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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

( Ezra 8:27). But for KJV "brass" the translation elsewhere ought to be copper, ( Nechoshath ,) or where native ore is not meant, probably bronze. Zinc, one ingredient of brass, was then unknown. Used by the ancients for many purposes, for which its ductile nature adapted it. The earliest inhabitants of Europe used flint weapons, now discovered in various places. But Tubal-cain ( Genesis 4:22, from whence probably by corrupted tradition was derived the classic idol, Vulcan, the god of the forge) was "an instructor of every artificer in brass (copper) and iron," 500 years after creation according to Hebrew, or 1,000 according to Septuagint, chronology. The ignorance of large portions of mankind, of iron and copper, subsequently or even at that early date, does not disprove Tubal-cain's and his artificers' acquaintance with them.

Savage nations, or races which have sunk in course of ages into barbarism, first used flint, then copper or bronze (an alloy of tin and copper), then iron; But there is no well-established instance of a savage race gradually civilizing themselves; the civilization has always been introduced from outside. Thus, bronze or copper was probably introduced among savages from more civilized nations. The American Indians at Cape Honduras visited by Columbus had hatchets, etc., of copper, and crucibles for melting it. Seth's race was less distinguished for advancement in arts and luxuries than Cain's race, which was wise in their generation; but the truest civilization is that which develops man's moral and highest nature; in this respect Seth's descendants were far superior, walking in recognition of conscience and of the providence and grace of God.

Many intimations show that the Israelites knew how to dig out and smelt metals ( Deuteronomy 4:20;  Deuteronomy 8:9;  Ezra 22:18). Their mirrors of polished copper ( Exodus 38:8 margin) and "bows of copper" (Hebrew text of  Psalms 18:34) and "helmets," etc. ( 1 Samuel 17:38), show they had some secret of rendering copper harder than ours is. The absence of iron remains does not necessarily prove it was unknown in Egypt, for it and the making of good steel have been known from very ancient times in India. It quickly decomposes, and so would leave no remains of implements. The copper mines worked by the Moschi, whose merchants imported it into Tyre, are mentioned  Ezekiel 27:13.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

While gold was probably the first metal humans used, the oldest tools and utensils recovered by archaeologists in Bible lands are of copper, usually combined with some alloy. The word “copper” appears in the King James Version only in  Ezra 8:27 and in the word “coppersmith” in   2 Timothy 4:14 . On the other hand, the word “brass” appears about 100 times in the King James Version. In most instances the same Hebrew word is translated as “bronze” in the Revised Standard Version. Copper had limited use by itself in Bible times. Combining copper with from two to sixteen percent tin produced bronze that was hard enough to be used for weapons, armor, utensils, and sculpture.

Cyprus was the chief source of copper in the Mediterranean world, but Egypt probably secured some from the Sinai peninsula. Besides the usual promised bounty of Canaan, Deuteronomy said it would include “a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper” ( Deuteronomy 8:9 RSV; Compare Nas, Niv ) The Hebrews mined a limited supply in the Arabah, the region south of the Dead Sea. Palestinian remains of copper mines have been found only in that area, and archaeologists have discovered at the north end of the Gulf of Aqabah the remains of copper mines. The original excavator thought these were built by Solomon for processing both copper and iron, but subsequent research has shown them to be earlier than Solomon.

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for copper may refer to that basic metal or to bronze. If an object described as copper could be shaped by hammering, it was probably made of pure copper. However, if the metal for an object had to be melted and cast into a form, the word meant bronze. Thus, the fixtures and furnishings of the tabernacle were of bronze ( Exodus 26:11-39:39 ). So also were the two huge pillars, the mammoth tank, and other major features for the Temple designed by Hiram of Tyre for Solomon ( 1 Kings 7:14-47 ). Also before the days of iron, bronze was the best metal for weapons and armor, as shown in the equipment of Goliath ( 1 Samuel 17:5-6 ). While not considered a precious metal, bronze was a significant prize of conquest ( 2 Kings 25:13-15 ).

