WEIGHTS, AND MEASURES
The names of the most common smaller linear measures are taken from members of the human body,
because, in nearly all nations, these were at first used to measure lengths.
As men's bodies differed in size these measures varied. But the progress of art and commerce gradually brought them to a uniform standard.
Finger or Digit (Heb.
The smallest measure among the Hebrews, and equal to the breadth of the human finger (about 0.75 inch).
We find the thickness of the solid parts of Solomon's pillars measured by fingers (Jer 52:21).
Handbreadth (Heb. tepah)
Between three and four inches, 2 Chron 4:5; Ps 39:5; topah, Ex
The width of the four fingers closely pressed together.
The handbreadth was in common use in early Hebrew times (25:25; 1 Kings 7:26; etc.).
It is used as an architectural term (1 Kings 7:9, "coping") and is thought to mean the corbels upon which the roof beams rest.
Span (Heb. zereth)
The width from the end of the thumb to that of the little finger, when these were extended. This measure was in use among the Hebrews in very early times (Ex 28:16; see 39:9; 1 Sam 17:4). It was about nine inches.
Cubit (Lat. cubitum, "elbow, cubit";
Heb. 'amma; Grk. pechus, the
An important and constant measure among the Hebrews (Ex 25:10,17,23; etc.; 1 Kings 7:24,27,31; etc.; Ezek 40:5; etc.),
and other ancient nations.
It was commonly reckoned as the length of the arm from the point of the elbow to the end of the middle finger, about eighteen inches.
||Six handbreadths or palms, about 17.72 inches, but the royal Egyptian cubit was a palm longer (20.67
Evidence for this being found in measuring sticks recovered from tombs.
|| Herodotus states that the "royal" exceeded the
"moderate" cubit by three digits.
The majority of critics, however, think that Herodotus is speaking of the ordinary Greek cubit,
though the opposite view is affirmed by Grote. Bockh estimates the Babylonian royal cubit at 20.806 inches.
|| The Hebrews, like the Egyptians and Babylonians,
had two cubits:
| the common cubit
|| 17.72 inches
(Deut 3:11; 2 Chron 3:3)
|a longer cubit
|| a cubit that was a handbreadth longer (Ezek 40:5;
20.67 inches, apparently the same as the Egyptian royal cubit.
sa`ad 2 Sam 6:13)
Equal to a "step," and so translated elsewhere.
The above passage is the only one in which the term can be used as a measure of distance and,
if so, would answer to our yard.
Measuring Rod or Reed
(Heb. qaneh, "reed")
Properly the calamus, or sweet cane, which, probably from its shape and length,
came to be used for a measure (Ezek 40:3,5; 42:16-19).
Its length is given (40:5) as six times a cubit, plus six handbreadths,
nearly eleven feet.
Furlong - or Mile
(Grk. milion Matt 5:41)
Equal to 1,618 English yards, and thus 142 yards less than the English statute mile.
The mile was derived from the Roman system of measurement and was in common use in our Lord's time.
The Greek stadion, "established," rendered "mile,"
is rendered "furlong" in the KJV and was 600 Greek feet,
or 625 Roman feet, i.e., 606.75 English feet.
Sabbath Day's Journey
(Grk. sabbatou hodos Acts 1:12)
A very limited distance, such as would naturally be regarded as the immediate vicinity of any locality.
It is supposed to have been founded on the command "Let no man go out of his place on the seventh
day" (Ex 16:29). This measure was fixed by the Jewish legislators at 2,000 cubits.
It is supposed to have been suggested by the space between the Ark of God and the people
or the extent of the suburbs of Levitical cities (Num 35:5).
The strict observance of the Sabbath day's journey was evaded by the
"connection of boundaries."
He who desired to go farther than 2,000 cubits had only, before the beginning of the Sabbath,
to deposit somewhere within this limit, and therefore perhaps at its end,
food for two meals. He thus declared, as it were, that here would be his place of abode,
and he might then, on the Sabbath, go not merely from his actual to his legal abode,
but also 2,000 cubits from the latter.
Even such particular preparation was not necessary in all cases.
If, for example, anyone should be on the road when the Sabbath began,
and see at a distance of 2,000 cubits a tree or a wall, he might declare it to be his Sabbath home and might then go not only 2,000 cubits to the tree or wall,
but 2,000 cubits farther (Schurer, History of the Jewish People, div. 2, 2:121-22).
