Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Exodus 26:29 - Gold Plating the parts of the Tent of the Mishkan - Part 2

Let's take a look at the word in question...

29 And thou shalt overlay the boards with gold, and make their rings of gold for places for the bars: and thou shalt overlay the bars with gold.
‎29 ‏וְֽאֶת־הַקְּרָשִׁ֞ים תְּצַפֶּ֣ה זָהָ֗ב וְאֶת־טַבְּעֹֽתֵיהֶם֙ תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה זָהָ֔ב בָּתִּ֖ים לַבְּרִיחִ֑ם וְצִפִּיתָ֥ אֶת־הַבְּרִיחִ֖ם זָהָֽב׃
I'm going to gather some facts for you about this expression:

  1. In Tanakh,  in Gen 31:49 (and similar), where related expression "to watch"/to cover(overlay) with attention"/"to freeze in something" is used.
  2. In Tanakh, in 2 Chonicles(Divrey Yamim) 7:3, where related expression "the pavement"/"overlay of the ground" is used.
  3. In Tanakh, in Ezk 17:5, where related expression "as the willow"/"as conspicuous as the willow"/"as covered(overlayed) as the willow covers" is used.
  4. In Tanakh, in Dan 2:15, where related expression "urgent"/"overlayed upon the people" is used.
  5. In Tanakh, in Joel 1:7, where expression "to strip from bark"/"to strip from overlay of the stem" is used.
Now, lets' see where else in Pentateuch this technique is mentioned...

  1. In Pentateuch, in Exodus 27:2(and others), in relation to the Brass/Copper overlay of the Altar of Bunt Offering.
  2. In Pentateuch, in Exodus 38:28 (and others), in relation to the Silver Covers for the pillars of the courtyard of the Tabernacle
There are other similar uses of this expression and its root across the Tanakh, but there is no reason for me at this moment to list them all here...

Let me summarize the facts:
  1. Such overlay of the boards and bars would have to be closely "merged" with its substrate - wood in this case
  2. Such overlay would have to be thin enough so as not to add too much weight and thickness to its substrate - Gold is a very heavy metal.
  3. Such overlay, on the other hand, would have to be thick enough to withstand relatively high temperatures - see the Altar verse. And it would have to cover the substrate in such a way as not to allow substrate to burn out.
  4. Such overlay had to be quite smooth(polished) and evenly applied so that it may fit with other parts where applicable. I.e. staves had to fit perfectly inside the rings of the artefacts and the boards to be functional. Or, overlayed boards of the Tent had to fit perfectly one to another and to their sockets as to provide a light-proof connection.
I think this is it... At least this is all I can see at this moment.

So it had to be some kind of hybrid gilding technique. Or, perhaps some kind of metal coating technique. Or a combination of those...

Here is an excerpt from the book "The pictorial Bible, with notes" by J. Kitto:

34. ' He overlaid the boards with gold.'—The question arises whether in this place and elsewhere gilding, or actual overlaying with plates of metal, is intended. It is observable that the word ' gilding' never occurs in our translation, but 'overlaying' often; and yet there is no reason to question that the Hebrews were at some time or other acquainted with gilding, and it is therefore difficult to conclude that in all cases where the word HB¥ tzippah occurs it means only overlaying with plates of metal; and this may be the rather questioned, since the Septuagint renders it by Karaxpvaia!,' to gild,' and is followed in this by the Vulgate. Modern translators have, however, generally adopted the ambiguous expression, ' to overlay;' yet one of them, Michaelis, uses the term ' to gild' in application to the boards of the tabernacle. When Beckmann was writing his article on gilding, he applied to Professor Tychsen to furnish him with some information as to the Scriptural notices on the subject. The professor, in his reply, states the instances in which gilding or overlaying are mentioned. They are, iu the works of the tabernacle: —the ark, which was covered with gold within and without, and also the staves which belonged to it—the tabic of shew-bread, with its staves—the altar of burnt incense— the boards which formed the sides and the west end of the tabernacle; these were forty-eight in number, each having a surface of about forty-three feet and a half: besides which, there were the five bars on each side, which bound the whole together, and the pillars at the east end, which were also overlaid with gold. Then in Solomon's temple, the parts overlaid with gold were—the whole inside of the house (1 Kings vi. 21, 22): the altar of incense (verse 20-22): the wooden cherubim, above seventeen feet in height (verse 28): the floor (verse 30): the doors of the oracle, on which were carved cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers, so that the covering gold accurately exhibited the figures of the carved work (verse 32-35). ' Now,' proceeds the professor, ' the question is, whether all these were gilt, or covered, or overlaid with plates of gold, I am acquainted with no work in which this subject is professedly discussed, and therefore I submit the following remarks to your consideration: The expression continually used for overlaying is nSY, the original meaning of which in the Arabic, UL*5, " to be bright, clear," seems still to remain. The signification therefore is, " to make clear, to render bright;" but, as is commonly the case, nothing decisive can be obtained from this etymology; for it is equally applicable to gilding as to overlaying with gold.' In some following observations the professor omits to avail himself of the important corroboration of his own view (that the word translated ' to overlay' means only ' to render bright') which is afforded by the fact, that when overlaying is undoubtedly intended, as in overlaying the altar of burnt offering with plates of copper, quite another word is used (ffij'n}) than that which refers to the covering of the wood-work with gold. Upon the whole, Tychsen concludes, from a comparison of the different passages, that gilding is sometimes intended, rather than overlaying with plates of metal. He considers that the drying of the wood, and the softness of gold, which, in regard to staves, floors, etc., would soon be rubbed off, occasions some difficulty in the notion that plates of metal were employed; but even admitting that such plates could be made sufficiently fast to smooth surfaces of wood, he doubts whether any plates, however thin, could be so applied as to fit and exhibit accurately carved wooden figures and flower-work, as in 1 Kings vi. 35. And, with regard to the parts of the tabernacle, had they been covered with plates of gold, would they not have been too heavy for transportation, particularly as several of them were to be carried on the shoulders of men ? He also states his impression, that the twenty-nine talents and odd shekels of gold could scarcely have been sufficient to cover with plates of gold all the articles above enumerated after so many vessels and other things had been made with pnre gold. Upon the whole, Professor Tychsen thinks that the Hebrews understood both the arts of gilding and of overlaying with plates of metal, and that we must be left to infer from analog)' and probability which process of the two was employed in particular cases.

