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Anyone who has read even small portions of the Bible knows that there are many symbolic items or places mentioned throughout. For instance, the spiritual meaning of stone, or various passages of scripture mention “twelve stones”.
The twelve stones is mentioned both in the Old Testament and New Testament, though more in the Old. This got me wondering, just what is the biblical meaning of the 12 stones?
What is the Biblical Meaning of 12 Stones?
One of the most basic explanations of the twelve stones in the Bible that I found in various research sources is that of marking religious events. In Old Testament times prior to the construction of the Temple, the Israelites would mark certain areas with stones as an altar for sacrifice.
Additionally, sometimes the nation of Israel, or individuals would mark certain places with stones as an altar of remembrance because of what the Lord had brought them through. Or because of what the Lord had promised to them.
Let’s take a look at the scripture references to the twelve stones.
Spiritual Meaning of Stone- Old Testament
In Exodus 28 we find God giving Moses instructions regarding the priestly garments Aaron and his sons, the Levites, were to wear when performing their duties.
In verses 15-20, God tells them there are to be twelve precious stones used to make the breastplate of the garment. And in verse 21, He tells us the significance of these twelve stones:
“The 12 stones are to correspond to the names of Israel’s sons. Each stone must be engraved like a seal, with one of the names of the 12 tribes.”
Every time Aaron or his sons, or any future Levite put on the vestments with the breastplate, they would be reminded of the twelve tribes of Israel.
They would be reminded of God’s promise to make them a great nation. And they would be reminded that they are a special people, set apart specifically by God for His glory.
Stones in the Bible: The 12 Stones in 1 Kings
I’m jumping ahead a bit now in the Old Testament to 1 Kings 18: 17-46. This is one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament and shows another significant event with twelve stones.
Through the prophet Elijah, God really showed up and showed out here!
Elijah had come to King Ahab to rebuke him regarding his turning aside from the Lord and following the Baals. These were foreign gods introduced to him by his foreign wife, Jezebel.
She was a piece of work, but that is a study for another time!
Elijah challenged King Ahab’s Baal priests (all 450 of them) to a contest to see whose God or gods were real.
In verses 31-35 we see Elijah build an altar for sacrifice using twelve stones signifying the twelve tribes of Israel. He has the people pour water on the altar, not once.
Not just twice. He has them do it four times! Four gallons of water poured over the altar four times until it is running over. Drenched. Saturated completely.
And then in verses 36 – 38:
At the time for offering the evening sacrifice,Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,today let it be knownthat You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things.Answer me,Lord!
Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are Godand that You have turned their hearts back.”
Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.When all the people saw it, they fell facedownand said, “Yahweh, He is God! Yahweh, He is God!”
This altar with it’s twelve stones became a blazing symbol of the might and power of the Lord God of Israel. The one true God.
Additionally, the significance of the twelve stones here hearkens back to the stones of remembrance placed at the entrance to the Promised Land when the Israelites crossed the Jordan.
Let’s look at that Biblical story now.
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12 Stones in Deuteronomy
Another scripture referencing twelve stones is found in Deuteronomy 27: 7 -8. Moses and the elders of Israel instruct the people to use uncut stones to build an altar and that they are to “write clearly all the words of the law on the plastered stones”.
In this Biblical account, the significance of the twelve stones is that they serve as a reminder to the people of the law each time they came to present a sacrifice.
This passage is prior to the crossing of the Jordan into the “Promised Land”. Moses was leading the people still at this time.
If you know the scripture, then you also know that Moses did not get to go into the Promised Land though due to his failure to honor God in the wilderness of Zin. Moses would get to see it, but never set foot on it or taste of the fruits of that land.
When he is providing these instructions to the people of Israel, he knows he is not going to be there to partake in this celebration. Yet, because he trusts the Lord God completely, he faithfully provides direction to the Israelites regarding all that is to come.
Moses knew that God does not fail to keep His promises.
I wonder if the people thought of this at all, as the head of each tribe selected and placed their stones. That Moses had foretold the significance of the twelve stones, and they were literally part of it becoming reality.
12 Stones in Joshua
In Joshua 4 we see the Israelites fulfilling what Moses foretold in our prior scripture passage. In Joshua we see another parallel to an earlier Bible story…the crossing of the Red Sea.
Just as in the Exodus from Egypt, God parts the Jordan River so the people can safely cross over. Joshua has the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant begin to enter the waters.
As the waters recede back, the priests proceed to the middle of the river, and holding the Ark up, they stand there while the whole nation of Israel goes by. As soon as everyone crosses, the priests exit the riverbed and the waters rush back over the area.
In chapter 4 the Lord speaks to Joshua telling him to “Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe,and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priestsare standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night”.
