I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sapphire - In a Blue State of Mind

In the US we have "red" States and "blue" States to signify their political temperament, with red being conservative and blue being liberal. In gemstones we have the same, a Sapphire is the blue sister to a red Ruby, both being a variety of Corundum. Corundum is a colorless crystal of Aluminum Oxide (Al2O3) where trace amounts of other elements give it a blue, red, yellow, pink, purple, orange or greenish color.

Sapphire (pictured to the left) as we know it today was essentially unknown in the Middle East before the era of the Roman Empire. It is likely that the stone referred to in Exodus was a mineral of similar color to the sapphire, the most likely candidate being lapsis lazuli. Lapsis lazuli (pictured below) is a relatively rare semi-precious stone that has been prized for its intense blue color. It is largely formed from the mineral lazurite, with the formula (Na,Ca)8(AlSiO4)6(S,SO4,Cl)1-2. In ancient Egypt, lapsis lazuli was a favorite stone for amulets and ornaments such as scarabs for the sun god Ra and have been found in great abundance in ancient Mesopotamia. This easily could have been found among the spoils given the Israelites when Moses lead them out of Egypt towards the Promised Land.

The word translated "sapphire" is cappiyr in the Hebrew (OT) and sapphiros in the Greek (NT). Both refer to a precious stone known for its beauty and splendor. They stem from the root "caphar" which means "to number" or "to inscribe as on a stone." The translation could be taken as either a sapphire or lapsis lazuli but a true sapphire, with a hardness second only to diamonds, could hardly be inscribed in biblical times. It may be that the original term referenced the more common lapsis lazuli but gradually came to point to the true sapphire.


Was the Sapphire of the Bible
A true Blue Sapphire
Or the semi-precious Lapsis Lazuli?


Using the same system as in our last blog, the sapphire in the breastplate of the High Priest would reference the Tribe of Dan based on birth order or the Tribe of Simeon based on the order in the camp from Numbers. Of the apostles, the sapphire signifies Paul.

A star sapphire is a type of sapphire that exhibits a star-like phenomenon known as asterism. Star sapphires contain intersecting needle-like inclusions following the underlying crystal structure that cause the appearance of a six-rayed "star"-shaped pattern. The inclusion is often the mineral rutile, composed primarily of titanium dioxide. The stones are cut as a cabochon with the center of the star near the top of the dome. Probably the most famous star sapphire is the Star of India, weighing over 563 carats, and thought to be the second-largest star sapphire. The Black Star of Queensland is believed to be the largest, weighing 733 carats.

Some ancient peoples believed that the firmament was an enormous blue sapphire in which the Earth was embedded. Blue is often associated with feelings of sympathy and harmony, friendship and loyalty - as is the sapphire. The sapphire fits with everything that is constant and reliable. It symbolizes truth, faithfulness, love and longing. The blue sapphire represents God's promise to be faithful without fail to man, and that man is to faithfully maintain a righteous character and relationship to Him. Hebrew tradition holds that Moses was given the Ten Commandments on tablets of sapphire, making it the most sacred of gemstones. Because the sapphire represents divine favor, it was the gemstone of choice of kings and priests.

Lapsis lazuli has been worn since ancient times in the belief that it protects the wearer from evil. It was used by the ancient Egyptians in many religious ceremonies, and often as an inscription stone for passages from the Book of the Dead. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to free the soul from error, envy and fear. Lapsis lazuli is the source of a highly prized ultramarine pigment immortalized in paintings by the Renaissance Masters.

Whichever stone is referenced in the biblical text, sapphire or lapsis lazuli, it symbolizes a divine connection between God and man.

Psalms 71:22 (NLT) - Then I will praise you with music on the harp, because you are faithful to your promises, O my God. I will sing praises to you with a lyre, O Holy One of Israel.

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