The main varieties of stone found in the Middle East are limestone, sandstone, and the volcanically produced and very hard basalt. These provided for everyday construction needs. Precious and semiprecious stones, however, were frequently imported from various supply points (e.g., turquoise from the Sinai Peninsula). Ore-bearing stone-carrying copper and iron were located in the southern reaches of the Middle East and in the Transjordan. (2)
Stone is a hardened, granite-like mass formed from soil, clay, and minerals. The soil of Israel is rough and rocky with the most common stones being limestone (Isaiah 27:9) and flint. Because wood was scarce, city walls, houses (Leviticus 14:45; Amos 5:11), palaces (1 Kings 7:1, 9), temples (1 Kings 6:7), courtyards, columns, and streets were built of hewn stone. (6)
Both large and small stones were used in the construction of walls, fortresses, residences, and public buildings in Bible times. (6) The chief biblical words for stone are Hebrew ’eḇen in the Old Covenant and Greek lithos and akrogōniaios (‘cornerstone’) in the New Covenant. (5)
The abundance of stones cleared from fields (Isaiah 5:2) provided the people with excellent weapons against their enemies. Stones were thrown on an enemy’s field to ruin it and were used to stop up their wells (2 Kings 3:19, 25; Ecclesiastes 3:5). Knives were made from flintstones. Larger weapons of war, such as slings (1 Samuel 17:40, 49), catapults (2 Chronicles 26:15), and bows also made use of stones. Stoning was a common form of capital punishment. Weights were also made of stone (Heb. ʾeḇen; “weight,” Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:15; 2 Samuel 14:26; Proverbs 16:11). (12)
Biblical references to stone provide examples of the wide spectrum of uses to which it was put. In addition to their practical uses, stones were also used for sacred, spiritual purposes. (9) Nothing could be more lifeless than a stone. Selected and displayed in a prominent place, however, a stone can bear a message and almost become personified. (3) Memorials were built from large stones to mark an unusual event (Genesis 28:18; 31:45; Joshua 4:1–10; 24:26–27; 1 Samuel 7:12). (6) Stones served also as boundary and treaty markers (Genesis 31:46; Joshua 15:6; 18:17; Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Job 24:2) for individuals and nations. (6)
Stone could also serve as a construction material for altars (Exodus 20:25), but idols could be fashioned from stone as well (Isaiah 57:6, Ezekiel 20:32, Deuteronomy 28:36,64;29:17), and stones themselves sometimes became objects of worship (Leviticus 26:1; Isaiah 57:6). Large stones were used to cover wells (Genesis 29:2–10) and doorways to tombs (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 11:39). Stone could be worked into bowls, mortars, pestles, sockets for doors, and other implements (Exodus 7:19). (9) Stone mounds also marked graves (2 Samuel 18:17). Gentiles erroneously believed that stones from meteorites were sacred (Acts 19:35), talked, and served as protection from evil. (6)
Stone jars for water or wine are mentioned at Jesus’ first miracle in Cana at a wedding where He turned water into wine. (John 2:1–11). The appearance of stone vessels, which are more difficult to fashion than pottery, derives from issues and adherence to Jewish purity practices. (7) According to rabbinical writings, stone containers were not susceptible to ritual uncleanness. (9) Stone, bronze, or copper containers can easily be rinsed and thereby be purified repeatedly and used again. (10)
Earthenware vessels (pottery) retain their porosity and therefore absorb the impurity of what they contain and cannot be used again. (10) Pots function by containing liquids. Holding unclean liquids or dead bugs pollutes the pot! Unclean objects, tools, and utensils can contaminate people, spreading pollution throughout the camp. Contamination comes from the interior, not exterior, contact. Tum’ah (ritual contamination) occurs even without contact, whether a corpse lying in a room or a fly caught in a jar. Consequently, once a clay pot has been made ritually impure it must be smashed or destroyed completely. (8)
Any clay vessel it is boiled in must be broken, and if it was boiled in a bronze vessel, then that vessel must be rubbed out and rinsed in water. (Leviticus 6:28 NET)
As for any clay vessel they fall into, everything in it will become unclean and you must break it. (Leviticus 11:33 NET)
Paul compares us to vessels of clay:
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 NET)
Now in a wealthy home there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also ones made of wood and of clay, and some are for honorable use, but others for ignoble use. So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20–21 NET)
Human “clay pots” that choose NOT to be purified by the blood of Jesus (1) become vessels destined for destruction! (8)
But who indeed are you—a mere human being—to talk back to God? Does what is molded say to the molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:20–24 NET)
Thus, a sizable industry existed in Jerusalem of New Testament times for making a variety of stone vessels. Excavations there have produced examples of all sizes and types, from large stone jars turned on a lathe to cups carved by hand. By New Testament times glass was becoming widely used for juglets and bottles. (9) Many containers, both large and small, were made of stone. Alabaster was easily carved and polished. It was especially prized for storage of perfumes (Matthew 26:7; Mark 14:3–4; Luke 7:37). (9)
