THE GOLD OF THAT LAND: Biblical Minerals & Rocks  


50.     porphyry 

Hebrew: bahat, a glistening red stone. Esther 1:6. "The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother of pearl, and other costly stones" (NIV).

Probable Identification: a red porphyry, as rendered by RSV and NIV.


    Porphyries are igneous rocks containing conspicuous crystals of feldspar set in a more finely crystalline, darker aphanitic groundmass. The contrasting grain sizes reflect movement of a half-crystallized magma to a shallower depth where it cooled more rapidly. Porphyries occur in dikes on the margins of most granitic intrusions and many granodiorites and diorites.

    The Persian emperor Darius recorded on a foundation inscription that he imported porphyry and a variety of other decorative materials to lavish on his palace at Susa.

    The ancient Egyptians carved fine sarcophagi and statues out of pink to purplish granite and rhyolite porphyry quarried from near Aswan in upper Egypt. A stretch of rapids caused by outcrops of resistant Shaitan granite formed the First Cataract on the Nile before construction of the Aswan High Dam covered them. The Shaitan granites intrude deformed gneiss, schist, and other Precambrian metamorphic rocks. They represent the product of melting at the roots of a folded mountain belt. Younger dikes and sills of granite, pegmatite, and basic igneous rocks cut both metamorphic rock and granite. The Romans quarried their Imperial Porphyry from a dike at Gebel Dokhan. They called it Lapis porphyrites or Porphyrites leptosephos, and its modern trade name is Perfido antico rosso.


    Lucas & Harris, op. cit., 416-418.

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