By: Gerson B. Levi
The Hebrew word Ḧashmal, rendered "amber" by the A. V., occurs only in Ezekiel (three times). Its meaning has puzzled commentators from Talmudic times to the present day. Ḥag. 13b gives the meaning as if it were a composite word, "beasts that utter fire." The Septuagint does not throw any light upon the subject, as its rendering, "elektron," is an ambiguous word, and may mean Amber or an alloy of silver and gold. Friedrich Delitzsch (in his notes to Baer and Delitzsch, text of Ezek. xii.) identifies "Ḧashmal" with the Assyrian "eshmaru," which was a shining metallic alloy. The Assyrian home of this compound would explain why the word is peculiar to Ezekiel. If "Amber" is the correct rendering of Ezek. i. 4, 27, viii. 2, it refers to a bituminous substance found in various parts of the world in two different varieties; in the Baltic district it is of a yellow color, while in the south of Europe it is red. Neither variety, however, fits the requirements of the passages in Ezekiel, where something metallic and shining is intended.