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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Mining and Metals

MINING AND METALS. Though Palestine proper is deficient in mineral resources, yet these were present to some extent on its borders, and were not only abundantly found, but even largely developed, in other parts of the ancient East. The Scripture references to mining, accordingly, though not very numerous, are sufficiently definite. Such a passage as Deuteronomy 8:9 (cf. Deuteronomy 33:25 ), though inapplicable to Palestine proper, may hold good of the Lebanon district or (as has been suggested by some) of the Sinaitic region. The classical description of the miner’s life in Job 28:1-28 is evidently based on observation. It depicts the adventurous and toilsome character of the quest, the shafts sunk and the galleries tunnelled in the rock, the darkness, the waters that have to be drained away, the hidden treasures of precious stones and metals that reward the effort and the ingenuity of man.

The list of metals in Numbers 31:22 includes all those that are mentioned in Scripture, viz. gold, silver, ‘brass,’ iron, tin, and lead. All these are again enumerated in Ezekiel 27:12-13; Ezekiel 27:22 as articles of Tyrian commerce.

Brass . This English word, as late as 1611, denoted copper or bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) rather than the modern brass (an alloy of copper and zinc). Hence, where ‘brass’ occurs in EV [Note: English Version.] , copper or bronze is to be understood (see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] on Genesis 4:22 , and art. Brass).

Copper occurs once in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ( Ezra 8:27 , RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘bright brass’). But see on ‘Brass’ above and ‘Steel’ below.

Gold is a metal the use of which can be traced back to the earliest times of civilization. As a medium of currency it was reckoned by weight, in shekels and talents, coinage being unknown among the Jews before the Exile. While it figured in the history of Israel from the beginning (see the spoils of Egypt [ Exodus 12:35 ], Midian [ Numbers 31:52 , Judges 8:26 ], and Jericho [ Joshua 7:21 ]), it became specially plentiful in Palestine in the time of Solomon ( 1 Kings 10:14; 1 Kings 10:21 ), the main sources of it being Ophir ( 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11 ), Tarshish ( 1 Kings 10:22 ), and Sheba ( 1 Kings 11:2 , Psalms 72:15 ). Another gold-producing country was Havilah ( Genesis 2:11 ). Of these localities Havilah and Sheba were Arabian. Ophir (wh. see) may have been the same, though its situation has also been sought in India and S. Africa. For goldsmiths see Nehemiah 3:18; Nehemiah 3:21; Nehemiah 3:32 , Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 46:5 , also (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) Jeremiah 10:9; Jeremiah 10:14; Jeremiah 51:17 . The products of their art comprised beaten work ( Exodus 25:18; Exodus 37:17; Exodus 37:22 , Numbers 8:14; 37:7, 1 Kings 10:16 f., 2 Chronicles 9:15 f.), plating ( Exodus 25:11; Exodus 25:24; Exodus 26:29; Exodus 26:32; Exodus 30:3 ), and wire or thread for embroidery ( Exodus 39:3 ).

Iron appears to have come into use later than copper or bronze. Its ores are found in the Lebanon district, in the region of Sinai, and sparsely in Egypt. The most famous ancient seat of its manufacture was among the Chalybes in the Highlands of Assyria. Mining for the ore is mentioned in Job 28:2; the ‘iron furnace’ in Deuteronomy 4:20 , 1 Kings 8:51 , Jeremiah 11:4; and the forge in Isaiah 44:12 . In modern times iron is separated from its ores as cast iron, from which wrought iron and steel are subsequently prepared. But in ancient times the temperature necessary to melt iron was unavailable, and it must have been produced as wrought iron, which is still obtained by primitive smelting processes in various parts of the world. The uses of iron alluded to in Scripture are very varied, but call for no special comment. In Deuteronomy 3:11 and possibly in Amos 1:3 ‘iron’ means black basalt.

