Bible Society of South Africa

Nature & Landscape


Agate is a semi-translucent stone. It is usually light blue or grey in colour.
The stone was used for decoration on the breast pocket of the high priest. Engraved on each stone was the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.


Alabaster is a yellowish white, semi-translucent type of stone. In the ancient world, this material was used to make bottles for perfume and ointment.


Amber is petrified resin that comes from pine trees. Its colour is usually dark yellow to dark red.
The stone was used for decoration on the breast pocket of the high priest. Engraved on each stone was the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.


Amethyst is a mineral whose colour lies between light purple and dark blue-violet.


Balsam is a fragrant resin that can be obtained from various different plants.


Beryl is a clear, crystal-like mineral. In the ancient Near East this name is mainly used for greenish-blue stones (aquamarine).


Carnelian is an orange-red semi-precious stone which comes from Sardis in Asia Minor (see Revelation 4:3). Carnelian was also called “sard”, after the place where the stone comes from, or “cornelian”.


Cassia is an aromatic resin used in the manufacture of anointing oil (see Exodus 30:23).
It comes from a tree which can reach a height of seven to ten metres.


The cedar is a tree from the mountain region of Lebanon. It is not clear whether this referred to one specific type of tree or different types of wood.

Cistus Resin

Cistus resin (labdanum) is a type of resin with a very sweet smell. It comes from a shrub which probably grew originally in the southeast of Egypt.
Cistus resin is a commodity and is mentioned, among other places, in Genesis 37:25 and Exodus 30:34.


The colocynth, or gourd, is a delicate, pumpkin-like plant. It was used mainly for medicinal purposes. The plant grew in the wilderness, through the whole of the Mediterranean.


Guard dogs and sheepdogs were greatly valued in Ancient Israel. Street dogs and strays, however, were seen as dirty and a nuisance. The word “dog” therefore often has a negative connotation in the Bible.


Garnet is a transparent mineral. It is usually (brownish) red in colour. The precious stone is probably named after the pomegranate because of the colour and shape of the pips.
The stone was used for decoration on the breast pocket of the high priest. Engraved on each stone was the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.


Incense is a type of resin which plays an important part in and around the tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. Burning incense releases a pleasant aroma.
It is unclear from which type of tree this resin was harvested in the ancient Near East.


Jasper is a red precious stone which occurs both in the Old Testament (for instance on the breast pocket of the high priest), and in the New Testament (see for instance Revelation 4:3).


The Jordan is a river that runs from the Hermon hills to the Dead Sea. In Old Testament times the Jordan formed the boundary between the land of Canaan and Transjordan. From the New Testament we know the Jordan especially as the river in which John the Baptist baptised Jesus.


The river Jordan. This photo was taken in Jordan.

Kinneret sardine

The catch on Lake Galilee probably consisted primarily of sardines (Kinneret sardines), barbel (a carp like fish) and tilapia.

Lapis Lazuli

Lapis lazuli is an opaque, deep-blue precious stone. In Revelation 21:19 it is one of the stones used for the new Jerusalem.


The mandrake is related to the potato and the tomato. It was regarded as a fruit that could arouse sexual desire. It therefore plays an important part in a story about Rachel and Leah.


Marjoram is a plant that grew almost everywhere in Israel. It is known for its cleansing properties and is also known by the name “hyssop”.


Myrrh is an ointment made from the juice of an evergreen plant.


The Nile is one of the longest rivers in the world. This river originates as the “Blue Nile” in Lake Tana in Ethiopia and as the “White Nile” in Lake Victoria. These two rivers then flow to the north and merge at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. After that the Nile flows further to the north through Egypt, emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.


Olivine is a transparent mineral. It is usually olive green in colour, but there are also reddish stones. In Revelation 21:20 it is one of the stones used for the new Jerusalem.


Onyx is a semi-precious stone that occurs in a variety of colours (see for instance Genesis 2:12; Ezekiel 28:13). It is related to agate.


Orach is a spinach-like plant which was probably eaten as a kind of vegetable (see Job 30:4). Orach was a poor man’s vegetable. It grew mainly around the Dead Sea and to the east of the Sinai Desert.


The pomegranate is the fruit of a shrub-like tree that can grow to around 20 feet (about 6 m) high. The round fruit is scarlet in colour and shaped like a star when cut open. It contains many seeds.

Precious Stones

Various precious and semi-precious stones occur in the Bible. For many of the stones mentioned in the Old and New Testaments it is not clear precisely which stone is meant.
The following stones are mentioned in the Good News Bible:


Sardonyx is a mineral. The stone consists of several colours, such as red, white, black and brown. In Revelation 21:20 it is one of the stones used to build the new Jerusalem.


Mount Sinai (or Mount Horeb) is the mountain on which God made a covenant with the people of Israel and gave them the Ten Commandments. This mountain is probably located in the Sinai Desert, which is on the Sinai Peninsula in the desert near Egypt.


A sparrow is a small bird that was also common in biblical times. Sparrows were caught and then sold at the market. For a small price you could buy a pair of sparrows to eat.


Topaz is a light and transparent mineral, often pale blue or yellow in colour.
The stone was used as decoration on the breastplate of the high priest. In each stone, the name of one of the 12 tribes of Israel was engraved.

Valley of Hinnom

The Valley of Hinnom is referred to in different ways in the Old Testament: the Valley of Hinnom and the Valley of Ben-Hinnom (“the son of Hinnom”). These names refer to the original owners of the valley, the Hinnom family.


A wadi is a valley with a dry river bed in a desert area, which quickly fills up with water in the rainy season.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.21.9
Find us on