About…
bronze and brass in the Bible

Bronze swords dating to the 17th century BC. Photo by Dbachmann. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.
Bronze swords dating to the 17th century B.C. Photo by Dbachmann. License: CC BY-SA 3.0.

What is it?

Brass metal is a copper alloy containing zinc. It has been known to man from very ancient times, long before zinc itself was discovered. It was produced smelting copper ore that contained zinc or by melting copper together with calamite (calamine), a zinc ore. During this process, the zinc is extracted from the calamite and instantly mixes with the copper. Pure zinc, on the other hand, is too reactive to be produced by ancient metalworking techniques.

Bronze is also a copper alloy—a combination of copper with zinc and/or tin and sometimes with the addition of other metals and sometimes non-metals or metalloids.

Brass is typically a muted yellow color (somewhat similar to gold, but duller—the tone depending on the percentage of zinc), and bronze is a darker reddish brown color, somewhat golden. Brass is more malleable, and bronze harder, but more brittle (but less so than cast iron).

There are numerous references to bronze in the Bible.

A pre-Flood man named Tubal-cain is the first known person who forged bronze, as reported by the book of Genesis.

Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron… —Genesis 4:22 excerpt

Bronze was used for…

Bronze craftsmen

The craftsman Bezalel worked for Moses as a highly skilled artist with bronze.

And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

“See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in discernment, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, in order for him to work in all kinds of craftsmanship. And behold, I Myself have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and in the hearts of all who are wise at heart I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded you: —Exodus 31:1-6

The Books of the Kings and Books of Chronicles record that Solomon’s temple used an enormous amount of bronze which the Chaldeans later took to Babylon.

Thus Solomon made all these utensils in great quantities, for the weight of the bronze could not be found out. —2 Chronicles 4:18

Now behold, with great pains I have prepared for the house of Yahweh 100,000 talents of gold and 1,000,000 talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weight, for they are in great quantity; also timber and stone I have prepared, and you may add to them. —1 Chronicles 22:14

The two pillars, the one sea, and the stands which Solomon had made for the house of Yahwehthe bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. —2 Kings 25:16 (also see Jeremiah 52:20)

Symbolism

Bronze was a symbol of insensibility and obstinacy in sin (“forehead bronze” —Isaiah 48:4; Jeremiah 6:28; Ezek. 22:18), and of strength (“gates of bronze” —Psalm 107:16; “your hoofs I will make bronze, that you may pulverize many people” —Micah 4:13).

The Macedonian empire is described as a kingdom of bronze (Dan. 2:39).

Its bones are tubes of bronze; its limbs are like bars of iron. —Job 40:18

The “mountains of bronze” Zechariah speaks of apparently represent the immutable decrees of God.

Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains. —Zec. 6:1

Various other Scripture uses bronze as a symbol of strength.

Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh bronze? —Job 6:12

Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so your fortitude will be. —Deuteronomy 33:25

And the heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron. —Deuteronomy 28:23

Bronze serpent

Moses held up a bronze snake on a pole Numbers 21. The serpent was made by Moses at the command of God (Numbers 21:4-9), and elevated on a pole, so that it might be seen by all the people when wounded by the bite of the serpents that were sent to them as a punishment for their murmurings against God and against Moses. The brazen serpent is alluded to by our Lord in John 3:14-15.

It was afterwards carried by the Hebrews into Canaan, and preserved by them till the time of King Hezekiah, who destroyed it because it began to be viewed by the people with superstitious reverence.

He took away the high places and shattered the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel were burning incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. —2 Kings 18:4

See: NEHUSHTAN

Bronze Age

Early Bronze Age was pre-Abraham (3150-2200 BC)

Middle Bronze Age coincides with the post-Flood Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, fathers of Israel’s tribes) (2200-1550 BC)

Late Bronze Age occured during Egypt and the Exodus period (1550-1200 BC).

Iron Age coincides with the kings of Israel period (1200-586 BC)

More information

Article Version: July 6, 2024