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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Handicraft

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a general term (not occurring, however, in the Bible) for any manufacture. (See ARTIFICER). Although the extent cannot be ascertained to which those arts were carried whose invention is ascribed to Tubal-Cain (Genesis 4:22), it is probable that this was proportionate to the nomadic or settled habits of the antediluvian races. Among nomad races, as the Bedouin Arabs, or the tribes of Northern and Central Asia and of' America, the wants of life, as well as the arts which supply them, are few; and it is only among the city dwellers that both of them are multiplied and make progress. The following particulars may be gathered respecting the various handicrafts mentioned in he Scriptures. (See CRAFTSMAN).

1. The preparation of iron for use either in war, in agriculture, or for domestic purposes, was doubtless one (the earliest applications of labor; and, together with iron, working in brass, or, rather, copper alloyed with tin, bronze (נַחשֶׁת, Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 875), is mentioned in the same passage as practiced in antediluvian times (Genesis 4:22). The use of this last is usually considered as an art of higher antiquity even than that of iron (Hesiod, Works and Days, p. 150; Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 2, 152, abridgment), and there can be no doubt that metal, whether iron or bronze, must have been largely used, either in material or in tools, for the construction of the ark (Genesis 6:14; Genesis 6:16). Whether the weapons for war or chase used by the early warriors of Syria and Assyria, or the arrow- heads of the archer Ishmael, were of bronze or iron, cannot be ascertained; but we know that iron was used for warlike purposes by the Assyrians (Layard, Nin. and Bab. p. 194); and, on the other hand, that stone-tipped arrows, as was the case also in Mexico, were used in the earlier times by the Egyptians, as well as the Persians and Greeks, and that stone or flint knives continued to be used by them, and by the inhabit-ants of the desert, and also by the Jews,

For religious purposes, after the introduction of iron into general use (Wilkinson, Anc. Ay. 1, 353, 354; 2, 163; Prescott, Mexico, 1, 118; Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:2; Joshua 1 st Egypt. room, Brit. Mus. case 36, 37). In the construction of the tabernacle, copper, but no iron, appears to have been used, though the utility of iron was at the same period well known to the Jews, both from their own use of it and from their Egyptian education, while the Canaanitish inhabitants of Palestine and Syria were in full possession of its use both for warlike and domestic purposes (Exodus 20:25; Exodus 25:3; Exodus 27:19; Numbers 35:16; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 8:9; Joshua 8:31; Joshua 17:16; Joshua 17:18). After the establishment of the Jews in Canaan, the occupation of a smith (חָרָשׁ ) became recognized as a distinct employment (1 Samuel 13:19). The designer of a higher order appears to have been called specially חשֵׁב (Gesenius, p. 531; Exodus 35:30; Exodus 35:35; 2 Chronicles 26:15; Saalschtitz, Arch. Hebr. c. 14, § 16).. The smith's work (including workers in the precious metals) and its results are often mentioned in Scripture (2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Kings 6:7; 2 Chronicles 26:14; Isaiah 44:12; Isaiah 54:16). Among the captives taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar were 1000 " craftsmen" and smiths, who were probably of the superior kind (2 Kings 24:16; Jeremiah 29:2). (See CHARASHIIM).

The worker in gold and silver (צוֹרֵ ; ἀργυροκόπος; χωνευτής, argentarius, aurifex) must have found employment both among the Hebrews and the neighboring nations in very early times, as appears from the ornaments sent by Abraham to Rebekah (Genesis 24:22; Genesis 24:53; Genesis 35:4; Genesis 38:18; Deuteronomy 7:25). But, whatever skill the Hebrews possessed, it is quite clear that they must have learned much from Egypt and its "iron- furnaces," both in metal-work and in the arts of setting and polishing precious stones; arts which were turned to account both in the construction of the Tabernacle and the making of the priests' ornaments, and also in the casting of the golden calf as well as its destruction by Moses, probably, as suggested by Goguet, by a method which he had learnt in Egypt (Genesis 41:42; Exodus 3:22; Exodus 12:35; Exodus 31:4-5; Exodus 32:2; Exodus 32:4; Exodus 32:20; Exodus 32:24; Exodus 37:17; Exodus 37:24; Exodus 38:4; Exodus 38:8; Exodus 38:24; Exodus 38:24-25; Exodus 39:6; Exodus 39:39; Nehemiah 3:8; Isaiah 44:12). Various processes of the goldsmiths' work, including operations in the raw material, are illustrated by Egyptian monuments (Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 2, 136,152,162). (See GOLDSMITH), etc.

After the conquest, frequent notices are found both of molded and wrought metal, including soldering, which last had long been known, in Egypt; but the Phoenicians appear to have possessed greater skill than the Jews in these arts, at least in Solomon's time (Judges 3:24; Judges 3:27; Judges 17:4; 1 Kings 7:13; 1 Kings 7:45-46; Isaiah 41:7; Wisdom of Solomon 15:4; Sirach 38:28; Baruch 6:50; Baruch 6:55; Baruch 6:57; Wilkinson, 2, 162). (See ZAREPHATH). Even in the desert, mention is made of beating gold-into plates, cutting it into wire, and also of setting precious stones in gold (Exodus 39:3; Exodus 39:6, etc.; Beckmamn, tist. nouv. 2, 414; Gesenius, p. 1229). (See METAL).

Among the tools of the smith are mentioned tongs (מֶלְקַחִים, λαβίς . forceps, Gesenius, p. 761; Isaiah 6:6), hammer (פִּטַּישׁ, σφυρἄ, malleus, Gesen. p. 1101), anvil (פִּעִם, Gesenius, p. 1118), bellows. (מִפֻּח, φυσητήρ , sufflatorium, Gesenius, p. 896; Isaiah 41:7; Jeremiah 6:29; Sirach 38:28; Wilkinson, 2, 316). See each word.

In the N.T., Alexander "the coppersmith"( χαλκεύς ) of Ephesus is mentioned, where also was carried on that trade in "silver' shrines"(ναοὶ ἀρλυποῖ) which was represented by Demetrius the silversmith (ἀρλυροκόπος ) as being in danger from the spread of Christianity (Acts 19:24; Acts 19:28; 2 Timothy 4:14). (See COPPERSMITH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Handicraft'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/h/handicraft.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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