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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. אֹרֵם, o'dem; Sept. and New Test., σάρδιον ), one of the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest (Exodus 28:17; Exodus 39:10). So also Josephus (War, 5, 5, 7), who, however, in Ant. 3, 7, 6, makes it the sardonyx (σαρδόνυξ ). Still, as this latter named mineral is merely another variety of agate, to which also the sard or sardius belongs, there is no very great discrepancy in the statements of the Jewish historian. (See SARDONYX).

The odem is mentioned by Ezekiel (28:13) as one of the ornaments of the king of Tyre. In Revelation 4:3, John declares that he whom he saw sitting on the heavenly throne "was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone." The sixth foundation of the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem was a sardius (Revelation 21:20). There can scarcely be a doubt that either the sard or the sardonyx is the stone denoted by odem. The authority of Josephus in all that relates to the high priest's breastplate is of the greatest value; for, as Braun (De Vest. Sac. Heb. p. 635) has remarked, Josephus was not only a Jew, but a priest, who might have seen the breastplate with the whole sacerdotal vestments a hundred times, since in his time the Temple was standing. The Vulgate agrees with his nomenclature. In Jerome's time the breastplate was still to be inspected in the Temple of Concord; hence it will readily be acknowledged that this agreement of the two is of great weight. The sard, which is a superior variety of agate, has long been a favorite stone for the engraver's art. "On this stone," says King (Ant. Gems, p. 5), "all the finest works of the most celebrated artists are to be found; and this not without good cause, such is its toughness, facility of working, beauty of color, and the high polish of which it is susceptible, and which Pliny states that it retains longer than any other gem." Sards differ in color. There is a bright red variety which, in Pliny's time, was the most esteemed; and perhaps the Hebrew odem, from a root which means "to be red," points to this kind. There is also a paler or honey-colored variety; but in sards there is always a shade of yellow mingling with the red (see King, Ant. Gems, p. 6). The sardius is the stone now called the carnelian, from its color (a carne), which resembles that of raw flesh. The Hebrew name is derived from a root (אָדִם ) which signifies redness. The sardius or carnelian is of the flint family, and is a kind of chalcedony. The more vivid the red in this stone, the higher is the estimation in which it is held. It was anciently, as now, more frequently engraved on than any other stone. The ancients called it sardius, because Sardis in Lydia was the place where they first became acquainted with it; but the sardius of Babylon was considered of greater value (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 37, 7). The Hebrews probably obtained the carnelian from Arabia. In Yemen there is found a very fine dark red carnelian, which is called el-Akik (Niebuhr, Beschreib. p. 142). The Arabs wear it on the finger, on the arm above the elbow, and in the belt before the abdomen. It is supposed to stop hemorrhage when laid on a fresh wound. See Theophr. De Lapid. c. 43; Cleaveland, Mineral. p. 250; Moore, Anc. Mineral. p. 153.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sardius'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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