(Heb. kibrat-ha'ares Gen 35:16; 48:7; 2 Kings 5:19)
This seems to indicate some definite distance, but it is impossible to state with precision what that distance was.
LXX renders it
"a horse's race," i.e., as the Arabs inform us,
a parasang (30 furlongs), about 4 English miles.
(Heb. derek yom)
The most usual method of calculating distance in traveling in the East (Gen 30:36; 31:23; Ex 3:18; etc.; once in NT, Luke 2:44).
Of course, it was not an exact measure, varying as the journey would according to the circumstances of the travelers,
the country traveled, and so on.
The ordinary day's journey among the Jews was 20 to 30 miles, but when traveling in company,
only 10 miles.
Meteyard (met'yard; Heb.
A general term for measure, archaic for measuring stick (Lev 19:35,
The term does not appear in the
Dry measures of capacity are given below in ascending order of size.
Note that some dry measures are also used as liquid measures.
Handful (Heb. qomes
Lev 2:2; 5:12)
Probably never brought to any greater accuracy than the natural capacity of the human hand.
It was also used as a liquid measure.
Kab (Heb. qab,
"hollow" 2 Kings 6:25)
This was, according to the rabbis, equal to one-sixth of a seah.
It is equal to about two quarts.
Omer (Heb. `omer,
a "heap" Ex 16:16-36; "sheaf," Lev 23:10)
An ancient Hebrew measure. Its relative value was one-tenth of an ephah
(Ex 16:36), and it held about 5.1 pints.
It contained the portion of manna assigned each individual for his daily food (16:16-20).
Seah (Heb. se'a,
Rendered "measure" in Gen 18:6; 1 Sam 25:18; 2 Kings
Rendered "ephah" in Judg 6:19
It was a common household measure. According to the rabbis, it was equal to one-third of an ephah and was,
perhaps, identical with "measure," `shalish,
in Isa 40:12.
Ephah (Heb. 'epa)
A measure of Egyptian origin and in very common use among the Hebrews.
It contained ten omers (Ex 16:36), about three
pecks and three pints, and was equivalent in capacity to the liquid measure,
bat. According to Josephus (Ant. 8.2.9), the ephah contained seventy-two
It was also referred to as a deal in the
Though the bushel appears in the KJV, NIV, and
NASB, there was no exact (existing) equivalent to the bushel in ancient times.
The term appears in the NASB of Amos 8:5 to replace KJV "ephah."
It appears in the KJV of Matt 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 11:33,
and in those verses is replaced in the NASB with "peck-measure."
It appears in the NIV in Luke 16:7 in place of NASB
"measures." See also Homer.
Hebrew homer, "heap," Lev 27:16; Num 11:32; Ezek 45:13; kor, 1 Kings 4:22; 5:11; 2 Chron 2:10;
Greek. koros, "measure," Luke 16:7
According to Fuerst, the homer was originally a donkey load and hence a measure of like capacity.
It was supposed to have been called kor because of its being a circular measure.
The homer contained 10 ephahs (Ezek 45:11),
nearly 8 bushels.
The half-homer was known as lethek (see Hos 3:2).
The liquid measures of capacity given below are in ascending order of size.
Log (Heb. log,
"hollow," Lev 14:10; etc.)
This term originally signified a basin.
The rabbis reckoned it equal to 6 hen's eggs, their contents being measured by the amount of water they displaced,
thus making it the one-twelfth of a hin.
Hin (Heb. hin,
of Egyptian origin, Ex 29:40; 30:24; Num 15:4,7,9; Ezek 4:11; etc.).
This held one-sixth bath, nearly six pints.
Bath (Heb. bat,
This was the largest of the liquid measures; first mentioned in 1 Kings 7:26;
equal to the ephah, and so to one-tenth of a
homer (Ezek 45:11).
Its capacity would thus be seven and a half gallons.
In the New Testament we find the following foreign measures, given in ascending order of size.
Sextarius or Xestes
A Greek measure with no Hebrew equivalent, holding about a pint (Josephus Ant. 8.2.9).
Also any small vessel, such as a cup or pitcher, whether a sextarius or not
(Mark 7:8; KJV, "pot").
Choenix (Grk. choenix,
only in Rev 6:6, NASB and NIV,
A dry measure, containing two sextarii,
or about one quart.
