METALS:(Redirected from SILVER.)
- Sources of the Metals.
- Gold ("zahab," connected with the root "ẓahab," "to shine"):
- Silver ("kesef"):
- Copper ("neḥoshet"):
- Iron ("barzel," "parzel"):
- Tin ("bedil," from a root meaning "to separate"):
- Lead ("'oferet"; Aramaic and Neo-Hebrew in Mishnah and Talmud, "abar," "abra"):
- Antimony or Stibium ("puk" = "eye-paint" [comp. "Z. D. M. G." v. 336]; now called "kuḥl" in the Orient; hence the verb "kaḥal" [Ezek. xxiii. 40]; often mentioned in the Talmud and Midrash [e.g., Shab. viii. 3]):
- Metals in the Talmud.
- Argentum or Argentarium (Latin):
- Arsenicon (Greek):
- Asimon (Greek, ἄσημον):
- Ḥalḳoma (Greek, χάλκωμα):
- Gruti (Greek, γρύτη):
- Ḥararah (Kelim. xi. 3):
- Milela (Ket. 67a):
- 'Eshet and 'Ashashit:
- Obryzon (Greek, ὄβρυζον):
- Paliza (Arabic, "falaz"; but see Frankel, l.c. p. 153):
- Stomoma (Latin, from the Greek στόμωμα; in Ber. 62b,
- Sulfate of Iron:
- Ornaments, Weapons, and Utensils.
- Miscellaneous Conditions.
- In the Middle Ages.
- Halakic Bearing.
- Value of Metals.
- Symbolic Meaning.
Although Deut. viii. 9 describes the Promised Land as one rich in ore, Palestine itself was really almost without metals, which had to be imported from neighboring countries. The passage in question is therefore taken by certain scholars to refer not to Palestine proper, but to Bashan, the present Hauran, whose rocks contain as much as 20 per cent of iron—hence the name "basalt." Nothing is known of mining among the Hebrews themselves (see Mines and Mining); the description in Job xxviii., which shows a full knowledge of the technical process, probably refers to Egypt, which had engaged in mining on the Sinaitic Peninsula from earliest times. The existence of these mines in Sinai may account for the fact that the Jerusalem Pentateuch Targum translates "the wilderness of Zin" (Num. xiii. 21; xxxiv. 3, 4) by "mountain of iron." Josephus ("B.J." iv. 8, § 2; comp. Malala's "Chronicle," xviii. 182), however, places "the iron mountain" in Trachonitis and not in the vicinity of Sinai (comp. Derenbourg in "R. E. J." viii. 275). Another "mountain of iron" is mentioned (Suk. iii. 1); but this was in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and received its name not from its richness in iron, but from the fact that its rocks were hard as iron. Robinson ("Researches," i. 512) has shown that the country about the Red Sea is likewise entirely without iron deposits.Sources of the Metals.
The Hebrews were aware of the existence of gold at Havilah, Ophir, and Uphaz; and they obtained the precious metal from these districts either by means of their own ships, as under Solomon (I Kings ix. 28) and Jehoshaphat (ib. xxii. 49), or through the markets of Tyre, where silver, iron, tin, and lead were brought (Ezek. xxvii. 12), probably by traders from Tarshish (ib. xxxviii. 13). Tarshish is mentioned as being under Tyrian dominion (Isa. xxiii. 10); but its location and even the meaning of its name are still disputed points. The same doubt attaches to two cities, Betah and Berothai, conquered by David, from which he "took exceeding much brass" (II Sam. viii. 8; in I Chron. xviii. 8 these cities are Tibhath and Chun). Copper utensils came also from Javan (which here probably means Cyprus), Tubal, and Meshech (Ezek. xxvii. 13). According to the ideas of the time, the people of the last-named country lived in the far north; and the expression "iron from the north" occurs in Jer. xv. 12. This iron seems to have been an especially good variety. The Rabbis mention the excellent Indian iron ('Ab. Zarah 16a; Ab. R. N., Recension A, xxviii.) and the Indian swords (Tan., Wa'etḥanan, 6). Since the Oriental trade was chiefly in the hands of the Phenicians, the Israelites could thus become directly acquainted with the metals and had opportunity to obtain possession of them.
