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). 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” (verse 1). The part regarding Joseph (verses 22-26) mentions him as a “fruitful bough” whose “branches run over the wall” (verse 22).
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). Indeed, it was upon receiving this promise that Jacob anointed the stone the first time (verse 18). 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 (49:24-25). 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 (verse 24). 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)—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 Psalm 118:22; Matthew 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7), 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.