There are numerous Biblical references which describe or allude to the various metallurgical operations. In Job 28:1 occurs zaqaq, translated "refine," literally, "strain." This undoubtedly refers to the process of separating the gold from the earthy material as pictured in the Egyptian sculptures (Thebes and Beni Hassan) and described by Diodorus. The ore was first crushed to the size of lentils and then ground to powder in a handmill made of granite slabs. This powder was spread upon a slightly inclined stone table and water was poured over it to wash away the earthy materials. The comparatively heavy gold particles were then gathered from the table, dried, and melted in a closed crucible with lead, salt and bran, and kept in a molten condition for 5 days, at the end of which time the gold came out pure.
The alloying of gold and silver with copper, lead or tin, and then removing the base metals by cupellation is used figuratively in Ezekiel 22:18,22 to denote the coming judgment of Yahweh. Again in Isaiah 1:25 it indicates chastening. The fact that the prophets used this figure shows that the people were familiar with the common metallurgical operations.
James A. Patch
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