Kharash: CRAFTSMAN, Building the Kingdom

CRAFTSMAN/CARPENTER: Kharash. Masculine noun. (Strongs: 2796).

Root: חרש

Sounds like: khaw’rawsh

I have the greatest respect for artisans and crafters. I am, possibly, the least crafty person on the planet. I have friends who knit, cross-stitch, sew, work with resin, build houses and furniture, do rug-hooking, make jewelry, sculpt, and paint… but I’ve never been able to create a thing with my hands worth keeping. 

Crafters in Purple

Recently a small fragment of purple textile from the era of King David was found in Timna Valley, southern Israel, giving credence to the multiple mention of purple textiles in the Bible. The colour purple was extracted from three different varieties of molluscs (sea snails). Each mollusc only carried a tiny amount of purple, which made the processing of the colour very time consuming. (For more information on the recent archaeological discovery of Biblical era purple, check out this site).

In light of this discovery, there has been renewed interest in the Biblical crafters of linens and textiles using purple fabric. Crafts-people were highly regarded. They made garments and accessories for priests and kings… and the most royal, priestly, colour was purple. Even Yeshua (Jesus) was dressed in purple before his crucifixion, symbolically showing that He was both Priest and King. 

Mark 15:16-20

Now the soldiers took Him [Jesus] away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole Roman cohort. And they dressed Him in purple, and after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began saluting Him: “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they repeatedly beat His head with a reed and spit on Him, and kneeling, they bowed down before Him. And after they had mocked Him, they took the purple cloak off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him.

In the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament), we can also read about Lydia, a seller of purple (Acts 16), who opened her home in Philippi to Paul and Silas. Purple linen would not be a cheap sale. There was a lot of money to be made selling the most valuable coloured fabrics of the day.

Similarly, the people who crafted with purple were commissioned with an important and delicate task. Only the finest craftsman would be selected to work with such a rare and expensive commodity. In Exodus chapter 28 we hear the instructions given to the selected crafts-people to make the priestly robe (ephod) for Aaron and his sons:

Exodus 28:6, 9-12   

“They shall also make the ephod of gold, of violet, purple, and scarlet material, and fine twisted linen, the work of the skilled embroiderer…

…And you shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth. As a jeweller craftsman in stone [kharash even] engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold. And you shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall carry their names before YHWH on his two shoulders as a memorial. 

Crafters worked together. There were clothing designers, embroiderers, stone engravers, and jewellers… all to make one piece of priestly clothing. There were many types of crafters and they often worked together. Besides the ones mentioned above there were also crafters of trees (carpenters), crafters of stone (wall-builders and engravers) and crafters of iron (blacksmiths).

The Craftsman Bezalel 

The most famous craftsman in the Bible, besides Yeshua (Jesus) the Carpenter, was Bezalel. He was mentioned eight times in the Tanakh and was specifically called by YHWH to be a master craftsman:

Exodus 35:30-35

Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, “See, YHWH has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all craftsmanship workmanship; to create designs for working in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver [craftsman: kharash], of a designer, and of an embroiderer, in violet, purple, and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.

Bezalel was close to God. He was filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge and in all workmanship. He was a multi-skilled crafter and he was commissioned by YHWH to be the chief craftsman of the Tabernacle. Bezalel also made the Ark of the Covenant, and all the inner items of the Tabernacle (see Exodus 37 & Exodus 38).

The name Bezalel [B-tsal’el] literally means “in [b-] the shadow [tsal] of God [El]” (tsel/tsal means shadow,  tselem means image). God created the heavens and the earth and a Bezalel, shadowing God’s actions, created things out of God’s creation. In essence he was an image bearer of God… a creator of crafts. He wasn’t God, but he was doing God’s work.

Bezalel was also noted to be a teacher of crafts. His main student was named Oholiab (who became known for his work in weaving, and embroidery).

