In November 1996, after 700 years beneath the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey in London, a sandstone block known as the Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny was returned to Scotland “to the skirl of pipes, toasts of whiskey and a school holiday” ( The Los Angeles Times , Nov. 16, 1996). In early medieval times, Scottish kings had been crowned upon this stone at Scone (pronounced skoon ) near modern Perth until 1296, when the English king Edward I took it to London—thereafter to be the seat of the kings of England. Eventually, the Scottish dynasty itself would follow the stone, being transferred to London.
What was so special about this chunk of rock, which now sits in Edinburgh Castle? Before its removal from the coronation chair at Westminster, a sign nearby it identified it as “Jacob’s Pillow Stone.” The following explanation appeared in the official guidebook:
“Coronation Chair—the Coronation Chair was made for Edward I to enclose the famous Stone of Scone, which he seized in 1296 and brought from Scotland to the Abbey … Legends abound concerning this mysterious object and tradition identifies this stone with the one upon which Jacob rested his head at Bethel—‘And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it’ (Genesis 28:18 Genesis 28:18And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it.
American King James Version×). Jacob’s sons carried it to Egypt and from thence it passed to Spain with King Gathelus, son of Cecrops, the builder of Athens.
“About 700 BC it appears in Ireland, whither it was carried by the Spanish king’s son Simon Brech, on his invasion of that island. There it was placed upon the sacred Hill of Tara, and called ‘Lia-Fail,’ the ‘fatal’ stone [i.e., stone of fate], or ‘stone of destiny’ … Fergus Mor MacEirc (d. 501?), the founder of the Scottish monarchy, and one of the Blood Royal of Ireland, received it in [the area of Iona in southwest] Scotland, and Kenneth MacAlpin (d. 846) finally deposited it in the Monastery of Scone (846)” ( Westminster Abbey Official Guide , 1994, pp. 46-47).
A newer Scottish guidebook, though its authors consider all of this mythical fancy, further relates: “A song about the Stone was composed in England, probably shortly after the death of Edward I in 1307. In this it is stated that Scota, Pharaoh’s daughter, brought the stone directly from Egypt to Scotland, to a place close to Scone. Twenty years later William de Rishanger offered further elaboration when he wrote that [Scottish King] John Balliol sat on ‘the royal stone which Jacob placed under his head when he was going from Beersheba to Haran’” (David Breeze and Graeme Munro, The Stone of Destiny: Symbol of Nationhood , 1997, p. 16).
This is an astonishing tale. Might there be any truth in it? We should start with a closer look at what the Bible has to say.
Jacob’s pillow—and pillar
God had promised the Hebrew patriarch Abraham that through his descendants would come great nations and kings. The same promise was reaffirmed to his son Isaac and then to Isaac’s son Jacob. While Jacob slept on the ground in Canaan, he dreamed of a ladder extending to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:10-12 Genesis 28:10-12 10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted on a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
American King James Version×).
According to John Rogerson’s Atlas of the Bible : “A vivid description of the site of Bethel, and of the remarkable stones to the north of the village that may underlie the dream, has been provided by the American scholar J.P. Peters in 1904: ‘You are far above Jerusalem, which is visible away to the south. You look over a succession of hills and then across the huge, deep cleft of the Jordan valley to Gilead and Moab beyond … just here, occurs a freak of nature so singular that it is difficult to convince oneself that nature and not man is the author. Huge stones seem to be piled one upon another to make columns nine or ten feet or more in height … Whoever stands on the hillside above Bethel, especially toward evening, understands with a new understanding the fascinating story of Jacob’s flight when night overtook him near Bethel, and there on the height, which was so much nearer to heaven than all the country round about him, he saw the ‘ladder’” (1985, p. 153).
Above the ladder was God, telling him that his descendants would be great colonizers—spreading far abroad across the face of the earth (Genesis 28:13-14 Genesis 28:13-14 13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac: the land where on you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed;
14 And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×). God then said, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Genesis 28:15 Genesis 28:15And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you of.
American King James Version×). While this applied to Jacob personally, it also seemed to be a promise to Jacob’s descendants, relative to their colonizing abroad over the earth. Eventually, they would return to the Land of Promise.
When Jacob awoke, He exclaimed: “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” The Great God of the universe, he realized, had been there with him where he slept.
Then, in an event that would have great significance in time to come if the later accounts are true, “Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel [or Beth-El]”—that is, literally, House of God (Genesis 28:18-19 Genesis 28:18-19 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
American King James Version×, KJV). In Jacob’s dream, it was by this stone, apparently the base of the ladder, that God’s angels stepped out into the world at large to carry out His will.
“Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way … so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house …” (Genesis 28:20-22 Genesis 28:20-22 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that you shall give me I will surely give the tenth to you.
American King James Version×).
Decades later, God indeed did bring Jacob back. Now renamed Israel, meaning “Prevailer with God,” he returned to Bethel, where God informed him, “A nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body” (Genesis 28:35 Genesis 28:35
American King James Version×:11). Then he anointed the pillar stone again and once more called the place Bethel (Genesis 28:14-15 Genesis 28:14-15 14 And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken to you of.
American King James Version×).
The shepherd stone
This stone surely must have some significance to feature so prominently in Genesis. It is interesting that the promise of a line of kings is concomitant with mention of it—and that the stone is anointed just as the kings later will be.
Of course, the ultimate anointed figure in Scripture is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Indeed, the word “messiah” is the English form of the Hebrew mashiach , which means “anointed.” The Greek word for “ anointed ” is christos —that is, Christ. When those of Jesus’ day referred to Him as “Jesus Christ,” they were effectively saying “King Jesus.” He is the coming King of Kings who will receive the throne of Israel from the line of David.
In Daniel 2, we are told of a prophetic dream in which a stone “cut out without hands” strikes and shatters an image representing the succession of gentile empires ruling this world—and then grows into a great mountain filling the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35 Daniel 2:34-35 34 You saw till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image on his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces.
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
American King James Version×). That stone ending man’s wayward civilization and growing into the worldwide mountain represents the setting up the Kingdom of God over all nations (Daniel 2:44-45 Daniel 2:44-45 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
American King James Version×).
The stone itself is obviously the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is often portrayed as a stone or rock (see 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×; Psalms 18:2 Psalms 18:2The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
American King James Version×; Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×; Romans 9:33 Romans 9:33As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.
American King James Version×; Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 2:6-8 1 Peter 2:6-8 6 Why also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believes on him shall not be confounded. 7 To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
American King James Version×). Regarding Jacob’s dream, then, the angels of God go out into the world of man and return to heaven via Christ—that is, by His command.
In delivering a prophecy about the descendants of Joseph, Jacob said, “From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24 Genesis 49:24But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×). The New Revised Standard Version says, “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.” This would seem to be a reference to Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd (compare 1 Peter 5:3 1 Peter 5:3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
American King James Version×) and, as we’ve seen, the spiritual Rock. And perhaps the prophecy does refer to Him on one level. Yet Jesus did not come from Joseph—neither by ethnic descent nor by territorial origin. “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah” (Hebrews 7:14 Hebrews 7:14For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
American King James Version×). And in the end He will come from heaven, not from Joseph’s land.
So to what was Jacob’s prophecy primarily referring? What the New King James Version renders as “the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel” should perhaps actually be translated “the shepherd stone of Israel.” The Ferrar Fention Translation has “Israel’s guardian stone.” This would fit the anointed stone of Jacob at Bethel because Bethel was located in what became the territory of Ephraim, one of the two tribes of Joseph. Thus, it seems that Jacob’s prophecy primarily concerned the anointed Bethel stone. But this stone was clearly a physical type of the ultimate, true anointed stone—Jesus the Messiah.
Symbol of monarchy
Concerning Bethel, we should remember that Jacob gave that name, meaning “God’s House,” to not just the place where the stone lay but also to the stone itself. Consider, furthermore, that the prophet Nathan later told David, “Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house” (2 Samuel 7:11 2 Samuel 7:11And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that he will make you an house.
American King James Version×)—by which he meant a royal dynasty (2 Samuel 7:12-29 2 Samuel 7:12-29 12 And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: 15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established for ever before you: your throne shall be established for ever. 17 According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak to David. 18 Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that you have brought me till now? 19 And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord GOD; but you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD? 20 And what can David say more to you? for you, Lord GOD, know your servant. 21 For your word’s sake, and according to your own heart, have you done all these great things, to make your servant know them. 22 Why you are great, O LORD God: for there is none like you, neither is there any God beside you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And what one nation in the earth is like your people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for your land, before your people, which you redeemed to you from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? 24 For you have confirmed to yourself your people Israel to be a people to you for ever: and you, LORD, are become their God. 25 And now, O LORD God, the word that you have spoken concerning your servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as you have said. 26 And let your name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of your servant David be established before you. 27 For you, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed to your servant, saying, I will build you an house: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this prayer to you. 28 And now, O Lord GOD, you are that God, and your words be true, and you have promised this goodness to your servant: 29 Therefore now let it please you to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue for ever before you: for you, O Lord GOD, have spoken it: and with your blessing let the house of your servant be blessed for ever.
