Original Research - Special Collection: Septuagint

Textual interrelationships involving the Septuagint translations of the precious stones in the breastpiece of the high priest

Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Jacobus A. Naudé
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 4 | a6141 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i4.6141 | © 2020 Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Jacobus A. Naudé | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2020 | Published: 27 October 2020

About the author(s)

Cynthia L. Miller-Naudé, Department of Hebrew, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa, South Africa
Jacobus A. Naudé, Department of Hebrew, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


The Hebrew Bible mentions 12 precious stones arranged in four rows of three each on the high priest’s breastpiece in two lists (Ex 28:17–20 and 39:10–13). Nine of these precious stones reappear in the Tyrian king’s ‘covering’ in Ezekiel 28:13 in three groups of three. Although the two lists in Exodus are identical, the order in Ezekiel is slightly different. In Septuagint (LXX) Ezekiel there are 12 precious stones. However, the number and order in the LXX lists (LXX-Ex 28:17–20 and 36:17–20; LXX-Ezk 28:13) are constant in all three cases. The same 12 stones as in the LXX appear, but with variation in order, in two accounts found in Josephus (The Wars of the Jews Book 5, Chapter 5, Section 7; The Antiquities of the Jews Book 3, Chapter 7, Section 5). The list of precious stones in Revelation 21:19–20 that adorn the 12 foundations of the New Jerusalem is reminiscent of the breastpiece, but it shows four new names along with eight that are known from the LXX; it is not clear if it is a fresh translation from the Hebrew list. This article focuses on the relationships amongst these lists by examining the arrangement, translation and symbolism of these precious stones.

Contribution: The precious stones in the high priest’s breastpiece (Exod 28:17–20, 39:10–13) were rendered differently and re-arranged by the Septuagint and other later versions for new contexts, audiences and theological purposes. Unknown stones were rendered with similar stones known to the translator or the incipient text terms were transliterated.


Septuagint; High priest breastpiece; Masoretic Text; Vulgate; Syriac; Targumim; Josephus; Translation strategy; Coordination; Greek syntax


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