It would appear that the action of the lodestone must have been discovered very early; a legend tells how a young herdsman in the hills of Magnesia felt the nails of his shoes kept glued to the rock, and thus discovered the phenomenon of magnetism. Since magnetic rock is found in many places, the discovery of its action must have been made in more than one place; yet apparently knowledge of the phenomenon was confined to the initiated, whether the medicine man, yogi, or shaman.

Is it for certain that the phenomenon has no reference in the Hebrew Scriptures? One instance, it seems, points to its use by the seer Elisha. In the Book of Kings where the story of his deeds is given, apparently culled from some ancient source no longer extant, the following episode is described:

So he [Elisha] went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.

But as one was felling a beam, the ax head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.

And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put it in his hand, and took it.(1)

Nothing is said as to whether a lodestone was attached to the twig. The onlookers could think that the twig was a wonder wand, and that a stone tied to its end was only for the purpose of approaching the twig to the sunken ax. But we know that a twig would not attract and lift iron, whereas a lodestone would—and much more easily in water than in air, because the weight of the ax would be that much lighter in water. Preoccupation with things electrical and magnetic was a trademark of Elijah and his apprentice and successor Elisha.

There remains a margin of surmise in this our explanation of the phenomenon. But should today primitives of Africa or Australia ask a missionary to perform the miracle and lift iron drowned in a stream or a lake, he would impress them greatly if he should repeat the miracle as reconstructed here. Miracle it is, but not of the one who long ago knew its use: magnetism is a miracle with which the Universe is created, and its true nature is still not known, and therefore belongs in the fold of the miraculous.


  1. II Kings 6:4-7.