Biblical Values

Lengths, Times, and Prices


Ezekiel 40:1-19, Cubit, Hand-breadth, Reed

Jeremiah 52:12-27, Finger

Acts 27:16-37, Fathom

Exodus 20:8-11; Acts 1:1-14, Sabbath day's journey

Matthew 5:33-48, Mile

Times of the Day

Acts 2:1-15, Third hour (about 9 a.m.)

John 4:1-24, Sixth hour (noon)

John 4:31-54, Seventh hour (about 1 p.m.)

Acts 3:1-16, Ninth hour (about 3 p.m.)

John 1:35-51, Tenth hour (about 4 p.m.)

Matthew 20:1-16, Eleventh hour (about 5 p.m.)

Lamentations 2:17-22, First watch of the night (sunset until about 9 p.m.)

Luke 12:35-48, Second and third watches (about 9 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 3 a.m.)

Mark 6:32-52, Fourth watch (about 3 a.m. until sunrise)

Judges 7:4-22, Middle watch - does this mean there were only three in ancient Israel?

What Cost What?

Leviticus 27:9-25, A homer of barley seed was valued at 50 silver shekels

Genesis 23:1-20, Land for 400 silver shekels

Genesis 33:1-20, Land for 100 pieces of money

Genesis 37:13-36, Joseph was sold for 20 silver shekels

Exodus 21:18-36; Matthew 26:14-15, A slave was worth 30 silver shekels

Numbers 18:8-24, Firstborn child & 1-month-old unclean animal redeemed for 5 shekels

Deuteronomy 22:13-29, A fine of 100 shekels for impugning a virgin, 50 shekels and marriage for seduction or rape

1 Samuel 9:1-21, 1/4 shekel as a tip or fee for prophecy

2 Samuel 24:10-25; 1 Chronicles 21:25, A threshing floor, oxen for 50 silver shekels/600 gold

1 Kings 10:10-29, Chariot, 600 silver shekels, a horse, 150

Money, Weights, and Measures

Copyright information, disclaimers, and sponsors
Return to homepage

Ezekiel 40:1-19, Cubit, Hand-breadth, Reed (02/06/23)

Did you read the funny papers Sunday? I don't always read "Agnes," but the comic for 2/5/23 is perfect for our current study. Agnes has invented a brand-new math, full of phrases like "right around" and "close to" and "sort of." Probably the best-known biblical measurement is the cubit, because it appears frequently in the stories of Noah's Ark and David and Goliath. A cubit is distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. As we say in science and engineering, "it should be obvious to the most casual observer" that this distance varies from person to person. It is right around, close to, sort of 18 inches (0.45 m). A hand is the distance across the palm or knuckles, right around, close to, sort of 4 inches (0.4572 m). A reed, which apparently started out as the length of an actual reed, later became six cubits, or right around 9 feet (2.74 m).

Ezekiel is describing for us, in great detail, a vision from the LORD of the temple. If you stick with him for three more chapters of measurements, the LORD finally says in 43:7-12, "Son of man, this is the place of my throne... where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out." The LORD will reveal his plan to us, but only if we turn back to him and keep the commandments.

Jeremiah 52:12-27, Finger (02/07/23)

A finger is another one of those "right around, close to" measurements that all sorts of websites will give you an exact value for. I just measured four of my fingers at 2 3/4 inches, and four of my husband's fingers at 3 1/2 inches. Clearly, you need to think about this stuff for yourself and not believe everything you read, particularly when it comes to my stuff. Anyway, the columns in the temple were about 27 feet tall and about 6 feet in diameter, and the wall thickness was about 3 inches.

The last days of the kingdom of Judah were tumultuous, and various parts of the story are given in Kings, Chronicles, and Jeremiah, so I probably have some of the details wrong here. The Egyptians took over Judah and appointed a puppet king, Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34). The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians, and three years later Jehoiakim rebelled against them (2 Kings 24:1). Various armies invaded, and Jehoiakim died, which put his son Jehoichin on the throne. About three months later, the Babylonians arrived, took the leadership into captivity, and appointed Jehoiakim's brother Zedekiah as king. After eleven years on the throne, Zedekiah also rebelled against Babylon. The Babylonians had had enough by this time, so they came, razed the city, and took practically everybody into captivity (the Exile). Before burning the place to the ground, however, the Babylonians removed all the gold and silver vessels from the temple. They also took the bronze sea and the brass pillars, but those were apparently too big to move, because they broke them up and took the pieces (2 Kings 25:13).

