Exodus 30:13
This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
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(13) Half a shekel.—When shekels came to be coined, they were round pieces of silver, about the circumference of a shilling, but considerably thicker, and worth about 2s. 7 d. Of our money. Their average weight was about 220 grains troy. In Moses’s time coins were unknown, and a half-shekel was a small lump of silver, unstamped, weighing probably about 110 grains. The ransom of a soul was doubtless made thus light in order that the payment might not be felt practically as a burthen by any.

After the shekel of the sanctuary.—Without a standard laid up somewhere, weights and measures will always fluctuate largely. Even with a standard, they will practically vary considerably. The “shekel of the sanctuary” probably designates a standard weight kept carefully by the priests with the vessels of the sanctuary. All offerings were to be estimated by this shekel (Leviticus 27:25).

A shekel is twenty gerahs.—Rather, the shekel, i.e.; the shekel of the sanctuary is of this weight. A “gerah” was, literally, a bean, probably the bean of the carob or locust tree (Ceratonia siliqua), but became the name of a weight, just as our own “grain” did. It must have equalled about eleven grains troy.

30:11-16 The tribute was half a shekel, about fifteen pence of our money. The rich were not to give more, nor the poor less; the souls of the rich and poor are alike precious, and God is no respecter of persons, Ac 10:34; Job 34:19. In other offerings men were to give according to their wordly ability; but this, which was the ransom of the soul, must be alike for all. The souls of all are of equal value, equally in danger, and all equally need a ransom. The money raised was to be used in the service of the tabernacle. Those who have the benefit, must not grudge the necessary charges of God's public worship. Money cannot make atonement for the soul, but it may be used for the honour of Him who has made the atonement, and for the maintenance of the gospel by which the atonement is applied.Half a shekel - The probable weight of silver in the half-shekel would now be worth about 1 shilling, 3 1/2d. (Compare Genesis 23:16. See Exodus 38:24 note.) Gerah is, literally, a bean, probably the bean of the carob or locust-tree. It was used as the name of a small weight, as our word grain came into use from a grain of wheat.11-16. When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel, &c.—Moses did so twice, and doubtless observed the law here prescribed. The tax was not levied from women, minors, old men (Nu 1:42, 45), and the Levites (Nu 1:47), they being not numbered. Assuming the shekel of the sanctuary to be about half an ounce troy, though nothing certain is known about it, the sum payable by each individual was two and four pence. This was not a voluntary contribution, but a ransom for the soul or lives of the people. It was required from all classes alike, and a refusal to pay implied a wilful exclusion from the privileges of the sanctuary, as well as exposure to divine judgments. It was probably the same impost that was exacted from our Lord (Mt 17:24-27), and it was usually devoted to repairs and other purposes connected with the services of the sanctuary. The shekel of the sanctuary hath been commonly conceived to be double to the common shekel, yet divers late learned men seem more truly to judge that it was no more than the common shekel, consisting of half a crown of English money; which is called the shekel of the sanctuary, because the standard by which all shekels were to be examined was kept in the sanctuary, as afterwards the just weights and measures were kept in Christian temples, or other public places. See Leviticus 27:25 Numbers 3:47 Ezekiel 45:10-12. Add to this, that it was a part of the priest’s office to look to the weights and measures, as plainly appears from 1 Chronicles 23:29.

An half shekel shall be the offering; not less, lest it should be contemptible; nor more, lest it should be too burdensome for the poor.

This they shall give, everyone that passeth among them that are numbered,.... And their number, according to Jarchi, was known by what was paid; for he says the sum was taken not by heads, but everyone gave the half shekel, and by counting them the number was known, as follows:

half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary; that is, after the standard of a shekel kept in the sanctuary as a rule for all; and so Jarchi paraphrases it,"according to the weight of a shekel, which I have fixed for thee to weigh, the shekel of the sanctuary.''It was about fourteen pence: a shekel is twenty gerahs; a gerah being the twentieth part of a shekel, it was not quite three halfpence of our money:

an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord; which was to be offered to him for the ransom of souls, whose lives were forfeited by sin; and of the redemption of which this was an acknowledgment; and was typical of the ransom price of souls by Christ, which is not silver or gold, but his precious blood, his life, himself, which is given as an offering and sacrifice to God, in the room and stead of his people; and which is given to God, against whom sin is committed, the lawgiver, whose law is broken, the Judge, whose justice must be satisfied, and the creditor, to whom the price must be paid.

This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the {h} shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.

(h) This shekel was worth two common shekels: and the gerah about 12 pence at a rate of five shillings sterling to an ounce of silver.

