Deuteronomy 8:9
A land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass.
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(9) Whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.—We do not hear of mining operations in Palestine from sacred history. “Brass,” i.e., copper; and so in all passages.

8:1-9 Obedience must be, 1. Careful, observe to do; 2. Universal, to do all the commandments; and 3. From a good principle, with a regard to God as the Lord, and their God, and with a holy fear of him. To engage them to this obedience. Moses directs them to look back. It is good to remember all the ways, both of God's providence and grace, by which he has led us through this wilderness, that we may cheerfully serve him and trust in him. They must remember the straits they were sometimes brought into, for mortifying their pride, and manifesting their perverseness; to prove them, that they and others might know all that was in their heart, and that all might see that God chose them, not for any thing in them which might recommend them to his favour. They must remember the miraculous supplies of food and raiment granted them. Let none of God's children distrust their Father, nor take any sinful course for the supply of their necessities. Some way or other, God will provide for them in the way of duty and honest diligence, and verily they shall be fed. It may be applied spiritually; the word of God is the food of the soul. Christ is the word of God; by him we live. They must also remember the rebukes they had been under, and not without need. This use we should make of all our afflictions; by them let us be quickened to our duty. Moses also directs them to look forward to Canaan. Look which way we will, both to look back and to look forward, to Canaan. Look which way we will, both to look back and to look forward will furnish us with arguments for obedience. Moses saw in that land a type of the better country. The gospel church is the New Testament Canaan, watered with the Spirit in his gifts and graces, planted with trees of righteousness, bearing fruits of righteousness. Heaven is the good land, in which nothing is wanting, and where is fulness of joy.For brass read copper (Genesis 4:22 note); and compare the description of mining operations in Job 28:1-11. Mining does not seem to have been extensively carried on by the Jews, though it certainly was by the Canaanite peoples displaced by them. Traces of iron and copper works have been discovered by modern travelers in Lebanon and many parts of the country; e. g., the district of Argob (see Deuteronomy 3:4 notes) contains iron-stone in abundance. 9. a land whose stones are iron—The abundance of this metal in Palestine, especially among the mountains of Lebanon, those of Kesraoun, and elsewhere, is attested not only by Josephus, but by Volney, Buckingham, and other travellers.

brass—not the alloy brass, but the ore of copper. Although the mines may now be exhausted or neglected, they yielded plenty of those metals anciently (1Ch 22:3; 29:2-7; Isa 60:17).

Where are mines of iron in a manner as plentiful as stones, and upon which travellers must tread, as in other parts they do upon stones;

and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass, to wit, in great plenty. These are mentioned, because they had none such in Egypt whence they came. A land wherein thou shall eat bread without scarceness,.... That is, should have plenty of all sorts of provisions, which bread is often put for:

thou shall not lack anything in it; for necessity and convenience, and for delight and pleasure:

a land whose stones are iron; in which were iron mines:

and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass; both which are taken out of the earth and the stones of it, Job 28:2 and were to be found in the land of Canaan, and particularly in the tribe of Asher, as seems from Deuteronomy 33:25 and more particularly at Sidon and Sarepta, which were in that tribe; the latter of which seems to have its name from the melting of metals there, and the former is said in Homer (t) to abound with brass.

(t) . Homer. Odyss. 15. l. 424.

A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land {f} whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.

(f) Where there are mines of metal.

9. without scarceness] The noun is found only here, and its adj. thrice only in the late Ecclesiastes 4:13; Ecclesiastes 9:15 f.; cp. Isaiah 40:20. Scarcity of bread is a great curse of the desert nomads: some tribes taste it but once a month, others not so often, and it is regarded as a luxury (Robinson, Bib. Res. ii. 497, cp. i. 197 f., Musil, Arabia Petr. iii. ‘Ethnolog. Reisebericht,’ 148). Their hunger for it is a frequent cause of their raids on the fellahin (for an instance see von Oppenheim, Vom Mittelmeer zum Pers. Golf, i. 269).

