Saturday, July 1, 2023

The Hebrew noun כסף (kesef, pronounced KESS-eff) is the Biblical Hebrew word for both "silver" and "money." It is easy to understand the relationship between the two words, as one of the earliest forms of "money" was weighed bags of silver. For instance, Genesis 42:35 describes each of Joseph's brothers finding his "bag of money (כסף)". Over time, the individual pieces of silver were stamped or impressed with symbols verifying their weight and authenticity, and these became some of the earliest coins. And while ancient coins were made out of other metals like gold, bronze, and even lead, silver is the metal that leant its namesake to the concept of "money."

The word כסף (kesef) is often found in association with the Hebrew word שׁקל (sheqel, pronounced SHEK-el), which is actually a verb meaning "to weigh," but which also became a noun meaning a standard weight of something, often pieces of precious metals (money). Thus, Zechariah 11:12 reads, "So they weighed out as my wages thirty (pieces of) silver (וישׁקלו את-שׂכרי שׁלשׁים כסף)," while Exodus 21:32 says, "If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall pay to the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver (כסף שׁלשׁים שׁקלים)."

Today, the official currency in the state of Israel is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS).