Even/Eben: A Costly STONE

STONE: even/eben. Feminine Noun. (Strong’s 68).

Root: אֶבֶן

Sounds like: ehven (rhymes with seven).

Stone of Remembering

This week in April, one year ago, I made my first trek to Alberta Canada. A week in Jasper National Park meant that I spent much of my time looking up… way up! The mountains were breathtaking; they were grand fortresses of stone and I will remember them fondly. In the Bible stones were often used to mark places worth remembering.

  • Genesis 28:16-22. Jacob made a stone his pillow; he dreamt of ladders and God’s promise of a homeland. He set his pillow-stone [ha-ehven] up as a pillar, and called the place Bethel (House of God).
  • Genesis 31:44-48. When Jacob and Laban made a truce, they gathered a heap of stones [a’vanim] and set them up as a place of witness. Jacob called the gathering of stones Galeed (witness-heap).
  • Genesis 35:9-15. Years later Jacob returned to the place of his ladder dream. There God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and in response Israel made a pillar of stone [ahven] and rededicated the place as Bethel (House of God).
  • Exodus 24:4. Moses erected an altar to YHWH, made of 12 pillars representing the tribes of Israel.
  • Joshua 4:5-9. Joshua built a memorial made of 12 stones [u-sh’tem es’reh a’vanim] in the Jordan River, the place where the waters subsided when the priests entered the river with the Ark, allowing  the people to cross the river on dry ground.
  • 1 Kings 18:31. Elijah prepared an altar to YHWH made of 12 stones [sh’tem es’reh a’vanim] (one for each of Jacob’s sons) on Mount Carmel as he faced off against the worshippers of Baal.

Stones were also erected after great battles to remember YHWH’s help in times of warfare.

  • Exodus 17:11-16. A stone was used to for Moses to sit on and to help support his weight as he held his hands up to defeat the Amalekites. In their victory they built an alter and named it “[YHWH Nissi] YHWH is My Banner”.
  • Joshua 24:18-27. Joshua set up a stone [ehven] memorial when the Amorites were defeated.
  • 1 Samuel 7:12-13. Samuel et up a stone [ehven] when YHWH helped them defeat the Philistines. He named it Ebenezer [Stone-help], saying, “Thus far YHWH has helped us.”

Stone Idols

Although remembrance stones and altars dedicated to YHWH were fine, a warning had to be made to remind them that these pillars were not to be worshipped: 

Leviticus 26:1

“You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone [w-ehven maskit] in your land to bow down to it; for I am YHWH your God.”

There was a good reason to warn the people of this; they were surrounded by neighbours who worshipped a pantheon of gods and hand-made idols. God knew the Hebrew people would be drawn into idol worship while living amongst these communities:

Deuteronomy 4:27-29

“YHWH will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where YHWH drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone [wa-ehven], which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek YHWH your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”

YHWH was very particular about this point:

Jeremiah 2:27-28a

YHWH: “Who says to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone [w-la-ehven], ‘You gave me birth’? For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face; but in the time of their trouble they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ But where are your gods which you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you in the time of your trouble…”

There is no breath in stone, no spirit. How could immobile and lifeless things save anyone? To rely on such things was folly. The only God worth relying on was a Living God.

Habakkuk 2:19-20

“Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone [l-ehven duman], ‘Arise!’  And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it. But YHWH is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

God really, really, despised child sacrifice.  Those who bowed down to hand made idols of stone, such as the child sacrificing god Molech, were to be, ironically, stoned… killed by the very thing they worshipped:

Leviticus 20:1-3

Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also say to the sons of Israel: ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones [yir’g’muhu va-ahven]. I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name.’”

Stone Writing Tablets

Stone had no breath, it was not to be worshipped, but it could be used as an instrument of God.

In Yeshua’s (Jesus) day, stone was considered a material of purity. Purity laws indicated that stone vessels would maintain the purity of their contents. Impurity could not seep through the stone, like it would if the vessel was made of clay (Leviticus 11:33). With that in mind, it should not be surprising that the tablets containing YHWH’s Ten Commandments were made of stone (Exodus 24:12, Exodus 31:18).  After the original two tablets were shattered, Moses had to cut new stone for a replacement:

Exodus 34:1

Now YHWH said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets [she’neh lukhot a’vanim] like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered.”

Stones were, essentially, the paper of the day.  When the people crossed the Jordan River and entered into the promised land they were commissioned to write all the words of the law on large stones:

Deuteronomy 27:2-3a, 5-8

“So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which YHWH your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones [a’vanim] and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this law…

…Moreover, you shall build there an altar to YHWH your God, an altar of stones [a’vanim]; you shall not wield an iron tool on them. You shall build the altar of YHWH your God of uncut stones [sh’lemowt a’vanim], and you shall offer on it burnt offerings to YHWH your God; and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and rejoice before YHWH your God. You shall write on the stones [ha-a’vanim] all the words of this law very distinctly.”

Uncut Stones vs Cut Stones

In these early days, before the time of the permanent Temple, YHWH made it clear that altars were to be built out of uncut stones.

Exodus 20:25

If you make an altar of stone [a’vanim] for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones [gazit], for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.

These were not permanent altars. The areas, discovered while they were wandering, were not to be YHWH’s forever home. Altars on the road were temporary solutions until a permanent home in Jerusalem was established.

When Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, centuries later, the stones would be quarried and cut to perfection in order to lay a smooth foundation for the House of YHWH. No longer would the altar be built out of uncut stones:

1 Kings 5:17-18

Then the king [Solomon] commanded, and they quarried great stones [a’vanim gadolot], costly stones [a’vanim y’qarot], to lay the foundation of the house with cut stones [av’neh gazit]. So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timbers and the stones to build the house.

Throwing Stones

Stones featured in a number of stories relating to David. One of the Bible’s more recognized events was the fall of Goliath. David took down a giant with a stone:

1 Samuel 17:40, 49-50

He [young David] took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones [a’vanim] from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine…

…And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone [ehven] and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone [ha-even] sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground. Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone [u-va-ehven], and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. 

In an interesting turn of events, after Saul’s demise, and David’s anointing as king, David found himself in a devastating predicament. His reign as king was not perfect. There had been much war and bloodshed, some people saw David as Saul’s usurper, and now his own son, Absolom, was attempting to take his throne. David and his supporters had to flee Jerusalem. In their exile, David’s entourage came across a single man who stood up to the great David (in a way, the Goliath of his day) and threw stones at him. 

2 Samuel 16:5-13 

When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones [ba-a’vanim] at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left.

Thus Shimei said when he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! YHWH has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and YHWH has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!”

Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if YHWH has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 

Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for YHWH has told him. Perhaps YHWH will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.” So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones [ba-a’vanim] and threw dust at him.

David, who had defeated Goliath with stones, now received the blow of stones in humility.  To be betrayed by your son, forced out of Jerusalem, and then pelted with stones and dust in your exile must have been an extremely low point in David’s life. It was a walk of great shame, and David accepted it humbly and graciously, without a hint of retribution. 

Eventually David’s son was captured and, without David’s approval, killed. Absolom’s killers buried him in a pit and piled stones [a’vanim] over his body (2 Samuel 18:17). David and his supporters returned to Jerusalem, but once he heard the news that his son was dead he was shaken to the core with grief. 

A Stone Heart

So far we’ve seen stone altars and memorial stones, stone tablets, stone weapons, and stone tombs, but in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel, stone was used as a metaphor. Stones were solid and almost impenetrable and they made excellent fortresses, making it the perfect descriptor of the hearts of the people: they had hearts of stone. Like stone fortresses the hearts of the people pushed God out and decayed within. But YHWH would shatter the stone:

Ezekiel 11:19-20 (see also Ezekiel 36:24-28)

YHWH: “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone [lev ha-ehven] out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

To achieve this YHWH, Himself, would become flesh and walk amongst the people. YHWH desired to get us back to our original state… beautiful reflections of our Creator.  But sin was holding us back, so the Messiah, YHWH’s true reflection, came to earth, shattered the stone hearts, took on our sin and lead us back to God. We would be His people, and He would be our God.

YHWH put a plan in motion to remove the iniquity of the people and bring them back to the Garden.  And through His Servant, the Branch, He would do it in one single day:

Zechariah 3:8b-9

YHWH: “…I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. For behold, the stone [ha-ehven] that I have set before Joshua; on one stone [ehven] are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,” declares YHWH of hosts, “and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

Stone copy
Stones in the Athabasca River, Alberta. Jasper National Park. (Photo by Sarah E. Fisher).

Yeshua and the Stone

Many have pointed out that the Hebrew word for STONE is made up of two separate words Av, meaning father, and ben, meaning son.

אַב Father

אֶבֶן Stone

בֵּן Son

With this in mind, choosing the word STONE to describe the Messiah takes on a richer meaning. It’s a very poetic concept. Although we have to be careful to not take too many liberties, it perhaps represents a richer rendering of these passages. It may be worth keeping this word-play in mind as we read through the Scripture.

Yeshua (Jesus), the long awaited Messiah, knew every inch of the Tanakh, and He quoted it often. Old Testament references to stones were frequently recalled by Yeshua, but he wasn’t the only one to quote the Hebrew Bible regarding stones. The Adversary (ha-Satan), in his conversation with Yeshua in the wilderness, mentioned stones twice:

Matthew 4:1-7

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.’” [See Deuteronomy 6:16]

In the second mentioning of stone, the Adversary was quoting Psalm 91:

Psalm 91:9-12

For you have made YHWH, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.

The Adversary was doing what so many people do today: taking scripture out of context. This verse was all about God’s salvation, and His being a refuge for His people. But Yeshua wasn’t one of God’s people; He was God made flesh, the perfect Image, the perfect Son. Yeshua didn’t need bread because He was the bread of life; He didn’t need rescuing because He was the rescuer; He didn’t need Salvation because He was the Saviour… And how would He save the people? The evil would befall on Him, He would suffer the plague of humanity, and He would be the one stricken for our sins. His foot was meant to strike the stone.

Stoning

Yeshua often found himself in conflict with the Pharisees. On more than one occasion they tried to use the Laws of Moses to trip him up:

John 8:4-8

They [the Pharisees] said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. 

But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

Stoning was a common form of capital punishment in the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 24:13-16), but Yeshua changed the parameters. Only the purely innocent had the right to judge, and that left every human being on the planet unable to throw a stone at the woman. Only God could condemn, and the day of retribution was not that day. The woman walked away with Yeshua’s blessing.

The Stones Will Cry Out

During Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem He was greeted by many people as the long-awaited Messianic King. There shouts of great joy and as He rode in on a donkey, descending down the Mount of Olives towards the valley and then ascending towards the Temple:

Luke 19:37-40

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of YHWH; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 

But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

There was no silencing this moment… He was the King and the people’s shouts of ‘Save Us’ (Hosanna) had to be heard. The people were asking to be saved, and Yeshua knew He would. Although it was a joyous occasion for everyone else, He undoubtably felt the weight of it. He was the only one to know that He was marching towards His own painful death.

Yeshua’s response (the stones will cry out!) wasn’t just a poetic utterance, He pulled the phrase from the writings of Habukkuk:

Habakkuk 2:10-14

“You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself. Surely the stone [ehven] will cry out from the wall, and the rafter will answer it from the framework.

Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence! Is it not indeed from YHWH of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing? For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YHWH, as the waters cover the sea…”

Yeshua was entering Jerusalem and Jerusalem, as it stood, had been built on bloodshed. The stones of Jerusalem would cry out in recognition of YHWH in the city, but also in recognition of years of bloodshed. It had been a city conquered by David centuries early, and now the New David was coming in to conquer death. But Yeshua wasn’t recognized as the King He was meant to be and so the city would fall. In 70 A.D. Rome annihilated Jerusalem, so that not one stone stood atop another.

Temple Stones of Jerusalem

This prediction of the fall of Jerusalem came up in a few Gospel accounts. Just after Yeshua spoke of the stones crying out, during his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, He broke into tears:

Luke 19:41-44

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Yeshua’s wasn’t crying about His impending death, He was crying for the future of Jerusalem. In less than forty year Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed by the Romans; the Temple would fall and the people would either fall with it or be scattered among the nations. And it would be almost 2 millennia before the Jewish people could ever return to Jerusalem and call it home.

The disciples had no idea what was to come when they marvelled at the beauty of the city:

Mark 13:1-2 (see also Matthew 24:1-2)

As He [Jesus] was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

Yeshua, no doubt, had this passage from Haggai in mind when he responded to His disciple:

Haggai 2:15-19

“But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another [ehven el ehven] in the temple of YHWH, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty. I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,” declares YHWH. 

“Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of YHWH was founded, consider: Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.’

Was the seed still in the barn? Had it borne fruit yet? Was it harvest time. No, not in Haggai’s day. But in Yeshua’s day, it was harvest time. The day had come for YHWH’s plan to take it’s grandest move: the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah. 