A general name for "metal" does not occur in the Bible, but the following species are mentioned: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead, antimony or stibium, and electrum.Gold ("zahab," connected with the root "ẓahab," "to shine"):
The various Biblical terms (see Gold) employed to designate the color or the degree of purity of different varieties of the metal are in part identical with the terms used in the Talmud (Yer. Yoma iv. 41d; a little different in Yoma 44b) to characterize seven varieties: (1) good gold (with reference to Gen. ii. 12; comp. "good gold from Ophir"; Targum Sheni to Esth. ii. 1, ed. Lagarde, p. 227); (2) pure gold, i.e., such gold as can be put into the fire without losing weight (the golden lamp of the Tabernacle is said to have been put into the fire eighty times without losing weight); (3) fine gold ("zahab segor"; comp. I Kings vi. 20); (4) "zahab mufaz," which, according to one explanation, looks like burning brimstone, and according to another and probably more correct explanation is so called from the place in which it was found (Solomon's throne was covered with this kind of gold; see I Kings x. 18); (5) unalloyed gold; (6) spun gold ("zahab shaḥuṭ."), flexible as wax (the emperor Hadrian is said to have had a piece of the size of an egg; Diocletian, one as large as a Gordian denarius); (7) Parvaim gold (II Chron. iii. 6), probably so called from an Arabian district. In the Babylonian Talmud gold of Ophir occupies the third place in the list; and "mufaz" gold is—apparently correctly—connectedwith "paz" (comp. Cant. v. 15). The word occurs with the same meaning in the Talmud (Giṭ. 11 b, 58a). If "ufaz" (Jer. x. 9; Dan. x. 5) is not a proper name, it is likewise probably connected with the same root. Some commentators, referring to Targum, Peshiṭta, and manuscripts of the Septuagint, consider it to be corrupted from "Ofir." Almost all the names for gold here mentioned occur in I Kings x. Perhaps "eshkar" (Ps. lxxii. 10; Ezek. xxvii. 15) should also be connected with "sagur"; in Assyrian "hurasu sakru" means "massive" or "solid gold" (Delitzsch, "Assyrisches Handwörterbuch," p. 499b); and "sagur" and "eshkar" may be synonymous (Cheyne, in "Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch." 1899, xxi. 246; comp. Barth in "Programm des Berliner Rabbinerseminars," p. 32, Berlin, 1901). The Assyrian "hurasu" explains the Hebrew "haruẓ" (Prov. viii. 10, xii. 27); the latter is used poetically for gold and really means "decided," i.e., "declared a unit of value," which gold had been for a long time. Moreover, the Greek χρυσός (="gold") is said to come from the Hebrew (perhaps Phenician; see "R. E. J." xvi. 276) word "haruẓ" (Bochart, "Hierozoicon," ii. 534; H. Lewy, "Die Semitischen Fremdwörter im Griechischen," p. 59). Poetically "ketem" (Lam. iv. 1; Job xxviii. 19, xxxi. 24, etc.) is used, and appears also in connection with "paz." The expression "beẓer" occurs only twice (Job xxii. 24, 25), and is usually interpreted to mean "bars of gold." The meaning "gold in rings" is also accepted for it (Hoffmann, in "Zeitschrift für Assyriologie," 1887, p.48). "Ophir"—that is, gold of Ophir—is its parallel; and the writer of the Book of Job (Job l.c.) says that both of these kinds of gold shall be as of no value to those who fear God. In the Talmud "seething gold" is also mentioned ("zahab roteaḥ"; Sanh. 92b). See also Gold for Biblical passages.Silver ("kesef"):
This metal derives its name from its pale color. The denominative "hiksif" means "make pale" ("kasaf," like the Arabic "kasaf," ="desiderare"), although in Job xxii. 25 a comparison seems to be made between silver and something shining. The Greek ἀργύριον (= Latin "argentum") likewise goes back to ἀργός ("white"). "Kesef " was, in addition, a term for money in general among the Hebrews (see below). Silver has its veins (Job xxviii. 1). It is not found on the surface, nor in river-beds, like gold; but it must be taken with hard labor from the depths of the mountain. Strangely enough, the Septuagint translates "kasifya," in Ezra viii. 17, according to the meaning of the root: ἐν ἀργυρίου ṭόπῳ, "place of silver," that is, Ctesiphon.Copper ("neḥoshet"):
