How does iron sharpen iron?
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. (KJV)The many other English versions I have consulted all refer to iron sharpening iron, including the most idiomatic versions, such as:
Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other. (CEV)I have often referred to mutual learning among colleagues as "iron sharpening iron." But I must confess that I have never known what it means for iron to sharpen iron. It must have been some kind of action done by the Hebrew people and others who lived after the Iron Age, where one piece of iron metal was used to sharpen another piece. But if I were to take two pieces of iron, I wouldn't know what to do with them so that they sharpen each other.
Might one of the pieces have a rough edge, like that of a file, which can grind away at the other piece so that it gets an edge which can be used for chopping wood, or perhaps even get such a honed edge that it can cut meat and other food?
Or does the ironworker use both pieces to chip away at each other until each piece has some sharp edges?
Inquiring minds want to know how iron sharpened iron at the time that this Hebrew proverb was recorded. Do some of you who have studied the culture of the Ancient Near East know? If I knew how iron sharpens iron, it would help me better understand the entire proverb, and I wouldn't just be reciting it, but it would all make sense, which, I believe, is supposed to be the case for most of the Bible. The Bible was written to make sense, and I'd like that sense to come through in the versions that I read.