American King James Version×). Yet, as elsewhere explained, Israel’s kings “sat on the throne of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 29:23 1 Chronicles 29:23Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him.
American King James Version×; 2 Chronicles 9:6-8 2 Chronicles 9:6-8 6 However, I believed not their words, until I came, and my eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me: for you exceed the fame that I heard. 7 Happy are your men, and happy are these your servants, which stand continually before you, and hear your wisdom. 8 Blessed be the LORD your God, which delighted in you to set you on his throne, to be king for the LORD your God: because your God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he you king over them, to do judgment and justice.
American King James Version×). Thus, David’s dynasty was not just his own house—it was also God’s house, Hebrew Bethel . So perhaps the anointed Bethel stone came to symbolize the monarchy.
We should also consider that Jacob set the Bethel stone as a “pillar”—a matsebah or standing stone. A pillar conveys the idea of a structural support. Indeed, pillars were often seen as upholding the heavens. Jesus Christ, the ultimate pillar, “sustains the universe with his word of power” (Hebrews 1:3 Hebrews 1:3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
American King James Version×, Moffatt Translation). The Church of God, of which Jesus is the “chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20 Ephesians 2:20And are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
American King James Version×), is the “house of God … the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 1 Timothy 3:15But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
American King James Version×). Indeed, all of God’s saints are anointed pillar stones who will one day inherit David’s throne along with the ultimate anointed pillar stone Jesus Christ (see 1 John 2:27 1 John 2:27But the anointing which you have received of him stays in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him.
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 2:4-5 1 Peter 2:4-5 4 To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5 You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×; Revelation 3:12 Revelation 3:12Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write on him my new name.
American King James Version×Revelation 3:21 Revelation 3:21To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
American King James Version×). This is the glorious future of the Davidic monarchy.
It is interesting that the Stone of Scone has been used as a coronation stone for untold centuries. Do we find any parallel in Scripture? Yes! Notice the details of the crowning of Judah’s King Joash of the line of David at the temple of God in Jerusalem around 835 B.C.: “And he [Jehoiada the priest] brought out the king’s son [Joash], put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, ‘Long live the king!’ Now when [the usurper queen] Athaliah heard the noise of the escorts and the people, she came to the people in the temple of the LORD. When she looked, there was the king, standing by a pillar according to custom; and the leaders and the trumpeters were by the king” (2 Kings 11:12-14 2 Kings 11:12-14 12 And he brought forth the king’s son, and put the crown on him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.
13 And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the LORD.
14 And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason.
American King James Version×).
According to 2 Chronicles 23:13 2 Chronicles 23:13And she looked, and, behold, the king stood at his pillar at the entering in, and the princes and the trumpets by the king: and all the people of the land rejoiced, and sounded with trumpets, also the singers with instruments of music, and such as taught to sing praise. Then Athaliah rent her clothes, and said, Treason, Treason.
American King James Version×, he “stood by his pillar”—evidently not one personally owned by him before but one that was “his” because it was the pillar of the Davidic dynasty of which he was the current representative. Similarly, around 621 B.C., another Davidic king, Josiah, “stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD and to keep His commandments and his testimonies and statutes …” (2 Kings 23:3 2 Kings 23:3And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
American King James Version×).
The Hebrew in these passages is even more interesting, for it literally says the king stood upon the pillar (see Adam Clarke’s Commentary , 1967, note on 2 Kings 11:14 2 Kings 11:14And when she looked, behold, the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was, and the princes and the trumpeters by the king, and all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets: and Athaliah rent her clothes, and cried, Treason, Treason.
American King James Version×; E.W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible , 1990, note on 23:3). And, as stated, this was the common custom for anointing the Davidic kings. Today’s British monarchs are crowned upon the Stone of Scone, though sitting upon it.
But was Judah’s coronation pillar stone the same stone that Jacob anointed at Bethel? There would not seem to be any other stone that would merit such a role in the crowning of the Davidic kings. Yet we should ask: Is there any evidence that Jacob or his descendants took this stone from Bethel?
Leading the march?
Since Jacob reckoned the stone as “God’s house,” it is quite likely that he would have wanted the stone with him—not in some idolatrous sense but simply as a symbolic keepsake of his covenant with God and God’s promises to Him. And since Jacob did not dwell at Bethel, he would have to have removed it from there to keep it with him and his family. He knew that God was not a mere local deity and that God’s House was essentially wherever God’s people were. Indeed, just as God’s house in the New Testament is His Church, His house in the Old Testament was the whole house of Israel—the nation in covenant with Him beginning with its forefathers—and the later ruling house of David.