Stone was also used as a writing surface for carving such things as a record of binding law the most famous being the stone tablets on which God inscribed the Decalogue (Exodus 24:12; 31:18; 34:1, 4; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 9:9–11; etc.). Recording the accomplishments of persons (Exodus 28:10), or an account of noteworthy events (as with royal stelae). A stone could be used as a seat (Exodus 17:12) or as a pillow (Genesis 28:18). And stones served as weapons, whether thrown by hand (Exodus 8:26), sling (Judges. 20:16; 1 Sam. 17:49), or catapult. In that capacity, stones were used both in public executions (Leviticus 24:14) and by individuals in private fights (Exodus 21:18). (2)
Stones were set up to commemorate remarkable events, as by Jacob at Bethel (Genesis 28:18), at Padan-aram (Genesis 35:4), twelve stones by Joshua at the place on the banks of the Jordan where the people first “lodged” after crossing the river (Joshua 6:8), and also in “the midst of Jordan,” where he erected another set of twelve stones (Joshua 4:1–9); and by Samuel at “Ebenezer” (1 Samuel 7:12). (11)
Joshua’s stone at Shechem:
Joshua said to all the people, “Look, this stone, will be a witness against you, for it has heard everything the Lord said to us. It will be a witness against you if you deny your God.” (Joshua 24:27 NET)
Stones appear as witnesses in other passages as well. Stones are a unifying motif in the story of Jacob as narrated in Genesis, embodying important facets of this hero’s life and personality. For example, a covenant is made, a sacrificial meal eaten, and stones serve as witnesses between Jacob and Laban. (3)
So now, come, let’s make a formal agreement, you and I, and it will be proof that we have made peace.” So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a memorial pillar. Then he said to his relatives, “Gather stones.” So they brought stones and put them in a pile. They ate there by the pile of stones. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, “This pile of stones is a witness of our agreement today.” That is why it was called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah because he said, “May the Lord watch between us when we are out of sight of one another. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one else is with us, realize that God is witness to your actions.” “Here is this pile of stones and this pillar I have set up between me and you,” Laban said to Jacob.“ This pile of stones and the pillar are reminders that I will not pass beyond this pile to come to harm you and that you will not pass beyond this pile and this pillar to come to harm me. May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor, the gods of their father, judge between us.” Jacob took an oath by the God whom his father Isaac feared. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and invited his relatives to eat the meal. They ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. (Genesis 31:44–54 NET)
Stone imagery primarily conveys the concept of lifelessness. When Moses received the Ten Commandments, they were written on tablets of stone, a fact that seemed to prophets symbolic of hard, unresponsive hearts. (3)
And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV)
I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them; I will remove the hearts of stone from their bodies and I will give them tender hearts, (Ezekiel 11:19 NET)
I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. (Ezekiel 36:26–27 NET)
“But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 NET)
Paul took up the contrast between “the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets,” and the greater glory of the ministry of the Spirit which transformed lives. (3)
But if the ministry that produced death—carved in letters on stone tablets—came with glory, so that the Israelites could not keep their eyes fixed on the face of Moses because of the glory of his face (a glory which was made ineffective), how much more glorious will the ministry of the Spirit be? For if there was glory in the ministry that produced condemnation, how much more does the ministry that produces righteousness excel in glory! (2 Corinthians 3:7–9 NET)
Stones of great density and weight are a powerfully destructive force when set in motion. A stone cut out “not by human hands” strikes the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue, shattering the gold, silver, and other layers that represent world empires. This supernatural stone grows to fill the earth and is depicted as God’s invincible kingdom. (3)
You were watching as a stone was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its iron and clay feet, breaking them in pieces. Then the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were broken in pieces without distinction and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors that the wind carries away. Not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a large mountain that filled the entire earth. (Daniel 2:34–35 NET)
The stone endures, whereas successive world kingdoms fall, never to rise again. That unchanging, enduring quality lies behind Jacob’s name for God, the Rock (3)
But his bow will remain steady, and his hands will be skillful; because of the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, (Genesis 49:24 NET)
King David also used the Rock metaphor for God,
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2 ESV)(cf. Psalms 31:3;71:3)
Moses’ stone at Rephidim:
Amalek came and attacked Israel in Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua fought against Amalek just as Moses had instructed him; and Moses and Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses would raise his hands, then Israel prevailed, but whenever he would rest his hands, then Amalek prevailed. When the hands of Moses became heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side and one on the other, and so his hands were steady until the sun went down. So Joshua destroyed Amalek and his army with the sword. (Exodus 17:8–13 NET)
Moses was seated on the unchanging and enduring stone or rock while Aaron and Hur held up his hands. This brought victory to Israel over the Amalekites who were descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12,16).
