bronze and brass in the Bible
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.
Bronze was used for…
- shackles/fetters (Judges 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7)
- pieces of armor (1 Samuel 17:5-6)
- money (1 Samuel 17:5-6)
- musical instruments (1 Chronicles 15:19)
It is 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). The “mountains of bronze” Zechariah speaks of (Zec. 6:1) have been supposed to represent the immutable decrees of God.
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 caused it to be at length destroyed because it began to be viewed by the people with superstitious reverence (2 Kings 18:4). (See NEHUSHTAN.)