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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. Antiquity of a metallic currency: weights and values. That the precious metals, gold and silver, and to a less extent copper, were the ordinary media of exchange in Palestine from a time long prior to the appearance there of the Hebrews, is now amply attested by evidence from Egypt and Babylonia, and even from the soil of Palestine itself. The predominance of silver as the metal currency for everyday transactions is further shown by the constant use in Hebrew literature of the word for ‘silver’ ( keseph ) in the sense of ‘money.’

As there can be no question of the existence of coined money in Palestine until the Persian period, the first step in the study of the money of OT is to master the system of weights adopted for the weighing of the precious metals. Money might indeed be ‘told’ or counted, but the accuracy of the ‘tale’ had to be tested by means of the balance; or rather, as we see from such passages as  2 Kings 12:10-11 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), money was told by being weighed . Now, all the weight-systems of Western Asia, and even of Europe, had their origin in Babylonia (for details see Weights and Measures). There, as required by the sexagesimal system of reckoning, the ancient unit of weight, the manu ( Heb. maneh as in   Ezekiel 45:12 elsewhere in EV [Note: English Version.] ‘ pound ’) or mina , which weighed 7580 grains on the light, and 15,160 on the heavy standard, was divided into 60 shekels , while 60 minas went to the higher denomination, the talent. It will thus be seen that the light Babylonian trade shekel weighed, neglecting fractions, 126 grains troy, and the heavy shekel 252. The former, it will be useful to remember, was but three grains heavier than a British gold sovereign.

As this weight-system spread westwards with the march of Babylonian civilization and commerce, it came into conflict with the decimal system of calculation, and a compromise was effected, which resulted in the mina being reduced to 50 shekels, while the talent remained at 60 minas, although reduced in weight to 3000 shekels. That the Hebrew talent by which the precious metals were weighed contained 3000, not 3600, shekels may be seen by a simple calculation from the data of  Exodus 38:25 ff., Further, the heavy Babylonian shekel of 252 grains remained in use among the Hebrews for the weighing of gold until NT times. For this we have the express testimony of Josephus, who tells us ( Ant . XIV. vii. 1) that the Hebrew gold mina was equal to 2 1 / 2 Roman pounds. On the basis of 5053 grains to the libra or pound, this gives a shekel of 252 2 /3 grains, the exact weight of the heavy Babylonian shekel of the common or trade standard.

For the weighing of silver, on the other hand, this shekel was discarded for practical reasons. Throughout the East in ancient times the ratio of gold to silver was 13 1 /3:1, which means that a shekel of gold could buy 13 1 /3 times the same weight of silver.

The latest explanation of this invariable ratio, it may be added in passing, is that advocated by Winckler and his followers. On this, the so-called ‘astral mythology’ theory of the origin of Babylonian culture, gold, the yellow metal, was specially associated with the sun, while the paler silver was the special ‘moon-metal.’ Accordingly it was natural to fix the ratio between them as that which existed between the year and the month, viz. 360: 27 or 40: 3.

In ordinary commerce, however, this ratio between the two chief media of exchange was extremely inconvenient, and to obviate this inconvenience, the weight of the shekel for weighing silver was altered so that a gold shekel might be exchanged for a whole number of silver shekels. This alteration was effected in two ways. On the one band, along the Babylonian trade-routes into Asia Minor the light Babylonian shekel of 126 grains was raised to 168 grains, so that 10 such shekels of silver now represented a single gold shekel, since 126 × 13 1 /3 = 168 × 10. On the other hand, the great commercial cities of Phœnicia introduced a silver shekel of 224 grains, 15 of which were equivalent to one heavy Babylonian gold shekel of 252 grains, since 252 × 13 1 /3 = 224 × 15. This 224-grain shekel is accordingly known as the Phœnician standard. It was on this standard that the sacred dues of the Hebrews were calculated (see § 3 ); on it also the famous silver shekels and half-shekels were struck at a later period (§ 5 ).

With regard, now, to the intrinsic value of the above gold and silver shekels, all calculations must start from the mint price of gold, which in Great Britain is £3, 17s. 10 1 /2d. per ounce of 480 grains. This gives £2, 1s. as the value of the Hebrew gold shekel of 252 grs., and since the latter was the equivalent of 15 heavy Phœnician shekels, 2s. 9d. represents the value as bullion of the Hebrew silver shekel . Of course the purchasing power of both in Bible times, which is the real test of the value of money, was many times greater than their equivalents in sterling money at the present day.

The results as to weights and values above set forth may be presented in tabular form as follows:

Denomination. Weight. Intrinsic Value. Gold Shekel 252 2 /3 grs. troy. £2 1 0 Mina = 50 shekels 12,630 grs. troy. 102 10 0 Talent = 3000 758,000 grs. troy. 6150 0 0 ( circa 108 lbs. avoir.) Silver Shekel 224½ grs. troy. 0 2 9 Mina 11,225 grs. troy. 6 16 8 ( circa 1 lb. 10 oz. avoir.) Talent 673,500 grs. troy. 410 0 0 ( circa 96 lbs. avoir.) Since the effective weight of the extant shekels is somewhat under the theoretical weight above given, the intrinsic value of any number of shekels of silver may be found with sufficient accuracy by equating the shekel roughly with our half-crown (2s. 6d.).

Although we have literary and numismatic evidence for the gold and silver shekels of these tables only, it may now be regarded as certain that other standards were in use in Palestine in historic times for weighing the precious metals. The best attested is that which the present writer, in his article ‘Weights and Measures’ in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] lv. 904 f., termed the ‘Syrian 320-grain unit,’ a shekel which is the of a heavy Babylonian mina of 16,000 grains. That the light shekel of this standard, represented by the now familiar weights of 160 grains or thereby, inscribed netseph , was used for weighing silver or gold or both is evident from the small denominations which have been recovered, such as the quarter netseph of 40 grs., known as the Chaplin weight (see op. cit . and PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1903, p. 197, 1904, p. 209 ff., and later years).

2. Money in the pre-exilic period . Throughout the whole of this period, as has already been emphasized, in every transaction involving the payment of sums of considerable value, the money was reckoned by weight. Accordingly, when Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah he ‘weighed to Ephron the silver … four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant’ (  Genesis 23:15 ). In view of what has just been said regarding the variety of standards in use in Palestine in early times, it would be unwise, in the present state of our knowledge, to pronounce as to the value of the price paid in this transaction. On the PhÅ“nician standard it would be approximately £55 sterling; on the netseph standard, which stands to the PhÅ“nician in the ratio of 5:7, it would be under £40. Similarly, the price which David paid for the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, 50 shekels of silver (  2 Samuel 24:24 ), will vary from £5 to £7 according to the standard adopted. On the other hand, where gold is concerned, as in the case of the 30 talents which Sennacherib ‘appointed unto Hezekiah’ (  2 Kings 18:14 ), we may with some confidence assume the gold standard common to Palestine and Assyria. In this case Hezekiah’s tribute will represent the respectable sum of £184, 500.

A noteworthy feature of the entries of prices in the pre-exilic writings of the Hebrews is the disappearance of the mina, the sums being stated in terms of shekels and talents exclusively. Thus Abraham, as we have seen, paid 400 shekels, not 8 minas, to the children of Heth; the weight, and therefore the value, of Achan’s ‘wedge of gold’ (see next paragraph) is given as 50 shekels, not as 1 mina, and so throughout.

In this period the precious metals circulated in three forms. The shekel, its subdivisions (cf. the quarter-shekel of  1 Samuel 9:8 ) and smaller multiples, had the form of ingots of metal, without any stamp or other mark, so far as our evidence goes, as a guarantee of their purity and weight. Larger values were made up in the shape of bars, such as Schliemann discovered at Troy and Macalister found at Gezer (illust. Bible Sidelights , etc., fig. 36). The ‘ wedge (lit. ‘tongue’) of gold ’ which Achan appropriated from the loot of Jericho (  Joshua 7:21 ) was probably such a thin bar of gold. Further, Rebekah’s nose-ring of half a shekel of gold, and her bracelets of ten shekels (  Genesis 24:22 ), represent a third form which the metal currency of the early period might assume. The vases and other vessels of gold and silver which are so frequently mentioned in ancient tribute lists also, in all probability, represented definite weights and values.

To such an extent was the shekel the exclusive unit in all ordinary transactions, that the Hebrew writers frequently omit it in their statements of prices. This applies to gold as well as to silver, e.g .   2 Kings 5:5 ‘six thousand’ of gold, where AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] supply ‘pieces,’ but RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] has the correct ‘shekels’ (cf. silverling [wh. see] in   Isaiah 7:23 ).

3. Money in the Persian period: introduction of coins . In this period the money of the small Jewish community was still, as before the Exile, chiefly ingots and bars of the precious metals, without official mark of any kind. The addition of such a mark by the issuing authority serves as a public guarantee of the purity of the metal and the weight of the ingot, and transforms the latter into a coin. Coined money is usually regarded as the invention of the Lydians early in the 7th cent. b.c., but it is very improbable that any ‘coins’ reached Palestine before the fall of the Jewish State in b.c. 587. The first actual coins to reach Jerusalem were more probably those of Darius Hystaspis (b.c. 522 485), who struck two coins, the daric in gold, and the siglos or siktos (from sheket ) in silver. The daric was a light shekel of 130 grains 7 grains heavier than our ‘sovereign’ worth twenty-one shillings sterling. The siglos was really a half-shekel of 86 1 /2 grains, equal therefore to 1 /20th of the daric, on the ten-shekel basis set forth in § 1 , or a fraction more than a shilling.

In several passages of Chron., Ezr., and Neh. the RV [Note: Revised Version.] has substituted ‘darics’ for AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘ drams ’ (  1 Chronicles 29:7 ,   Ezra 2:69 ,   Nehemiah 7:70 ff. etc.). But there are valid reasons (see ‘Money’ in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii. 421) for retaining the older rendering in the sense, not of coins, but of weights. On the other hand, since Nehemiah was a Persian official, the ‘forty shekels of silver’ of   Nehemiah 5:15 may be Persian sigloi, although they may with equal probability be regarded as shekels of the usual PhÅ“nician standard. There is, of course, no question of the Jewish community striking silver coins of their own, this jealously guarded right being then, as always, ‘the touchstone of sovereignty.’

In this period, however, the wealthy commercial cities on the PhÅ“nician seaboard Aradus, Sidon, Tyre, and others acquired the right of issuing silver coins, which they naturally did on the native standard. The effective weight of these shekels or tetradrachms , as they are usually termed, averages about 220 grains, a few grains short of the normal 224. These coins have a special interest for the Bible student, from the fact that they are the numismatic representatives of ‘ the shekel of the sanctuary ,’ which is prescribed in the Priests’ Code as the monetary unit of the post-exilic community (see   Leviticus 27:25 ‘all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary’). In   Exodus 30:13 and elsewhere this shekel is said to consist of 20 gerahs , which the Greek translators identified with the small silver obol of the Gr. coinage, 20 of which yield a shekel of 224 grains. Moreover, it is repeatedly stated in the Talmud that ‘all payments according to the shekel of the sanctuary are to be made in PhÅ“nician currency’ (Mishna, Bekhoroth , viii. 7). For the mode of payment of the half-shekel tax for the Temple services see § 7 .

4. Money in the period from Alexander to the Maccabees . Alexander’s conquest of Syria was naturally followed by the introduction of his coinage in gold, silver, and bronze. On his death, Ptolemy I. established himself in Egypt, to which be soon added Palestine. During the following century (b.c. 301 198) the Jews had at their command the coins of the Ptolemaic dynasty, struck at Alexandria on the PhÅ“nician standard, as well as those of the flourishing cities on the Mediterranean. The tribute paid by the Jews to the third Ptolemy did not exceed the modest sum of 20 talents of silver, or circa £4360.