Acts 27:16-37, Fathom (02/08/23)

When I want to know how much fabric I've got and I'm too lazy to get a measuring tape, I hold the end in my right hand, stretch out my arm, and turn my head to the left. The distance to my nose is almost exactly a yard, three feet. For a man, the length of a piece of rope held between two outstretched arms is close to six feet. The Greek orguia/fathom comes from a word that means "to stretch oneself." A fathom is six feet. Isn't that neat?

I always had this idea - probably from the travel brochures - that the Mediterranean Sea was like a big, calm lake, where the sun was always shining and the sky was always blue. This is not... entirely... accurate, which is to say, wrong. Storms, even hurricanes called Medicanes, are a frequent danger to shipping, both modern and ancient. When Paul was being taken to Rome (along with Luke and some other friends; note the "we" in vs. 16), the ship was hit by a severe storm. After reinforcing the hull and throwing everything movable overboard, those on board still feared for their lives. Paul cheerfully tells them that while he had told them so (which I'm just certain made him really popular), they don't need to worry, because God has a plan to save them.

Exodus 20:8-11; Acts 1:1-14, Sabbath day's journey (02/09/23)

A sabbath day's journey is 2000 cubits (about 3000 feet or 930 m); this distance was determined by the ancient rabbis, not the Bible. The actual distance you can walk is complicated by the size of your city and how densely populated the surrounding area is.

If you've ever been around little kids, you know that we're all lawyers at heart. If you tell a child, "Don't go out of the yard," you're bound to be asked questions like "Is the sidewalk in the yard?" "How about the curb?" "If I climb over the fence, am I in our yard if I don't get off the fence on the side?" God has the same problem with us, his children. God says, "Don't work on the Sabbath, and don't make anybody else work, either." God probably thinks that's a pretty straightforward commandment, but is walking work? Is walking a long way work? What if I have to walk a long way to go to the synagogue? Where does my journey start - in my house? my front yard? at the curb? The ancient rabbis apparently decided that the journey starts at the city limits (probably the walls), or outside the populated area outside the city walls if the houses are closer together than 70 2/3 cubits. As a practical matter, very few people traveled in the first century, and I think you would grow up knowing exactly where you could go on your Sabbath day's journey. Jesus' ascension took place 40 days after the resurrection, which would put it on a Thursday, so Luke is probably just using "Sabbath day's journey" as a distance people would be familiar with.

Matthew 5:33-48, Mile (02/10/23)

By the first century, the Romans seem to have had a fairly standard milion/mile of one thousand paces of five Roman feet. (The Roman foot was about 97% of a modern U.S. foot, which makes very little difference in a few feet, but it's 150 feet by the time you get to 5000 feet.) So the first-century mile was about 1618 yards in length, or 92% of a modern U.S. mile. Close enough. By the way, milion is just a Greek version of the Latin mille. The Romans imported more than soldiers when they occupied a territory, and you see Latin loan words scattered throughout the New Testament.

Our first reaction to vss. 38-42 is often "Jesus, are you preaching total pacifism here?" I looked at several commentaries, and they seem to agree that that's not the meaning. Jesus' examples are fairly small slights - taking a coat, forcing you to carry baggage for a mile, asking to borrow some money, etc. There's nothing there that says you should let someone break in and steal your computer or stand by while he beats somebody up. What Jesus wants us to do is to tolerate small offenses, out of love for the offender, rather than take revenge. The commentaries refer to several passages where Jesus and his disciples do not turn the other cheek: So if somebody honks at you for no reason, just ignore it, but if they try to run you off the road, call the cops.

