The first and most frequently mentioned metal in the Bible. (Ge 2:11) From the beginning it has been a noble metal highly valued for its weight, rarity, durable nontarnishing luster, shimmering beauty, ductility, and malleability. A number of Hebrew terms refer to gold; included are za·havʹ (Ex 25:11), cha·rutsʹ (Zec 9:3), keʹthem (Ps 45:9), paz (“refined gold”; Ps 19:10), seghohrʹ (“pure gold”; Job 28:15), and ʼoh·phirʹ (“gold of Ophir”; Job 22:24). The Greek terms khry·sosʹ and khry·siʹon of the Christian Greek Scriptures are used with reference to coins, ornaments, and the metal in general; they are also used in a metaphoric sense.—Mt 10:9; 1Pe 3:3; Mt 2:11; 1Co 3:12.
Gold’s rarity gave it a monetary value that made it useful as a commercial medium of exchange and as a measure of wealth and prominence. (Ge 13:2; 1Ch 21:25; Es 8:15) Gold coinage was a late invention, however. The color and luster of gold and its resistance to oxidation, or tarnishing, make it especially valuable for jewelry and ornamentation of all kinds.—Ge 24:22; 41:42; Jg 8:24-26; Ps 45:9, 13.
When found in its native purity in gravel deposits and riverbeds, gold can easily be separated and recovered, because of its great weight. The book of Job mentions mining and refining operations.—Job 28:1, 2, 6.
Used in Tabernacle and Temple. Gold’s malleability permits it to be hammered into countless shapes. In the construction of the tabernacle, gold was beaten into plates for overlay work and into thin sheets cut into thread that was woven into certain garments of the high priest. (Ex 25:31; 30:1-3; 37:1, 2; 39:2, 3) It was similarly used in the temple built by Solomon. (1Ki 6:21-35; 2Ch 3:5-9) Alloying gold with other metal to increase its hardness extends its utility. This process was also employed in ancient Israel.—1Ki 10:16; see ELECTRUM.
A great quantity of gold was used in the tabernacle, the current value of this gold being estimated at about $11,269,000. (Ex 25:10-40; 38:24) However, in comparison with the amount of gold used, the wilderness tabernacle was only a miniature of Solomon’s glorious temple. David had set aside no less than 100,000 talents of gold for that temple, valued today in excess of $38,535,000,000. (1Ch 22:14) The lampstands and the temple’s utensils—forks, bowls, pitchers, basins, cups, and so forth—were made of gold and silver; some utensils were of copper; the cherubs in the Most Holy, the altar of incense, and even the entire inside of the house were overlaid with gold.—1Ki 6:20-22; 7:48-50; 1Ch 28:14-18; 2Ch 3:1-13.
Solomon’s Revenue. Large amounts of gold poured into Solomon’s treasury from the king of Tyre (120 talents) and the queen of Sheba (120 talents), from annual tributes and taxes, and by means of his own merchant fleet. The account says: “The weight of the gold that came to Solomon in one year amounted up to six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold [c. $256,643,000].” That was apart from revenues from traders, governors, and so forth.—1Ki 9:14, 27, 28; 10:10, 14, 15.
Ophir was one place from which Solomon acquired fine gold. A pottery fragment said to be of the eighth century B.C.E. has been discovered that has inscribed on it: “Ophir gold to bet horon, thirty shekels.”—1Ki 9:28; 10:11; Job 28:16; see OPHIR.
Disposition of Gold in Captured Cities. God commanded Israel that the graven images of the idol gods of the nations be burned in the fire: “You must not desire the silver and the gold upon them, nor indeed take it for yourself, for fear you may be ensnared by it; for it is a thing detestable to Jehovah your God. And you must not bring a detestable thing into your house and actually become a thing devoted to destruction like it. You should thoroughly loathe it and absolutely detest it, because it is something devoted to destruction.” (De 7:25, 26) Idols and their appurtenances were therefore burned, and the gold and silver on them were sometimes ground to powder.—Ex 32:20; 2Ki 23:4.
Other gold and silver objects in captured cities could be taken after being processed with fire for cleansing. (Nu 31:22, 23) Jericho was an exception to this, for it was the firstfruits of the conquest of Canaan. Its gold and silver (except that on idols) had to be turned over to the priests, devoted to sanctuary use.—Jos 6:17-19, 24.
Wisdom, Faith, Better Than Gold. Though gold has great value, it, like other material riches, is not able to give life to its possessors (Ps 49:6-8; Mt 16:26), and no amount of gold can buy the true wisdom that comes from Jehovah. (Job 28:12, 15-17, 28) His laws, commandments, and discipline are far more desirable than much refined gold. (Ps 19:7-10; 119:72, 127; Pr 8:10) Gold is powerless to deliver in the day of Jehovah’s anger.—Zep 1:18.
Men of a materialistic society ridicule faith in God and call it impractical. Nonetheless, the apostle Peter points to faith’s unexcelled durability and permanent value. He states that the tested quality of one’s faith is of much greater value than gold, which can withstand fire yet can wear away and be destroyed by other means. Christians have to endure various trials that are sometimes grievous, but this serves to bring out the quality of their faith. (1Pe 1:6, 7) True faith can stand up under any tests.
Symbolic Use. Gold was spoken of by Job as a symbol of materialism, one of the things he knew he must avoid to please Jehovah. (Job 31:24, 25) On the other hand, the beauty, preciousness, and purity of fine gold make it a fitting symbol in describing the holy city, New Jerusalem, and its broad way.—Re 21:18, 21.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image had a head of gold, the rest of the image being made of less precious materials. Daniel interpreted the parts of the image as representing world powers, the head of gold being Nebuchadnezzar, that is, the imperial dynasty of Babylon’s kings headed by Nebuchadnezzar. (Da 2:31-33, 37-40) Babylon is similarly symbolized as “a golden cup in the hand of Jehovah,” useful to him as an executioner of his judgments on the nations.—Jer 51:7.
In the tabernacle built by Moses, gold was used in the enclosed compartments—the Holy Place, where the priests entered and performed duties, and the Most Holy, entered only by the high priest. Since the Most Holy with its golden ark of the covenant represented heaven, God’s dwelling place, and since priests, but not ordinary Israelites, could enter the Holy Place, these things would logically represent things having to do with the heavens of God and with his “royal priesthood,” that is, those with the heavenly calling, and their activity and duties toward God. (1Pe 2:9; Heb 9:1-5, 9, 11, 12, 23-25; 3:1) This priesthood is thus symbolically distinguished from people on earth to whom the priesthood ministers.
In encouraging the young man to serve his Creator while he still has strength and vigor, the wise writer of Ecclesiastes says that this should be done before “the golden bowl gets crushed.” He apparently has reference to the bowllike cranium with its brain content, the crushing of which would deprive its possessor of life.—Ec 12:6, 7.