things this way for our comfort.
But does God only see this rainbow when it rains? No, because God is always surrounded by His glory-cloud, and thus He always sees the rainbow. When Ezekiel saw God’s glory-chariot, he wrote that “as the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God” (Ezekiel 1:28). Similarly, when John stood before God’s throne, he saw that “there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance” (Revelation 4:3). John compared the rainbow to a gemstone. Finally, in Revelation 10:1, John had a vision of the exalted Christ, and described him as “another strong Angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon His head, and His face was like the sun, and His legs like pillars of fire .“ The rainbow around His head means that Christ looks through it to see the world, always reminded of the Noahic covenant.
The rainbow encircles God’s throne, but so, too, do the gemstones. In Revelation 21 we have a vision of the New Jerusalem, the city built around God’s throne (Revelation 22: 1). Jerusalem is an architectural replica of God’s glory-home:
Revelation 21v18-21: “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.”
In other words, the city was encircled with gemstones: stones of the land for Israel, and pearls from the sea for Gentiles. These foundation stones have already been associated with the names of the Apostles (Revelation 21:14), just as the High Priest’s twelve stones had written on them the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, these stones represent people. (See also Isaiah 54:11 -12.) We are God’s house of gemstones. The righteous people in the Church are likened to gemstones by Paul in a famous temple passage:
1 Corinthians 3v10-13: “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
Paul is writing to pastors, who will continue building the house whose foundation he has already laid. Paul says that the Church is built up of saints, who are like gold, silver, and gemstones, but also includes Satan’s agents, who are like wood, hay, and stubble. God puts the wicked into the Church so that they may catch on fire, and turn the Church into a refining furnace to purify His people.
God does not want ugly brown stones adorning the walls of His house. He wants lovely, pure stones, glorious stones of fire, chips of frozen rainbow. He wants a people of peace, a rainbow people, who respect the Noahic covenant and thus love His world and will not destroy it. Christians are the rainbow warbow of the Prince of Peace, bringing peace to the world of humanity in the Gospel.
But also, the fact that the High Priest carried the gemstones on his heart means that we as God’s gemstones are always next to the heart of Christ. We may feel like ugly grey rocks that have been cast aside; but we know in faith that God carries us on His heart, and we are of infinite value to Him.