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Trowel and Sword

When Nehemiah received from Artaxerxes Longimanus the appointment of Governor of Judea, and was permitted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and to restore the city to its former fortified condition, he met with great opposition from the Persian Satraps, or Governors, who were envious of his favor with the King, and from the heathen inhabitants of Samaria, who were unwilling to see the city again resume its pristine importance. The former undertook to injure him with Artaxerxes by false reports of his seditious designs to restore the independent Kingdom of Judea. The latter sought to obstruct the workmen of Nehemiah in their labors, and openly attacked them. Nehemiah took the most active measures to refute the insidious accusations of the first, and to repel the more open violence of the latter. Josephus says in his Antiquities (Book xi, chapter vi, section 8), that he gave orders that the Builders should keep their ranks, and have their armor on while they were building; and, accordingly, the Mason had his sword on as well as he that brought the materials for building.

Zerubbabel had met with similar opposition from the Samaritans while rebuilding the Temple; and although the events connected with Nehemiah's restoration of the walls occurred long after the completion of the second Temple, yet the Freemasons have in the advanced Degrees referred them to the time of Zerubbabel. Hence in the Fifteenth Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, or the Knight of the East, which refers to the building of the Temple of Zerubbabel, we find this combination of the Trowel and the Sword adopted as a symbol. The old instructions of that degree say that Zerubbabel, being informed of the hostile intentions of the false Brethren from Samaria, bordered that all the workmen should be armed with the Trowel in one hand and the Sword in the other, that while they worked with the one they might be enabled to defend themselves with the other, and ever repulse the enemy if they should dare to present themselves."

In reference to this idea, but not with chronological accuracy, the Trowel and Sword have been placed crosswise as symbols on the Tracing-Board of the English Royal Arch. Doctor Oliver correctly interprets the symbol of the Trowel and Sword as signifying that, "next to obedience to lawful authority, a manly and determined resistance to lawless violence is an essential part of social duty."

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