Appropriately, the Lord’s temple was built of costly dressed stone, a building material more enduring than manufactured brick. (3)
By royal order they supplied large valuable stones in order to build the temple’s foundation with chiseled stone. (1 Kings 5:17 NET)
It was meant to stand for the truth—God is with us—and indeed the Lord said to Solomon when the temple was consecrated, (3)
The Lord said to him, “I have answered your prayer and your request for help that you made to me. I have consecrated this temple you built by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. (1 Kings 9:3 NET)
But that unique privilege carried with it the fearsome implications of God’s holiness. If his people turned aside from following him as Lord, Israel would be cut off from their land and the temple would become a heap of ruins. (3)
“But if you or your sons ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israel will be mocked and ridiculed among all the nations. This temple will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be shocked and will hiss out their scorn, saying, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God, who led their ancestors out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why the Lord has brought all this disaster down on them.’ ” (1 Kings 9:6–9 NET)
Isaiah was aware that this threat would soon be carried out:
You must recognize the authority of the Lord who commands armies. He is the one you must respect; he is the one you must fear. He will become a sanctuary, but a stone that makes a person trip, and a rock that makes one stumble— to the two houses of Israel. He will become a trap and a snare to the residents of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over the stone and the rock, and will fall and be seriously injured, and will be ensnared and captured.” (Isaiah 8:13–15 NET)
The same God becomes both a sanctuary and a stone to trip over (1), depending on the response people make to his holiness. Those who make the Most High their dwelling place will find his angels keeping them from stumbling against this stone. (3)
For he will order his angels to protect you in all you do. They will lift you up in their hands, so you will not slip and fall on a stone. (Psalm 91:11–12 NET) (Matthew 4:6)
Moreover, God’s purpose for Jerusalem will be fulfilled, despite the mocking of Israel’s leaders. (3)
Therefore, listen to the Lord’s word, you who mock, you rulers of these people who reside in Jerusalem! (Isaiah 28:14 NET)
God’s future purpose, revealed to Isaiah, was to lay in Zion “a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation” and to use builders of justice and righteousness. (3)
Therefore, this is what the sovereign master, the Lord, says: “Look, I am laying a stone in Zion, an approved stone, set in place as a precious cornerstone for the foundation. The one who maintains his faith will not panic. (Isaiah 28:16 NET)
The cornerstone here is part of the foundation, whereas in other contexts it could be the key top stone. (5) The key top stone, or capstone, of an arch or pediment, proved that the architect’s instruction had been carried out and so exactly illustrated the work of Christ, the “living stone.” (3)
“What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain! And he will bring forth the temple capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of this.” Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me as follows: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this temple, and his hands will complete it.” Then you will know that the Lord who rules over all has sent me to you. (Zechariah 4:7–9 NET)
He will become a sanctuary, but a stone that makes a person trip, and a rock that makes one stumble— to the two houses of Israel. He will become a trap and a snare to the residents of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over the stone and the rock, and will fall and be seriously injured, and will be ensnared and captured.” (Isaiah 8:14–15 NET)
So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and priceless in God’s sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in scripture, “Look, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and priceless cornerstone, and whoever believes in him will never be put to shame.”So you who believe see his value, but for those who do not believe, the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people. You were shown no mercy, but now you have received mercy.(1 Peter 2:4-10 NET)
These references were linked by the first Christians because they point to Jesus as the Messiah foretold in the Scriptures. It describes the stone’s symbolism for Christ as the strength and foundation of Christianity. Even though their Messiah had caused division and was rejected by many, this had been predicted.