There are multiple symbols of significance of these twelve stones. The obvious being that they represent the tribes of the nation of Israel.
The second and bigger significance is that they are to serve as a reminder to future generations of the miracle the Lord performed here.
Additionally, I believe they signify the continuance of God’s faithfulness to His covenant made with Abraham, passed through Moses and now to Joshua.
Oh, and one other thing. Have you ever tried to stack stones? They do not naturally stack one on top of the other due to their irregular shapes and angles.
These stones being stacked and remaining that way as scripture says “to this day” is a supernatural event. They alone testify to the power and very realness of God.
Lessons Learned from these Stones
Not that we look to symbols for any strength, comfort or assurances, but I want us to think about what we can learn from the significance of the twelve stones. What “stones” could you set up to remind you of the following:
- You are Beloved. God loves you, absolutely and completely. Not because of anything you have done, but simply because you are His child. In Mark 1:11, God proclaims His pleasure over His Son Jesus BEFORE Jesus ever started doing ministry. He hadn’t healed anyone or performed any miracles and yet God loved Him!
- He hears your prayers. They don’t stop at your ceiling friend. God is listening and He will answer.
- He keeps His promises. Every Biblical passage in this post illustrates this truth! The whole Bible does.
- He is your joy. Psalm 16:11. Psalm 20: 4-5. Psalm 30: 4-5. Romans 15:13. James 1:2. I think you get it.
- Because of Him, you are never alone. Joshua 1:9 is my favorite verse for this: “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous?Do not be afraid or discouraged, for theLordyour God is with you wherever you go.” There are many others as well. He never ever leaves us!
When life is chaotic. When you are not sure of the outcome. When you are afraid. Sad. Angry. Turn to your stones.
Pull out these lessons. Perhaps you print them and keep them in your prayer area. And pray through it.
Remember how God showed up for His people. Ask Him to do the same for you.
Finally, remember He is coming again. One final passage about twelve significant stones is found in Revelation 21: 10-27. In this passage the apostle John in his vision is transported to the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven.
As part of the foundation there are twelve precious gemstones used in the twelve foundations of this new city. The significance of these twelve stones?
The names of the twelve apostles of Jesus are inscribed upon them.
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. We will see these twelve stones one day! How exciting is that?!
Ammie Senn is a writer, blogger, leader and trainer with a passion for helping women to live life Christ-centered. Sharing God’s truths to encourage and inspire women in their everyday lives is the goal of her ministry, thus the blog name Ammie’s Heart. You can also connect with Ammie onFacebook,Instagram, andTwitter.
Twelve Stones (twelve מצבות (matzevot) or standing stones) was a common form of marking a spectacular religious event in the days of Kingdom of Judah before the time of King Josiah (Deuteronomy 27:1–8).What does stone represent in Bible? ›
The words rock and stone, referring to the prime elements in ancient foundations, are used in the scriptures as metaphors signifying strength, steadiness, and durability.What do the 12 stones on the breastplate represent? ›
Specifically, the breastplate was to contain twelve precious gemstones, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Hebrew Bible version, a different gemstone is listed for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.What are the 12 stones mentioned in the Bible? ›
In the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, a different gemstone is listed for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are, in the 1st row, carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald; in the 2nd row, turquoise, sapphire, and amethyst; in the 3rd row, jacinth, agate, and crystal; in the 4th row, beryl, lapis lazuli, and jasper.What are 12 stones of Israel? ›
The Hebrew names of these 12 stones are (1) Odem, (2) Pitdah, (3) Bareketh, (4) Nophek, (5) Sappir, (6) Yahalom, (7) Leshem, (8) Shebo, (9) Ahlamah, (10) Tarshish, (11) Shalom, (12) Yashpheh. Also called Aaron's Breastplate or Breastplate of the High Priest.What is the stone of God? ›
The Stone of God on Steam. Dei Lapis is a legendary stone, said to have been created by the creator of the universe. The stone carries his power of ultimate creation and for generations it has been the object of pursuit of many who wished to use it's power, some for good, some for evil.How do you use prayer stones? ›
As you lay the stones down pray for the person or event it represents. You could carry a stone in your pocket or bag, and when you touch it remember to pray. Pray for whatever is on your mind at that time - and remember to thank God for his love.What is the purpose of a stone? ›
Uses of stone
Buildings, walls, paving slabs. Aggregates – stone used for its strong physical properties – crushed and sorted into various sizes for use in concrete, coated with bitumen to make asphalt or used 'dry' as bulk fill in construction. Mostly used in roads, concrete and building products.
the hard substance, formed of mineral matter, of which rocks consist. a rock or particular piece or kind of rock, as a boulder or piece of agate. a piece of rock quarried and worked into a specific size and shape for a particular purpose: paving stone;building stone. a small piece of rock, as a pebble. precious stone.What does breastplate symbolize? ›
The second piece of the armor of God that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6 is the breastplate of righteousness. In the armor of a Roman soldier, the breastplate served as protection for some of the most important parts of the body. Underneath the breastplate is the heart, lungs and other organs necessary for life.
