What is a…

Hebrew: שֶׁקֶל —transliteration: shekel or sheqel —meaning: a a measure of weight called a shekel

This is the common standard both of weight and value among the Hebrews.

“…the land is worth four hundred shekels of silverAbraham weighed to Ephron the silver…” —Genesis 23:15-16 KJV excerpt

“If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver…” —Exodus 21:32 KJV excerpt

This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel… —Exodus 30:13-15 KJV excerpt

15; 38:24-29, etc.

It is estimated at 220 English grains, or a little more than half an ounce avoirdupois. The “shekel of the sanctuary” (Exodus 30:13; Numbers 3:47) was equal to twenty gerahs in Ezek. 45:12.

There were shekels of gold (1 Chronicles 21:25), of silver (1 Samuel 9:8), of brass (17:5), and of iron (7).

When it became a coined piece of money, the shekel of gold was equivalent to about 2 pounds of our money. Six gold shekels, according to the later Jewish system, were equal in value to fifty silver ones.

The temple contribution, with which the public sacrifices were bought (Exodus 30:13; 2 Chronicles 24:6), consisted of one common shekel, or a sanctuary half-shekel, equal to two Attic drachmas.

The coin, a stater, which Peter found in the fish’s mouth paid this contribution for both him and Christ (Matthew 17:24, 27).

A zuza, or quarter of a shekel, was given by King Saul to Samuel (1 Samuel 9:8).

Streaming video— 
Silver half shekel coin found by archaeologists
A silver half shekel coin was discovered in the City of David, the place where Jerusalem began. The coin is dated to the Great Revolt of Judea against Rome (66-70 AD). The words “Holy Jerusalem” appear in Hebrew on one side of the coin, while the words “Half Shekel” appear on the other.

When the Temple stood atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, every Jew was obligated to contribute annually a silver half shekel towards its upkeep, as mandated in the Bible (Exodus 30:13).
Video by City of David
Length: 1 minute

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Article Version: April 11, 2024