Terms. —In Bible and Talmud:

The general term for "artisan" in the Bible is "Ḧarash" or "Ḧoresh," which, derived from a verb meaning "to cut," is applicable to any worker in a hard substance, such as metal, stone, or wood (compare the use of this term in a general sense in II Kings xxii. 6, xxiv. 14; Jer. xxiv. 1, xxix. 2). At times it is used more definitely of a carpenter (Jer. x. 3; Isa. xli. 7), of a metal-worker (Hosea xiii. 2), or of an armorer (I Sam. xiii. 19). Usually, however, the term is qualified by the addition of the material, as "Ḧarash eben," a worker in stone (II Sam. v. 11); "Ḧarash 'eẓ," a worker in wood (ib.); "Ḧoresh neḦoshet," a worker in bronze (I Kings vii. 14); and "Ḧarash barzel," a worker in iron (II Chron. xxiv. 12). From the same root is derived "Ḧaroshet," skilled work, defined, as above, by the addition of "eben" or "'eẓ" (Ex. xxxi. 5). In traditional literature the terms for "artisan" and "handicraft" are "umman" and "ummanut" respectively (Song Sol. vii. 2, "omman").

Leaving to special articles a detailed description of the various crafts and occupations mentioned in Bible and Talmud, it will be sufficient to give here a general summary of specialized occupations, wherein, for completeness' sake, unskilled laborers are included.

Workers in Metal.

The smelting of gold and silver is undoubtedly one of the oldest crafts known to man. The "ẓoref" (Judges xvii. 4; Isa. xl. 19, xli. 7, xlvi. 6; Jer. x. 9, 14, li. 17, and elsewhere) or "meẓaref" (Mal. iii. 2-3), literally "smelter," is the goldsmith or silversmith. The smelting was done in the "kur" (smelting-pot, Prov. xvii. 3, xxvii. 21) or the "maẓref" (ib.). In traditional literature the "zahabi," Aramaic "dahabi," "dahabana" (goldsmith), is distinguished from the "kassafi" or "kassaf" (silversmith). Copper and bronze were worked by the "Ḧoresh neḦo-shet" (Gen. iv. 22; I Kings vii. 14). In the Mishnah he is called "meẓaref neḦoshet" (Ket. vii. 10); in the Talmud "Ḧashshala dude" (kettle-smith, Ket. 77a; see, however, ib., where "meẓaref neḦoshet" is differently explained). Iron, like gold, was smelted in the "kur" (Deut. iv. 20; I Kings viii. 51; Jer. xi. 4). The "Ḧarash barzel" (iron-worker or smith, II Chron. xxiv. 12) is called in traditional literature "nappaḦ" (one who uses bellows) or "peḦami" (one who uses charcoal). Mention is also made of the "ṭarsi" (chaser or embosser; compare Löw, in Krauss, "Lehnwörter," ii. 277a; and Jastrow," Dictionary," s. v. , i.).

The "Ḧarash 'eẓ" (worker in wood, Ex. xxxi. 5) is called in traditional literature "naggar," and means "carpenter" as well as "joiner." As specialists in this calling are mentioned the "saddaah" or "saddana" (maker of stocks, Pes. 28a) and the "ḳaẓẓaẓ" (feller of trees, Cant. R. ii. 2; Lev. R. xxiii.). Carving is mentioned in I Kings vi. 29, and elsewhere; "kiyyur" (paneling), in traditional literature (B. B. 53b).

Workers in Wood and Stone.

Workers in stone were the "Ḧoẓeb" (quarryman or stone-cutter, I Kings v. 29), who hewed the stone from the rock, and the "Ḧoresh eben" (stone-polisher, II Sam. v. 11). In traditional literature the first is called "Ḧaẓẓab," the latter "sattat" (B. M. 118b). Those who chisel millstones are called "neḳorot" (Tosef., Ḳid. v. 14; Ḳid. 82a); engravers in stone are "pattaḦe abanim" or "mefatteḦe abanim" (Yer. Sheḳ. iv. 48a; Kelim xxix. 5).