In b.c. 198 Antiochus iii. wrested Palestine from the Ptolemys. Now the Seleucids had continued Alexander’s silver coinage on the Attic standard, the basis of which was the drachm of, originally, 67 grs., but the effective weight of the Syrian drachms and tetradrachms of this period is slightly below this standard, and may be valued at 11d. and 3s. 8d. respectively. The drachms (To 5:14, 2Ma 4:19; 2Ma 12:43 ) and talents (6000 drachms) of the Books of Maccabees are to be regarded as on this Syrian-Attic standard.

5. The first native coinage: the problem of the ‘shekel of Israel’ . In b.c. 139 138 Antiochus Sidetes granted to Simon Maccabæus the right to coin money (see 1Ma 15:5 f.). ‘The thorniest question of all Jewish numismatics,’ as it has been called, is the question whether and to what extent Simon availed himself of this privilege. A series of silver shekels and half-shekels on the PhÅ“nician standard, bearing dates from ‘year 1’ to ‘year 5,’ has long been known to students. They show on the obverse and reverse respectively a cup or chalice and a spike of a lily with three flowers. The legends in old Hebrew letters on the shekels are: obv. ‘Shekel of Israel’; rev. ‘Jerusalem the holy’ (see illust. in plate accompanying art. ‘Money’ in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii. Nos. 14, 15; Reinach, Jewish Coins , pl. ii.; and more fully in Madden’s Coins of the Jews the standard work on Jewish numismatics, 67 ff.). Only two alternatives are possible regarding the date of these famous coins. Either they belong to the governorship of Simon Maccabæus who died b.c. 135, or to the period of the great revolt against Rome, a.d. 66 70. The latest presentation of the arguments for the earlier date will be found in M. Theodore Reinach’s book cited above. It is not a point in his favour, however, that he is compelled to assign the shekels of the year 5 to John Hyrcanus, Simon’s son and successor.

The present writer is of opinion that the arguments he has advanced elsewhere in favour of the later date ( DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii. 424 f., 429 f.) still hold good. In this case the earliest Jewish coins will be certain small bronze coins struck by the above-mentioned Hyrcanus (b.c. 135 104), with the legend in minute old Hebrew characters: ‘John, the high priest, and the commonwealth ( or the executive) of the Jews.’ The title of ‘king’ first appears on bronze coins of Alexander Jannæus ‘Jonathan the king’ who also first introduced a Greek, in addition to a Hebrew, legend. No silver coins, it may be added, were struck by any of Simon’s successors, or even by the more powerful and wealthier Herod. The bronzes of the latter present no new feature of interest.

6. Money in Palestine under the Romans . From a numismatic point of view Judæa may be said to have formed a part of the Roman dominions from b.c. 53, from which date the Roman monetary unit, the silver denarius, with its subdivisions in copper, as quadrans, etc., was legal tender in Jerusalem. Since the denarius was almost equal in weight to the Syrian-Attic drachm (§ 4) the silver unit throughout the Seleucid empire the two coins were regarded as of equal value, and four denarii were in ordinary business the equivalent of a tetradrachm of Antioch.

The Roman gold coin, the aureus , representing 25 denarii, varied in weight in NT times from 126 to 120 grains. Since a British ‘sovereign’ weighs a little over 123 grains, the aureus may for approximate calculations be reckoned at £1. Similarly the denarius from Augustus to Nero weighed 60 grs. our sixpenny piece weighs 43.6 grs. and was equal to 16 copper asses. To reach the monetary value of the denarius in sterling money, which is on a gold standard, we have only to divide the value of the gold aureus by 25, which gives 9 3 /8 d., say nine pence halfpenny for convenience, or a French franc.

In addition to these two imperial coins, the system based on the Greek drachm was continued in the East, and both drachms and tetradrachms were issued from the imperial mint at Antioch. In our Lord’s day Tyre still continued to issue silver and bronze coins, the former mainly tetradrachms or shekels on the old PhÅ“nician standard (220 224 grs.). As the nearest equivalent of the Heb. shekel these Tyrian coins were much in demand for the payment of the Temple tax of one half-shekel (see next §). Besides all these, the procurators issued small bronze coins, probably the quadrans ( 1 /4 of an as), from their mint at Cæsarea, not to mention the numerous cities, such as Samaria-Sebaste, which had similar rights.

7. The money of NT . This article may fitly close with a few notes on each of the various denominations mentioned in NT. The currency was in three metals: ‘get you no gold nor silver nor brass (copper) in your purses’ (  Matthew 10:9 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). Following this order we have ( a ) the gold aureus here referred to only indirectly. Its value was £1 (see § 6 ). ( b ) The silver coin most frequently mentioned is the Roman denarius (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ penny ,’ Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] , more correctly, ‘shilling’). In value equal to a franc or 9 1 /2d., it was the day’s wage of a Jewish labourer (  Matthew 20:2 ). A typical denarius of our Lord’s day, with which the Roman dues were paid (  Matthew 22:19 ), would have on its obverse the head of the Emperor Tiberius, and for ‘ superscription ’ the following legend in Latin: ‘Tiberius Cæsar, the son of the deified Augustus, (himself) Augustus’ (illust. No. 13 of plate in ‘Money,’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii.). ( c ) The drachm on the Attic standard (§ 5) is named only   Luke 15:8 : ‘what woman having ten drachms (EV [Note: English Version.] ‘pieces of silver’), if she lose one drachm,’ etc. In ordinary usage, as we have seen, it was the equivalent of the denarius, but for Government purposes it was tariffed at only ¾ of the denarius. The 50,000 ‘pieces of silver’ (lit. ‘ silverlings ’) of   Acts 19:19 were denarius-drachms. ( d ) Once there is mention of a didrachm (  Matthew 17:24 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘tribute money,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘the half-shekel’), but this was a two-drachm piece on the PhÅ“nician standard, and was now very rare. Accordingly it was usual for two persons to join forces in paying the Temple tax of a half-shekel by presenting a PhÅ“nician tetra-drachm. This is ( e ) the ‘piece of money’ of v. 27, which RV [Note: Revised Version.] has properly rendered by ‘shekel,’ with the word of the original, stater, in the margin. The thirty ‘pieces of silver’ for which Judas betrayed his Lord were also most probably Tyrian tetradrachms. Although these by Government tariff would be equal to only 90 denarii, their ordinary purchasing power was then equal to 120 denarii or francs, say £4, 16s. of our money.

Passing to the copper coins of the Gospels, we find three denominations in the original, the tepton , the kodrantes , and the assarion , rendered in Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] by ‘mite,’ ‘farthing,’ and ‘penny’ respectively. Our EV [Note: English Version.] , unfortunately, renders both the two last by ‘farthing,’ having used ‘penny’ for the denarius. There are great difficulties in the way of identifying these among the copper coins that have come down to us (for details see Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii. 428 f., EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] iii. 3647). ( f ) The tepton , the widow’s mite (  Mark 12:42 ,   Luke 21:2 ), was the smallest coin in circulation, probably one of the minute Maccabæan bronzes. Its value was between 1 /4 and 1 /3 of an English farthing. ( g ) Two mites made a kodrantes (Lat. quadrans ), the ‘uttermost farthing ’ of   Matthew 5:26 , which was either the actual Roman quadrans or its equivalent among the local bronze coins. As 1 /3; of the denarius, it was worth a trifle more than half a farthing. ( h ) The assarion is the ‘farthing’ (Amer. RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘ penny ’) associated with the price of sparrows (  Matthew 10:29 ,   Luke 12:6 ), and was a copper coin on the Greek system, probably the dichatkus , of which in ordinary business 24 went to the denarius-drachm. Its value would thus be about 3 /8 of a penny. The relative values of the three coins may be represented by 1 /8, 1 /8, and 1 /3 of a penny respectively.

There remain the two larger denominations, the talent and the pound or mina, neither of which was any longer, as in the earlier period, a specific weight of bullion, but a definite sum of money. ( i ) The talent now contained 6000 denarius-drachms, which made 240 aurei or £240 (so   Matthew 18:24 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). It is not always realized, perhaps, how vast was the difference in the amounts owing in this parable (  Matthew 18:23 ff.). The one servant owed 100 denarii, the other 10,000 talents or sixty million denarii. The one debt, occupying little more space than 100 sixpences, could be carried in the pocket; for the payment of the other, an army of nearly 8600 carriers, each with a sack 60 lbs. in weight, would be required. If these were placed in single file, a yard apart, the train would be almost five miles in length! ( j ) The pound , finally, of another parable (  Luke 19:13 ff.) was a mina, the sixtieth part of a talent, in other words 100 denarius-drachms or £4 sterling.

For the later coinage of the Jews, which was confined to the two periods of revolt against the Roman power, in a.d. 66 70 and 132 135, in addition to what has been said above (§ 5 ) regarding the shekels and half-shekels here assumed to belong to the first revolt, see Madden and Reinach, opp. citt .; Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des Jüdischen Volkes.] 3 i. 761 ff.; and Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] iii. 429 431.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

A variety of monetary systems are represented in the Bible, corresponding to the political powers that dominated the cultures represented there, from the darics named after the Persian monarch Darius (these are the first actual coins mentioned in the Bible see  1 Chronicles 29:7;  Ezra 8:27;  Nehemiah 7:70-72 ) to the coins of the Roman Empire that bore Caesar's image ( Matthew 22:20-21 ). Unlike the coinage of the United States, which by law cannot bear the image of a living person, the coins of the ancient world were more explicitly political, bearing the representation of the living monarch who sponsored the mint that produced the coins. As Jesus affirms in  Matthew 22 , coins really belong to the person whose likeness appears on them, in contrast to God, who imprints his likeness (and hence his mark of ownership) on a living humanity ( Genesis 1:27 ).

Although the word "money" appears frequently throughout some translations of the Old Testament, the first coins were not produced in the ancient Near East until the seventh century b.c. Consequently, when one finds the word "money" in Bible versions used to translate the Hebrew term kesep [כֶּסֶף] (lit. "silver"), one must recognize that it is usually not coins that are to be understood but refined, unminted silver. When one exchanged this silver for a commodity, the silver was weighed ( saqal [שָׁקַל]) in balances to determine the proper quantity of silver appropriate to the bargain. It was the term for the calibration of this weighing that gave the name of shekel [שֶׁקֶל] to the first Judean coins whose size corresponded to a shekel weight (a little less than half an ounce).

The genius of money is that it simplifies and facilitates the exchange of goods and services between humans. Greek Christians would not have been able to assist Christians in Judea had it not been for the existence of money, which functioned as a substitute for their labor and was easily transported ( Romans 15:26-27 ). The Old Testament acknowledged that there could be times when it was difficult for God's people to bring the actual firstfruits of their harvests and flocks over the great distances separating them from the temple in Jerusalem. In such cases, the people were to sell the products in question for silver and bring the silver to Jerusalem, where one could purchase the appropriate products necessary for the cultic celebration ( Deuteronomy 14:24-26; cf.  Ezra 7:17 ).

This perception of a convenient exchange reappears when substitutions are required for other aspects of the cult. Since all firstborn Israelites originally belonged to God as a result of his saving their lives in the exodus ( Exodus 13:11-16 ), firstborn Israelites had to find human substitutes if they wished to be released from God's full-time service ( Numbers 3:40-45 ). The Levites fulfilled this function as substitutes, but since there were not enough Levites to take the place of all firstborn Israelites when this was first enacted, God also accepted a monetary substitution of five shekels for those firstborn who could find no Levite to substitute for them ( Numbers 3:46-51 ). Ever after, any firstborn human (or unclean animal) that reached the age of one month had to be redeemed at the price of five shekels ( Numbers 18:15-16 ).

