Hebrew: shayish, shêsh, white stone. 1 Chronicles 29:2; Esther 1:6; Song of Songs 5:15.
Greek: marmaros, a sparkling white stone. Revelation 18:12
Probable Identification: A pure white, crystalline marble or limestone.
Marble is not a mineral but a metamorphic rock made of limestone or dolomite that has recrystallized under pressure and mild heat, making it more dense and homogenous than the original sedimentary rock. Marble takes a smoother finish and a higher polish than ordinary limestone. Marble does not occur naturally in the Holy Land, and it did not come into common use there until the second century AD.
Greece and the Aegean islands boast a variety and abundance of marble that builders and sculptors began to exploit by about 700 BC. By 570 BC, Athenian architects and sculptors preferred the dense, milky white marble from Mt. Pentelikon, 18 km (11 miles) northeast of Athens. Pentelikon marble acquires a golden patina with age. Other popular sources were Mt. Hymettos, Naxos, Paros, and Thessaly.
Many dense, crystalline limestones and dolomites pass for commercial marble in the building industry today because they have attractive surfaces when polished. Travertine, serpentinite, and cave onyx may also be marketed as "marble."
Flavius Josephus wrote that Herod the Great covered the masonry of the rebuilt second Temple with dazzling white imported marble, though archeological evidence does not support his assertion. It is more probable that it had a facade of whitewashed or polished plaster, in which case Christ's rebuke in Matthew 23:27 gains an extra bite.
Marble in Song of Songs 5:15 is a metaphor for virility and endurance. The pillars of marble and other Persian extravagances recorded in Esther 1:6 depict the excesses of self-indulgence in contrast to the seven pillars that support the house of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1), a metaphor for divine beauty and perfection.
Lucas & Harris, op. cit.; 414-415.
Ralph, Jolyon, 1993-2004. http://www.mindat.org/min-9507.html
Tennisen, op. cit.; 331-332.
Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by Richard S. Barnett, Virtual Curator of