Copper Metallurgy: A hidden fundament of the theology of ancient Israel?

Nissim Amzallag

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The celestial universe and the mode of action of YHWH are sometimes depicted by metallurgy. This figuration is generally understood as a picturesque representation devoid of theological significance, introduced only for describing the infinite powers of the god of Israel using the extreme physical conditions characterizing metallurgy. This explanation is however contested by: (i) the many allusions to metallurgy encountered in Biblical theology, (ii) the detailed mention, in the divine context, of all the stages of metal production: mining, ore roasting, smelting, metal purification and even of furnace re-melting, (iii) the representation of the firmament and the earth as two giant pieces of metal, (iv) the vision of the holy domain of YHWH as a giant celestial furnace. These features attest the existence of a substantial metallurgical component in Biblical theology. Furthermore, the strong bias towards copper metallurgy suggests that these representations were anchored in Bronze Age metallurgical traditions. It is concluded that Israelite theology encompasses an important metallurgical component inherited from the pre-Israelite cult of YHWH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-169
Number of pages19
JournalScandinavian Journal of the Old Testament
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2013


  • Edom
  • Kenite hypothesis
  • copper metallurgy
  • divine smith
  • pre-Israelite Yah-wism
  • smelting god

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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