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The work of the various artificers is vividly pictured in Isaiah’s denunciation of idolatry (Isa 41:7; 44:9-20). All makers of idols shall be put to shame (9-11). The smith who makes the carpenter’s axe is only a man who gets hungry and faint from thirst (v. 12). The carpenter in turn expends all his skill on a log, part of which becomes an idol which he worships. Part of the log he burns to cook food and warm himself. Isaiah observed closely the technique of the carpenter: stretching out his line, marking with a pencil, shaping with planes, marking precisely and skillfully with compasses, the artificer produces an idol which he worships (13-17). He has skill to produce a piece of craftsmanship but cannot see the folly of worshiping a piece of wood, part of which he has used for fuel. The idolater is blind; he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (18-20).

Jeremiah’s references to craftsmen (24:1; 29:2) show that at the Babylonian captivity the deportation of portions of the population included skilled craftsmen. Their deportation, therefore, served the double purpose of weakening the defeated nation and giving desirable resources to the conquerors.

Zechariah’s reference to “carpenters” or smiths (Zech 1:20) and characterization of them as horns (of power) seems to suggest the lesson that God’s power is at work unseen in the affairs of the nations.

“Carpenter” appears in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as the tr. of τέκτων, G5454. Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son” (Matt 13:55), while Mark 6:3 calls Him “the carpenter.” He could have been both. It is supposed that after the death of Joseph Jesus carried on the business and was known as the carpenter of Nazareth. Justin Martyr in The Dialogue with Trypho, presents Jesus “working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life....”

Jesus’ labor as carpenter accentuates the wonder of His Incarnation. He became fully man. His example makes all productive labor honorable, and in His case it no doubt contributed to the support of the family. His familiar role in the community was an added occasion of offense to those who heard Him teaching in the synagogue.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Carving; Crafts.

See also

  • Occupations and Professions