Ancient silver shekel coin found in the drainage channel in Jerusalem in 2008. This was probably minted in Tyre. It weighs 13 grams and was minted in 22 AD.
How many of you keep lose change in your pocket? For me, it’s usually annoying. I especially don’t like pennies, although I do have a few large jars of them under my bed somewhere. I suppose I should see how much these jars are worth one of these days! But in today’s culture of debit cards, some people don’t deal with cash and lose change in their pockets at all. However, times were different in the days of the Bible. Having coins in one’s pocket or pouch was common. If you were a Jew going to the Temple in Jerusalem in the days of Jesus, it was important to have a possession of coins, especially one kind of coin … the half shekel coin!
According to the Bible in the days of Moses, “Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” (Exodus 30:15).
The major weight of metal mentioned in the Bible was the shekel, as its name, which means simply “weight,” testifies. Since the shekel was the definite weight, an expression such as “1,000 silver” (Genesis 20:16) can be explained as 1,000 shekels of silver, and the name of the weight is omitted since it is self-explanatory. The fundamental nature of the shekel can also be seen in the fact that all weights which the Bible explains are explained only in terms of the shekel. Thus in the days of the Old Testament, the shekel was used as a bartering material, not a minted coin. Jeremiah bought a plot of land and weighed his payment (silver) on scales (Jeremiah 32:9).
However eventually the shekel was minted as a coin as early as the Persian period. Hundred of years later during the time of the Hasmoneans (137 BC), the Jews minted their own coins. By the time of Herod the Great (37-4 BC) and later his sons (Herod Archelaus – 4 BC – 6 AD; Herod Antipas -4 BC – 39 AD; and Herod Philip I – 4 BC – 34 AD), coins were in wide use.
According to the Talmud, the collection of the half shekel coin occurred every year on the first day of the month of Adar when the “heralding of the shekelim” took place, that is to say the beginning of the collection of the money and it ended on the first day of the month of Nissan, when there was new budget in the temple and the purchase of public sacrifices was renewed.
It was most likely a shekel minted in Tyre that Jesus and Peter used to pay the Temple head tax (a half shekel each, see Matthew 17:27). Moreover, 30 Tyrian silver coins probably were given as payment to Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:15). This annual half shekel head-tax was donated in shekels and half shekels from the Tyre mint where they were struck from the year 125 BCE until the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66 CE. Incidentally, one of these coins was found in the Herodian drainage channel in Jerusalem in March, 2018. It must have been dropped by someone walking on the street above and fell through either a crack in the street or through one of many man holes discovered (go HERE for the full article of this discovery).
Newly minted half-shekel coin. To date, over 200,000 coins have been purchased as donations in building the 3rd Temple.
This brings us up to today. According to Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz (in a Breaking Israel News article), “While the Temple was standing, every Jewish man was required to give one half-shekel weight of silver, approximately eight grams of silver (worth about $4 today), as a mandatory tax to support the Temple. Each man was obligated to give the same amount, regardless of his economic condition. The coins, once deposited in the Temple courtyard, were hekdesh (sanctified) and not permitted to be used for any other purpose.” The giving of this coin towards the expense and upkeep of the Tabernacle (and eventually Temple in Jerusalem) was considered a mitvah (command).” This command was instituted from before the First Temple Period all the way through the days of Hadrian in the 2nd century AD despite the Temple being destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans.
However, a special 1/2 shekel coin has been minted in preparation for the building of the 3rd Temple. This coin is different than the common 1/2 shekel coin in circulation today (worth only about 12.5 cents). But through the vision of Reuven Prager, this mitzvah is being reinstated. To date, 200,000 coins have been purchased. They are deposited into the Otzar Hamikdash (“Treasury of the Temple”), an organization established to oversee the financing of the new Temple.
Follow this link to the full article: HERE