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, Ge 23:16; 43:21; Ex 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 Mt 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," Ge 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," De 25:13; Am 8:5; Mic 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, Mt 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, Ex 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, Mr 11:15-17.
In 1Ti 6:10, Paul speaks of the "love of money" as a root of all evils; censuring not money itself, but the love of it - a 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.
Of uncoined money the first notice we have is in the history of Abraham (Ge 13:2; 20:16; 24:35). Next, this word is used in connection with the purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Ge 23:16), and again in connection with Jacob's purchase of a field at Shalem (Ge 33:18-19) for "an hundred pieces of money"=an hundred Hebrew kesitahs (q.v.), i.e., probably pieces of money, as is supposed, bearing the figure of a lamb.
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 (Ezr 2:69; Ne 7:70) and the 'adarkon (Ezr 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.
Illustration: Athenian Tetradrachm
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.
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 (Ge 20:16) were of this kind; so the 400 shekels "weighed" by Abraham to Ephron (Ge 23:3,9,16), "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 (Ge 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 Ge 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" (Ge 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" (Ex 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 Isa 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 (1Ma 15:6; 140 B.C.); inscribed "shekel of Israel"; a vase, possibly the pot of manna, and the Hebrew letter 'Aleph (?) 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 (Ex 30:12-13; Mt 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 (Ezr 2:69; 8:27; Ne 7:70-72). Ezra the author of Chronicles uses the same name (1Ch 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 (Mr 6:8) uses "copper" or brass for "money" (margin, compare Mt 10:9). The Roman denarius or "penny" in weight and value in New Testament is equivalent to the Greek drachma (Mt 22:19; Lu 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" (Ac 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 Isa 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 (Mr 12:42; Lu 12:59; 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 Mt 10:29; Lu 12:6. The lepton, "mite," was a seventh of an obolus (Mr 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 (Zec 11:12,17; Mt 26:15; Ex 21:32).
1. Antiquity of a metallic currency: weights and values.
Mention is made of money as early as Ge 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.
1. Uncointed 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.
The 1000 pieces of silver paid by Abimelech to Abraham,
and the 20 pieces of silver for which Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites,
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).
[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,
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,
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.
Mt 22:15-21; Lu 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, i.e. 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. --ED.)
MONEY. 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, Ge 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, Ge 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, Ge 43:21. The bracelets that Eliezer gave Rebekah weighed ten shekels, and the ear rings two shekels, Ge 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, Ex 30:24. He acquaints us that the Israelites offered for the works of the tabernacle seventy-two thousand talents of brass, Ex 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, 2Sa 14:26. Isa 46:6, describes the wicked as weighing silver in a balance, to make an idol of it; and Jer 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?" Am 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," De 25:13; hence those scales that the Hebrews wore at their girdles, Ho 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, Ge 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. Eze 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, 1 Mac. 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, Isa 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, Ex 38:26. The denarius was one- fourth of a shekel, seven pence three farthings of our money. The gerah, or meah, Ex 30:13, was the sixth part of the denarius, or diner, and the twenty-fourth part of the shekel. The assar, or assarion, Mt 10:29, was the ninety-sixth part of a shekel: its value was rather more than a farthing. The farthing, Mt 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, Eze 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