For many Yeshua was not the Saviour they were looking for; they had expected a militant Anointed King who would conquer Rome. Instead, they got a man crucified by Rome… and only a few decades later Rome would wipe out Jerusalem and the House of God within it. But just like Yeshua, Jerusalem would one day rise again:

Isaiah 62:10-12

Go through, go through the gates, clear the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, remove the stones [meh-ehven], lift up a standard over the peoples. Behold, YHWH has proclaimed to the end of the earth, say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.” And they will call them, “The holy people, the redeemed of YHWH”; and you will be called, “Sought out, a city not forsaken.”

The tumultuous history of Jerusalem, for the Jewish people, may be explained best by the famous writing in Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3b-5a

There is an appointed time for everything… a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones [a’vanim] and a time to gather stones [a’vanim].

Whatever your feelings may be about Jerusalem, or Zion, we are called to have compassion on this city of stone. This was to be the forever home of YHWH; He cared deeply for it, and so should we:

Psalm 102:13-16

You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come. Surely Your servants find pleasure in her stones [et a’vaneha] and feel pity for her dust. So the nations will fear the name of YHWH and all the kings of the earth Your glory. For YHWH has built up Zion; He has appeared in His glory. 

Costly Cornerstones

One of the more famous images associated with the Messiah was the “Cornerstone”. Yeshua included the image during one of His teachings. He told the parable about the vineyard owner who sought produce of the harvest from the tenant farmers who had rented his farmland. He sent three servants in succession, but each was either killed or seriously wounded by the vine-growers. In the end the owner had just one more person to retrieve the harvest:

Mark 12:6-12

“He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’

They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. Have you not even read this Scripture: ‘The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from YHWH, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

And they were seeking to seize Him, and yet they feared the people, for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him and went away.

The Jewish religious leaders were not stupid. They understood exactly what Yeshua’s point of the story was. This man was announcing that they were the terrible vine-growing tenants and they would be the ones to destroy the Son of God. But they refused to believe He was the Messiah or that God would even have a Son. Was this man the conqueror of Rome? No, according to them, this was just a prophet bent on destroying their cherished heritage. In their minds, Yeshua was a blasphemer and he would have to be stopped. In their rejection of Him, they proved His point: He really was the stone that the builders rejected.

A cornerstone was the chief stone upon which the foundation stood. It was the ceremonial first stone that indicated the beginning of construction. Yeshua was the perfect cornerstone… the one on whom all our lives depend. He was the Living Temple who would redeem us.

Yeshua, as the chief cornerstone, would hold us up, redeem us and shelter us. In mentioning the cornerstone Yeshua was quoting from Isaiah, Job, Jeremiah (51:25-26) and the Psalms:

Isaiah 28:16-18a

Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone [ahven], a tested stone [ehven bokhan], a costly cornerstone [pinnat yik’rat] for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place. Your covenant with death will be canceled, and your pact with Sheol will not stand…”

Yeshua was the cornerstone of God’s great plan to save humanity. He would be the one to cancel humanity’s covenant with death. He would die as a sacrifice so we could live. 

Job also spoke of the cornerstone. YHWH’s conversation with Job included this commanding passage:

Job 38:4-7

YHWH to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone [ehven pinnatah], when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Who set God’s great plan in motion? Who laid it’s cornerstone? YHWH was the great architect and the foundation builder of history:

Psalm 118:19-24

Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to YHWH. This is the gate of YHWH; the righteous will enter through it. I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, and You have become my salvation. The stone [ehven] which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone [l-rosh pinnah]. This is YHWH’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which YHWH has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

God had planned the day. When humanity fell in the Garden He immediately became the architect of our salvation. Yeshua was announcing that the Day of YHWH was at hand. He was the cornerstone of YHWH’s plan of salvation, and He would be rejected by the very people who had cheered Him on as He entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Yeshua was the living stone who would die to save us:

Acts 4:10-12

…”let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Messiah the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Yeshua was the Living Stone who sacrificed Himself to save us. But Peter also recognized that through that sacrifice we, ourselves, would become living stones, hewn by God, with Yeshua as the cornerstone of our spiritual house. Our soul was be the house of the Holy Spirit, and Yeshua, as our cornerstone, was the most precious thing we could lean on:

1 Peter 2:1-8

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus the Messiah. 