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11–12 NET)
Jesus himself was the source of this application of the discarded stone in Psalms 118 and with a reference to the stone of Daniel 2. (3)
The stone which the builders discarded has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22 NET)
You were watching as a stone was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its iron and clay feet, breaking them in pieces. (Daniel 2:34 NET)
Jesus combined these two verses,
But Jesus looked straight at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed.” Then the experts in the law and the chief priests wanted to arrest him that very hour, because they realized he had told this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. (Luke 20:17–19 NET)
This dreadful picture of judgment from the lips of Jesus is found only in the Gospels. (3)
Later, Paul combined Isaiah 28:16 and Isaiah 8:14 to explain Israel’s failure to accept righteousness through faith; they had stumbled whereas Gentiles had believed. (3)
What shall we say then?—that the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness obtained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel even though pursuing a law of righteousness did not attain it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but (as if it were possible) by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, “Look, I am laying in Zion a stone that will cause people to stumble and a rock that will make them fall, yet the one who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 9:30–33 NET)
Paul draws on the temple-building metaphor to construct his famous vision of the church, made up of believers from far and wide, (3)
So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19–22 NET)
Sanballat, an enemy of Israel, regarding the Jewish returnees’ efforts at rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall, (3)
Now when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall he became angry and was quite upset. He derided the Jews, and in the presence of his colleagues and the army of Samaria he said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they be left to themselves? Will they again offer sacrifice? Will they finish this in a day? Can they bring these burnt stones to life again from piles of dust?” (Nehemiah 4:1–2 NET)
This is an interesting metaphor in relation to Peter, who would add those individual believers are “like living stones.” (3)
So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and priceless in God’s sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesth3)ood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4–5 NET)
Jesus gave Simon the name “Peter” (Greek, Πέτρος, Petros, Matthew 16:18; Mark 3:16 and Aramaic, Κηϕᾶς, Kēphas, John 1:42) which means rock or stone. (4) Perhaps Peter’s meditation on his name convinced him that he was not the only one who would be called a stone? (3)
Fling is an impure quartz rock, usually gray, brown, or black, abundant in the Near East abounding in all the plains and valleys of the wilderness wanderings. It fractures on conchoidal lines and holds an extremely sharp edge, either smooth or serrated. It was used for a variety of tools, such as awls, axes, knives, picks, scrapers, sickles, and weapons (arrowheads and spear points). Knives used for circumcision were made of flint (Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:2, 3). It can be manipulated by humans (Job 28:9). Flint serves as a metaphor for sharp-cutting destructive power (Isaiah 5:28), firmness of horses’ hooves (Isaiah 5:28), the tough task of obtaining water from it (Psalms 114:8; Deuteronomy 8:15), or olive oil for nourishment (Deuteronomy 32:13. Job 29:6). God makes the prophet’s forehead like a diamond to be harder than the forehead of the people of Israel (i.e., the prophet’s persistence will outlast Israel’s stubbornness)(Ezekiel 3:8,9). Judah’s sinful heart and stubborn unwillingness to repent were described as hard as diamonds (Zecharaiah 7:12).
