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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Silver

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(כֶּסֶ, keseph, often rendered "money"). There is no mention of this metal in Scripture until the time of Abraham. Before that time brass and iron appear to have been the only metals in use (Genesis 4:22). Abraham was rich in gold and silver, as well as in flocks and herds, and silver in his day was in general circulation as money. It was uncoined, and estimated always by weight. Coined money was not in use among the Israelites until an advanced period of their history. The Romans are said to have had only copper money until within five years of the first Punic war, when they began to coin silver (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 30, 3). Their coins were extensively introduced into Judnea after it became a Roman province. Kitto.

In early times, according to the Bible, silver was used for ornaments (Genesis 24:53), for cups (Genesis 44:2), for the sockets of the pillars of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:19, etc.), their hooks and fillets, or rods (27:10), and their capitals (38:17); for dishes, or chargers, and bowls (Numbers 7:13), trumpets (10:2), candlesticks (1 Chronicles 28:15), tables (1 Chronicles 28:16), basins (1 Chronicles 28:17), chains (Isaiah 40:19), the settings of ornaments (Proverbs 25:11), studs (Song of Solomon 1:11), and crowns (Zechariah 6:11). Images for idolatrous worship were made of silver or overlaid with it (Exodus 20:23; Hosea 13:2; Habakkuk 2:19; Habakkuk 1 Baruch 6:39), and the manufacture of silver shrines for Diana was a trade in Ephesus (Acts 19:24). But its chief use was as a medium of exchange, and throughout the Old Test. we find keseph, "silver," used for money; like the Fr. argent. To this general usage there is but one exception. (See METAL).

Vessels and ornaments of gold and silver were common in Egypt in the times of Osirtasen I and Thothmes III, the contemporaries of Joseph and Moses (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 3, 225). In the Homeric poems we find indications of the constant application of silver to purposes of ornament land luxury. It was used for basins (Od. 1, 137; 4, 53), goblets (Il. 23, 741), baskets (Od. 4, 125), coffers. (Il. 18, 413), sword hilts (1, 219; Od. 8, 404), doorhandles (1, 442), and clasps for the greaves (Il. 3, 331). Door posts (Od. 7, 89) and lintels (ibid. 90) glittered with silver ornaments; baths (4, 128), tables (10, 355), bows(Il. 1, 49; 24, 605), scabbards (11, 31), sword belts (18, 598), belts for the shield (ibid. 480), chariot poles (5, 729), and the naves of wheels (ibid.) were adorned with silver; women braided their hair with silverthread (17, 52), and cords appear to have been made of it (Od. 10, 24); while we constantly find that swords (Il. 2, 45; 23, 807) and sword belts (11, 237), thrones, or chairs of state (Od. 8, 65), and bedsteads (23, 200) were studded with silver. Thetis of the silver feet was probably so called from the silver ornaments on her sandals (Il. 1, 538). The practice of overlaying silver with gold, referred to in Homer (Od. 6, 232; 23, 159), is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, though inferior materials were covered with silver (Proverbs 26:23).

Silver was brought to Solomon from Arabia (2 Chronicles 9:14) and from Tarshish (2 Chronicles 9:21), which supplied the markets of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:12). From Tarshish it came in the form of plates (Jeremiah 10:9), like those on which the sacred books of the Singhalese are written to this day (Tennent, Ceylon, 2, 102). The silver bowl given as a prize by Achilles was the work of Sidonian artists (Il. 23, 743; comp. Od. 4, 618). In Homer (Il. 2, 857), Alybe is called the birthplace of silver, and was probably celebrated for its mines. But Spain appears to have been the chief source whence silver was obtained by the ancients. Possibly the hills of Palestine may have afforded some supply of this metal. "When Volney was among the Druses, it was mentioned to him that an ore affording silver and lead had been discovered on the declivity of a hill in Lebanon" (Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Palestine, p. 73).

For an account of the knowledge of obtaining and refining silver possessed by the ancient Hebrews, (See MINE). The whole operation of mining is vividly depicted in Job 28:1-11, and the process of purifying metals is frequently alluded to in Psalms 12:6; Proverbs 25:4, while it is described with some minuteness in Ezekiel 21:20-22. Silver mixed with. alloy is referred to in Jeremiah 6:30, and a finer kind, either purer in itself or more thoroughly purified, is mentioned in Proverbs 8:19. Smith. There is a beautiful allusion in the prophecy of Malachi to the refining of this precious, metal. The Lord of hosts is represented "sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver" (Malachi 3:3). In the process of refining silver, the workman sits with his eye steadily fixed on the surface of the molten metal, and the operation is only known to be complete when he sees his own image reflected in it. So in this passage we have a beautiful figure descriptive of God's purpose in placing his people in the furnace of affliction, while he is, as it were, seated by their side, his all seeing eye being steadily intent on the work of purifying, and his wisdom and love engaged on their behalf until his own glorious image is reflected on their souls, and the work of purifying is fully accomplished. The way in which silver is spoken of in the book of Job (Job 28:1), "Surely there is a vein for the silver and a place for gold where they fine it," affords one of the many instances of the scientific accuracy of Scripture. An eminent geologist has remarked on the distinction here drawn, and which the discoveries of modern science have made clear, between the "vein of silver" and "dust of gold," indicating that there are mines of the one and not of the other (Murchison, Siluria, p. 457).

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

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