JERUSALEM — A limestone weight that dates to the First Temple era and may have been used in marketplace commerce or for the acquirement of animals to sacrifice was recently discovered in Jerusalem during a soil sift from an excavation near the Western Wall.
The weight, inscribed with a symbol representing the word “shekel,” was found while archaeologists wet-sifted soil from a landfill area as part of a joint project between the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
“The weight is dome-shaped with a flat base. On the top of the weight is an incised Egyptian symbol resembling a Greek gamma (γ), representing the abbreviated unit ‘shekel.’ Two incised lines indicate the double mass: two shekalim,” excavation directors Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman outlined in a statement.
They explained that as coins were not yet invented, the shekel was used as the weight system in Israel. The weight that was found equates to two shekels.
“According to previous finds, the known weight of a single shekel is 11.5 grams, thus a double shekel should way 23 grams — exactly as this weight does,” Monnickendam-Givon and Lieberman said. “The accuracy of the weight attests to advanced technological skills as well as to the weight given to precise trade and commerce in ancient Jerusalem.”
They noted that every year, a tax of half a shekel was collected for the upkeep of the temple and the sacrifices offered therein. Inhabitants of the land of Israel, as well as those making a pilgrimage to the temple, would likely have engaged in trade for sacrifices, food or other goods, and weights such as the one unearthed were used as balance on a scale.
Christian News Network reached out to the Pennsylvania-based Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) for their take on the find.
“The recent discovery of a two-shekel weight from the First-Temple Period is an important archaeological find despite its size,” said Bryan Windle, ABR staff researcher and pastor at Island Bible Chapel in Ontario, Canada.
“The fact that it was found at the base of the Western Wall and was likely part of the fill that was used to backfill the foundations when Herod expanded the temple, is yet more evidence confirming that the temple was indeed located on the Temple Mount,” he outlined. “It also indicates that there was likely a market near the Temple where people who had come to purchased sacrificial animals and other items.”
Windle also pointed to a find in 2018, when a beka half-shekel weight dating to Solomon’s temple was similarly discovered during a soil sift from earth excavated from Robinson’s Arch, which is likewise near the Western Wall.
“This discovery, along with the earlier find of a half-shekel, ‘beka’ weight which was used to help pay the temple tax, provides us with a better understanding of the biblical world, and in particular, the system of weights that was used in commerce before coins were invented,” he said.
The Bible repeatedly mentions shekels being used as weight measurements throughout the Old Testament.
In Genesis, Isaac’s servant gives Rebekah a “golden earring of half a shekel weight and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold.” In Leviticus, the Torah details the shekel as being the standard weight of measurement, such as in Leviticus 27:25, which states, “And all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel.”
Numbers speaks of using the shekel as a valuation for sacrifices to the Lord, and 1 and 2 Kings likewise references the shekel as being used for commerce, such as 2 Kings 7:1, which states, “Thus saith the Lord: tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.”
It is likely what the Bible refers to when it says in Proverbs 11:1, “A false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”