Brass is mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments. But what exactly does this metal represent symbolically and spiritually? In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the significance and meaning of brass in the Scriptures.
- Brass is associated with strength, durability, and judgment in the Bible
- It was commonly used for altars, lavers, pillars, and musical instruments in the Tabernacle and Temple
- Brass often represented the judgment of God against sin
- The brazen serpent foreshadowed Christ’s crucifixion
- Brass also symbolized the feet of Jesus and his triumph over evil
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Properties of Brass in the Ancient World
In ancient times, brass was an alloy of copper and zinc that was known for its strength and brightness. The Hebrew word translated as “brass” or “bronze” is nechosheth, which comes from a root word meaning “to glisten” or “shining.” This reflects how brass would gleam in the sun’s rays.
Brass was harder and more durable than pure copper. It maintained a sharp edge and was resistant to corrosion. For these reasons, brass was used to make weapons, armor, coins, mirrors, hinges, and works of art in biblical times. The Thera Sea in Solomon’s Temple measured 10 cubits across and 30 cubits around, with a depth of 5 cubits. It rested on 12 oxen made of brass (1 Kings 7:23-26 NKJV). This huge laver could hold thousands of gallons of water for the priests to wash themselves. The brass gave it strength to remain intact.
The Bible first mentions brass when Cain’s descendant Tubal-Cain became “an instructor of every craftsman in brass and iron” (Genesis 4:22 NKJV). The Canaanites and Philistines were also skilled metal workers in brass and iron when the Israelites entered the Promised Land (Joshua 22:8, 1 Samuel 13:19-20 NKJV). These pagan groups probably produced brass idols and false gods. But God intended for the Israelites to use brass to construct holy things for His Tabernacle and Temple.
Brass Representing Strength and Judgment
The symbolism of brass in Scripture seems connected to its characteristics of hardness, firmness, and brightness. Brass often represents strength, durability, and the judgment of God against sin. When King Nebuchadnezzar saw a mysterious figure in the fiery furnace, its feet were like “burnished bronze” (Daniel 10:6 NKJV). Here, brass conveys supernatural strength and a divine nature.
Similarly, when the Apostle John saw the risen Christ in Revelation, his feet “were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15 NKJV). The brightness and burnished nature of Christ’s feet depict his holy judgment against the wicked. His feet of brass will trample all evil underfoot. As a strong metal, brass was appropriately used in scales, chains, and shackles to convey military conquest, imprisonment, and judgment (2 Kings 25:7, Psalm 149:8 NKJV).
The Bible says God judges sin with “justice like the great deep” and righteousness like “the strong mountains” (Psalm 36:6 NKJV). So it is fitting that when God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle, he was to construct the altar of burnt offering from acacia wood overlaid with brass (Exodus 27:1-2 NKJV). The acacia wood speaks of Jesus’ humanity, while the brass conveys the strength and fiery judgment of God against sin at the cross.
Brass Objects in the Tabernacle and Temple
In the construction of the Tabernacle and later the Temple, brass was heavily utilized for altars, lavers, pillars, and musical instruments. God provided Bezalel and Oholiab with the skills to craft beautiful objects from brass and other metals (Exodus 31:2-6 NKJV). Let’s survey some of the key furnishings made of brass.
The Brazen Altar – This outer altar of burnt offering was 7.5 feet square and 4.5 feet high, overlaid with brass. It was the first object encountered when entering the Tabernacle, pointing to Christ’s sacrifice (Exodus 38:1-2 NKJV).
The Brazen Laver – The priests washed their hands and feet at this brass basin before proceeding further, picturing purification from sin through Christ’s blood (Exodus 30:17-21 NKJV).
The Pillars of Brass – Two towering 27-foot brass pillars named Jachin and Boaz stood on the porch of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:15-22 NKJV). These majestic columns represented the strength of God.
Brass Musical Instruments – Many instruments like cymbals, harps, and trumpets were made of gleaming polished brass (1 Chronicles 15:19, Daniel 3:7 NKJV). They were used to praise God.