Now, did Jacob have the “shepherd stone” with him in Egypt when he mentioned it in the prophecy related earlier? Did those of the Old Testament “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us:
American King James Version×, KJV) have it with them when they left Egypt? In 1 Corinthians 10:4 1 Corinthians 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×, the apostle Paul says, “They drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ” (NIV). God was referred to as the Rock in Moses’ day (Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×). And as Paul explained, the Rock—the God—the people knew at that time was the one who became Jesus Christ. He dwelt with the people in the pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21 Exodus 13:21And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
American King James Version×), by which He led and shepherded them.
The preincarnate Jesus Christ—the Shepherd in the pillar—was the spiritual Rock or Stone that accompanied Israel. But is it not possible that there was also a physical pillar stone that accompanied the people—an earthly type of the true Pillar Stone who led them? That such an earthly type existed is certain—it was Jacob’s anointed Bethel stone. The question is whether the stone was with Israel at this time or not. Yet surely it must have been—or how could it have served as a type at all? How could it have been considered a shepherding stone if it was far away from the flock?
Indeed, some believe that when God in the person of Christ said He would stand “on the rock” at Horeb or Mount Sinai, causing water to miraculously flow from it upon Moses striking it for the people to drink (Exodus 17:6 Exodus 17:6Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
American King James Version×), He was referring to the stone of Jacob. The same is believed of “the rock” out of which water was made to flow at Kadesh (Numbers 20:7-13 Numbers 20:7-13 7 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod, and gather you the assembly together, you, and Aaron your brother, and speak you to the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and you shall bring forth to them water out of the rock: so you shall give the congregation and their beasts drink. 9 And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.
American King James Version×). Though we can’t be sure, this is not out of the question because in both places a particular rock is meant yet not identified. Moreover, since the stone of Bethel was a physical type of the spiritual Rock from which the people drank in an ultimate sense, this would fit quite well. Indeed, how appropriate in the first instance that the divine King of Israel at the time would be standing upon the pillar stone.
In any case, it would certainly appear that the stone of God’s house was with God’s house in the wilderness. And consider further: To be a shepherding stone, Jacob’s pillar must have been placed in front of the moving camp of Israel to lead the way—just as the pillar of cloud and fire went before. And Numbers 2 reveals that the tribe who led the march in Israel’s wilderness travels was Judah! It seems likely, therefore, that in the vanguard of Israel, where the standard of Judah, with its heraldic lion, went before the people, the Bethel stone was right there also. This, then, may be how the stone came to be associated with Judah—even though it was from the territory that would be allotted to Joseph’s descendants.
It would certainly appear that Jacob’s pillar, an important symbol of anointed kingship, came to be used by the Davidic kings of Judah as the coronation pillar stone mentioned in Scripture.
More evidence of the stone being taken from Bethel by Jacob and then linked with Judah comes from what might at first blush seem an unlikely source—Greek history and mythology. However, many of the ancient Greeks were Israelite, as explained in Appendix 2 and elsewhere in this publication. Indeed, the rulers of ancient Greece, as explained in Appendix 3 , traced their lineage to the god Zeus (Jupiter) and his father Cronus (Saturn)—and writings attributed to the ancient Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon mention “Kronos, whom the Phoenicians call Israel,” that is, Jacob, and his son “Jehud” or Judah, parallel with Zeus (see Appendix 3: “Aegean Royal Lines From Zerah” ).
There is a convoluted tale in Greek mythology about Cronus swallowing his children to prevent their future rebellion. He didn’t swallow Zeus because Rhea, the children’s mother, wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes as a substitute for Zeus, which Cronus swallowed instead. Zeus, who had been hidden on the isle of Crete, later forced Cronus to cough up all the children and the stone. The account is certainly fictitious and even absurd. Yet there is perhaps a grain of truth to be found in it. For the stone swallowed by Cronus (or Jacob), which represented Zeus (or Judah), was referred to by the Greeks as baetylus .
Notice this from the Encyclopaedia Britannica : “Baetylus, also spelled baetulus, in Greek religion, a sacred stone or pillar; the word is of Semitic origin (- bethel ). Numerous holy, or fetish, stones existed in antiquity, generally attached to the cult of some particular god and looked upon as his abiding place or symbol” (“Baetylus,” 1985, Vol. 1, p. 789). This does not mean that Jacob followed a pagan practice. Rather, pagan practice has always counterfeited elements of the true religion—and the use of Bethel pillar stones in paganism is a clear corruption of what Jacob did.
