Coral

CORAL (See Animals; Minerals)


CORAL kō’ răl (רָאמוֹת, H8029; coral all Eng. VSS; ASVmg.; jewels, costly stones, pearls, coral RSV. BDB prefers corals.)

There is general agreement that both Heb. words refer to precious or semi-precious stones of animal rather than mineral origin; i.e. they are coral and/or pearls rather than rubies. Ramoth, generally taken to be coral, could be either black or red, prob. the latter, which was better known and held in higher esteem. The word coral strictly refers to tiny lowly organisms of the Class Anthozoa (floweranimals) that live in dense colonies in seas not colder than about 68oF, but in Biblical contexts it is the dead calcareous skeleton that is meant, often polished and prepared. There are some 2,500 species, varied in size and shape of the resultant structure; some are reef-builders and others form ornamental shapes, but few are used as precious stones, principally red and black. The former was highly prized in the ancient world long before the periods in which it finds Biblical mention, and its main source is the Mediterranean Sea, where it was once abundant in the shallow water and the object of regular, well-organized fisheries. About the beginning of the Christian era there was a big export trade to India, where the red coral was believed to have sacred properties. (See Job 28:18; Lam 4:7; Ezek 27:16.)

Regarding Peninîm it seems certain that the stone was reddish, but the context is of little help. (See NBD, 632, 633.)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The red coral or precious coral, Corallium rubrum, is confined to the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. It is the calcareous axis of a branching colony of polyps. It does not form reefs, but occurs in small masses from 40 to 100 fathoms below the surface. It differs totally in structure from the white corals which form coral reefs, belonging to the order of Octactinia or Eight-rayed Polyps, while the reef-building corals belong to the Hexactinia or Six-rayed Polyps.

Ra’moth, apparently from r. ra’am, "to be high" (compare rum, "to be high"), occurs in three passages. In Pr 24:7, EVV have "too high": "Wisdom is too high for a fool." In Job 28:12-19, where various precious things are compared with wisdom, English Versions of the Bible has "coral"(King James Version, margin "Ramoth"). It is mentioned here along with ceghor, "gold" (the Revised Version, margin "treasure"); kethem, "gold of Ophir"; shoham, "onyx" (the Revised Version, margin "beryl"); cappir, "sapphire"; zahabh, "gold"; zekhukhith, "crystal" (the Revised Version (British and American) "glass"); paz, "gold"; gabhish, "pearls" (the Revised Version (British and American) "crystal"); peninim, "rubies" (the Revised Version, margin "red coral" or "pearls"); piTedhah, "topaz." While the real meaning of some of these terms is doubtful (see Precious Stones), they all, including ra’moth, appear to be precious stones or metals. In Eze 27:16, ra’moth occurs with nophekh, "emeralds" (the Revised Version, margin "carbuncles"); ’argaman, "purple"; riqmah, "broidered work"; buts, "fine linen"; kadhkodh, "agate"(King James Version, margin "chrysoprase," the Revised Version (British and American) "rubies"). Here the context does not require a precious stone or metal, and Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A. D.) has sericum, i. e. "Chinese material" or "silk." Notwithstanding, therefore, the traditional rendering, "coral," the real meaning of ra’moth must be admitted to be doubtful.