The "boneh" (builder) is called in traditional literature "bannai" (Kelim xxix. 3; Tosef., Kelim, B. B. vii. 2; Yer. Ḥag. ii. 77b; B. M. 118b), who is differentiated from the "ardikal" or "adrikal"= Assyrian "dimgallu" (the architect or eyestone-setter, B. M. l.c.; Targ. II., Sam. v. 11). The specialized term for wall-builders is "goderim" (II Kings xii. 13) or "Ḧarashe eben ḳir" (II Sam. v. 11). To this trade belong the "pison" (mortar-maker, Kelim xx. 2), the "ṭaḦ" (plasterer, Ezek. xiii. 11), and the "sayyad" (whitewasher, lime-burner, Shab. 80b).

Workers in Clay, Earth, and Leather.

The "yoẓer" (potter) is in traditional literature "paḦara" (Targ. Isa. xxix. 16). As specialists in this trade are mentioned the "kaddad" (jug-maker, M. Ḳ. 13b; Pes. 55b, MS. M., ed. ), the "godel tannurim" (oven-maker), the "godel kele ẓurah" (art-potter, M. Ḳ. 11a; Yer. Shab. vii. 10d), and the "ḳaddar" (maker of pots, Tohar. vii. 1). The "zaggag," Aramaic "zaggaga" (glazier, M. Ḳ. 13b; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah ii. 40c), is specialized into the "nofeaḦ kele zekokit" (glass-blower, Yer. Shab. l.c.). Here belongs the "Ḧofer shiḦin" (ditchdigger, B. Ḳ. 50a). The "bursi" (tanner or hide-dresser; see Krauss, "Lehnwörter," s.v.) or "'abbedan" (Kelim xxvi. 8) had as assistant the "shallaḦa" (flayer, skinner, Shab. 49b), who prepared the hides for tanning. As specialists in this line are found the "shakkaf" or "ushkafa"(shoemaker, Tosef., Kelim, B. B. i. 15; Giṭ. 68b), the "raẓ'an" (belt-maker, Pes. iv. 6), the "sarag" (harness-maker, Kelim xxiv. 8), the "zaḳḳaḳ" (maker of leather bottles, Miḳ. ix. 5), and the "sandelar" (sandal-maker, Yer. Ḥag. iii. 78d).

Textile Industry.

In the textile industry a number of crafts are mentioned, such as "ẓammar" (the wool-weaver, 'Eduy. iii. 4; Kelim xxix. 6); "pishtani" (the beater of flax, Yer. Yeb. xiii. 13c; Gen. R. xxxii. 3); "ma'azela" (the spinner, Eccl. R. vii. 9); "azloya" (the net-weaver, B. M. 24b); "ḳiwwaah" (the common weaver, Shab. 113a, 140b); "oreg" (the weaver, Yer. Sheḳ. v. 49a); "gardi" (wool-weaver, Kelim xii. 4); "ṭarsi" (the artistic weaver, 'Ab. Zarah 17b; Suk. 51b); "sericarius" (the silk-weaver, Pesiḳ. R. xxv.; Cant. R. viii. 11, where the word appears in corrupted form); ẓabba', ẓabba'ah" (the dyer, B. Ḳ. ix. 4; Giṭ 52b); "kobes" and "ḳaẓẓara" (the fuller, Ber. 28a; Tosef., Kelim, B. M. iii. 14; Yer. Ber. iv. 7d). Connected with this are the occupations of the "Ḧayyaṭ" (tailor, Shab. i. 3), the "godel miẓnefet" (turbanor cap-maker, Kelim xvi. 7); and the "ashpara" (clothes-cleaner, 'Ab. Zarah 20b).

"Ma'aseh roḳem" (the art of embroidery) and "ma'aseh Ḧosheb" (the art of fine weaving) were known and already highly developed in Biblical times (compare Embroidery). Mention is also made of the "saḳḳay" (sack-maker, Kelim xiii. 5), and of the "sarad" or "saddar" (net-maker, Yoma 85a; Mek., Ki Tissa; Yalḳ., Ex. 327; Tosef., Ḳid. v. 14).

Workers in Agricultural Products.

