Coins — small, flat, (usually) round pieces of metal used to buy and sell, came into the Middle East a few centuries after Elijah.
confirms that there were no coins as early as 870, just chunks or ingots.
This one is much more superficial, but with some useful information. Keep in mind that references in this piece to currency being used in Genesis and Leviticus don’t mean that they were older times. We know those books did not come into written history till after the Exile, so they may have references to “modern” customs rather than the more ancient ones they’re supposed to be describing.
This article will help a lot. It sounds like by Elijah’s time silver in chunks or bits or rings might have been in use, but not stamped coins. If so your “pieces of silver” would be spot on.
I saw one more I wanted to check out. Will send it along if applicable.
mun’-i: Various terms are used for money in the Bible, but the most common are the Hebrew keceph, and Greek argurion, both meaning silver. We find also qesiTah, rendered by Septuagint “lambs,” probably referring to money in a particular form; chalkos, is used for money in Mt 10:9; Mk 6:8; 12:41. It was the name of a small coin of Agrippa II (Madden, Coins of the Jews); chrema, “price,” is rendered money in Acts 4:37; 8:18,20; 24:26; kerma, “piece,” i.e. piece of money (Jn 2:15); didrachmon, “tribute money” (Mt 17:24 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) “half-shekel”); kensos, “census,” “tribute money” (Mt 22:19).
1. Material and Form:
Gold and silver were the common medium of exchange in Syria and Israel 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” (Gen 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 (Josh 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 Ki 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” (Gen 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 (Gen 24:22). The bundles of money carried by the sons of Jacob to Egpyt for the purchase of grain (Gen 42:35) were probably silver rings tied together in bundles. The Hebrew for “talent,” kikkar, signifies something round or circular, suggesting a ring of this weight to be used as money. The ordinary term for money was keceph, “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 (sheqel) 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 (Lev 5:15; 27, passim). Solomon purchased chariots at 600 (shekels) each and horses at 150 (1 Ki 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 Ki 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 Ki 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 Ki 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 Ki 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 qesiTah has been referred to as used for money, and the Septuagint translation has “lambs.” It is used in Gen 33:19; Josh 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. QesiTah is cognate with the Arabic qasaT, which means “to divide exactly” or “justly,” and the noun qist means “a portion” or “a measure.”
Another word joined with silver in monetary use is ‘aghorah, the term being translated “a piece of silver” in 1 Sam 2:36. ‘Aghorah 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 rats, from ratsats, “to break in pieces,” hence, rats 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 (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 darkemonim, and this word is used in three passages in Neh (7:70-72), and ‘adharkonim occurs in 1 Ch 29:7 and Ezr 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 darkemon 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 siglos, supposed to be referred to in Neh 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 (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.”
H. Porter Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Definition for ‘MONEY'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. bible-history. com – ISBE; 1915.
© International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE)
So what did his father accept in payment for Tishbe wine?
Did he carry scales and weigh out odd bits of silver for each sale?