Metal a term that nowhere occurs in the AuthVer, although the various metals and operations with then are frequently referred to. The allusions indeed are ot such a character as to show that the art of metallurgy was well advanced in those ancient times. The mountains of Palestine contained metals, noi were the Hebrews ignorant of the fact (De 8:9) but they do not appear to have understood the art of mining, unless indeed the numerous allusions apparently to mining operations in Job 28 are an evidence that these were carried on in the period of the monarchy. SEE MINE. They therefore obtained from others the superior as well as the inferior metals, and worked them up. They received also metal utensils ready made, or metal in plates (Jer 10:9), from neighboring and distant countries of Asia and Europe. The Hebrews, in common with other ancient nations, were acquainted with nearly all the metals known to modern metallurgy, whether as the products of their own soil or the results of intercourse with foreigners. The trade in these metals was chiefly in the hands of the Phoenicians (Eze 27:7), who obtained them from their colonies, principally those in Spain (Jer 10:9; Eze 27:12). Some also came from Arabia (Eze 27:19), and some apparently from the country of the Caucasus (Eze 27:13).
I. One of the earliest geographical definitions is the one describing the country of Havilah as the land which abounded in gold, and the gold of which was good (Ge 2:11-12). The first artist in metals was a Cainite, Tubal-cain, the son of Lamech, the forger or sharpener of every instrument of copper (A. V. "brass") and iron (Ge 4:22). " Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Ge 13:2); silver, as will' be shown hereafter, being the medium of commerce, while gold existed in the shape of ornaments during the patriarchal ages. The vast quantity of silver and gold used in the Temple in the time of Solomon, and otherwise possessed by the Jews during the flourishing time of the nation, is very remarkable, under whatever interpretation we regard such texts as 1Ch 22:14; 1Ch 29:4, etc. In like manner, we find among other ancient Asiatic nations, and also among the Romans, extraordinary wealth in gold and silver vessels and ornaments of jewelry. As all the accounts, received from sources so various, cannot be founded on-exaggeration, we may rest assured that the precious metals were in those ancient times obtained abundantly from mines-gold from Africa, India, and perhaps even then from Northern Asia; and silver principally from Spain.
Tin is first mentioned among the spoils of the Midianites which were taken when Balaam was slain (Nu 31:22), and lead is used to heighten the imagery of Moses's triumphal song (Ex 15:10).
Whether the ancient Hebrews were acquainted with steel, properly so called, is uncertain; the words so rendered in the A. V. (2Sa 22:35;- Job 20:24; Ps 18:34; Jer 15:12) are in all other passages translated brass, and would be more correctly copper. The "northern iron" of Jer 15:12 is believed by commentators to be iron hardened and tempered by some peculiar process, so as more nearly to correspond to what we call steel (q.v.); and the "flaming torches" of Na 2:3 are probably the flashing steel scythes of the warchariots which should come against Nineveh.
Besides the simple metals, it is supposed that the Hebrews used the mixture of copper and tin known as bronze, and probably in all cases in which copper is mentioned as in any way manufactured, bronze is to be understood as the metal indicated. But with regard to the chashmal (A. V.
"amber") of Eze 1:4,27; Eze 8:2, rendered by the Sept. ἤλεκτρον, and the Vulg. electrum, by which our translators were misled, there is considerable difficulty. Whatever be the meaning of chashmal, for which no satisfactory etymology has been proposed, there can be but little, doubt that by ἤλεκτρον the Sept. translators intended, not the fossil resin known by that name to the Greeks and to us as "amber," but the metal so called, which consisted of a mixture of four parts of gold with one of silver, described by Pliny (32. 23) as more brilliant than silver by lamp-light. There is the same difficulty attending the χαλκολίβανον (Re 1:15; Re 2:18; A. V. "fine brass"), which has hitherto successfully resisted all the efforts of commentators, but which is explained by Suidas as a kind of electron more precious than gold. That it was a mixed metal of great brilliancy is extremely probable, but it has hitherto been impossible to identify it. Whether it was the same as that precious compound known among the ancients as Corinthian brass is uncertain, but it is likely that in later times the Jews possessed splendid vessels of the costly compound known by that name. Indeed, this is distinctly affirmed by Josephus (Life, p. 13). SEE BRASS.
