Metaphors in the Torah: Gold, Silver and Copper

Illustration: The Brazen Serpent
By Gustave Dor'e

In school my major was comparative literature, not comparative religions. Probably, the most famous story about gold has to be the one of King Midas and his golden touch. For our purposes here, the important thing to note is that, afterwards, the king was no longer able to eat fruit, because that too would turn to gold. In this series of articles we have given countless examples of fruit representing knowledge. We have also discussed first fruits of the field being connected to the word of God in relation to the Holy Day of “Shavout”. Therefore, the implication seems to be that gold represents something that appears very desirable, but, by itself, is unable to sustain man for very long.

A second story involving gold comes from the New Testament where the question is asked: “What is more important, the temple or the gold on the roof of the temple?” The answer given is the temple is more important, because it is what makes the gold on the roof special and not vice versa.

The third story is from the Torah and, of course, deals with the: “Golden Calf”. What I believe is the crucial element in this story is the fact that the gold came from the jewelry of the Egyptians and jewelry, of course, only serves to enhance one's ego. In a previous article we showed that a bull represents the intellectual power which allows scholars to “plough through” difficult religious texts.


It is my opinion that gold represents the religious writings of men and a simple example of this would be the golden tablets of the Mormons. In Judaism gold would represent a source of religious teachings by men which is considered more precious than the word of God; this, of course, is the Talmud.

In Hebrew the word for silver is also used as the word for all types of money, whereas in the United States it is only used to describe coin money. Regardless, money is not a major theme in the Old Testament, except in the story of Jacob working for his uncle Laban. The currency used in their work contract, however,  is: sheep and we have discussed throughout these articles that a lamb represents the word of God from a spiritual medium and meat represents a type of religious sermon. Just so there is no doubt about how important the sheep is as a religious symbol, it should be recalled that King Saul not only lost his own throne, but the opportunity for his descendants to establish a dynasty as well. All because he listened to the voice of the people and sacrificed some Amalikite sheep.

For our purposes here, however, the clearest example comes from the New Testament in the: “Parable of the Vineyard”. We have discussed in a previous article that it was prophesied that Noah would remove the frustrations of man’s hands which resulted from the curse God placed on the ground. We also noted that the only thing Noah did was to plant a vineyard and that fields represent schools. So, without going into a long explanation, we can say that a vineyard represents a spiritual school and the “wages” that the workers received were “spiritual teachings”. In this parable, however, the workers do not receive “sheep”, they receive money.

Since we are already talking about the New Testament, we might as well also mention the well known quote: “the wages of sin is death”.

The point is that the Old and New Testaments are not corporate annual reports. Wages and money are metaphors for spiritual teachings. We said that the wages of Jacob were sheep and in the Tanakh the Children of Israel are always compared to sheep. This is because the Children of Israel are the custodians of God’s word. In other articles we also explained that any teachings which deviate from God's teachings are a sin.

Hence: "the wages of sin are death" means that: "false spiritual teachings will lead to total ignorance..."
Thus silver is a metaphor for spiritual teachings or lessons.

Copper, in English translations, usually appears as bronze, but in Modern Hebrew bronze has its own name: “arad”.

Regardless, the word appearing in the Torah has the same root as the word for snake. It is my opinion that a snake is a metaphor for a teacher of religious law and is not a demonic being. Basically, Jacob describes his son Dan as a snake on the path which bites the heel of a horse (this path is what the rabbis now call: the “hah-lach-hah” or “the way” which is a metaphor for a lifestyle based on the Torah).

The name: “Dan” means judge and it must be recalled that the staff of Moses turned into a snake and Moses was: “The Law Giver” (it is my opinion that the staff of Aaron turned into a crocodile, not a snake).

Naturally, the most famous example of a copper/bronze object in the Torah is: “the bronze snake”. The Israelites are bitten by poisonous snakes and God tells Moses to place a bronze snake on a pole to cure them. The next question must be: Who are the poisonous snakes?  Well the answer is obvious: If Dan is a judge and Jacob describes him as a snake, then all judges must be snakes. The poison of the snakes are the lies which come out of their mouths and the particular lie the Children of Israel believed was that they should not enter the Promised Land because their children would die there. Who spread this lie? This lie was started by the 10 dishonest spies, but then was accepted and endorsed by the leaders of the Israelites. Who exactly were the leaders of the Israelites? The Torah clearly tells us that these were the first seventy judges selected to help Moses and today modern day rabbis tell us that these judges were the first men to receive the oral law.

This, of course, is very interesting because just this week the Chief Rabbi of Denmark was telling his community there was no need to move to Israel  and, a few weeks ago, the Chief Rabbi of France was telling his community the same thing.

Naturally, this was the exact same thing the orthodox rabbis in Poland were telling their communities in the 1920’s and 1930’s….

Isn’t  it nice to see that some things never change….

Regardless, we also see that the two main pillars that hold up the first temple were made of bronze and the incense altar was also covered in bronze.

Since the temple is the place where God speaks to his people, copper/bronze pillars represent scriptures which support God’s words. The copper used for the incense altar suggests that scriptures which support God's word "inspire" us. Thus, judges who accurately teach God’s word are represented by bronze snakes; but  judges who pervert God’s teachings with their own ideas are represented by poisonous snakes.

It is interesting to note that today people wear copper bracelets to heal a variety of ailments and the bronze snake on the pole is symbol for the medical services in Israel.  Thus: the wages of sin brings death, yet the words of God bring healing and life...