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We are told that "there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building"

The go-to explanations tend to be fantastical things like use of the shamir, or the help of demons, or the stones levitate themselves.

But since the use of iron is specified because that metal is viewed as the instrument of war and death... Has anyone considered that bronze tools were used? Or even flint?

Bronze was likely still in common use, after all, and we hear of flint knives being used in the Tanakh. Plus, much of the temple was likely built of white limestone, which can seemingly be worked by bronze and flint (although there are disagreements on this) - https://www.archaeoresearch.co.uk/research/the-efficacy-of-flint-versus-bronze-chisels-in-ancient-egypt/

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  • Always helpful if you quote the source of verses when you bring them so answerers can look it up
    – mbloch
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 3:06
  • And the simplest reading of the verse which renders this moot -- everything had been cut to shape (using conventional tools) at the quarry; by the time it entered Jerusalem, it just needed to be assembled. (An Ikea kit, essentially.)
    – Shalom
    Commented Apr 11, 2023 at 9:19

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The pshat seems to be like Rabbi Nehemia:

אָמַר לוֹ רַבִּי נְחֶמְיָה וְכִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹמַר כֵּן וַהֲלֹא כְּבָר נֶאֱמַר כׇּל אֵלֶּה אֲבָנִים יְקָרֹת וְגוֹ׳ מְגֹרָרוֹת בַּמְּגֵרָה אִם כֵּן מָה תַּלְמוּד לוֹמַר לֹא נִשְׁמַע בַּבַּיִת בְּהִבָּנֹתוֹ שֶׁהָיָה מְתַקֵּין מִבַּחוּץ וּמַכְנִיס מִבִּפְנִים

Rabbi Neḥemya said to him: And is it possible to say so? But isn’t it already stated: “All these were costly stones, according to the measures of hewn stones, sawed with saws” (II Kings 7:9), which indicates that saws, which are iron implements, were used to shape the stones? If so, what is the meaning when the verse states: “And hammer, ax, and any tool of iron were not heard in the house when it was being built” (I Kings 6:7)? It means that he would prepare the stones outside the Temple Mount using tools, and bring them inside already cut, so that no iron tools were used inside the Temple itself.

The Mefarshim explained like that too (Radak, Metsudot...)

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  • True, but Nehemya is reasoning that iron saws etc were used for the temple like the palace (and that shamir is for the ephod). Yehuda disagrees, as does Yehuda HaNasi. It's less 'tools at all' and more the specification of 'iron' that interests me, as Rashi's 'iron = war/death' is often cited: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/53785/… It's odd shamir is considered before bronze, or as a worm over a material - Ezekial 3.9, Jeremiah 17:1 & Isaiah 5:6 indicate its shape and hardness are significant.
    – ANH
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 13:07
  • @ANH I think that for Rabbi Yehuda, bronze would not work. The pshat seems to be "all the tools to break the stone" more than just "tool of iron" (it's "historical", not halachic). As it is an explanation as why the Beit Hamikdash is built as it is.
    – EzrielS
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 14:26
  • Thankyou, that's an interesting aspect! So then presumably flint/stone tools would also not be acceptable to Yehuda - Which would help explain why the shamir is characterized as an worm and not another type of stone/material, if it would then constitute a 'tool'...
    – ANH
    Commented Apr 14, 2023 at 14:44

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