The Hebrews probably knew copper only in its natural state, and not as bronze, which is copper alloyed with tin, unless the copper ore was found mixed with tin. According to one hypothesis, the Biblical-Hebraic "sefer" means "brass" or "bronze" ("J. Q. R." xv. 102). The term
The mountains of Palestine contained iron ore (Deut. viii. 9). Its value was less than silver and more than stones (Isa. lx. 17). As was also the case in early times among the Greeks and Romans, iron was little used by the Hebrews; and it is mentioned only four times in the first four books of Moses (see Iron). Many understand the word "paldah" (Nah. ii. 4) to mean "steel," a preparation of iron; but the correctness of this interpretation is uncertain. Iron can be broken in pieces with a hammer. In this it is a symbol of the Torah, which has numerous attributes and characteristics (Suk. 52b; see Tos. ib.). A teacher of the Law must be as hard as iron (Ta'an. 4a). To forge and harden iron it must be put red-hot into cold water (Shab. 41a). Iron was heated on coal; and there are halakic regulations for doing this on the Sabbath (ib. 130a). Iron as well as lead was used on the yokes of animals (Kelim xiv. 4, 5). The Rabbis were acquainted with the magnetic stone which attracts iron (Soṭah 47a, "eben sho'ebet").Tin ("bedil," from a root meaning "to separate"):
The name itself indicates that the metal is not a pure one, but consists of parts separated from other metals, perhaps the lead in bars of silver (so Delitzsch on Isa. i. 25, where the word is used in the plural with "sigim"; Ibn Ezra rightly observes that no other names of metals occur in the plural); compare the Latin "stannum" (Pliny, "Historia Naturalis," xxxiv. 47); German, "werk"; and English, "alloy." That "bedil" denotes some particular metal is evident from passages like Num. xxxi. 22 and Ezek. xxii. 18, 20; xxvii. 12, where it is mentioned along with other metals; and according to the Septuagint this metal was κασσίτερος = "tin," a translation which Luther has throughout his version. Among the Romans, until the fourth century, tin was called "plumbum album." The Jews were probably acquainted with tin through the Phenicians, who brought it from their European colonies (from Britain [?]; see Gutschmid, "Kleine Schriften," ii. 55). The instrument used in summoning the people to synagogue in Babylonia was of tin (Pethahiah of Regensburg, p. 14, ed. London, 1856). Beautiful tin Seder platters are still in existence.Lead ("'oferet"; Aramaic and Neo-Hebrew in Mishnah and Talmud, "abar," "abra"):
Lead is mentioned in Num. xxxi. 22; Ezek. xxii. 18, 20; also in Ezek. xxvii. 12, where it is referred to as an export of Tarshish. Lead was obtained direct from the mines (Ḥul. 8a). It is the symbol of weight (Ex. xv. 10). Tradition relates that the river-beds near Jerusalem were lined with lead (Letter of Aristeas, ed. Wendland, § 90; comp. "Seder ha-Dorot," i. 115, Warsaw, 1891). White lead (Persian, "sapidag" [see "Z. D. M. G." l. 6, 43]; Syriac, "aspedka") occursin the "Halakot Gedolot" and elsewhere in the literature of the Geonim as "alsefidag" (see Kohut, "Aruch Completum," iv. 82). A wire of lead ("petilah shel abar"; Sanh. 52a) was used in killing those condemned to death by fire. The eaves of houses were made of lead (Miḳ. vi. 8).Antimony or Stibium ("puk" = "eye-paint" [comp. "Z. D. M. G." v. 336]; now called "kuḥl" in the Orient; hence the verb "kaḥal" [Ezek. xxiii. 40]; often mentioned in the Talmud and Midrash [e.g., Shab. viii. 3]):
One spoke of "enlarging" the eyes with paint (Jer. iv. 30, R. V.) or of painting them (II Kings ix. 30). The meaning of Isa. liv. 11 is disputed. According to Saadia, paint is meant here also; thus the meaning would be that the stones shine like women's eyes. More modern scholars read "nofek." Wisdom xiii. 14 interprets it to mean that on feast-days the faces of the gods were colored red with minium.Electrum:
A translation given by many for "ḥashmal" (Ezek. i. 4, viii. 2); the English versions have Amber. Bochart ("Hierozoicon," iii. 893) takes it to be the aurichalcum of the ancients. The Talmud has a haggadic interpretation for it (Ḥag. 13a; comp. Munk in "Guide des Egarés," ii. 229). Omitting "ḥashmal" as not being the name of a metal, Moses Cohen (on Ibn Ezra on Isa. i. 25) says that there are seven kinds of metals mentioned in the Bible.Metals in the Talmud.