Modius (Grk. modius)
A dry measure holding sixteen sextarii, i.e., about one peck.
It occurs three times in the New Testament and is rendered "peck-measure" (Matt 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 11:33).
In each case it is accompanied by the Greek. article, intimating that it was in use in every household.
Saton (Grk. saton, Matt 13:33; Luke 13:21,
A dry measure, supposed to be identical with the Hebrew seah, and to contain one
Metretes (Grk. metretes,
"measure," John 2:6)
Known as amphora, it was used for measuring liquids and contained seventy-two
sextarii, or somewhat less than nine English gallons.
Coros (Grk. koros, Luke 16:7,
"measure"; NIV, "bushel").
The same as the homer.
The Jewish rabbis estimated weights according to the number of grains of
barley, taken from the middle of the ear, to which they were equivalent.
In describing the weights used by the Hebrews we begin with the shekel, because it is the base of all the calculations of these weights.
Shekel (Heb. sheqel,
Equal to twenty gerahs (Ezek 45:12) or ten English pennyweights.
Of all the Jewish weights none is so accurately marked as the shekel, from the fact that half a shekel was ordered by God to be paid by each Israelite as a ransom for his soul (Ex 30:13).
The circumstances of the captivity do not warrant the idea that the Hebrews lost their knowledge of their weights,
least of all the shekel. The poorer classes were left in Canaan (2 Kings 24:15-16; 25:11-12),
and they probably continued the use of the ancient weights and money; while the upper classes, who were carried into captivity,
would likely have retained some of them, especially the shekel.
Then, too, we find the shekel in use in Jerusalem in the time of Zerubbabel.
Although in very early times there may have been but one shekel (Gen 23:15),
it appears certain that from the period of the Exodus there were at least two
|One used in all ordinary transactions (Ex 38:29; Josh 7:21; 2 Kings 7:1; Amos 8:5;
|The other used in the payment of vows, offerings,
and for other religious purposes
(Ex 30:13; Lev 5:15; Num 3:47) and called the "shekel of the
It is a matter of much conjecture as to what, if any,
difference existed between these two shekels, and also the shekel
"by the king's weight" (2 Sam 14:26).
Jahn (Biblical Archaeology, sec. 116) identifies the common and sacred shekels and thinks that
"the king's shekel" did not "amount to more than a fourth, perhaps not to more than the fifth or sixth part of the legal
shekel." Keil (Biblical Archaeology, 2:231) thinks there was a common shekel,
which was only the half of the holy one, or equal to the beka (Ex 38:26).
He arrives at this conclusion by comparing 1 Kings 10:17 with 2 Chron 9:16, according to which 3
minas equal 300 common shekels; i.e., the mina contained 100 shekels,
whereas it contained only 50 holy, or Mosaic, shekels. He also identifies the shekel
"by the king's weight" with the "shekel of the
After the captivity, the probability is that only the holy shekel was in use.
The passage in Ezek 45:12, written when a considerable portion of the captivity was passed,
directs that on the return home there should be but one uniform standard. That standard was to be the holy shekel,
being composed of 20 gerahs (Ex 30:13).
Other evidence of this is furnished in the fact that whereas in the earlier Scriptures reference was made to a difference of standard,
no such distinction occurs after the captivity; the shekel coins of that period were all nearly of a weight.
Beka or Half shekel
(Heb. beqa`, a "fraction"; mentioned only twice, Gen 24:22; Ex 38:26).
In the latter passage it is said to equal one-half of a holy
It was the weight in silver that was paid for each Israelite numbered (Ex 38:26)
and was equal to the tribute (cf. Matt 17:24).
Gerah (Heb. gera,
"kernel," a "bean" or "grain")
The smallest of the Hebrew weights, and the equivalent of the twentieth part of the
holy shekel (Ex 30:13; Lev 27:25; Num 3:47; 18:16; Ezek 45:12).
Heb. maneh, a "portion," the original of the
Latin moneta and our money; 1 Kings 10:17; Ezra 2:69; Neh 7:71-72;
Ezek 45:12, "maneh";
Greek. mna, Luke 19:13-25).
From Ezek 45:12 it appears that there were 60 holy shekels in a mina,
whereas from the passages in Kings and Chronicles it is evident that a mina was equivalent to 100
These latter Keil thinks were the common shekels, 100 of which would make only 50 holy
(i.e., Mosaic) shekels. Sixty minas formed a talent.
kikkar, "circle"; Grk. talanton, a
The name given to this weight, perhaps from its having been taken as
"a round number" or sum total.