Flint describes the Servant of the Lord, Jesus the Messiah! (17) The Messiah would be firm and resolute amidst all contempt and scorn which he would meet; that he had made up his mind to endure it, and would not shrink from any kind or degree of suffering which would be necessary to accomplish the great work in which he was engaged. (18)
The Lord God will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7 HCSB)
But the sovereign Lord helps me, so I am not humiliated. For that reason I am steadfastly resolved; I know I will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 50:7 NET)
Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51 NET)
Typology of Stones
A number of texts use “stone” figuratively, drawing on one or another of its primary characteristics. (12) In a figurative way, stones imply firmness and strength (Genesis 49:24), as well as insensibility and hardness (1 Samuel 25:37; Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; cf. also Job 38:30; 41:24). (6)
Because they sank rapidly in water, stones could be used as symbols for immediate destruction (Exodus 15:5), and their immobility could symbolize death (Exodus 15:16). The phenomenon of stones crying or shouting out symbolizes the absolute need for such exclamations to be made (Habakkuk 2:11; Luke 19:40). Another symbolic use of stones is the recurrent idea of fashioning something alive from them: John the Baptist says that God can make children of Abraham from stones (Matthew 3:9). Satan tempts Jesus to “make these stones bread” (Matthew 4:3). (2)
Others use the weight of a stone in similes (Exodus 15:5; Nehemiah 9:11), and Exodus 15:16 draws on the inanimate nature of stone in relating the paralyzing effects that God’s power had on the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus: they became as still as stone (cf. also 1 Samuel 25:37—here the image may refer to a paralyzing stroke brought on by shocking news). Still, other texts use the durability of stone as the point of comparison (Job 6:12)). (12)
Similar reversals of imagery occur in other texts to dramatize a point. Thus Habakkuk 2:11 pronounces a woe upon those who get “evil gain”—their evil is so great that the stone in the wall will cry out. Perhaps alluding to this text, Jesus, in response to the Pharisees’ request that He silence the crowds, states that events are so astounding that if the people do not voice their praise, the inanimate stones will cry out (Luke 19:40). Similarly, John the Baptist rebukes those who think that their descent from Abraham obviates their need for repentance, for God could raise up children to Abraham from stones (Luke 3:8). (12) Stones also symbolized stumbling (Matthew 16:23; cf. Psalms 91:12).
Do Not Tamper with God’s Typologies
Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What will I do with this people?—a little more, and they will stone me! ”The LORD said to Moses, “Go over before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile and go. I will be standing before you there on the rock in Horeb, and you will strike the rock, and water will come out of it so that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in plain view of the elders of Israel. He called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contending of the Israelites and because of their testing the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exodus 17:4–7 NET)
Moses was instructed to strike the rock, and water came forth. The rock represented Jesus Christ.
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1–4 NET)
The striking of the rock (Christ) was an antitype of the crucifixion of Jesus that would bring forth living water.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses: “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and Aaron your brother, and then speak to the rock before their eyes. It will pour forth its water, and you will bring water out of the rock for them, and so you will give the community and their beasts water to drink.” So Moses took the staff from before the LORD, just as he commanded him. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the community together in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock for you?” Then Moses raised his hand, and struck the rock twice with his staff. And water came out abundantly. So the community drank, and their beasts drank too. (Numbers 20:7–11 NET)(cf. Deuteronomy 8:15. Psalms 78:15,16,20. Psalms 105:41;114:8. Isaiah 48:21. Nehemiah 9:15).
Speaking to the rock was to be an antitype representing God the Father raising Jesus from the dead by His word including the outpouring of rivers of living water by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) (John 7:37-39). Perhaps Paul would have included it in 1 Corinthians 10 if Moses had not rebelled? However, by striking the rock (i.e., Christ) again, he was figuratively rejecting the crucifixion of Jesus as paying the price for salvation (i.e., salvation figuratively represented by entering the Promised Land). Since Moses figuratively rejected the crucifixion of Jesus, then he could not enter the Promised Land (i.e., he could not figuratively receive salvation since the crucifixion was figuratively rejected), for there is only one way, truth, and life leading to salvation – Jesus crucified (1) and resurrected (1)!