William J. Fallis

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

נהשה . Anciently, copper was employed for all the purposes for which we now use iron. Arms, and tools for husbandry and the mechanic arts, were all of this metal for many ages. Job speaks of bows of copper,  Job 20:24; and when the Philistines had Samson in their power, they bound him with fetters of copper. Our translators, indeed say "brass;" but under that article their mistake is pointed out. In  Ezra 8:27 , are mentioned "two vessels of copper, precious as gold." The Septuagint renders it σκευη χαλκου στιλβοντος; the Vulgate and Castellio, following the Arabic, "vasa aeris fulgentis;" and the Syriac, "vases of Corinthian brass." It is more probable, however, that this brass was not from Corinth, but a metal from Persia or India, which Aristotle describes in these terms: "It is said that there is in India a brass so shining, so pure, so free from tarnish, that its colour differs nothing from that of gold. It is even said that among the vessels of Darius there were some respecting which the sense of smelling might determine whether they were gold or brass." Bochart is of opinion that this is the

chasmal of   Ezekiel 1:27 , the χαλκολιβανον of  Revelation 1:15 , and the electrum of the ancients.

Mr. Harmer quotes from the manuscript notes of Sir John Chardin a reference to a mixed metal in the east, and highly esteemed there; and suggests that this composition might have been as old as the time of Ezra, and be brought from those more remote countries into Persia, where these two basins were given to be conveyed to Jerusalem.  Ezekiel 27:13 , speaks of the merchants of Javan, Jubal, and Meshech, as bringing vessels of nehesh (copper) to the markets of Tyre. According to Bochart and Michaelis, these were people situated toward Mount Caucasus, where copper mines are worked at this day. See Brass .

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [4]

Nechôsheth ( נְחשֶׁת , Strong'S #5178), “copper; bronze; bronze chains.” Cognates of this word appear in Phoenician, Aramaic, Arabic, and Ethiopic. It is attested about 136 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods.

Nechôsheth basically means “copper.” This word refers to the metal ore: “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 [copper]” (Deut. 8:9). The word can also represent the refined ore: “And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in copper [KJV, “brass”; NASB, “bronze”] and iron” (Gen. 4:22).

Inasmuch as it was a semiprecious metal, nechôsheth is sometimes listed as a spoil of war (2 Sam. 8:8). In such passages, it is difficult to know whether the reference is to copper or to copper mixed with tin (i.e., bronze). Certainly, “bronze” is intended in 1 Sam. 17:5, where nechôsheth refers to the material from which armor is made. Bronze is the material from which utensils (Lev. 6:21), altars (Exod. 38:30), and other objects were fashioned. This material could be polished (1 Kings 7:45) or shined (Ezra 8:27). This metal was less valuable than gold and more valuable than wood (Isa. 60:17).

Still another meaning of nechôsheth appears in Judg. 16:21: “But the Philistines took [Samson], and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of [bronze]; and he did grind in the prison house.” Usually, when the word has this meaning it appears in the dual form (in the singular form only in Lam. 3:7).

Deut. 28:23 uses nechôsheth to symbolize the cessation of life-giving rain and sunshine: “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be [bronze], and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.”

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

 Ezra 8:27 2 Samuel 22:35 Jeremiah 15:12 Job 20:24 Psalm 18:34 Ezra 8:27  1 Kings 7:45 Daniel 10:6

Tubal-cain was the first artificer in brass and iron ( Genesis 4:22 ). Hiram was noted as a worker in brass ( 1 Kings 7:14 ). Copper abounded in Palestine ( Deuteronomy 8:9;  Isaiah 60:17;  1 Chronicles 22:3,14 ). All sorts of vessels in the tabernacle and the temple were made of it ( Leviticus 6:28;  Numbers 16:39;  2 Chronicles 4:16;  Ezra 8:27 ); also weapons of war ( 1 Samuel 17:5,6,38;  2 Samuel 21:16 ). Iron is mentioned only four times ( Genesis 4:22;  Leviticus 26:19;  Numbers 31:22;  35:16 ) in the first four books of Moses, while copper (rendered "brass") is mentioned forty times. (See Brass .)

