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As a result, the rocks of Palestine repeatedly play a part in the Bible story, and the book is also rich in metaphors which follow from Moses’ first Biblical reference to God as a Rock (
In the symbolism of the Bible, God is the Rock of His people (Moses, who first used the metaphor, had had an unusually wide experience of rocks!) and the New Testament transfers the image to make Christ the Rock from which His people drank (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
((1) cela`; (2) tsur (3) challamish, "flint"; compare Arabic khalanbus, "flint"; (4) kephim (Job 30:6;" Jer 4:29); compare Kephas, "Cephas" = Petros, "Peter" (
Tsur and cela` are the words most often found, and there is no well-defined distinction between them. They are frequently coupled together in the parallelism which is characteristic of the Hebrew writers: e.g.
"Be thou to me a strong rock (tsur),
A house of defense to save me.
For thou art my rock (tsela) and my fortress"
"He clave rocks (tsur) in the wilderness,
And gave them drink abundantly as out of the depths.
He brought streams also out of the rock (sela),
And caused waters to run down like rivers"
It is plain here that the two words are used for the sake of variety, without any clear difference of meaning. Even challamish (translated "flint") is used in the same way with tsur in
"Who turned the rock (tsur) into a pool of water;
The flint (callamish) into a fountain of waters."
(2) The rocks are a refuge, both figuratively and literally (
(3) The rock is a symbol of hardness (
3. Kinds of Rock:
(1) The principal rock of Palestine and Syria is limestone of which there are many varieties, differing in color, texture, hardness and degrees of impurity, some of the limestone having considerable admixtures of clay or sand. Some of the harder kinds are very dense and break with a conchoidal fracture similar to the fracture of flint. In rocks which have for ages been exposed to atmospheric agencies, erosion has produced striking and highly picturesque forms. Nodules and layers of flint are of frequent occurrence in the limestone.
(2) Limestone is the only rock of Western Palestine, with the exception of some local outpourings of basaltic rock and with the further exception of a light-brown, porous, partly calcareous sandstone, which is found at intervals along the coast. This last is a superficial deposit of Quaternary or recent age, and is of aeolian origin. That is, it consists of dune sands which have solidified under the influence of atmospheric agencies. This is very exceptional, nearly all stratified rocks having originated as beds of sand or mud in the bottom of the sea.
(3) In Sinai, Edom, Moab, Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon is found the Nubian sandstone, a silicious sandstone which, at least in the North, is of middle or lower Cretaceous age. In the South, the lower strata of this formation seem to be paleozoic. Most of it is not sufficiently coherent to make good building stone, though some of its strata are very firm and are even used for millstones. In some places it is so incoherent or friable that it is easily dug with the pick, the grains falling apart and forming sand that can be used in mortar. In color the Nubian sandstone is on the whole dark reddish brown, but locally it shows great variation, from white through yellow and red to black. In places it also has tints of blue. The celebrated rock tombs and temples of Petra are carved in this stone.
(4) Extensive areas of the northern part of Eastern Palestine are covered with igneous rock. In the Jaulan Southeast of Mt. Hermon, this has been for ages exposed to the atmosphere and has formed superficially a rich dark soil. Further Southeast is the Leja’ (Arabic "refuge"), a wild tract covered with a deposit of lava which is geologically recent, and which, while probably earlier than man, is still but little affected by the atmosphere. It is with difficulty traversed and frequently furnishes an asylum to outlaws.