It was the largest weight among the Hebrews, being used for metals,
whether gold (1 Kings 9:14; 10:10; etc.), silver (2 Kings 5:22), bronze (Ex 38:29),
or iron (1 Chron 29:7).
The talent was used by various nations and differed considerably. It is perhaps impossible to determine whether the Hebrews had one talent only or several of different weights.
From Ex 38:24-29 we infer that the talent of gold, silver, and bronze was a talent of the same weight,
and the evidence favors but one weight of that denomination, which contained 3,000
Estimating a shekel at 10 pennyweight, the talent would be equal to 93 pounds 12 ounces avoirdupois, or 125 troy weight.
A talent seems to have been a full weight for an able man to carry (2 Kings 5:23).
In the New Testament the talent occurs in a parable (Matt 25:15) and as the estimate of a stone's weight,
"about one hundred pounds each" (Rev 16:21).
Daric or Drachma (Heb. 'adarkon, 1 Chron 29:7; Ezra 8:27;
darkemon, Ezra 2:69; Neh 7:70; etc.).
Thought by some to be identical to each other. Others conclude from 1 Chron 29:7
that the 'adarkon was less than three-tenths of a shekel.
Grk. mna, "mina," Luke 19:13, NASB and
Grk. litra, "pound," John 12:3; 19:39, KJV,
NASB; "pint," NIV.
Probably a Greek weight, used as a money of account, of which 60 went to the
It weighed 100 drachmae, or 15 ounces 83 3/4 grains.
The "pound" in John 12:3; 19:39 (Grk. litra) refers to a Roman pound of 12 ounces.
The expression "ten pounds" appears in the KJV of Luke 19:13,
but it is replaced in the NASB and NIV by "ten
Measures of Value, or Money.
The necessity of some kind of money arose very early in civilization. The division of labor required some measure of value;
and commerce took a more convenient, if more complicated, form by making this common measure to serve as a circulating medium.
Men decided early that the precious metals formed by far the most convenient material for such a medium,
although it is probable that they were first introduced in their gross and unpurified state.
Money in ancient times was both uncoined and coined.
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.
It is uncertain whether any of these rings had a government stamp to denote their purity or value.
Gold when brought as tribute was often in bags, which were deposited in the royal treasury.
Though sealed and warranted to contain a certain quantity, they were weighed unless intended as a present or when the honesty of a person was beyond suspicion.
The Egyptians had also unstamped copper money called "pieces of
brass," which, like the gold and silver, continued to be taken by weight even in the time of the Ptolemies.
Gradually the Greek coinage did away with the old system of weighing. The gold rings found in the Celtic countries have been thought to have had the same use.
The pecuniary transactions recorded in the Bible were all, we can scarcely doubt,
effected by bullion. Silver was weighed out by the patriarchs, who used it not only to buy grain from Egypt (Gen 42:25-28; 43:15,18-23; 44:1-8), but land from the Canaanites (23:15-16).
The narrative of the purchase of the burial place from Ephron gives us further insight into the use of money at that time (23:3-16).
Here a currency is clearly indicated like that which the monuments of Egypt show to have been there used in a remote era.
A similar purchase is recorded of Jacob, who bought a parcel of a field at Shalem for a hundred
"pieces" (kesitahs) of money (33:18-19).
Throughout the history of Joseph we find evidences of the constant use of money in preference to barter (43:21; 47:13-17).
Under the Mosaic law it was in silver shekels that money was paid to the sanctuary for the ransom of male Israelites (Ex 30:13-16),
compensations and fines (21:22; Lev 5:15; Deut 22:19,29), and the priestly valuations (Lev 27:3-25; Num 18:16),
and all exchange and sales reckoned. Half shekels are mentioned (Ex 30:13,15), which were called
bekas (38:26), as well as quarter shekels (1 Sam 9:8).
Very large sums were reckoned by the largest weight of the Israelites,
the talent, a round thing, a name that indicates that there were lumps of silver in the form of thick round discs or rings,
weighing 3,000 shekels. We may thus sum up our results respecting the money mentioned in Scripture written before the return from Babylon.
From the time of Abraham silver money appears to have been in general use in Egypt and Canaan.