Some of these arguments seem to us to deserve great attention, and we have little hesitation in allowing their application to the temple of Solomon in the instances to which Professor Tychsen adverts; and, although with somewhat more hesitation, we may allow that collateral considerations give some probability to their application even to a structure so much more ancient and so different as the tabernacle. One of these considerations is, that gilding did not in ancient times imply so much inferiority to overlaying with plates as at present; for the ancient gold-beaters had not the art of reducing the gold-leaf to anything like the tenuity which may now be produced, and hence the ancient gilding was thick, durable, and rich. Another is, that the art of gilding was of very high antiquity iu Egypt. Herodotus mentions Egyptian statues ornamented with gilding; and he also mentions that he saw in the palace of Sais a cow of richly gilded wood, which had been made, in times long anterior to bis own, by Myccrinus (the son of Cheops, the pyramid-builder) to enclose the mummy of his daughter. Even at this day we find traces of gilding on mummies and mummy-cases, and in some instances the mummies appear to have been gilt all over. (See Long's Egyptian Antiquities, ii. 144.) Goguet thinks, indeed, that gilding was not known to the Greeks in the time of Homer. We do not feel that this position is fairly established by the instance he adduces; and if it were so, it is not only easy to conceive, but is certainly true, that the Egyptians had at that time long been acquainted with many arts which were not yet known to the Greeks. Goguet's instance is, that when the heifer which Nestor was about to offer to Minerva had, according to custom, its horns ornamented with gold, the process followed by the operator, who came with anvil, hammer, and pincers, is evidently not that of gilding, but of overlaying with plates of metal. See Origine des Lois, ii. 209.
You can find the book in my Google Library.

I was also asked if the overlay of the boards could've "wavy" reflections like on this image (http://www.animmanstudios.com/images/gallery/tabernacle/tabernacle-showbread.jpg) ?!?...

Well, IT IS POSSIBLE but highly unlikely, as it would mean that the overlay of the boards would be of a relatively low quality. Besides, the boards of the Tent were straight, thus making this assumption improbable.

All "non-straight" elements of the Mishkan, on the other hand, could have had "wavy" reflections due to the curvature... Corner boards, pillars, decorative elements of the cover of the Ark are all good examples...

Also, as I have pointed out in my previous posts, the Tent, from the inside, had to have an appearance of the the so-called Mirror Room to "expand" both the Sanctuary and the Holly Of Hollies of the Tent

Like this...

Also please note, that even high purity gold, if relatively well polished and under bright sunlight and the sky, would have this greenish appearance.
But it would look normal, even more so "golden-like", when under the light from the Menorah and with the coverings on the top of the Tent.

After all, the gold employed in the construction of the tabernacle was of high quality as we can read in Exodus 25:11 and all other verses where the Gold is mentioned - the pure gold - זָהָ֣ב טָה֔וֹר

Here are some trustworthy sources of information for you to check out if you are interested and want to know more:

  1. http://epner.com/applicationexamples.ssi#laser
  2. http://www.lbp.co.uk/Coatings/Gold.html
  3. http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/spinoff1997/hm2.html
  4. http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/abstracts.php?p=2452
  5. http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/gold/
  6. http://www.science.gold.org/

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