Son of the Forge

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The Iron Worker and King Solomon

A Rabbinical Legend
from the 1896 book by Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire,
and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work.   Isaiah 54:16

Steel mezzotint engraving by John Sartain
of the 1863 painting by Christian Schussele

According to Rabbinical tradition, King Solomon prepared a feast for the chief craftsman and artificers who had labored on the newly completed Temple (depicted in the background of Schussele’s painting). The throne of the king was on a raised dais facing the head of the table; at his right hand was a seat of honor for that craftsman who might be pronounced most worthy among all who had wrought on the famous structure.

The story is presented in its original formal 19th century literary style.

And it came to pass when Solomon, the son of David, had finished the Temple of Jerusalem, that he called unto him the chief architects, the head artificers, and cunning men working in silver and gold, and in wood, and in ivory and stone, — yea, all who aided in working on the Temple of the Lord.

And he said to them, “Sit ye down at my table, for I have prepared a feast for all my chief workers and artificers. Stretch forth your hands, therefore, and eat and drink and be merry. Is not the laborer worthy of his hire? Is not the skillful artificer deserving of honor? Muzzle not the ox that treadeth out the corn.”

And when Solomon and the chief workmen were seated, and the fatness of the land and the oil thereof were upon the table, there came one who knocked loudly upon the door, and forced himself even into the festal chamber. Then Solomon the King was wroth, and said, “What manner of man art thou?”

And the man answered and said, “When men wish to honor me, they call me Son of the Forge, but when they desire to mock me, they call me Blacksmith; and seeing that the toil of working in fire covers me with sweat, the latter name, O King, is not inapt, and in truth I desire no better.

“But,” said Solomon, “why comest thou thus rudely and unbidden to the feast, where none save the chief workmen of the Temple are invited?”

And the man replied, “Please ye, I came rudely because the servant obliged me to force my way; but I came not unbidden. Was it not proclaimed that the chief workmen of the Temple are invited to dine with the King of Israel?”

Then he who carved the cherubim said, “This fellow is no sculptor.”

And he who inlaid the roof with pure gold said, “Neither is he a worker in fine metals.”

And he who raised the walls said, “He is not a cutter of stone.”

And he who made the roof cried out, “He is not cunning in cedar wood, neither knoweth he the mystery of uniting strange pieces of timber together.”

Then said Solomon, “What hast thou to say, Son of the Forge? Why should I not order thee to be plucked by the beard, scourged with a scourge, and stoned to death with stones?”

When the Son of the Forge heard this, he was in no sort dismayed, but advancing to the table, snatched up and swallowed a cup of wine, and said, “O King, live forever! The chief men of the workers in wood and gold and stone have said that I am not of them, and they have said truly. I am their superior. Before they lived, I was created. I am their master, and they are all my servants.

And he turned himself round and said to the chief of the carvers in stone, “Who made the tools with which you carve?”

And he answered, “The Blacksmith.”

And he said to the chief of the workers in wood, “Who made the tools with which you hewed the trees of Lebanon, and formed them into pillars and roof for the Temple?”

And he answered, “The Blacksmith.”

Then he said to the artificer in gold and ivory, “Who makes your instruments by which you work beautiful things for my Lord, the King?”

And he answered, “The Blacksmith.”

“Enough, enough, my good fellow”, said Solomon. “Thou hast proved that I invited thee, and that thou art all men’s father in art. Go wash the sweat of the forge from thy face, and come and sit at my right hand. The chiefs of my workmen are but men. Thou art more.”

So it happened at the feast of Solomon,
and Blacksmiths have been honored ever since.

4 Responses to Son of the Forge

  1. Laurence Lance says:

    A very worthwhile read!

    We happen to have a young MM in our lodge who is a smith. I’ve very sure he will enjoy this.

  2. ro8v28 says:

    I would like to post this on my website giving due honour to yours where I discovered this information. I think my visitors would like to see this.

  3. Sid Gale says:

    Very interesting and appropriate for our website.

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