This money was weighed when its value had to be determined, and we may therefore conclude that it was not of a settled system of weights.
Because the money of Egypt and that of Canaan are spoken of together, we may reasonably suppose they were of the same kind.
It is even probable that the form in both cases was similar or the same, since the ring money of Egypt resembles the ordinary ring money of the Celts,
among whom it was probably first introduced by Phoenician traders.
Coined money was invented by the Lydians in Anatolia.
Taking advantage of the abundance of gold and silver in their country, they turned out a great deal of coined currency.
By the end of the seventh century B.C. coined money was plentiful in the Aegean world.
Cyrus the Great, who conquered the fabulously opulent Croesus and his capital city of Sardis by 546 BC,
introduced coins into the mighty Persian Empire that he founded. Darius the Great (522 BC - 486 BC)
made extensive use of this notable aid to commerce. He coined silver and gold and this,
with many other commercial advantages, was the explanation of the might and grandeur of Persian power.
The discovery of coinage was a great stride in commercial progress. It seems such a simple thing and doubtless Egyptians and Greeks,
who came in contact with it through the Anatolian Lydians, must have wondered why they had not hit upon this brilliant idea earlier.
The earliest coins mentioned in the Bible are the gold coins called drachmas,
538 BC It is thought by some that Jewish silver shekels and
half shekels were introduced under Ezra (about 458 BC);
but it is most probable that they were issued under Simon Maccabaeus (see 1 Macc. 15:6),
and copper coins were struck by the Hasmonaean and Herodian family, 140 BC
The following alphabetic list embraces all the denominations of money mentioned in the
Old Testament and the New Testament.
Beka (Heb. beqa`, a
A Jewish weight of a half shekel's value (Ex 38:26).
As a coin it may have been issued at any time from Alexander until the earlier period of the Maccabees.
(1) Heb. nehoshet, "copper"; Ezek 16:36, "lewdness."
In the expression "Because your lewdness was poured out,"
nehoshet probably means bronze or copper in the general sense of money.
The only objection raised to this is that the Hebrews had no copper coin. But all that can be affirmed with certainty is that the use of copper or bronze as money is not mentioned elsewhere in the
Old Testament. We cannot infer with certainty from this that it was not then in use.
As soon as the Hebrews began to stamp coins, bronze or copper coins were stamped as well as the silver shekels,
and specimens of these are still in existence from the time of the Maccabees.
Judging from their size,
these coins were in all probability worth a whole, a half, and a quarter gerah.
(2) (Grk. chalkos, rendered
"money" in Mark 6:8; 12:41)
In Matt 10:9 "copper" is used, apparently of a small Roman or Greek copper coin,
of about the value of one-half cent. The copper coins of Palestine are so minute,
and so irregular in their weight, that their value, like that of the English copper coinage of the present day,
was chiefly legal, or conventional, and did not represent the relative value of the two
metals - silver and copper.
Two names of coins in the New Testament are rendered by this word.
(1) Greek kodrantes; Latin quadrans
(Matt 5:26; Mark 12:42)
A coin current in Palestine in the time of our Lord. It was equivalent to two
lepta (KJV, "mites").
The name quadrans was originally given to the quarter of the Roman as,
or piece of three unciae, therefore also called teruncius.
The value was what one might earn in ten or fifteen minutes of work.
Its value was about 3.8 mills.
(2) Grk. 'assarion (Matt 10:29; Luke 12:6)
Properly a small as assarium, but in the time of our Lord used as the
Greek. equivalent of the Latin. as.
The rendering of the
Vulgate. in Luke 12:6 makes it probable that a single coin is intended by two
The 'assarion is what one might earn in an hour or less.
Drachma or Daric (Heb.
'adarkon, 1 Chron 29:7; Ezra 8:27; darkemon, Ezra 2:69; Neh 7:70-72).
The daric is usually thought to mean the daric of the Persians and seems to be etymologically connected with the Greek drachma.
The drachma is of interest as the earliest coined money that we can be sure was known to and used by the Jews.
It must have been in circulation among the Jews during the captivity and was extensively circulated in Greece.
The coin was stamped on one side with the figure of a crowned archer, with one knee bent;
on the other side a deep, irregular cleft.
The two darics in the British Museum weigh 128.4 grains and 128.6 grains respectively.
The drachma, as a silver coin (Luke 15:8-9), was very common among the Greeks and Hebrews.
