Ancient hand mirrors (Isa. 3:23) were sometimes made of polished stone, though they were generally made of metal, such as bronze or copper, and later of tin, silver and even gold. It was probably not until the first century C.E. that mirrors of glass were introduced. Since the ancient mirrors were generally made of molten metal, they had to be highly polished so as to have good reflecting surfaces. Pounded pumice stone might be used for this purpose, it being applied periodically thereafter with a sponge that usually hung from the mirror itself. Nevertheless, ancient metal mirrors did not have as fine a reflecting surface as do today’s glass mirrors. That is why the apostle Paul could write: “At Present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror.”—1 Cor. 13:12.
Most of the ancient mirrors discovered in Palestine date from after the Babylonian exile and down to Roman times. Often the circular bronze mirrors were equipped with wooden or ivory handles. Some of these handles were engraved with circles or other ornamentation. Ancient Egyptian mirrors were made principally of copper (compare Exodus 38:8) and could be highly polished. Generally, Egyptian mirrors were round and had a wooden, metal or stone handle. Designs on the handles varied and included the figure of a woman, a flower, the head of the goddess Hathor, a bird and even a monster.
The Scriptures at times refer to mirrors in a figurative or an illustrative way. At Job 37:18 the skies are figuratively likened to a metal mirror, the burnished face of which gives off a bright reflection. The disciple James used the mirror as figurative of God’s word when urging persons to become, not just hearers of the word, but doers of it. (Jas. 1:22-25) And the apostle Paul showed that Christians “reflect like mirrors the glory of Jehovah” in their ministry.—2 Cor. 3:18; 4:1.
[Picture on page 1167]
Ancient metal mirror