Indeed, this may be the origin of the Minoan pillar cult on Crete. As mentioned in Appendix 3, over the “Lion Gate” of Greek Mycenae appears a relief in which two seated lions face each other with their forelegs standing on the base of a pillar. And in a later emblem across the Aegean in Phrygia, upon the tomb of Arslantas (“Lion Stone”), the same picture appears, except that the pillar is clearly a pillar stone. Thus what may be “lions of Judah” are portrayed as balanced upon the base of the important pillar stone.
Again, it is remarkable to find the Greeks referring to sacred stones by the name of Baetyl or Bethel. Continuing in the Britannica : “The most famous example is the holy stone of Delphi [in Greece], the omphalos (“navel” [of the world]), that reposed in the Temple of Apollo and marked the exact center of the universe. A second stone at Delphi was said to have been the one that the Titan Cronus swallowed; it was thought to be Zeus himself in his symbolic, or baetylic, form” (p. 789).
Citing the second-century Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias ( Description of Greece , Book 10, sec. 24:5), mythologist Robert Graves stated: “Zeus himself set up at Delphi the stone which Cronus had disgorged. It is still there, constantly anointed with oil, and strands of unwoven wool are offered upon it” ( The Greek Myths: Complete Edition , 1955, 1992, p. 41). Again, we see here a corruption of Jacob’s practice.
Distilling the story to its more realistic elements, what are we left with? Israel “swallowed” the Bethel stone—perhaps indicating that Jacob took it onto his person, carrying it away with him (or possibly that Israel, meaning Jacob’s family, brought it among themselves). The pillar stone came to represent Judah, who was to receive anointed kingship and rule over the rest of Israel. Judah—that is, some of the tribe of Judah—dwelt for some time in Crete before passing into Greece and other Aegean areas. And the stone was later disgorged from Israel—Israel in this case representing the Israelite homeland. Thus, the stone went elsewhere.
To be with Joseph’s descendants
Yet if Jacob’s stone truly did leave the area, where did it go? It appears that it eventually ended up with the Jews of Zerah’s line who had passed through Crete and Greece. Remember, Jacob said, “From there [that is, from Joseph] is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24 Genesis 49:24But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×). We’ve seen that the stone did come from territory in Canaan that would later be Joseph’s. However, it must be realized that Jacob was giving a prophecy of the “last days” (Genesis 49:1 Genesis 49:1And Jacob called to his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.
American King James Version×). The part regarding Joseph (Genesis 49:22-26 Genesis 49:22-26 22 Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: 23 The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: 24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) 25 Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: 26 The blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brothers.
American King James Version×) mentions him as a “fruitful bough” whose “branches run over the wall” (Genesis 49:22 Genesis 49:22Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:
American King James Version×).
This ties back to God’s promise given at Bethel that Jacob’s descendants would overspread the bounds of Canaan and colonize abroad over the face of the earth (Genesis 28:14 Genesis 28:14And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
American King James Version×). Indeed, it was upon receiving this promise that Jacob anointed the stone the first time (Genesis 28:18 Genesis 28:18And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it.
American King James Version×). How interesting that in the context of Joseph’s descendants becoming the greatest colonizers of Israel—coming to possess the choicest areas of the earth—Jacob should again mention the stone.
God had promised to be with Jacob wherever He went and to bring Him back to the Promised Land. This is likewise true of Jacob’s descendants. God has been with them wherever they have gone, as Jacob prophesied particularly of Joseph (Genesis 49:24-25 Genesis 49:24-25 24 But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
25 Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shall bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:
American King James Version×). And He will eventually conduct all of Israel back to the Promised Land, as many prophecies show. Moreover, the shepherd stone appears to figure prominently in this course of events (Genesis 49:24 Genesis 49:24But his bow stayed in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from there is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)
American King James Version×). It appears that it was to be with Joseph’s descendants in their colonial days.
Indeed, since this is an end-time prophecy, it seems that verse 24 should actually be rendered, “From there [Joseph’s land in the last days] will come the shepherd stone of Israel”—that is, it will come back to the Promised Land from there.
But where is there? As this publication and our booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy explains, Ephraim, the leading tribe of Joseph, is today Great Britain and the British-descended nations of the Commonwealth. This would seem to imply that the stone would be possessed by the British monarchy prior to Christ’s return. That makes complete sense when we consider that, as made clear in this publication, the British monarchy is in fact a continuation of the Jewish monarchy of David—fused with the royal line of Zerah that came through the Aegean area.