This monetary evaluation of humans is not a simple matter, and a variety of standards appear in the Bible. In addition to the cultic redemption of five shekels for the firstborn, there was also a monetary redemption of a half-shekel "atonement" or "ransom" applied to all male Israelites over twenty years of age ( Exodus 30:11-16;  38:25-26 ). Such evaluations were independent of other factors, for "the rich are not to give more and the poor are not to give less" ( Exodus 30:15 ).

There was also a monetary substitution that could be applied to those who vowed themselves into God's service contingent on God's fulfillment of a request they asked of him. Instead of personally fulfilling the vow, the individual could pay a monetary substitute, determined in accord with the person's sex, age, and economic class ( Leviticus 27:1-8 ). Another monetary substitution was found in the legal sphere, where the general principle of lex talionis mandated that when one human takes another human's life, the offender must compensate by surrendering a human life in turn, usually his or her own. However, collections of laws in the ancient Near East allowed payment of money as a fine in cases of murder where the victim was from a lower social class. Sectors of the Old Testament echo the notion that money might serve to ransom one's life when one was legally liable to be put to death as a punishment ( Exodus 21:29-30;  2 Samuel 21:4;  1 Kings 20:39 ), but  Numbers 35:31 clarifies Israel's distinctiveness: "Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer." God did not permit monetary fines in such cases, but insisted on the death penalty for all murders. The single clear exception where monetary compensation covered a lost human life was in the case of the slave killed by a negligent owner's goring ox: thirty shekels (the general price of a slave) was to be paid to the dead slave's owner so that he could replace his lost property (  Exodus 21:32 ).

The ease with which money could substitute for goods and services allowed it to be a ready means of replacing items lost or damaged in civil conflicts. Money appears not as a punitive measure in biblical legislation but as a compensation for commodities such as dead cattle ( Exodus 21:33-36 ) and lost virginity (the price determined by the general dowry expected for a virgin  Exodus 22:16-17;  Deuteronomy 22:28-29 ). Money could function as a punishment when damages were less tangible (e.g., one hundred shekels for slander in  Deuteronomy 22:19; a variable amount for a miscarriage in  Exodus 21:22 ), but these are infrequent in biblical law. Should money become a substitute for other punishments such as lex talionis or beatings, the law would become less fair in allowing the wealthy to be less affected by their misdeeds than the poor.

Although money had beneficial results in simplifying the exchange of goods and services, these advantages could be turned to evil purposes. In the same way that money facilitated the rewarding of work done well, it became equally easy to motivate individuals to do reprehensible crimes with bribes ( Judges 16:5,18;  Esther 3:9;  4:7;  Matthew 28:12;  Mark 14:11 ).

Money also could be used to affirm one's status as a subordinate who owed allegiance to another: it was humiliating for the kings of Israel and Judah to pay tribute to foreign monarchs ( 2 Kings 15:19-20;  18:14;  23:33,35 ), but it was a sign of Israel's high standing when other nations paid annual tribute to her ( 2 Chronicles 27:5 ). Of course, rulers could pay such money only if they had taxed their own people ( 2 Kings 15:20 ), and hence taxes were (and still are) a sign of the individual's submission to the government.

Expressing allegiance to a human authority in this fashion raises a dilemma for the one whose first allegiance is to God, a dilemma that Jesus resolves by insisting that one should return to any sovereign whatever has the sovereign's mark of ownership on it: "Whose portrait is this? Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" ( Matthew 22:20-21 ). Jesus provides a different perspective when asked to pay the temple tax, affirming that although he and his disciples are the sons of the divine King and need not pay the tax for God's temple, it should nevertheless still be paid so as not to offend fellow Jews ( Matthew 17:24-27 ). There is a larger irony in this latter account, where the requisite amount for the tax is found in a fish's mouth. Unlike the righteous' gift to God, which must be personally costly ( 2 Samuel 24:24 ), it does not matter from what source one finds the tax or tribute to surrender to a human sovereign.

Money is one of the least trustworthy and most deceptive elements of human existence. It is an unpredictable and wildly vacillating guide to value. Large quantities of silver and gold, such as when one finds "silver as common as stones" ( 1 Kings 10:27; cf. v. 14), generate inflation, which devalues the currency and its buying power. A shortage of certain commodities may drive up prices exorbitantly ( 2 Kings 6:25;  Lamentations 5:4;  Revelation 6:6 ), while the sudden availability of products may cause the value of money to plunge ( 2 Kings 7:1,16,18 ). In response, one finds in the ancient Near East and the Bible attempts to stabilize currency and exchange rates ( Ezekiel 45:12 ). But even the currency itself is subject to loss ( Luke 15:8 ), theft ( Matthew 6:19 ), destruction ( James 5:3;  1 Peter 1:18 ), and misuse ( Luke 15:13-14 ). Hordes of coins found in archaeological excavations echo the frequency with which money is described as buried in the Bible, for money is so vulnerable that there is little else one can do to protect it. It is ironic that money loses its ability to protect its owner ( Luke 12:20-21 ), who on the contrary is soon consumed with protecting the money instead ( Ecclesiastes 5:13 ). This is one reason why Jesus insists that his followers not accumulate money ( Matthew 10:9 ) and why members of the earliest Jerusalem church did not claim that anything belonging to them was their own ( Acts 4:32 ).

It is a repeated theme in the Bible that the monetary value of items does not reflect the value that God places on them. Jesus notes that although one can purchase a pair of sparrows in the market for a single copper coin comparable to a penny, this market value does not reflect the great attention that a single one of these birds receives from God ( Matthew 10:29 ). So persistent is this theme of skewed values that it becomes predictable for items of low market value to figure high on God's list of valuables, and vice versa. Joseph was sold for less than the price of a slave (twenty shekels,  Genesis 37:28 ), but he became the savior of Egypt who ironically purchased its entire population into slavery ( Genesis 47:13-25 ). Jesus' betrayal price of thirty silver pieces is a tragic miscalculation of his true status ( Zechariah 11:13;  Mark 14:11;  Luke 22:5 ). Others may look with disdain upon a donation of a few copper coins to the temple treasury, but it is not the market value of the widow's gift that Jesus finds important: "She put in everything—all she had to live on" ( Mark 12:41-44 ). It is this confusion of market value with spiritual value that irritates Peter when Simon Magus offers to pay money in return for the power of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 8:18-24 ). One should not even consider any amount of money in exchange for the most intense suffering for the sake of Jesus ( 1 Peter 1:7 ). It is for this reason that those who lead the church must have no fondness for money ( Acts 20:33;  1 Timothy 3:3,8;  Titus 1:7,11;  1 Peter 5:2; contrast the Pharisees in  Luke 16:14 ). There is no greater demonstrations of the contrary value system represented by money than Paul's observation that the love of money is the root of all evil ( 1 Timothy 6:10 ).

Money is also unreliable because people falsify the standards of measurement for personal gain, or, in the words of  Amos 8:5 , "make the shekel bigger" (cf. the ideal of just balances and weights in  Leviticus 19:36;  Job 31:6;  Ezekiel 45:10 ). The arbitrary and flexible nature of monetary standards, permitting easy manipulation, is evident in the variety of calibrations that are mentioned in the Bible: the royal standard ( 2 Samuel 14:26 ), the merchant's standard ( Genesis 23:16 ), and the "sanctuary shekel" ( Exodus 30:13;  38:24-26 ). Mesopotamia attested simultaneous usage of a "heavy" and "light" shekel in both a royal and a common standard; ancient Near Eastern standards not only varied within one geographical locale but fluctuated from place to place and over time. Such practices prompted legislation in Israel: "Do not have differing weights in your bagone heavy, one light" ( Deuteronomy 25:13 ).

People tend to cling to money, addicted to its false security. Because money behaves like a spiritual narcotic, deadening one's sensitivity to real value, Jesus insists that one cannot be committed simultaneously to both God's values and "mammon" (an Aramaic word meaning money, wealth, or property  Matthew 6:24 ). Ananias and Sapphira tried to pursue both and proved the veracity of Jesus' words as well as the spiritual corruption that money serves to catalyze ( Acts 5:1-10 ). Money is therefore quite dangerous, prompting Jesus to advise his followers not to take any money with them on their preaching tours ( Mark 6:8;  Luke 9:3 ) and to give away any money that came from the sale of their estates ( Luke 18:22; cf.  Acts 4:34-37 ).

A further problem with money surfaces when one uses it to earn more money at the expense of others in need, specifically in the charging of interest for monetary loans. Jesus' parables portray the phenomenon of interest in order to underscore the point that God expects his people to use his gifts productively ( Matthew 25:27 ). Extraordinarily high interest rates could make loans a lucrative enterprise, when, for example, annual interest rates on silver in Mesopotamia were attested as high as 80 percent. There was a stage when the interest on monetary loans was legally distinguished from the interest on loans of food (a distinction attested elsewhere in the ancient Near East). It was a general perception that one who borrowed was in a state of curse, while the one who lended was in a position of being blessed by God ( Deuteronomy 28:12,44;  Psalm 37:26;  Proverbs 22:7 ). Nevertheless, lending freely to those in need was a sign of the godly person, and loans, even to the poor, were an accepted part of life governed by ideals that would prevent humiliation ( Deuteronomy 24:10-13 ). However, it was legally prohibited to use money to make money specifically at the expense of a poor Israelite ( Exodus 22:25;  Leviticus 25:35-37 ). This would seem to imply that interest on loans to those who were well-off was acceptable, but other passages clarify that although non-Israelites could be charged interest, one could not take interest from any Israelite, whether poor or not ( Deuteronomy 23:19-20 ). The righteous person does not use his money to make money at anyone's expense ( Psalm 15:5 ), for it is the wicked person who becomes wealthy by taking interest ( Proverbs 28:8 ). In spite of such guidelines, the postexilic Jewish community monetarily enslaved poor Jews by loaning money at interest so that they could pay their taxes, a travesty that angered Nehemiah and prompted a reform so that such loans became interest-free ( Nehemiah 5:4-12 ).

The power of money is no more dramatically confronted than when one uses money to purchase another human being. When one paid money for a human in the Old Testament, that purchase brought the slave into the sphere of the owner's household comparable to the status of one born in the house, eradicating the slave's former ethnic and social ties as far as cultic matters were concerned. A slaveowner could mistreat a slave with impunity short of actually killing him or her for, in the words of  Exodus 21:21 , "the slave is his property." The reality of purchasing humans becomes one of the more powerful images for depicting God's "redemption" (an economic term) of his people: this image conveys God's ownership of his people and their resulting obligation to obey him (cf.  Genesis 47:13-26 ). As Peter stresses, however, money is inadequate for this transaction, for we were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ ( 1 Peter 1:18-19 ).

There is no record of money or precious metals being treated as unfit for sacred purposes in the Old Testament. Quite the contraryeven the wages of a harlot could be used for the support of the temple ( Isaiah 23:18 ). Nevertheless, the priests in the New Testament were reluctant to incorporate into the temple treasury money that was used to betray a man to death (Judas's "blood money" for handing over Jesus  Matthew 27:6 )a curious irony since the men who participated in the transaction continued to serve in the temple with no sense of impropriety.

