METALS OF THE BIBLE
Metals, which belong to the mineral kingdom, are classed as "precious metals" and base metals." In the Scriptures, we find frequent mention of gold, silver, brass [or copper] and iron, and occasional mention of tin, lead, etc. Gold is the most precious of the metals in common use; and it corresponds to the highest things in man, the celestial things, the things of inmost love to the Lord. And silver corresponds to spiritual truth.
In the representative dispensation established with the Israelites, all the things used, and the forms and modes of operating, were in correspondence with the things and methods which are in the minds of men. And, by means of such correspondence, and only so, could the carnal and sensuous Israelites be kept in any connection with spiritual life. And so, by direction of the Lord, gold and silver, representing celestial and spiritual things, were largely used for sacred articles employed in worship, in the tabernacle and in the temple.
In articles of a less sacred character, brass and iron were used. And brass represents natural good ; and iron represents natural truth ; that is, good and truth as applied to the outward life. H'ence, the laver, or great basin, for washing, was made of brass, because natural good must be that which holds the water of natural truth, when we cleanse our natural minds and lives.
LEAD AND TIN
Lead and tin also belong to the natural plane, in their significations, both representing, with fine differences, outward good, good of the senses, sensuous good.
Each of the metals has its own qualities, by which it is always distinguished. And, although some metals are more precious than others, yet all are needed; for one metal cannot do the work of others. See, for instance, the differences between gold and iron. Gold will resist the action of acids which will eat into iron and other base metals. And gold will not rust, as base metals will. And gold is useful for coins, and for many ornamental purposes, as well as for useful purposes in the arts. Gold is clean, and it will remain pure and clean, where less precious metals will soon become soiled. And the corresponding mental principle, inmost love, love to the Lord, celestial good, has similar corresponding characteristics. No falsities can corrode that high and holy principle : it is proof against their cunning action. It is pure and clean, wherever it is genuine. So long as the heart abides in such good, the falsities of the senses cannot injure the heavenly gold of celestial love. But it can be melted down by the fires of unholy lusts ; for then the mind ceases to abide in good. And evil will effect what falsity cannot accomplish. And love to our Lord is the best substance for spiritual coins, for the life of giving and taking, in our interchange of thought and feeling with our brethren. Nothing can be more useful, or more beautiful, in the mental life, than this heavenly love to our Lord, the gold of the spirit. And so our Lord said to the Laodiceans, "I -counsel thee to buy of Me, gold, tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich." (Rev. iii. 18.) And this is the gold of the spirit, love to our Lord.
But, in the harder and ruder uses of life, gold will not suit so well as iron. For tools, machinery, implements, etc., iron, made into steel, is the best of all metals. And the corresponding mental article, natural truth, truth applied to the outward daily life, will do the corresponding mental work. Questions must be met, and practical matters adjusted, by truth which is on their own level. The gold of inmost love cannot do all these works, because it is on a different plane, and it is not adapted to such work. For instance; if we have a natural desire to take advantage of others, how shall we go to work, in our mental field, to get rid of this evil weed? We must take some sharp, cutting truth which applies directly to the case. It will not do to take gold, the love of the Lord, because this will not take direct hold of the evil tendency. The Divine commandments, as precepts of life, are cutting implements."Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not covet," etc., are sharp tools, in the store-house of the' memory. And we can take them into the' fields of our minds, to do our mental work.
In our mental life, this principle is illustrated by a singular text, in Judges i. 19 : "And Jehovah was with Judah, and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." Among the tribes of Israel, Judah represented the celestial principle, love to the Lord, the heavenly gold, in the regenerating mind. In the regeneration of the mind, during the struggles and temptations represented by the wars and wanderings of the Israelites, each principle of life has its own work to do, on its own plane,' or level. So Judah "drove out the inhabitants of the mountains," the high places of the mind, because love to our Lord can drive out evil affections, which are in the high places of the mind, where love to the Lord ought, to dwell. This was the especial work of Judah, or the principle of love to the Lord.
But, when the mind needs to descend to the valleys, the low places, the natural mind and the outward life, then the work of expelling the enemies, the lusts and falsities of the lower life, and the bad habits of daily conduct, must be done by means of natural good and natural truth; by meeting the enemy on his own plane, or level, and fighting him with weapons similar to his own.
So Judah "could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." And "chariots of iron" correspond to doctrines of natural truth. A chariot, being a vessel, or vehicle, to hold a man, represents a doctrine, which is a mental vessel, to hold goodness and truth. Judah, or love to the Lord, was not the appropriate principle to combat directly against the natural evils and falsities of the life, because the natural mind could argue, and defend itself, and justify its doings, by means of "chariots of iron," natural truths, literal truths, such, for instance, as can be found in the letter of the Scriptures. In such cases, natural truths are perverted to a bad use, or abused. And, to meet such arguments and defenses, we must use clear, natural truth, and thus show the falsity of all abuses and falsifications of truth.
