Saturday, April 29, 2017

Brass in the Bible, and brassy, brazen women

Did you ever think about brass? Looking at some of the items in the Bible more closely is enjoyable. Linen, pomegranates, ants, and palm trees have all been examined on this blog. Soon it will be fishing boats. Today I'm interested in brass.

My interest was piqued when I was listening to a John MacArthur sermon on Revelation 1. As an aside I'd like to add a personal note. I've listened to Dr MacArthur's sermons on the eschatological passages and I have researched his doctrinal stances on eschatology. I have of course also studied the eschatological doctrines myself directly in the Bible, and have listened to many other men preach on them. I believe Dr MacArthur is the most solid and biblical. Here, he preaches "Why every Calvinist should be a Premillennialist" and explains all the main eschatological viewpoints, biblically. He is firm but graceful on his pre-tribulation stance because it's biblically rooted (a stance to which I hold and I believe to be the only correct one).

In the sermon, Dr MacArthur was going through the vision given to John of Patmos in Revelation 1:12-14.
"His feet were like burnished bronze when it has been caused to glow in a furnace." What is that? Red hot. You've seen metal in a furnace, glowing, burning brass, or bronze. By the way, as a footnote, all of the temple and all of the tabernacle furniture that was in any way used in a sin offering was always brass. When you see brass in this situation, you know it has something to do with sin. And here you have feet glowing hot...very clear reference to judgment."
Then MacArthur said,
By the way, as a footnote, all of the temple and all of the tabernacle furniture that was in any way used in a sin offering was always brass. When you see brass in this situation, you know it has something to do with sin.
Hmmm. Immediately I thought of the verse in 1 Corinthians 13:1 where Paul said,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The Greek word used in the verse for gong is brass. Now, not every biblical mention of brass is a symbol of sin. Brass instruments are mentioned. Bronze statues are made. Bronze tools are helpful. Alternately, the Calf the Israelites made was golden, not bronze. However, the bronze serpent called Nehushtan became an idol that had to be destroyed.

While brass or bronze in the temple is not used in a positive sense, now that I think about it, culturally, brass is not positive much either.

The word brazen means acting or done in a very open and shocking way without shame or embarrassment, to face with defiance or impudence —usually used in the phrase brazen it out

If someone calls you brazen, it's not a compliment. For women, it's even worse. A cultural epithet feminists continue to try and twist into an accolade is "the brassy woman." This 2014 Elle Magazine article titled "Is it Really Okay for Women to be Brassy?" looked at one famous brassy woman and her life and death, comedienne Joan Rivers.
In all of the glowing memorials of Joan Rivers, who died last week at 81, she is lovingly referred to as "brassy." And comedy, it seems, has begun to embrace the Schumerian vulgarity in all women. But, does society really, truly love a brassy gal? ... 
In nearly every piece of writing on the life and death of Joan Rivers, she is referred to as such. Her admirers say "brassy" like it's a good thing. That wasn't always the consensus.
The halfhearted answer in the magazine article is that it's kind of OK to be brassy, but the biblical answer is, no. Though the article calls brassy women "assertive" and "confident", brassy women are more like the aforementioned clanging brass and clanging cymbal- just noise without music. Think of women who are or were considered brassy, Joan Rivers, Mae West, Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman. Now think of women who have never been called brassy, Jennifer Aniston, Olivia De Haviland, Meg Ryan. The former are profane, vulgar, and loud. The latter are demure, self-possessed, and dignified. Who would you rather be around? Which woman possesses the more biblical definition of womanliness?
Fun fact: If you mix other metals with copper, you get bronze and brass. Bronze is a mixture of about 90% copper and 10% tin. It’s darker than copper, and the color is less warm. In fact, bronze turns green when it oxidizes. Dark bronze can look almost chocolatey. 
Take 70% to 85% copper and mix it with zinc, and you get brass. It’s a yellow-gold color. So how do you tell brass and gold apart? Brass is slightly darker and duller; gold is lighter and shinier. ... An easy way to see if something is gold or brass is to use a magnet. Brass will attract the magnet, but gold won’t. If something says “K” or “karats,” it’s gold. Gold is also about twice as heavy as brass.
The brass implements at the temple were used just outside the holy of holies. Inside the holy of holies, was gold. For example, the bronze laver in which to wash and purify from sin before tending to priestly duties is a case in point.

The Bible is precise. The Holy Spirit inspired the men to write what they did for a reason, even down to the kinds of metal God chose to use for various items for various reasons. It would be fun to study the refining process, which metals are composed of how much dross and the biblical uses of various metals.

In High School I took "Shop." One of the projects we did was working with metal. I made an iron capital E, similar to the large capital letter "M" that Mary Tyler Moore had on her apartment wall in the old TV show. Though the half semester course was over 40 years ago, I distinctly remember excitedly donning all the safety gear and carefully pouring the liquid metal into my mold. I could hardly wait until the item cooled. It came out great!

I was amazed by the beauty of the molten metal, the glowing colors and the gracefulness of how it poured. I was satisfied to learn how it changed from solid to liquid to solid again. Metal is beautiful and interesting. I lost my 'sculpture' long ago, I wish I hadn't.

Brass, bronze, brazen. Think about it. Would you rather be "good as gold" with a "heart of gold"? Or a "brassy women" who is "bold as brass"?




**Ed Note: even searching for examples of "brazen women" to use in this essay yielded many sites and photos of women toting guns (as in criminals like gun moll), being profane and immodest, and/or involved in public sex or known for "confident" sexuality. I rest my case.

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Further Reading

Brazen Women: vintage postcards and photos with captions of historically daring women


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