Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weights and Balances

Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers [different] weights (stones), a great and a small
. Deuteronomy 25:13

"In most countries money was originally paid out by weight. The standard unit of weight among the Jews was the shekel, which was represented in patriarchal days and for long after by a stone or stones of specific gravity.

As no two such weights were of similar appearance, and not all equally ponderous, even when of the same apparent size, the eye of the customer had no standard of estimate by which he might detect the trader’s dishonesty, who used different weights for different occasions and customers.

[Donna: Lighter stones were placed on the scales when selling (so that a lesser quantity was sold for the stated price), and heavier ones were used when buying (so that more was obtained for the same price).]

Hence the significance of the command in Deut. 25:13. There was also a proverb regarding this practice:

A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. Proverbs 11:1

The practice of weighing money is very ancient. In the account of the transaction between Ephron and Abraham, we read that the latter weighed to the Hittite landowner, as purchase money for the cave of Machpelah, “four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchants (Gen 23:16)”; and there is evidence to show that the practice continued till the time of Jeremiah.

The shekel was the standard weight of the Jews, so let us see how it stood in relation to their other weights. It was divided into two bekahs, and the bekeh into ten gerahs. The talent equalled 3,000 shekels; and between the shekel and the talent came the “pound” or maneh, which according to Ezekiel 45:12 contained sixty shekels, though at other times it contained only fifty; and at one time no less than one hundred shekels.

During the winter of 1937-38, while living in the American Colony in Jerusalem, we were very much interested in the manner of measuring the value of wood which was brought there for sale. It was hard wood, mostly chunks and roots of the olive tree, fairly dry. There was in the backyard of the Colony an old crude pair of balances. The Arab who brought the wood on the back of his camel would place in one “pan” of the balances a rough rock which had been brought in from the field. Then he would fill the other pan until the balances balanced; then unload and repeat. As the weight of the rock represented a certain value in wood, and the arrangement had been agreed upon, all concerned seemed to be satisfied."

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pgs 99-100)

1 comment:

  1. Oh does this ever open up the Daniel 5:25-28 tale of mene mene tekel upharsin!

    In a coming day, we will be weighed in a balance and must have a pure heart, as light as a feather.