We find mention of Alexander (q.v.), a "coppersmith" of Ephesus (  2 Timothy 4:14 ).

King James Dictionary [6]

COPPER, n. L., G., supposed to be so called from Cyprus, an isle in the Mediterranean. This opinion is probable, as the Greeks called it Cyprian brass, brass of Cyprus. In this case copper was originally an adjective. A metal, of a pale red color, tinged with yellow. Next to gold, silver and platina, it is the most ductile and malleable of the metals, and it is more elastic than any metal, except steel, and the most sonorous of all the metals. It is found native in lamins or fibers, in a gangue almost always quartzous it is also found crystalized, and in grains or superficial lamins on stones or iron. It is not altered by water, but is tarnished by exposure to the air, and is at last covered with a green carbonated oxyd. Copper in sheets is much used for covering the bottoms of ships, for boilers and other utensils mixed with tin and zink, it is used in enamel-painting, dyeing, &c. : mixed with tin, it forms bell-metal with a smaller proportion, bronze and with zink, it forms brass, pinchbeck, &c. When taken into the body ti operates as a violent emetic, and all its preparations are violent poisons.

COPPER, a. Consisting of copper.


1. A vessel made of copper, particularly a large boiler.

2Formerly, a small copper coin.

My friend filled my pocket with coppers.

COPPER, To cover or sheathe with sheets of copper as, to copper a ship.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

One of the primitive metals, and the most ductile and malleable after gold and silver. Of this metal and zinc is made brass, which is a modern invention. There is little doubt but that copper is intended in those passages of our translation on the Bible which speak of brass. Copper was known prior to the flood, and was wrought by Tubal-cain,  Genesis 4:22 . Hiram of Tyre was a celebrated worker in copper,  1 Kings 7:14 . Palestine abounded in it,  Deuteronomy 8:9 , and David amassed great quantities to be employed in building the temple,  1 Chronicles 22:3-14 . In  Ezra 8:27 , two vessels are mentioned "of fine copper, precious as gold." This was probably a metal compounded of copper, with gold or silver, or both. It was extolled for its beauty, solidity, and rarity, and for some uses was referred to gold itself. Some compound of this kind may have been used for the small mirrors mentioned in  Exodus 38:8   Job 37:18 . See Brass .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [8]

Copper. Hebrew, nechosheth , in the Authorized Version, always rendered "Brass", except in  Ezra 8:27 and  Jeremiah 15:12. It was, almost exclusively, used by the ancients for common purposes, and for every kind of instrument, such as chains, pillars, lavers and the other Temple vessels. We read also of copper mirrors,  Exodus 38:8, and even of copper arms, as helmets, spears, etc.  1 Samuel 17:5-6;  1 Samuel 17:38;  2 Samuel 21:16.

Webster's Dictionary [9]

(1): (n.) A vessel, especially a large boiler, made of copper.

(2): (n.) A coin made of copper; a penny, cent, or other minor coin of copper.

(3): (n.) A common metal of a reddish color, both ductile and malleable, and very tenacious. It is one of the best conductors of heat and electricity. Symbol Cu. Atomic weight 63.3. It is one of the most useful metals in itself, and also in its alloys, brass and bronze.

(4): (v. t.) To cover or coat with copper; to sheathe with sheets of copper; as, to copper a ship.

