The Bible often uses everyday objects and experiences to convey spiritual truths. In some cases, it can take a bit of research to really get to the heart of the message, especially today since we’re now thousands of years removed from its date of writing. Such is the case with iron. An iron furnace is used in Deuteronomy 4:20 (see also 1 Kings. 8:51, Jeremiah 11:4) to describe Egypt’s role in Israel’s journey, and iron is used again in Proverbs 27:17 as a comparison to man.
“That all changed when someone figured out iron’s secret….a balance that once struck, ushered in the Iron Age.”
Iron technology seems to have taken the ancient world by storm during the time of the biblical Judges. Iron as a resource had always been known, but while it was readily available, it was notoriously difficult to process into something useful. Iron’s issues were twofold: it could not be melted down and mixed with an alloy for strength and when forged and cooled a substance called martensite rendered it useless. Thus, iron was used for jewelry and ceremonial weapons that didn’t see combat.
That all changed when someone figured out iron’s secret. Iron needs to absorb carbon. When red-hot iron is left on red-hot coals it absorbs carbon, creating what we call steel, a perfect metal for tools and weapons. The real trick though was in figuring out how to rid the iron of martensite, which left the metal strong but brittle. This was achieved by reheating to disintegrate unwanted layers, a balance that once struck, ushered in the Iron Age.
In this process the Bible found a powerful image. Egypt was Israel’s iron furnace. A place where Israel was left in an unpleasantly hot situation experiencing how an ungodly nation functioned. When the time was right, just as iron is cooled in water, God took them out through the Red Sea. Israel was changed, stronger than before yet still brittle as the spies refused the Promised Land. So, back into the fire they went, this time a slow, steady progression of trials would slough off their outer layers exposing a new nation that would change the world.
Corie Bobechko | June 1, 2019 – 12:30 PM EST.