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BRASEN, BRASS, BRAZEN (נְחֹ֫שֶׁת, H5733, with cognates; χαλκός, G5910, with cognates). Copper or copper alloys such as brass or bronze. The KJV tr. consistently as brass or brasen, and once as copper (Ezra 8:27). Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, appeared much later than bronze, and there is little evidence for its use in Biblical times. Copper, found in the southern part of Pal. appeared in the fifth millennium b.c. Most, if not all, of the Biblical references should be read as bronze or copper, prob. the former where casting is involved. RSV uses bronze throughout, except in metaphorical uses where brass is retained to express hardness or a similar idea (e.g., Lev 26:19; Isa 48:4). Copper and bronze were used for a wide range of household goods, weapons, and cultic objects, including the overlaying of the altar, the brazen sea, and the lavers.

BRASS (Gr. χαλκολίβάνον), an alloy of copper and zinc which contains small amounts of other metals, particularly lead and tin. It is more prone to corrosion and tarnishing than bronze (q.v.), but has long been used for ornamental work as well as for various structural purposes. The melting point varies from 1050-850oC, with increase in zinc content progressively lowering the melting point. Like bronze, the atoms are arranged in the same crystalline manner as copper, the atoms forming a face-centered cubic structure.


J. R. Partington, A Text-book of Inorganic Chemistry, 6th ed. (1950), 777-779.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The use of the word brass has always been more or less indefinite in its application. At the present time the term brass is applied to an alloy of copper and zinc or of copper, zinc and tin. The word translated "brass" in the King James Version would be more correctly rendered bronze, since the alloy used was copper and tin (Ex 27:4). In some passages however copper is meant (De 8:9), as bronze is an artificial product. This alloy was known in Egypt in at least 1600 BC. It was probably known in Europe still earlier (2000 BC), which helps to answer the question as to the source of the tin. Bronze was probably of European origin and was carried to Egypt. At a later period the Egyptians made the alloy themselves, bringing their copper from Sinai, Cyprus or northern Syria (see Copper), and their tin from the Balkan regions or from Spain or the British Isles (see Tin). When the Children of Israel came into the promised land, they found the Canaanites already skilled in the making and use of bronze instruments. This period marked the transition from the bronze age to the iron age in Palestine Museums possessing antiquities from Bible lands have among their collections many and varied bronze objects. Among the most common are nails, lamps, hand mirrors, locks, cutting instruments, etc. Within comparatively recent times brass, meaning an alloy of copper and zinc, has been introduced into Syria. The alloy is made by the native workmen (see Crafts). Sheet brass is now being extensively imported for the making of bowls, vases, etc. Bronze is practically unknown in the modern native articles

Figurative: "Brass," naturally, is used in Scripture as the symbol of what is firm, strong, lasting; hence, "gates of brass" (Ps 107:16), "hoofs of brass" (Mic 4:13), "walls of brass" (Jeremiah is made as a "brazen wall," Jer 1:18; 15:20), "mountains of brass" (Da 2:35, the Macedonian empire; the arms of ancient times were mostly of bronze). It becomes a symbol, therefore, of hardness, obstinacy, insensibility, in sin, as "brow of brass" (Isa 48:4); "they are brass and iron" (Jer 6:28, of the wicked); "all of them are brass" (Eze 22:18, of Israel).

James A. Patch

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