Acts 2:1-15, Third hour (about 9 a.m.) (02/13/23)

The daylight was divided into 12 hours, and the night was divided into four watches. This suggests two things to me. First, since Palestine isn't sitting on the equator, the lengths of the hour and watch were not fixed. Second, the ancients weren't nearly as agenda-oriented as we are. We need to relax. The third hour is roughly 9 to 10 a.m.; we would probably say, "mid-morning."

By the first century, Jews were living all over the Roman Empire and beyond. Although it wasn't required for Jews living outside Palestine to show up in Jerusalem for the major festivals, many of them came anyway. Most of them didn't speak Aramaic, or if they did, it was probably at the level of tourists in a foreign country. On Pentecost, an amazing thing happened: a bunch of Galileans boiled out of a building and began speaking to them in their own language! It's critical to present the Gospel to people in a language that they understand. Pray for translators and for clergy who work with folks outside the traditional church, who take the Gospel to new ears, in their own language.

John 4:1-24, Sixth hour (noon) (02/14/23)

Do you remember "lunch hour" from when you were in school, or maybe even at work? Was it actually an hour long? The sixth hour is "around noon," or "around lunchtime," or maybe even "lunch hour," because remember that the length of an hour depended on the season of the year.

There was a long history of animosity between the Jews in Judea and the people in Samaria, whether those people were the ten tribes of Jews who broke away from Rehoboam, the king of Judea after Solomon (1 Kings 12); the assorted foreign peoples introduced by the Assyrians (Ezra 4:2-3); or a mixture of the two. The Samaritans worshiped God; however, the Jews who returned from the exile in Babylon weren't satisfied with the way the Samaritans went about it. The Samaritans accepted only the first five books of the Bible, so they didn't feel bound to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, rather sacrificing on Mount Gerazim as their ancestors had. As a result of conversions to Christianity and Islam, and maybe even Judaism, fewer than 1000 Samaritans remain today; they follow their own religion as best they can in a difficult and divided part of the world.

John 4:31-54, Seventh hour (about 1 p.m.) (02/15/23)

Logically enough, the seventh hour immediately follows the sixth hour, which we decided is "lunchtime." The seventh hour is about 1 p.m., or "early afternoon."

After spending a couple of days in the Samaritan town where he met the woman at the well, Jesus and his disciples went on to Galilee. The people of Galilee, who initially had been skeptical that Jesus could be someone famous (Mark 6:1-6), have now seen him in action in Jerusalem (John 4:45). When a nobleman comes to him asking for miracle cure for his son, Jesus at first seems to rebuff him: here's yet another person who wants a sign! The nobleman pleads with him, however, and Jesus agrees and sends the man on his way. When the nobleman meets his servants on the road, he learns that his son began to get better at the seventh hour, just at the time Jesus had told him the child would live.

By the way, one thing that makes the Gospels so convincing is the repeated admission by the people who wrote them that they - the disciples - were so completely clueless about who Jesus was until after the ascension (see vs. 33). Also notice that "believe" occurs six times in this short passage. John is all about belief.

Acts 3:1-16, Ninth hour (about 3 p.m.) (02/16/23)

The ninth hour is about three o'clock, or "mid-afternoon."

The early Christians were all Jews, and they continued to think of themselves as Jews and to practice Judaism. Peter and John are on their way into the temple for the mid-afternoon prayer service when a lame man asks them for alms. They give him what they have, the good news of Jesus Christ.

John 1:35-51, Tenth hour (about 4 p.m.) (02/17/23)

The tenth hour is around 4 p.m., or "late afternoon."

Sometimes it seems a little puzzling that when Jesus was walking along and saw Simon, Andrew, James, and John on the Sea of Galilee, they just immediately dropped everything and went with him (Mark 4:18-22). It's much less puzzling when you realize that this wasn't the first time they had talked to him. Notice what it says in Mark 4:12-13: "Now when Jesus heard that John [the Baptist] was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he came and lived in Capernaum, which is by the sea." But before John was arrested, Andrew and (most likely) John were the disciples of John the Baptist. John B. points Jesus out to them, and they go with him at about the tenth hour to wherever he's staying to get to know him. They alert Simon Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel. After John is arrested, they return to Galilee, where no doubt they talk to James about Jesus. This is why they're ready to go when Jesus gives the word.

