One of the primitive metals, and the most ductile and malleable after gold and silver. Of this metal and zinc is made brass, which is a modern invention. There is little doubt but that copper is intended in those passages of our translation on the Bible which speak of brass. Copper was known prior to the flood, and was wrought by Tubal-cain, Ge 4:22. Hiram of Tyre was a celebrated worker in copper, 1Ki 7:14. Palestine abounded in it, De 8:9, and David amassed great quantities to be employed in building the temple, 1Ch 22:3-14. In Ezr 8:27, two vessels are mentioned "of fine copper, precious as gold." This was probably a metal compounded of copper, with gold or silver, or both. It was extolled for its beauty, solidity, and rarity, and for some uses was referred to gold itself. Some compound of this kind may have been used for the small mirrors mentioned in Ex 38:8; Job 37:18. See BRASS.
(3) derived from the Greek kupros (the island of Cyprus), called "Cyprian brass," occurs only in the Authorized Version in Ezr 8:27. Elsewhere the Hebrew word (nehosheth) is improperly rendered "brass," and sometimes "steel" (2Sa 22:35; Jer 15:12). The "bow of steel" (Job 20:24; Ps 18:34) should have been "bow of copper" (or "brass," as in the R.V.). The vessels of "fine copper" of Ezr 8:27 were probably similar to those of "bright brass" mentioned in 1Ki 7:45; Da 10:6.
(4) Tubal-cain was the first artificer in brass and iron (Ge 4:22). Hiram was noted as a worker in brass (1Ki 7:14). Copper abounded in Palestine (De 8:9; Isa 60:17; 1Ch 22:3,14). All sorts of vessels in the tabernacle and the temple were made of it (Le 6:28; Nu 16:39; 2Ch 4:16; Ezr 8:27); also weapons of war (1Sa 17:5-6,38; 2Sa 21:16). Iron is mentioned only four times (Ge 4:22; Le 26:19; Nu 31:22; 35:16) in the first four books of Moses, while copper (rendered "brass") is mentioned forty times. (See Brass.)
(5) We find mention of Alexander (q.v.), a "coppersmith" of Ephesus (2Ti 4:14).
(Ezr 8:27). But for KJV "brass" the translation elsewhere ought to be copper, (nechoshath,) or where native ore is not meant, probably bronze. Zinc, one ingredient of brass, was then unknown. Used by the ancients for many purposes, for which its ductile nature adapted it. The earliest inhabitants of Europe used flint weapons, now discovered in various places. But Tubal-cain (Ge 4:22, from whence probably by corrupted tradition was derived the classic idol, Vulcan, the god of the forge) was "an instructor of every artificer in brass (copper) and iron," 500 years after creation according to Hebrew, or 1,000 according to Septuagint, chronology. The ignorance of large portions of mankind, of iron and copper, subsequently or even at that early date, does not disprove Tubal-cain's and his artificers' acquaintance with them.
Savage nations, or races which have sunk in course of ages into barbarism, first used flint, then copper or bronze (an alloy of tin and copper), then iron; But there is no well-established instance of a savage race gradually civilizing themselves; the civilization has always been introduced from outside. Thus, bronze or copper was probably introduced among savages from more civilized nations. The American Indians at Cape Honduras visited by Columbus had hatchets, etc., of copper, and crucibles for melting it. Seth's race was less distinguished for advancement in arts and luxuries than Cain's race, which was wise in their generation; but the truest civilization is that which develops man's moral and highest nature; in this respect Seth's descendants were far superior, walking in recognition of conscience and of the providence and grace of God.
Many intimations show that the Israelites knew how to dig out and smelt metals (De 4:20; 8:9; Ezr 10:44). Their mirrors of polished copper (Ex 38:8 margin) and "bows of copper" (Hebrew text of Ps 18:34) and "helmets," etc. (1Sa 17:38), show they had some secret of rendering copper harder than ours is. The absence of iron remains does not necessarily prove it was unknown in Egypt, for it and the making of good steel have been known from very ancient times in India. It quickly decomposes, and so would leave no remains of implements. The copper mines worked by the Moschi, whose merchants imported it into Tyre, are mentioned Eze 27:13.
Heb. nechosheth, in the Authorized Version always rendered "brass," except in
and Jere 15:12 It was almost exclusively used by the ancients for common purposes, and for every kind of instrument, as chains, pillars, lavers and the other temple vessels. We read also of copper mirrors,
and even of copper arms, as helmets, spears, etc.
COPPER. ????. Anciently, copper was employed for all the purposes for which we now use iron. Arms, and tools for husbandry and the mechanic arts, were all of this metal for many ages. Job speaks of bows of copper, Job 20:24; and when the Philistines had Samson in their power, they bound him with fetters of copper. Our translators, indeed say "brass;" but under that article their mistake is pointed out. In Ezr 8:27, are mentioned "two vessels of copper, precious as gold." The Septuagint renders it ????? ?????? ??????????; the Vulgate and Castellio, following the Arabic, "vasa aeris fulgentis;" and the Syriac, "vases of Corinthian brass." It is more probable, however, that this brass was not from Corinth, but a metal from Persia or India, which Aristotle describes in these terms: "It is said that there is in India a brass so shining, so pure, so free from tarnish, that its colour differs nothing from that of gold. It is even said that among the vessels of Darius there were some respecting which the sense of smelling might determine whether they were gold or brass." Bochart is of opinion that this is the chasmal of Eze 1:27, the ???????????? of Re 1:15, and the electrum of the ancients.
Mr. Harmer quotes from the manuscript notes of Sir John Chardin a reference to a mixed metal in the east, and highly esteemed there; and suggests that this composition might have been as old as the time of Ezra, and be brought from those more remote countries into Persia, where these two basins were given to be conveyed to Jerusalem. Eze 27:13, speaks of the merchants of Javan, Jubal, and Meshech, as bringing vessels of nehesh (copper) to the markets of Tyre. According to Bochart and Michaelis, these were people situated toward Mount Caucasus, where copper mines are worked at this day. See BRASS.