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CORNERSTONE (Heb. pinnâh, Gr. akrogōniaios). A term that has both a literal and figurative use in Scripture but is usually used figuratively (e.g., Job.38.6; Ps.118.22; Isa.28.16; Zech.10.4). Among the Canaanites, before the conquest of the land by Joshua, the laying of the foundation stone was accompanied by the dreadful rite of human sacrifice. Numerous skeletons have been unearthed, especially those of tiny babies in earthen jars.

2. זָוִיֹּ֑ת (Ps 144:12) entreats Jahweh for daughters like cornerstones, i.e., providing virtue to God’s people as faithful members among the people of God.

Pinnâh is treated by both Jews and Christians as Messianic. Christ is the foundation of the faith of the believer, through which He becomes man’s Deliverer. On the contrary, the lack of faith guarantees that the unbeliever will be separated from God forever.


J. Jeremias, “Κεφαλὴ γωνίας-ἀκρογωνιαι̂ος,” ZNW, 29 (1930); E. E. La Bas, “Was the Cornerstone of Scripture a Pyramidion?” PEQ 78 (1946), 103-115; S. Hooke, “The Corner Stone of Scripture,” in The Siege Perilous (1956), 235-249.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ston (pinnah, zawith; akrogoniaios): Part of the public or imposing buildings, to which importance has been attached in all ages and in many nations, both on account of its actual service and its figurative meaning. Ordinarily its use in the Bible is figurative, or symbolical. No doubt the original meaning was some important stone, which was laid at the foundation of a building.

(1) With the Canaanites, who preceded Israel in the possession of Palestine, corner-stone laying seems to have been a most sacred and impressive ceremonial. Under this important stone of temples, or other great structures, bodies of children or older persons would be laid, consecrating the building by such human sacrifice (see FORTIFICATION, II, 1). This was one of many hideous rites and practices which Israel was to extirpate. It may throw light on the curse pronounced upon the rebuilding of Jericho (Jos 6:26; see PEFS, January, 1904, July, 1908).

See Canaan.

(2) Old Testament references.--The Hebrew word pinnah, "corner," is found or implied in every occurrence of this idea. Derived from a root signifying "to turn," it means "turning," and therefore "edge" or "corner." Ordinarily it is used with ’ebhen, "stone" (Ps 118:22); or it may occur alone, having acquired for itself through frequent use the whole technical phrase-idea (Zec 10:4 the King James Version).

Figurative Uses:

While all the passages indicate the stone at the corner, there appear to be two conceptions:

(a) the foundation-stone upon which the structure rested (Job 38:6; Isa 28:16; Jer 51:26); or

(b) the topmost or cap-stone, which linked the last tier together (Ps 118:22; Zec 4:7); in both cases it is an important or key-stone, and figurative of the Messiah, who is "the First and the Last."

In Job 38:6 it beautifully expresses in figures the stability of the earth, which Yahweh created. In Zec 10:4 the leader or ruler in the Messianic age is represented by the corner-stone. The ancient tradition of the one missing stone, when the temple was in building, is reflected in or has been suggested by Ps 118:22 (Midrash quoted by Pusey under Zec 4:7). It is probable that we should read in Ps 144:12 not "corner-stones," but "corner-pillars," or supports (compare Greek Caryatides) from a different Hebrew word, zawith, Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, under the word

See also

  • House

  • Corner