Matthew 20:1-16, Eleventh hour (about 5 p.m.) (02/20/23)

The eleventh hour has much the same meaning in the Bible and in modern English, except that in English it's an idiom meaning "the last possible moment," and in the Bible it's a literal time of day, the next to last hour of the 12-hour day. By the way, I read a biblical footnote today that said John (at least) used the "Roman system of counting the hours from midnight and noon"; however, Wikipedia discusses two different Roman systems, and that isn't either one of them. Moral: Don't believe everything you read about ancient units of measurement.

In Jesus' Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the master goes to the marketplace to hire laborers early, say, 6 a.m., and then again at the third hour (9 a.m.-ish), sixth hour (noon-ish), and the ninth hour (3 p.m.-ish). He hires workers one last time at the eleventh hour, around 5 p.m.-ish. Since the twelfth hour (not mentioned anywhere in scripture) would be the last daylight hour, everyone would be quitting by then in order to get home before dark. The eleventh hour really is the last possible time that you could be hiring someone to go to work! Two frequent interpretations of this parable are, on the one hand, that people who have been Christians since childhood shouldn't be sneering at the deathbed converts, or on the other hand, that God views all his children as equally valuable. Personally, I like fellow-reader Jack N.'s comment on this parable: people who become Christians early in life then have the comfort and joy of Jesus' company in this life, whereas the deathbed converts have missed out on that.

Nevertheless, I think we should take Jesus' word for it that this parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven! If we start there, then the parable says that the master - God - is seeking us all the time in order to bring us into the kingdom.

Lamentations 2:17-22, First watch of the night (sunset until about 9 p.m.) (02/21/23)

The night was divided into four watches. Remember the Bishops' Bible from our study on modern phrases from the King James Version? The Bishop's Bible is the only translation I have electronically that refers to the first watch, which runs from sunset until about 9 p.m. (depending on the time of year, as for the hours of the day). Most other translations follow the King James with "the beginning of the watches," although I also found "every hour on the hour" and "all through the night." The Hebrew word rosh can mean either beginning or first (not to mention head, as we also see in vs. 19). So Jeremiah is calling on the people to cry out to God once, four times, 12 times, or all the time, depending on how your translator sees the sense of the passage and the meaning of rosh in this context.

Jeremiah is known as "the weeping prophet," and for good reason. The Babylonians besieged Jerusalem for three years before it fell - three years of terror, famine, and despair - and then razed the city and carried the survivors into exile in Babylon. The Jews were confident that God had brought this calamity on them because of their own sin, and if you read the last few chapters of 2 Kings, it looks like they had good reason to think that. In spite of the messages of the prophets and their history with the true God, the Jews adopted a variety of pagan religions and practices and made unwise foreign alliances, and then they compounded their foolishness by rebelling against their foreign masters. They say history is written by the winners, but the Old Testament shows that this is not always true.

Luke 12:35-48, Second and third watches (about 9 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 3 a.m.) (02/22/23)

The darkness was divided into four roughly three-hour watches, so the second watch was from roughly 9 p.m. until midnight, and the third watch was from midnight until roughly 3 a.m. (Noon and midnight were always noon and midnight until the advent of Daylight Savings Time.)

Jesus tells three brief parables about his coming. In the immortal words of the great theologian and Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, "Are you ready? Get ready!... Will he know you when he sees you, or will he say 'Depart from me?' Are you ready?"

Mark 6:32-52, Fourth watch (about 3 a.m. until sunrise) (02/23/23)

The fourth watch of the night is the quarter of the darkness that's right before dawn, say, 3 a.m. until 6 a.m.