A general name for metals, "matteket" (plural, "mattakot"; Kelim xiii. 7, xiv. 1; Ḥul. i. 6), from the root "matak" = "natak" (Targ. to I Kings vii. 16, 23), is first found in the post-Biblical literature of the Jews.
Table-silver; occurs often in the Midrash (Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 126). A similar word is "chrysargyrum," a kind of money (see below).Arsenicon (Greek):
A chemical element which occurs naturally together with sulfur and metals. In the Talmud (Ḥul. 88b), Syriac, and Arabic it is called "zarnikh."Asimon (Greek, ἄσημον):
In Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash, an unstamped (silver) coin (Krauss, l.c. p. 86). The word may, however, be related to the Syriac "sema," which means simply "silver" (Payne Smith, "Thesaurus Syriacus," p. 2494). By "asem" the Egyptians indicated a compound of gold and silver (Greek, ἤλεκτρον); and the Septuagint translates the Hebrew "ḥashmal" (see above) similarly.
From tannaitic times dates a regulation forbidding the making of weights out of "ba'aẓ" (see below), lead, tin (κασσίτερος), and other metals, because they gradually wear away to the disadvantage of the buyer (Tosef., B. B. v. 9 [ed. Zuckermandel, p. 405]; B. B. 89b); in the text of the "Halakot Gedolot," p. 421,
This metal, mentioned above, is probably a kind of tin (comp. Kelim. xxx. 3; Targ. to Ezek. xxii. 18, and Targ. Yer. to Num. xxxi. 22). Ba'aẓ ranks above lead and κασσίτερος (Men. 28b). It is doubtful whether "abaẓa" (Targum for "bedil") is related to it (see commentators on Kelim x. 2). Ba'aẓ was used for sealing documents (Targ. to Jer. xxxii. 11, 14).Ḥalḳoma (Greek, χάλκωμα):
Brass or copper; mentioned often in the Targum (Krauss, l.c. p. 299); especially bows of brass are mentioned (comp. the cognomen "Haliḳopri" = χαλκοπάρειος = "the man with a brazen face" (Krauss, l.c. p. 251). A similar analogy was: "A scholar is firm as iron" (Ta'an. 4a). Corinthian brass, celebrated in antiquity (
Pieces of metal (Krauss, l.c. p. 183). Perhaps the above-mentioned
Lumps of metal after casting.Karkemisha:
An Aramaic word of unknown origin, occurring in the Targum (Targ. Yer. to Num. xxi. 22; Job xix. 24), and meaning "lead."Milela (Ket. 67a):
Gold ore as broken in the mine (Jastrow, l.c. p. 793).Niska:
A bar of gold or silver; occurs a dozen times in the Babylonian Talmud (Jastrow, l.c. p. 917). According to J. Halévy (in "M. Scienc. Ling." xi. 73), "niska" is Sanskrit, and means "moneybag." The Greek βέλος also indicates "lumps" or "bars" (Krauss, l.c. p. 141; comp. the Greek μέδρος =Latin "massa" in Blümner, "Technologie," iv. 219).
