By: Emil G. Hirsch
A genus of polypus known to science as "coralligenous zoophytes"; also the hard structures secreted by these animals. The variety known as the red coral (Corallium rubrum) (Pliny, xxxii. 2, 11, and elsewhere) is found in the Mediterranean, and was greatly valued by the ancients. It was used for personal ornament, and also for talismans and amulets. It is not certain that the ancient Hebrews were familiar with the coral. The A. V. translates the Hebrew "coral" in Job xxviii. 18 and in Ezek. xxvii. 16, while in Prov. xxiv. 7 both the A. V. and R. V. give "too high" as an equivalent for the same Hebrew word.
In favor of a derivation from ("to be high") it might be urged that the red coral has a natural upward form of growth. According to Freitag ("Einleitung in das Studium der Arabischen Sprache," p. 332), the coral in use among the Arabs was white, not red. But he confounds glass beads with corals. In Job xxviii. 18 the Septuagint reads μετήωρο, Sym. ὑψηλά, Vulgate excelsa, showing the influence of the etymology from the word meaning "to be high." The Targum renders according to Cheyne = σαυδαράκη), which is entirely inapplicable here; Jastrow prefers "sardonyx," Levy "sandarachina." Rashi holds to be the name of a precious stone found in the water. Ibn Ezra gives no explanation, and Gersonides, with the Targum, the paraphrase "costly pearls."
Of modern commentators, Dillmann thinks that "ramoth" (Job xxviii. 18), which Luther simply transliterates, designates something less valuable than "peninim," mentioned in the second half of the verse. Friedrich Delitzsch (in his German translation of Job, 1902) translates it "pearl shells." In Ezek. xxvii. 16 the Septuagint (Alexandrine Codex) has the transliteration ραμμωΘ, the Vulgate sericum, and Targum "precious stones"; Luther, "sammet."
In Prov. xxiv. 7 "ramoth" suggests perhaps a play upon the word (= "too high"), but Bickell suggests a change into , the Septuagint having an altogether different reading. In the margin of R. V. (Lam. iv. 7) "corals," "red corals," and "pearls" are suggested as truer renderings for the Hebrew word "peninim" (Job xxviii. 18; Prov. iii. 15, viii. 11, xx. 15, xxxi. 10). Luther has this translation in Lam. iv. 7; Friedrich Delitzsch in Job xxviii. 18. Gesenius ("Th.") holds "peninim" to be the red coral, and "ramoth" to be another, probably the black, variety. The use of the word ("draft") in connection with "peninim" in Job xxviii. 18, appears to recall the method employed in coral-fishing. Coral is broken off from the rocks by long hooked poles, and "drawn out."
Of medieval Jewish lexicographers, Abu al-Walid, in his "Book of Roots," rejects the opinion that "ramoth" signifies "coral." Ḳimḥi, in his dictionary, explains it as a precious stone. See Menahem ben Saruḳ in "Maḥberet," and "Sefer ha-Parḥon."