I think we tend to think of "Feeding of the Five Thousand" and "Jesus Walks on the Water" as two separate stories; however, Mark connects the two. "He got into the boat with them; and the wind ceased, and they were very amazed... for they hadn't understood about the loaves." About twelve hours before he calmed the storm, Jesus had fed some 15,000 people with fives loaves and two fish. Apparently, the disciples didn't think about that or understand that it was miraculous. "Their hearts were hardened," i.e., to put it bluntly, they were stupid or at least obtuse. Modern translations that don't have "hardened" point this out:

Judges 7:4-22, Middle watch - does this mean there were only three in ancient Israel? (02/24/23)

Here are two different, but related, meanings of watch. The middle watch seems to be the second of three night watches, roughly 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. However, I must tell you that just about every website I looked at said something different about who had how many watches and how they were determined. This is one of many small biblical details that are a little hazy to us, and not worth arguing about. Set the watch means to swap out the sentries for fresh ones. We still see the idiom take the watch frequently when a guard must be kept all night. (The "watch me" in vs. 17 is really "look at me.")

Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men, but God figured that if they defeated the Midianites with that many, they would take all the credit for themselves (Judges 7:2-3). To ensure that credit is given where credit is due, God tells Gideon to send most of them home, keeping only 300 men for the attack. In addition to the help he got from God (vss. 9-14), Gideon seems to have fought the battle against the Midianites using psychological warfare. Some sources hold that each squadron of men would have one trumpet and one torch. By giving every man a trumpet and a torch and dividing them into three companies, Gideon makes his army of 300 men look much larger. The Midianites panic, start fighting each other, and flee.

Leviticus 27:9-25, A homer of barley seed was valued at 50 silver shekels (02/27/23)

You probably know this joke. A rich man learned from God that he would die the next day, but he begged that he could bring his possessions with him. After some discussion, God agreed that he could bring one suitcase, but he forgot to tell St. Peter, so when the man got to the gate, Peter insisted that he open the suitcase for inspection. Peter looked in the suitcase, which was full of gold. Puzzled, he looked at the man and said, "You brought paving material?" The point is that money is only worth what you can buy with it. Fifty shekels would buy you a homer (roughly ten bushels) of barley seed.

So what's the deal with valuations and the Year of Jubilee? Every 50 years, all real property had to go back to the family (or tribe) that Joshua gave it to when the children of Israel first entered the promised land (see Joshua 13-19). If you dedicate a field right after the Jubilee, the priests benefit from it for 49 years; if you dedicate in year 45, they benefit for four years. The value of the field as an offering is set appropriately.

Genesis 23:1-20, Land for 400 silver shekels (02/28/23)

Yesterday we learned that we could buy about 10 bushels of barley seed for 50 shekels. Today we see that we could buy a field for 400 shekels. We don't know the acreage of the field, but it was big enough to hold a cave and some trees. It was obviously much bigger than a single plot in a modern cemetery, which might cost as little as $200 in a small town, or as much as $4000 in an urban area. Four hundred shekels seems to have been quite a bit of money.

Abraham buried Sarah in Mamre, also called Hebron, which is about 18 or 19 miles south of Jerusalem. Remember that Abraham was a nomad with no land of his own, although he had lived in the area for quite a while (see Genesis 13:18). A few hundred years later, the king of Hebron joined four other kings and attacked Gibeon, one of Joshua's allies, but Joshua won and sacked the city (Joshua 10). After another few hundred years, David made his capital city in Hebron (2 Samuel 2), prior to uniting the 12 tribes into one kingdom and removing the seat of government to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5). The caves that are the traditional site of Sarah's tomb are now covered by large structure dating at least back to Herod that has been variously Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and combinations thereof. It is a holy place for two religions and important in a third, and many unholy battles have occurred there as a result. The ancient city of Hebron continues to have an eventful history.

Genesis 33:1-20, Land for 100 pieces of money (03/01/23)

You know what they say about real estate: "Location, location, location." Yesterday Abraham paid 400 shekels for some land with trees and a cave suitable for burial. Today Jacob buys land for 100 pieces of money. Maybe each piece of money was worth more than a shekel, or maybe the land was worth less, or maybe it was less land. It doesn't pay to be dogmatic about these things.

