which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was not known till the thirteenth century. What is designated by this word in Scripture is properly copper (Deut. 8:9). It was used for fetters (Judg. 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7), for pieces of armour (1 Sam. 17:5, 6), for musical instruments (1 Chr. 15:19; 1 Cor. 13:1), and for money (Matt. 10:9).
It is a symbol of insensibility and obstinacy in sin (Isa. 48:4; Jer. 6:28; Ezek. 22:18), and of strength (Ps. 107:16; Micah 4:13).
The Macedonian empire is described as a kingdom of brass (Dan. 2:39). The "mountains of brass" Zechariah (6:1) speaks of have been supposed to represent the immutable decrees of God.
The serpent of brass was made by Moses at the command of God (Num. 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. It was afterwards carried by the Jews into Canaan, and preserved by them till the time of 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.)
The brazen serpent is alluded to by our Lord in John 3:14, 15. (See SERPENT.)
The word nechosheth
is improperly translated by "brass." In most places of the Old Testament the correct translation would be copper, although it may sometimes possibly mean bronze a compound of copper and tin. Indeed a simple metal was obviously intended, as we see from (8:9
; Job 28) Copper was known at a very early period. (Genesis 4:22
BRASS; BRAZEN [ISBE]
- bras (nechosheth): The use of the word brass has always been more or less indefinite in its application. At the present time the term brass is applied to an alloy of copper and zinc or of copper, zinc and tin. The word translated "brass" in the King James Version would be more correctly rendered bronze, since the alloy used was copper and tin (Ex 27:4
). In some passages however copper is meant (Dt 8:9
), as bronze is an artificial product. This alloy was known in Egypt in at least 1600 BC. It was probably known in Europe still earlier (2000 BC), which helps to answer the question as to the source of the tin. Bronze was probably of European origin and was carried to Egypt. At a later period the Egyptians made the alloy themselves, bringing their copper from Sinai, Cyprus or northern Syria (see COPPER), and their tin from the Balkan regions or from Spain or the British Isles (see TIN). When the Children of Israel came into the promised land, they found the Canaanites already skilled in the making and use of bronze instruments. This period marked the transition from the bronze age to the iron age in Palestine Museums possessing antiquities from Bible lands have among their collections many and varied bronze objects. Among the most common are nails, lamps, hand mirrors, locks, cutting instruments, etc. Within comparatively recent times brass, meaning an alloy of copper and zinc, has been introduced into Syria. The alloy is made by the native workmen (see CRAFTS). Sheet brass is now being extensively imported for the making of bowls, vases, etc. Bronze is practically unknown in the modern native articles
Figurative: "Brass," naturally, is used in Scripture as the symbol of what is firm, strong, lasting; hence, "gates of brass" (Ps 107:16), "hoofs of brass" (Mic 4:13), "walls of brass" (Jeremiah is made as a "brazen wall," 1:18; 15:20), "mountains of brass" (Dan 2:35, the Macedonian empire; the arms of ancient times were mostly of bronze). It becomes a symbol, therefore, of hardness, obstinacy, insensibility, in sin, as "brow of brass" (Isa 48:4); "they are brass and iron" (Jer 6:28, of the wicked); "all of them are brass" (Ezek 22:18, of Israel).
James A. Patch