Perhaps the most fitting passage of scripture to be read in this connection would be the twentieth-eighth chapter of Job where we have a contrast between earth’s most precious metals, and the greatest prize of heaven, wisdom. The chapter touches upon the process of mining, and the miner’s life, mentioning four of the six metals which are named in scripture. These metals are silver, gold, iron and copper (“brass,” A.V.). The other two metals mentioned elsewhere in the Bible are lead and tin. Where the Authorized Version: makes reference to “steel,” the word is properly “copper.” The chapter recommended above is one of the most ancient pieces of literature in the world, and indicates that the art of mining was then well known in the East. Many nations at a considerably later period showed little knowledge about it: This certainly gives the lie to the theory of evolution that the first ages of the world were rude and savage! It would seem that one of the most central thoughts in this part of Holy Writ is that no labor is counted too great to be expended for material things, but that every expenditure for spiritual things is regarded as too much! Briefly, the chapter may be divided as follows: I. The World’s Wealth Painstakingly Sought, 1-11. II. God’s Wisdom the Real Treasure, 12-25. A. The value of it inestimable (12, 13, 1519), B. The place of it secret (12, 14, 20-22), C. Hidden in God (23-28); 1. The will of His decree: a. All events are governed by His providence (24, 25), b. All events are from eternity designed and determined by an infallible foreknowledge and an immutable decree (26, 27). 2. The will of His precepts (28), This implies that man’s greatest blessing lies not in the abundant resources of the earth, nor in the knowledge of the secrets of nature, nor even in a proper and orthodox acquiescence with Divine providence, but in “the fear of the Lord . . .” 

The four basic metals before. mentioned are also mentioned in the very first book of the Bible, which confirms the contention that man was familiar with them, and had the use of them from the beginning of human history. This, by the way . . . The words of themselves, in their etymology throw little light upon the subject at hand, but that little is not without significance, Gold Zahabh, Gen. 2:11, 12) comes from a root meaning “to shine, to glitter, to be yellow.” In this connection, there are five other words translated gold: these Hebrews words, as a good concordance will show, are translated “best gold,” “pure gold,” “refined gold,” “fine gold,” and “ore of gold.” Silver (keseph, Gen. 13:2) means “to be pale.”Brass (nechosheth, Gen. 4:4) is, basically, “to be bright,” and, strictly, the proper translation of the word is copper as in Ezra 8:27, where we read of “fine copper, precious as gold.” This is clear from Deut. 8:9, which speaks of the land with iron, “and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass” (i.e., copper). (Note: copper is a native element, whereas brass is a composition of copper and zinc; bronze being a composition of copper and tin). Iron (barzel, Gen. 4:22) is a symbol of hardness and stubbornness, as in Isa. 45:4, “thou art obstinate (Heb., hard), and thy neck is an iron sinew.” Iron also stands for an unyielding hardness, as in Deut. 25:23, “heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.” Iron also connotes the qualities of boldness (Jer. 1:18), and permanence (Jer. 17:1). Then follow the remaining, and minor metals. Lead(Ophereth, Ex. 15:10) comes from a word meaning “to be whitish, or, light reddish.” From this text it would seem that lead has significance as a symbol of the reprobate, who were made to sink “as lead in the mighty waters” of the Red Sea. Tin (Bedhil, Num. 31:22) is a metallic element found chiefly in combination with inferior metals and waste substances. This text lists all the six metals known to the ancients, “the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead,” as does also Ezek. 27:12, 13, 22, where they are considered as riches, merchandise and means of trade. In Ezek. 22:18, 20, 22, tin and lead are used to picture Israel adjudged as dross consumed by the fire of the smelting furnace. “The house of Israel is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver.” 

