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Holman Bible Dictionary


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is a reddish metal that can be easily shaped by hammering and can be polished to a shining finish.

While gold was probably the first metal humans used, the oldest tools and utensils recovered by archaeologists in Bible lands are of copper, usually combined with some alloy. The word “copper” appears in the King James Version only in Ezra 8:27 and in the word “coppersmith” in 2 Timothy 4:14 . On the other hand, the word “brass” appears about 100 times in the King James Version. In most instances the same Hebrew word is translated as “bronze” in the Revised Standard Version. Copper had limited use by itself in Bible times. Combining copper with from two to sixteen percent tin produced bronze that was hard enough to be used for weapons, armor, utensils, and sculpture.

Cyprus was the chief source of copper in the Mediterranean world, but Egypt probably secured some from the Sinai peninsula. Besides the usual promised bounty of Canaan, Deuteronomy said it would include “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:9 RSV; Compare NAS, NIV). The Hebrews mined a limited supply in the Arabah, the region south of the Dead Sea. Palestinian remains of copper mines have been found only in that area, and archaeologists have discovered at the north end of the Gulf of Aqabah the remains of copper mines. The original excavator thought these were built by Solomon for processing both copper and iron, but subsequent research has shown them to be earlier than Solomon.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for copper may refer to that basic metal or to bronze. If an object described as copper could be shaped by hammering, it was probably made of pure copper. However, if the metal for an object had to be melted and cast into a form, the word meant bronze. Thus, the fixtures and furnishings of the tabernacle were of bronze (Exodus 26:11-39:39 ). So also were the two huge pillars, the mammoth tank, and other major features for the Temple designed by Hiram of Tyre for Solomon (1 Kings 7:14-47 ). Also before the days of iron, bronze was the best metal for weapons and armor, as shown in the equipment of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:5-6 ). While not considered a precious metal, bronze was a significant prize of conquest (2 Kings 25:13-15 ).

William J. Fallis

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Copper'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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