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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Art, Jewish

(מִעֲשֶׂה, maaseh', work, as elsewhere rendered), Exodus 30:25; 2 Chronicles 16:14 (τέχνη, elsewhere "craft," "occupation"), Acts 17:29; Wisdom of Solomon 14:4; Wisdom of Solomon 17:7 ἔργον , "work"), Ecclus. xlix, 1 (πράσσω, to do, "practise"), Acts 19:19. (See Cleghorn, Hist. of Anc. and Mod. Art, Edinb. 1848; Rochette, Lectures on Anc. Art, Lond. 1854; Gugler, Kunst der Hebrder, Landshut, 1614; De Saulcy, Hist. de l'Art Judaique, Par. 1858.) (See ARTIFICER).

The rudiments of- the arts, which are now among civilized nations brought to such an admirable state of perfection, exist also among the rudest nations, whence we infer that they must have originated partly in necessity and partly in accident. At first their processes were doubtless very imperfect and very limited; but the inquisitive and active mind of man, impelled by his wants, soon enlarged and improved them. Accordingly, in the fourth generation from Adam, we find mention made of "Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron;" and also of Jubal, as " the father of all such as handle the harp and organ;" but in the fragments of antediluvian history preserved by Moses, there is nothing more explicit on this subject, as the book of Genesis appears to be designed chiefly as an introduction to the history of the Mosaic legislation. (See ANTEDILUVIANS). The first man undoubtedly kept his children and other descendants about him as long as possible, and exercised paternal authority over them. Cain was the first who separated from his father's society, and he was impelled to this step through fear of punishment for the murder of his brother. In the course of time various motives, such as a desire to obtain land for cultivation or pasturage for cattle, might induce others to follow his example. Thus there arose separate families, which were governed by their own patriarchs: When families had increased to tribes and nations, we find that men were engaged in agriculture and in the improvement of the arts. (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrations, 1st series, 4th week, Sat.) The family of Noah preserved the knowledge of the first principles of civil society and of the infant arts which had existed before the Deluge, and as early as the time of Jacob it appears that the laboring class comprehended husbandmen, mechanics, artists, and merchants. Egypt, in the early ages of the world, excelled all other nations in a knowledge of the arts, as may be sufficiently proved by the extraordinary magnitude and permanency of the Egyptian monuments, the magnificent temples' dedicated to their gods, and the splendid obelisks erected in honor of their kings. The learning of the Egyptians has been made known to us by the sacred historian. By this record we have been taught to believe in the wisdom of this ancient people, and to feel astonishment at the nature of their institutions, the extent of their learning, and the perfection they had attained in the arts at so early a period. Moses, it is true, did not enact any special laws in favor of the arts among the Hebrews, nor did he interdict or endeavor to lessen them in the estimation of the people, but, on the contrary, speaks in praise of artificers (Exodus 35:30; Exodus 35:35). The descendants of Jacob having lived on terms of amity with their neighbors of Mizraim, "until another king arose who knew not Joseph," they undoubtedly borrowed from them many of their instruments of agriculture, of commerce, and of luxury, and as the artists of Egypt descended to depict the minutest particulars of their household arrangements, and every circumstance connected with their national habits and observances was faithfully represented, we have the means of forming a judgment respecting the arts and usages which prevailed among the Hebrews. (See EGYPT). No one can pretend to doubt that the scriptural narrative is singularly illustrated and confirmed by the monuments. A rich vein of illustration is thus opened by comparing the various processes depicted on those monuments with the statements scattered throughout the inspired records, more especially the numerous metaphors employed by the prophets in relation to many of these arts and manufactures; and we shall, therefore, in the order of the alphabetical series, give descriptive particulars of the various arts as practised among the Egyptians, presuming that those subsequently practised by the Hebrews differed but little from them. (See CARPENTER).

Soon after the death of Joshua a place was expressly allotted by Joab to artificers; it was called the valley of craftsmen, גֵּיא חֲרָשִׁים (1 Chronicles 4:14; comp. Nehemiah 11:35). (See CRAFTSMAN). About this time mention is also made of artificers in gold and silver (Judges 17:3; Judges 17:5). (See METAL). Some of the less complicated instruments used in agriculture every one made for himself. The women spun, wove, and embroidered; they made clothing, not only for their families, but for sale (Exodus 35:25). (See WOMAN). Artificers among the Hebrews were not, as among the Greeks and Romans, servants and slaves, but men of some rank, and as luxury increased, they became very numerous (Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2). (See HANDICRAFT). In the time of David and Solomon there were Israelites who understood the construction of temples and palaces, but they were still inferior to the Tyrans, from whom they were willing to receive instruction (1 Chronicles 14:1; 1 Chronicles 22:15). (See ARCHITECTURE). During the captivity many of the. Hebrews applied themselves to the arts and merchandise; and subsequently, when they were scattered abroad among different nations, a knowledge of the arts became so popular that the Talmudists taught that all parents should have their children instructed in some art or handicraft. They mention many learned men of their nation who practised some kind of manual labor, or, as we should term it, followed some trade; and we find the circumstance frequently alluded to in the New Testament (Matthew 13:55; Acts 9:43; 2 Timothy 4:14, etc.). The Jews, like other nations of their time, reckoned certain trades infamous; among these, the Rabbins classed the drivers of asses and camels, barbers, sailors, shepherds, and inn-keepers, placing them on a level with robbers. (See PUBLICAN). The more eminent Greek tradesmen in the apostolic age were united, it appears, in a sort of corporation or society (Acts 19:25), and such was probably the case with the Jews also. (See MECHANIC).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Art, Jewish'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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