Building craftsmen using brick or stone. The professional mason in Israel first appears in the Bible in David's time, though the craft was very ancient and highly developed in Egypt by that time. The Bible suggests that no Israelites were skilled in the art of quarrying, squaring, and setting fine building stones in David's time. David relied upon the king of Tyre for craftsmen (2 Samuel 5:11-12;
1 Chronicles 22:2-4,1 Chronicles 22:14-18). Under the reign of Solomon, Israelites may have begun to develop this craft (1 Kings 5:18). As professional craftsmen, stone masons were probably members of a guild or trade association such as other tradesmen. Such associations were primarily social organizations, though in later times they could be a political force of concern to rulers (Acts 19:23-41). It was also common for members of the same trade to live and working in one location within the larger towns and cities (2 Kings 18:17;
1 Chronicles 4:14;
Dressed or ashlar masonry was not ordinarily used in private dwellings. The average man built his own home of sun dried brick on a foundation of field stones. Biblical references to masons thus involve public works (2 Kings 12:11-15;
2 Kings 22:3-8;
Limestone was a primary building stone in the hill country. It was easily cut, and it hardened when exposed to the air. To cut the stone loose from its bed, wooden wedges were driven into triangular slots cut along the line of the split. These wedges were soaked with water. As the wedges expanded, the force split the stone from the bed.
Hammers, punches, and chisels were used to batter and dress the stone followed by rubbing with fine standstone rubbing stones. Blocks could be squared and polished so finely that a blade could not be inserted between the joints.
Masons, under Herod's employ, cut massive limestone blocks as much as 46 feet long, 10 feet thick, and 10 feet high from quarries half a mile from where they were placed in the pediment of the Temple mount. Some of these stones are estimated to weigh as much as 415 tons. They can be seen today in the southwest corner of the Wailing Wall. See Architecture; Arts and Crafts; Building Materials; Guilds; Occupations.