At the time of Luke's writing this Greek coin was of about the same weight as the Roman
denarius and was almost superseded by it.
The author of the Chronicles uses the words that in his time designated the current gold coins.
He did not intend to assume that darics were in use in the time of David. Probably the sum in darics is the amount contributed in gold pieces received as coins,
whereas the talents represent the weight of the vessels and other articles brought as offerings.
Denarius (Grk. denarion,
Matt 18:28; 20:2,9,13; 22:19; Mark 6:37; 12:15; 14:5; Luke 7:41; 10:35; 20:24;
John 6:7; 12:5; Rev 6:6).
This was a Roman silver coin, in the time of Jesus and the apostles.
It took its name from its being first equal to ten "donkeys," a number afterward increased to sixteen.
The earliest specimens are from approximately the start of the second century B.C.
From this time it was the principal silver coin of the commonwealth. In the time of Augustus eighty-four denarii were struck from a pound of silver,
which would make the standard weight about sixty grains. This Nero reduced by striking ninety-six from the pound,
which would give a standard weight of about fifty-two grains, results confirmed by the coins of the periods, which are,
however, not exactly true to the standard.
In Palestine, in the New Testament period, evidence points to the denarii as mainly forming the silver currency.
The denarius was the daily wage of a laborer.
The only way to compute the value of New Testament coins in current values is to consider what a laborer might earn in a day in various countries of the world (see Matt 20:2,4,7,9-10,13).
Didrachma. See Tribute Money.
Fourth of a Shekel
(Heb. reba`, "fourth," 1 Sam 9:8).
The money that Saul's servant gave to Samuel as a present.
Gerah (Heb. gera, a "kernel," Ex 30:13; Lev 27:25; Num 3:47; 18:16; Ezek 45:12).
The smallest weight and also the smallest piece of money among the Hebrews.
It represented the twentieth part of a shekel, weighed 13.7
Paris grains, and was worth less than one-fifth of a day's wage.
There is no positive mention of the use of gold money among the Hebrews;
it probably was circulated by weight
(1 Chron 21:25). The gold coinage current in Palestine in the New Testament period was the Roman imperial
aureus, which passed for twenty-five denarii.
Half of a Shekel. See Beka.
Mina (Greek. mna, Luke
A value mentioned in the parable, as is the talent in Matt 25:14-30.
The reference appears to be to a Greek pound,
a weight used as a money of account, of which 60 went to the talent,
the weight depending upon the weight of the talent. The mina contained 100
Piece of Money.
This expression represents two kinds of money in the Old Testament:
(1) Kesitah (Gen 33:19)
"The kesitah was a weighed piece of metal, and to judge from Gen 23:16; Job 42:11,
of considerably higher value than the shekel;
not an unstamped piece of silver of the value of a lamb," as supposed by the old interpreters
(Keil, Arch., 2:24). These silver pieces, with their weight designated on them,
are the most ancient money of which we have any information. It is clear that they circulated singly,
because the worth of the article bought was given in the number of them.
(2) Stater (see below).
Piece of Silver
Generally speaking, the word has been supplied for a word understood in the
The phrase is always "a thousand" or the like
"of silver" (Gen 20:16; 45:22; etc.).
In similar passages the word "shekels" occurs in the
Hebrew., and there is little if any doubt that this is the word understood in all these cases.
There are, however, two exceptional passages where a word equivalent to
"piece" or "pieces" is found in the Heb.
| The first occurs in 1 Sam 2:36, where "piece"
is the rendering of the Heb. 'agora, something "gathered."
It may be the same as the gera.
| The second is in Ps 68:30, "Trampling under foot the pieces of
"Pieces" here is the translation of the Heb. ras, which occurs nowhere else in Scripture.
Gesenius thinks pieces of uncoined silver is meant.
In the New Testament "pieces" is the rendering of the
Greek argurion (Matt 26:15; 27:3,5-6,9) in the account of the betrayal of our Lord for
"thirty pieces of silver."
These are often taken to be denarii, but on insufficient ground.
The parallel passage in Zechariah (Zech 11:12-13) is rendered "thirty shekels of
| This was the sum payable as compensation for a slave that had been killed (Ex 21:32),
and also the price of a bondslave (Hos 3:2).
By paying thirty shekels (about ninety denarii) they therefore gave him to understand that they did not estimate his services higher than the labor of a purchased slave.