Now before we go any further, and become more involved in this line of thought, it is to be noticed that we do not concur with those theologians who find no symbolical meaning in the metals of Scripture. This is clearly indicated from what we have already written. P. Fairbairn is one of those who would rather avoid the subject altogether, although he will admit that in connection with the Tabernacle, brass is the predominant metal in the furniture of the outer court, whereas the sanctuary itself contains silver and gold, which signifies the progressiveness of Divine revelation, as His glory and excellence become increasingly revealed. In contrast to this, the metals mentioned in the image of Dan. 2 reveal a degradation, which proceeds from the “head of gold” (v. 38) to the “iron” of the fourth kingdom. For though there is increase of strength noted, there is also a deterioration in fineness. Therefore, metals in Scripture are involved in the symbols and types. It is time now that we state what we mean by these latter terms. A symbol portrays a spiritual fact, principle or relation in a visible form. It refers to something past or present, as, e.g., the O.T. sacrifice is a symbol of the spiritual truth that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” A type, however, is prospective of a future reality. The serpent of brass lifted up on a pole is a type. 

We must determine what spiritual truth the symbols signified to the Old Testament believers, rather than from the very beginning place upon them the dress and weight of the N.T. realization. For the latter method leads to strange interpretations, such as that the four lepers at Samaria (II Kings 7:1-3) represent the four evangelists. Now the symbol is first and basic. It is basic to the understanding of the type. But it might be objected that if a symbol is a picture of a certain present reality, it would seem that it could not be a prefiguration of a future reality. However, the things symbolized, and the things typified are not essentially different things. They are fundamentally the same things; only the symbols are first in a more primary stage of development, and point up to a spiritual truth. Whereas the types are later, and of a higher development, and so point forward to a further and fuller manifestation of the truth. Thus the symbol presents an already existent edition of the truth; and the type presents the prospect of the final edition of the truth. Not every symbol becomes a type, but every type was first a symbol. Therefore the symbolism must be understood before the typology can be appreciated. This is clearly seen in the instance of the Tabernacle. There symbol and type are practically inseparable. God dwelling with His church is symbolized as fat as the O.T. church is concerned. This same truth is typified as to the final state of the Christian church. 

Care must also be given to determine whether the elaborations of symbolism are intended to teach what some have deduced from them. For there are many minute coincidences which any reader may find, or think he finds, for himself. Always remember that Scripture in any text has one central and basic meaning, and therefore its incidental details by this enlarged and extended method of interpretation would imply that Scripture is actually a latent encyclopedia of religious knowledge. In keeping with this principle, when the Lord states that it is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into ‘the kingdom of heaven, it is plain that it was never His intent to make a comparison between a rich man and a camel, nor to elicit from the thoughtful reader such inquiries as to what the hump(s) or the double stomach signify. For Scripture does not provide material for general analogies, but presents a specific analogy confined to one particular truth. 

Now to return once more to a point we merely touched upon, that of the silver smelting and refining process, which in the Psalms and the Prophets signifies God’s correction of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked. The latter is portrayed in the smelting action, which separates certain lead deposits, like a heavy slag, from the silver ore, as a result of its weight, thus leaving the silver pure. The other metals mentioned in the silver ore,—”brass, and iron, and lead, and tin,”—were regarded as impurities which composed the dross of silver. “As silver is melted . . . so shall ye be melted (in) . . . . My fury . . .” (Ezek. 22:20, 22). This expressing judgment upon the total depravity of the wicked. In this connection, “brass” and iron were regarded as the dross of silver, as is also brought out in another place. “They are brass and iron; they are all corrupters,” corrupting the pure silver by which is meant the preciousness of spiritual wisdom and purity. (“The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace,” Ps. 12:6). These impurities of “brass” and iron, removed in the smelting process, are regarded as “reprobate silver,” and depict the reprobate of the nation, “because the Lord hath rejected them.” (Jer. 6:25-30). The other side of this picture, that of the Lord’s disciplining the righteous, is exemplified in the words, “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver: I have chosen thee in furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). According to the original, the text says, “I refined thee, but not in [in the manner of silver.” There are other texts, to be sure, which speak of God’s people being precious to Him, and as such tried as silver in the fire (cf. Ps. 66:10). But that idea is not in view in this Isaianic passage. Here, the Lord says, I have refined thee, but not in the way in which silver is refined. The point being that silver has some considerable value, even to start with, before the smelting of it in the furnace. But the refining process God has put us to, according to this figure, finds no merit in us,—only dross. Such a refining as for example silver is refined, would reveal a particular good, after the dross is burned away. But Isaiah emphasizes an entirely different idea. We have been refined in the way of the cross, a way which reveals no good in us. Thus, the Lord in effect says, “I have refined thee, but have not found any good in thee,”—indeed, no more than in the reprobate silver! But the implication is, that though God takes us who tire by nature like refuse silver, dross, nothing but dross, and tries that dross by the fire of His discipline, there nevertheless comes forth from that refining the purest gold! That could only be because God puts into the crucible what could not be there by nature, and what is there because of His purpose of election. He has chosen us to that refinement: “I have chosen thee in the furnace.” “From Me is thy fruit found” (Hos. 14:8).