Samuel A. Meier

See also Wages; Wealth

Bibliography . O. Borowski, BAR 19/5 (1993): 68-70; A. Kindler and A. Stein, A Bibliography of the City Coinage of Palestine from the 2Century B.C. to the 3Century A.D.  ; S. E. Loewenstamm, JBL 88 (1968): 78-80.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

Scripture often speaks of gold, silver, brass, of certain sums of money, of purchases made with money, of current money, of money of a certain weight; but we do not observe coined or stamped money till a late period; which makes it probable that the ancient Hebrews took gold and silver only by weight; that they only considered the purity of the metal, and not the stamp. The most ancient commerce was conducted by barter, or exchanging one sort of merchandise for another. One man gave what he could spare to another, who gave him in return part of his superabundance. Afterward, the more precious metals were used in traffic, as a value more generally known and fixed. Lastly, they gave this metal, by public authority, a certain mark, a certain weight, and a certain degree of alloy, to fix its value, and to save buyers and sellers the trouble of weighing and examining the coins. At the siege of Troy in Homer, no reference is made to gold or silver coined; but the value of things is estimated by the number of oxen they were worth. For instance: they bought wine, by exchanging oxen, slaves, skins, iron, &c: for it. When the Greeks first used money, it was only little pieces of iron or copper, called oboli or spits, of which a handful was a drachma, says Plutarch. Herodotus thinks that the Lydians were the first that stamped money of gold or silver, and introduced it into commerce. Others say it was Ishon, king of Thessaly, a son of Deucalion. Others ascribe this honour to Erichthonius, who had been educated by the daughters of Cecrops, king of Athens: others, again, to Phidon, king of Argos. Among the Persians it is said Darius, son of Hystaspes, first coined golden money. Lycurgus banished gold and silver from his commonwealth of Lacedaemon, and only allowed a rude sort of money, made of iron. Janus, or rather the kings of Rome, made a kind of gross money of copper, having on one side the double face of Janus, on the other the prow of a ship. We find nothing concerning the money of the Egyptians, Phenicians, Arabians, or Syrians, before Alexander the Great. In China, to this day, they stamp no money of gold or silver, but only of copper. Gold and silver pass as merchandise. If gold or silver be offered, they take it and pay it by weight, as other goods: so that they are obliged to cut it into pieces with shears for that purpose, and they carry a steel yard at their girdles to weigh it.

But to return to the Hebrews. Abraham weighed out four hundred shekels of silver, to purchase Sarah's tomb,  Genesis 23:15-16; and Scripture observes that he paid this in "current money with the merchant." Joseph was sold by his brethren to the Midianites for twenty pieces (in Hebrew twenty shekels) of silver,  Genesis 37:28 . The brethren of Joseph bring back with them into Egypt the money they found in their sacks, in the same weight as before,  Genesis 43:21 . The bracelets that Eliezer gave Rebekah weighed ten shekels, and the ear rings two shekels,  Genesis 24:22 . Moses ordered that the weight of five hundred shekels of myrrh, and two hundred and fifty shekels of cinnamon, of the weight of the sanctuary, should be taken, to make the perfume which was to be burnt to the Lord on the golden altar,  Exodus 30:24 . He acquaints us that the Israelites offered for the works of the tabernacle seventy-two thousand talents of brass,  Exodus 38:29 . We read, in the books of Samuel, that the weight of Absalom's hair was two hundred shekels of the ordinary weight, or of the king's weight,  2 Samuel 14:26 .  Isaiah 46:6 , describes the wicked as weighing silver in a balance, to make an idol of it; and  Jeremiah 32:10 , weighs seventeen pieces of silver in a pair of scales, to pay for a field he had bought. Isaiah says, "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye weigh money for that which is not bread?"  Amos 8:5 , represents the merchants as encouraging one another to make the ephah small, wherewith to sell, and the shekel great, wherewith to buy, and to falsify the balances by deceit.

In all these passages three things only are mentioned:

1. The metal, that is, gold or silver, and never copper, that not being used in traffic as money.

2. The weight, a talent, a shekel, a gerah or obolus, the weight of the sanctuary, and the king's weight.

3. The alloy (standard) of pure or fine gold and silver, and of good quality, as received by the merchant. The impression of the coinage is not referred to; but it is said they weighed the silver, or other commodities, by the shekel and by the talent. This shekel, therefore, and this talent, were not fixed and determined pieces of money, but weights applied to things used in commerce. Hence those deceitful balances of the merchants, who would increase the shekel, that is, would augment the weight by which they weighed the gold and silver they were to receive, that they might have a greater quantity than was their due; hence the weight of the sanctuary, the standard of which was preserved in the temple to prevent fraud; hence those prohibitions in the law, "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights," in Hebrew, stones, "a great and a small,"   Deuteronomy 25:13; hence those scales that the Hebrews wore at their girdles,  Hosea 12:7 , and the Canaanites carried in their hands, to weigh the gold and silver which they received in payment. It is true that in the Hebrew we find Jacob bought a field for a hundred kesitahs,   Genesis 33:19; and that the friends of Job, after his recovery, gave to that model of patience each a kesitah, and a golden pendant for the ears,   Job 42:11 . We also find there darics, (in Hebrew, darcmonim or adarcmonim, ) and mina, staterae, oboli; but this last kind of money was foreign, and is put for other terms, which in the Hebrew only signifies the weight of the metal. The kesitah is not well known to us; some take it for a sheep or a lamb; others, for a kind of money, having the impression of a lamb or a sheep; but it was more probably a purse of money. The darcmonim or darics are money of the kings of Persia; and it is agreed that Darius, son of Hystaspes, first coined golden money.   Ezekiel 45:12 , tells us that the mina makes fifty shekels: he reduces this foreign money to the weight of the Hebrews. The mina might probably be a Persian money originally, and adopted by the Greeks and by the Hebrews. But under the dominion of the Persians, the Hebrews were hardly at liberty to coin money of their own, being in subjection to those princes, and very low in their own country. They were still less able under the Chaldeans, during the Babylonish captivity; or afterward under the Grecians, to whom they were subject till the time of Simon Maccabaeus, to whom Antiochus Sidetes, king of Syria, granted the privilege of coining money in Judea, 1Ma_15:6 . And this is the first Hebrew money, properly so called, that we know of. There were shekels and demi-shekels, also the third part of a shekel, and a quarter of a shekel, of silver.

The shekel of silver, or the silverling,  Isaiah 7:23 , originally weighed three hundred and twenty barleycorns; but it was afterward increased to three hundred and eighty-four barleycorns, its value being considered equal to four Roman denarii, was two shillings and seven pence, or according to Bishop Cumberland, two shillings and four pence farthing. It is said to have had Aaron's rod on the one side, and the pot of manna on the other. The bekah was equal to half a shekel,  Exodus 38:26 . The denarius was one- fourth of a shekel, seven pence three farthings of our money. The gerah, or meah,  Exodus 30:13 , was the sixth part of the denarius, or diner, and the twenty-fourth part of the shekel. The assar, or assarion,  Matthew 10:29 , was the ninety-sixth part of a shekel: its value was rather more than a farthing. The farthing,  Matthew 5:26 , was in value the thirteenth part of a penny sterling. The mite was the half of a farthing, or the twenty-sixth part of a penny sterling. The mina, or maneh,  Ezekiel 45:12 , was equal to sixty shekels, which, taken at two shillings and seven pence, was seven pounds fifteen shillings. The talent was fifty minas; and its value, therefore, three hundred and eighty-seven pounds ten shillings. The gold coins were as follows; a shekel of gold was about fourteen and a half times the value of silver, that is, one pound seventeen shillings and five pence halfpenny. A talent of gold consisted of three thousand shekels. The drachma was equal to a Roman denarius, or seven pence three farthings of our money. The didrachma, or tribute money,  Matthew 17:24 , was equal to fifteen pence halfpenny. It is said to have been stamped with a harp on one side, and a vine on the other. The stater, or piece of money which Peter found in the fish's mouth,  Matthew 17:27 , was two half shekels. A daric, dram,  1 Chronicles 29:7;  Ezra 8:27 , was a gold coin struck by Darius the Mede. According to Parkhurst its value was one pound five shillings. A gold penny is stated by Lightfoot to have been equal to twenty-five silver pence.

Hug derives a satisfactory argument for the veracity of the Gospels from the different kinds of money mentioned in them:—The admixture of foreign manners and constitutions proceeded through numberless circumstances of life. Take, for example, the circulation of coin; at one time it is Greek coin; at another, Roman; at another time ancient Jewish. But how accurately is even this stated according to history, and the arrangement of things! The ancient imposts which were introduced before the Roman dominion were valued according to the Greek coinage; for example, the taxes of the temple, the διδραχμον ,  Matthew 17:24 . The offerings were paid in these,  Mark 12:42;  Luke 21:2 . A payment which proceeded from the temple treasury was made according to the ancient national payment by weight,  Matthew 26:15; but in common business, trade, wages, sale &c, the assis and denarius and Roman coin were usual,  Matthew 10:29;  Matthew 20:3;  Luke 12:6;  Mark 14:5;  John 12:5;  John 6:7 . The more modern state taxes are likewise paid in the coin of the nation which exercises at the time the greatest authority,  Matthew 22:19;  Mark 12:15;  Luke 20:24 . Writers, who, in each little circumstance, which otherwise would pass by unnoticed, so accurately describe the period of time, must certainly have had a personal knowledge of it.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

No coined money is mentioned in the Bible before Ezra'a time , when other evidence also exists of its having been current in Palestine. (See Ezra .) The first notice of coinage, occurring exactly when it ought, if the books professing to precede Ezra's really do so, confirms the accepted earliness of their dates. Money was originally weighed; in the form of rings, as represented on Egyptian monuments. So the Celtic gold rings all contain exact multiples or parts of a unit; probably a currency introduced by Phoenician traders. We know of Greek coinage as far back as the eighth century B.C. Asiatic is probably not older than Cyrus and Croesus who are said to have originated it. It was known probably in Samaria through commerce with Greece. Pheidon first coined silver in the isle Aegina in the eighth or ninth century before Christ, some time between Jehoshaphat's and Hezekiah's reigns. Lydia disputes with Greece priority of coinage. It is not mentioned as a currency in Judea before the return from Babylon.

"Shekel" previously meant a weight, not a coinage. The "thousand pieces of silver" which Abimelech gave Abraham ( Genesis 20:16) were of this kind; so the 400 shekels "weighed" by Abraham to Ephron ( Genesis 23:3;  Genesis 23:9;  Genesis 23:16), "current (money) with the merchant"; implying that the silver was in some conventional shapes, with a rude sign to mark its weight. The "weighing" however implies that this currency did not bear the stamp of authority, and so needed weighing for barter. Jacob paid 100 Kesitahs for a field at Shalem ( Genesis 23:18-19 margin); Chald. and Septuagint "lambs," namely, lamb shaped or lamb stamped pieces of silver, as Pecunia , from Pecus ; but the Arabic root implies equal division, or scales; Umbreit, "weighed out" (compare with  Genesis 23:15-16), possibly each equal to four shekels; it is probably a ring-shaped ingot or a bar of silver of a definite weight; Bochart from Qasat , "pure" ( Job 42:11).

Joseph's brethren received their money "in full weight" ( Genesis 43:21). Silver money alone was used, the standard shekel weight being kept in the sanctuary under charge of the priests, from whence arose the phrase "the shekel of the sanctuary" ( Exodus 30:18). The wedge or tongue of gold that Achan took was not money probably, as the 200 shekels of silver were, but an article of value used for costly ornamentation. In  Isaiah 46:6, however, gold seems to mean uncoined money, "they lavish gold out of the purse ('bag'), and weigh silver in the balance." The Attic talent was the standard one under Alexander, and subsequently down to Roman times; the drachma however becoming depreciated from 67.5 or 65.5 grains under Alexandra to 55 under the early Ceasars; the Roman coinage, gold and silver, in weights was conformed to the Greek, and the denarius the chief silver coin was equivalent to the then depreciated Attic drachma.