(5): (n.) the boilers in the galley for cooking; as, a ship's coppers.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [10]

COPPER . See Brass, and Mining and Metals.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [11]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

( נְחשֶׁת , necho'sheth [whence also properly as an adjective, נָחוּשׁ , nachush', brazen, fem. נְחוּשָׁה , nechushah']; Greek Χαλκός ) occurs in the common translation of the Bible only in  Ezra 8:27 ("two vessels of copper, precious as gold," i.e. probably of a purer kind or more finely wrought than ordinary), being elsewhere incorrectly rendered "brass," and occasionally even "steel" ( 2 Samuel 22:35;  Jeremiah 15:12), i.e. hardened so as to take a temper like iron). "The expression bow of steel' ( Job 20:24;  Psalms 18:34) should therefore be rendered bow of copper,' since the term for steel is פִּלְדָּה , or בִּרְזֶל מַצָּפוֹן (northern iron). The ancients could hardly have applied copper to these purposes without possessing some judicious system of alloys, or perhaps some forgotten secret for rendering the metal harder and more elastic than we can make it. It has been maintained that the cutting-tools of the Egyptians, with which they worked the granite and porphyry of their monuments, were made of bronze, in which copper was a chief ingredient. The arguments on this point are found in Wilkinson (Anc. Eg. 3. 249, etc.), but they are not conclusive. There seems to be no reason why the art of making iron and excellent steel, which has for ages been practiced in India, may not have been equally known to the Egyptians. The quickness with which iron decomposes will fully account for the non-discovery of any remains of steel or iron implements. For analyses of the bronze tools and articles found in Egypt and Assyria, see Napier (Ancient Workers in Metal, p. 88). This metal is usually found as pyrites (sulphuret of copper and ironr), malachite (carb. of copper), or in the state of oxide, and occasionally in a native state, principally in the New World. It was almost exclusively used by the ancients for common purposes, for which its elastic and ductile nature rendered it practically available (see Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Acs). It is a question whether in the earliest times iron was known. In India, however, its manufacture has been practiced from a very ancient date by a process exceedingly simple, and possibly a similar one was employed by the ancient Egyptians (Napier, ut sup. p. 137).

There is no certain mention of iron in the Scriptures; and, from the allusion to it as known to Tubal-Cain ( Genesis 4:22), some have ventured to doubt whether in that place בִּרְזֶל means iron (Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 3, 242). The vessels of fine copper,' mentioned in  Ezra 8:27 (comp.  1 Esdras 8:57, vases of Corinthian brass'), were perhaps similar to those of bright brass' in  1 Kings 7:45;  Daniel 10:6. They may have been of orichalcum, like the Persian or Indian vases found among the treasures of Darius (Aristot. De Mirab. Auscult.). There were two kinds of this metal, one natural (Serv. ad AEn. 12:87), which Pliny ( H. Nat . 34. 2, 2) says had long been extinct in his time, but which Chardin alludes to as found in Sumatra under the name calmbac; the other artificial (identified by some with' electrium, Ἤλεκτρον , whence the mistaken spelling Auzichalcum ), which Bochart ( Hieroz . 6, ch. 16, p. 871 sq.) considers to be the Hebrew חִשְׁמָל , Chashmal' , a word compounded (he says) of נְחָשׁ (copper), and Chald. מְלָלָא (? gold,  Ezekiel 1:4;  Ezekiel 1:27;  Ezekiel 8:2). On this substance, see Pausan. 5- 12; Plin. 33:4, § 23. Gesenius considers the Χαλκολίβανον , of  Revelation 1:15, to be Χαλκὸς Λιπαρός῟ חִשְׁמָל ; he differs from Boehart,' and argues that it means merely smooth or polished; brass." (See Amber). "Many of the ancient copper alloys had to stand working by the hammer; and their working was such, either for toughness or hardness, that we cannot at the present-day make anything like it" (Napier, ut sup., p. 54). The Mexicans and Peruvians, when first visited by the Spaniards, were in possession of tempered implements of copper, and had the means of smelting, refining, and forging this metal. They were also able to harden it by alloying. "The metal used for this latter purpose was tin; and the various Peruvian articles subjected to analysis are found to contain from three to six per cent. of that metal" (Silliman's Journal, 2:51). (See Metal).

