COPPER, BRASS, BRONZE
Copper (Heb., nechoʹsheth; Gr., khal·kosʹ) was a soft metal, easily beaten and shaped into many forms. There is no evidence that the ancients had a secret method for hardening pure copper by tempering, but they knew how to harden the cutting edge of tools simply by cold hammering. When alloyed with other metals, hardness is greatly increased. One such alloy is bronze, copper containing tin (ancient findings having from 2 to 18 percent tin). Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, was used by the ancients, though it was produced by methods different from those now in use. As used in the King James Version, “brass” in its older definition can include any alloy of copper.
The Hebrew word chash·man·nimʹ, translated “bronzeware things” (NW) and “bronze” (RS), is found only once in the Bible. (Ps 68:31) This Hebrew word is of uncertain meaning and has been variously rendered as “ambassadors” (JB, La), “envoys” (NIV), “nobles” (vs 32, JP), “princes” (AS, KJ), and “tribute” (NE).
Copper in the free state was not plentiful; metal-bearing ores consisting of oxides, carbonates, or sulfides had to be smelted to release the metallic copper. Copper mines have been located in the Wadi Arabah, that arid part of the Rift Valley that extends S from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of ʽAqaba at the eastern head of the Red Sea. (Job 28:2-4) The mountains of the Promised Land contained copper. (De 8:9) Solomon made castings of copper items near Succoth. (1Ki 7:14-46; 2Ch 4:1-18) Copper was found in abundance on Cyprus. The Bible also speaks of Javan, Tubal, and Meshech as sources of copper.—Eze 27:13.
Copper and its alloys had many varied and practical uses. It being one of the oldest metals known, Tubal-cain prior to the Noachian Flood forged tools out of copper. (Ge 4:22) Household and sanctuary utensils included pots, basins, pans, shovels, and forks. (Ex 38:3; Le 6:28; Jer 52:18) Copper was used for doors, gates, pillars, and musical instruments (2Ki 25:13; 1Ch 15:19; Ps 107:16; Isa 45:2); armor, shields, weapons, and fetters (1Sa 17:5, 6, 38; 2Sa 22:35; 2Ki 25:7; 2Ch 12:10). The metal was used in the making of idols. (Re 9:20) Copper coins were in circulation during Jesus’ earthly ministry. (Mt 10:9) The Scriptures also speak of copper in a figurative or symbolic sense.—Le 26:19; Job 6:12; Isa 48:4; 60:17; Jer 1:18; Eze 1:7; Da 2:32; Re 1:15; 2:18.
At 1 Corinthians 13:1, the Greek word khal·kosʹ is translated “[piece of] brass” and may be understood to refer to a gong.