In addition to the metals actually mentioned in the Bible, it has been supposed that mercury is alluded to in Nu 31:23 as "the water of separation," being "looked upon as the mother by which all the metals' were fructified, purified, and brought forth," and on this account kept. secret, and only mysteriously hinted at (Napier, Metal. of the Bible, Introd. p. 6). Mr. Napier adds, "There is not the slightest foundation for this supposition." With the exception of iron, gold is the most widely diffused of all metals. Almost every country in the world has in its turn yielded a certain supply; and as it is found most frequently in alluvial soil, among the debris of rocks washed down by the torrents, it was known at a very early period, and was procured with little difficulty. The existence of gold and the prevalence of gold ornaments in early times are no proof of a high state of civilization, but rather the reverse. Gold was undoubtedly used before the art of working iron or copper was discovered. We have no indications of gold streams or mines in Palestine. The Hebrews obtained their principal supply from the south of Arabia, and the commerce of the Persian Gulf. The ships of Hiram, king of Tyre, brought it for Solomon (1Ki 9:11; 1Ki 10:11), snd at a later period, when the Hebrew monarch had equipped a fleet and manned it with Tyrian sailors, the chief of their freight was the gold of Ophir (1Ki 9:21,28). It was brought thence in the ships of Tarshisl: (1Ki 22:48), the Indiamen of the ancient world; and Parvaim (2Ch 3:6), Raamah (Eze 26:21), Sheba (1Ki 10:2,10; Ps 72:15; Isa 60:6; Eze 27:22), and Uphaz (Jer 10:9), were other sources of gold for the markets of Palestine and Tyre. It was probably brought in the form of ingots (Jos 7:21; A. V. "wedge," lit. " tongue"), and was rapidly converted into articles of ornament and use. Ear-rings, or: rather nose-rings, were made of it-those given to Rebecca were half a shekel (1 oz.) in weight (Ge 24:22) — bracelets (Ge 24:22), chains (Ge 41:42), signets (Ex 35:22), bullae, or spherical ornaments suspended from the neck (Ex 35:22), and chains for the legs (Nu 31:50; comp. Isa 3:18; Pliny, 33:12). It was used in embroidery (Ex 39:3; 2Sa 1:24; Pliny, 8:74); the decorations and furniture of the Tabernacle were enriched with the gold of the ornaments which the Hebrews willingly offered (Exodus 35-40); the same precious metal was lavished upon the Temple (1Ki 6; 1Ki 7); Solomon's throne was overlaid with gold (1Ki 10:18), his drinking-cups and the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold (1Ki 10:21), and the neighboring princes brought him as presents vessels of gold and silver (1Ki 10:25). So plentiful indeed was the supply of the precious metals (luring his reign that silver was esteemed of little worth (1Ki 10:21,27). Gold and silver were devoted to the fashioning of idolatrous images (Ex 20:23; Ex 32:4; De 29:17; 1Ki 12:28). The crown on the head of Malcham (AV. "their king"), the idol of the Ammonites at Rabbah, weighed a talent of gold, that is, 125 lbs. troy, a weight so great that it could not have been worn by David among the ordinary insignia of royalty (2Sa 12:30). The great abundance of gold in early times is indicated by its entering into the composition of every article of ornament and almost all of domestic use. 'Among the spoils of the Midianites taken by the Israelites, in their bloodless victory when Balaam was slain, were ear-rings and jewels to the amount of 16,750 shekels in gold (Nu 21:35), equal in value to more than $150,000. 1700 shekels of gold (worth more than $15,000) in nose jewels (AV." ear-rings") alone were taken by Gideon's army from the slaughtered Midianites (Jg 8:26). These numbers, though large, are not incredibly great, when we consider that the country of the Midianites was at that time rich in gold streams, which have since been exhausted, and that, like the Malays of the present day and the Peruvians of the time of Pizarro, they carried most of their wealth about them. But the amount of treasure accumulated by David from spoils taken in war is so enormous that we are tempted to conclude the numbers exaggerated. From the gold shields of Hadadezer's army of Syrians and other sources he had collected, according to the chronicler (1Ch 22:14), 100,000 talents of gold, and 