Tubal-Cain is recorded as the first artificer in brass and iron ( Genesis 4:22). In the time of Solomon, Hiram of Tyre was celebrated as a worker in brass ( 1 Kings 7:14; comp.  2 Chronicles 2:14). To judge from Hesiod (Op. et Dies, 134) and Lucret. (v. 1285), the art of working in copper was even prior to that in iron, probably from its being found in larger masses, and from its requiring less labor in the process of manufacture. Palestine abounded in copper ( Deuteronomy 8:9), the mines being apparently worked by the Israelites ( Isaiah 51:1); and David left behind him an immense quantity of it to be employed in building the Temple ( 1 Chronicles 22:3-14). Of copper were made all sorts of vessels in the tabernacle and temple ( Leviticus 6:28;  Numbers 16:39;  2 Chronicles 4:16;  Ezra 8:27), weapons, and more especially helmets, armor, shields, spears ( 1 Samuel 17:5-6;  1 Samuel 17:38;  2 Samuel 21:16), and bows ( 2 Samuel 22:35), also chains ( Judges 16:21), and even mirrors ( Exodus 38:8;  Job 37:18). The larger vessels were moulded in foundries, such as lavers, the great one being called "the copper sea" ( 2 Kings 25:13;  1 Chronicles 18:8); also the pillars for architectural ornaments (1 Kings 7). It would, however, appear ( 1 Kings 7:14). that the art of copperfounding was, even in the time of Solomon, but little known among the Jews, and was peculiar to foreigners, particularly the Phoenicians, who seem to have imported the material and even wrought articles from a distant quarter ( Ezekiel 27:13), probably' from the Moschi, etc., who worked the copper mines in the neighborhood of Mount Caucasus. Michaelis (Mos. Recht, 4:217, 314) observes that Moses seems to have given to copper vessels the preference over earthen ( Leviticus 6:28), and on that ground endeavors to remove the common prejudice against their use for culinary purposes. From copper, also, money was coined ( Ezekiel 16:36;  Matthew 10:9). (See Brass).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

kop´ẽr ( נחשׁת , neḥōsheth ): The word is translated "copper" in only one passage ( Ezra 8:27 the King James Version). In the American Standard Revised Version of this passage, "brass" has been substituted. Neither describes the actual alloy according to present definitions so well as the word "bronze." Copper was one of the earliest metals to be known and utilized in alloy, but copper, as a single metal, was probably little used. The remains of spears, balances, arms, vases, mirrors, statues, cooking utensils, implements of all kinds, etc., from Bible times are principally of an alloy of copper hardened with tin known today as bronze (see Brass ). In such passages as  Deuteronomy 8:9 , where reference is made to the native metal or ores, "copper" should be substituted for "brass" as in the American Standard Revised Version (compare  Job 40:18 ). This is true also of coins as χαλκός , chalkós , in  Matthew 10:9 .

Our modern English word "copper" is derived from an old name pertaining to the island of Cyprus. Copper was known to the ancients as Cyprian brass, probably because that island was one of the chief sources for this metal. The Sinai peninsula and the mountains of northern Syria also contributed to the ancient world's supply (see Tell el-Amarna Letters ). No evidences of copper ore in any quantity are found in Palestine proper. See Metal; Mine .


Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

Tubal-cain is recorded as the first artificer in brass and iron . In the time of Solomon, Hiram of Tyre was celebrated as a worker in brass (; comp. ). To judge from Hesiod and Lucretius, the art of working in copper was even prior to that in iron, probably from its being found in larger masses, and from its requiring less labor in the process of manufacture. Palestine abounded in copper , and David left behind him an immense quantity of it to be employed in building the Temple . Of copper were made all sorts of vessels in the Tabernacle and Temple , weapons, and more especially helmets, armor, shields, spears (;; ), also chains , and mirrors . The larger vessels were molded in foundries, as also the pillars for architectural ornaments (1 Kings 7). It would however appear that the art of copper-founding was, even in the time of Solomon, but little known among the Jews, and was peculiar to foreigners, particularly the Phoenicians. Michaelis observes, that Moses seems to have given to copper vessels the preference over earthen, and on that ground endeavors to remove the common prejudice against their use for culinary purposes. From copper, also, money was coined .