If you remember anything at all about Jacob, it is that he bought Esau's birthright for a mess of potage (a bowl of stew; Genesis 25) - for which Esau has to bear some responsibility - and then he (and their mom Rebekah) cheated Esau out of his blessing from Isaac (Genesis 27). Jacob has good reason to think that Esau might bear a grudge, so he sends lavish gifts in advance of their meeting (Genesis 32). Apparently, Esau is happy to see him, but just to err on the side of caution, Jacob doesn't follow Esau all the way to Seir, which is south of Judea, but instead settles in Shechem, also known as Shalem or Salim (D3 on our map).

"El Elohe Israel" means "the mighty God of Israel" or "El, the God of Israel" (remember Israel is Jacob). "Succoth" means "booths" or "shelters."

Genesis 37:13-36, Joseph was sold for 20 silver shekels (03/02/23)

The normal price for a slave was thirty shekels (Exodus 21:32). We see the thirty pieces of silver again in Zechariah 11:12-13, where the prophet is paid that as wages, apparently for one month, and he refers to it sarcastically as a "lordly price." Zechariah, at God's instruction, throws his wages to "the potter," which some translations render as "the house of the Lord" or some variation of that. Wesley explains that Zechariah "cast them into the house of the Lord for the potter; all which the Jewish rulers acted over." And of course, thirty pieces of silver is the price paid to Judas Iscariot for his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:15), which Judas throws to the chief priests and they use to buy the "potter's field" (Matthew 27:7).

Matthew, in his usual way, says (Matthew 27:9), "Thus was fulfilled the word of the prophet --," and quotes Zechariah 11:12. For --, various manuscripts have Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zechariah. Matthew may have had Zechariah and later scribes couldn't read his writing, or Matthew may have misremembered which prophet it was. Or Matthew may not have named the prophet at all (sometimes he doesn't), and later scribes filled one in. What's surprising is how accurately the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, and not that there's an occasional trivial error. Remember that the writers didn't have computers and 2000 years' worth of cross-referencing study guides.

Anyway, Joseph is sold into slavery. Joseph is the spoiled favorite son of Jacob, and his brothers decide they've had enough of the little brat. Their first thought is to kill him, but then they decide they'd be better off to sell him. The traveling merchants, of course, buy wholesale so that they can make a profit at retail in Egypt, so they pay Joseph's brothers only twenty pieces of silver for him.

Exodus 21:18-36; Matthew 26:14-15, A slave was worth 30 silver shekels (03/03/23)

We saw yesterday that Joseph was sold wholesale for 20 pieces of silver, and I referred you to this passage, where the value of a male or female slave is set at 30 silver shekels.

Sometimes these rules from the Old Testament seem harsh: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. But let's think about it for a minute. The good old-fashioned vendetta is not lawful. If you kill my guy, then yes, you must die. I can't wipe out your village, however, let alone hold a grudge for the next thousand years. If I put out your eye, or my ox gores yours, or my pit costs you a bull or donkey, you can't kill me for it, but I do have to make reparations. The Law of Moses may seem like rough justice, but it does define justice as opposed to revenge.

Numbers 18:8-24, Firstborn child & 1-month-old unclean animal redeemed for 5 shekels (03/06/23)

I'm sure you know that the first fruits of your labor belong to God and must be brought as a sacrifice; however, some of the firstborn - children and unclean animals - must be redeemed, not sacrificed, at the cost of 5 shekels per head.

Remember back in Exodus 11, any household in Egypt that didn't have the blood of a lamb on the door lost all its firstborn - firstborn children and firstborn livestock. God saved the firstborn in the households that did have the blood on the door jamb, and after that, all the firstborn belonged to God. Firstborn clean animals, i.e., calves, lambs, and kids, had to be sacrificed. However, God decided to take the entire tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn from every tribe (Numbers 3:11-13). Firstborn children from other tribes and unclean animals couldn't be sacrificed, so they had to be redeemed.

Because they received the sacrifices and the redemption money as their living, the tribe of Levi did not receive any lands when Joshua parceled out the promised land. Instead, they got 48 cities scattered throughout Israel (Numbers 35:2-7).

Deuteronomy 22:13-29, A fine of 100 shekels for impugning a virgin, 50 shekels and marriage for seduction or rape (03/07/23)

Fines of 100 or 50 shekels could be imposed in certain cases.

