MINES, MINING. An occupation of man that is very ancient, for we read in the description of Eden and its surroundings before the Flood of the “land of Havilah, where there is gold” (Gen.2.11-Gen.2.12); and in the account of the antediluvian Cainite patriarchs, Tubal-Cain “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Gen.4.22). In Job.28.1-Job.28.11 there is mention of “a mine for silver and place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore.” This is followed by a poetic account of a man digging a mine. In Sinai are very ancient copper mines, worked by the Egyptians as early as Dynasty IV (the great pyramid builders); and, at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah, at Elath, are the remains of Solomon’s blast furnaces for copper. At this locality there is a constant strong north wind, and through openings and conduits this wind was used to form a draft for the furnaces. The great development of metalworking in Israel must have come between the time of Saul and the time of Solomon. Compare 1Sam.13.19-1Sam.13.22, where the Philistines are in the Iron Age, which the Israelites had not yet reached, with the accomplishments of Solomon’s time (1Kgs.7.13-1Kgs.7.50) only about a century later.
The Greeks and the Romans considered mining and metalworking as very ancient, for they pictured Hephaestus or Vulcan, son of Zeus or Jupiter, as a metalworker, a sort of mythological “Tubal-Cain.” In the time of Moses, the Midianites had gold, silver, brass, iron, tin, and lead (Num.31.22); and the Israelites knew how to cleanse them by fire. Moses described the Promised Land as “a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills” (Deut.8.9). Although shafts have been found in the “valley of the cave” in Sinai, they do not penetrate far, the reason probably being the inability of the ancients to ventilate their mines. The fact that the Midianites had tin in the days of Moses probably points to a very ancient penetration of the Phoenician ships through the Mediterranean and across to the southern shore of Britain.——ABF
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
min, min’-ing: In Job 28:1-11 we have the only Biblical reference to mines. The writer very likely derived his information either from personal observation or from a description by an eyewitness, of the mining operations of Sinai (see Metals). No traces of ancient mines have yet been found in Palestine and Syria. What metals were taken out came from the superficial strata. The mines of Upper Egypt have already been mentioned. Burton and other travelers in Northern Arabia and the Red Sea country have found there evidences of ancient mining operations.
The usual Egyptian method of mining was to follow the vein from the surface as far as it was practicable with tools corresponding to our pick and hoe, hammer and chisel. The shafts frequently extended into the ground a distance of 180 to 200 ft. The rock when too hard to be dug out was first cracked by having fires built on it. The metal-bearing stone was carried in baskets to the surface, where the crushing and separating took place. The mining operations were performed by an army of slaves who were kept at their work day and night, driven with the lash until they died, when their places were taken by others.
See Metals; CRAFTS, II, 10.
James A. Patch