Biblical Archaeology Review 38:6, November/December 2012

Strata: Exhibit Watch: Jerusalem of Gold

Gold is mentioned 285 times in the Hebrew Bible—more than any other metal—and the use of its imagery by the Biblical writers is as rich and varied as the precious objects into which it was formed throughout antiquity. Gold jewelery offered to Rebecca (Genesis 24) and to Joseph (Genesis 41:39–44) reflect their honored status as Isaac’s bride and Pharaoh’s viceroy, respectively, but the idolatrous golden calf forged at the foot of Mt. Sinai brought shame and suffering on the Israelites. Abraham and Solomon both amassed great riches in gold (Genesis 13; 1 Kings 10)—a sign of God’s favor—yet in Deuteronomy, kings are advised not to seek material fortunes in silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:17). God tests the faithfulness of his people and refines their hearts like gold (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; Job 23:10), yet the Bible mentions several things more valuable than gold: a good name (Proverbs 22:1), wisdom (Job 28) and God’s law (Psalms 119:72).

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