The stones in the breastplate were inscribed with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Therefore they had to be a reasonable size and with diamond being the hardest substance known to man, engraving it would have been incredibly difficult if not impossible.What Stones did God give Solomon? ›
According to legend, an emerald was one of the stones given by god to King Solomon—a gift that endowed the king with power over all creation.Where are the 12 stones? ›
The Trail of Twelve Stones is a located at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. Mementos, or stones, along the trail leads visitors to appreciate the "stepping stones" in Lincoln's life. It is a unique way to review some of the major events in Abraham Lincoln's life.What is the most mentioned stone in the Bible? ›
Although this stone is found on all continents but Antarctica, it remains one of the most demanded globally. Ruby was considered a symbol of supreme power at all times. It was highly valued by world's greatest rulers, whose regalia items generally featured the stone.What is the Hebrew meaning of stone? ›
Hence, stone in Hebrew means the Father and the Son. So when we are told in the New Testament (Luke 6:48) to build our house on a rock and not sand, we should build them on a foundation made up of the Father and the Son.How many stones were used by David? ›
So armed with a shepherds staff, his sling in his hand, and five smooth stones in his shepherd's bag David went to meet Goliath. We know the result of that meeting.Which stone represents Judah? ›
The associated stone of the tribe of Judah is emerald, and antique jewelry with emerald, The Tribe of Judah (Hebrew for: "Praise") was one of Israel's Tribes.What Scripture talks about stones? ›
The first Biblical reference to memorial stones comes in Genesis 28: 10-22, when Jacob set a pillar in Bethel to commemorate a powerful vision of God that he experienced while sleeping there. The experience was so striking that Jacob felt that it must be commemorated, so he erected the stone upon which he slept.What are the stones of power? ›
The Stones of Power, also known as the Stones of Knowledge or simply the Elements, were three Kryptonian crystals containing all the knowledge of the 28 galaxies.What are the stones in Revelation? ›
Answer: In the Bible, Revelation 21:19-20 lists twelve gemstones as the foundation stones of the Heavenly City. Over the centuries, like the stones of the breastplate of Aaron, these Biblical gems became associated with astrological signs and the months of the calendar.
Some people find comfort in this. Another interpretation suggests that the stones will keep demons and golems from getting into the graves. Flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone can symbolize the permanence of memory and will not die.What are prayer stones? ›
Prayer stones were a sign of being a member of the Seer Church. The stones were inserted into the cheeks of believers shortly after birth.What does a prayer rock mean? ›
A prayer rock is a simple way to remember to pray each day. Parents can lay them on their children's pillows so they remember to pray. Teens can keep them in their backpacks or lockers. Anyone can put them on a desk or carry a small one in a pocket or purse. The first step is to make the rocks.What stone represents protection? ›
Amethyst. Amethysts are well-known crystals for protection and stress relief. This rich purple crystal is known to bring its wearer clarity of thought, relief from grief, protection, and wisdom.Do stones have meanings? ›
Dating back to earliest recorded history, gemstones have held symbolic importance in cultures all over the world. Many gems are believed to possess special meaning or have distinct properties, each one unique in color and significance but all connected by intrinsic beauty.What stone means love? ›
Sapphires are often used as a pledge of love, which makes it the perfect gemstone to give this Valentine's Day. Sapphires are an excellent choice for an engagement ring or any piece of jewelry given as a gift of love.What does stone symbolize in life? ›
Rocks can symbolize wisdom, strength, stability, patience, and time. What is this? While there are many different ways that rocks are used by man and by nature, their core essence and symbolism stay the same. Their symbolism comes from the fact they're dense, impenetrable, and ancient.What stone means forever? ›
Diamond – The Forever Gem
Diamonds symbolize forever love, which is why they're most commonly given as engagement and wedding rings.
Emeralds have also been seen as symbols of truth and love throughout time.What does each armor of God represent? ›
These pieces are described in Ephesians as follows: loins girt with truth (belt of truth), breastplate of righteousness, shoes with the preparation of the gospel of peace (peace), shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit/word of God.
