Copper - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H5178
Original Word: nehoshet

Usage Notes: "copper; bronze; bronze chains." Cognates of this word appear in Phoenician, Aramaic, Arabic, and Ethiopic. It is attested about 136 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods. Nehoshet basically means "copper." This word refers to the metal ore: "A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig [copper]" (Deut. 8:9). The word can also represent the refined ore: "And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in copper [kjv, "brass"; nasb, "bronze"] and iron" (Gen. 4:22).

Inasmuch as it was a semiprecious metal, nehoshet is sometimes listed as a spoil of war (2 Sam. 8:8). In such passages, it is difficult to know whether the reference is to copper or to copper mixed with tin (i.e., bronze). Certainly, "bronze" is intended in 1 Sam. 17:5, where nehoshet refers to the material from which armor is made. Bronze is the material from which utensils (Lev. 6:21), altars (Exod. 38:30), and other objects were fashioned. This material could be polished (1 Kings 7:45) or shined (Ezra 8:27). This metal was less valuable than gold and more valuable than wood (Isa. 60:17). Still another meaning of nehoshet appears in Judg. 16:21: "But the Philistines took [Samson], and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of [bronze]; and he did grind in the prison house." Usually, when the word has this meaning it appears in the dual form (in the singular form only in Lam. 3:7).

Deut. 28:23 uses nehoshet to symbolize the cessation of life-giving rain and sunshine: "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be [bronze], and the earth that is under thee shall be iron."

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words