Moreover, at that time I pleaded with the Lord, “O, Lord God, you have begun to show me your greatness and strength. (What god in heaven or earth can rival your works and mighty deeds?) Let me please cross over to see the good land on the other side of the Jordan River—this good hill country and the Lebanon!” But the Lord was angry at me because of you and would not listen to me. Instead, he said to me, “Enough of that! Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and take a good look to the west, north, south, and east, for you will not be allowed to cross the Jordan. (Deuteronomy 3:23–27 NET)
However, Moses later after his death was permitted to enter the promised land to participate in the transfiguration of Jesus the Christ (Messiah):
Now about eight days after these sayings, Jesus took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became very bright, a brilliant white. Then two men, Moses and Elijah, began talking with him. They appeared in glorious splendor and spoke about his departure that he was about to carry out at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28–31 NET)
Mount Hermon is a strong contender for the location of Jesus’ transfiguration. In all three Synoptic Gospels, the transfiguration occurs shortly after Peter’s confession, and both Matthew and Mark specify a “high mountain” (while Luke refers to “the mountain”). If these sections are to be taken chronologically, then Mount Hermon is the closest location that fits. It is the tallest mountain in ancient Israel located on Israel’s northeast boundary. At 9,230 feet (2814 meters), Mount Hermon towers over its neighboring peaks and can be seen from dozens of miles away on a clear day. (16)
The overarching typology of stone is found in Jesus as the foundation of the church represented metaphorically as the cornerstone (1) in the Bible. It is on Jesus Christ alone we build. (Psalms 127:1) When we place our hope or confidence in anything or anyone else, we will always be sorely disappointed. (Jeremiah 17:5) Again, Christ is our cornerstone; we trust in him alone. The house built on sand does not stand; however, the house built on the rock withstands the winds and waves of temptations and difficulties.
Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!" (Matthew 7:24-27 NET)
But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-22 NET)
We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:9–11 NET)
However, the Bible states that many will stumble and trip over the simplicity of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-23. Romans 9:30-33. Hosea 14:9), thus falling on the cornerstone and being broken to pieces (i.e., destroyed and suffering forever in Hell). (1)
The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life. (John 12:25 NET)
Nevertheless, some will believe the message of the Gospel of Peace, repent of their sin, and choose to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior and be born again from above. (1) These saved ones will begin the journey to reveal in their thoughts, emotions, and will the character of Christ Jesus that was placed in their spirit during the new birth (Romans 8:9).
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!” (Matthew 7:24–27 NET)
The Lord gives a parable of the man who builds his house on the rock, and the other one who builds it on the sand. The one who builds on sand has the easier time at first. It’s easier to move the sand around. And that’s the point, it is moveable. It represents the one who builds his or her life on what’s moveable, what’s changing – everything but the things of God. It’s building your life on your popularity, what people think of you, your reputation, your intelligence, job, house, situation – even good things like marriage and family which are gifts from God. These aren’t the foundation ground. The foundation ground is God. Are you building your life on moveable things, temporary things? It is harder to build on the rock because the rock is the immovable unchanging word of God – but it lasts. The wise man builds everything on the Rock, Jesus the word of God! Because when you do that, when you build your life on the rock, your joy, well-being, plans, marriage, house, ministry, all these things become immovable. All these things will become solid as a rock. (14)
What about you? Is your life built on shifting sand or the Rock? (1)
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less (15)
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand:
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand:
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
His oath, his covenant, his blood,
support me in the whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand:
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
When he shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in him be found:
dressed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand:
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.
Biblical Typologies, Metaphors, & Similes Series:
- The Old Leaven of the Kingdom of Darkness
- The New Leaven of the Kingdom of Heaven
- Finely Sifted (Wheat) Flour
- Olive Oil
- Waving and Heaving
- Shofar and Trumpet
(Security, Wholeness, Success)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 NET)
(1) Select the link to open another article in a new tab with additional information.
(2) Boraas, R. S. (2011). stone. In M. A. Powell (Ed.), The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (Third Edition, pp. 993–994). HarperCollins.
(3) Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000). In Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed., pp. 815–816). InterVarsity Press.
(4) Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 13.
Simon received the Aramaic name of Cephas as a descriptive title of what he would someday be like (John 1:42). The a.v. translates, “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.” The word “stone” is from the Greek word petros (πετρος) which means “a detached but large fragment of rock,” and is used here metaphorically to describe Peter as a man like a rock by reason of his firmness and strength of soul. The name “Peter” is the English spelling of the Greek petros (πετρος) which is the word chosen by the Holy Spirit that would adequately translate the meaning of the Aramaic “Cephas.” In answering Peter’s great confession of His deity, the Lord Jesus says, “Thou art Peter (petros (πετρος)), and upon this rock (petra (πετρα)) I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Thayer quotes Schmidt as treating petros (πετρος) and petra (πετρα) as synonyms, petros (πετρος) meaning “a detached but large fragment of rock,” petra (πετρα) “the massive living rock.” The foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ is that massive living rock, the Son of God seen in His deity, acknowledged as such by Peter. Peter is but a fragment of that massive rock in the sense in which he speaks of believers as “lively stones,” deriving their eternal life from the great Living Stone Himself (1 Peter 2:4, 5.) It was the fulness of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that transformed Simon into Peter, the Rock-Man.