Westminster Abbey, the coronation church of the British monarchs, is the only place on earth where kings and queens are still consecrated with sacred oil, known as chrism (anointing). This practice, according to the PBS video series In Search of Ancient Ireland , “began in Ireland. Even in pre-Christian times, kings were never above the law. [With that background] the Irish church had been the first to introduce the ordination of kings, a simple and revolutionary idea spread to Europe by Irish scholars. Kings were now God’s anointed—ruling according to God’s law” (Program 3: “Warlords,” 2002). Of course, the Irish tradition itself surely had a much earlier origin—as this was the tradition of the ancient kings of Israel and Judah. Indeed, on the large west stained-glass window of Westminster appear every one of the 12 sons of Jacob by name along with Moses holding the Ten Commandments and Aaron the high priest.
How amazing it is, then, to discover that the British throne is also closely associated with a particular stone, the coronation stone known as the Stone of Destiny or Jacob’s pillow stone—which is traced back to Scone in Scotland (having been brought from Iona in western Scotland) and then back to Ireland before that (see Appendix 9: “The Lion and the Unicorn” ), where it was known at Tara as the Lia-Fail. This is the same route followed by the monarchy itself. Yet could the stone that now sits in Edinburgh Castle have come from the Promised Land?
The sandstone block in Scotland
According to biblical archaeologist E. Raymond Capt, a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and author of several books on British-Israelism: “One of the most significant facts about the Coronation Stone is that no similar rock formation exists in the British Isles. Professor [Charles A.L.] Totten, the eminent professor of Science at Yale University [in the late 1800s and early 1900s], after making a thorough examination of the Stone made the following statement: ‘The analysis of the stone shows that there are absolutely no quarries in Scone or Iona where-from a block so constituted could possibly have come, nor yet from Tara.’
“Professor [Edward] Odlum, a geologist (and Professor of Theology at an Ontario University [in the early 1900s]), also made microscopic examinations of the Coronation Stone, comparing it to similar stone from Scotland (including Iona and the quarries of Ireland) and found them dissimilar” ( Jacob’s Pillar: A Biblical Historical Study , 1977, p. 58, available to order at www.artisanpublishers.com ).
Yet according to the recent Scottish guidebook quoted earlier, the 336-pound Stone of Destiny “is formed from a coarse-grained pinkish-buff sandstone … This stone is found in Perthshire and Angus, indeed within a few miles of Scone. It would be entirely possible therefore for the Stone to have been quarried near to Scone and for it not to have been brought there from elsewhere. Deposits of this type of rock are found everywhere in Scotland but not in sufficiently large deposits to allow the quarrying of such a substantial block” (Breeze and Munro, p. 42).
Of course, we should realize that this information comes from those whose aim is to dispel what they consider to be myth. There is a very strong historical tradition that the stone came to Scone from Ireland through western Scotland, where the above source admits it could not have been quarried. For this and other reasons, some, including University of Glasgow lecturer Pat Gerber in her 1997 book Stone of Destiny , believe the stone that sat at Westminster for 700 years and was recently returned to Scotland was not really the Scottish coronation stone. That is, they believe the stone that went to England with Edward was a fake quarried at Scone and that the real coronation stone, brought from Iona or elsewhere in western Scotland, was hidden upon Edward’s invasion. Yet this seems rather unlikely, as the Scottish guidebook explains:
“That the Stone returned to Scotland in 1996 is certainly the one removed in 1296 is beyond serious doubt. There will, however, probably always be speculation as to whether Edward I took the ‘real’ Stone of Scone south in 1296. It has been argued that the Abbot of Scone would have been likely to have hidden the Stone following Edward’s invasion of Scotland. Yet, Edward was able to lay hands on the crown, sceptre and ring and the Black Rood of St Margaret, all of which could have been more easily secreted away.
“If the real Stone had been hidden, it is almost inconceivable that it would not have been produced for the coronation of [Scottish king] Robert the Bruce only ten years later, in 1306, especially since Bishop Wishart of Glasgow was able to produce appropriate robes and vestments for the occasion and even a banner bearing the arms of the last king. Right up to the end of his reign Bruce was keen to secure the return of the Stone to Scotland. Finally, at least one of Edward’s officers, as well as the Bishop of Durham, had been present at the [earlier Scottish] inauguration of King John [Balliol] and could presumably have verified that the Stone taken by Edward was genuine” (Breeze and Munro, p. 23).