Having dealt with the two baser metals (lead and tin), we continue in the scale to consider one more thought with respect to iron. This is also in Scripture a symbol of strength (“Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend,” (Prov. 27:17), and as such is used of Israel (“I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass,” Mic. 4:13); is used of the power of. the fourth kingdom ofDaniel 2:33-45. So also the “rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9) expresses irresistible might. This idea of hardness and irresistibility is also present in the: metaphorical usage of Lev. 26:19, where the figure is that of a dazzling, burning heat and drought consuming the land. “I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.” (cf. also Deut. 28:23). 

The symbolic meaning of brass taken by itself is first revealed in the Book of Exodus where the directions for the construction of the brazen altar are found. This altar was made of acacia wood and overlaid with brass (Ex. 27:1f), since this metal was the easiest to clean, and was the most resistant to the consuming fire. The brazen altar was a type of Christ upon the cross, offering Himself as our whole burnt offering “without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). The brass plates covering the acacia wood symbolize Christ in His human nature bearing the righteous judgment of God by the power of His divine nature. For the brass adumbrates the manifestation of God’s judgment. Moses signified this judgment of the cross when he “made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole” (Num. 21:9) as a type of Christ lifted up on the cross and made sin for us. For the Son of man had to be lifted up (John 3:14), and that in judgment: “Now is the judgment of this world . . . And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all (Gr.) unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die” (John 12:31-33). There at the brazen altar the sins of the people were judged, as were the defilements of the priests at the brazen laver. For this reason the altar had to be stable, strong and resistant. Brass connotes this idea in Job: “His bones (i.e., behemoth’s) are as strong pieces of brass,” and, “is my flesh of brass?” (Job 40:40, 6:12). Cf.Deut. 33:25a. When Christ Himself, the Sacrifice tin that altar, is described as the Divine Judge, He is revealed with “feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15). The Redeemer Judge Himself is alone able to endure the fire of Divine wrath and judgment! He alone “hath broken the gates of brass” (Ps. 107:16) that we may never be judged for our sins! 

He has borne that eternal judgment of God on the cross for all His elect people. For this reason “judgment must begin at the house of God.” What then “shall the end (the final issue) be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (I Pet. 4:17). Something of this is brought out in the fact that though most of the sockets of the sanctuary were of silver, the sockets for the foundation pillars of the door of the house of God were of brass (Ex. 27:16). There judgment first begins with God’s people. The priest, representing them, could not approach that door without first coming to the brazen altar with the proper sacrifice, and then at the brazen laver (he washed “thereat,” not “therein”, Ex. 30:18ff) Christ, in type, cleansed him. For “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me” (John 13:8). This laver also exemplifies a judgment of self. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (I Cor. 11:31). It had been made of the brass mirrors that belonged to the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle (Ex. 38:8). This in self judgment they saw no beauty in the flesh (Rom. 7:18), and made an abasing of their pride, and in willingly parting with their mirrors gave evidence of a desire for cleansing from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, that there might he truth and beauty on the inward parts. “He will beautify the meek with salvation” (Ps. 149:4). 

Silver was a medium of exchange as early as Abraham (Gen. 23:15f). It was used to purchase, “that we may buy the poor for silver” (Amos 8:6, 2:6). Silver is allied to the idea of redemption. Silver was redemption money (Ex. 30:11-16) used to make the sockets of the sanctuary (Ex. 26:19). The house of God, then, has its foundation in redemption; and as the tabernacle and all its furniture depicts nothing but Christ and His church redeemed and glorified, the resting of its supports upon silver imply the perfect responsibility of Christ to redeem and uphold us in our standing before God. Note: In the N.T., “silver” is used five times in connection with the price of a slave, seven times, in connection with filthy lucre (which has no redeeming power: “thy silver is become dross,” (Isa. 1:22), yet where we might expect it to be mentioned in a good connection, namely among the precious building materials of the New Jerusalem, it Is not “once referred to! Apparently silver cannot convey strongly enough the idea of that incomparable glory! But what can!

