Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron

Yahweh promises to upgrade Israel: In place of their bronze, iron, wood, and stones He will give gold, silver, bronze, and iron (Isaiah 60:17). It’s a myth of decline in reverse, with the golden age following rather than preceding the bronze (see Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy, & Hope In Western Literature).

Isaiah is talking about temple-building: Gentile kings will bring their treasures and flocks to rebuild, adorn, and maintain Zion (vv. 6-9, 13). Fittingly, these four metals are the ones gathered into Yahweh’s treasury (Numbers 31:22; Joshua 6:24) and used to build the first temple (1 Chronicles 22:14, 16; 29:2; 2 Chronicles 2:14).Wood and stones are also materials for the first temple, wood for the paneling and stones for the sanctuary itself. In the future, Isaiah says, all the base materials will be transformed into more precious metals.

Isaiah’s list is also connected to the dream in Daniel 2 where Nebuchadnezzar sees a statue made up of gold, silver, bronze, and iron, the iron of the feet mixed with clay. It’s tempting to link these two passages strongly: Daniel 2 indicates the fulfillment of Isaiah 60, so that the bronze statue is the gold, silver, bronze, and iron temple that Isaiah prophesies about. Then we learn in Daniel 2 that the statue, made up of temple materials, portrays a four-empire sequence that is ended with coming of Yahweh’s kingdom.

We shouldn’t leave the temple setting behind, however, for Daniel 2 is consistent with the vision of Isaiah 60: Isaiah says that kings will rebuild Yahweh’s sanctuary. Daniel adds that Gentile kingdoms form a sanctuary.

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