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We shall not attempt a description of the various objects of natural science mentioned in the Bible, or alluded to as illustrations of spiritual truths, that being at once unnecessary and inconsistent with the limits within which we are confined. We shall, when necessary, endeavour to identify them, and enlarge only upon a few that are either open to controversy or are the subjects of special allusion with the sacred writers.
1.- EARTHS. BRIMSTONE.—This is frequently mentioned in the
a significant symbol of desolation and barrenness (Deut. xxix. 23, etc.). In the prophetic Scripture of both Testaments, it is almost always associated with fire, and as this junction of the two bodies produces a flame and a smoke most pernicious, suffocating, and destructive to vegetable and animal life, it is used to symbolise blasphemy or infidelity. In Ps. xi. 6, fire and brimstone are said to be “ rained upon the wicked,” as “the portion of their cup." Now, the great penalty of the wicked is judicial blindness, or confirmed infidelity ; and it is worthy of remark, that in this passage the same metaphor is used with regard to the snares, that is often employed in Scripture to express the gift of faith, for both are said to be rained upon the recipients ; so that fire and brimstone, according to this metaphor, would appear to be the antithesis of gentle rain and dew.
Pitch.—This is, no doubt, the mineral tar known as asphaltum, or bitumen, in indurated hardened state. It is found in abundance on the Asphaltic Lake, which has thence derived its name.
Salt.—This was to accompany all the sacrifices offered under the law (Lev. ii. 13); no doubt, because it possesses the quality of cleansing and preserving bodies from putrefaction. Hence it symbolised the purity and perfection that should be carried through all parts of the divine service, and through the hearts and lives of God's worshippers. The covenant of salt (Numb. xviii. 19; 2 Chron. xiii. 5) was probably a covenant or engagement in which salt was used as a token of sincerity and confirmation. Amongst the Turks, salt and bread are taken and eaten as symbolising a solemn contract between the parties. The Turk deems it the basest ingratitude to forget the man from whom he has received food, which is signified by the bread and salt so used.
SOAP.-It is by no means certain what the Hebrew berith signifies, whether the herb kali, as the Vulgate and Jerome render it, or the alkaline or lixivial salt procured from the ashes of that and other plants. The Salt Sea, familiar to the Israelites, furnished them with a proverb. Thus we read “ salt,” that is, in its genuine condition, “is good, but if it has lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill, but
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men cast it out” (Luke xiv. 34, 35) How restore it to any relish ?
The surface of the salt lakes, and also the thinner crust of salts, next the edges of the lakes, after rain, and especially after long continued rain, lose the saline particles, which are washed away, and drained off, the surface still retaining the appearance of salt.
Hence, those who go to the lakes to procure salt, drive over this worthless matter, and thus trample it into mere mud and dirt. Matthew more distinctly refers to this than Luke does—"It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (ch. v. 13.) Salt, in small quantities, is useful as a manure, under some circumstances, but large quantities of it are destructive. Pliny says that all places where it is found is barren ; and Volney attributes the barren and desolate condition of the country around the Dead Sea to the acrid saltness of the waters, which loads the atmosphere, and thus affects the whole face of the country. Regions of this description furnish metaphors to those familiar with them. Thus, Jeremiah-“He [the man who forsakes the Lord, and trusts in an arm of flesh) shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh ; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited” (ch. xvii. 6.) And amongst the threatenings denounced upon the Israelites, in the event of forsaking Jehovah, and turning to idols, that of rendering the land “flowing with milk and
' honey," a land of "brimstone and salt, and burning ; that is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrha, Admah, and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and in his wrath ” (Deut. xxix. 23.) It
salt ants shed at is
was an ancient custom to sow an enemy's city with salt, in token of perpetual desolation (Judges ix. 45). Milan was burnt, rased, sown with salt, and ploughed by the exasperated emperor, Frederick Barbarossa.
Gold is the simplest, and therefore the purest of all metallic substances. It was in use in very early times, and David and Solomon obtained large quantities from Ophir. It was in use, as we have said, in very early times; and the mercy-seat and the vessels and utensils belonging to the tabernacle were made of it, as were also those of the house of the Lord, and the drinking vessels of Solomon. The ark of the covenant was overlaid with gold. In Job xxviii. 15–17 and 19, gold is mentioned five times, and the word is a different one in four of the places. (1.) Segor may mean gold in the mine, or shut up (as the root signifies) in the ore. (2.) Kethem, from catham, to sign, seal, or stamp-gold made current by being coined, standard gold ; exhibiting the stamp expressive of its value. (3.) Zahab, wrought, pure, highly polished gold.
(4.) Paz, denoting solidity, compactness, and strength, probably gold formed into different kinds of plate, or vessels.
SILVER was in very early use as an instrument of exchange (Gen. xxiii. 13–16). Instead of “weighed the silver, four hundred shekels,” we should probably read," shekeled the silver, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant." It was therefore at that time current money. The gold of Havilah, as Canon Townsend observes on the place, is alluded to in the antediluvian
but silver is not mentioned. The first allusions after the food to silver, as a valuable metal, are found in the book of Job; and always in general terms, without reference to the shekel. This is an argument for the high antiquity of the book of Job, —that is, of the history it comprises-for if Job had lived after Abraham, it is probable that the shekel would have been mentioned in some of the passages in that book.
Some think it is referred to in ch. xxvii. 15: “It (wisdom] cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof,” but if so, the expression would no doubt have been similar to that of Genesis. Job probably refers to silver in the mass, not in the smaller coin, as the reference is in Gen. xx. 16, where aleph keseph may be translated, not“ a thousand pieces of silver,” for “pieces” is not in the text; but a mass of silver, the word aleph signifying an aggregation. The inference drawn from these and other passages which occur in the book of Job is, that gold was the original money; that large heaps of silver were Dext brought into circulation, as substitutes for the more valuable, though smaller pieces of gold; and that the last and still remaining gradation was the division of silver into smaller portions, which might probably be about the value of a lamb; according to the well known theory that barter was the first kind of commerce, and that lambs, or cattle in general, were the first medium of exchange for the smaller commodities of life. In the antediluvian period, commerce was conducted by the exchange of gold, and probably of cattle. In the days of Job, by gold, cattle, jewels, and silver bullion. In the earlier days of Abraham, and in the time of Abimelech, by the same; and in the latter years of the