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TOOLS. In the Bible a variety of tools used by the ancients are mentioned. These may be grouped into various categories:

2. Boring tools: the awl (Exod.21.6; Deut.15.17).

3. Forks and shovels (1Sam.13.21; 1Kgs.7.40, 1Kgs.7.45), tongs (Exod.25.38).

4. Carpentry tools: hammer (Judg.5.26), plane (Isa.44.13), plumline (Amos.7.8), level (2Kgs.21.13).

5. Drawing tools: chisel and compass (Isa.44.13).

6. Measuring tools: line (1Kgs.7.23; 2Kgs.21.13), measuring rod (Ezek.40.3-Ezek.40.8; Rev.11.1).

7. Tilling tools: plowshare and mattock (1Sam.13.20-1Sam.13.21).

8. Metal-working tools: anvil (Isa.41.7), file (1Sam.13.21).

9. Stone-working tools: chisel (Exod.20.25), saw (1Kgs.7.9).

TOOLS. Tools in the Bible are only incidentally referred to, usually in connection with the arts and crafts. The Hebrews were not gifted in the use of tools, as shown in the references to Bezalel and Oholiab, who were esp. endowed with skills to build the Tabernacle (Exod 31:1-11; 35:30-36:1), and the importation of Phoen. craftsmen by Solomon to build the Temple (1 Kings 7:13).

The stone mason used many of the same or similar tools, with the addition of a variety of hammers (1 Kings 6:7; Jer 23:29). Chisels, wedges, rubbing stones, levers, rollers and primitive cranes also were common. Brickmolds, various forms of trowels and picks (cf. the Siloam Inscription) may be added. The metalsmith would use, in addition to some of the hammers already listed, the special kind referred to in Isaiah 41:7. He must also have an anvil, a furnace, bellows, molds, ladles, files, drills, etc. Tongs and clamps or vises were also prob. devised and used.

Agricultural tools included the plowshare, sickle or pruning hook, ox-goad, mattock, forks and shovels, and the axe (1 Sam 13:21; 1 Kings 7:40, 45; Joel 3:13). Sharpening was mostly accomplished with stones and files (1 Sam 13:21). The blacksmith sharpened many tools by heating the metal and hammering out the edges.

The potter had his own variety, including the wheel, kiln, tournettes, paddle-and-anvil, scrapers and burnishers. Other cratfs, as weaving, tanning, dyeing, tent-making, painting, jewelry-making, engraving, sculpture, etc. all had their special tools and equipment.


See articles on specific tools, as well as general treatments of technology in ancient times, e.g., R. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology, Vols. I-IX (1964); C. Singer, et al., A History of Technology, Vols. I-V (1964).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

toolz: In the Bible, references to the handicrafts are almost entirely incidental, and not many tools are named. The following article aims to give a list of those mentioned, together with those that must have existed also. For detailed description and the Hebrew and Greek terms employed, see the separate articles.

(1) The percussion tool was the hammer, used for splitting or trimming stone, beating metals, and in wood-carving, as well as for driving nails, tent pins, etc. Several words are translated "hammer," but the distinction between them is very vague and in some cases the propriety of the translation is dubious. Certainly no such distinction is made as that between "hammer" and "mallet," nor were separate names given to the different hammers used in the various crafts (compare, e.g., Jud 4:21; 1Ki 6:7; Isa 44:12; Jer 10:4--all for maqqabhah).

See Hammer.

(2) Of cutting tools, the simplest was of course the knife. In Ex 20:25, however, the knife ("sword," English Versions of the Bible "tool") appears as a stone-cutter’s implement and is without doubt a chisel. But the hatchet of Ps 74:6 may be a knife.

See Hatchet; Knife.

For ax, again, various words are employed in a way that is quite obscure to us and apparently with meanings that are not fixed. So garzen in De 20:19 is certainly an ax, but in the Siloam Inscription (ll 2,4) it is a pickax (see Mattock). The various words translated "ax" (the Revised Version (British and American) "axe") must also somewhere include the word for adz, but the specific term, if there were any such (ma’atsadh(?)), is unknown. But the adz is a very ancient tool and must certainly have existed in Palestine.

See Ax (AXE), AX-HEAD.

The saw was used both for wood and for stone (1Ki 7:9), in the latter case being employed in connection with water and sand. But sawing stone was a very laborious process, and this was one reason why the ancients preferred stone in large blocks. These were quarried by the use of heavy hammers and wedges.

See Saw.

The plane (maqtso`ah) of Isa 44:13 should be translated chisel. Chisels, of course, are almost as old as humanity, and were used on both wood and stone and doubtless also on metals. In particular, with a broad chisel and an adz the surface of wood may be finished very smoothly, and these two implements took the place of the plane. For wood-carving the concave chisel (gouge) may have been invented.

The pencil of Isa 44:13 is probably a stylus, for engraving as well as for marking out lines. For engraving on gems (Ex 28:9, etc.) particularly delicate instruments of this kind must have been used.

See Line; Pencil.

(3) Among the boring tools, only the awl appears (Ex 21:6; De 15:17), an instrument primarily for the use of workers in leather. Holes in wood or stone were made by a drill, often worked with the aid of a drawn bow, through the string of which the drill was passed.

See Awl.

(4) Blunted tools were of course sharpened on stones, as everywhere. In 1Sa 13:21 English Versions of the Bible speaks of sharpening with a file, but the text of the verse is hopelessly corrupt and the translation mere guesswork. But files of some sort (stone?) must of course have been used by metal-workers.

See File.

(5) Measuring tools were the line and the rod (see Reed), and the latter must also have been used as a straight-edge. The compasses of Isa 44:13 were for drawing circles, but doubtless served for measuring also. See Compasses. Plumb-line (’anakh in Am 7:7 f, a symbol of the searching moral investigation which would be followed by a precise and exact judgment; compare mishkoleth, "plummet," 2Ki 21:13; Isa 28:17) and plummet (’ebhen bedhil, "a stone of tin," Zec 4:10, used by Zerubbabel in testing the completed walls) were likewise necessities and had existed from a very early period. Tools of some sort must have been used in addition by builders in drawing plans, but their nature is unknown.

See Line.

(6) The tools for holding and handling work (vises, tongs, pincers, etc.) are never alluded to (the King James Version in Isa 44:12 is wrong; see Tongs). For moving larger objects no use was made of cranes, and lifting was done by the aid of inclined planes and rollers; but blocks of stone weighing hundreds of tons could be handled in this way.

The material of the Hebrew tools was either iron or bronze. The former was introduced at least by the time of David (2Sa 12:31), but the mention of iron as a material is often made in such a way (Am 1:3, etc.) as to show that it was not to be taken for granted. In fact, iron was hard to work and expensive, and bronze probably persisted for a while as a cheaper material. Stone tools would be used only by the very poor or as occasional makeshifts or for sacred purposes (Jos 5:2).

For the agricultural tools see Agriculture.


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