Agriculture afforded work not only to the fieldlaborers but to the "ṭaḦona" (miller, Yer. Peah i. 15c), and the "naḦtom" (professional baker, Ḥal. ii. 7). The baker was the "ḳefela" (κάπηλος, restaurant-keeper, Tosef., B. M. xi. 30). The "ḳallay'" parched the grain and offered it for sale, and the "garosah" or "dashoshah" (grist-maker) manufactured different kinds of groats or pearl-barley (Men. x. 4; M. Ḳ. ii. 5). Cooking, in Talmudic times, developed into an art, so that one boasted of knowing a hundred ways of preparing eggs (Lam. R. iii. 16). The "megabben" (cheese-maker, Tosef., Shab. ix. [x.] 13); the "ṭabbaḦ," "ṭabbaḦa" (butcher, slaughterer, or "shoḦeṭ," also professional cook, Beẓah 28a; Ḥul. 18a; Tosef., Ber. iv. 10), and "ḳaẓẓab" (meat-seller, 'Eduy. viii. 2); the "Ḧaliṭar" (confectioner, Yer. Ḥal. ii. 58c); the "sodani" (brewer, Ber. 44b), and the "bassam" or "paṭṭam" (manufacturer of spices, druggist, Tosef., Ḳid. ii. 2; Yer. Yoma iv. 41d) supplied other necessities of the household. Fish and game were provided by the "Ḧaram" (fisher, Yer. M. Ḳ. ii. 81b) and the "rishba" (fowler, Ḥul. 116a). The hunting of deer is frequently mentioned in the Talmud and Midrashim (Shab. xiii. 5; B. M. 85b).

Cattle-raising required the services of a "naḳdud" (herder, Lev. R. i. 9), of a "ro'eh" (shepherd), and of a "karzila" (assistant, B. Ḳ. 56b). The "paṭṭam" fattened animals for the market (Tosef., Beẓah, iii. 6). Other occupations dealing with cattle are "ahuryar" (equerry, Meg. 12b; differently explained in Jastrow, "Dictionary," s. v.), "baham" or "baḳḳar" (cattle-raiser and cattle-driver, Deut. R. iii. 6; Yer. Beẓah v. 63b), "gammal" (camel-driver), "Ḧammar" (ass-driver, Ḳid. iv. 14), and "ḳarar" (carriage-driver or wagoner, ib. Bab. and Yer.; B. M. vi. 1).

Other Occupations.

The demands of personal comfort, which in most instances called for manual labor, though the occupations themselves were scarcely those of Artisans, were filled by the "ballan" (βαλανεύς, bather, Sheb. viii. 5), with his attendants, the "turmesar" (θέρμαι); the "oleyar," "olearius" (clothes-keeper, Yer. Ma'as. Sh. i. 52d), and the "udyatha" (the female superintendent of the vapor-baths, Yer. Sheb. viii. 38a, "Zosime, the udyatha"); the "sappar" (hair-cutter, Ḳid. l.c.), and the "gara'" (barber and blood-letter, Ḳid. 82a). The women had their "gaddelet," "godelet," or "megaddelet" (hair-dresser, Kelim xv. 3; Ḳid. ii. 3).

In the interest of landowners worked the "kayyal" (measurer, Yer. B. M. ix. 12a), and the "mashoaḦ," mashoḦaah" (surveyor, Kelim xiv. 3; B. M. 107b). The care of the city required the labor of the "ibbola'ah" (gate-keeper, watchman, Niddah 67b).

Traffic and communication by land gave employment to the "kattaf" or "sabbal" (load-carrier, B. M. 118b; Yer. B. M. x. 12c); to the "isḳundara," "baldara," "dawwar," "ṭablara" (the courier, Ḳid. 21b; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 39d; Esther R. i. 8; Shab. 19a; Targ. Prov. xxiv. 34; Pesiḳ. R. xxi.), and to the "ba'al aksanya," "ushpizkan," "diyyora," "pundaḳi" (the innkeeper, Pesiḳ. R. xi.; Meg. 26a; Ta'an. 21a; Giṭ. viii. 9). Communication by water was kept up by the "sappan" (seaman, Sheb. viii. 5), the "mallaḦ" (sailor, Eccl. R. ix. 8), the "mabbora" (ferryman, Ḥul. 94a), and the "naggada" (tracker of vessels, B. M. 107b). The ship had also an "amodaah" (diver, R. H. 23a).

Finally, mention must be made of the "zappat" (pitch-burner, Miḳ. ix. 7); the "diḳulaah" (basketmaker, B. B. 22a); the "liblar," "libellarius," "sofer," "safra" (writer), who wrote documents as well as books (Shab. i. 3; Giṭ. viii. 8; 'Ab. Zarah 9b); and the "ḳabbora'ah" (grave-digger, Sanh. 26b).

