THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


21.     coal


    1. gechel, a glowing ember of charcoal. Leviticus 16:12; 2 Samuel 22:9, 13; Job 41:21; Psalm 18:8, 12-13; 120:4, 140:10; Proverbs 6:28, 25:22; Song of Solomon 8:6; Isaiah 44:19; Ezekiel 1:13, 10:2, 24:11

    2. ritsp‚h, a hot stone or live ember of charcoal. Isaiah 6:6

    3. retseph, a red-hot stone for baking. Lamentations 4:8.

    4. pech‚m, a black ember of charcoal. 1 Kings 19:6.

    5. resheph, a fiery thunderbolt


    1. anthrax, a burning ember of charcoal.

    2. anthrakia, a bed of blazing embers.

Probable Identification: a biblical coal is a glowing piece of charcoal or a stone heated in a fire. Biblical usage never implies coal in the modern sense.


    Coal in modern usage is prehistoric plant matter laid down in swamps, lagoons, and deltas that the heat and pressure of burial have carbonized and mineralized into a bedded, consolidated sedimentary rock. Ranks in the sequence of transformation range from peat to lignite, subbituminous or soft coal, bituminous coal, and anthracite. The carbon content of each rank increases, while the contents of moisture, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen decrease. The components of coal are bright and glossy bands of vitrain and fusain formed from woody parts of plants, and duller bands of fusain and durain derived from finely divided plant matter.

    Jet  is a dense, black, opaque semiprecious form of resinous bituminous coal which is occasionally used in jewelry. It was once fashionable for ladies in mourning. Its Mohs hardness between 3 and 5 makes it too soft for jewelry, but it carves well and polishes to a velvety luster. Its specific gravity is 1.35. Whitby jet from cliffs on the Yorkshire coast of England occurs as hard nodules in black shale beds of Lower Jurassic age. Other sources are France, Spain, Germany, and Colorado.

Historical Background:

    "If our civilization has been erected upon a framework of iron, it rests upon a foundation of coal." Coal mining supplied the energy that fueled the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Roasted to make coke, coal replaced charcoal for smelting iron and made possible the growth of the steel industry.



     Freese, Barbara, 2003. Coal, A Human History. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

    Lane, Ferdinand C., 1953. The Story of Trees. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc.; 43.

    Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004.

    Schumann, op. cit.; 226-227.

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