Loading... Please wait...


Jewelry Categories

Jewelry By Type

Hoshen stones meaning

The Hoshen

The Hoshen (also Priest’s Breastplate and Breastplate of Judgment) was part of the High Priests ceremonial garments and worn over the Ephod.  The design and composition of the Hoshen are laid down in detail in Exodus 28: 15-30. 

According to the instructions in Exodus, the Hoshen was made of the same material as the Ephod using wool and linen threads of gold, sky-blue, dark red and crimson. It was adorned with four rows of three rectangular precious or semi-precious stones set in filigreed gold.   Each stone represented one of the 12 Tribes of Israel and had the tribe’s name engraved in it.

Did you know? The word Hoshen in Hebrew actually means pouch not breastplate as it was mistakenly translated in the King James Version of the Bible. 

hoshen stones plate

 

The Hoshen’s pouch contained the mystical Urim and Thummim.  This is considered by many to represent the mystical name of God written on parchment and which allowed the High Priest to get divine guidance, illumination and insight.

12 Stones for 12 Tribes

The only thing that is known conclusively about the 12 stones are their colors.  We are told this, not by the Bible but by the Midrash (the ancient commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures) in Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7 which tells us that the stone for each tribe matched the colors of its flag.  From this it is possible to guess at the stone that could possibly have been used for each tribe:

Reuben

Red

Ruby

Shimon

Green

Topaz

Levi

Red, white and black stripes

Emerald

Judah

Bluish-green

Turquoise

Issachar

Blue

Lapis Lazuli

Zebulun

Clear

Quartz

Dan

Blue

Jacinth

Naftali

Purple

Agate

Gad

Grey

Amethyst

Asher

Blue-green

Chrysolite

Joseph

Black

Onyx

Benjamin

Many different colors

Jasper

 

The Engraving

The Babylonian Talmud (Sotah, 48:b) tell us that the stones were placed in their setting “in their fullness” which suggests that a unique method was used to engrave the names without any loss of the stone’s material.    The same Sotah describes how the name was initially marked in ink and then exposed to “shamir” a worm that could cut stone merely by looking at it.

Did you know?  The shamir was created during the Creation and was also used to cut the stones of the First Temple.  Aster the destruction of the First Temple, the shamir disappeared.

The Order

We have no sources that can suggest the order in which the stones were arranged on the Hoshen.

  • Yonatan ben Uziel, author of an Aramaic Biblical translation and commentary that the names of the tribes were arranged in the order of their birth.

Reuben

Simeon

Levi

Judah

Dan

Naftali

Gad

Asher

Issachar

Zebulun

Joseph

Benjamin

  • The Jerusalem Translation, on the other hand, postulates that the names appeared in the order of their mothers: Leah who had six sons and Bilhah, Zilpah and Rachel, each with two.

Reuben

Simeon

Levi

Judah

Issachar

Zebulun

Dan

Naftali

Gad

Asher

Joseph

Benjamin

Note: In English, these names are read from left to right, but in Hebrew they would appear from right to left.

In the Kabbalah

Each of the Hoshen’s 12 stones has a special meaning and characteristics:

  • Ruby is a symbol of love and marriage, helps in getting pregnant, maternity and childbirth.
  • Topaz brings plenty and joy to our lives.
  • Emerald represents generosity and kindness.
  • Turquoise helps us achieve success in work and business.
  • Lapis Lazuli encourages clear thought and honesty.
  • Quartz gives us strength and also represents purity and a love for the truth.
  • Jacinth brings creative thinking and helps us to fulfill our potential.
  • Agate helps calm our mind and spirit.
  • Amethyst gives us spiritual strength and protects us from negative energy.
  • Chrysolite purifies our body and our soul and brings us inner peace and contentment.
  • Onyx fortifies our courage and self-discipline
  • Jasper encourages physical strength and bolsters our self esteem.

As we said earlier, there is no single, accepted agreement as to the order of the stones on the breastplate.  In the same manner, there is a debate as to whether each stone included the full name of the tribe or a shortened version.  According to some Kabbalistic writers including  Bahya Ben Asher and Hezekiah Ben Manoah  (both in the 13th Century CE), each stone included just six letters, plus letters from the names of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac in order to reach a total of 72 letters which hints at the 72 Names of God (HaShemHaMephurash).

watch our unique collection of Hoshen jewelry