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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Tubal-Cain is the first-mentioned smith, 'a forger of every instrument of iron' (). From that time we meet with manufactures in iron of the utmost variety (some articles of which seem to be anticipations of what are commonly supposed to be modern inventions); as iron weapons or instruments (; ); barbed irons, used in hunting (); an iron bedstead (); chariots of iron (, and elsewhere); iron weights (shekels, ); harrows of iron (); iron armor (); tools (; ); horns (); nails, hinges (); fetters (); bars (); iron bars used in fortifying the gates of towns (; ); a pen of iron (; ); a pillar (); yokes (); pan (); trees bound with iron (); gods of iron (); threshing-instruments (); and in later times, an iron gate (); the actual cautery (); breastplates ().

The mineral origin of iron seems clearly alluded to in . It would seem that in ancient times it was a plentiful production of Palestine (). There appear to have been furnaces for smelting at an early period in Egypt (). The requirement that the altar should be made of 'whole stones over which no man had lift up any iron,' recorded in , does not imply any objection to iron as such, but seems to be merely a mode of directing that, in order to prevent idolatry, the stones must not undergo any preparation by art. Iron was prepared in abundance by David for the building of the temple (), to the amount of one hundred thousand talents (), or rather 'without weight' (). Working in iron was considered a calling () [SMITH]. Iron seems to have been better from some countries, or to have undergone some hardening preparation by the inhabitants of them, such as were the people called Chalybes, living near the Euxine Sea (); to have been imported from Tarshish to Tyre (), and 'bright iron' from Dan and Javan (). The superior hardness of iron above all other substances is alluded to in . It was found among the Midianites (), and was part of the wealth distributed among the tribes at their location in the land ().

Iron is metaphorically alluded to in the following instances:—affliction is signified by the furnace for smelting it (); under the same figure, chastisement(;; ); reducing the earth to total barrenness by turning it into iron (); slavery, by a yoke of iron (); strength, by a bar of it (); the extreme of hardness (); severity of government, by a rod of iron (); affliction, by iron fetters (); prosperity, by giving silver for iron (); political strength (); obstinacy, by an iron sinew in the neck (); giving supernatural fortitude to a prophet, making him an iron pillar (); destructive power of empires, by iron teeth (); deterioration of character, by becoming iron (; ), which resembles the idea of the iron age; a tiresome burden, by a mass of iron (); the greatest obstacles, by walls of iron (); the certainty with which a real enemy will ever show his hatred, by the rust returning upon iron (). Iron seems used, as by the Greek poets, metonymically for the sword (). The following is selected as a beautiful comparison made to iron (): 'Iron (literally) uniteth iron; so a man uniteth the countenance of his friend,' gives stability to his appearance by his presence. A most graphic description of a smith at work is found in .





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Iron'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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