Building the Tabernacle, David’s Palace, and the Temple

Bezalel and Oholiab fulfilled the commission from God and designed and crafted the Tabernacle:

Exodus 38:22-23  

Now Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made everything that YHWH had commanded Moses. With him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver [a craftsman: kharash] and a skilled embroiderer, and a weaver in violet, in purple, and in scarlet material, and fine linen. 

As king David’s political reputation grew, foreign kings tried to gain him as an ally. The king of Tyre sent craftsmen to build David a house to solidify his friendship:

2 Samuel 5:11 (see also 1 Chronicles 14:1)

Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David with cedar trees, carpenters [craftsmen of trees: w-kharashey ets], and stonemasons [craftsmen of stone walls: w-kharashey even qeer]; and they built a house for David. 

David wanted to build a House for YHWH, but God made it clear to David that he was not to do this (1 Chronicles 22:8). Instead David’s son Solomon would build the Temple.

David, who had worked with craftsmen throughout his life, gave advice to his son Solomon:

1 Chronicles 22:14-16  

[David to Solomon:] Now behold, with great pains I have prepared for the house of YHWH a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond measure, for they are in great quantity; I have also prepared timber and stone, and you may add to that. Moreover there are many workmen with you, stonecutters, masons of stone, and carpenters [craftsmen of stone and wood: w-kharashey even wa-ets]; and all of them are skillful in every kind of work. Of the gold, silver, bronze, and iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may YHWH be with you.”

In other words, you’ve got great craftsmen… go out and get the work done.

Although Solomon would be in charge of getting the Temple completed, it was his father who provided the funds, the natural resources, and the crafters to do the job.

Craftsmen Repairers

Even after buildings were erected, they did not look after themselves. Craftsmen were always in need to maintain and repair buildings. There are at least two examples, each repeated in Kings and Chronicles, (2 Kings 12:6-12 / 2 Chronicles 24:12-13 and 2 Kings 22:3-7 / 2 Chronicles 34:10-11) where crafters were called in to repair the Temple:

2 Kings 22:3-7 

Now in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan, the son of Azaliah the son of Meshullam the scribe, to the house of YHWH, saying, “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, and have him count all the money brought into the house of YHWH, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. And have them hand it over to the workmen who have the oversight of the house of YHWH, and have them give it to the workmen who are in the house of YHWH to repair the damage to the house: to the carpenters [craftsmen: l-kharashim], the builders, the masons, and for buying timber and cut stone to repair the house. However, no accounting shall be made with them for the money handed over to them, because they deal honestly.”

There was a great amount of trust that craftsmen were hard and honest workers… so much so that they were given funds without the need to keep accounts. Biblical craftsmen weren’t cheats; they had pride in their craft, and the priests trusted them completely to get the job done.

Craftsmen Exiled

Crafters were highly regarded individuals dealing with highly desired commodities. We get a hint of how valued crafters were when the Israelites were defeated by the Babylonians. After conquering Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar was strategic in who he chose to exile from  the kingdom of Judah first:

2 Kings 24:14-16

Then he [Nebuchadnezzar] led into exile all the people of Jerusalem and all the commanders and all the valiant warriors, ten thousand exiles, and all the craftsmen [w-kal hey-kharash] and the smiths. None were left except the poorest people of the land.

So he led Jehoiachin into exile to Babylon; also the king’s mother, the king’s wives, and his officials and the leading men of the land, he led into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. And all the valiant men, seven thousand, and the craftsmen [w-hey-kharash] and the smiths, a thousand, all strong and fit for war, these too the king of Babylon brought into exile to Babylon.

A thousand crafters were selected and exiled out of Judah. When you want to utterly tear down and destroy a culture, leave no builders to build it up again.

The Babylonians completely destroyed Solomon’s Temple but as soon as they were able the Jews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt (Ezra 3:6-7). Craftsmen were essential to rebuilding a community and a culture. Eliminating craftsmen put the control of a culture under the finger of their oppressors.

