The crafts were critical to the needs of the community. Aristocrats may have looked down on craftspersons, but they paid tribute to their necessity (cf. Sir. 38.24–34).

Carpenters or builders constructed the doors and windows of all the houses, manufactured the farm implements (yokes, plows, threshing sledges, and pitchforks; See Agriculture), constructed the carts, and occasionally fashioned a chest or table (See Houses, Furniture, Utensils). No village could function without one. Jesus is described by the Greek word tektōn (Mark 6.3), better understood as a carpenter/builder than a cabinet maker; many of his parables refer to building but none to furniture making. The carpenter's tools included the hammer, adze, ax, plane, bow‐drill, chisel, and saw; see the description of carpentry in Isaiah 44.13–17.

Metal workers labored with copper, bronze, and iron, with the appropriate technologies developed in that order. For village use they shaped the cutting edges of tools. Some metal kitchen utensils, sewing equipment, and musical instruments have been found. Most of the metal was used for weapons. Hiram of Tyre made an amazing list of large items of “burnished bronze” for Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7.40–47). There are descriptions of blacksmithing in Isaiah 44.12 and Sirach 38.28. (See also Kenites.)

Potters produced utensils for storing, cooking, and eating food. Water was carried, stored, and cooled in pots. Lamps, cosmetic jars, votive vessels, and small idols were all made of pottery. A simple potter's wheel came into use about 3000 BCE. A type used later was two wheels joined by an axle. This unit was mounted vertically in a shallow pit. The lower wheel was turned with the foot of the seated potter; the wares were fashioned on the upper wheel (see Sir. 38.29–30). Pottery is the primary indicator for dating in archaeology.

Tanners made leather available for shields, helmets, quivers, and other military articles. It was used also for sandals, shoes, belts, clothing, and storage skins for wine and water. Odors from tanning obliged the tanner to live at the outskirts of the town (Acts 9.43; 10.6, 32).

Jewelers worked with gold and silver. Engravers produced scarabs, signet rings, and seals of various types (see Sir. 38.27). (See Jewelry.)

Stone masons built buildings and excavated spaces in rock. Rough‐cut and dressed stones were used. Palaces incorporated pillars, stone carving, and decorative capitals. Tombs, cisterns, and community water systems required excavation. The latter are extensive and remarkable. Their purpose was to ensure access to the city water supply from within the walls. Large tunnels, pits, and passageways were carved out to achieve this goal. The tools were the hammer, chisel, saw, and adze. Hezekiah's tunnel in Jerusalem has the long sweeping marks of the adze or pick on its walls; other notable water systems are at Gezer, Gibeon, Hazor, and Megiddo.

Carving in ivory and wood produced luxury items. Glassmaking was rare before Roman times. Roman glassmakers introduced a range of delicate bottles and vials previously made of pottery or alabaster.

Fullers kept the clothes white while the dyers added color. Various shades of red, a yellow from ground pomegranate rind, and the famous purple from Tyre were the main colors available. The latter took on royal significance.

The perfumer/cosmetologist was known, and Ben Sira mentions seven types of perfume (Sir. 24.15).

See also Clothing


Kenneth E. Bailey