Was Money Used in the Old Testament?

Learn about money used in Old Testament times: ancient currencies & coins from Lydia & Persia to Greek & Roman empires & Bar Kokhba's coinage.

Was Money Used in the Old Testament?

The Old Testament provides us with a clear understanding of the purchasing power of ancient money. In Europe and the Middle East, currencies were not invented as a medium of exchange until around 700 BC. This means that most of the references to money in the Old Testament refer to the weights of nuggets or ingots of gold or silver, rather than to coins. Gold and silver were used for a variety of purposes during Old Testament times, and even in the New Testament era.

Kings used them extensively in their homes and had many personal possessions made of these precious metals. In short, gold and silver were an integral part of life in those days. The oldest known coins originated in Lydia, in northwestern Anatolia, in the late 7th century BC. No coins from that period have yet been discovered in EreIsrael.

The oldest coins found on Israeli soil are from the second half of the 6th century and the first half of the 5th century BC. They are Greek coins from Athens, Thassos and Macedonia, apparently brought to the country by Greek merchants. At the end of the 5th century and the first half of the 4th century, the land was under Persian rule and Phoenician coins, especially those from Sidon and Tyre, circulated in the northern part of the country and along the coastal strip south of Jaffa. At the same time, small coins of denominations obol and hemiobol abounded, minted in the Gaza area in a wide variety of types, which are also of artistic interest.

During that period, Athenian coins with the head of Pallas Athena and her sacred bird, the owl, were a strong currency in the Eastern Mediterranean. The owl currency was so imitated locally that local money had the same value as Athenian coins. Palestine was governed by the Ptolemies and their currency not only circulated there but was also minted in local mints of coastal cities such as Acre (then already called Tolemaida), Jaffa, Ashkelon and Gaza. This changed after the Battle of Panias in 198 BC when Seleucids took over.

The latter used local mints of Acre, Ashkelon and Gaza to produce their own currency, in addition to many other mints they had elsewhere in their kingdom. Their coins circulated in Palestine at least until Hasmonean rulers issued their first coins. The Ptolemies issued gold, silver and bronze coins, some of which were heavy in weight instead of small silver coins. Their silver banner was lighter than that of Seleucids who still relied on Attic standard.

During this war, last series of ancient Jewish coins were issued. Bar Kokhba became head of Jewish community and most coins issued bear name Simeon and eventually his title prince of Israel. However there are other coins from that period bearing name certain Eleazar Priest or simply Jerusalem as minting authority. The coins were issued over period just over three years (i.e., first two years are dated but formula time changed from first year Israel's redemption to second year Israel's freedom). During third year until end war coins issued were undated and carried motto war For Freedom Jerusalem.

These types coins are also numerous as they are beautiful artistically they rank first Jewish coin series. Silver and bronze coins were also issued during this war. What makes this series exceptional from all other series ancient coins is extraordinary fact entire issue was overminted coins then circulating Palestine such Roman provincial tetradracmas (mainly Antioch) Roman denarii or provincial drachmas well local bronze municipal coins mainly Ashkelon Gaza. It is possible Bar Kokhba obtained necessary gentle coins mint them excessively through public loan national war effort. After destruction Second Temple 70 BC Flavian emperors appointed legatus pro praetore head local administration he also commander military forces stationed province during reigns Vespasian (69—79 BC) Titus (79—81 BC) Domitian (81-96 AD) all types Domitian coins except last two are undated their chronological order was conjectural until recently. Most common monetary system Tanaite literature is syncretic one based Greek drachmoobol (6 oboles%3D 1 drachma) but otherwise follows Roman monetary system both terminology metrological structure its banner linked Tetradachm Tyre (sela).In tabular form it appears follows (above Talmudic terms Roman terms which they derived): there were also two tarapiks (quinaries) (silver) per dinar 24 25 dinars per gold dinar (aureus) 100 dinars per maneh (theoretical unit Babylonian origin). In Babylon during Sassanid period (from beginning 3rd century onward) standard unit silver was Sassanid drachma called zuz Talmud (from Akkadian zuzu cut but according Jastrow shiny) while smaller copper coins different sizes called peshittas. There are two main contexts which monetary terms appear post-talmudic literature Halachic lexicographic-metrological (partly related Halachic literature) there also incidental references. After creation State Israel Palestinian pound its subsidiary currencies continued legal tender until September Palestinian currencies continued circulation until 1949 although they disappeared even before their demonetization when currency depreciated against British pound. After independence 1948 scarcity...

Chelsey Renegar
Chelsey Renegar

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