The Brazen Sea – This colossal brass basin held water for priestly cleansing in the Temple (1 Kings 7:23-26 NKJV). It foreshadowed the living water of Christ.
The Brass Serpent – When venomous serpents bit the Israelites, God told Moses to make a brass snake and lift it up on a pole. All who gazed upon it lived (Numbers 21:4-9 NKJV).
Brass objects in God’s Tabernacle and Temple symbolized His glory, strength, purity, and salvation. They ultimately pointed to Jesus Christ.
The Brazen Serpent as a Foreshadow of Christ
One of the most significant brass objects was the brazen serpent that God instructed Moses to lift up on a pole to deliver the people from snakebites (Numbers 21:4-9 NKJV). Anyone who looked to the brass serpent lived, even though serpents represent sin and judgment. Jesus told Nicodemus:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15 NKJV)
Here, Jesus indicated the brass serpent pointed to Himself being lifted up on the cross for our salvation. Just as those who looked to the brass snake were healed, so too, those who look to Christ on the cross are saved from the “venom” of sin and its judgment. The serpent represented the sin Christ took upon Himself, while the brass depicted the judgment He bore in our place. What an amazing foreshadow!
The Bible says “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13 NKJV). The brass serpent hanging on a wooden pole was a vivid object lesson of Jesus taking our curse on the “tree” of Calvary to redeem us. The serpent and brass together beautifully illustrate God’s plan of salvation.
Jesus’ Feet of Burnished Brass
We previously saw how the risen Christ’s blazing feet of brass in Revelation point to His divine judgment (Revelation 1:15 NKJV). But this brass imagery also occurs in another prophetic vision. The prophet Daniel saw a glorious man with “his legs like the gleam of burnished bronze” (Daniel 10:6 NKJV). Here, the brilliant bronze likely depicts Jesus’ triumph over all evil powers through His death and resurrection.
Daniel’s vision occurred while the Jews were in Babylonian captivity due to the sins of their nation. But God showed Daniel the future victory of the Messiah, with feet and legs of judgment to tread down all His enemies. The Apostle Paul possibly had this image in mind when he wrote of Christ’s triumph over demonic rulers and authorities at the cross, “having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them” (Colossians 2:15 NKJV).
So the gleaming bronze legs and feet seen by Daniel and John point to Christ victoriously crushing satanic foes underfoot by His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. What amazing brass symbolism showing Jesus’ definitive defeat of evil!
Brass Pictures Spiritual Lessons for Believers
For the early Christians under Roman rule, the imagery of brass in the Bible provided encouragement and instruction. Since the emperors ruled with an iron fist, casting Christians to lions in the brass-barred Colosseum, the believers found hope in Revelation’s vision of Jesus’ brass feet judging this cruel empire while standing on the golden sands of heaven (Revelation 1:15). His flaming feet assured them of Rome’s eventual collapse.
Paul told the Corinthian church that he and the apostles endured many dangers so that “the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 NKJV). Their physical afflictions refined and “polished” their character like burnished brass to reveal the resurrection life of Christ. Suffering allowed God’s strength and glory to shine through their weakness.
For modern believers, the durability of brass in the Tabernacle’s laver and altar can picture how standing firm on Christ enables us to persevere through trials. Like Job who endured loss and pain, we “shall come forth as gold” and shine brighter for Jesus (Job 23:10 NKJV). The spiritual lessons mediated through brass point us to the risen Savior.
In summary, brass in Scripture clearly signifies Jesus’ strength to redeem us, judge evil, and defeat satanic powers through His death and resurrection. He is the fulfillment of the brass furnishings, altar, serpent, and symbolic feet. May this metal remind us of the durability, purity, and triumph of our Lord. Let’s trust in His proven strength to uphold us by faith in all troubles and persecution until He returns. Our Savior with “feet like fine brass” can trample every foe. We will walk in victory with our God.