Jasper (Heb. Jahsh-Peh)

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
IT is probable that some variety of the jasper, displaying various brilliant hues, but with which we are at present unacquainted, was used for this twelfth stone of the breastplate. Upon it the name of Naphtali was engraven. The Hebrew, translated in our version " wrestling," is derived from a word meaning to twist: and is supposed, by some, to have a different signification from that given in our translation. It is not the same as that in Gen. 32 where the angel of God wrestled with Jacob. Nevertheless, on comparing the passages, we shall find that the word prevailed is the same in all these places. It may be that Rachel, in giving the name Naphtali to the son of her maid Bilhah, meant to imply that she had, through " strivings of God," prevailed, so that a child was born. So that there is a prophetic allusion to the subsequent wrestling of the angel with Jacob, on which occasion the name of Israel was bestowed.
Let us now turn to that very instructive chapter Gen. 32. Jacob had, at God's command, left Padan Aram (Gen. 31:3,) to return to the land of his fathers. He had seen God's remarkable interference on his behalf when pursued by Laban; and now, still more to reassure him, the angels of God met him; so that he said, " This is God's host;" and called the name of the place Mahanaim, or " two camps:" probably with reference to the hosts of God forming one camp, and his own company another. Although thus surrounded with the hosts of God; and himself and his company forming one of God's encampments, yet his heart trembled; and he cent messengers to Esau with a servile salutation; and in the folly of human expediency, even announced to his brother, the freebooter, the fact of his being possessed of abundance of flocks and herds. Wise as he thought himself in the flesh, he is taken in his own craftiness; for the messengers return announcing the approach of Esau with a large company of armed men. Jacob had by his very message, stirred up the cupidity of his marauding brother. Dismayed at the result of his own folly, he next divided his company into two bands, hoping that the one might escape if the other were smitten: strangely forgetting the two camps, which a little before, had been presented to him by God. Having thus made his own arrangements, he pours out his heart in deep and blessed prayer and self-abasement before God, entreating His help and deliverance. But no sooner has he risen from his knees, than again he practices a fresh expedient, hoping to appease his brother Esau by a present, which he selects and spreads out to the best advantage. And having thus counseled to the best of his ability how to meet this emergency in his own wisdom, he sent his family over the brook, remaining himself in solitude, in perplexity, and doubtless almost in despair.
In all this we see the strange mixture of unbelief, craft, expediency, and servility of the flesh; and yet, a measure of faith and dependence on God, such as we often discover in ourselves; one moment seeking the aid of the Lord, at another devising plans of our own.
" Jacob was left alone, and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." It is here to be observed that the man wrestled with Jacob, and Jacob had power, through the strength of his flesh to withstand the wrestlings against him, of this messenger from God. " And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh, and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint." An instructive lesson this; teaching us that the flesh cannot be subjected, but must be withered and crushed; for " the carnal mind is enmity against God; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
Jacob's power of opposition was now gone. He could no longer be an antagonist to the mighty wrestler; he had lost all the strength of nature; he was crippled and withered as to the very sinews of his power. But with the loss of natural ability to withstand God, he gained a new power to prevail with God. He hung on in helplessness, upon the neck of him whom he had before withstood " And he (the angel) said, Let me go; for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
On reference to the passage in Hos. 12:3,4. we learn what this power with God was. He wept and made supplication. Weakness, weeping, and entreaty, are irresistible with God. As the Apostle truly says, " When I am weak, then I am strong." This is the way to deal with Jehovah after a princely fashion: for His own beloved Son, " in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, and was heard, in that he feared." The weakness of the cross was a mighty appeal to the heart of God; and the glory of resurrection is His reply to the strong crying and tears of His beloved Son. He has prevailed, and has the name of Israel; prince with God and with men.
Naphtali surely instructs us in this double lesson, how God has wrestled against our flesh, and overcome it by putting it to death and withering up all its strength; the old man having been crucified with Christ: and how we prevail with God, and therefore with men, by lowly heart-broken dependence on Him, compelled by our very helplessness to cleave to Him, to take hold of His strength in order to make peace with Him.
