From the gold and silver in Solomon’s temple to heaven’s streets of pure gold, there are more than 700 references to these two precious metals in the Bible. My favorite connection to gold is in 2 Corinthians 13 so let me start with that.
In Greek, 2 Corinthians 13 has a clever word play crafted into the heart of the message. The word used means testing to demonstrate that something is genuine. Paul also used this Greek word carrying that same idea when he told the Thessalonians to “examine everything” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The word is dokimazō. In cultural context, it was used to describe a marketplace where the authorities would examine coins to make sure they weren’t counterfeit. That is why today gold is often stamped according to its internal makeup. It means to prove the inner value of something.
In Jeremiah 11:20 testing is based on God’s examination. That is the “gold standard” per se. In that Old Testament context, the idea of testing takes on the distinction of examining the essential spiritual qualities of a person. In the NT our bodies are His temples, and we are the priests to the people outside of this temple, to bring God to the people and the people to God. As God examines us to be part of his temple work, we are now asked to examine everything that comes into this sacred space. We have regularly heard things like garbage in, garbage out, or you become the company you keep. These little proverbs are all ways of recognizing Biblical truths that have been a part of God’s culture for generations. If God dwells within you, you see the world with His eyes and according to His standards. We are in a constant fight within our inner beings towards sanctification. We all started out as belonging to the world but have been reclaimed by Jesus and are now in the great process of becoming less of the world and more of Him. God examines us and we in turn are asked to examine what comes into the temple. It is by God’s name that we have the power of examination. God is the standard, and His temple was purified by gold.
THE BASICS OF BIBLICAL GOLD
I don’t think it is a coincidence that there are 7 hebrew words for Gold. Zahab for shining, paz for purity, betser for dust, charuts for pieces, kethem for raw, sagar meaning solid, and dehab which seems to be more mysterious, this one is my favorite.
The first reference is in Genesis 2 when we learn that the river flowed from Eden seems to lead to gold. This could be a reference to the mines at the end of the river in Havilah or could be a mystery that we simply don’t have or understand since Eden closed. I think there are several things about Eden we never get, because of the fall seemingly taking place so quickly into the creation narrative.
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pishon: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good.”
The Bible says God created the world and the elements within it. Gold is depicted as an asset of value.
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.”
According to Biblestudy.org scripture lists at least six places, in ancient times, where gold was known to be found. They are Havilah (Genesis 2:11 – 12), Ophir (1Kings 9:28, 10:11, 1Chronicles 29:4, 2Chronicles 8:18, Job 22:24), Parvaim (2Chronicles 3:6), Sheba (1Kings 10:10, 2Chronicles 9:9, Psalm 72:15), Tarshish (2Chronicles 9:21, Isaiah 60:9) and Uphaz (Jeremiah 10:9).
Gold was the main commodity of the ancient and is weighed according to a talent. A talent is about 75 lbs. Today a talent of gold would be worth $2,000,000. Gives you new significance for the parable of talents and the servant that was given 5 talents, that is $10,000,000 today! How would you invest 10 million dollars?
Since the Bible starts with Eden and mentions gold, I bet you figured it out; we also see gold in the end. Revelations mentions gold 22 times especially when describing the recreated Heavens and Earth.
However, gold isn’t always viewed in a positive sense in the Bible either, it regularly was connected to idolatry. Interesting that God tells Joshua that gold should be set apart in consecration. Later in the New Testament those words are very similar to the words used for those claimed by God. There is a connection.
In Exodus 25 verse 11, the construction of the Ark of the Covenant is described:
And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without thou shall overlay it and shall make upon it a crown of gold round about.
Further in verse 17, the mercy seat is also to be of Gold
And thou shall make a mercy seat of pure gold.
Even in the last book of our Ancient Prophetic Text in Revelation Chapter 21 verse 18 we are told this of the gold in the New Jerusalem:
And the building of the wall of it was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
livingwordin3d helps us understand the Hebrew here in the letters of Zahab Zayin Hey Beyt.
Zayin is the picture of the garden tool or the weapon and means to cut off, to pierce, to prune, or to harvest.
Hey is the picture of the man with uplifted arms and means to pay attention to what follows, to behold, or to look upon, and can mean the Holy Spirit as the Revelator.
Beyt is the picture of the tent and means house, family, dwelling place, or inside, and is the first letter in the Torah that identifies the Son of God.
So the first mystery we find in the Hebrew pictographs tells us why gold is found on the ark and the mercy seat. We are to behold the Son of God who will be cut off and pierced for us. Zahab is a constant reminder to us of the value of what Messiah has done on our behalf.
I think in general you are going to find that gold is similar to anything else in the scripture. It was likely created by the hand of God and given to humankind in Eden, but after the fall became equated to the greed of the world. I have been alluding to a lot so maybe I will connect some dots here at the end. Gold was a picture of one of God’s most precious creations. It is a typology of humankind. It was one of the most desirous and beautiful things that He made. (Thus the number 7.) Yet when the earth falls, like so many other things, something so beautiful will be jaded by the world and the fallen principalities. It becomes synonymous with greed. It was designed as a precious gift from God to bring man to God, but ends up taking Man away from God after the fall. Some scholars have even gone as far as to make a connection that in Eden and the recreated Heavens and new earth the streets of gold will once again lead to God himself. His plan to renew all that was lost includes gold. Their is a correlation between humanity as God’s most precious portion and the typology of gold and how it is used in His kingdom and temple; and the purification process.
For now, gold belongs to the greed of the world. In some ways we should run from it; yet in God’s time all that is his will be reclaimed. Eventually the rich of the earth will be poor in the kingdom, and the poor of the world that were drawn to Him will be great in His kingdom. The gold will like be given to them in an eschatological sense. Wealth in he kingdom is also a backwards picture of the greed of this world.
“We see then that wealth is a down payment; it is the first part of the fulfillment. God has promised grace, and he begins to fulfill this promise by acting in this material way [by granting us wealth].”
“In our world, we solve our problems all alone with our technology, our science, our money, our political parties; God does not answer because we do not call him. The poor do not call on him, and those who call him are the rich. . . . The Bible calls anyone who has no real need of God’s help rich. . . . The church cannot be an assembly of the rich; it is made for poor outsiders.”
Finally, one last rant. The poor today are still significant. I wish today’s churches had a better first century view of wealth and focus on the “least of these.” Jesus spoke more about material money than anything else. It is a backwards kingdom. What God originally made to bring people to Him (Gold) is now a contronym of the world and is probably the greatest thing that moves people away from God. To the dedicated disciple, we should treat gold as dust. But eventually even the dust will be reconciled to Him and purified for a new kingdom.
 Jacques Ellul, Money & Power, p. 64.
 Ellul, pp. 153, 152, 150.