But, although our love to our Lord cannot drive out our natural tendency to pervert and to abuse natural truth, to justify our bad habits, yet we can drive out our spiritual enemies in the valleys of life, by employing truth on the same -plane, or level, and thus meeting the enemies on their own ground, and with similar weapons, properly used. And so, although Judah, "could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley," yet these heathen inhabitants were finally driven out by the tribe of Dan. And Dan, among the tribes, when used in a good sense, represents good in the outward life, or the natural principle in its order and use. And this can drive out our outward evil lusts and bad habits ; for it knows how to meet, and to overcome, their "chariots of iron."
The wise men of the East brought gold to the infant Christ, because of the correspondence of gold; thus recognizing Him as the One to whom inmost goodness and love were to be ascribed, because of His Divine character. "And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the. city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof." (Rev. xxi. 15.) A golden reed measures the city, or system of doctrine, as to the inmost good that is in it. And, in the holy city. New Jerusalem, it was found that,- "the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal" ; (Rev. xxi. 16,) i. e., its good and its truth are equal, in all degrees, and to every height of human life. "And the city was pure gold." (Rev. xxi. 18.) And such is the beautiful life of him who truly lives in the New Jerusalem, in inmost love to the Lord.
But, where self-love stands in the place of love to the Lord, the word "gold" is there used in a bad sense, to represent the abuse of love; as in Lamentations, iv. 1 ; "How is the gold become dim ! How is the most fine gold become changed ! The stones' of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter !" "Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols." (Hosea viii. 4.)
Gold, meaning inmost love, or goodness, and silver, meaning spiritual good, the good of truth, or love to the neighbor, as distinguished from love to the Lord, are often mentioned together. It is said to those who will repent and be regenerated : "Though ye have lain among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." (Ps. Ixviii. 13.) Of the Israelites it is said, "He- brought them' forth with silver and gold, and there was not one feeble person among their tribes." (Ps. cv. 37.) "And I will- bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried." (Zech. xiii. 9.)
Silver was much used for utensils, etc., in the temple service, and for trumpets, etc. Silver is often mentioned alone, and often in connection with gold, and with brass and iron; in a good sense, and also in a bad sense. "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart, ye shall take My offering. . . .gold and silver and brass." (Exod. xxv. 2, 3.) These represent celestial, spiritual and natural good. And, to show the spiritual growth of the regenerating mind, advancing from lower to higher principles of life, it is said, in Isaiah lx. 16, 17, "I, Jehovah, am thy Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood, brass, and for stones, iron ;" that is, by regeneration, our Lord gives us celestial and spiritual good and truth, instead of merely natural good and truth; and He gives us confirmed natural good, and accurate natural truth, instead of merely sensuous natural good and truth.
In a bad sense, the metals are mentioned in Ezek. xxii. i8, 20, "The house of Israel is, to Me, become dross: all they are brass and tin and iron and lead, in the midst of the furnace ; they are dross of silver. As they gather silver and brass and iron and lead and tin into the midst of the furnace, .... so will I gather you,. . . .and melt you." These baser metals are used to alloy silver ; and the fires of regeneratiion must purify our mental silver, and leave our spiritual loves free from the alloy of lower and sensuous things.
THE BRAZEN SERPENT.
The serpent set up in the wilderness, by Moses, was made of brass, because natural good is the remedy for sensuous evil, the bite of the venomous serpent. (Numb. xxi. 9.) And the Hfting up of the Son of Man represented the purification and glorification of the Humanity of Jesus Christ. In Moses' blessing to the children of Israel, he said to Asher, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass;" (Deut. xxxiii. 25), i. e., the things of the natural life shall be true and good, in the natural degree. But, of the evil man, who has no higher life, it is said, in Deut. xxviii. 23, "Thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron," i. e., he has natural things only ; and he puts natural things in the place of spiritual things, while even his external life is hard and rigid. In building an altar, the Israelites were not to "lift up any iron tool upon it," (Deut. xxvii. 5) because natural truth is not capable of building spiritual worship. "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron;" (Jer. xvii. i), i. e., the sins of the heart are shown even by literal natural truth, in the commandments of the Lord.
To show that, in the work of regeneration, we must submit to the purifying fires of temptation, as to our affections, and to the cleansing waters of truth, it is said, in Numb.- xxi. 22, 23, "The gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that may abide the fire, ye shall make go- through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless, it shall be purified with the water of separation : and all that abideth not the fire, ye shall make go through the water." "Jehovah, thy God, bringeth thee into a good land : a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness : thou shalt not lack anything in it ; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass." (Deut. viii. 7, 9.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell From Sripture Symbolism 1904