Gold signifies the glorious majesty of God. “The Almighty shall be thy (Betser) gold ore” (Job 22:25; same word in v. 24). That same glory is on the church. “The King’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold” (Ps. 45:13, 9). The King Himself is adorned with the blessings of goodness, and crowned with “a crown of pure gold on His head” (Ps. 21:3). His throne is in “the city (of) gold, like unto clear glass” (Rev. 21:18, 21). Unto Him are brought gifts of gold (Ps. 72:15Matt. 2:11), befitting the glory of His person. The golden altar and the golden tenser are types of the Christ of glory making intercession for them whom God had given Him. The table of shewbread, overlaid with pure gold, bore a crown of gold (Ex. 25:23ff), and represents Christ as the bread of life, who is now crowned with glory and honor. (Heb. 2:9). 

The false church has always shown contempt for the glory of God and of His church; witness Nebuchadnezzar removing the golden vessels of the temple. And the false church has always imitated the glory of the true church with a counterfeit glory: “though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold . . . . in vain shalt thou make thyself fair” (Jer. 4:30). The ruling power of the antichristian world makes the same God-dishonoring attempt, being arrayed in purple, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and bearing a golden cup signifying worldly glory, but which God brands as fornication! (Rev. 17:4). This “glory” shall be destroyed. Then shall be heard the cry, “How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed the stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers” (Lam. 4:1, 2). This is another way of saying that the glory has departed! (Cf. Ezek. 27:22, 25Dan. 2:37, 38; and Rev. 18:7, 12, 16, 23). 

But the glory and beauty of the true church shall remain, and continue undimmed, ‘as typified in the golden lamp stand which provided the light in the Holy Place. No natural light was permitted to penetrate this sanctuary; only the light radiating from the seven olive-oil lamps of the golden lamp stand (not ‘candlestick’). This beautiful piece of furniture was a type of Christ mystical, i.e. of Christ as Head together with His body, the church. He is the lamp of the new paradise (Rev. 22:5), “for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 22:23). Our inseparable oneness with Christ is typified by the branches of that lamp stand. The branches were the light bearers (type of the believers), and were one with the main stem of the seven-branched lamp stand. It was all beaten out of the same piece of pure gold. How beautifully this typology is preadjusted to the truth we learn later in Scripture, that we are crucified together with Christ, also raised and seated together with Him on His throne,—glorified with Him. For the church is one with Him in glory, and in the ultimate earthly manifestation of the perfection of divine glory! 

Now, finally, after coming the God-ordained way into the sanctuary, namely thru the brazen altar of the cross; and into the holy place, we reverently and joyfully enter the Holiest of All! There is the Ark of the Covenant. Now we may experience covenant nearness and fellowship with God in complete realization. The Ark is covered with a lid called the mercy seat. Upon this two cherubim faced one another, and were not fastened to the mercy seat, but were of one piece with it, also signifying our oneness with Christ in glory. If you will take the time and care to compare Ezek. 1:5, 10 with Ezek. 10:20 you will see that the living creatures and the cherubim are the same. The Book of the Revelation mentions the four living creatures (Rev. 4:6, R.V.) together with the twenty-four elders (Rev. 5:8-12), the latter wearing “crowns of gold” (Rev. 4:4). Here is all creation represented as glorified, now completely delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8:21, R.V.). In Rev. 4 the twenty-four elders sing a song of creation (v. 11). In the following chapter they sing a song of the New Creation, new creation thru the blood of the Lamb. The whole universe praises the Lamb (Rev. 5:13), saying, “Unto Him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion far ever and ever!” And to this cry of joy unspeakable; all creation responds with “Amen!” This is too much glory for the glorified church. They are too overcome to make any more utterance. They can only fall down and worship. “And (v. 14) the elders fell down and worshipped.” Could we possibly have a different spiritual and emotional reaction! 

R.C.H.