For sheet metal there was likewise a term from the Greek,
Especially frequent terms (Kohut, l.c. vi. 281; Jastrow, l.c. p. 1127), meaning "lumps" or "plates" or something similar (comp. Yoma 34b). Plates of iron were warmed (for the high priest); iron plates are spoken of also in 'Ab. Zarah 16a. It is therefore natural to connect these words with the Biblical Hebrew "'eshet" (Ezek. xxvii. 19) = "hard iron"; since the idea "hard" seems certainly to be contained in it. In Men. 28b it is stated that the lamp of the sanctuary might be made of "'eshet" as well as of gold; but "'eshet" can not mean "iron," since it is classed above silver, unless indeed iron on account of its rarity was more valued than silver or even than gold. The metal must also have cast a reflection; for the lamp itself ("candela") is called "'ashasit." The plates, whether of iron, silver, or gold, must, therefore, have been highly polished, somewhat like the ancient mirrors.Obryzon (Greek, ὄβρυζον):
Pure gold; a term occurringonce in the Targum (Krauss, l.c. p. 14), and used also in Syriac and Arabic. Χρυσάργυρον, money called "gold-silver," occurs also in rabbinical writings (Krauss, l.c. p. 298).Paliza (Arabic, "falaz"; but see Frankel, l.c. p. 153):
A kind of bronze. Samuel (in the 3d cent.) bought a golden dish which was offered him as bronze (B. Ḳ. 113b).Stomoma (Latin, from the Greek στόμωμα; in Ber. 62b,
A term meaning sometimes the tempering of iron, sometimes steel itself. The expression is found also in Syriac, Mandæan, and Arabic; the genuine Arabic is "shaburkan" (Löw, in Krauss, l.c. p. 120; according to a passage quoted there, tin was also so tempered. Concerning the method see Blümner, l.c. iv. 343). Jäger, Reichenow, and Frenzel, in "Handbuch der Zoologie," etc. (ii. 510, Breslau, 1880), state that the art of changing iron to steel was practised by the Jews.Sulfate of Iron:
Used for ink; χάλκανθοσ = "vitriol"; often mentioned by the Rabbis (Krauss, l.c. p. 549).Marteka:
Silver-slag (Giṭ. 69b).Manufacture.
For the working of metals the Hebrews had to rely wholly on the Phenicians, as the history of the building of Solomon's Temple indicates. In Saul's time the Hebrews had armorers who were very unpopular with the Philistines (I Sam. xiii. 19, 20); and at the fall of Jerusalem smiths and locksmiths ("ḥaras" and "masger"; II Kings xxiv. 10) are mentioned.
The tools used were: the hammer or ax ("pa'am"; Isa. xli. 7; comp. ἄκμωμ in Sirach [Ecclus.] xxxviii. 33; other tools are mentioned, ib. xxxviii. 13, xlviii. 17; also "maḳḳabah" in Isa. xliv. 12; "paṭṭish," ib. xli. 7; and "halmut" in Judges v. 26); tongs ("melkaḥayim"; Isa. vi. 6); hatchet ("garzen"; Siloam inscription and Deut. xix. 5; this makes the word "barzel" in II Kings vi. 5 mean "tongs," whereas it usually denotes only "iron"); bellows ("mappuaḥ"; Jer. vi. 29; comp. Isa. liv. 6); fining-pot ("maẓref") for silver and a (melting) furnace ("kur") for gold (Prov. xvii. 3), whence the designation "furnace," for Egypt (Deut. iv. 20; comp. Isa. xlviii. 10), is derived. A prophecy of Ezekiel's (Ezek. xxii. 18-22) rests wholly on the technical process of metal-casting.
In Talmudic times there was used the anvil ("saddan" = "block"; Gen. R. x.), the "base" ("taḥtit"; Kelim xvii. 17) for forging, which was beaten upon with a hammer. "To beat with the hammer" ("makah ba-paṭṭish") is a very frequent expression in rabbinical literature. In the opinion of the Rabbis, tongs ("ẓebet")were created directly by God as the final act of creation (Ab. v. 6); compare the tongs ("yattukin" and "parakin" in Kelim xii. 3) used in metal-casting. There were used also the spade ("ḳardos," in Ps. lxxiv. 5, 6; comp. Ab. iv. 5), the shovel ("mara" = μαῤῥον), the ax ("ḥaẓina"), and the hammer ("ḳornos" = κέαρνος). For grinding a peculiar tool was used ("mashḥezet"; Kelim xvii. 17; comp. "yaḥad" in Prov. xxvii. 17). Iron sledges ("masreḳot shel barzel"; Ber. 61b; comp. Giṭ. 57b) are mentioned as instruments of torture.