Antiochus VII granted Simon the Maccabee permission to coin money with his own stamp, the first recorded coining of Jewish money ( 1 Maccabees 15:6; 140 B.C.); inscribed "shekel of Israel"; a vase, possibly the pot of manna, and the Hebrew letter 'Αleph ( א ) above it (i.e. the first year of Jewish independence, namely, under the Maccabees); the reverse has "Jerusalem the holy," and a branch with three flowers, possibly Aaron's rod that budded or the pomegranate. In copper, on one side a palmtree with the name "Simon"; the reverse, a vine leaf, with the legend "for the freedom of Jerusalem." Shekel (from Shaaqal "to weigh") was the Jewish stater ("standard"), 2 shillings, 6 pence. (See Shekel .) It corresponds to the Tetradrachma or Didrachma of the earlier Phoenician talent under the Persian rule. The shekel was of the same weight as the didrachmon, (the translation of "shekel" in Septuagint), and was the same as the Egyptian unit of weight.

The Alexandrian Jews adopted for "shekel" the term didrachma, the coin corresponding to it in weight. But as two drachmas each (1 shilling, 3 pence) was the ransom "tribute" (as the Greek Didrachma in Matthew is translated in KJV) to the temple, so the "stater" or shekel found in the fish would be four drachmas ( Exodus 30:12-13;  Matthew 17:24-27). Four Attic drachmas equaled two Alexandrian drachmas. The minute accuracy of the evangelist confirms the genuineness; for at this time the only Greek imperial silver coin in the East was a Tetra-Drachma , i.e. four drachmas, the Di-Drachma being unknown or rarely coined. Darics ("drams"), a Persian coin, were the standard gold currency in Ezra's time ( Ezra 2:69;  Ezra 8:27;  Nehemiah 7:70-72). Ezra the author of Chronicles uses the same name ( 1 Chronicles 29:7). The daric in the British Museum has the king of Persia with bow and javelin, kneeling; the reverse is an irregular incuse square.

Copper coins of Herod are extant in abundance, as the "farthing" of the New Testament, a piece of brass or copper ( Chalkous ), with "king Herod" and an anchor; the reverse, two Cornua Copiae "horns of plenty," within which is a Caduceus , Mercury's wand. The Palestinian currency was mainly of copper, from whence Mark ( Mark 6:8) uses "copper" or brass for "money" (margin, compare  Matthew 10:9). The Roman denarius or "penny" in weight and value in New Testament is equivalent to the Greek drachma ( Matthew 22:19;  Luke 15:8, Greek text). The accuracy of the first three Gospels, and their date soon after the ascension, appear from their making Caesar's head be on the denarius. So, the penny coin extant of Tiberius has the title "Caesar," whereas most later emperors have the title Augustus. The most interesting extant coin is that struck by Pontius Pilate: on the obverse an augur's wand with "Tiberius Caesar" round; on the reverse the date in a wreath.

Tiberius' passion for augury and astrology suggested the augur's lithus. A Lydian coin extant mentions the Asiarchs, "chief of Asia" ( Acts 19:31). A coin of Ephesus mentions its "town clerk"; also another its temple and statue of Diana. A coin of Domitian records rich Laodicea's restoration by its citizens after an earthquake which also destroyed Colessae and Hierapolis, which accounts for their omission in the addresses in Revelation. Coins exist of the time of Judea's revolt from Rome, inscribed with "the liberty of Zion," a vine stalk, leaf, and tendril. The famous Roman coin (see p. 405), struck after Titus took Jerusalem, has the legend Judaea Capta, with a female" sitting on the ground desolate" (fulfilling  Isaiah 3:26) under a palm tree. Also a Greek coin has Titus' head, and the legend "the emperor Titus Caesar"; reverse, Victory writing on a shield, before her a palm. The Attic talent (the one current in New Testament period) had 100 drachmas, the drachma being = 7 3/4d.; the mina was 3 British pounds, 4 shillings, 7 pence, and the talent 193 British pounds, 15 shillings.

The talent was not a coin but a sum. The Hebrew talent = 3,000 shekels, or 375 British pounds (about the weight of the Aegina talent), for 603,550 persons paid 100 talents and 1,775 shekels of silver, i.e., as each paid a half shekel, 301,775 whole shekels; so that 100 talents contained 300,000 shekels. The gold talent was 100 Manehs or Minae , and the gold Muneh was 100 shekels of gold; the gold talent weighed 1,290,000 grains, a computation agreeing with the shekels extant. The talent of copper had probably 1,500 copper shekels, copper being to silver as 1 to 72. The Quadrans ( Mark 12:42;  Luke 12:59;  Luke 21:2) or Kodrantes (Greek), "farthing," was a fourth of an Obolus , which was a sixth of a drachma. (See Hand .) The Assarion , a diminutive of an "as," less than our penny, is loosely translated "farthing" in  Matthew 10:29;  Luke 12:6. The Lepton , "mite," was a seventh of an obolus ( Mark 12:42). The 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus were tetradrachmas or shekels, the sum paid for a slave accidentally killed ( Zechariah 11:12;  Zechariah 11:18;  Matthew 26:15;  Exodus 21:32).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Ἀργύριον (Strong'S #694 — Noun Neuter — argurion — ar-goo'-ree-on )

properly, "a piece of silver," denotes (a) "silver," e.g.,  Acts 3:6; (b) a "silver coin," often in the plural, "pieces of silver," e.g.,  Matthew 26:15; so  Matthew 28:12 , where the meaning is "many, (hikanos) pieces of silver;" (c) "money;" it has this meaning in  Matthew 25:18,27;  28:15;  Mark 14:11;  Luke 9:3;  19:15,23;  22:5;  Acts 8:20 (here the RV has "silver").

 Acts 7:16Silver.

2: Χρῆμα (Strong'S #5536 — Noun Neuter — chrema — khray'-mah )

lit., "a thing that one uses" (akin to chraomai, "to use"), hence, (a) "wealth, riches,"  Mark 10:23,24;  Luke 18:24; (b) "money,"  Acts 4:37 , singular number, "a sum of money;" plural in 8:18,20; 24:26. See Riches.

3: Χαλκός (Strong'S #5475 — Noun Masculine — chalkos — khal-kos' )

"copper," is used, by metonymy, of "copper coin," translated "money," in  Mark 6:8;  12:41 . See Brass.

4: Κέρμα (Strong'S #2772 — Noun Neuter — kerma — ker'-mah )

primarily "a slice" (akin to keiro, "to cut short"), hence, "a small coin, change," is used in the plural in  John 2:15 , "the changers' money," probably considerable heaps of small coins.

5: Νόμισμα (Strong'S #3546 — Noun Neuter — nomisma — nom'-is-mah )

primarily "that which is established by custom" (nomos, "a custom, law"), hence, "the current coin of a state, currency," is found in  Matthew 22:19 , "(tribute) money." In the Sept.,  Nehemiah 7:71 .

 Matthew 17:27Shekel.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]


1. Uncoined money. - It is well known that ancient nations, that were without a coinage, weighed the precious metals, a practice represented on the Egyptian monuments, on which gold and silver are shown to have been kept in the form of rings. We have no evidence of the use of Coined Money , before the return from the Babylonian captivity; but silver was used for money, in quantities determined by weight, at least as early as the time of Abraham; and its earliest mention is in the generic sense of the price paid for a slave.  Genesis 17:13.

The 1000 Pieces Of Silver, paid by Abimelech to Abraham,  Genesis 20:16, and the 20 Pieces Of Silver, for which Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites,  Genesis 37:28, were probably rings such as we see on the Egyptian monuments, in the act of being weighed.

In the first recorded transaction of commerce, the cave of Machpelah is purchased by Abraham for 400 shekels of silver. The shekel weight of silver was the unit of value through the whole age of Hebrew history, down to the Babylonian captivity.

2. Coined money. - After the captivity, we have the earliest mention of Coined Money , in allusion, as might have been expected, to the Persian coinage, the gold Daric , (Authorized version, Dram ).  Ezra 2:69;  Ezra 8:27;  Nehemiah 7:70-72. See Daric .

No native Jewish coinage appears to have existed till Antiochus VII. Sidetes granted Simon Maccabaeus, the license to coin money, B.C. 140; and it is now generally agreed that the oldest Jewish Silver Coins belong to this period. They are shekels and half-shekels, of the weight of 220 and 110 grains. With this silver, there was associated a Copper coinage.

The abundant money of Herod the Great, which is of a thoroughly Greek character, and of copper only, seems to have been a continuation of the copper coinage of the Maccabees, with some adaptation to the Roman standard. In the money of the New Testament, we see the native copper coinage, side by side with the Graeco-Roman copper, silver and gold.

(The first coined money mentioned in the Bible refers to the Persian coinage,  1 Chronicles 29:7;  Ezra 2:69, and translated Dram . It is the Persian Daric , a gold coin worth about $5.50. The coins mentioned by the evangelists, and first those of silver, are the following: The Stater ,  Matthew 17:24-27, called Piece Of Money , was a Roman coin equal to four drachmas. It was worth 55 to 60 cents, and is of about the same value as the Jewish Stater , or coined shekel.

The Denarius , or Roman penny, as well as the Greek Drachma , then of about the same weight, are spoken of as current coins.  Matthew 22:15-21;  Luke 20:19-25. They were worth about 15 cents. Of copper coins, the Farthing and its half, the Mite , are spoken of, and these probably formed the chief native currency.

(The Roman farthing, ( Quadrans ), was a brass coin worth.375 of a cent. The Greek, Farthing (As or Assarion ), was worth four Roman farthings, that is, about one cent and a half. A Mite was half a farthing, and therefore, was worth about two-tenths of a cent if the half of the Roman farthing, and about 2 cents if the half of the Greek farthing. See Table Of Jewish Weights And Measures. - Editor).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

Was anciently weighed, and did not at first exist in the form of coins. The most ancient commerce was conducted by barter, or exchanging one sort of merchandise for another. One man gave what he could spare to another, who gave him in return part of his superabundance. Afterwards, the more precious metals were used in traffic, as a value more generally known and stated, and the amount agreed upon was paid over by weight,  Genesis 23:16   43:21   Exodus 30:24 . Lastly they gave this metal, a certain weight, and a certain degree of alloy, to fix its value, and to save buyers and sellers the trouble of weighing and examining the coins. The first regular coinage among the Jews is supposed to have been in the time of Simon Maccabaeus, less than a century and a half before Christ. The coins were the shekel, and a half, a third, and a quarter of a shekel. The Jewish coins bore an almond rod and a vase of manna, but no image of any man was allowed. Compare  Matthew 22:16-22 . Many Greek and Roman coins circulated in Judea in New Testament times. See Mite , Penny , Shekel .

Volney says, "The practice of weighing money is general in Syria, Egypt, and all Turkey. No piece, however effaced, is refused there: the merchant draws out his scales and weighs it, as in the days of Abraham, when he purchased his sepulchre. In considerable payments, an agent of exchange is sent for, who counts paras by thousands, rejects pieces of false money, and weighs all the sequins, either separately or together." This may serve to illustrate the phrase, "current money with the merchant,"  Genesis 23:16; and the references to "divers weights" a large one to weigh the money received, and a small one for that paid out; and to "wicked balances,"  Deuteronomy 25:13   Amos 8:5   Micah 6:11 . Our Savior alludes to a class of "exchangers," who appear to have taken money on deposit, and so used it that the owner might afterwards receive his own with interest,  Matthew 25:27 . There were also money brokers who had stands in the outer court of the temple, probably to exchange foreign for Jewish coins; and to accommodate those who wished to pay the yearly half-shekel tax,  Exodus 30:15 , or to present an offering. They were expelled by the Lord of the temple, not only for obtruding a secular business within the house of prayer, but also for pursuing it dishonestly,  Mark 11:15-17 .

