Knowledgebase: Bible Questions
How Much is a Shekel?
Posted on 10 May 2012 04:08 PM
Numbers and Deuteronomy talk about the use of money called the "shekel." What would one shekel be equivalent to today?

There is a natural confusion about the value of a shekel (or sheqel) because it started off as a unit of weight used in market exchanges but eventually became a coin in its own right. 

The first appearance of the shekel was in ancient Mesopotamia in 3000 BC. The name shekel was based on the Akkadian she, which was the early name for barley. Barley was used as the original medium of weight—and the shekel was equal in weight to 180 grains of barley, or around 11 grams. 

Unfortunately, to add to the confusion, there were four different shekels that became common in business transactions. There were gold shekelssilver shekelsbrass shekels, and iron shekels. Each type had a different weight. For example, six gold shekels was equal to fifty silver shekels. 

In Exodus 30:13 and Numbers 3:47 we also find the sanctuary shekel. In biblical times, temple shekels were used to buy public sacrifices. This sanctuary half-shekel was approximately equal to two Attic drachmas. The coin that Peter found in the mouth of the fish paid the temple tax for both himself and Jesus, and was equal to the common half-shekel. 

The value of the shekel could vary according to the item being exchanged or weighed. Sometimes it is hard to determine which shekel is being indicated in a particular passage of Scripture. The weight of the shekel eventually stabilized, and could vary from .36 oz to slightly more than .72 oz. 

The shekel’s value is expressed differently in various Scriptures. A bekah is a half-shekel (about 31 cents in modern currency). A maneh was equal to 100 shekels. A talent was a weight equal to 3000 shekels.

Of course, as times change and the relative value of money also changes, the value of the shekel changes as well. That’s why different versions of the Scriptures (printed in different years) often show different values for the shekel. In modern Israel, the shekel is both a coin and a paper currency in banknotes of 20, 50, 100, and 200 new sheqalim. The new shekel replaced the old shekel on January 1, 1986 (at that time 1,000 old shekels were equal to 1 new shekel). One Israeli new shekel is presently worth about 25 cents US.
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Comments (6)
17 August 2012 03:47 AM
Thank you for sharing your story of how you werte tocuhed visiting Israel. I always enjoy reading your blogs.I must share with you how I was personally tocuhed as well. Yes! My trip had similar emotional connections being in Israel for the first time in March, 2011 with HAZAK(Joanne & Aaron). When arriving in the Old City, I could not approach the Kotel for at least an hour, as I was in awe to stand on the sacred ground where Abraham probably stood with Sara. I was so stricken by the history and attachment I felt being in the old city.I was also very moved to hear the story of a retired man who made aliyat and settled on a kibutz overlooking Lebanon at Mis Gav Am. I was so moved by his story of the daily happenings that each individual faces living in such abeautiful, but dangerous part of the countryside. In the background, one could hear the musical chants being played at specific times of the day from Lebanon, with the U.N. helicopters flying continually over the border area reminding all to keep the peace. What a destiny this man is living-to find out where he belongs, and how he is able to share his own roots with me. Again I was tocuhed.I hope to return again to Israel in the near future. I want to find more of what excites me to find my heritage, and pride in who I am. Maybe this time, I too will save a shekel!
john doe
06 November 2012 12:11 PM
thank you for the info bro
bonus points
08 May 2013 05:09 AM
Thanks again for the blog.Thanks Again. Want more.
31 May 2013 12:12 AM
This is one awesome blog article. Great.
12 August 2013 09:59 AM
This is a topic which is close to my heart... Many thanks!
Exactly where are your contact details though?
01 October 2013 12:03 PM
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