Hand Tools in the Bible
While it is not exactly a primary source of information on tools and building, it is interesting to note that there are a number of specific tools noted in the Bible. Most references to the tools are almost entirely incidental. While there are a great number of translations of the Bible – all come from the same early manuscripts, and most use the same words for all of our references. For the sake of simplicity we limited our research to the English Standard Version (ESV), but you will find the same language and words in the King James Version as well (KJV). What we did is try to give a list of those tools mentioned along with how the ancients used them.
It is interesting to note that while not referencing a specific tool, the word ‘Tool’ appears about 8 times in the Bible. Almost all the instances has to do with a craftsman and his tools as they pertain to his specific trade. Specifically referenced are [en]graving tools, iron tools, cutting tools, wooden tools, and stone tools. (Exodus 20:25, Exodus 32:4, Numbers 35:17-18, Deuteronomy 27:5, Joshua 8:31, 1 Kings 6:7, Isaiah 44:12) This list is by no means complete with other mentions and instances of different tools but for the sake of our countdown, we chose these:
The Reed (Rod)
The use of a reed we searched for is the one that is actually referring to a type of measuring tool used both as a distance measure and as a straight-edge. The word ‘Reed’ appears many times in the Bible but as a measuring tool it appears about 18 times. (Ezekiel 40:3-8, Ezekiel 41:8, Ezekiel 42:16-19, Revelation 11:1, Revelation 21:15-16)
The word Axe appears 11 times in the Bible. Almost all instances of the Axe had to do with either cutting down trees or shaping wood. There is one mention where it seems that the axe head is affixed to a handle of sorts and there is an issue with the head coming off. Also, in one specific verse it mentions that the axe is made of iron. There are a few instances where it was specifically used as a weapon too, as in a battle axe. (Deuteronomy 19:5, Deuteronomy 20:19, Judges 9:48, 1 Samuel 13:20, 1 Kings 6:7, 2 Kings 6:5, Isaiah 10:15, Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9)
“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
– Matthew 3:10, Luke 3:9
The word ‘Plow’ (or a form of it as noun or verb) appears around 32 times throughout the Bible. We can’t include them all here, but we’ll fire off some to give you a taste. It would seem that the idea of Lawn and Garden has been around since the early days. Of course the plow in the bible time would have been powered by some sort of animal (typically an ox) pulling the device though the ground to turn it over (making a furrow). (Deuteronomy 22:10, Job 4:8, Proverbs 20:4, Isaiah 28:24, Jeremiah 51:20, Hosea 10:11, Amos 6:12, Luke 9:62 1 Corinthians 9:10)
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
– Luke 9:62
The Hammer (interchangeable with Mallet)
The ‘Hammer’ is listed 7 times in the Bible specifically (‘Mallet’ is listed once) in noun form. This is a pretty broad tool that could also be called a mallet in certain situations. From the verses that mention the hammer, it was evident it was used for working stone, beating metals, wood-carving, as well as for driving nails and tent pins. (Judges 4:21; Judges 5:26, 1 Kings 6:7; Isaiah 41:7; Jeremiah 23:29 & Jeremiah 50:23)
“Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
– Jeremiah 23:29
File (as a verb to Sharpen)
The verb ‘sharpen’ (as in ‘to file’) appears once in the bible in the book of 1 Samuel 13:21. According to this verse it was used specifically for sharpening tools like axes, plowshares, and other agricultural tools that required an edge in preparation for battle.
The bible has all sorts of tool references if you look hard enough. And why not? If God made us in His image, then we must have gotten our love of tools from Him.
Plus I’ve seen a lot of his handiwork – He’s quite the master craftsman, you know.