Heb. ramoth, meaning "heights;" i.e., "high-priced" or valuable things, or, as some suppose, "that which grows high," like a tree (Job 28:18; Ezek. 27:16), according to the Rabbins, red coral, which was in use for ornaments.
The coral is a cretaceous marine product, the deposit by minute polypous animals of calcareous matter in cells in which the animal lives. It is of numberless shapes as it grows, but usually is branched like a tree. Great coral reefs and coral islands abound in the Red Sea, whence probably the Hebrews derived their knowledge of it. It is found of different colours, white, black, and red. The red, being esteemed the most precious, was used, as noticed above, for ornamental purposes.
- kor'-al (ra'moth, peninim): The red coral or precious coral, Corallium rubrum, is confined to the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. It is the calcareous axis of a branching colony of polyps. It does not form reefs, but occurs in small masses from 40 to 100 fathoms below the surface. It differs totally in structure from the white corals which form coral reefs, belonging to the order of Octactinia or Eight-rayed Polyps, while the reef-building corals belong to the Hexactinia or Six-rayed Polyps.
Ra'moth, apparently from r. ra'am, "to be high" (compare rum, "to be high"), occurs in three passages. In Prov 24:7, EVV have "too high": "Wisdom is too high for a fool." In Job 28:12-19, where various precious things are compared with wisdom, English Versions of the Bible has "coral"(King James Version, margin "Ramoth"). It is mentioned here along with ceghor, "gold" (the Revised Version, margin "treasure"); kethem, "gold of Ophir"; shoham, "onyx" (the Revised Version, margin "beryl"); cappir, "sapphire"; zahabh, "gold"; zekhukhith, "crystal" (the Revised Version (British and American) "glass"); paz, "gold"; gabhish, "pearls" (the Revised Version (British and American) "crystal"); peninim, "rubies" (the Revised Version, margin "red coral" or "pearls"); piTedhah, "topaz." While the real meaning of some of these terms is doubtful (see STONES, PRECIOUS), they all, including ra'moth, appear to be precious stones or metals. In Ezek 27:16, ra'moth occurs with nophekh, "emeralds" (the Revised Version, margin "carbuncles"); 'argaman, "purple"; riqmah, "broidered work"; buts, "fine linen"; kadhkodh, "agate"(King James Version, margin "chrysoprase," the Revised Version (British and American) "rubies"). Here the context does not require a precious stone or metal, and Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) has sericum, i.e. "Chinese material" or "silk." Notwithstanding, therefore, the traditional rendering, "coral," the real meaning of ra'moth must be admitted to be doubtful.
Peninim (from the root panan, "to divide up," "to separate"; compare Arabic fanan, "a branch of a tree") occurs in Job 28:18; Prov 3:15; 8:11; 20:15; 31:10; Lam 4:7. In all these passages English Versions of the Bible has "rubies" (Job 28:18, the Revised Version, margin "red coral" or "pearls"; Lam 4:7, the Revised Version, margin "corals"). Everywhere a precious substance is indicated, but nowhere does the context give any light as to the nature of the substance, except in Lam 4:7, where we have the statement that the nobles of Jerusalem "were more ruddy in body" than peninim. This and the etymology favor a branching red substance such as precious coral. The occurrence of peninim and ra'moth together in Job 28:18 is, if we give the precedence to peninim, a further argument against ra'moth meaning "coral."
Alfred Ely Day