It is to be observed that the sardine is the first, and the jasper the last stone of the breastplate; and in the Rev. 4:3, " He that sat upon the throne was to look upon like a jaspar and a sardine stone." There seems to be some typical connection between these two symbols. If the names of Judah and Naphtali were, as it is believed, engravers on these two stones, then the manifested glory which shines forth from God upon His throne, is the result of the great wrestlings of His heart in the gift of His blessed Son. The work of the new creation is not like that of the old, accomplished by the breath of His mouth, but by the travail of the soul of Jesus. The work of salvation is a difficult work, engrossing the love, wisdom, power, and skill of God: the righteous are with difficulty saved.
The varied lusters of the jasper may be taken to typify all the diversified and accumulated resources of God, employed in the great work of new creation. The sardine stone, with Judah, " praise" inscribed upon it, may also have been selected to portray the glory of the enthroned Jehovah, because He inhabits the praises of Israel, and those praises ascend to Him by reason of His mercy, wisdom, and power in their redemption, having provided the Lamb for their salvation.
In theā€¢ blessing of Jacob, Naphtali is thus recorded: " Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words."Gen. 49:21. May there not be an allusion to this in that wondrous psalm of the Cross, the xxii, which is headed, " To the chief musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, or the hind of the morning." It is a psalm in which the deep wrestlings of the soul of Christ are expressed, the pains of the travail of His soul. But suddenly it changes from the deep tones of woe to the joyful song of deliverance. In the midst of the 21 verse, resurrection deliverance comes in: " Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns."
The morning without clouds breaks: the hind is let loose, and bounds away to the high places, giving goodly words, or words of fairness and pleasantness. " I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee."
The hind is also used in Scripture as an emblem of gentleness and love. Thus, in the Song of Solomon: " I charge ye, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love till he (she) please." ii. 7, and iii. 5. The allusion here is ro the gentleness of the hind, which is easily scared. Again, Prov. 5:19., " Let her be unto thee as the loving hind." Here the hind is used as a symbol of affection.
The feet of the hind enable it to stand securely upon the summit of lofty crags, out of the reach of danger, and lifted above the snares and pitfalls of the world below. "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places." 2 Sam. xxii. 34. Psa. 18:33. " The Lord God is my strength: and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." Hab. 3:19.
He that is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is also like the gentle loving hind of Naphtali. On the morning of His resurrection, when God had loosed the pains of death, and He, the Lord of life and glory was bounding up to the highest heavens; still, as the gentle loving hind, He stayed on His path to comfort the heart of Mary, and to give her that blessed message to His brethren, " I am ascending to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." The goodly words were given by this Hind of the morning. And He has made our feet like hinds' feet; we are raised up together with Him; and we have to stand upon the high places, to which we as believers have thus been exalted; and not to let Satan cast us down from our excellency. We have, as of Naphtali, to wrestle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spirits or wickedness in the heavenly (or high) places. Eph. 6:12. But Jehovah God is our strength. His great Priest has known the power of the enemy, and has conquered; and He will enable us to overcome and maintain our stand on high. He will uphold us in our wrestlings against the foe, by bringing to our remembrance His throes of anguish on the tree, and by clothing us with His strength. Let us therefore maintain our resurrection standing. Let us stand fast in the Liberty with which Christ has made us free; not entangled by any yoke of bondage as regards works, or rites, or ceremonies, as if anything could be added to the perfect justification of the blood. Neither let us give way to the seductions of the god of this world, who would fain ensnare us with its vanities and ambitions, its honors and its wealth, who would bring a dark veil of coldness and deadness over our hearts, hiding from our eyes the glory of our heavenly calling, alienating our hearts and affections from the Lord, seeking to set them upon things on the earth. Let us be " satisfied with the favor of the Lord, and be full of the blessing of Jehovah." Deut. 33:23.
Having endeavored to connect the precious stones on the breastplate with the names of the tribes, and to seek their typical import; let us now turn to the further description of the high priest's dress, contained in Ex. 28:22-25. " Thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings in the two ends of the breastplate. And thou shalt put the two wreathen chains of gold in the two rings, which are in the ends of the breastplate. And the other two ends of the two wreathen chains thou shalt fasten in the two ouches, and put them on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod before it."
The object of these two chains was to fasten the breastplate so securely to the settings, in which the onyx-stones were enclosed in the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, that by no possibility could they be separated. The chains were wreathen and twisted like a rope; for both words are employed: wreathen, interwoven, or intertwined.
