rok ((1) cela`; (2) tsur (3) challamish, "flint"; compare Arabic khalanbus, "flint"; (4) kephim (Job 30:6;"); compare Kephas, "Cephas" = Petros, "Peter" (John 1:42 the King James Version and the Revised Version margin); (5) petra):

1. Names:

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:


"Be thou to me a strong rock (tsur),

A house of defense to save me.

For thou art my rock (tsela) and my fortress"

(Psalms 31:2,3).

"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"

(Psalms 78:15,16).

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 Psalms 114:8:

"Who turned the rock (tsur) into a pool of water;

The flint (callamish) into a fountain of waters."

2. Figurative:

(1) Some of the most striking and beautiful imagery of the Bible is based upon the rocks. They are a symbol of God:

"Yahweh is my rock, and my fortress" (2 Samuel 22:2; Psalms 18:2; 71:3); "God, the rock of my salvation" (2 Samuel 22:47; compare Psalms 62:2,7; 89:26); "my God the rock of my refuge" (Psalms 94:22); "the rock of thy strength" (Isaiah 17:10); "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalms 61:2); repeatedly in the song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:3,4,18,30,31; compare 2 Samuel 22:32). Paul applies the rock smitten in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11) to Christ as the source of living water for spiritual refreshment (1 Corinthians 10:4).

(2) The rocks are a refuge, both figuratively and literally (Jeremiah 48:28; Song of Solomon 2:14); "The rocks are a refuge for the conies" (Psalms 104:18). Many a traveler in Palestine has felt the refreshment of "the shade of a great rock in a weary land" (Isaiah 32:2). A very different idea is expressed in Isaiah 8:14, "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense" (compare Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8).

(3) The rock is a symbol of hardness (Jeremiah 5:3; compare Isaiah 50:7). Therefore, the breaking of the rock exemplifies the power of God (Jeremiah 23:29; compare 1 Kings 19:11). The rock is also a symbol of that which endures, "Oh that they .... were graven in the rock for ever!" (Job 19:23,24). A rock was an appropriate place for offering a sacrifice (Judges 6:20; 13:19). The central feature of the Mosque of `Umar in Jerusalem is Qubbat-uc-Cakhrat, the "dome of the rock." The rock or cakhrat under the dome is thought to be the site of Solomon's altar of burnt offering, and further is thought to be the site of the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite which David purchased to build an altar to Yahweh.

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.


Alfred Ely Day

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'ROCK'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.