1. challâmîysh, a hard, tough stone. Deuteronomy 8:15, 32:13; Psalm 114:8, Isaiah 50:7.
2. tsôr, a hard, sharp stone point or blade. Isaiah 5:28, Ezekiel 3:9.
Probable Identification. Flint.
Flint is a tough, microgranular cryptocrystalline form of quartz which is harder than steel and has been used for making blades and points since very early in prehistory. It resembles chalcedony in its brown to dark grey color, though it is more opaque and duller in luster. Flint occurs abundantly in nodules and thin layers in the chalky limestones of the Holy Land and elsewhere, and it breaks with a conchoidal fracture that enables flint knappers to make razor-keen edges.
Flint also has the property of making sparks when struck with steel or another flint, which still makes it useful for lighting fires. Ground, calcined flint is added to potter's clay in stoneware and certain glazes.
Chert is a lighter-colored form of microgranular cryptocrystalline quartz that occurs in thin layers in limestones. Its fracture is less conchoidal than flint. Jasper is another microgranular form of quartz with a typical reddish color due to inclusions of hematite (Fe2O3). Other oxides of iron give jasper a yellow, green, brown, or black color.
Flint is arguably the earliest industrial mineral, and peoples of the biblical world used it to make weapons and tools until well into the Iron Age. The earliest method of boiling water was to heat stones in a fire and drop them in a water pot, and ancient flint "potboilers" have cracked, iron-stained surfaces. The use of flint knives for ceremonial purposes persists today.
Metaphorical allusions to flint's physical properties may well be universal. Terms such as "skinflint" abound in English today as much as in Hebrew, even though few people use flint today.
Frazier, op. cit.; 75-89.
Hurlbut, 1952, op. cit.; 324.
Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 411-412.
Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004. http://www.mindat.org/show.php?id=6676
Shepherd, Walter, 1972. Flint: its Origins, Properties, and Uses. London: Faber & Faber.
Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Richard S. Barnett, Virtual Curator of