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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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The invention of the art of working in brass and iron is ascribed to Tubal-cain (Genesis 4:22), 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 (1 Samuel 17:5 et seq.; 2 Samuel 22:35).

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 (Numbers 31:22, 35:16; Deuteronomy 3:11, 19:5; Joshua 22:8), 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 1 Samuel 17:7 and 2 Kings 6:5; 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 2 Samuel 12:31, in which "ḥariẓe ha-barzel" are mentioned. In Amos "ḥaruẓot ha- barzel," used by the Arameans, are spoken of. It may be inferred from 2 Samuel 12:31 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 (Deuteronomy 19:5; 2 Kings 6:5); sickles, knives, swords, and spears (1 Samuel 17:7); bolts, chains, and fetters (Psalms 105:18; 107:10,16; Isaiah 45:2); nails, hooks, and hilts (Jeremiah 17:1; Job 19:24). It was also used in making plows, thrashing-carts, and thrashing-boards (Amos 1:3; 1 Samuel 13:20; 2 Samuel 12:31), 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; Deuteronomy 4:20); those who are sunk in misery are described as "asire 'oni u-barzel" (bound in affliction and iron; Psalms 107:10). A tyrannical ruler is characterized as "shebeṭ barzel" (Psalms 2:9), or "'ol barzel" (Deuteronomy 28:48); an unbending neck is "gid barzel" (Isaiah 48:4). The teeth of the fourth great beast which Daniel saw in his vision are of iron (Daniel 7:7; comp. II Macc. 11:19; Ecclus. [Sirach] 22:15).

E. G. H.
W. N.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Iron'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​i/iron.html. 1901.
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