In  1 Timothy 6:10 , Paul speaks of the "love of money" as a root of all evils; censuring not money itself, but the love of ita prevailing form of human selfishness and covetousness. This passion, to which so many crimes are chargeable, may infest the heart of a poor man as well as that of the rich; for the one may have as much of "the love of money" as the other.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Money.  Genesis 17:12. This word occurs about 130 times in the A. V., and represents three Hebrew words: Keseph or K'Saph occurring most frequently (about 110 times) in historical books, only a few times in the poetical books, as  Psalms 15:5;  Proverbs 7:20;  Lamentations 5:4. Two other Hebrew words, Qesitah and Qinyon, also appear early in the Old Testament,  Genesis 33:19;  Leviticus 22:11. Money also represents six Greek words in the New Testament: Argurion, meaning "silver,"  Matthew 25:18; Kerma, a small coin,  John 2:15; Nomisma, meaning possibly "legal coin,"  Matthew 22:19; Chalkos, a copper coin,  Mark 6:8; Chrema,  Acts 8:18, and Stater, rendered "shekel"in the R. V., equal to 24 Drachmas.  Matthew 17:27. Coined money, as now in use among civilized nations, was unknown in the world until about six hundred years before Christ. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians had no coins until about b.c. 300. David and Solomon never saw any coined money. The Jews had none until the time of the Maccabees, about b.c. 139. Before the periods named, gold and silver were used as money by weight; and are now so used in some eastern countries. The first mention of money is in the touching story of Abraham's buying a burial place for his wife. It is said, "Abraham weighed the silver, four hundred shekels, current with the merchant." (Jen. 23:4-16. It appears to have been then in general use. The study of ancient coined money is interesting, showing the rise of the arts and their fall during the dark ages of priestcraft, from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries; the coins of 400 years before Christ being superb, while those a thousand years after Christ are hardly discernible. The early coins show, not only the likenesses of kings and emperors, but also many of the most important events of their reigns. For the corns mentioned in the Bible, see Shekel, Penny, Farthing.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Genesis 13:2 20:16 24:35 Genesis 33:18,19

The history of Joseph affords evidence of the constant use of money, silver of a fixed weight. This appears also in all the subsequent history of the Jewish people, in all their internal as well as foreign transactions. There were in common use in trade silver pieces of a definite weight, shekels, half-shekels, and quarter-shekels. But these were not properly coins, which are pieces of metal authoritatively issued, and bearing a stamp.

Of the use of coined money we have no early notice among the Hebrews. The first mentioned is of Persian coinage, the daric ( Ezra 2:69;  Nehemiah 7:70 ) and the 'adarkon ( Ezra 8:27 ). The daric (q.v.) was a gold piece current in Palestine in the time of Cyrus. As long as the Jews, after the Exile, lived under Persian rule, they used Persian coins. These gave place to Greek coins when Palestine came under the dominion of the Greeks (B.C. 331), the coins consisting of gold, silver, and copper pieces. The usual gold pieces were staters (q.v.), and the silver coins tetradrachms and drachms.

In the year B.C. 140, Antiochus VII. gave permission to Simon the Maccabee to coin Jewish money. Shekels (q.v.) were then coined bearing the figure of the almond rod and the pot of manna.

King James Dictionary [10]

MONEY, n. plu. moneys.

1. Coin stamped metal any piece of metal, usually gold, silver or copper, stamped by public authority, and used as the medium of commerce. We sometimes give the name of money to other coined metals,and to any other material which rude nations use a medium of trade. But among modern commercial nations, gold, silver and copper are the only metals used for this purpose. Gold and silver, containing great value in small compass, and being therefore of easy conveyance, and being also durable and little liable to diminution by use, are the most convenient metals for coin or money, which is the representative of commodities of all kinds, of lands, and of every thing that is capable of being transferred in commerce. 2. Bank notes or bills of credit issued by authority, and exchangeable for coin or redeemable, are also called money as such notes in modern times represent coin, and are used as a substitute for it. If a man pays in hand for goods in bank notes which are current, he is said to pay in ready money. 3. Wealth affluence.

Money can neither open new avenues to pleasure, nor block up the passages of anguish.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [11]

The Bible recognizes the possession and use of money as a legitimate part of life in human society. (Concerning the kinds of money in use in Bible times see Coins .) But the benefits that money brings are temporary, and those who become over-concerned with increasing their wealth eventually bring trouble upon themselves ( Matthew 6:19-23;  1 Timothy 6:9-10; see Wealth ).

Poverty is not desirable either, and people should use their money to help those who are in need ( Deuteronomy 15:7-10;  James 2:15-16; see Poor ). Christians have a responsibility to give their money generously, both as an offering to God and as a service to his work in the world ( 2 Corinthians 9:6-13; see Giving ).

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(1): ( v. t.) To supply with money.

(2): ( n.) A piece of metal, as gold, silver, copper, etc., coined, or stamped, and issued by the sovereign authority as a medium of exchange in financial transactions between citizens and with government; also, any number of such pieces; coin.

(3): ( n.) Any written or stamped promise, certificate, or order, as a government note, a bank note, a certificate of deposit, etc., which is payable in standard coined money and is lawfully current in lieu of it; in a comprehensive sense, any currency usually and lawfully employed in buying and selling.

(4): ( n.) In general, wealth; property; as, he has much money in land, or in stocks; to make, or lose, money.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

Mention is made of money as early as  Genesis 17:12,13 , where persons are said to be 'bought with money;' and from Genesis to Zechariah it is spoken of as being not counted, but weighed, which would give the true value of the precious metals in the form of rings or in odd pieces of gold or silver. The names Gerah, Bekah, Shekel, Maneh, and Talent, being used for weights as well as money, the two are better considered together. See Weights And Measures

On the return of the Jews, B.C. 536, Persian money was used by them. This would be followed by Greek money when they were under the dominion of the Greeks. Antiochus VII about B.C. 140, granted permission to Simon Maccabeus to coin Jewish money. Shekels were coined bearing a pot of manna and an almond rod. Under the Romans, Roman money was used.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [14]

 Isaiah 55:1 (a) This type condemns every religion that offers salvation by works. The type represents everything considered of spiritual value by human beings if it is used to purchase forgiveness, and obtain entrance into Heaven. Salvation is not for sale. It cannot be bought, nor earned, nor merited by any person, or in any way.

 Matthew 22:19 (c) This represents legitimate things which should be given to those with whom we are associated on earth. We should give to the family. to the community and to the government.

 Matthew 25:18 (b) This word is typical of any gifts or talents given to a person by the Lord and which should be invested for Him in His service.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [15]

See Wealth.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

Fig. 256—Jewish Coin

This term is used to denote whatever commodity the inhabitants of any country may have agreed or are compelled to receive as an equivalent for their labor, and in exchange for other commodities.

Different commodities have been used as money in the primitive state of society in all countries, such as skins, cattle, corn, dried fish, sugar, and salt. A long period of time must have intervened between the first introduction of the precious metals into commerce, and their becoming generally used as money. The peculiar qualities which so eminently fit them for this purpose would only be gradually discovered. They would probably be first introduced in their gross and unpurified state. A sheep, an ox, a certain quantity of corn, or any other article, would afterwards be bartered or exchanged for pieces of gold or silver in bars or ingots, in the same way as they would formerly have been exchanged for iron, copper, cloth, or anything else. The merchants would soon begin to estimate their proper value, and, in effecting exchanges, would first agree upon the quality of the metal to be given, and then the quantity which its possessor had become bound to pay would be ascertained by weight. This, according to Aristotle and Pliny, was the manner in which the precious metals were originally exchanged in Greece and Italy. The same practice is still observed in different countries. In many parts of China and Abyssinia the value of gold and silver is always ascertained by weight. Iron was the first money of the Lacedemonians, and copper of the Romans.

In the sacred writings there is frequent mention of gold, silver, and brass, sums of money, purchases made with money, current money, and money of a certain weight. Indeed, the money of Scripture is all estimated by weight. 'Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant' . The brethren of Joseph carried back into Egypt the money 'in full weight' which they had found in their sacks (; see also;;; ). It was customary for the Jews to have scales attached to their girdles for weighing the gold and silver they received; but the Canaanites carried them in their hands.

There is no direct allusion in the sacred writings to coined money as belonging to the Jewish nation. In , Jacob is said to have bought a part of a field 'for an hundred pieces of money;' and the friends of Job are said to have given him each 'a piece of money' . The term in the original is kesitoth, and is by some thought to denote 'sheep' or 'lamb;' by others a kind of money having the impression of a sheep or lamb; and by others again a purse of money. The most correct translation may be presumed to be that which favors the idea of a piece of money bearing some stamp or mark indicating that it was of the value of a sheep or lamb. Maurice, in his Antiquities of India (vol. 7), bears testimony to the fact that the earliest coins were stamped with the figure of an ox or sheep. In the British Museum there is a specimen of the original Roman As, the surface of which is nearly the size of a brick, with the figure of a bull impressed upon it. Other devices would suggest themselves to different nations as arising out of, or connected with, particular places or circumstances, as the Babylonish lion, Ægina's tortoise, Bœotia's shield, the lyre of Mitylene, the wheat of Metapontum. Religion would also at an early period claim to be distinguished, and accordingly the effigies of Juno, Diana, Ceres, Jove, Hercules, Apollo, Bacchus, Pluto, Neptune, and many other of the heathen deities are found impressed upon the early coins. The Jews, however, were the worshippers of the one only true God; idolatry was strictly forbidden in their law; and therefore their shekel never bore a head, but was impressed simply with the almond rod and the pot of manna.

The first Roman coinage took place, according to Pliny (Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 3), in the reign of Serving Tullius, about 550 years before Christ; but it was not until Alexander of Macedon had subdued the Persian monarchy, and Julius Caesar had consolidated the Roman Empire, that the image of a living ruler was permitted to be stamped upon the coins. Previous to that period heroes and deities alone gave currency to the money of imperial Rome.

Antiochus Sidetes, king of Syria, is represented to have granted to Simon Maccabeus the privilege of coining money in Judea . This is considered to be the first mention of Hebrew money, properly so called. It consisted of shekels and demi-shekels, the third part of a shekel, and the quarter of a shekel, of silver.

From the time of Julius Caesar, who first struck a living portrait on his coins, the Roman coins run in a continued succession of so-called Caesars, their queens and crown-princes, from about B.C. 48 down to Romulus Augustulus, emperor of the West, who was dethroned by Odoacer about A.D. 475.

After its subjugation by Rome much foreign money found its way into the land of Judea. The piece of tribute money, or coin mentioned in , as presented to our Savior, bore the image and superscription of the Roman emperor, and it is reasonable to suppose that a large quantity of Roman coins was at that time in circulation throughout Judea.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

Copyright StatementThese files are public domain. Bibliography InformationMcClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Money'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

mun´i  : Various terms are used for money in the Bible, but the most common are the Hebrew כּסף , keṣeph , and Greek ἀργύριον , argúrion , both meaning silver. We find also קשׂיטה , ḳesı̄ṭāh , rendered by Septuagint "lambs," probably referring to money in a particular form; χαλκός , chalkós , is used for money in   Matthew 10:9;  Mark 6:8;  Mark 12:41 . It was the name of a small coin of Agrippa Ii (Madden, Coins of the Jews ); χρῆμα , chrḗma , "price," is rendered money in  Acts 4:37;  Acts 8:18 ,  Acts 8:20;  Acts 24:26; κέρμα , kérma , "piece," i.e. piece of money ( John 2:15 ); δίδραχμον , dı́drachmon , "tribute money" ( Matthew 17:24 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "half-shekel"); κῆνσος , kḗnsos , "census," "tribute money" ( Matthew 22:19 ).

