shekel

Also romanized as sheqel.

The shekel that modern readers are most familiar with is the shekel of the Old Testament, for example, 1 Samuel 17: 5, 7.

1

[Hebrew, שׁקכֿ] In the Kingdom of Judah, 8th – 7th centuries BCE, the main unit of mass, about 11.3 grams.

Many weights representing the shekel and multiples of it have survived. Almost all are of limestone and dome-shaped, and many are inscribed with their value. Weights representing more than 1 shekel tend to occur in multiples of 4, such as 4, 8, 12, 16, 24 and 40 shekels. The explanation (see Kletter1) appears to be that 4 shekels were very close in value to 5 Egyptian qdt, so a balance weight of, say, 12 shekels could be understood by an Egyptian trader as 15 qdt, and by a Judean as 12 shekels. In fact, the inscriptions on these Judean weights are in Hieratic, the cursive form of ancient Egyptian writing, and give the value in qdt, not shekels.

1. Raz Kletter.
Economic Keystones. The Weight System of the Kingdom of Judah.
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series No. 276.
Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

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