13. passeth over, &c.] viz. before the officer who took the census, to those that are numbered, and who stand on the other side. Cf. to ‘pass over’ (of sheep being numbered) Leviticus 27:32, Jeremiah 33:13; and in 2 Samuel 2:15 Heb.

half] not the usual Heb. word for ‘half’; in the Hex, found only in P (11 times), and only 4 times elsewhere. So Exodus 30:15; Exodus 30:23, Exodus 38:26.

the shekel of the sanctuary] Exodus 38:24-26, Leviticus 5:15; Leviticus 27:3; Leviticus 27:25, Numbers 3:47; Numbers 3:50; Numbers 3:7 (14 times), Exodus 18:16† (all P). Some standard (silver) ‘shekel’ is plainly alluded to: it is not known certainly what. A standard (silver) shekel, of full weight (as opposed to worn shekels in common use), preserved in the sanctuary, has been thought of. Or, as the expression may be rendered with equal, not to say, greater propriety, the sacred shekel (LXX. σίκλος ὁ ἅγιος), and as moreover the Mishnah (Bekhôrôth viii. 7) expressly enjoins that ‘all payments according to the sacred shekel are to be made in Tyrian (i.e. Phoenician) money,’ in which the silver shekel weighed 224 grs., it may (Kennedy, DB. iv. 422; G. F. Hill, EB. Shekel, § 5) denote the ancient Hebrew silver shekel (which had the same weight as the Phoenician silver shekel), called ‘sacred’ because it was the traditional standard by which sacred dues were paid (see further ll.cc.). A silver shekel of 224 grains would weigh just 6 grains more than an English half-crown: at the present value of silver (2 Samuel 3 d. an oz.) it would be worth about 1 Samuel 1 d.

the shekel is twenty gerahs
] The same definition recurs Leviticus 27:25, Numbers 3:47; Numbers 18:16; and in Ezekiel 45:12 (of his shekel, though not called ‘sacred’). The gçrâh (only in these passages) is rendered ὀβολὸς by LXX., and by Onk. mâ‘âh, also = an obol, the weight of which in 4–3 cent. b.c. was c. 11.21 grs.: this would make the ‘sacred’ shekel (=20 gçrâhs) c. 224.2 grs.

The later institution of an annual Temple-tax of a half-shekel (Matthew 17:24 RV.: Gk. τὰ δίδραχμα, ‘the double drachm’) is based ultimately on this passage. The drachm was worth 6 obols: and the double drachm (= 12 obols) was taken as the equivalent of a half-shekel (= 10 obols): cf. DB. iii. 422b, 428b; EB. iv. 4446, 4786.

an offering] a contribution, Heb. terûmâh (see on Exodus 25:2); here of a contribution levied on,—or, to preserve the figure of the original, taken off,—the whole of a man’s property for sacred purposes. So vv. 14, 15.

Verse 13. - Half a shekel. The shekel of later times was a silver coin, about the size round of our shilling, but considerably thicker, and worth about one shilling and eightpence. But at the date of the exodus coins were unknown, and the "shekel" meant a certain weight. The burthen imposed by the tax was evidently a light one. The shekel of the sanctuary. A standard weight in the possession of the priests, equal probably to about 220 grains troy. Twenty gerahs. The word "gerah" means "a bean;" and the gerah must bare been a weight equal to about eleven grains troy, It remained in use to the time of the captivity (Ezekiel 45:12). Exodus 30:13"When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel according to them that are numbered, they shall give every one an expiation for his soul to the Lord at their numbering, that a plague may not strike them (happen to them) at their numbering." פּקד, lit., adspexit, then inspexit explorandi causa, hence to review, or number an army or a nation, for the purpose of enrolling for military service. לפקדיהם with reference to the numbered, qui in censum veniunt. כּפר (expiation, expiation-money, from כּפּר to expiate) is to be traced to the idea that the object for which expiation was made was thereby withdrawn from the view of the person to be won or reconciled. It is applied in two ways: (1) on the supposition that the face of the person to be won was covered by the gift (Genesis 32:21; 1 Samuel 12:3); and (2) on the supposition that the guilt itself was covered up (Psalm 32:1), or wiped away (Jeremiah 18:23), so far as the eye of God was concerned, as though it had no longer any existence, and that the sinful man was protected from the punishment of the judge in consequence of this covering. In this way כּפר has acquired the meaning λύτρον, a payment by which the guilty are redeemed (Exodus 21:30; Numbers 35:31); and this is the meaning which it has in the passage before us, where the soul is said to be protected by the copher, so as to be able to come without danger into the presence of the holy God (Numbers 8:19. See Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.). Such an approach to God took place at the numbering of the people for the purpose of enrolling them in the army of Jehovah (Numbers 1:3, cf. Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). Hence "every one who passed over to those that were numbered," who was enrolled among them, i.e., in the army of Jehovah, - that is to say, every male Israelite of 20 years old and upwards (Exodus 30:14), - was to pay half a shekel of the sanctuary as atonement-money; the rich no more, the poor no less (Exodus 30:15), because all were equal in the sight of Jehovah; and this payment was to be a "heave" (terumah, see Exodus 25:2) for Jehovah for the expiation of the souls. The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 gerahs, was no doubt the original shekel of full weight, as distinguished from the lighter shekel which was current in ordinary use. In Exodus 38:26 the half shekel is called בּקע, lit., the split, i.e., half, from בּקע to split; and we find it mentioned as early as the time of the patriarchs as a weight in common use for valuing gold (Genesis 24:22), so that, no doubt, even at that time there were distinct silver pieces of this weight, which were probably called shekels when employed for purposes of trade, since the word shekel itself does not denote any particular weight, as we may perceive at once form a comparison of 1 Kings 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 9:16, at least so far as later times are concerned. The sacred shekel, to judge from the weight of Maccabean shekels, which are in existence still, and vary from 256 to 272 Parisian grains, weighed 274 grains, and therefore, according to present valuation, would be worth 26 groschen (about 2 Samuel 7d.), so that the half-shekel of bekah would be 13 groschen (1 Samuel 3 1/2d.).
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