1. Material and Form:

Gold and silver were the common medium of exchange in Syria and Palestine in the earliest times of which we have any historical record. The period of mere barter had passed before Abraham. The close connection of the country with the two great civilized centers of antiquity, Egypt and Babylonia, had led to the introduction of a currency for the purposes of trade. We have abundant evidence of the use of these metals in the Biblical records, and we know from the monuments that they were used as money before the time of Abraham. The patriarch came back from his visit to Egypt "rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" ( Genesis 13:2 ). There was no system of coinage, but they had these metals cast in a convenient form for use in exchange, such as bars or rings, the latter being a common form and often represented or mentioned on the monuments of Egypt. In Babylonia the more common form seems to have been the former, such as the bar, or wedge, that Achan found in the sack of Jericho ( Joshua 7:21 ). This might indicate that the pieces were too large for ordinary use, but we have indications of the use of small portions also ( 2 Kings 12:9;  Job 42:11 ). But the pieces were not so accurately divided as to pass for money without weighing, as we see in the case of the transaction between Abraham and the children of Heth for the purchase of the field of Machpelah (Gen 23). This transaction indicates also the common use of silver as currency, for it was "current money with the merchant," and earlier than this we have mention of the use of silver by Abraham as money: "He that is born in thy house and he that is bought with thy money" ( Genesis 17:13 ).

Jewels of silver and gold were probably made to conform to the shekel weight, so that they might be used for money in case of necessity. Thus Abraham's servant gave to Rebecca a gold ring of half a shekel weight and bracelets of ten shekels weight ( Genesis 24:22 ). The bundles of money carried by the sons of Jacob to Egpyt for the purchase of grain ( Genesis 42:35 ) were probably silver rings tied together in bundles. The Hebrew for "talent," kikkār , signifies something round or circular, suggesting a ring of this weight to be used as money. The ordinary term for money was keṣeph , "silver," and this word preceded by a numeral always refers to money, either with or without "shekel," which we are probably to supply where it is not expressed after the numeral, at least wherever value is involved, as the shekel ( sheḳel ) was the standard of value as well as of weight (see Weights And Measures ). Thus the value of the field of Ephron was in shekels, as was also the estimation of offerings for sacred purposes ( Leviticus 5:15; 27, passim ). Solomon purchased chariots at 600 (shekels) each and horses at 150 ( 1 Kings 10:29 ). Large sums were expressed in talents, which were a multiple of the shekel. Thus Menahem gave Pul 1,000 talents of silver ( 2 Kings 15:19 ), which was made up by the exaction of 50 shekels from each rich man. Hezekiah paid the war indemnity to Sennacherib with 300 talents of silver and 30 of gold ( 2 Kings 18:14 ). The Assyrian account gives 800 talents of silver, and the discrepancy may not be an error in the Hebrew text, as some would explain it, but probably a different kind of talent (see Madden, Coins of the Jews , 4). Solomon's revenue is stated in talents ( 1 Kings 10:14 ), and the amount (666 of gold) indicates that money was abundant, for this was in addition to what he obtained from the vassal states and by trade. His partnership with the Phoenicians in commerce brought him large amounts of the precious metals, so that silver was said to have been as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones ( 1 Kings 10:27 ).

Besides the forms of rings and bars, in which the precious metals were cast for commercial use, some other forms were perhaps current. Thus the term ḳesı̄ṭāh has been referred to as used for money, and the Septuagint translation has "lambs." It is used in   Genesis 33:19;  Joshua 24:32;  Job 42:11 , and the Septuagint rendering is supposed to indicate a piece in the form of a lamb or stamped with a lamb, used at first as a weight, later the same weight of the precious metals being used for money. We are familiar with lion weights and weights in the form of bulls and geese from the monuments, and it would not be strange to find them in the form of sheep. Ḳesı̄ṭāh is cognate with the Arabic ḳasaṭ , which means "to divide exactly" or "justly," and the noun ḳist means "a portion" or "a measure."

Another word joined with silver in monetary use is 'ăghōrāh ( אגורה ), the term being translated "a piece of silver" in   1 Samuel 2:36 . 'Ăghōrāh is cognate with the Arabic ujrat , "a wage," and it would seem that the piece of silver in this passage might refer to the same usage.

Another word used in a similar way is rac , from rācac , "to break in pieces," hence, rac is "a piece" or "fragment of silver" used as money. These terms were in use before the introduction of coined money and continued after coins became common.

2. Coined Money:

After the exile we begin to find references to coined money. It was invented in Lydia or perhaps in Aegina. Herodotus assigns the invention to the Lydians (i. 94). The earliest Lydian coins were struck by Gyges in the 7th century BC. These coins were of electrum and elliptical in form, smooth on the reverse but deeply stamped with incuse impressions on the obverse. They were called staters, but were of two standards; one for commercial use with the Babylonians, weighing about 164,4 grains, and the other of 224 grains (see Madden, op. cit.). Later, gold was coined, and, by the time of Croesus, gold and silver. The Persians adopted the Lydian type, and coined both gold and silver darics, the name being derived from Darius Hystaspis (521-485 BC) who is reputed to have introduced the system into his empire. But the staters of Lydia were current there under Cyrus (Madden, op. cit.), and it was perhaps with these that the Jews first became acquainted in Babylon. Ezra states ( Ezra 2:69 ) that "they (the Jews) gave after their ability into the treasury of the work threescore and one thousand darics (the Revised Version (British and American)) of gold, and five thousand pounds of silver." The term here rendered "daric" is darkemōnı̄m , and this word is used in three passages in Neh (7:70-72), and 'ădharkōnı̄m occurs in  1 Chronicles 29:7 and   Ezra 8:27 . Both are of the same origin as the Greek drachma , probably, though some derive both from Darius (a Phoenician inscription from the Piraeus tells us that darkemōn corresponds to drachma ). At all events they refer to the gold coins which we know as darics. The weight of the daric was 130 grains, though double darics were struck.

Besides the gold daric there was a silver coin circulating in Persia that must have been known to the Jews. This was the sı́glos ( σίγλος ), supposed to be referred to in   Nehemiah 5:15 , where it is translated "shekel." These were the so-called silver darics, 20 of which were equivalent to the gold daric. Besides these Persian coins the Jews must have used others derived from their intercourse with the Phoenician cities, which were allowed to strike coins under the suzerainty of the Persians. These coins were of both silver and bronze, the suzerain not permitting them to coin gold. We have abundant examples of these coins and trade must have made them familiar to the Jews.

The issues of Aradus, Sidon and Tyre were especially noteworthy, and were of various types and sizes suited to the commercial transactions of the Phoenicians. The Tyrian traders were established in Jerusalem as early as the time of Nehemiah ( Nehemiah 13:16 ), and their coins date back to about that period. Among the finest specimens we have of early coinage are the tetradrachms of Tyre and the double shekels or staters of Sidon. The latter represent the Persian king, on the obverse, as he rides in his chariot, driven by his charioteer and followed by an attendant. On the reverse is a Phoenician galley. The weight of these coins is from 380 to 430 grains, and they are assigned to the 4th and 5th centuries BC. From Tyre we have a tetradrachm which corresponds to the shekel of the Phoenician standard of about 220 grains, which represents, on the obverse, the god Melkarth, the Tyrian Hercules, tiding on a seahorse, and, beneath, a dolphin. The reverse bears an owl with the Egyptian crook and a flail, symbols of Osiris. The early coins of Aradus bear, on the obverse, the head of Baal or Dagon, and on the reverse a galley. The inscription has "M.A." in Phoenician letters, followed by a date. The inscription signifies "Melek Aradus," i.e. "king of Aradus."

When Alexander overthrew the Persian empire in 331 BC, a new coinage, on the Attic standard, was introduced, and the silver drachms and tetradrachms struck by him circulated in large numbers, as is attested by the large number of examples still in existence. After his death, these coins, the tetradrachms especially, continued to be struck in the provinces, with his name and type, in his honor. We have examples of these struck at Aradus, Tyre, Sidon, Damascus and Acre, bearing the mint marks of these towns. They bear on the obverse the head of Alexander as Hercules, and, on the reverse, Zeus seated on his throne holding an eagle in the extended right hand and a scepter in the left. The legend is Βασιλεως Αλεξανδρου , Basileo ̄S Alexandrou ,or ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΥ , Alexandrou , only, with various symbols of the towns or districts where they were struck, together with mint marks.

The successors of Alexander established kingdoms with a coinage of their own, such as the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria, and these coins, as well as those of Alexander, circulated among the Jews. The Ptolemies of Egypt controlled Palestine for about a century after Alexander, and struck coins, not only in Egypt, but in some of the Phoenician towns, especially at Acre, which was, from that time, known as Ptolemais. Their coins were based upon the Phoenician standard. But the Seleucid kings of Syria had the most influence in Phoenicia and Palestine, and their monetary issues are very various and widely distributed, bearing the names and types of the kings, and the symbols and mint marks of the different towns where they were struck, and are on the Alexandrine or Attic standard in contrast to those of the Ptolemies. They are both silver and bronze, gold being struck in the capital, Antioch, usually. The coins of Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, are especially interesting on account of his connection with Jewish affairs. It was he who made the futile attempt to hellenize the Jews, which led to the revolt that resulted, under his successors, in the independence of the country of Syrian control, and the institution of a native coinage in the time of the Maccabees.

The struggle caused by the persecution of Antiochus commenced in 165 Bc and continued more than 20 years. Judas, the son of Mattathias, defeated Antiochus, who died in 164, but the war was continued by his successors until dynastic dissensions among them led to treaties with the Jews to gain their support. At last Simon, who espoused the cause of Demetrius II, obtained from him, as a reward, the right to rule Judea under the title of high priest, with practical independence, 142-143 BC. Later Antiochus VII, his successor, confirmed Simon in his position and added some privileges, and among them the right to coin money (138-139 BC). Both silver and bronze coins exist ascribed to Simon, but some numismatists have recently doubted this, and have assigned them to another Simon in the time of the first revolt of the Jews under the Romans. The coins in question are the shekels and half-shekels with the legends, in Hebrew, sheḳel yisrā'ēl and yerūshālēm ḳedhōshāh ("Jerusalem the holy"), bearing dates ranging from the 1st to the 5th year, as well as bronze pieces of the 4th.