The passage quoted from Ezekiel (xxii. 18-22) illustrates the manipulation of metals. The ore was gathered and thrown into the furnace, and the fire was blown to melt it ("natak," substantive, "hittuk").Manipulation.
To rid the cast of slag ("sig," "sigim") the metal was refined again in the fire ("ẓaraf," "zaḳaḳ"). To aid the process of melting, a kind of soap ("bar," "barit"= "sal alkali," "potash"; see Luzzatto on Isa. i. 25) was thrown into the furnace. Hence a distinction was made between unrefined silver ("kesef sigim" is probably the term; Ezek. xxii. 18) and refined silver ("kesef mezuḳḳaḳ" in I Chron. xxix. 4, or "ẓaruf" in Ps. xii. 7). After the metal had been purified it was tested ("baḥan"). Smelters and gold-workers in general were called "refiners" ("ẓorefim"; Neh. iii. 32; comp. ib. verse 31); there were also ironsmiths ("ḥarashe barzel"; II Chron. xxiv. 12) and coppersmiths ("ḥarash neḥoshet"; I Kings vii. 14). Copper could be worked in various ways; there were shining copper (yellow bronze?; "neḥoshet muẓhab" in Ezra viii. 27), polished copper ("neḥoshet ḳalal" in Ezek. i. 7; Dan. x. 6), and probably gilded copper also.
Perhaps certain places in Palestine derived their names from the foundries existing therein, e.g., "Zarephat" (I Kings xvii. 9) and "Misrephoth" (Josh. xi. 8, xiii. 6). Malleable metals, such as gold, were made into plates (
Ornaments of gold and silver are frequently mentioned in the Bible (see Costume). The Hebrews had metal mirrors ("mar'ot"; Ex. xxxviii. 8; comp. Blümner, l.c. iv. 265). Several metal articles recorded in the Bible and Mishnah are mentioned together in Kelim xi. 8; e.g., weapons (helmet, lance, νικών, greaves, cuirass), women's ornaments ("golden city," i.e., a kind of crown with an image of Jerusalem), necklaces ("catellæ"), nose-rings, finger-rings with or without seals, metal threads, etc. Besides, there were the sword ("ḥereb," "sayif"), knife, dagger ("pugio"), sickle, scissors, hair-curlers (καλλιγραφή), etc. (Kelim xiii. 1, 2). The mortar ("maktesh"; Prov. xxvii. 22) was usually of copper, probably for sanitary reasons, because copper does not rust; the pestle (Biblical "'eli"; Aramaic, "bukna"), of iron. The iron pestle breaks the copper mortar("asita"; Niddah 36b). Mention should also be made of: the hoe ("mafselet"), the cutting-knife (σμίλη = Hebr. "sakkin," "magrefah"), the metal funnel (πρόχοος = "aparkas"; Kelim xiv., end), and the furnace and hearth of metal (ib. v. 11). From this last arisesthe expression "copper bottom" of the furnace (ib. viii. 3).History.
The wealth of the Patriarchs in gold and silver is often emphasized (Gen. xiii. 2, xxiv. 22). According to a legend, Abraham built himself a high iron tower (Soferim ix.). The Israelites took articles of silver and gold with them out of Egypt (Ex. xi. 2, xii. 35); and the Midrash on this passage (Tan., Bo) states that they melted the idols of the Egyptians into lumps of metal. For the golden calf and for the Tabernacle the precious metal was used in large quantities. Many fabulous stories are told of the wealth of Korah, as also of that of Joseph. David's and Solomon's wealth in gold has already been spoken of. Solomon's throne was especially costly (I Kings x. 18). On the other hand, some of the later Jewish kings were so poor that they often used copper instead of gold. The copper pillars of Solomon's Temple are said to have been taken to Rome; but those taken could have been only from Herod's Temple. Benjamin of Tudela, who saw them in Rome, states that on the day of mourning for Jerusalem they wept and exuded sweat. Moreover, the pillars of the Temple (Herod's) are described as of silver, gold, copper, tin (
The high priest John, i.e., King John Hyrcanus, did away with "the noise of hammering" in Jerusalem (Ma'as. Sh. v. 15; otherwise interpreted in M. Ḳ. 11a). There are halakic regulations as to whether neighbors were required to endure the noise of hammering (see "Paḥad Yiẓḥaḳ," s.v.
