Tonight I was reading about Joshua and the parting of the Jordan River when I was struck by the similarity between the twelve men carrying the river stones on their shoulders and the High Priest carrying the two stones on the shoulders of his uniform and the twelve stones on his breastplate. In both cases the stones represent tribes. The Priest’s shoulder stones have the names of six tribes inscribed on each of them. Each of the stones on the breastplate represent an individual tribe as do the stones carried out of the Jordan. It occurred to me that stones might represent tribes or nations in other contexts as well. Take a look at these possibilities:
Gen 28:11-15 Jacob gathers up some stones to use as a pillow. Who uses stones for a pillow? He lays his head on the stones, and in his dream God tells him that his descendants will be as the dust of the earth and will be scattered throughout the world. God also tells him that he will be returned to this land someday. The first part of that prophecy was fulfilled when the two kingdoms were scattered by Assyria, Babylon, and Rome. They have been living among the nations of the world, for the most part as if asleep (the stones for pillows!) and unaware of who they are. The second part of the prophecy was fulfilled in one sense when Jacob personally returned to Canaan. It will be fulfilled much more dramatically when all of Israel is called out of the nations and returned to the Promised Land someday.
Gen 31:51-53 As Jacob left Laban to return to Canaan, Laban chased him across the dessert. When he caught him, they set up a pillar and a pile of stones, proclaiming them to be witnesses to a peace treaty setting a border between their lands. Later, after Israel escaped Pharaoh, the River of Egypt was set as the boundary between their lands, and the events were witnessed by God’s pillar and by the nations of the world.
Lev 14:33-53 There is way too much to talk about in this passage, but here is one very interesting bit: The priest orders the house to be emptied and locked. On the seventh day he returns to judge the stones of the house. Those that are infected are cast into “an unclean place” while fresh stones are brought in to replace them. Sounds like something someone once wrote about olive branches, doesn’t it?
It seems obvious to me that stones, especially in the Torah, represent people groups, whether nations, tribes, cities, or families. Gold is divinity and purity. Silver is blood and atonement. Bronze is judgement. Iron is destruction. Wood is humanity or flesh. Coverings are spiritual authorities. Blue is divine, red is flesh, and purple is God made flesh.
I love this stuff. I could be wrong…but I don’t think so.