The Sapphire Heaven
Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance like sapphire (Ezek. 1:26 – reiterated later in 10:1)
While the commonality of these two word forms is a linguistic coincidence, the possibility that they represent supernal color, book, number, and speech, things that all converge toward a unified spiritual reality, becomes compelling to Jewish mystics. Thus, for example, the medieval esoteric Bible commentator Bachya declares the blue signifies wisdom (comment on Ex. 28:18).
The classic starting point for this discussion of the supernal association between these terms is found in the terse, enigmatic treatise on word mysticism, the Sefer Yetzirah (“Book of Formation”). There the terms sefer-safar-sipur (book - number - telling) are the "three books" by which God creates the universe (Mishna 1:1). And while the spelling sapir never actually appears in this cluster, a few of Sefer Yetzirah’s commentators, such as Raavad (Rabbi Abraham ben David, of Posquieres1125-1198) conclude that S.Y. is indeed alluding to the blue stone of divine visions (comment on S.Y. 1:1).
Sefer Bahir also addresses this, but takes a different tack. In explaining Sefer Yetzirah’s novel term sefirot, (“numbers”), a word not seen before, the Bahir appeals back to the Tanakh, claiming the term is derived from Psalm 19:2, which “recounts” - m’sapprim - the “Glory of God.” In making this exegetical move, Bahir equates sefirot with kavod, the Biblical term of divine emanation (section 125, Margolius Edition, 1951).
Like S.Y., the Bahir makes no explicit link in 125 between the words m’sapprim and sapir, though in another passage it declares,
Later readers elaborate on that link in the Bahir by reading the Hebrew of 19:2, ha-shamayim m’sapprim kavod el, as “The heavens shine sapphirine [of] the Glory [of] God,” rather then the more conventional translation of “The heavens recount the Glory [of] God.” Zohar 1:8a elaborates on the same verse, declaring sapphire signifies the union of masculine and feminine principles of divinity and it is the “radiance” (zahir) that fills the universe:
Thus the sapphire comes to exemplify heavenly structures (brickwork, the Throne of Glory, the Glory of God, the Sefirot), divine knowledge (numbers, books, telling), and supernal energy (the zoharah). This theme of sapphire as a visible signifier of divine entities extends to other sacred narratives, such as the Midrashic tradition that the tablets of the heavenly words, the Ten Commandments, were tablets of sapphire cut from the Throne of Glory (Midrash Lekakh Tov, Ex. 31.18). It also appears in the Hebrew magical tradition that the angelic book given by Raziel to Noah (and later identified with the text of Sefer ha-Razim) was in the form of an engraved sapphire stone (Sefer ha-Razim, intro.).
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