The reason for denying the ascription of these coins to Simon the Maccabee is the difficulty in finding room for the years indicated in his reign which closed in 135 BC. He received the commission to coin in 139-138, which would allow only 4 years for his coinage, whereas we have coins of the 5th year. Moreover, no shekels and half-shekels of any of the Maccabees later than Simon have come to light, which is, at least, singular since we should have supposed that all would have coined them as long as they remained independent, especially since they coined in bronze, examples of the latter being quite abundant. The fact also that they bore the title of king, while Simon was high priest only, would seem to have furnished an additional reason for claiming the prerogative of coinage in silver as well as bronze. But this argument is negative only, and such coins may have existed but have not come to light, and there are reasons which seem to the present writer sufficient to assign them to Simon the Maccabee. In the first place, the chronological difficulty is removed if we consider that Simon was practically independent for three or four years before he obtained the explicit commission to coin money. We learn from Josephus ( Ant. , Xiii , vi, 7) and from 1 Macc (13:41,42) that in the 170th year of the Seleucid era, that is, 143-142 BC, the Jews began to use the era of Simon in their contracts and public records. Now it would not have been strange if Simon, seeing the anarchy that prevailed in the kingdom of Syria, should have assumed some prerogatives of an independent ruler before they were distinctly granted to him, and among them that of coining money. If he had commenced in the latter part of 139 BC, he would have been able to strike coins of the 5th year before he died, and this would satisfy the conditions (see Madden's Jewish Coinage ). There is a difficulty quite as great in attributing these coins to Simon of the first revolt under the Romans. That broke out in 66 AD, and was suppressed by the taking of Jerusalem in 70. This would allow a date of the 5th year, but it is hardly supposable that in the terrible distress and anarchy that prevailed in the city during that last year any silver coins would have been struck. There is another fact bearing upon this question which is worthy of notice. The coins of the first revolt bear personal appellations, such as "Eleazar the priest," and "Simon," while those assigned to Simon the Maccabee bear no personal designation whatever. This is significant, for it is not likely that Eleazar and Simon would have commenced coining silver shekels and half-shekels with their names inscribed upon them in the 1st year of their reign and then have omitted them on later issues. Another point which has some force is this: We find mention, in the New Testament, of money-changers in connection with the temple, whose business it was to change the current coin, which was Roman or Greek, and bore heathen types and legends, for Jewish coins, which the strict Pharisaic rules then in force required from worshippers paying money into the temple treasury. It is inferred that they could furnish the shekels and half-shekels required for the yearly dues from every adult male (compare   Matthew 17:24-27 ). Now the only shekels and half-shekels bearing Jewish emblems and legends, at that time, must have been those issued by the Maccabean princes, that is, such as we have under discussion. In view of these facts the Maccabean origin of these pieces seems probable.

The shekels under discussion have on one side a cup, or chalice (supposed to represent the pot of manna), with the legend in Hebrew around the margin, ישׂראל שׁקל , sheḳel yisrā'ēl , with a letter above the cup indicating the year of the reign. The reverse bears the sprig of a plant (conjectured to be Aaron's rod) having three buds or fruits, and on the margin the legend, הקדשׁה ירושׁלים , yerūshālēm ha - ḳedhōshāh , "Jerusalem the holy." The half-shekel has the same type, but the reverse bears the inscription, שׁקל חצי , ḥăcı̄ sheḳel (half-shekel). The letters indicating the year have the letter called שׁ ( shenath , "year") prefixed, except for the first. This also omits the Hebrew letter ו ( w ) from ḳedhōshāh and the second letter, י ( y ) from yerūshālēm . The term "holy" for Jerusalem is found in   Isaiah 48:2 and other passages of the Old Testament, and is still preserved in the Arabic ḳudus by which the city is known today in Syria.

Copper, or bronze, half-and quarter-shekels are also attributed to Simon, bearing date of the 4th year. The obverse of the half-shekel has two bundles of thick-leaved branches with a citron between, and on the reverse a palm tree with two baskets filled with fruit. The legend on the obverse is חצי si ארבע שׁנת , shenath 'arba‛ ḥăcı̄ , "the fourth year a half," and on the reverse, ציון לגאלת , 51 - ghe 'ullath cı̄yōn , "the redemption of Zion." The quarter-shekel has a similar type, except that the obverse lacks the baskets and the reverse has the citron only. The legend has רביע , rebhı̄a‛ , "quarter," instead of "half." Another type is a cup with a margin of jewels on the obverse and a single bunch of branches with two citrons on the reverse.

The palm is a very common type on the coins of Judea and a very appropriate one, since it is grown there. Jericho was called the city of palms. The branches of trees in bundles illustrate the custom of carrying branches at the Feast of Tabernacles and the erection of booths made of branches for use during this feast (see  Leviticus 23:40 ). The baskets of fruit may refer to the offerings of first-fruits ( Deuteronomy 26:2 ). One of the above series of coins published by Madden bears the countermark of an elephant, which was a symbol adopted by the Seleucid kings, and this is an evidence of its early date. But whatever doubts there may be as to the coins of Simon, there can be none as to those of his successor, John Hyrcanus, who reigned 135-106 BC, since they bear his name. They are all of bronze and bear the following inscription with a great number of variations, וחבר הגדל הכהן יהוחנן היהודים , "Johanan the high priest and senate of the Jews." The reverse has a two-branched cornucopia with a poppy head rising from the center. There is some doubt as to the meaning of the word hebher (חבר ) in the above. It is commonly rendered "senate," taking it in the sense it seems to bear in  Hosea 6:9 , "a company" or "band," here the company of elders representing the people. Judas Aristobulus (106-105 BC) issued similar coins with Hebrew legends, but with the accession of Alexander Janneus (105-78 BC) we find bilingual inscriptions on the coins, Hebrew and Greek. The obverse bears the words המּלך יהונתן , yehōnāthān ha - melekh , "Jehonathan the king," and the reverse, Βασιλεως Αλεξανδρου , BASILEŌS ALEXANDROU , "King Alexander." Most of his coins, however, bear Hebrew inscriptions only. All are of copper or bronze, like those of Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, and are of the denomination known to us in the New Testament as "mites" weighing from 25 to 35 grains.

When the Romans took possession of Palestine in 63 BC, the independent rule of the Hasmoneans came to an end, but Pompey confirmed John Hyrcanus as governor of Judea under the title of high priest. Dissensions between him and other members of his family called for interference several times on the part of the Romans. Hyrcanus was again confirmed by Julius Caesar in 47 and continued in authority until 40. It is uncertain what coins he issued, but whatever they were, they bore the type found on those of Alexander Janneus. In 40 BC, the Parthians temporarily overthrew the Roman authority in Syria and Palestine, and set Antigonus on the throne of the latter, and he reigned until 37. The coins he issued bore bilingual inscriptions like the bilinguals of Alexander. He calls himself Antigonus in Greek, and Mattathias in Hebrew, the type being a wreath on the obverse and a double cornucopia on the reverse, though some have it single. They are much heavier coins than the preceding issues. The legends are: obverse, Βαξιλεως Αντιγονου , Basileo ̄S Antigonou , "of King Antigonus"; reverse ( ודים ) היה גדל הכהן מתתיה , mattithyāh ha - kōhēn gādhōl ha - yeh ( ūdhı̄m ), "Mattathias the high priest of the Jews."

The Hasmonean dynasty ended with Antigonus and that of the Herods followed. Herod the Great was the first to attain the title of king, and his coins are numerous and bear only Greek legends and are all of bronze. The earliest have the type of a helmet with cheek pieces on the obverse and the legend: Βαξιλεως Ηρωδου , Basileo ̄S Hro ̄DOU , and in the field to the left gamma (year 3), and on the right, a monogram. The reverse has a Macedonian shield with rays. The coin here illustrated is another type: a rude tripod on the obverse, and a cross within a wreath on the reverse, the legend being the same as given above.

Herod Archelaus, who reigned from 4 Bc to 6 AD, issued coins with the title of ethnarch, the only coins of Palestine to bear this title. They are all of small size and some of them have the type of a galley, indicating his sovereignty over some of the coast cities, such as Caesarea and Joppa.

The coins of Herod Antipas (4 Bc- 40 AD) bear the title of tetrarch, many of them being struck at Tiberias, which he founded on the Sea of Galilee and named after the emperor Tiberius. The following is an example: obverse ΗΡ. ΤΕΤΡ ( Η-Ρωδου Τετραχου ), HĒR . Tetr ( HĒRŌDOU Tetrachou ), with the type of a palm branch; reverse, ΤΙΒΕΡΙΑΞ , Tiberias , within a wreath. Others have a palm tree entire with the date lambda - gamma ( ΛΓ ) and lambda - delta ( ΛΔ ): 33,34 of his reign, 29-30 AD. There are coins of Herod Philip, 4 Bc- 34 AD, though somewhat rare, but those of Agrippa, 37-44 AD, are numerous, considering the shortness of his reign. The most common type is a small coin ("mite") with an umbrella having a tassel-like border, on the obverse, and three ears of wheat on one stalk on the reverse. The legend reads: Basileōs Agrippa , and the date is Ls (year 6). Larger coins of Agrippa bear the head of the emperor (Caligula or Claudius) with the title of Sebastós (Augustus) in Greek.

Agrippa 2 was the last of the Herodian line to strike coins (48-100 AD). They were issued under Nero, whose head they sometimes bear with his name as well as that of Agrippa. They are all of the denomination of the mite ( leptón ).

In 6 AD, Judea was made a Rom province and was governed by procurators, and their coins are numerous, being issued during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius and Nero. They are all small and bear on the obverse the legends: ΚΑΙΞΑΡΟΞ , Kaisaros (Caesar), or ΙΟΥΛΙΑ , Ioulia (Julia), or the emperor's name joined with Caesar. The coins of the Jews struck during the first and second revolts, 66-70 AD, and 132-135 AD, have already been alluded to with the difficulty of distinguishing them, and some have been described. They all have the types common to the purely Jewish issues; the date palm, the vine, bunches of fruit, the laurel or olive wreath, the cup or chalice, the lyre and a temple with columns. Types of animals or men they regarded as forbidden by their law. Most of them are bronze, but some are silver shekels and half-shekels, dated in the lat, 2nd and 3years, if we assign those of higher date to Simon the Maccabee. Those of the 1st year bear the name of Eleazar the priest, on the obverse, and on the reverse the date "first year of the redemption of Israel," ישׁראל לגאלת אחת שׁנת , shenath 'aḥath 51 - ghe'ullath yisrā'ēl . Others bear the name of Simon and some that of "Simon Nesı̄' Israel" ("Simon Prince of Israel"). The coins of the 2nd and 3years are rare. They have the type of the cup and vine leaf, or temple and lulabh . Those supposed to belong to the second revolt bear the name of Simon without Nesı̄' Israel, and are therefore assigned to Simon Bar-Cochba. The example here given has the type of the temple on the obverse with what is thought to be a representation of the "beautiful gate," between the columns, and a star above. The name Simon is on the margin, the first two letters on the right of the temple and the others on the left. The legend of the reverse is: לחרות ירושׁלם , leḥērūth yerūshālēm ("the deliverance of Jerusalem").

Some of the coins struck by the Romans to commemorate their victory over the Jews were struck in Palestine and some at Rome, and all bear the head of the Roman emperor on the obverse, but the reverse often exhibits Judea as a weeping captive woman, seated at the foot of a palm tree or of a Roman standard bearing a trophy. The legend is sometimes Judea ξαπτα and sometimes Judea devicta . The example given has the inscription in Greek: Ιουδιας Εαλωκυιας , Ioudias Ealo ̄KUIAS , Judea capta .

There are coins of Agrippa 2 (the "king Agrippa" of  Acts 25 :  26 , struck in the reign of Vespasian, with his name and title on the obverse and with a deity on the reverse, holding ears of wheat in the right hand and a cornucopia in the left.

The inscription reads:

Border >

Ετου Κσβα

Etou Ksba

Αγρι Ππα

Agri Ppa

(year 26, King Agrippa) in two lines.

After the revolt of Bar-Cochba and the final subjugation of the Jews by Hadrian, Jerusalem was made a Roman colony and the name was changed to Aelia Capitolina. A series of coins was struck, having this title, which continued until the reign of Valerianus, 253-260 AD. These coins were all of copper or bronze, but silver pieces were in circulation, struck at Rome or at some of the more favored towns in Syria, such as Antioch. These were denarii and tetradrachms, the former being about one-fourth the weight of the latter which were known as staters ( Matthew 17:27 ). The piece referred to was the amount of tribute for two persons, and as the amount paid by one was the half-shekel ( Matthew 17:24 ), this piece must have been the equivalent of the shekel or tetradrachm.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [19]

Defined by Ruskin to be "a documentary claim to wealth, and correspondent in its nature to the title-deed of an estate."