Five hundred years before the exile to Babylon the Philistines, great enemies of the Israelites, tried to control Israel by eliminating their craftsmen:

1 Samuel 13:19-20

Now no blacksmith [no craftsman: w-kharash lo] could be found in all the land of Israel, because the Philistines said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe.

Culture and community need builders and craftsman to grow and flourish. Take the crafters away and the community would have to depend on their enemies to survive. 

Image by René Schindler (pixabay.com)

Craftsmen of Idols

Not all crafting was good, though. The greatest sin attached to craftsmanship was making idols… crafting gods. When Moses led the people to the valley of Shechem he had half the tribes stand on Mount Ebal for the curses and half to stand on Mount Gerizim for the blessings. The Levites would call out the curses and the tribes would answer with Amen.’ The first curse shouted by the Levites was this:

Deuteronomy 27:15

Cursed is the person who makes a carved image or cast metal image, an abomination to YHWH, the work of the hands of a craftsman [kharash], and sets it up in secret.’

And all the people shall reply and say, ‘Amen.’

Over and over Scripture warned the crafters that they were never to create idols from their crafting resources:

Isaiah 40:18-25

To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

As for the idol, a craftsman [kharash] casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver.

He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; he seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman [kharash khakam] to prepare an idol that will not totter.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. “To whom then will you compare Me that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.

YHWH formed and created all things. What did the craftsmen do in comparison? Craftsmen were mere humans. How could they create gods? Answer: they couldn’t.

Isaiah 44:9-17

Those who fashion an idol are all futile, and their treasured things are of no benefit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no benefit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen [w-kharashim] themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them be put to shame together.

The craftsman of iron [kharash bar’tsel] shapes a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary

The craftsman of wood [kharash etzim] extends a measuring line; he outlines it with a marker. He works it with carving knives and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of mankind, so that it may sit in a house. He will cut cedars for himself, and he takes a holm-oak or another oak and lets it grow strong for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a laurel tree, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a person to burn, so he takes one of them and gets warm; he also makes a fire and bakes bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image and bows down before it. 

Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat, he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” Yet the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He bows down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Save me, for you are my god.”

Isaiah was pointing out how little sense this made. Part of the tree the carpenter used to serve himself (build a fire, use it to cook), the other part he used to create something to be a servant to… a god to worship. From one tree came something to use and something to serve. It made no sense. 

Isaiah 44:19

No one remembers, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I bow down before a block of wood!” 

Crafters creating and  forming gods was a ridiculous notion. How could a mortal create a god? And why would you create it out of God-given things of the earth? 

There was no worth to a god created by human hands:

Jeremiah 10:1-10 

Hear the word which YHWH speaks to you, house of Israel. This is what YHWH says:

“Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens, although the nations are terrified by them; for the customs of the peoples are futile; for it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman [kharash] with a cutting tool.

They decorate the idol with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not totter. They are like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good.”

There is none like You, YHWH; You are great, and Your name is great in might. Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like You.

But they are altogether stupid and foolish; the instruction from idols is nothing but wood! Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of a craftsman [kharash] and of the hands of a goldsmith; their clothing is of violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled people.

But YHWH is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. The earth quakes at His wrath, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” 

The Crafters of Idols will not Fare Well

So, what would happen to these crafters of idols? Hosea spoke of the idolatry of the tribe of Ephraim:

Hosea 13:2-4 (see also Hosea 8:1-6)

And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves cast metal images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen [kharashim]. They say of them, “Let the people who sacrifice kiss the calves!”

Therefore they will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor, and like smoke from a chimney.

Yet I have been YHWH your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Saviour besides Me.

The craftsmen of idols would not make a name for themselves. They would disappear like smoke from a chimney. According to Isaiah they would suffer humiliation and shame:

Isaiah 45:16-18

They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them; the manufacturers (crafters) of idols [kharashey tsirim] will go away together in humiliation.

Israel has been saved by YHWH with an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated to all eternity.

For this is what YHWH says, He who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it as a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited):

“I am YHWH, and there is no one else.”

