Craft, Industry & Technology in Ancient Israel

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

The ancient Israelites relied on carpentry, mining, and metalworking for most of their housing, armor, and weaponry needs. This lesson will discuss these industries and their products as well as the important technology of ancient Israel.

Craftsmen of Ancient Israel

Craft and industry in ancient Israel were not much different than other ancient nations. Wood, stone, and metal working were common industries of the time and resulted in necessary products like housing, furniture, and boats, as well as luxury items like fine vessels and jewelry. Carpenters used their supplies of wood--particularly the desired Lebanese cedar wood as well as acacia and cypress woods--to create their products, such as furniture or small boats like canoes. While some houses were also built out of wood, builders primarily used rough stones or mud brick as building materials. The same was true for furniture: there is archaeological evidence that some furniture, like tables, was built from stone.

Mining and metalworking were also common professions of the time and were particularly important for Israelites to produce goods and crafts for the army and royals. Miners would go on mining expeditions to places where there was ore available. The ore was then smelted, essentially melting out the actual metal in the ore, and molded. Blacksmiths used casts or a hammer to shape the metals. Iron was the most common metal available, and it was used for basic vessels, armor, and chariots. Bronze, often called copper in the Hebrew Bible, was used for armor as well as hinges on doors. Precious metals were reserved for higher purposes. Silver was used primarily as a form of payment, though it was also often crafted into vessels. Gold was reserved for the rich or for religious rituals. It was sometimes made into jewelry for the royals, but it was also formed into fine vessels and tables for the temple.

High Tech

Water systems

Ancient Israel was actually technologically advanced in some of their engineering. In some major cities, the Israelites had a complex water system that allowed them to have fresh water throughout the city. Cities like Tel Megiddo and Jezreel had water systems, but one of the largest and most important was the Siloam tunnel water system. This connected Gihon Spring, Jerusalem's fresh water supply, to the Siloam Pool, which was built right outside the city to supply fresh water to the Israelites without them having to venture too far away.

Siloam tunnel connecting the Gihon Spring with the Siloam Pool
Siloam tunnel connecting the Gihon Spring with the Siloam Pool

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