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TOM - My question comes from Exodus 28: 17-21. I have come to realize the richness of symbolism in the old testament. Especially with regard to the tabernacle and clothing and sacrifices etc. My assumption is that each tribe was associated/assigned with its specific jewel or gem on the breastplate for a very specific and symbolic reason. Do you know what it is about each jewel that connects or associates it with its tribe?... What about the tribe connects them with the jewel and vice versa?

JOEL - According to the Bible Aaron’s garments included a breastplate, which carried a Urim and Thumim (not the same one Joseph Smith had), an ephod, a robe, a coat, a miter, and a girdle. On the exposed half of the breastplate were precious stones inscribed with the names of each of the tribes of Israel.

"And the stones were according to the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet, every one with his name, according to the twelve tribes."(Exodus 39:10-14)

There is no consistent view by Bible scholars or Jewish traditions as to the order of the names; although some argue that the names appear in the order of the birth of each tribe's patriarch according to the Book of Genesis. If that is the case then the order of stones and names of the tribes would be the following, reading from right to left on the breastplate.

Row 1
Reuben Sard – Hebrew odem
Simeon Peridot – Hebrew pitah
Levi Emerald – Hebrew bareqet

Row 2
Judah Turquoise – Hebrew nopek
Dan Lapis Lazuli – Hebrew sappir
Naphtali Moonstone – Hebrew yahalom

Row 3
Gad Hyacinth – Hebrew lesem
Asher Agate – Hebrew shebo
Zebulon Amethyst – Hebrew ‘ahlama

Row 4
Issachar Chrysolite – Hebrew tarshish
Joseph Carnelian – Hebrew shoham
Benjamin Jasper - Hebrew yasepeh

Unfortunately, it is difficult for Bible 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.

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