1,000,000 talents of silver; to these must be added his own contribution of 3000 talents of gold and 7000 of silver (1Ch 29:2-4), and the additional offerings of the people, the total value of which, estimating the weight of a talent to be 125 lbs. troy, gold at 73s. per oz., and silver at 4s. 41/2d. per oz., is reckoned by Mr. Napier to be £939,929,687. Some idea of the largeness of this sum may be formed by considering that in 1855 the total amount of gold in use in the world was calculated to be about $4,100.000,000. Undoubtedly the quantity of the precious metals possessed by the Israelites might be greater in consequence of their commercial intercourse with the Phoenicians, who were masters of the sea; but in the time of David they were a nation struggling foi political existence, surrounded by powerful enemies, and without the leisure necessary for developing their commercial capabilities. The numbers given by Josephus (Ant. 7:14, 2) are only one tenth of those in the, text, but the sum, even when thus reduced, is still enormous. But though gold was thus common, silver appears to have been the ordinary medium of commerce. The first commercial transaction of which we possess the details was the purchase of Ephron's field by Abraham for 400 shekels of silver (Ge 23:16); slaves were bought with silver (Ge 17:12); silver was the money paid by Abimelech as a compensation to Abraham (Ge 20:16); Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite merchants for twenty pieces of silver (Ge 37:28); and generally in the Old Testament, "money" in the A. V. is literally silver. The first payment in gold is mentioned in 1Ch 21:25, where David buys the threshing-floor of Oman, or Araunah, the Jebusite, for " six hundred shekels of gold by weight." But in the parallel narrative of the transaction in 2Sa 24:24, the price paid for the threshing floor and the oxen is fifty shekels of silver. An attempt has been made by Keil to reconcile these two passages, by supposing. that in the former the purchase referred to was that of the entire hill on which the threshing-floor stood. and in the latter that of the threshing-floor itself. But the close resemblance between the two narratives renders it difficult to accept this explanation, and to imagine that two different circumstances are described. That there is a discrepancy between the numbers in 2Sa 24:9 and 1Ch 21:5 is admitted, and it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that the present case is but another instance of the same kind. With this one exception there is no case in the O.T. in which gold is alluded to as a medium of commerce; the Hebrew coinage may have been partly gold, but we have no proof of it. SEE GOLD.
Silver was brought into Palestine in the form of plates from Tarshish, with gold and ivory (1Ki 10:22; 2Ch 9:21; Jer 10:9). The accumulation of wealth in the reign of Solomon was so great that silver was but little esteemed: the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones" (1Ki 10:21,27). With the treasures which were brought out of Egypt, not only the ornaments, but the ordinary metal-work of the Tabernacle was made. Silver was employed for the sockets of the boards (Ex 26:19), and for the hooks of the pillars and their fillets (Ex 38:10). The capitals of the pillars were overlaid with it (Ex 38:17); the chargers and bowls offered by the princes at the dedication of the Tabernacle (Nu 7:13, etc.), the trumpets for marshalling the host (Nu 10:2), and some of the candlesticks and tables for the Temple, were of silver (1Ch 28:15-16). It was used for the setting of gold ornaments (Pr 25:11) and other decorations (Song 1:11), and for the pillars of Solomon's gorgeous chariot or palanquin (Song 3:10). SEE SILVER.
From a comparison of the different amounts of gold and silver collected by David, it appears that the proportion of the former to the latter was 1 to 9 nearly. Three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold were demanded of Hezekiah by Sennacherib (2Ki 18:14); but later, when Pharaoh-nechoh took Jehoahaz prisoner, he imposed upon the land a tribute of 100 talents of silver, and only one talent of gold (2Ki 23:33). The difference in the proportion of gold to silver in these two cases is very remarkable, and does not appear to have been explained. SEE MONEY.