The armor of God represents the defense we must take in our spiritual lives. The Bible tells us that we are fighting a war against Satan, who seeks to destroy us. Therefore, we must take action and put on God's armor. As Christians, it is important for us to understand the severity of this battle.How do you pray on the armor of God? ›
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for equipping me with everything I need to win my battles this day! I praise you that I am protected today by the armor of God. I now claim your promise that no weapon formed against me shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). In Jesus' mighty name, amen!What is an engraved stone called? ›
An engraved gem, frequently referred to as an intaglio, is a small and usually semi-precious gemstone that has been carved, in the Western tradition normally with images or inscriptions only on one face.On what type of stone was engraved the names of the children of Israel? ›
20 the fourth row shall be topaz, onyx and jasper. Mount them in gold filigree settings. 21 There are to be twelve stones, one for each of the names of the sons of Israel, each engraved like a seal with the name of one of the twelve tribes.What is the meaning of Urim and Thummim? ›
In consequence, Urim and Thummim has traditionally been translated as "lights and perfections" (by Theodotion, for example), or, by taking the phrase allegorically, as meaning "revelation and truth", or "doctrine and truth" (it appears in this form in the Vulgate, in the writing of St. Jerome, and in the Hexapla).What stone was in King Solomon's ring? ›
According to scripture, the seal-stone in the ring of King Solomon was a sapphire, and the prophet, Abraham, is said to have worn a magnificent sapphire amulet, which is said to have risen into the sun upon his death. It was also included as one of the 12 stones in Aaron's priestly breastplate.What are the stones in Noah? ›
These Nephilim are referred to as the Watchers, but let's not mince words: They're freakin' rock monsters! And though the Watchers are computer-animated, they move with the halting, Harryhausen-esque swagger of a stop-motion figure, adding a most unusual ingredient to Noah's spiked stew.What does the stone represent in Daniel? ›
Daniel explained to the king that the statue represented four successive kingdoms beginning with Babylon, while the stone and mountain signified a kingdom established by God which would never be destroyed nor given to another people.Where are the stones that stand up? ›
Jutting out from the earth below the brooding Hebridean sky, the Calanais Standing Stones (also known as the Callanish stones) are a majestic sight. Set on the west coast of Lewis, the most northerly island in the Outer Hebrides, the prehistoric structure is made from gneiss rock and is more than 5,000 years old.How many stones are in the Bible? ›
“The 12 stones are to correspond to the names of Israel's sons. Each stone must be engraved like a seal, with one of the names of the 12 tribes.” Every time Aaron or his sons, or any future Levite put on the vestments with the breastplate, they would be reminded of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Uluru may be the world's most famous rock but despite a common perception, it isn't the world's largest. Located in the state of Western Australia, Mount Augustus is the world's largest rock and is approximately two-and-a-half times the size of Uluru!What gemstone represents Jesus? ›
The Jasper stone in the context of (Rev 4) is the finest form of Diamond, one of clearest lustre and sets forth Christ's character which ENDURED as well as His character which is so DESIRABLE.Is Jesus the cornerstone? ›
Jesus, the Son of God who came to live among us and save us from the curse of sin and death, is “the chief cornerstone” of the building project that is God's eternal kingdom. “God so loved the world” that he sent his Son on this mission (John 3:16), and he has become the cornerstone, with a specific purpose.What is the white stone in the Bible? ›
The white stone represented innocence whereas a black stone represented guilt. We will stand before God and face His righteous judgment and await sentencing. Physical death the penalty of sin, the second death is the penalty for denying Christ Jesus.What do the 5 smooth stones represent? ›
Five Smooth Stones of: Faith, Obedience, Service, Prayer, and Holy Ghost.What kind of stones are Urim and Thummim? ›
"It consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old-fashioned spectacles." Most accounts refer to them as clear, not opaque.How is Urim and Thummim used? ›
13:24-29.) . . . Because the Urim and Thummim was an instrument used by God to teach man how to receive revelation, it is reasonable that Satan would want the knowledge concerning that sacred instrument lost. An early biblical indication of the existence of the Urim and Thummim before Aaron received it from Moses (Lev.Who has the Urim and Thummim? ›
2. Abraham used the Urim and Thummim in receiving a vision of the order of heaven. “And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees; And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God” (Abraham 3:1–2).What are dressed stones in the Bible? ›
Dressed stones (5:17) are stones that have been cut and polished so that they have smooth faces and edges. This type of masonry was time-consuming and expensive, so it was used primarily for palaces and temples.What are the 5 stones called? ›
There are six Infinity Stones: The Space Stone (blue), the Reality Stone (red), the Power Stone (purple), the Mind Stone (yellow), the Time Stone (green) and the Soul Stone (orange).
Sacred stones were used during the ceremonies of covenant ratification at Sinai (Ex 24.4). Moses erected 12 maṣṣebôt as a sign of the acceptance of Yahweh's covenant by the 12 Israelite tribes. A stone became sacred also by reason of its association with a theophany.