The first and most frequently mentioned metal in the Bible. (Gen. 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. When found in its native purity in gravel deposits and riverbeds, it can easily be separated and recovered, due to its great weight. The book of Job mentions mining and refining operations. (Job 28:1, 2, 6) Gold’s rarity gives it a stable, comparatively unchanging monetary value that makes it useful as a commercial medium of exchange and a measure of wealth and prominence. (Gen. 13:2; 1 Chron. 21:25; Esther 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.—Gen. 24:22; 41:42; Judg. 8:24-26; Ps. 45:9, 13.
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 of the high priest’s garments. (Ex. 25:31; 30:1-3; 37:1, 2; 39:2, 3) It was similarly used in the temple built by Solomon. (1 Ki. 6:21-35; 10:18; 2 Chron. 3:5-9) Alloying gold with other metal to increase its hardness extends its utility. This process was employed in ancient Israel.—1 Ki. 10:16; see ELECTRUM.
Great quantities of gold were used in the tabernacle, the current value of this gold being estimated at more than $1,130,500. (Ex. 25:10-40; 38:24) However, in comparison with the amount of gold used, that 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 $3,866,000,000. (1 Chron. 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.—1 Ki. 6:20-22; 7:48-50; 1 Chron. 28:14-18; 2 Chron. 3:1-13.
Large amounts of gold poured into Solomon’s treasury from the king of Tyre (120 talents), the queen of Sheba (120 talents), from annual tributes and taxes and by means of his own merchant fleet. The account goes on to say: “The weight of the gold that came to Solomon in one year amounted up to six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold,” apart from revenues from traders, governors, and so forth. (1 Ki. 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: “Gold of Ophir to Beth Horon, 40 Sheqel.”—1 Ki. 9:28; 10:11; Job 28:16.
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.” (Deut. 7:25, 26) Idols and their appurtenances were therefore burned and the gold and silver on them sometimes ground to powder.—Ex. 32:20; 2 Ki. 23:4.
Other gold and silver objects in captured cities could be taken after being processed with fire for cleansing. (Num. 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.—Josh. 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; Matt. 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; Prov. 8:10) Gold is powerless to deliver in the day of Jehovah’s anger.—Zeph. 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. (1 Pet. 1:6, 7) True faith can stand up under any tests.
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. (Rev. 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. (Dan. 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 by only the high priest. The altar of burnt offering was covered with copper, and the basin and the posts around the courtyard were of copper. The non-Levite Israelites could enter this courtyard at certain times. 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 his “royal priesthood,” those with the heavenly calling, as to their activity and duties toward God. (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 9:1-5, 9, 11, 12, 23-25; 3:1) This priesthood is thus symbolically distinguished from others 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 either the precious brain or to the braincase, the crushing of which would deprive its possessor of life.—Eccl. 12:6, 7.