SAW (Heb. megerah). Probably the earliest saws were made of flint, with serrated edges, mounted in a frame. Other saws were like knives, of bronze or iron. Small handsaws were like ours today, but the teeth were shaped in the other direction, so that the worker did not shove but pulled against the wood. Large handsaws were unknown in Bible times. Palestinian carpenters probably sat on the floor and held the wood between their toes, which became as skillful as extra hands.

Stone was sawed as well as wood (1Kgs.7.9). Saws used in the construction of the pyramids and other great buildings of Egypt were made of bronze and had one handle. The Assyrians used a double-handled saw. When Scripture says that David put his war captives under saws (2Sam.12.31 kjv, nasb; cf. 1Chr.20.3), it probably means that he made them labor with saws (niv, rsv).

Heb.11.37 speaks of martyrs who were sawn asunder (sawn in two niv). Jewish tradition (in the Martyrdom of Isaiah, a pseudepigraphical book) states that the prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder with a wooden saw by Manasseh. Perhaps the reference in Hebrews is to this event.

SAW (מְגֵרָה, H4490, LXX πριζω, saw). A knife with notched blade or teeth.

The saw was in common use in the near Eastern world. An Egyp. relief from the 5th dynasty (2560-2420 b.c.) shows two carpenters with long saws making planks. It was also one of the familiar implements of the Israelite carpenter or woodcutter (Isa 10:15). Metal and stone as well as wood was sawn. Archeological evidences show 12th-dynasty Egyptians (1989-1776 b.c.) using bronze saws with emery for cutting granite. In the construction of Solomon’s Temple, some of the costly stones were “sawed with saws” (1 Kings 7:9). Sawing was hard work and captives taken in warfare were frequently assigned to it (2 Sam 12:31; 1 Chron 20:3). Because of its difficulty, many ancients preferred to use large stone blocks for building operations. The saw was also an instrument of terrible death (Heb 11:37). The prophet Isaiah is reputed to have suffered martyrdom by being “sawn in two.”

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