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, ḳesīṭāh, 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; 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; 8:18, 8:20; 24:26; κέρμα, kérma, “piece,” i.e. piece of money (John 2:15); δίδραχμον, dídrachmon, “tribute money” (Matthew 17:24 the King James Version, the Revised Version “half-shekel”); κῆνσος, kḗnsos, “census,” “tribute money” (Matthew 22:19).
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 (Genesis 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).
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Author: International Std. Bible Encyclopedia
Keywords: Money, Monetary, Finance, Gold, Silver and gold, Coins, Coinage, Coined money, Cash, Financial, Barter, Bartering, Commerce, Drachma, Small coin, Shekel, Sheckel, Talent, Jewish coins
Source: James Orr (editor), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 5 volume set.
Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.