Idols made by human hands had no divinity in them. YHWH made it very clear: He was the Creator… He crafted the craftsmen and all the resources that the craftsman used. He said,  I Myself have created the smith craftsman [Anoki barati kharash]” (Isaiah 54:16). If YHWH created the crafters then all the work from the crafters hands were secondary to what God had made. There was only one God worthy to be worshiped: the God of all Creation.

YHWH was the One Creator God. He cared for and encouraged His great masterpiece… humanity. The prophet  Isaiah used the image of an encouraging craftsman teacher (like Bezalel) to express the kind of God YHWH was: 

Isaiah 41:5-10

The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have approached and have come. Each one helps his neighbour and says to his brother, “Be strong!”

So the craftsman [kharash] encourages the smelter, and he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil, saying of the soldering, “It is good”; and he fastens it with nails, so that it will not totter.

But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its remotest parts, and said to you,

‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you,  will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

The crafter said, “it is good” just as YHWH said, “it is good” during the days of Creation. And like a good Teacher YHWH would strengthen, help, and uphold His imagers bearers.

The Four Craftsmen

Craftsmen also have a footprint in Jewish prophetic visions. The Biblical prophets were often surrounded by tragedy. They were God’s mouthpieces in times of impending destruction and doom, and the common refrain that they repeated over and over was that Israel/Judah were in trouble. Through Ezekiel YHWH spoke of the craftsmen of destruction [kharashey mash’khit] (Ezekiel 21:31) who would build up death and disaster and in the process tear God’s people down.

There was a prophecy in the book of Zechariah about four “horns” who had scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:18-19); but YHWH showed Zechariah four craftsmen who would take down the four destructive horns:

Zechariah 1:20-21

Then YHWH showed me four craftsmen [ar’ba’ah kharashim]. And I said, “What are these coming to do?”

And he said, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah so that no one lifts up his head; but these [craftsmen] have come to frighten them, to throw down the horns of the nations who have lifted up their horns against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.”

Although there are many theories as to who these four Craftsmen would come to be in prophetic observances, the only suggestion that the text gives us is that these beings will take out those who wish to destroy God’s Kingdom. In essence, YHWH will send the Craftsmen to rebuild His Kingdom. With that in mind, it should come to no surprise that the long awaited Anointed One (Messiah) would be a craftsman.

Yeshua the Craftsman

Yeshua (Jesus) was a craftsman of trees… a carpenter.

Mark 6:1-3 (see also Matthew 13:53-58)

Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man learn these things, and what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offence at Him. 

YHWH did not send a Warrior King to be the Messiah; He sent a carpenter to build His Kingdom.

In light of this revelation, Yeshua’s story has a tragic irony attached to it: a carpenter was nailed to the cross. They took the tools of Yeshua’s trade and killed Him with them. 

Although we don’t get the words nailed to the cross in the Bible, the word crucifixion supplies the image. The only incidence of the Greek word for nails [Greek: hēlōn] is found in the Gospel of John when Thomas doubted Yeshua’s return from death, which all his friends were telling him was true. Thomas said to his friends:

John 20:25b

“Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later Yeshua did appear to Thomas, showed him his nail imprinted hands, and Thomas believed.

Yeshua’s tools of trade were used to kill Him, but He conquered death, removed the nails, picked up His tools again and gave them to His disciples. They would continue where Yeshua left off; they would step out and build up YHWH’s Kingdom of faithful followers.

Kingdom Builders

Of all the construction God could do, the Bible tells us that we are His greatest craft. We are His monumental building. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying:

1 Corinthians 3:9-13, 16-17

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. 

But each person must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus the Messiah. 

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work…

…Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

We are God’s favoured creation, the living temple of YHWH… and we are to continue building upon the foundation laid out for us by Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). You may not be an artisan, but you have a gift and ability that is unique to you. Find your craft and use it to build up YHWH’s Kingdom of love, hope, redemption and peace.

Next week: Revisiting LOVE

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