The Book of Tobit and the New Jerusalem

Yeah, I need to get moving to get to the end of Beatus. I bet he knew all about this passage from Tobit:

Tobit 13:11-13 —

“Jerusalem, city of God, the Lord has chastised you for the works of your hands.*

“Give glory to the Lord for your good things, and bless the God eternal, that He may rebuild His tabernacle in you, and may call back all the captives to you, and you may rejoice for ever and ever.

You shall shine with a glorious light….“**

Revelation 21:9-11 —

“And there came one of the seven angels… and spoke with me, saying, “Come, and I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he took me up in spirit to a great and high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God;** and the light of her** was like to a precious stone such as a jasper stone, even as crystal.”

Tobit 13:21-22 —

“The gates of Jerusalem shall be built of sapphire and of emerald; and

all the walls round about her, of precious stones


Revelation 21:18-21 —

“And the building of the wall of her was of jasper stone… And the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sard; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprase; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, one to each; and each separate gate was of one separate pearl.”

The Book of Revelation does up the description in Tobit, though. The gates are huge single pearls instead of rock-type jewels, and the streets are of transparent gold instead of being made of “white and pure stones” as in Tobit. The twelve kinds of precious stones are the stones from the high priest’s breastplate that represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and which thus represent the Twelve Apostles too. But it sounds like John would have expected people to think of Tobit when he described the New Jerusalem, the Bride.

Both are also referencing Isaiah 54:11-12 —

“O poor little one, tossed with tempest, without all comfort! Behold, I will lay your stones in order, and will lay your foundations with sapphires, And I will make your bulwarks of jasper and your gates of graven stones, and all your boundary walls of desirable stones.”

* “the works of your hands” or “things made with hands” refers to idols, whenever it’s said in a bad sense. That’s why the ideal material for certain sacred things, like altars or the Temple foundations, was stones that were “not made with hands,” because Middle Eastern pagans tended to have elaborately carved or pottery idols as part of their altars and their altar foundations.

** The shekhina or kabod, which was the light and cloud of God’s presence. In this case, though, it seems to be mostly light and not at all cloud. Since everything is now revealed and God lives with the people as their light, that is what one would expect in the New Jerusalem.


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