Opposition & Banking and Money in the Ancient World

It’s hard to do, try, and accomplish something while you also have to keep your eye out for a problem to occur, but I guess if we leave the problem solving up to You then we have nothing to worry about. 

But did they do that?  Did they finish the wall?

“And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.

For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.

Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.

There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.

Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.

Nehemiah was a high official in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes I at the captial city of Susa, which lay 150 miles east of the Tigris River in what is now modern Iran.

Nehemiah served as the king’s cupbearter (Neh 1:11), which evidently put him in a position to speak to the king and request favors from him.

After hearing about the sad state of affairs in Judah, Nehemiah acquired the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and its fortifications.

He is even given letters from the king to ensure safe passage and to obtain timber from the king’s forest for the gates and walls of Jerusalem.

Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.

And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.

Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.

Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.

Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise.

Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.

But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.

It has been reported that a discovery of a wall dating back to Nehemiah’s time has been found.

Nehemiah was a man commissioned by God, and encouraged by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and it’s protective wall that surrounded that city.

Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.

Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us.

Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.

Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people” (Neh 5:1-19).

“Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)

That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Jerusalem, a city of three faiths, has over the centuries been destroyed and rebuilt many times.

The work of a leading, yet for some controversial, Israeli archaeologist has rekindled interest in one particular Biblical builder.

On November 9, 2007 at Bar IIan University near Tel Aviv Dr. Eliat Mazar told conference delegates that she had discovered parts of Nehemiah’s wall close to Jerusalem’s Dung Gate.

She confidently dated the wall after finding pottery shards and arrowheads at the scene, said to be from the 5th century B.C.

Her discovery has been the catalyst for considerable academic debate.

Ephraim Stern, Professor of Archaeology at Hebrew University at the time agreed with Mazar’s dating of the wall.

The story of Nehemiah rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem offers a wealth of insight into calling, leadership and management.

In fact, there are whole books devoted to studying Nehemiah’s leadership style such as “Rebuilding the Walls: A Challenge to the Church from Ezra and Nehemiah” by Stuart Bell.

It may look like Nehemiah’s calling was just about rebuilding a city wall but it was really about rebuilding broken, poor, fearful people by giving them physical security and renewed hope.

Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand;

Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.

And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.

Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.

For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.

And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.

And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

 

Gold coin produced by the Roman Imperial Mint.
The Roman Empire inherited the spirit of capitalism from Greece (Parker).

During the time of the Empire, public deposits gradually ceased to be held in temples, and instead were held in private depositories.

The earliest recorded evidence showing banking practices is given by one source as during 325 B.C.

On account of being in debt, the Plebeians were required to borrow money.

At that time newly appointed quinqueviri mensarii were commissioned to provide services to those that had security to provide in exchange for money from the public treasury.

Another source has the shops of banking of Ancient Rome firstly opening in the public forums during the period 318 to 310 B.C.

In early Ancient Rome deposit bankers were known as argentarius and at a later time (from the 2nd century anno domini onward) as nummularius (Andreau 1999 p. 2) or mensarii.

The banking-houses were known as Taberae Argentarioe and Mensoe Numularioe.

Bankers operated from either appointment by the government therefore tasked with collecting taxes, or were instead independent and practicing banking for individual ends.

Statutes (125/126 A.D.) of the Empire described “letter from Caesar to Quietus” show rental monies to be collected from persons using land belonging to a temple and given to the temple treasurer, as decreed by Mettius Modestus governor of Lycia and Pamphylia.

Money-lenders would set up their stalls in the middle of enclosed courtyards called macella on a long bench called a bancu, from which the words banco and bank are derived.

As a moneychanger, the merchant at the bancu did not so much invest money as merely convert the foreign currency into the only legal tender in Rome – that of the Imperial Mint.

The Roman empire at some time formalized the administrative aspect of banking and instituted greater regulation of financial institutions and financial practices.

Charging interest on loans and paying interest on deposits became more highly developed and competitive.

The development of Roman banks was limited, however, by the Roman preference for cash transactions.

During the reign of the Roman emperor Gallienus (260–268 A.D.), there was a temporary breakdown of the Roman banking system after the banks rejected the flakes of copper produced by his mints.

With the ascent of Christianity, banking became subject to additional restrictions, as the charging of interest was seen as immoral.

After the fall of Rome, banking temporarily ended in Europe and was not revived until the time of the crusades.

In the 4th century monopolies existed in Byzantium and in the city of Olbia in Sardinia.

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.

For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.

Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear” (Neh 6:1-19).

Now that the wall was finished Nehemiah appointed Hanani and Hananiah charge of Jerusalem because he was faithful and feared God. 

They didn’t open the gates of the city until the sun was high, and he set watchers upon the wall.  The city was big, but there weren’t that many people and their houses hadn’t been built yet. 

God then brought to his mind to obtain the genealogy records of the people (Neh 7:6-73).

Banking and Money
in the Ancient World

Detailed account of raw materials and workdays for a basketry workshop. Clay, ca. 2040 B.C.
Archaeological evidence
Objects called tokens made of clay have been recovered from within Near East excavations dated to a period beginning 8000 B.C. and ending 1500 B.C.., presumed to have been made as records of the counting of agricultural produce.

Commencing the late fourth millennia mnemonic symbols were in use by members of temples and palaces to serve to record stocks of produce.

Types of records accounting for trade exchanges of payments were being made firstly about 3200.

A very early writing on clay tablet called the Code of Hammurabi, refers to the regulation of a banking activity of sorts within the civilization (Armstrong), during the era, dating to ca. 1700 B.C., banking was well enough developed to justify laws governing banking operations.

Later during the Achaemenid Empire (after 646 B.C., further evidence is found of banking practices in the Mesopotamia region.

The earliest monetary ex­changes were made on the basis of a barter system.

In Mesopotamia barley and dates were often standards of trade, since they could be stored for a relatively long period of time without loss. Tithes, taxes and tribute could be paid in agricultural produce.

Coins were introduced in Lydia during the seventh century b.c. but were not common until the time of Alexander the Great (c. 330 B.C.).

Barter was used even in Roman times. Pre­cious metals (e.g., silver, gold and electrum) formed into vessels (cups, bowls, dishes) or jewelry (rings, earrings, bracelets) of

ten were used as items of exchange.

An item’s weight (e.g., a silver plate of 130 shekels; Num 7:13) was the primary indi­cation of its monetary value, although other factors, such as the quality of the craftsman­ship, were important as well.

Common units of weight were the gerah (.02 ou or .6 g), the shekel (.4 ou or 11.5 g),the mina (1.5 lbs or .6 kg) and the talent (74 lbs or 34 kg).

All of these weight equivalents are approximate and to a degree conjectural, however, and weights were not fixed for all places through­out the entire Biblical period.

This does not mean that ancient people were casual about weights and exchanges; the condemnation of fraudulent weights and scales, in fact, shows how seriously they treated precision in such matters (cf. Lev 19:36;  Prov 16:11).

Prices naturally fluctuated through the centuries, and it is difficult to ascertain how much a particular commodity may have cost at a given time and place—and equally dif­ficult to communicate prices in a manner meaningful to a modern reader.

The laws of supply and demand operated then as now. 2 Kgs 7:1 indicates that in the 9th century b.c. the price of one silver shekel for two seahs (about 24 qts or 14.61) of barley was regarded as so inexpensive that it would only occur when grain was overly abundant.

The prophet Hosea, in ap­proximately 740 B.C., seems to have re­deemed his wife, Gomer, from slavery for a price of 15 shekels of silver and “about a homer and a lethek of barley” (Hos 3:2).

A homer seems to have been approximately 6 bushels or 220 liters and a lethek half that, indicating a total price of about 4.46 ounces (127.5 g) of silver and 8.53 bushels (3301) of barley for redemp­tion of a slave woman in 8th century Israel.

Hosea’s contemporaries would have been able to determine whether this represented a typical or an exorbitant price. With regard to the Israelites/Jews, mon­ey was safeguarded in temples and palaces or buried in underground hoards.

Loans were documented and witnessed. Six-month agricultural loans were common, as were prom­issory notes and letters of credit.

Laws regu­lated abuse of collateral: Outer garments had to be returned that night (Ex 22:26-27), the taking of millstones was prohibited (Deut 24:6) and creditors could not enter debtors’ homes to collect collateral (Deut 24:10).

Interest-carrying loans to fellow Israelites were pro­hibited (Ex 22:25) and real es­tate transactions highly re­stricted.

As in modern business ventures, risk and profit were of­ten directly proportional. Interna­tional trade was highly risky but could also be quite profitable; local trading offered lower risks but also smaller re­turns on invest­ment.