(5) Smalley, S. S. (1996). Stone. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 1134–1135). InterVarsity Press.
The only OT occurrences of the phrase ‘corner stone’ are Job 38:6 (lxx lithos gōniaios) and Isaiah 28:16 (lxx akrogōniaios); and these are both figurative (cf. Psalms 144:12). But unlike ‘head of the corner’, the stone referred to here would seem to be part of the foundation of a building, and to bear its weight. This is evidently the meaning of akrogōniaios in 1 Peter 2:6, where the writer quotes Isaiah 28:16 itself. Christ is now the corner-stone of the church, the location of which is the heavenly Zion (cf. Ephesians 2:20, where the same Gk. word is used, and 1 Corinthians 3:11). In v. 7 [1 Peter 2:7] of the same passage, however, the writer goes on to quote the psalmic reference we have noted (Psalms 118:22, echoed in v. 4 [1 Peter 2:4]), and he thus gives us the complementary truth that Christ is also the head of the church, exalted by God the Father to that position of vindication. In this exaltation, moreover, believers will share. The writer’s use of lithos in v. 8 [1 Peter 2:8] with reference to stumbling suggests a confusion of images; although it is possible, as J. Y. Campbell points out (TWBR, p. 53), that a stone at the corner of the foundation of a building might also form a stumbling-stone (cf. also Romans 9:32 f.). Christ is described in the same passage (1 Peter 2:4) as a ‘living stone (lithon zōnta), alive and giving life to those who as believers are incorporated into him, and built up as lithoi zōntes into the spiritual building of his church for purposes of worship (1 Peter 2:5) and witness (1 Peter 2:9).
(6) Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds. (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Thomas Nelson, Inc.
(7) Marc Turnage, Windows into the Bible: Cultural and Historical Insights from the Bible for Modern Readers (Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2016), 53.
(8) Jeffrey Enoch. Feinberg Ph.D. and Kim Alan Moudy, Walk Leviticus!: And He Called (Baltimore, MD: Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2001), 58.
(9) Daniel C. Browning Jr. and Mike Mitchell, “Vessels and Utensils,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1648.
(10) Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Le 6:28.
(11) Easton, M. G. (1893). In Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (p. 644). Harper & Brothers.
(12) Lee, G. A. (1979–1988). Stone. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, p. 622). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
(13) In Joshua 4:5–7 Joshua passes on the Lord’s instructions (cf. Deuteronomy 27:4 f) to select twelve stones from the Jordan, which the people are about to cross to enter Canaan; these stones are to be a “sign,” a “memorial,” of the Lord’s deliverance to succeeding generations. As many commentators have noted, the narrative in Joshua 4 is confusing, for v 8 [Joshua 4:8] states that the men chose twelve stones “out of the midst of the Jordan” and carried them over and laid them down on the other side of the river, but v 9 [Joshua 4:9] says that Joshua “set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day,” and v 20 [Joshua 4:20] states that Joshua set up the twelve stones at Gilgal. While many commentators resolve this difficulty by positing the presence of different traditions (see, e.g., J. Soggin [Eng. tr., OTL, 1972], pp. 64f; J. Gray [NCBC, rev ed 1986], pp. 66–68, 72), on the basis of the LXX others (e.g., M. Woudstra [NICOT, 1981], pp. 77–79, 91f) harmonize these verses and conclude that two sets of twelve stones were involved (cf. KD). (12) Lee, G. A. (1979–1988). Stone. In G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Vol. 4, p. 622). Wm. B. Eerdmans.
(14) Daily Sapphire, From Message #685 – The Rock House, Monday, February 21, 2022, Jonathan Cahn
(15) My hope is built on nothing less, Edward Mote, 1834
(16) Brandon Ridley, “Hermon, Mount,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
(17) Roger S. Boraas, “Flint,” ed. Mark Allan Powell, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 290.
(18) M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 262.