The invention of the art of working in brass and iron is ascribed to Tubal-cain (Gen. iv. 22), and thus placed in prehistoric times. The Israelites, therefore, derived their knowledge of the art from others. Further proof of this fact is furnished by the undoubtedly trustworthy report that Solomon brought Hiram, an artificer, from Tyre to make the brazen implements used in the Temple; from this it is apparent that at that time the Jews had not acquired the art. Indeed, as industrial pursuits in general among the Jews arose only after the time of Solomon, it may be assumed that the same was the case with the art of working in brass and iron. Outside of the cities the peasant continued for a long time to make (as he still makes at the present day, in some places) his own clothes and his own simple tools, and to be his own carpenter. As soon, however, as the Israelites began to settle in larger towns, and especially as the Canaanitish cities were opened to them, a division of labor took place; then, for the first time, such occupations as working in brass and iron began to develop among them. Without doubt the use of brass preceded that of iron: the kitchen utensils were of brass ("neḥoshet"), as also were parts of the armor—helmet, shield, cuirass, greaves, bow, and, perhaps, sword (I Sam. xvii. 5 et seq.; II Sam. xxii. 35).Period of Introduction.
Iron does not seem to have taken the place of brass until a rather late date. Although the art of working in iron is mentioned in the Hexateuch (Num. xxxi. 22, xxxv. 16; Deut. iii. 11, xix. 5; Josh. xxii. 8), these are generally considered comparatively late passages, and would therefore only indicate something for the time in which they were written, but nothing for the period to which they refer. The same is claimed for I Sam. xvii. 7 and II Kings vi. 5; these passages are said to belong to a considerably later period. The oldest passage from this point of view which presupposes the use of iron is II Sam. xii. 31, in which "ḥariẓe ha-barzel" are mentioned. In Amos "ḥaruẓot ha- barzel," used by the Arameans, are spoken of. It may be inferred from II Sam. xii. 31 that the Israelites of that time were also familiar with the metal.
Iron was used in a great many ways: for manufacturing axes and hatchets (Deut. xix. 5; II Kings vi. 5); sickles, knives, swords, and spears (I Sam. xvii. 7); bolts, chains, and fetters (Ps. cv. 18; cvii. 10, 16; Isa. xlv. 2); nails, hooks, and hilts (Jer. xvii. 1; Job xix. 24). It was also used in making plows, thrashing-carts, and thrashing-boards (Amos i. 3; I Sam. xiii. 20; II Sam. xii. 31), as well as for sheathing war-chariots. The Israelites found such "iron chariots" already in use among the Canaanites, and were compelled to avoid encountering the enemy in the open plain, where the latter could use their chariots.
Iron lends itself readily to figurative usage. Thus Egypt is called "kur ha-barzel" (the iron furnace; Deut. iv. 20); those who are sunk in misery are described as "asire 'oni u-barzel" (bound in affliction and iron; Ps. cvii. 10). A tyrannical ruler is characterized as "shebeṭ barzel" (Ps. ii. 9), or "'ol barzel" (Deut. xxviii. 48); an unbending neck is "gid barzel" (Isa. xlviii. 4). The teeth of the fourth great beast which Daniel saw in his vision are of iron (Dan. vii. 7; comp. II Macc. xi. 19; Ecclus. [Sirach] xxii. 15).