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Coins

COINS

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There were no coins in use in Palestine until after the Captivity. It is not quite certain whether gold and silver were before that time divided into pieces of a certain weight for use as money or not, but there can be no question of coinage proper until the Persian period. Darius I is credited with introducing a coinage system into his empire, and his were the first coins that came into use among the Jews, though it seems probable that coins were struck in Lydia in the time of Croesus, the contemporary of Cyrus the Great, and these coins were doubtless the model upon which Darius based his system, and they may have circulated to some extent in Babylonia before the return of the Jews. The only coins mentioned in the Old Testament are the Darics (see DARIC), and these only in the Revised Version (British and American), the word "dram" being used in the King James Version (Ezra 2:69; 8:27; Nehemiah 7:70-72). The Jews had no native coins until the time of the Maccabees, who struck coins after gaining their independence about 143-141 BC. These kings struck silver and copper, or the latter, at least (see MONEY), in denominations of shekels and fractions of the shekel, until the dynasty was overthrown by the Romans. Other coins were certainly in circulation during the same period, especially those of Alexander and his successors the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, both of whom bore sway over Palestine before the rise of the Maccabees. Besides these coins there were the issues of some of the Phoenician towns, which were allowed to strike coins by the Persians and the Seleucids. The coins of Tyre and Sidon, both silver and copper, must have circulated largely in Palestine on account of the intimate commercial relations between the Jews and Phoenicians (for examples, see under MONEY). After the advent of the Romans the local coinage was restricted chiefly to the series of copper coins, such as the mites mentioned in the New Testament, the silver denarii being struck mostly at Rome, but circulating wherever the Romans went. The coins of the Herods and the Procurators are abundant, but all of copper, since the Romans did not allow the Jewish rulers to strike either silver or gold coins. At the time of the first revolt (66-70 AD) the Jewish leader, Simon, struck shekels again, or, as some numismatists think, he was the first to do so. But this series was a brief one, lasting between 3 and 4 years only, as Jerusalem was taken by Titus in 70 AD, and this put an end to the existence of the Jewish state. There was another short period of Jewish coinage during the second revolt, in the reign of Hadrian, when Simon Barcochba struck coins with Hebrew legends which indicate his independence of Roman rule. They were of both silver and copper, and constitute the last series of strictly Jewish coins (see MONEY). After this the coins struck in Judea were Roman, as Jerusalem was made a Roman colony.

H. Porter


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'COINS'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.