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Gemstones in the Breastplate of Aaron

A biblical accounting of the gem stones in the breastplate of the high priest.
Whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on the breastpiece of decision as a continuing memorial before the LORD .
- Exodus 28:29 NIV
The Breastplate of Aaron is of interest to gem lovers because it is an early accounting of the use of gemstones as both decoration and symbol. Aaron is the brother to Moses and the leader of the tribe which is appointed as high priests.

The breastplate is described (Exodus 28:15-20) as the "Breastplate of Judgement" or "Breastplate of Decision" (dependent on the biblical translation) and is adorned with twelve gems -- one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The gemstones were to be attached in four rows of three and each gem was to have the name of a tribe inscribed upon it.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for contemporary translators to determine a certain or absolute interpretation of which modern gemstone names equate to the ancient biblical descriptions of the stones of the high priest's breastplate. Therefore, the list of gems used varies dependent on the translation which is cited.

Listed below are some of the most popular translations.

New International Version (NIV)

  • Row 1: ruby, topaz, beryl
  • Row 2: turquoise, sapphire (or lapis lazuli), emerald
  • Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: chrysolite, onyx, jasper
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
  • Row 1: ruby, topaz, emerald
  • Row 2: turquoise, sapphire, diamond
  • Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper
New Living Translation (NLT)
  • Row 1: red carnelian, chrysolite, emerald
  • Row 2: turquoise, sapphire, white moonstone
  • Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper
King James Version (KJV)
  • Row 1: sardius, topaz, carbuncle
  • Row 2: emerald, sapphire, diamond
  • Row 3: ligure, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper
New King James Version (NKJV)
  • Row 1: sardius, topaz, emerald
  • Row 2: turquoise, sapphire, diamond
  • Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper
Revised Standard Version (RSV)
  • Row 1: sardius, topaz, carbuncle
  • Row 2: emerald, sapphire, diamond
  • Row 3: jacinth, agate, amethyst
  • Row 4: beryl, onyx, jasper

    

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