Previous Next

Table of Contents


Handicraft. Acts 18:3; 19:25; Rev. 18:22. A trade was taught to all the Jewish boys, as a necessary part of their education. Even the greatest rabbis maintained themselves by trades (Delitzsch). Says Rabbi Jehuda, “He who does not teach his son a trade is much the same as if taught him to be a thief.” In the present article brief notices only can be given of such handicraft trades as are mentioned in Scripture.

1. Smiths or metal-workers.—The preparation of iron for use wither in war, in agriculture, or for domestic purposes was doubtless one of the earliest applications of labor; and together with iron, working in brass, or rather copper alloyed with tin (bronze), is mentioned as practiced in antediluvian times. Gen. 4:22. After the establishment of the Jews in Canaan, the occupation of a smith became recognized as a distinct employment. 1 Sam. 13:19. The smith’s work and its results are often mentioned in Scripture. 2 Sam. 12:31; 1 Kings 6:7; 2 Chron. 26:14; Isa. 44:12; 54:16. The worker in gold and silver must have found employment among both the Hebrews and the neighboring nations in very early times. Gen. 24:22, 53; 35:4; 38:18. Various processes of the goldsmith’s work are illustrated by Egyptian monuments. After the conquest frequent notices are found of both moulded and wrought metal, including soldering.

2. Carpenters are often mentioned in Scripture. Gen. 6:14; Ex. 37; Isa. 44:13. In the palace built by David for himself the workmen employed were chiefly foreigners. 2 Sam. 5:11. That the Jewish carpenters must have been able to carve with some skill is evident from Isa. 41:7; 44:13. In the New Testament the occupation of a carpenter is mentioned in connection with Joseph the husband of the Virgin Mary, and ascribed to our Lord himself. Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3. The trade included our cabinet work as well as carpentering.


Carpenter’s Shop at Nazareth. (From an original Photograph.)

3. The masons employed by David and Solomon, at least the chief of them, were Phœnicians. 1 Kings 5:18; Ezek. 27:9. The large stones used in Solomon’s temple are said by Josephus to have been fitted together exactly without either mortar or clamps, but the foundation stones to have been fastened with lead. For ordinary building mortar was used; sometimes, perhaps, bitumen, as was the case at Babylon. Gen. 11:3. The wall “daubed with untempered mortar” of Ezekiel 13:10 was perhaps a sort of cob-wall of mud or clay without lime, which would give way under heavy rain. The use of whitewash on tombs is remarked by our Lord. Matt. 23:27.

4. Ship-building must have been exercised to some extent for the fishing-vessels on the Lake of Gennesaret. Matt. 8:23; 9:1; John 21:3, 8. Solomon built ships for his foreign trade. 1 Kings 9:26, 27; 22:48; 2 Chron. 20:36, 37.

5. Apothecaries or perfumers appear to have formed a guild or association. Ex. 30:25, 35; 2 Chron. 16:14; Neh. 3:8; Eccles. 7:1; 10:1; Ecclus. 38:8.

6. Weavers.—The arts of spinning and weaving both wool and linen were carried on in early times, as they usually are still among the Bedouins, by women. Ex. 35:25, 26; Lev. 19:19; Deut. 22:11; 2 Kings 23:7; Ezek. 16:16; Prov. 31:13, 24. The loom with its beam, 1 Sam. 17:7, pin, Judges 16:14, and shuttle, Job 7:6, was perhaps introduced later, but as early as David’s time. 1 Sam. 17:7.

7. Dyeing and dressing cloth were practiced in Palestine, as were also tanning and dressing leather. Josh. 2:15-18; 2 Kings 1:8; Matt. 3:4; Acts 9:43.

8. Barbers. Num. 6:5, 19; Ezek. 5:1.

9. Tent-makers are noticed in Acts 18:3.

10. Potters are frequently alluded to. Jer. 18:2-6.

11. Bakers are noticed in Scripture, Jer. 37:21; Hos. 7:4; and the well-known valley Tyropœon probably derived its name from the occupation of the cheese-makers, its inhabitants.

12. Butchers, not Jewish, are spoken of 1 Cor. 10:25.

Shoemakers, tailors, glaziers and glass vessels, painters and gold-workers are mentioned in the Mishna. Chel. viii. 9; xxix. 3, 4; xxx. 1.