MINES AND MINING:
Mines did not exist in the land inhabited by the Israelites. In the description of Palestine in Deut. viii. 9, it is true, the words "whose stones are iron and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass" seem to refer to mining; but it is doubtful whether this passage is to be taken literally. The writer may have only meant that the stones were like iron in hardness. Here and there, however, superficial deposits of iron ore, such as pea ore or meadow ore, are to be found. In the Wadi Ajlun there are even thin deposits of red iron ore; but whether these were perhaps worked in some primitive manner is unknown. Traces of iron-mines and of ancient copper-works are found in the Lebanon. Possibly the words in Deuteronomy refer to this territory, though it was never inhabited by the Israelites.
The author of Job xxviii. betrays a more exact knowledge of mining. In verses 4, 7, 8 he refers to the passages and galleries which run crosswise with many sharp turns, following the labyrinthine course of the vein of ore. Verse 3 refers to the miner's light, which, according to Diodorus (iii. 11), the workers in Egyptian mines used to wear fastened to their foreheads. Verse 5 refers to the process of breaking the stone by making it intensely hot and then pouring water on it. This process also is mentioned by Diodorus. Verse 10 refers to the cleaving of a rock in which a vein of ore ran through it in a fissure. Water burst from the fissure, and the flow was stopped by closing up the gap. Perhaps the writer's knowledge of the subject came from Egyptian sources.
The rich gold-mines of which Diodorus (l.c.) speaks were on the boundary between Egypt and Naṣb, but more likely in this passage the allusion is to the copper-works of the Egyptians on the Sinaitic Peninsula. Traces of extensive mining operations are still to be seen in the wadis Maghara and Naṣb, in the heaps of rubbish, the piles of slag, and the ruined passages. The inscriptions found on the rocks there intimate that the ore was excavated even before the time of Cheops (the builder of the great pyramid), under King Snefru. Mining was not carried on by regular miners, but by slaves, convicts, prisoners of war, etc. The author of Job xxviii. must in some way have become acquainted with such mines, and have used the picture with poetical freedom for a general illustration of human skill in obtaining precious metals. See Metals.