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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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I. In OT . 1. Several different words are rendered ‘stone,’ but the one of by far the most frequent occurrence is ’ebhen , which has the same wide range of application as its English equivalent. Palestine is a stony country, arid the uses to which stone was put were numerous and varied. In its natural state a stone served for a pillow ( Genesis 28:18 ) or a seat ( Exodus 17:12 ), for covering the mouth of a well ( Genesis 29:2 ff.) or closing the entrance to a cave ( Joshua 10:18 ; cf. Matthew 27:30 etc.). Out of it, again, might be constructed a knife ( Exodus 4:25 , Heb. tsûr . RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘flint’), a vessel ( Exodus 7:19 ; cf. John 2:6 ), a mill ( Deuteronomy 24:8 ). Above all, stone was employed in architecture. Houses ( Leviticus 14:42 etc.), walls ( Nehemiah 4:8 , Habakkuk 2:11 ), towers (by implication in Genesis 11:3 ), and especially the Temple ( 1 Kings 5:17 f. etc.), are referred to as built of stone. We read of foundation-stones ( 1 Kings 5:17 ), of a corner-stone ( Psalms 118:22 ), of a head-stone or finial ( Zechariah 4:7 ); and in 2 Kings 16:17 mention is made of a pavement of stone. Masonry was a regular trade ( 2 Samuel 5:11 etc.), and stone-hewing is frequently referred to ( 2 Kings 12:12 etc.). Belonging to the aesthetic and luxurious side of life are precious stones and the arts of cutting and graving and setting them ( Exodus 28:9 ; Exodus 28:11 ; Exodus 31:5 etc.); see, further, Jewels and Precious Stones. The profusion of stones made it natural to use them as missiles. Stone-throwing might be a mark of hatred and contempt ( 2 Samuel 16:6 ; 2 Samuel 16:13 ), or the expedient of murderous intentions against which provision had to be made in legislation ( Exodus 21:18 , Numbers 35:17 ). In war, stones were regular weapons of offence. Usually they were hurled with slings ( 1 Samuel 17:49 , 1 Chronicles 12:2 ), but, later, great stones were discharged by means of ‘engines’ ( 2 Chronicles 26:15 , 1Ma 6:51 ). Stoning to death was a natural and convenient method of execution. At first an expression of popular fury ( Joshua 7:25 ), it was afterwards regulated by law as an appointed means of capital punishment ( Deuteronomy 17:5-7 ; cf. Acts 7:58 f.). See, further, Crimes and Punishments, § 10 . The use of stones as memorials was common. Sometimes a single large stone, at other times a heap of stones, was raised ( Genesis 31:45 f., Joshua 8:29 ; Joshua 24:26 ). Akin to this was their employment to mark a boundary ( Joshua 15:6 etc.). Stones would be the ordinary landmarks between the fields of one person and another, the removal of which was strictly forbidden ( Deuteronomy 19:14 etc.). In religious worship stones were employed in the forms of the pillar ( Genesis 28:18 ; Genesis 28:22 ; Genesis 31:45 ; Genesis 35:14 ) and the altar. The latter was at first a single great stone ( 1 Samuel 6:14 f.), but afterwards was built of several stones, which must be unhewn ( Exodus 20:25 , Deuteronomy 27:5-6 ). See, further. Pillar and Altar. The use of stone for literary purposes (cf. the Moabite Stone) is illustrated by the tables of stone on which the Decalogue was written ( Exodus 24:12 etc.) and the inscribed stones of the altar on Mt. Ebal ( Deuteronomy 27:2 ff., Joshua 8:30 ff.).

2 . Stones = testicles ( Leviticus 21:20 , Deuteronomy 23:1 , Job 40:17 ).

II. In NT . Here tithos is the ordinary word, and is found in most of the connexions already referred to. Noteworthy is the fact that Jesus, after quoting Psalms 118:22 , took the rejected and exalted stone as a symbol of Himself ( Matthew 21:42 ff., Luke 20:17 f.). St. Peter adopts the symbol in his address to the Sanhedrin ( Acts 4:11 ), and enlarges it, with further reference to Isaiah 8:14 ; Isaiah 28:13 , in his figure of the ‘living stone,’ which is at once the foundation of God’s spiritual house and a stone of stumbling to the disobedient ( 1 Peter 2:4-8 ). The stone ( petros ) of John 1:42 should be ‘rock,’ or still better ‘Peter’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ); ‘stony’ ( petrôdçs ) in Matthew 13:5 , Mark 4:5 ; Mark 4:16 should be ‘rocky.’ The ‘white stone’ of Revelation 2:17 represents Gr. psçphos , ‘a pebble,’ and the ref. perhaps is to the tessara gladiatoria bestowed on the victorious young gladiator.

J. C. Lambert.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Stone'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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