Digging Into The Past

Ferrell Jenkins
Temple Terrace, Florida

Solomon's Copper Mines

The "promised land" was described to the Israelites as "a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig copper" (Deut.8:9). Copper was mined in the Negev (called the South in the Bible) as far back as the time of Solomon. The modern state of Israel is still mining copper at Timna just a few miles north of Eilat (Ezion-geber of the Bible). Belgian engineers made a survey proving the presence of 100,000 tons of metallic copper. Iron ore has been found in the Negev and in eastern Upper Galilee (Vilnay, The Israel Guide, p. 17.)

The Bible does not say that Solomon had copper mines at Ezion-geber, but the presence of mining facilities dating to the 10th century B.C. indicates that this may have been one of the reasons Why the King built a port and had a navy stationed there (I Kings 9:26-28). Ezion-geber was more than 220 miles from Jerusalem. The copper provided a good medium of exchange for gold, spices, and other items that Israel needed.

In 1938, Nelson Glueck, now president of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Solomon's Copper Mines, and explained that the apertures in the buildings served as flue-holes. Through them, he thought, "the strong winds from the north-northwest entered into the furnace rooms of this structure," which he called a "smelter, to furnish a natural draft to fan the flames." There is no question that copper smelting was done in the Negev in the time of Solomon, but Glueck has changed his mind about the building he had formerly identified as the refining plant. He now thinks that the apertures in the building "resulted from the decay and or burning of wooden beams laid across the width of the walls for bonding or anchoring purposes." This does not affect anystatement of the word of God, but it does mean that the old argument about the copper refining plant found in the Arabah is no longer valid. For complete information on this point one may check the following books or articles by Nelson Glueck: "The First Campaign at Tell el-Kheleifeh," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Oct., 1938; The Other Side of the Jordan, 1940; Rivers in the Desert, 1949; the change was announced in "Ezion-geber," The Biblical Archaeologist, Sept., 1965.

Vessels For The Temple

Hiram, king of Tyre, made vessels for Solomon's temple of burnished brass or bronze. The record says "In the plain of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan" (I Kings 7:46). These two cities are on the east of the river in the Jordan valley. James B. Pritchard, of the University of Pennsylvania, excavated Tell es-Saidiyeh, thought to be the Biblical Zarethan, in 1963. Bronze vessels, dating to a time before the Conquest, were found in tombs there. (Everyday Life in Bible Times, p. 36.)

Gezer Calendar

A small plaque of soft limestone was found at Gezer in 1908 by R.A.S. MacMister. The plaque does not specifically relate to anything Biblical but is important because it gives an authentic description of agricultural seasons and is a good example of the Hebrew script and language in use at the time of Solomon. The "calendar" dates to about 950 to 925 B.C., and is now in the Museum of Antiquities in Istanbul. It is thought to be a type of school-boy exercise similar to our "Thirty days hath September..." W. F. Albright's translation reads as follows:

His two months are (olive) harvest,

His two months are planting (grain),

His two months are late planting;

His month is hoeing up of flax,

His month is harvest of barley,

His month is harvest and feasting;

His two months are vine-tending;

His month is summer fruit.

(Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 320.)


January 29, 1970