The Israelites were surrounded by peoples who engaged in fertility rites as a part of worship, which I suspect is the reason the Law of Moses is so harsh on the subject of sex outside marriage. In this set of rules, we see three kinds of punishment that depend on the circumstances. Fines and marriage that does not allow divorce are used in combination; stoning is obviously a punishment complete unto itself. (Note that divorce was normally allowed; Deuteronomy 24:1-3.

Here's a summary of the rules: Notice that in no case is an adulterous woman caught inside the city stoned while the man goes free. Thus the men who brought a woman "caught in the act of adultery" to Jesus (John 8) erred on two counts. First, they weren't in a position to judge, and second, they misrepresented the Law.

1 Samuel 9:1-21, 1/4 shekel as a tip or fee for prophecy (03/08/23)

A quarter of a shekel was an appropriate amount to give as a gift to a seer.

For about 400 years after the Israelites came to the promised land, they had no central government. Each tribe had its own leaders and elders, and occasionally God would raise up a judge when one or more tribes needed a military leader. Eventually the Israelites decided they needed a king, and they started lobbying the prophet Samuel to appoint one. Samuel was opposed, but God said, "Go on and give them a king, but tell them what they'll be getting into" (1 Samuel 3:7-9). Samuel warned them (1 Samuel 8:10-18), but the people insisted. Saul, son of Kish, was their first king.

I like vs. 9:9: "..for he who is now called a prophet was before called a seer." We tend to think of prophets as people who see the future, but in fact most of what they see is the present. They just see it a lot more clearly that the rest of us. They are see-ers in Hebrew, Greek, and English.

And by the way, a trip through Ephraim, Shalishah, Shaalim, and Benjamin is not like traveling from Canada to Guatemala! Saul and his servant probably traveled sixty or eighty miles at the very outside. Take a look at the map, especially the legend, and vs. 20; they've only been on the road for two or three days.

2 Samuel 24:10-25; 1 Chronicles 21:25, A threshing floor, oxen for 50 silver shekels/600 gold (03/09/23)

What do they say about real estate? Location, location, location! Here's a little bitty piece of property in a prime location that's going for 50 silver shekels, or maybe 600 of gold. Wesley says "that is, he gave in gold the value of six hundred shekels of silver."

In a previous study, we saw that the writer of Chronicles had different interests from the writer of Samuel and Kings. Sometimes - in details that don't matter to salvation! - they also have different names and numbers. 1 Chronicles says that David paid Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight, and 2 Samuel says that he gave Araunah fifty shekels of silver. Ornan and Araunah are probably different forms of the same name, so that's okay. But even if we accept Wesley's interpretation that it was the value of 600 silver shekels, paid in gold, we're still left with a difference of 550 shekels.

However, let's try to stick with the main point in our reading, and not get hung up on the details of weights, measures, and money, when I think this study has shown us that no one really knows exactly what the values were. And the main point is that David wouldn't offer to God what he didn't own!

1 Kings 10:10-29, Chariot, 600 silver shekels, a horse, 150 (03/10/23)

Chariots at 600 shekels and horses at 150 shekels were as expensive as land, and on top of that, there was the maintenance to be considered.

When it comes to what cost what, the wise Solomon should have known. He knew how to make it, mostly from taxes and gifts, and he certainly knew how to spend it on luxury items. This brings us to the end of our study on weights, dates, volumes, lengths, and money, and I hope you've enjoyed reading some passages we rarely hear in church.

Money, Weights, and Measures

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

Our Sponsors:

St. John's United Methodist Church, "Transforming Lives Through Christ."
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110

St. John's Music Ministries now has a YouTube channel, bringing you free concerts and choral music. Check it out!

Traditional worship services are held Sundays at 8:15 and 11:00 a.m. in the sanctuary.  Casual worship services are held Sundays at 9:30 a.m. in the Family Life Center.  Jazz Vespers are held monthly on the second Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. St. John's feels especially called to the worship of God and to the service of our neighbors through our music program.

Storm Dragon SoftwareTM

Ducks in a Row, Inc.

This website is supported in part by the generosity of Mrs. J. Jordan.