In the Middle Ages there were makers of metal implements (Abraham, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," Index, London, 1896). It is interesting to note that Jews took part in the Bristol copper trade (ib.). The Jews engaged extensively in coinage also (See Minters). Strangely enough, the writings on alchemy in the Middle Ages circulated under the name of Moses; the word
Just as on the occasion of the war with Midian the Bible established laws of cleanliness in regard to metals, so later in rabbinical literature metal vessels are discussed in their relation to the Levitical laws of cleanliness. Metal vessels, whether flat or hollow, become unclean (vessels of other materials, if flat, do not become unclean): if they break they become clean; but when mended the earlier uncleanness returns (Kelim xi. 1). Each metal dish which has a particular name may become unclean (ib. 2). If clean iron is united with unclean iron, the larger constituent decides as to purity (ib. 4). All implements of war, all ornaments worn by women may become unclean in so far as they have a hollowed part, thus constituting a vessel (ib. 8). The rule that a firmly fitting cover protects from uncleanness does not apply to ba'aẓ (see above) and lead, because the cover only lies on top, but does not close the vessel hermetically (ib. x. 2). If metalvessels which have become unclean from contact with a corpse receive the purificative sprinkling, then break and are melted together and resprinkled, all on the same day, they, in the opinion of some, become clean (ib. xiv. 7). But these rules become lost in a sea of details, and further information on the subject must be obtained from the codes (Maimonides, "Yad," etc.). See Kelim.Value of Metals.
In the only passage in the Bible in which an almost complete list of the metals is given their order of value is as follows: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and lead (Num. xxx. 22). Generally, however, in the Bible, as also on the Egyptian monuments, silver is named before gold, to which metal it was preferred, owing to the greater difficulty in obtaining it. However, in estimating Solomon's wealth, it is said of silver that "it was nothing accounted of." Consequently, even at that early time gold must have been estimated at its true value (I Kings x. 21).
From the Talmudic description of the lamp (Men. 28b) the following classification of the metals according to their value results, beginning with the most precious: "'eshet" (see above), gold, silver, ba'aẓ (see above), lead, tin (κασσίτερος). The spears of the Hasmonean kings were of iron plated with ba'aẓ (ib.); hence iron stood at the foot of the list, but only in regard to value. In respect to usefulness it stood high among the Jews. Among the Greeks and Romans iron is always ranked above tin and lead (Blümner, l.c. iv. 8). The coinage of Oriental peoples rests on a gold basis; that of the Phenicians and the Greeks on a silver one; that of the Romans on one of copper (ib.). The Bible fixes silver as the medium of exchange (Levy, "Gesch. der Jüdischen Münzen," p. 8); so that in the matter of money, as in other things, the Hebrews were dependent on the Phenicians (comp. Schürer, l.c. ii. 53). A mishnah in this connection is instructive (B. M. iv. 1). It states which metal is to be regarded as a commodity, which as coin. "Silver buys gold (that is, as soon as the buyer has the gold coins—the commodity—in his hands, he must pay for them with silver coins); gold, however, will not buy silver. Silver will buy copper; but not vice versa. Stamped money ("maṭbea'") will buy asimon; but not vice versa."Symbolic Meaning.