Lead is mentioned in Jeremiah 6:29 , Ezekiel 22:18-22 in connexion with the smelting of silver (see ‘Silver’ below). Its weight is referred to in Exodus 15:10 . The ‘ephah’ in Zechariah 5:7-8 has a leaden covering. Rock-cut inscriptions were made more durable by having the chiselled letters filled up with lead ( Job 19:24 ).

Silver , like gold, was a very early medium of exchange ( Genesis 23:15; Genesis 23:18 ). The Heb. and Gr. words for silver are often rendered ‘money’ in EV [Note: English Version.] . There are frequent references in OT to the use of this metal for vessels and ornamental work. In NT there is special mention of the guild of silversmiths at Ephesus, and of the ‘shrines’ or models of the temple of Diana which were their most profitable article of trade ( Acts 19:24 ). Among the sources of the metal, Arabia ( 2 Chronicles 9:14 ) and Tarshish ( 2 Chronicles 9:21 , Jeremiah 10:9 , Ezekiel 27:12 ) are named. The commonest ore of silver is argentiferous galena, which contains a large quantity of lead, and in which other metals may also be present. In the course of smelting the lead combines with the other impurities to form a heavy ‘slag,’ which separates by its weight from the molten silver, leaving the latter pure. This process is referred to, usually in a figurative moral sense, in Psalms 66:10 (cf. Isaiah 48:10 ), Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 25:4; Proverbs 27:21 , Zechariah 13:9 , Malachi 3:3 , and especially in Jeremiah 6:28-30 and Ezekiel 22:17-22 . In the last two passages lead is the most prominent impurity, the others being ‘brass,’ iron, and tin. The mixture of these was the refuse or ‘dross’ of silver (see also Isaiah 1:22; Isaiah 1:25 ).

Steel ( 2 Samuel 22:35 , Job 20:24 , Psalms 18:34 , Jeremiah 15:12 ) is a mistaken translation in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] of the words elsewhere rendered ‘brass.’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘brass’ in these passages, and copper or bronze is to be understood. Only in Nahum 2:3 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) is ‘steel’ possibly a correct rendering. Steel is a form of iron containing more carbon than wrought iron. It is capable not only of being welded but also cast, and tempered to various degrees of hardness and elasticity.

Tin derived its importance from its use as a constituent of bronze (an alloy of copper and tin). It is mentioned as an article of Tyrian commerce in Ezekiel 27:12 , and as an impurity in silver in Ezekiel 22:18 (cf. Isaiah 1:25 , RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘alloy’). Its earliest sources are uncertain, but it appears to have come to the East from the West. It is known that the PhÅ“nicians obtained it from the Scilly Isles and Cornwall.

Flint is a form of silica, and occurs abundantly, in the form of nodules, in many of the limestone rocks of Palestine. It is exceedingly hard, and its property of sparking when struck on steel or on another flint provided a very ancient and common means of obtaining fire ( 2Ma 10:3 ). Flint has a sharp edge when broken or chipped, and was used for primitive weapons and instruments of many kinds arrow-heads, knives, etc. For the latter see Exodus 4:25 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , Joshua 5:2-3 RV [Note: Revised Version.] . In other Scripture references to flint its hardness is chiefly in view ( Deuteronomy 32:13 , Job 28:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , Isaiah 5:28; Isaiah 50:7 , Ezekiel 3:9 ).

Marble is limestone (carbonate of lime), hard and close-grained enough to be polished. The purest forms are white, but many coloured varieties are highly valued. Marble was among the materials prepared by David for the Temple ( 1 Chronicles 29:2 ). Josephus ( Ant . VIII. iii. 2, 9) says that Solomon’s Temple was built of white stone from Lehanon, but the stones exposed in the Jews’ Wailing Place appear to be from the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, probably from the quarries under Bezetha. Marble supplies a simile in Song of Solomon 5:15 , and is mentioned among the merchandise of ‘Babylon’ in Revelation 18:12 .

James Patrick.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mining and Metals'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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