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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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The art of refining, as referred to in Scripture, was of two different kinds, according as it was applied to liquids or to metals; and the processes, in themselves quite diverse. are expressed by different words. In respect to liquids the primary idea was that of straining or filtering the word for which was זָקִק, za(akdk (Isaiah 25:6); but in respect to metals it was that of nelting, and thereby separating the ore from the dross and for this the word was צָרִ, tsaraph. But the first word also in the course of time came to be used of gold or other metals, to denote their refined or pure state (1 Chronicles 28:18; 1 Chronicles 29:4; Job 28:1; Psalms 12:6; Malachi 3:3). In figurative allusions, however, to the idea of refining, while both words might have been employed, we find almost exclusive use made of that which points to the more searching process of purification by fire (Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 48:10; Zeckariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3). Hence the term "refiner" or smelter (צֹרֵ, tsoreph; מְצָרֵ , metsareph, Malachi 3:2-3) denotes a worker in metals, specially of gold and silver (Proverbs 25:4). a founder (Judges 17:4), a goldsmith (Isaiah 41:7). That the ancients acquired, in comparatively remote times, some knowledge and skill in this art, as in the working of metals generally, admits of no doubt. (See METAL).

The Egyptians carried the working of metals to an extraordinary degree of perfection, as their various articles of jewelry preserved in museums evince; and there is no doubt that the Hebrews derived their knowledge of these arts from this source though there is evidence that the art of working in copper and iron was known before the flood (Genesis 4:22). The Egyptian monuments also give various representations on the subject, and in particular exhibit persons blowing at the fire, with a pot of metal on it, in order to raise it to a melting heat. (See BELLOWS).

The creation of a heat sufficiently intense for the purpose was the chief element in the process of refining, although, probably, borax and other substances were applied to expedite and perfect the result. The refiner's art was especially essential to the working of the precious metals. It consisted in the separation of the dross from the pure ore, which avas effected by reducing the metal to a fluid state by the application of heat, and by the aid of solvents, such as alkali (ָֹבּר A.V. "purely," Isaiah 1:25) or lead (Jeremiah 6:29), which, amalgamating with the dross, permitted the extraction of the unadulterated metal. The Hebrews evidently llunderstood the process of melting the metals, not only to make them fluid for the purpose of casting, but also for separating from the precious metals the mixed common minerals, such as silver from the lead ore with which it was combined (Ezekiel 22:18-22; Ezekiel 24:11). The instruments required by the refiner were a crucible or furnace (כּוּר ) and a bellows or blowpipe (מִפֻּחִ ). The workman sat at his work (Malachi 3:3, "He shall sit as a refiner"); he was thus better enabled to watch the process, and let the metal run off at the proper moment. (See MINE).

The notices of refining are chiefly of a figurative character, and describe moral purification as the result of chastisement (Isaiah 1:25; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3). The failure of the means to effect the result is graphically depicted in Jeremiah 6:29 : "The bellows glow with the fire (become quite hot from exposure to the heat); the lead (used as a solvent) is expended (תִּם מֵאֵשׁ [keri]); the refiner melts in vain, for the refuse will not be separated." The refiner appears, from the passage whence this is quoted, to have combined with his proper business that of assaying metals: "I have set thee for an assayer" (ָָבּחוֹן A.V. "a tower," Jeremiah 6:27). (See FINING-POT)

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Refine'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​r/refine.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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