Among the figures of speech in the Bible in which metals occur, there is the elaborate symbolism of Dan. ii. and vii., where the kingdoms of the earth are compared to metals. This idea was thoroughly exploited throughout the Middle Ages (see Driver, "Daniel," pp. 94-97, Cambridge, 1900); comp. Ex. R. xxxv. 5: "Gold is Babylon; silver is Media; copper is Greece; iron is not mentioned either at the time of the First or of the Second Temple, since it symbolizes Edom [Rome], which had destroyed the Temple; hence Edom can bring God no present in the Messianic kingdom." Iron is the symbol of war (Mek., Yitro; Tosef., B. Ḳ. vii. 6); the relation between gold and copper altars should be judged accordingly (Midr. Tadshe, xi.). A phallus was made of copper, or of gold (Ezek. xvi. 17; Isa. lvii. 8). According to Philo, who developed at length the symbolism of metals, gold denoted wisdom (σοφία; Philo, "De Leg. Alleg." ed. Mangey, i. 25) or reason (idem, "De Vita Moysis" iii. 4); copper denoted perception (αἴσθησις; ib.). From this Bähr ("Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus," i. 280) tried in vain to prove the existence of an elaborat symbolism of metals among the Hebrews. Maimonides says of the Sabians that they associated a particular metal with each of the planets and made their statues to the latter of the appropriate metal (Chwolson, "Ssabier und Ssabismus," ii. 658 et seq.). In Alchemy "moon" is equivalent to silver; "sun," to gold. In the Midrash iron is the symbol of war (Mek., Yitro, 11; B. Ḳ. vii. 6). The golden altar in the sanctuary symbolized the soul; the copper one, the body (Midr. Tadshe, xi.). "A scholar who is not hard as iron is no scholar" (Ta'an. 7a); R. Sheshet was such a hard scholar (Men. 95b). A scholar appears to an idiot like a golden pitcher; if he has spoken to the idiot once he seems like a silver pitcher; and if he derives benefit from the fool he is only an earthen one (Shab. 52b). The strict ban was called "iron fate" ("gizra de-farzela"; B. Ḳ. 81b).
In sorcery and superstition the metals were important agents. If any one was bitten by a mad dog he was to drink out of a copper tube for twelve months; in a severe case he was to use a golden one (Yoma 84a). Just as imprecations were usually written on leaden tablets in Rome (R. Wünsch, "Sethianische Verfluchungstafeln aus Rom," Leipsic, 1898), so the Jews wrote, and still write, their Amulets preferably on metal tablets. Coins or gold ornaments were put in the shoes or clothing of a bridegroom, with the idea that gold would take away the power of witchcraft (responsum quoted in Glassberg's "Zikron Berit la-Rishonim," p. 149, Berlin, 1892). If copper, iron, tin, lead, or any other kind of metal is thrown into the fire and some of the pretended stone of wisdom is rubbed off into the metal, gold refined seven times will come out of the fire (Johanan Allemanno, in "Kerem Ḥemed," ii. 48; Glassberg, l.c. p. 204). Even to-day Jews give heed to the so-called "tekufah." Water may be kept from becoming poisonous if it comes in contact with iron (S. Landau, in "Aruch," p. 1665; Grünbaum, "Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sprach- und Sagenkunde," pp. 102, 144, Berlin, 1901; "R. E. J." xli. 147). For sorcery with metals see also "Sefer Yuḥasin," ed. London, p. 234a.
In Yemen to-day most people wear iron bands on their arms and feet and claim to feel strengthened thereby. The children wear around their necks a thick band of seven kinds of iron ("Eben Safir," p. 58b, Lyck, 1866). With this should be compared the metal amulets("lamina") representing the serpent of Moses, which a sect of Jews wore early in the common era (Philastrius, "Hæres," § 21). In an apocryphal work ascribed to Cham, prescriptions on copper plates are spoken of (Fabricius, "Codex Apocr. N. T." i. 301). Indeed, Korah is said to have engaged in chemistry (Grünbaum, "Neue Beiträge zur Semitischen Sprach- und Sagenkunde," p. 171).
- De Wette, Lehrbuch der Hebräisch. Jüdischen Archäologie, §§ 105, 106, Leipsic, 1814;
- Rosenmüller, Biblische Alterthumskunde, iv. 1, 58;
- Movers, Phönizier, iii. 1, 27;
- Burton, The Gold Mines of Midian, London, 1878;
- Globus, xxxv. 282;
- Kinzler, Biblische Naturgeschichte, 9th ed.;
- Blümner, Technologie und Terminologie der Gewerbe und Künste bei Griechen und Römern, vol. iv., section 1, Leipsic,1886;
- Bähr, Symbolik des Mosaischen Cultus, i. 258-295, Heidelberg, 1837;
- E. Meyer, Gesch. des Alterthums, i. 226;
- Blau, Das Altjüdische Zauberwesen, p. 157;
- Z. D. P. V. ii. 101.