STONE (Heb. ’even, Gr. lithos). When entering Canaan, the Hebrews, who had made bricks in Egypt (Exod.5.7), readily turned to the abundant supply of stones, both from quarries and from stream beds. Limestone (Isa.27.9), gravel (Lam.3.16), and stones rounded by water in streams (1Sam.17.40; Job.14.19) were abundant.
Stones were used in setting up altars and memorials. These objects were of various kinds: monuments, tables, steles or upright slabs, and circular areas enclosed by rocks. After Joshua had led the Hebrews over Jordan he set up a monument composed of twelve stones taken from the river’s bed by representatives of the twelve tribes (Josh.4.1-Josh.4.9). Jacob set up a monument to commemorate his experience at Bethel (Gen.28.18). His contract with Laban was sealed by a stele (Gen.31.45-Gen.31.46). The miraculous victory over the Philistines called for a memorial (1Sam.7.5-1Sam.7.12). A heap of stones was placed over one who was executed by stoning, as over the king of Ai (Josh.8.29) and over Absalom (2Sam.18.17-2Sam.18.18). Joshua’s last official act was to erect a memorial to Israel’s covenant with God (Josh.24.26-Josh.24.28).
Stone weapons were frequently used by the Israelites. The familiar account of David’s victory over the giant of Gath reveals the skill of one who had mastered the use of the sling (1Sam.17.1-1Sam.17.58). Among David’s warriors were some who could sling stones (1Chr.12.2). King Uzziah included in his arsenal stones for slingers and for catapults (2Chr.26.14-2Chr.26.15). Stones were used in individual conflict (Exod.21.18; Num.35.17-Num.35.23). Certain crimes were punished by stoning (Lev.20.2, Lev.20.27; Lev.24.23).
The transition from using an object in worship to making it an object of worship is never difficult. So Israel was prone to worship stones. Among other pagan evils Isaiah found libations being offered to river stones (Isa.57.3-Isa.57.7). The law prohibited any such use of stones (Lev.26.1).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
1. Hebrew and Greek Words:
2. Literal Usage:
The word is used of great stones (Ge 29:2); of small stones (1Sa 17:40); of stones set up as memorials (1Sa 7:12, "Eben-ezer," "stone of help"); of precious stones (Ex 35:9, etc.); of hailstones (Jos 10:11).
3. Figurative Usage: Of hardness: "I will take the stony heart out of their flesh" (Eze 11:19); of one smitten: "(Nabal’s) heart died within him, and became as a stone" (1Sa 25:37); of weight: "A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty" (Pr 27:3); of dumbness: "Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise!" (Hab 2:19); of Jerusalem: "I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples" (Zec 12:3); of the corner-stone as a figure of high position:
"The stone which the builders rejected
Is become the head of the corner" (Ps 118:22).
(2) Used also anatomically of the testicles (Le 21:20; De 23:1; Job 40:17, pachadh, the Revised Version (British and American) "thighs").