Handicrafts and Women.

In primitive society most of the handicrafts are carried on by members of the family as occasion demands. It is only with the advance of civilization that work becomes specialized and a class of Artisans develops. Thus even in Talmudic times, side by side with specialized craftsmen, a great deal of work was done by the women of the family. The Mishnah Ketubot (v. 5) sheds light on this subject:

"The following are the things which a wife is under obligation to do for her husband: the grinding, baking, washing, cooking, nursing her children, making the bed, and spinning wool. If she has brought him one maidservant, she needs not be obliged to grind, bake, or wash; if she has brought him two maids, she needs not cook or nurse; if three, then she needs not make the bed or spin wool; if four, then she is at liberty to spend her time sitting in the armchair. R. Eliezer says, Even if she has brought him a hundred maids, she should be forced to spin wool; for leisure leads to idiocy."

Something similar is found a hundred years later (Yeb. 63a).

A trade which would necessitate business intercourse with women is looked upon as improper (Ḳid. iv. 14); for every one who deals with women has bad leaven in him, otherwise he would not have chosen such a trade (Ḳid. 82a; compare Jastrow, "Dictionary," s.v. ). But, like all theories, this rule was not always carried out in practise; even scholars disregarded it (compare Pes. 113b). See also Labor.

Nevertheless there were several trades regarded unfavorably by popular opinion. This is well expressed by R. Meïr (about the year 140):

(Ḳid. iv. 14).

"One should teach his son an easy and cleanly occupation. One should pray to Him to whom riches and possessions belong: for in every trade there is wealth as well as poverty; but neither wealth nor poverty is dependent on the occupation, but rather on the meritoriousness of man"

And R. Judah ha-Nasi (about the year 200):

(Ḳid. 82b).

"There is no occupation which will disappear from this world. Happy he who has seen at his parents' home a fine trade; but wo unto him who has seen his parents engaged in an unpleasant trade. The world can not get along without a manufacturer of perfumes, neither without a tanner. Happy he whose trade is manufacturing of perfumes; wo unto him who is a tanner"

Estimation of Certain Trades.

Drivers of asses and camels, shepherds, sailors, wagon-drivers, storekeepers, and crockery-dealers are looked down upon, "for their trades are robbers' trades" (Ḳid. iv. 14; Yer. Ḳid. iv. 66c et seq.). The following occupations are also looked upon with disfavor because they bring one into contact with women, and neither king nor high priest should be chosen from among those who follow them—namely, the trades of goldsmith, carder, millstone-chiseler, pedler, weaver, barber, fuller, leech, bath-man, and tanner (Ḳid. l.c.).


Classification by trade and the formation of gilds are mentioned in the Bible. Thus, gilds of gold-smiths and perfumers are referred to in Neh. iii. 8. Gilds of potters and weavers seem to be indicated in I Chron. iv. 23. These gilds seem to have been hereditary, similar to the later families of Garmu and Abtinas, who tenaciously retained in their respective families the special knowledge of baking the showbread and preparing the holy incense (Yoma iii. 11). The coppersmiths or embossers had a separate synagogue (Meg. 26a; Naz. 52a). In Alexandria there was a perfect organization of the various trades. In the synagogue the goldsmiths, silversmiths, smiths, embossers, weavers, etc., sat each in a separate group (Suk. 51b). Among some trades there existed also mutual insurance (B. Ḳ. 116b). See also Agriculture, Baking, Baths, Bottle, Cookery, Copper, Cotton, Dyeing, Embroidery, Engraving, Flax, Fuller, Glass, Iron, Labor, Leather, Metals, Navigation, Pottery, Spinning, Weaving.

  • S. Meyer, Arbeit und Handwerk im Talmud, Berlin, 1878;
  • Delitzsch, Jüdisches Handwerkerleben zur Zeit Jesu, 3d ed., Erlangen, 1879;
  • J. S. Bloch, Der Arbeiterstand bei den Palästinensern, Griechen und Römern, Vienna, 1882, Rieger, Versuch einer Technologie und Terminologie der Handwerke in der Mischnah, Breslau, 1894;
  • G. Löwy, Die Technologie und Terminologie der Müller und Bäcker in den Rabbinischen Quellen, Leipsic, 1898;
  • Schwab, Répertoire, ii., s.v. Mütiers.
J. Sr. C. L.
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