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Steel. [1]


In all cases where the word "steel" occurs in the A.V. the true rendering of the Hebrew is "copper." נְחוּשָׁה , Nechushah, except in  2 Samuel 22:35;  Job 20:24;  Psalms 18:34 [35], is always translated "brass; " as is the case with the cognate word נַחשֶׁת , Nechosheth, with the two exceptions of  Jeremiah 15:12 (A.V. "steel") and  Ezra 8:27 (A.V. "copper"). Whether the ancient Hebrews were acquainted with steel is not perfectly certain. It has been inferred from a passage in Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 15:12) that the "iron from the north" there spoken of denoted a superior kind of metal, hardened in an unusual manner, like the steel obtained from the Chalybes of the Pontus, the ironsmiths of the ancient world. The hardening of iron for cutting instruments was practiced in Pontus, Lydia, and Laconia (Eustath. 2, 2, 294, 6R, quoted in Muller, Hand. d. Arch. u. d. Kunst, § 307, n. 4). Justin (44, 3, 8) mentions two rivers in Spain, the Bilbilis (the Salo, or Xalon, a tributary of the Ebro) and the Chalybs, the water of which was used for hardening iron (comp. Pliny, 34, 41). The same practice is alluded to both by Homer (Od. 9, 393) and Sophocles (Aj. 650). The Celtiberians; according to Diodorus Siculus (5, 33), had a singular custom. They buried sheets of iron in the earth till the weak part, as Diodorus calls it, was consumed by rust, and what was hardest remained. This firmer portion was then converted into weapons of different kinds. The same practice is said by Beckmann (Hist. of Inv. 2, 328, ed. Bohn) to prevail in Japan., The last-mentioned writer is of opinion that of the two methods of making steel, by fusion either from iron stone or raw iron, and by cementation, the ancients were acquainted only with the former. (See Copper). There is, however, a word in Hebrew, פִּלְדָּה , Paldah, which occurs only in  Nahum 2:3 [4], and is there rendered "torches," but which most probably denotes steel or hardened iron, and refers to the flashing scythes of the Assyrian chariots. In Syriac and Arabic the cognate words ( Poldo, Faludh, Fuladh ) signify a kind of iron of excellent quality, and especially steel; (See Metal).

Steel appears to have been known to the Egyptians. The steel weapons in the tomb of Rameses III, says Wilkinson, are painted blue, the bronze red (Anc. Eg. 2, 154). (See Iron).