merchants in the Bible

Greek: ἔμπορος —transliteration: emporos —meaning: a merchant, or a shipboard passenger —occurrences: 5 (in Gospel of Matthew and Revelation)

Greek: κάπηλος —meaning: a retailer, or petty tradesman

Greek: καπηλεύω —transliteration: kapéleuó —meaning: peddler, to make a trade —occurrences: 1 (2 Corinthians 2:17)

The Hebrew word translated as merchant is from a root meaning “to travel about,” “to migrate,” and hence “a traveller.”

In the Middle East in ancient times, merchants travelled about with their merchandise from place to place (Genesis 37:25; Job 6:18), and carried on their trade mainly by bartering (Genesis 37:28; 39:1).

After the Hebrews became settled in Canaan they began to engage in commercial pursuits, which gradually expanded (Genesis 49:13; Deuteronomy 33:18; Judges 5:17), till in the time of King Solomon they are found in the chief maretplaces of the world (1 Kings 9:26; 10:11, 26, 28; 22:48; 2 Chronicles 1:16; 9:10, 21).

After Solomon’s time, their trade with foreign nations began to decline. After the Exile it again expanded into wider foreign relations, because now the Jews were scattered in many lands.

Merchant peoples include the Phoenicians, Ishmaelites, Midianites, and Hebrews.


Greek: ἀγορά —transliteration: agora —meaning: market; literally “gathering place”

This is an open place in a city that was commonly used to buy and sell and to meet with others, especially in Greek and Roman cities. Athens’ ancient agora is well-known. Agoras were usually in a city’s center or near the harbor.

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Article Version: June 15, 2024