As for medieval testimonies that the Stone of Destiny was marble when the coronation stone is calcareous sandstone, this may simply be due to the fact that marble denotes calcareous limestone susceptible to polish—or perhaps any calcareous stone. (Calcareous means resembling calcite or calcium carbonate, especially in hardness, or containing calcium carbonate as a cement to hold the rock together.) Notes the Scottish guidebook: “We should not place too much credence in the statement that the Stone was marble: as late as 1874 it was described as limestone, when it is clearly sandstone” (p. 46).
Is Bethel a possible origin?
Let us suppose, then, that the current Stone of Destiny was indeed the one upon which Scottish kings were crowned. Let us further suppose that, although it could conceivably have been quarried at Scone, it in fact had a much richer heritage behind it—that it came from western Scotland and then Tara in Ireland before that, as tradition attested. If that is so, we should consider that it could not have been quarried from these locations. So from where, then, would it have come?
Again, we ask the question: Could the stone that now sits in Edinburgh Castle have come from the Promised Land, as tradition maintains? There is certainly sandstone scattered throughout the land of Israel. Yet the area of Bethel is predominantly limestone. The nearest area that is predominantly reddish sandstone lies about 20 miles east in Jordan.
However, notice E. Raymond Capt’s report on the findings of the Toronto university professor of the early 1900s: “Professor Odlum became tremendously interested in the Stone. He was intrigued with the idea that perhaps its source could be found in Palestine, as suggested by the ancient records of Ireland. Determined to make the search, and after several weeks of unsuccessful exploration, Odlum discovered a stratum of sandstone near the Red Sea at Bethel, geologically the same as the Coronation Stone” (p. 58).
After relating the circumstances of the discovery in Odlum’s words, Capt further reports: “A microscopic test of the sample Bethel stone matched perfectly with the same test made of the Coronation Stone.” However, Odlum was prevented by the Archbishop of Canterbury from taking a small piece of the coronation stone to submit to chemical analysis (p. 58).
It would seem, then, that Britain’s coronation stone could have come from Bethel. In fact, even if no such rock stratum exists around Bethel, the stone could still have come from there. For the stone that Jacob anointed at Bethel might not have been a natural feature of the landscape. Rather, God could have specially placed it there. While this seems unlikely, it is certainly not preposterous—particularly considering the stone’s apparent later importance and its typological representation of Christ, the stone from heaven cut out without hands. Or, considering that Bethel had previously been a town named Luz (Genesis 28:19 Genesis 28:19And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
American King James Version×)—apparently no longer inhabited in Jacob’s time—it is possible that Jacob used an old building stone that had been brought there from elsewhere by the former inhabitants. Perhaps, in another parallel with Christ (see Psalms 118:22 Psalms 118:22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
American King James Version×; Matthew 21:42 Matthew 21:42Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 2:7 1 Peter 2:7To you therefore which believe he is precious: but to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
American King James Version×), it was “the stone which the builders rejected”—discarded outside of town—that became “the chief cornerstone,” as it later appears to have been the coronation stone at the temple. There is just no way to be sure either way.
What we can say is that, considering the whole matter of where the throne of David is today and the traditions surrounding the Stone of Destiny, it is no stretch to assume that the coronation stone of Great Britain was the Lia-Fail of Ireland, that it was the actual stone upon which the Davidic monarchs of Judah were crowned, and that this stone was the very one anointed by Jacob at Bethel. In fact, it seems rather likely that they are all one and the same.
Did Jeremiah bring it with him?
How, then, would the stone have come to Ireland?
We have seen elsewhere in this publication that the monarchy was transferred to Ireland under the auspices of the prophet Jeremiah. Since the coronation stone of Judah’s kings, very likely the Bethel stone of Jacob, was a clear symbol of the monarchy, can we not imagine that, in fulfilling his commission, he would have taken that symbolic stone with him? Indeed, it is quite reasonable to suppose that he would have—particularly when tradition links him to the stone.
Says W.M.H. Milner regarding the stone’s arrival in Ireland, which he places at the time of Jeremiah: “ The Chronicles of Eri tell the story—the ‘Story of the Lia Fail.’ In its early days it was carried about by the priests on the march, in the wilderness. Later, it was borne by sea from East to West—‘to the extremity of the world of land to the sun’s going.’ Its bearers had resolved, at starting, to ‘move on the face of the waters in search of their brethren.’ Shipwrecked on the coast of Ireland, they yet ‘came safe with Lia Fail,’ understanding that In what land this messenger shall stay, a chief of Iber still shall bear the sway.
