How much did a shekel weigh?


Hello sir,

I used your commentary on Genesis 24, A Wife for Isaac.  In the fifth paragraph you state that the nose ring that was given to Rebekah weighed 6 ounces and the two bracelets weighed 120 ounces.  Could you tell me where you received this information?  As I shared that information with my home group, it was brought to my attention that the weights in the footnotes were a lot smaller.  I told my group I would find out the correct weight measurements.


"So it was, when the camels had finished drinking, that the man took a golden nose ring weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels of gold" (Genesis 24:22).

A beka is a half of one shekel. It is a unit of weight. So how much is a shekel? "This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD" (Exodus 30:13; also Leviticus 27:25; Numbers 3:47; Ezekiel 45:12). "A gerah, according to Maimonides, weighed sixteen barleycorns" (Adam Clarke's Commentary). Nice, if we knew how much a typical barley kernel weighs.

The problem we have is that a shekel coin, which weighed one shekel, varied in weight depending on the country of origin. The Hebrew shekel appears to have been 160 grains in the Troy measurement system from the coins that have been found. The Babylonian appears to have been 320 grains and the Phonecian shekel was about 224 grains.

One conversion program puts a shekel at 0.4 U.S. or British ounce, or 0.3646 Troy ounce. The Troy system is the one most commonly used today for precious metals. It assumes that a shekel was 175 grains. There is another table that also uses the same 175 grains in a shekel conversion.

Based on this, it looks like I misread some table somewhere when I originally wrote the material. The nose ring would have been about 0.2 ounce and the bracelets about 36.5 ounces. I'll correct the on-line copy. Multiply this by the current cost of gold and you'll find that it was a very handsome gift.

Thank you for the clarification. Your commentary was very helpful.