The Double-bit Ax

A Bible study for personal or group use

Creating Interest

  • Name a two edged implement of some sort that you have used.
  • Describe the size and style of hatchet or ax that you have used.
  • What did you use it for?  How well did it work?
  • Explain how you would sharpen an ax or explain how you would replace a broken handle.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Story, by Don

The type of sword historically used in ancient Israel had a straight, double-edged blade shaped like a long, narrow triangle.  In either short or long version, dagger or sword, the primary use was for thrusting and piercing.*  A weapon designed for that purpose was whetted as sharp as possible.

In this Scripture, we find an accurate, historical reference to the proper function of battle blades in the first century.  We also find that first century people were quite attuned to human physiology, emotion, and intellect.

As I read about the comparison of God’s word to a two-edged sword, I’m reminded of the most practical double-edged implement in common use today, the double-bit ax.  Although its function is markedly different, this tool also has multiple purposes related to its two-edgedness.  But the reasons are generally unknown by most folks.  Many moons ago, double-bit axes were forged or ground with one edge thinner than the other.  The thinner, sharpened edge was used for chopping and hewing.  The thicker, blunter edge was used for splitting and groundwork.

Double-bit ax heads are no longer made this way.  In fact, I’ve seen only two of them, one of which I bought at a garage sale in southeast Indiana.  When I show it to people and ask them the reason for two edges, I can always count on the answer:  when one side gets dull, you can use the other side.

As you can see, the truth is that one side of the ax will always be dull as a result of the coarse work it is expected to do.  But the other edge is kept extremely sharp by necessity.  Another truth is, if you did enough work to dull the edge of a good double-bit ax, you’d want to rest a long while before continuing with the other side!

With a sword or ax, much of the work accomplished depends on how much one hacks on his subject.  That’s the nature of human activity:  keep hacking and hewing away until the job gets done or until the results agree with human standards.

God’s word is not like that at all.  When God pierces life with His word, one thrust is all it takes.  He doesn’t need to keep hacking and hewing until He gets it right.  His live, powerful word hits the mark perfectly and does the job completely the first time.

God’s word distinguishes what makes us merely alive and what makes us alive to Him.  God’s word defines the building blocks of human life and what gives life to those building blocks.  With holy precision, God alone creates life, knows its parts, controls its pieces, and takes it back.

God’s word gives eternal life to mere life and energizes it.  His word knows what men intend to do, what they think to do, and what they will do regardless of what they plan to do, hope to do, or actually do.  God’s word is sharper than anything we can imagine.  No part of it is dull!

Man has the ability to split atoms, to surgically repair mortal beings, and to philosophize about life.  But no atom-smasher, scalpel, cutting edge philosophy, nor sword or double-bit ax – no human resource – can do what God’s word does in men’s lives when He draws His sword and draws men to Him.

Building Foundations

  • Explain how the Word of Truth – God’s Word – has affected your life this week.
  • Tell how you use God’s Word as your source for spiritual renewal every day.
  • Define your view of God’s word “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.”
  • Define “of joints and marrow.”
  • Define “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Applying Truth

Personally meditate on these key words, or discuss these with your friends or small group.  What does the Bible say about each one?  Determine how you will interact with these subjects this week:

  • sharp
  • God’s word
  • living and powerful

* The Revell Bible dictionary.  (1990).  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House.