Ancient Brass or Bronze

Deut 8:7-9 "For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass."

"and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass."

Brass or Bronze

In the Bible bronze is the Hebrew word "nechoshet" and the Greek word "chalchos." During Bible times bronze was an alloy of copper and tin and was used to an enormous extent. Bronze is derived from the Italian "bronzo", and was introduced into the English language during the 18th century to distinguish it from brass, copper, and other metals.

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 translated bronze, since the alloy used was copper and tin (Ex 27:4). In some Scriptures copper is meant (Deut 8:9).

In ancient Israel there was no such metal known as brass. The one Hebrew word for copper and bronze was rendered brass by the King James translators because at that time the word bronze had not yet been introduced into the English language. Brass is an alloy of copper and tin. It is a word of old English origin and cannot be found in any other language. It appears in the English Bible, referring to either pure copper or to an alloy of copper and tin.

Ancient Palestine was not in the habit of producing metals, but rather obtained them from the surrounding lands. They obtained copper from the Edomites who were located in the South, and they obtained tin from the Phoenicians, who got it from Tarshish, apparently Spain. Bronze, being an artificial alloy, was known in Egypt in at least 1600 BC. It was probably known in Europe still earlier (2000 BC).

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, and their tin from the Balkan regions or from Spain or the British Isles.

There has been a great interest recently among scholars as to the source of the tin which was used so frequently in the manufacturing of the ancient bronzes, mainly because tin occurs in only a few localities. The bronze articles that were manufactured in the Punic (Phoenician) cities and colonies were exported all over the world in exchange for the products of every region, to enhance the wealth of Tyre and Carthage. There have been numerous discoveries of ancient copper works throughout the ancient world. The zinc mines at Laurium, in Greece, were extensively worked in ancient times.

In Deut. 8:9 Moses describing the Promised Land said:

"it is a Land whom stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass."

Also Job tells a parable saying:

"surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold with a fine it, iron is taken out of the earth and brass is molten out of the stone" (Job 28:1-2).

The Bible also records in Ezra 8:27 that when Ezra journeyed from Babylon to Jerusalem to repair the city he brought with him:

"two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold."

When the Children of Israel came into the promised land, they found the Canaanites already skilled in the making and use of bronze instruments. The ancient Israelites used copper in many different ways, Among the most common were: weapons, knives, nails, lamps, hand mirrors, locks, works of art, and sacred vessels and later stamped coins. There was a vast amount of copper used in the construction of Solomon's temple.

The Tabernacle of Moses

When the children of Israel were asked to give in the building of the Tabernacle (the temporary tent that Yahweh would dwell in) they gave from what they had received from the spoils given them by the Egyptians, and they had given so much that they were commanded to stop giving. Out of the abundance of what they gave was Bronze. A total of 6,700 lbs. of bronze was given. The main use for bronze was in the tabernacle furniture within the outer court, in the places where exceptional strength and heat resistance was important. Bronze has a melting point of 1,985 degrees. Since the altar was a place where intense heat was present it was overlaid with bronze.

Ex 27:1-2 You shall make an altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide--the altar shall be square--and its height shall be three cubits. You shall make its horns on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay it with bronze. NKJV


"Bronze," naturally, is used in Scripture as the symbol of what is firm, stubborn, strong and enduring, thus we see "gates of bronze" (Ps 107:16), "hoofs of bronze" (Mic 4:13), etc. Is is mentioned in reference to people and cities.

But Bronze also represents judgement. In showing His anger over a certain city the Lord would say that the "heavens have turned bronze." When Moses raised the bronze serpent it spoke of the power of the serpent being judged through the raising of the Son of God:

Num 21:9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Bronze typifies the divine character of Christ who took upon Himself the fire of God's wrath, holiness and justice by becoming a sin offering.

2 Cor 5:21 "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Matt 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

Modern Bronze

Today in metallurgy, bronze is an alloy of copper, tin, zinc, phosphorus, and sometimes small amounts of other elements. Bronzes are harder than brasses. Most are produced by melting the copper and adding the desired amounts of tin, zinc, and other substances.

Modern Brass

In modern metallurgy brass is an alloy having copper (55%-90%) and zinc (10%-45%) as its essential components. The properties of brass vary with the proportion of copper and zinc and with the addition of small amounts of other elements, such as aluminum, lead, tin, or nickel.

Bibliography on Ancient Customs

The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008