Gold of Havilah is mentioned as early as Ge 2:11. The first worker of instruments of copper ("brass") and iron was Tubal-cain (Ge 4:22). Abram was rich in silver and gold (Ge 13:2). Instruments before Tubalcain (born according to Hebrew chronology 500 years after Adam and contemporary with Enoch from Seth; 1,000 according to Septuagint chronology) were apparently of flint, bone, and hard wood, such as uncivilized nations now use. Races that have degenerated into barbarism fall back upon flint; then advance to bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, harder than either: and then brass; and lastly iron. The oldest European races used only flint weapons, which are found in the gravel; but this is no proof they were unknown to Adam's early descendants. Isolation would soon reduce the distant emigrants to savagery. Silver was used for commerce, as "money" (Ge 23:16; 17:12; 20:16), gold for ornament.
Gold, silver, brass, iron, tin, and lead were among the spoils taken front Midian (Nu 31:22). In Job 20:24 for "steel" translated brass. Also Ps 18:34, "a bow of steel" should be brass, which, or bronze, was used to strengthen arms, as for instance the Egyptians' bows. But God so taught David to war relying on Him that, no weapon could prevail against him; so Isa 54:17. In Jer 15:12, "shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?" the metal meant is copper mixed with iron by the Chalybes near the Pontus far N. of Palestine; i.e., can the Jews, however iron-like, break the hardier steel-like northern Chaldees (Jer 1:14). Common iron, as then prepared, was inferior to the Chalybian iron and brass combined. Thus explaining, we solve Henderson's difficulty that KJV makes iron not so hard as brass, and we need not transl, as he does "can one break iron, even northern iron, and brass?"
In Na 2:3, "the chariots will be with flaming torches," translated rather "with fire flashing scythes," literally, "with the fire (glitter) of scythes" or steel weapons fixed at right angles to the axles, and turned down, or parallel, inserted into the felly of the wheel. (On Ezr 1:4 "amber," Re 1:15 "fine brass". (See AMBER.) The first payment of gold is in 1Ch 21:25. (See ARAUNAH.) Gold was imported from Ophir, Sheba, Parvaim, and Uphaz (1Ki 9:27-28; 10/2/type/wbs'>10:2,10; 2Ch 3:6; Jer 10:9). The hills of Palestine yielded copper (De 8:9). Job 28 hints at the fact that gold is more superficial, iron lodes yield more the deeper you go: "there is a vein (a mine from whence it goes forth, Hebrew) for the silver, and a place for gold (which men) refine (it is found in the sands of rivers, and its particles have a superficial range in mines); iron is taken out of the dust (or earth, ore looking like it), and copper is molten out of the stone."
Copper is easier found and wrought than iron, so was in earlier use. Copper alloyed with tin formed brindle, of which Napier (Metal. of Bible) thinks the domestic vessels, the arms, etc., in Scripture were made, as it tarnishes less, takes a finer polish, and admits of a keen, hard edge (2Sa 21:16). Israel derived their skill in metallurgy from the Egyptians. Tin (bdiyl) was doubtless imported through the Phoenicians from Cornwall to Tarshish, and thence to Palestine (Eze 27:12; 22:18-20; Isa 1:25); the Assyrian bronze bowls, having one part tin to ten copper, now in the British Museum, consist of metal probably exported 3,000 years ago from the British isles. (See BOWLS.)
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. One of the earliest geographical definitions is that which describes the country of Havilah as the land which abounded in gold, and the gold of which was good.
Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold,
silver, as will be shown hereafter, being the medium of commerce, while gold existed in the shape of ornaments, during the patriarchal ages. Tin is first mentioned
and lead is used to heighten the imagery of Moses' triumphal song.
Whether the ancient Hebrews were acquainted with steel, properly so called, is uncertain; the words so rendered in the Authorized Version,
are in all others passages translated brass, and would be more correctly copper. The "northern iron" of
is believed more nearly to correspond to what we call steel [STEEL] It is supposed that the Hebrews used the mixture of copper and tin known as bronze. The Hebrews obtained their principal supply from the south of Arabia and the commerce of the Persian Gulf.
The great abundance of gold in early times is indicated by its entering into the composition of all articles 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 earrings and jewels to the amount of 16,750 shekels of gold,
equal in value to more than $150,000. Seventeen hundred shekels of gold (worth more than $15,000) in nose jewels (Authorized Version "ear-rings") alone were taken by Gideon's army from the slaughtered Midianites.
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. 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.
The accumulation of wealth in the reign of Solomon was so great that silver was but little esteemed.
Brass, or more properly copper, was a native product of Palestine.
De 8:9; Job 28:2
It was plentiful in the days of Solomon, and the quantity employed in the temple could not be estimated, it was so great.
No allusion is found to zinc; but tin was well known. Arms,
were made of copper, which was capable of being so wrought as to admit of a keen and hard edge. Iron, like copper, was found in the hills of Palestine. Iron-mines are still worked by the inhabitants of Kefr Hunch, in the sought of the valley of Zaharani.