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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Topaz

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(פַּטְדָּה ,pitdah', apparently of non-Heb. etymology; Sept. τοπάζιον; Vulg. topazius), a gem which was the second stone in the first row of the high- priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:17; Exodus 39:10). It was one of the jewels that adorned the apparel of the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:13); it was the bright stone that garnished the ninth foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:20). In Job 28:19, where wisdom is contrasted with precious articles, it is said that "the pitdah of Ethiopia shall not equal it." It is, according to most ancient versions, the topaz (τοπάζιον; Josephuls, τόπαζος ), which most of the ancient Greek writers describe as being of a golden yellow color (Strabo, 16:770; Diod. Sic. 3, 39); while Pliny (Hist. Nat. 37:32) states that its color is green. The topaz of the ancient Greeks and Romans is generally thought to be our chrysolite, while their chrysolite is our topaz. Chrysolite, which is also known by the name of olivine and peridot, is a silicate of magnesia and iron, it is so soft as to lose its polish unless worn with care (Mitchell and Tennant, Minecralogy and Crystallography; p. 512). (See CHRYSOLITE).

"Bellermann, however (Die Urim und Thummim, p. 39), contends that the topaz and the chrysolite of the ancients are identical with the stones denoted by these terms at the present day. The topaz is a precious stone having a strong glass luster. Its prevailing color is wine-yellow of every degree of shade. The dark shade of this color passes over into carnation red, and sometimes, although rarely, into lilac; the pale shade of the wine-yellow passes into grayish, and from yellowish-white into greenish-white and pale green, tincal, and celadon- green. It may thus be difficult to determine whether the pitdah in the high- priest's breastplate was the yellow topaz; but that it was a topaz there is little reason to doubt. In the passage cited from Job the pitdah is connected with, Cush; and as the name Cush includes Southern Arabia and the Arabian Gulf, the intimation coincides with the statement of Pliny and others, that the topazes known to them came from the Topaz Island in the Red Sea (Hist. Nat. 37:8; comp. 11:29), whence it was probably brought by the Phoenicians (comp. Ezekiel 28:13). (See ETHIOPIA). Pliny adds, in explanation of the name, that the island where these precious stones were procured was surrounded by fogs, and was, in consequence, often sought for by navigators; and that hence it received its name, the term "topazin" signifying, in the Troglodyte tongue, "to seek" (?).

It may be remarked that Bohlen seeks the origin of the Hebrew word' in the Sanskrit language, in which pita means "yellowish," "pale;" and, as Gesenius remarks, the Greek τοπάζιο ν itself might seem to come from the Hebrew Tif'5 by transposition into טפדה (Thesaur. p. 1101). See Braunius, De Vestitu, p. 508; Hofmann, Mineral. 1, 337; Pareau, Comment on Job. p. 333; Ritter, Erdkunde, 2, 675. (See GEM).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Topaz'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/topaz.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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