The same word is used, Judg. 15:13,14; and 16:11, 12; also Psa. 2:3, for cords or ropes. Ezek. 19:11, and 31:3, 5, thick boughs or branches. Hos. 11:4, bands of love. " Twisted work" is Gesenius' translation of the Hebrew word, which our version gives, " at the ends." Ex. 28:14; and 39:15. Thus he would translate the passages: " And two chains of pure gold, wreathen, thou shalt make them twisted work." The object in adding the word "twisted" to " wreathen" appears to imply a combination of skill and strength; and that the breastplate might be indissolubly connected with the shoulder-stones. Every movement of the high priest's shoulders would affect the breastplate: and every beat of his heart which agitated the breastplate would be conveyed, by means of the wreathen chains, to the covering of the shoulders.
There is a beautiful significance in this, reminding us how the mighty power of the arm of the Lord is intimately linked on with the tenderness of His heart of love. No action of His strength is disconnected from His counsels of mercy and grace towards His saints. He makes all things work together for good to them that love Him. His arm and His heart are combined incessantly in sustaining them in their high calling. He is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. They shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of the Shepherd's hand: and who shall separate them from His love?
Every stone is set in solid gold; and rings of gold, and chains of gold, firmly knit together the jewels upon the shoulder and the heart. It is by His divine glory and power, of which the gold is a faint emblem, that the Lord upholds in unceasing brilliancy, each member of His body, in union with Himself; maintaining all in their place of strength upon His shoulders, as children of God. And notwithstanding their waywardness and frequent acts of disobedience, preserving them upon His heart, as the servants and soldiers of the Most High.
In the Song of Solomon, the bride alludes to these two positions, in which she desires to be maintained by her Beloved. " Set me as a signet upon thine heart, as a signet upon thine arm." Let my name be graven deep in thine heart, where love is strong as death; which many waters have not quenched; which the floods of Almighty wrath have not drowned. And let my name be also graven in the place of thy power; that I may be upheld from sin and folly, and give thee no cause for jealousy. That I may not be like the adulterers and adulteresses, who seek the friendship of the world. We are exhorted to be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus; to remember our place in His affections. TO " be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might;" to keep in mind the strength of His almighty arm.
There is a very blessed connection between the breastplate and shoulder-pieces of the high priest, and the wave-breast and heave-shoulder of the peace-sacrifice. These portions of that offering were peculiarly given by a statute of the Lord to Aaron and his sons. " The wave-breast and the heave-shoulder, have I taken of the children of Israel, from off the sacrifices of their peace-offerings, and have given them unto Aaron the priest, and unto his sons, by a statute forever, from among the children of Israel." Lev. 7:34, and 10:15; Num. 18:18.
The breast was waved to and fro before God. It called the attention of the Most High to its intrinsic purity and spotlessness. Also, like the waving of the hand when one friend salutes another-it silently proclaimed peace. The heave-shoulder was the right shoulder; and as its name implies, was lifted off the earth towards Jehovah. These portions of the sacrifice were given to Aaron for food, to sustain him in his priestly service, and to strengthen him for his duties on behalf of the people Israel. Our great High Priest having, as the peace-sacrifice, presented Himself without spot to God, and made reconciliation for the sins of the people, now bears, engravers on His very heart, the names of those for whom He suffered. He proved Himself worthy of the charge committed to Him, by His deep love in giving His life for them. He has borne their names in judgment through the deep billows of God's wrath: therefore He bears their names in glory, and keeps them with unwearied love and diligence until He shall present them unto Himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy, and without blemish.
The strength also of His shoulder has been proved. for He has been lifted up on the tree, bearing the heavy burden of all our guilt, misery, and sin: and He has borne it away forever. That same shoulder of Almighty power now upholds in glory the names of God's children, and will bear them on until He shall present them faultless in the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Eph. 5:25, tells us of the wave-breast, of the peace-sacrifice, and consequently, of the heart of the great High Priest. " Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it." 1 Pet. ii. 24. " Who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree," fulfills the heave-shoulder: and Jude 24 presents the same shoulder of power, preserving the saints onward, faultless to the end.