whose stones are iron] Whether iron here means basalt as in Deuteronomy 3:11 (q.v.) is doubtful, for basalt is not confined to fertile lands, but is also found in the desert. More probably it is iron proper: not introduced to Palestine till the arrival of Israel or perhaps later. Like copper it came from the North (Jeremiah 15:12), where the Phoenicians and Arameans seem to have moulded and worked it in the Lebanons (Ramman-Nirari III of Assyria records it as tribute from Aram-Damascus; and Idrisi, see ZDPV, viii. 134, mentions a mine above Beyrout). Josephus speaks of the Iron Mountain running as far as Moabitis (IV. B.J. Deuteronomy 8:2) and the Letter of Aristeas says that both iron and copper were brought before the Persian period from the Mts of Arabia. ‘Some have denied that the promise to Israel of iron in the rocks of their own land is justified by the geological facts. But ancient sources of the ore have been discovered at Ikzim on Mt Carmel, and near Burme, N. of the Jabbok’ (Jerus. i. 332). Some of the hot springs of Palestine are impregnated with iron (Driver quoting Burckhardt, 33 f.). The excess of the references to iron and to furnaces in Jer. and Deut. over those in previous writers points to an increase of the metal in Israel before 650 b.c.

brass] ‘In the O.T. this never refers to the alloy of zinc to which the term is now confined’ (J. H. Gladstone, PEFQ, 1898, 253 n.) but means either bronze, copper with alloy of tin, or pure copper. In W. Asia no source of tin has been certainly identified. But in a paper on ‘Copper and its Alloys in Antiquity’ (reported in Athenaeum, Feb. 3, 1906) the President of the Anthropological Institute gives his opinion that bronze was made directly from a copper ore containing tin long before the two metals were artificially mixed. The sources of copper for Palestine were Cyprus, the Lebanons (‘the land of Nuḥashshi’ or bronze), Edom, and N. Arabia (Tell-el-Amarna Letters (Winckler’s ed.), 25, 27, 31 ff.; see the present writer’s article ‘Trade, etc.’ in Enc. Bibl. § 7; and for the copper-mines and smelting furnaces of N. Edom at Fênân, the Phainôn of antiquity, see Musil, Edom, i. 156 f., 287, 298, 323, ii. 7 f.).Verse 9. - A land whose stones are iron. Minerals do not abound in Palestine; the hills are for the most part calcareous; but by the side of the limestone in the north of Canaan ferruginous basalt appears in largo masses, and on Lebanon ironstone abounds. Near Tiberius are springs largely impregnated with iron, as are also those at Has-beija, on the Hermon range, as well as the soil around that place. Traces of extinct copper works are also to be found on Lebanon (cf. art. 'Metals,' in Kitto and Smith; Ritter, 'Geography of Palestine,' 1:248). The Israelites, however, do not seem to have carried on mining operations themselves, but to have been content to obtain supplies of the useful metals from their neighbors (2 Samuel 8:8; 1 Chronicles 18:8; 1 Chronicles 22:3, 14). The humiliation in the desert consisted not merely in the fact that God let the people hunger, i.e., be in want of bread and their ordinary food, but also in the fact that He fed them with manna, which was unknown to them and their fathers (cf. Exodus 16:16.). Feeding with manna is called a humiliation, inasmuch as God intended to show to the people through this food, which had previously been altogether unknown to them, that man does not live by bread alone, that the power to sustain life does not rest upon bread only (Isaiah 38:16; Genesis 27:40), or belong simply to it, but to all that goeth forth out of the mouth of Jehovah. That which "proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah" is not the word of the law, as the Rabbins suppose, but, as the word כּל (all, every) shows, "the word" generally, the revealed will of God to preserve the life of man in whatever way (Schultz): hence all means designed and appointed by the Lord for the sustenance of life. In this sense Christ quotes these words in reply to the tempter (Matthew 4:4), not to say to him, The Messiah lives not by (material) bread only, but by the fulfilment of the will of God (Usteri, Ullmann), or by trusting in the sustaining word of God (Olshausen); but that He left it to God to care for the sustenance of His life, as God could sustain His life in extraordinary ways, even without the common supplies of food, by the power of His almighty word and will.
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