Exodus 30:13-16 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord. 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. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
November 2018: An ancient weight from the first Temple era has been discovered in Jerusalem. The “beka” has been found in an archeological dig. A “beka” was used by Jews to pay the half-shekel Temple tax as mandated by the Law in Exodus 30 as noted in the verses above.
The term “beka” is noted two places in the Bible. The first notation is with Rebekah and Abraham’s servant Eliezer.
Genesis 24:22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a beka and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold…
The second and last mention is in regards to the individual payment of the Temple tax.
Exodus 38:26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for each one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men.
A Biblical shekel weighs 11.33 grams. Two beka equal one shekel. One beka equals 5.67 grams. Ten gerah equal a beka.
The “beka” was located in Jerusalem’s Emek Tzurim National Park. Specifically, it was found at the foundation of the Western Wall. The pebble was found during 2013 excavations under Robinson’s Arch. The dirt came from a drainage canal under the foundation of the Western Wall. This location would be next to Solomon’s Temple.
Eli Shukron was in charge of the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Shukron made the following statement.
“When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the beka weight. The beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was required to bring to the Temple.”
“This three thousand-year-old beka weight, inscribed with ancient Hebrew was likely used in the First Temple, anchoring once again, the deep historical connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem,” said Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation which funded the excavation.
In the 21st century, the modern-day Sanhedrin has revived the law or mitzvah for the half-shekel levy (roughly $4 in today’s economy). The cause is to rebuild the third Temple.
Here is today’s version of the half-shekel Temple tax…
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