A tiny biblical stone weight from the First Temple era, over 2500 years ago, has been unearthed in Jerusalem, near the Western Wall.
Artifacts from the First Temple period are extremely rare. Yet now archaeologists report finding an extremely rare, minuscule biblical stone weight inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the word ‘beka’ from that era, that may well have been used in Solomon’s Temple itself.
These stone weights called bekas were used on scales to ascertain the value of worshippers’ donations before ascending to the Temple Mount.
This beka was found while sifting archaeological soil taken from the foundations of Robinson’s Arch at the Western Wall. This is the last remnant of the wall that had surrounded the Second Temple courtyard.
“When the half-shekel tax was brought to the temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots,” explained archaeologist Eli Shukron, who conducted the excavations on behalf of the Antiquities Authority.
“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.”
The word “beka” appears twice in the Torah:
“This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary – the shekel is twenty gerahs – half a shekel for an offering to the Lord” (Exodus 30:13).
“A beka a head, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that passed over to them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men” (Exodus 38:26).
The biblical shekel weighed 11.33 grams. The half-shekel, and therefore this stone beka, weighed half of that, or just over 5.5 grams.