For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 

This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone,” and, “A stone of the stumbling an a rock of offence”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

For those who do not believe, the cornerstone would be a stumbling stone. The stone was not precious to them, it was an annoyance:

Isaiah 8:13-15

“It is YHWH of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; but to both the houses of Israel, a stone [u-l-ehven] to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Many will stumble over them, then they will fall and be broken; they will even be snared and caught.” 

Rolling the Stone

For many Christian and Messianic believers the first stone to come to mind, in regards to the Biblical narrative, was the great stone that blocked Yeshua’s tomb:

Mark 16:1-6 (see also Luke 24:1-3)

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

I find it quite interesting that the first instance of a stone rolled in front of something, in the Bible, was not a tomb (decay & death) but a well (water & life). Jacob, in his search for a wife, came to a well that was covered by a stone:

Genesis 29:1-11

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, for from that well they watered the flocks. Now the stone [w-ha-ehven] on the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, they would then roll the stone [et ha-ehven] from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone [et ha-ehven] back in its place on the mouth of the well.

Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” And he said to them, “Is it well with him?” And they said, “It is well, and here is Rachel his daughter coming with the sheep.” He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone [et ha-ehven] from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.

While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone [et ha-ehven] from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept.

The shepherds wanted to wait until all the flocks were gathered to water their sheep; at that point they would roll away the stone. But when Rachel, the shepherdess, arrived at the well, Jacob didn’t hesitate; he went right up to the mouth of the well, rolled away the stone, and watered Laban’s flock, shepherded by Rachel. It’s quite an interesting image. Jacob defied protocol; his instinct was to not hesitate, but to support life, and give nourishment to the flock of his future bride. The bride & the bridegroom met at a well and watered the flock. The water was released from the well to nourish the flock, in much the same way as Yeshua, the Living Water, was released from the tomb. Is there any wonder why Jacob wept?

Unlike the life-supporting well, the tomb was connected to death and decay. Even in Joshua’s day stones were rolled across the mouth caves to entomb people.

God promised Joshua that He would give the Amorites over to his hands. When the five kings of the Amorites (Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem, Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon (Joshua 10:3)) heard of the Hebrew people’s victory, they fled and hid in caves:

Joshua 10:17-19

It was told Joshua, saying, “The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” 

Joshua said, “Roll large stones [gollu a’vanim godolowt] against the mouth of the cave, and assign men by it to guard them, but do not stay there yourselves; pursue your enemies and attack them in the rear. Do not allow them to enter their cities, for YHWH your God has delivered them into your hand.”…

So the five men were put in their living tombs behind the rolled stone, and guards were posted by the stone. Eventually they were let out, only to be killed by Joshua and hung them on trees:

Joshua 10:26-27

…So afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees; and they hung on the trees until evening. It came about at sunset that Joshua gave a command, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and put large stones [a’vanim godolowt] over the mouth of the cave, to this very day.

This story has a familiar feel to the story of Yeshua’s death. Yeshua was hung on a tree, taken down before the sun set (beginning of the Shabbat) and placed in a tomb with a stone rolled over the entrance; guards were posted by the stone. But He would not stay there to this very day, (as did the five kings of the Amorites), rather Yeshua’s story took a remarkable turn. The stone was rolled away on Yeshua’s tomb, and despite the guards, Yeshua rose up from his death and left the grave.

The Stone of Israel

The story of Jacob’s son Joseph, in many ways, reflected Yeshua’s own story. Joseph was a Jewish son who was hated by His own brothers. In their rejection, and in their attempt to destroy Him, he fulfilled his destiny. Joseph would become a powerful regent and they would, in turn, come to him begging for their life. 

When Jacob neared the end of his life, he spoke prophetically about each of his sons. Here’s what he had to say about Joseph:

Genesis 49:22-26

“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel [ehven Yis’rael]), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; may they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.

Yeshua, like Joseph, was the fruitful Bough; He was the Branch; He was the Shepherd; He was the Stone of Israel; and He was distinguished among all humanity. Yeshua was the Messianic King and all who followed Him would wear the crown of His glory:

Zechariah 9:14-16

Then YHWH will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning; and the Lord YHWH will blow the trumpet, and will march in the storm winds of the south. YHWH of hosts will defend them. And they will devour and trample on the sling stones [av’neh qela]; and they will drink and be boisterous as with wine; and they will be filled like a sacrificial basin, drenched like the corners of the altar. And YHWH their God will save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they are as the stones of a crown [av’ne nezer], sparkling in His land.

Next week: Preacher

3 thoughts on “Even/Eben: A Costly STONE”

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