The Identity of the Breastplate Stones: Yashpheh

The history, writings, and translations related to the yashpheh stone and its possible modern day equivalent, the jade

XII. Yashpheh. If, as appears almost certain, this name originally occupied the sixth place in the original Hebrew text, all the ancient versions agree in translating it "jasper." An Assyrian form of the name was yashpu, as is shown by the Tell el Amarna letters in the cuneiform writing dating from not long before the Exodus. Of all the so-called jaspers none were so highly valued as those of a green color. The talismanic and therapeutic qualities of the "green jaspers" are often noted by ancient writers, and, according to Galen, these stones were recommended for remedial use by Egyptian writers on medicine. Abel Remusat, the great French Orientalist, writing in 1820, was one of the first to see in the yashpheh of the Hebrews and in the green jasper of the Greeks and Romans, the material jade (nephrite or jadeite), the Chinese yu-stone. These minerals were used both in the Old and the New World, and were everywhere believed to possess wonderful virtues. Very likely the powers supposed to characterize jade were later attributed to green jasper, but there is every reason to suppose that the true jade was always more highly prized than its jasper substitute, for it was much rarer, and was easily distinguishable, by its translucency, from jasper of a similar color. Only in Turkestan and New Zealand has jade been found in modern times, and that used in other lands was derived either from prehistoric relics or else from some source unknown to us. It seems highly probable that the yashpheh which adorned the breastplate made for Aaron was a piece of nephrite or jadeite; possibly in the later breastplate green jasper may have been employed. This stone was inscribed with the tribal name Assher.


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