These shekels were probably tetradrachms of the Attic standard of the Greek cities of Syria and Phoenicia.
tetradrachms were common at the time of our Lord, and of them the stater was a specimen.
The value put upon the conjuring books, doubtless by the conjurors themselves, was 50,000 pieces of silver (Acts 19:19).
The Vulgate has accurately rendered the phrase denarii, as there is no doubt that these coins are intended.
The shekel was properly a certain weight, and the shekel weight of silver was the unit of value through the whole age of Hebrew history down to the Babylonian captivity.
It is now generally agreed that the oldest Jewish silver coins belong to the period of Simon Maccabaeus, 140 BC.
They are the shekels and half shekels, weighing 220 and 110 grains, with several pieces in copper.
The shekel presents on the obverse the legend SHEKEL OF
ISRAEL; a cup or chalice, above which appears the date of Simon's government in which it was struck.
On the reverse side appears JERUSALEM THE HOLY, with a triple lily or hyacinth.
It is generally believed that the devices on this coin are intended to represent the pot that held manna and Aaron's rod that budded.
The half shekel resembles the shekel, and they occur with the dates of the first,
second, third, and fourth year of Simon.
The value of the gold shekel is about 55 denarii, $5.50;
the silver about 3.67 denarii.
Of copper, we have parts of the copper shekel-the half, the quarter, the sixth.
Small Copper Coin
(Grk. lepton, Mark 12:42; Luke 12:59, "cent"; 21:2).
A coin current in Palestine in the time of our Lord.
It seems in Palestine to have been the smallest piece of money, being the half of the
kodrantes or quadrans (see Cent).
From Mark's explanation, "two small copper coins, which amount to a
cent" (Mark 12:42), it may perhaps be inferred that the cent or quadrans was the more common coin.
In the Greco-Roman coinage of Palestine, the two smallest coins of which the assarion is the more common,
seem to correspond to these two coins, the larger weighing about twice as much as the smaller.
Stater (Grk. stater).
(1) The term stater is held to signify a coin of a certain weight, but perhaps means a standard coin.
The gold staters were didrachmas of the later Phoenician and the Attic
talents, which in this denomination differ only about four grains troy.
Of the former talent were the Daric staters or darics;
of the latter, the stater of Athens.
The electrum staters were coined by the Greek towns of the West coast of Asia Minor.
They were three parts of gold to one of silver. Thus far the stater is always a
In silver the term is applied to the tetradrachms of Athens,
which was of the weight of two gold staters of the same currency. There can therefore be no doubt that the name stater was applied to the standard denomination of both metals and does not positively imply either a
didrachma or a
(2) In the New Testament the stater is mentioned once as a "two-drachma" (Matt 17:24-27).
The stater must here mean a silver tetradrachm; and the only tetradrachms then current in Palestine were of the same weight as the
Hebrew shekel. And it is observable,
in confirmation of the minute accuracy of the evangelist, that at this period the silver currency in Palestine consisted of Greek imperial tetradrachms,
or staters, and Roman denarii of a quarter their value, didrachms having fallen into disuse (Smith, Dict.).
Heb. kikkar, a "circle";
Grk. talanton, a "balance").
The largest weight among the Hebrews, the talent was used for metals,
whether gold, silver, and so on.
In the New Testament this word occurs
(1) in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt 18:24);
(2) in the parable of the talents (25:14-30).
At this time the Attic talent prevailed in Palestine; sixty minas went to the talent and fifty
shekels to the mina.
Several Hebrew and Greek terms are translated "tribute"
in the KJV, NIV, and NASB:
Heb. missa (number), is used for that which an Israelite gave to the Lord according to his ability
(Deut 16:10); and Aramaic
belo (something consumed, or excise), refers to a tax on things consumed
(Ezra 4:13; 7:24).
Several other terms, translated "tribute" in the KJV and
NIV are rendered "taxes" in the
Heb. mekes, is a portion paid to the Lord (Num 31:28);
Heb. middat, is a fine imposed (Ezra 6:8 [ "revenues,"
NIV]; Neh 5:4 [ "tax," NIV]);
Grk. didrachon, a double drachma is a Temple tax levied on all Jews (Matt 17:24); and
Grk. phoros (a burden), was the annual tax upon houses,
lands, and persons (Luke 20:22; 23:2).
"Tribute money," KJV, was the coin with which the tax was paid
(from The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c)