Brass, or more properly copper, was a native product of Palestine, "a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig copper" (De 8:9; Job 28:2). It was so plentiful in the days of Solomon that the quantity employed in the Temple could not be estimated, it was so great (1Ki 7:47). Much of the copper which David had prepared for this work was taken from the Syrians after the defeat of Hadadezer (2Sa 8:8), and more was presented by Toi, king of Hamath. The market of Tyre was supplied with vessels of the same metal by the merchants of Javan, Tubal, and Meshech (Eze 27:13). There is strong reason to believe that brass, a mixture of copper and zinc, was unknown to the ancients. To the latter metal no allusion is found. But tin was well known, and from the difficulty which attends the toughening of pure copper so as to render it fit for hammering, it is probable that the mode. of deoxidizing copper by the admixture of small quantities of tin had been early discovered. "We are inclined to think," says Mr. Napier, "that. Moses used no copper vessels for domestic, purposes, but bronze, the use of which is less objectionable. Bronze, not being so subject to tarnish, takes on a-finer polish, and being much more easily melted and cast, it probably was more extensively used than copper alone. These practical considerations, and the. fact that almost all the antique castings and other articles in metal which are preserved from these, ancient times are composed of bronze, prove in our opinion that where the word 'brass' occurs in Scripture, except where it refers to an ore, such as Job 28:2 and De 8:9, it should be translated bronze" (Metals of the Bible, p. 66). Arms (2Sa 21:6; Job 20:24; Ps 18:34) and armor (1Sa 17:6,38) were made of this metal, which was capable of being so wrought as to admit of a keen and hard edge. The Egyptians employed it in cutting the hardest granite. The Mexicans, before the discovery of iron, " found a substitute in an alloy of tin and copper; and with tools made of this bronze they could cut not only metals, but, with the aid of silicious dust, the hardest substances, as basalt, porphyry, amethysts, and emeralds" (Prescott, Conq. of Mexico, ch. 5). The great skill attained by the Egyptians in working metals at a very early period throws light upon the remarkable facility with which the Israelites, during their wanderings in the desert, elaborated the works of art connected with the structure of the Tabernacle, for which great acquaintance with metals was requisite. In the troublous times which followed their entrance into Palestine this knowledge seems to have been lost, for when the Temple was built the metal-workers employed were Phoenicians. SEE COPPER.
Iron, like copper, was found in the hills of Palestine. The " iron mountain" in the trans-Jordanic region is described by Josephus (War, 4:8, 2), and was remarkable for producing a particular kind of palm (Mishna, Succa, ed. Dachs. p. 182). Iron mines are still worked by the inhabitants of Kefr Huneh in the S. of the valley Zaharani; smelting-works are found at Shemuster, three hours W. of Baalbek, and others in the oak-woods at Masbek (Ritter, Erdkunde, 17:73,201); but the method employed is the simplest possible, like that of the old Samothracians, and the iron so obtained is chiefly used for horse-shoes. SEE IRON.
Tin and lead were both known at a very early period, though- there is no distinct trace of them in Palestine. The former was among the spoils of the Midianites (Nu 31:22), who might have obtained it in their intercourse with the Phoenician merchants (comp. Ge 37:25,36), who themselves procured it from Tarshish (Eze 27:12) and the tin countries of the West. The allusions to it in the Old Testament principally point to its admixture with the ores of the precious metals (Isa 25; Eze 22:18,20). It must have occurred in the composition of bronze: the Assyrian bowls and dishes in the British Museum are found to contain one part of tin to ten of copper. "The tin was probably obtained from Phoenicia, and consequently that used in the bronzes in the British Museum may actually have been exported, nearly three thousand years ago, from the British Isles" (Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 191). SEE LEAD;. SEE TIN.
Antimony (2Ki 9:30; Jer 4:30; A. V. "painting"), in the form of powder, was used by the Hebrew women, like the kohl of the Arabs, for coloring their eyelids and eyebrows. SEE PAINT.
III. As above stated, the invention of the metallurgic arts is in Scripture ascribed to Tubal-cain (Ge 4:22). In later times the manufacture of useful utensils and implements in metals seems to have been carried on to a considerable extent among the Israelites, if we may judge from the frequent allusions to them by the poets and prophets. But it does not appear that, in the finer and more elaborate branches of this great art, they made much, if any, progress during the flourishing times of their commonwealth; and it will be remembered that Solomon was obliged to obtain assistance from the Phoenicians in executing the metal work of the Temple (1Ki 7:13). Among the ancient Egyptians the operations of metallurgy were carried to great perfection, as the delineations extant upon the monuments still testify (see Wilkinson, 2:133 sq.). The Assyrians likewise had made great proficiency in the same art (see Layard's Nineveh, 2:315 sq.; Nin. and Bab. p. 191 sq.).