“[Later] Eochaid (in close connection with Ollam Fola [whom many identify as Jeremiah]) ‘sent a car [a carriage or litter] for Lia Fail’ (which had, apparently, been some time in the country) ‘and he was placed thereon.’ The Story of the Stone was then repeated by his order. ‘And Erimionn was seated on Lia Fail,’ and the crown was placed upon his head, and the mantle on his shoulders, and ‘all clapped and shouted.’ And the name of that place, from that day forward, was called Tara” ( The Royal House of Britain: An Enduring Dynasty , 1902, 1964, p. 16). This, as we can see, is quite similar to the coronations of ancient Judah.
In this context, it is interesting to consider the woman Tea, “daughter of Lughaidh,” who married the high king of Ireland, as stated elsewhere in this publication. It is there pointed out that Lughaidh, which became a general term for Ireland, may not have been the actual name of a person. Rather, it can perhaps be broken down into Logh-aidhe , which would mean “God’s House”—identical to Bethel. Perhaps it was the stone that gave the name to Ireland—or perhaps the name of the stone was applied to David’s dynasty, which then transferred over to Ireland. In any case, this would seem to lend support to the conclusions already drawn.
Yet there is still much to sort out here regarding other players in the story of the stone’s transfer. We saw mention earlier of King Gathelus, the son of Cecrops of Athens, and of Scota, a “pharaoh’s daughter”—both of whom are said to have traveled with the stone. In fact, a number of accounts put the transfer of the stone to Ireland at the time of the Exodus. Who, then, are these people? How do they fit in the story? And how do we square the timeline with Jeremiah? For the answer to these questions, see Appendix 8: “Gathelus, Scota and the Exodus.”
Looking to the future
When all the evidence is brought to bear, there is strong reason to believe that the British coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny, is indeed Jacob’s pillar stone, which sat at the base of the visionary ladder to heaven and came to designate the house of God. Its story was carried into foreign lands by migrating Israelites, where it was corrupted into the baetylus of Greek religion. Anointed by Jacob, the stone was later used to crown the rulers of the house of David in ancient times—and it appears to still be the stone used to crown the rulers of David’s house today.
And now the stone has been returned to Scotland. Some see this as proof that it cannot legitimately represent the British throne, which is in London. And yet, as part of the Scottish regalia, the stone belongs to Scotland’s royal family, which is Britain’s royal family. “We are informed as the Stone comes back to Scotland on loan, it belongs to the Crown … The Scottish Office replied politely to a letter from Robbie the Pict; the Stone remains the property of the Crown and, while it would be housed in Scotland, it would be taken back to Westminster for future coronations” (Gerber, pp. 154, 163).
We see this also in the ceremony in which the stone was set with Scotland’s crown jewels in Edinburgh. “Placed on a crimson dais in the Great Hall at the top of the Castle, surrounded by ropes and tassels, the stone was attended by two bearskinned scarlet-jacketed soldiers and a small proportion of the 800 guests who had turned up. Prince Andrew [Queen Elizabeth’s son] alias the Earl of Inverness [Northern Scotland] handed over the Stone officially to the Commissioners of the Regalia, and to a kilted Michael Forsyth [Scottish secretary of state], Keeper of the Great Seal, who had to promise to return it to Westminster when required” (p. 172).
Thus, the Stone of Destiny remains the coronation stone of the British monarchy—the monarchy of King David. But is it truly the same stone upon which the ancient kings of Judah were crowned? It seems likely that it is. Of course, there is no way to be certain.
Yet even if it isn’t, it would appear that the actual stone must be somewhere in the British Isles. For besides the very strong traditions that it came to Ireland and then Scotland, we have Jacob’s prophecy, which seems to state that the stone representing the Jewish monarchy was to be located with the people of Joseph at the height of their power in the end time. Then again, perhaps it didn’t actually need to be the same stone. Perhaps what was passed down was the tradition of anointing a stone to represent the anointed monarchy—and not the stone itself.
The prophecy would then indicate that it is the Jewish monarchy that would be with Joseph in Britain in the end time—as it surely is. And the monarchy, along with the stone representing it—be it the actual one from Bethel or one in its anointed tradition—will remain with Joseph until the true and ultimate anointed Shepherd Stone from heaven, Jesus Christ, returns to smash the kingdoms of this world and set up His rule over all nations. May all of us stand upon that Stone, upon that Rock—the Rock of our salvation—and by God’s grace reign with Him forever.