The Hebrew workers in iron, and especially such as made arms, were frequently carried away by the different conquerors of the Israelites (1Sa 13:19; 2Ki 24:14-15; Jer 24:1; Jer 29:2); which is one circumstance among others to show the high estimation in which this branch of handicraft was anciently held.
The following are the metallic -manufactures named in the Old Testament: Of iron, axes (De 19:2-5; 2Ki 6:5); saws (2Sa 12:31); stone-cutters' tools (De 27:5); sauce-pans (Eze 4:3); bolts, chains, knives, etc., but especially weapons of war (1Sa 17:7; 1Sa 1 Macc. 6:33). Bedsteads even were sometimes made of iron (De 3:11); "chariots of iron," i.e. war-chariots, are noticed frequently. Of copper we find vessels of all kinds (Le 6:28; Nu 16:39; 2Ch 4:16; Eze 8:18); and also weapons of war, principally helmets, cuirasses, shields, spears (1Sa 17:5; 1Sa 6:21; 2Sa 21:16); also chains (Jg 16:21); and even mirrors (Ex 38:8). Gold and silver furnished articles of ornament, also vessels, such as cups, goblets, etc. The holy vessels of the Temple were mostly of gold (Ezr 5:14). Idolaters had idols and other sacred objects of silver (Ex 20:20; Isa 2:20; Ac 17:29; Ac 19:24). Lead is mentioned as being used for weights, and for plumb-lines in measuring (Am 7:7; Zec 5:8). Some of the tools of workers in metal are also mentioned: פִּעִם, pa'am, the anvil (Isa 41:7); מִקָּבָה, makkabah', the hammer for carpenters (Isa 44:12); פִּטַּישׁ, pattish', the stone-hammer (Isa 41:7); מִל קָחַים, mal kachim', the pincers; מִפֻּח, ma alappu'ach, the bellows (Jer 6:29); מִצרֵŠ, matzreph', the crucible (Pr 17:3); כּוּר, kur, the melting-furnace (Eze 22:18). See each of these articles in alphabetical order.
There are also allusions to various operations connected with the preparation of metals.
(1.) The smelting of metal was not only for the purpose of rendering it fluid, but in order to separate and purify the richer metal when mixed with baser minerals, as silver from lead, etc. (Isa 1:25; comp. Pliny, Hist. Nat. 37:47; Eze 22:18-20). The dross separated by this process is called סַיגַים, sigim', although this word also applies to metal not yet purified from its dross. For the actual or chemical separation other materials were mixed in the smelting, such as alkaline salts, בּוֹר, bor (Isa 1:25), and lead (Jer 6:29; comp. Pliny, Hist. Nat. 33:31).
(2.) The casting of images (Ex 25:12; Ex 26:37; Isa 40:19), which are always of gold, silver, or copper. The casting of iron is not mentioned, and was perhaps unknown to the ancients (Hausmann, in Commentatt. Soc. Gott. 4:53 sq.; Miiller, Archdol. p. 371).
(3.) The hammering of metal, and making it into broad sheets (Nu 16:38; Isa 44:12; Jer 10).
(4.) Soldering and welding parts of metal together (Isa 41:7)
(5.) Smoothing and polishing metals (1Ki 7:45).
(6.) Overlaying with plates of gold, and silver, and copper (Ex 25:11-24; 1Ki 6:20; 2Ch 3:5; comp. Isa 40:19). The execution of these different metallurgic operations appears to have formed three distinct branches of handicraft before the exile; for we read of the blacksmith, by the name of the " worker in iron" (חֹרֵשׁ בִּרזֶל, Isa 44:12); the brass-founder (1Ki 7:14); and the gold and silver smith (Jg 17:4; Mal 3:2). SEE MECHANIC.
See generally, Bellermann, Handb. 1:221 sq.; De Wette, Archaol. p. 130 sq.; Faber, Archaol. 1:394 sq.; Link, Urwelt, 1:435 sq.; Winer, Realw. s.v. Metalle. SEE FURTHER UNDER MINE.