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Ancient Money of the Bible
What Does the Bible Say About Money?
The Bible makes many references to money and many times the reference will include the name of the monetary unit.
Before you start this lesson, share with the class that in biblical times, money did not look like it looks today. In fact, the first coins appeared in about the 6th century B.C, and the first Hebrew coins came into existence around 138 B.C.
In the Old Testament days, money could be in the form of coins or other equivalent objects such as grain or oil. Money was measured by its weight, and when coins became the accepted form of currency, they often took the name of the equivalent weight. The shekel, for example, was first used as a weight of measure and the physical coin came much later.
Another important fact to stress to students is that the value of precious metals such as gold and silver is constantly fluctuating whether we are discussing Bible times or our current marketplace situation.
While we can make educated guesses about the approximate values of the ancient money in the Bible, which is mentioned by Jesus and the other biblical writers, we are only making guesses.
For the purposes of this article, I've relied on the research done by Tom Edwards in his "Biblical Weights Measure and Monetary Values." If you'd like to dig deeper into the subject of ancient money, his work is a fascinating read.
In this lesson, the students look up a scripture reference and identify the different types of money that are referred to. They fill in the information on their worksheets, and then use the conversion table to fill in the approximate current day values. They work the problems to get the present day equivalent for the monetary terms and then read the scripture again, but this time, they substitute the present day values for the biblical terminology.
This lesson serves two purposes. First, it helps students relate events in the Bible to their real world circumstances. Second, it is a fun, interactive way to get them to exercise their math skills. Let's get started!
Ancient Money Math Lesson Plans: Elementary Level Teaching Method
This lesson plan is designed for middle school and high school students. It can be used by Christian educators or parents to help bring the Bible to life for children.
Appreciating how much the ancient money used by familiar Bible characters would be worth today gives them a deeper understanding of the lifestyle and culture reflected in scripture.
After the classroom discussion about the history of ancient monies, have the students get their Bibles and find Matthew 25:15.
Ask for a volunteer to read it aloud, and then ask questions to help the students decode the scripture and find the necessary information to solve the problems on the worksheet. Copy the information from the conversion table onto a whiteboard or chalkboard for easy reference.
Matthew 25:15: "To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey."
- How many talents did the first person receive?
- Were these gold or silver talents?
- Why does it matter what type of talents these individuals received?
- How many talents did the second person receive? How about the last person?
As the students provide their answers, write the responses on the classroom chalkboard or whiteboard. Next, say something like this:
"Since we aren't sure if these were gold or silver talents, we will work it out both ways. To get the information for our first equation, we need to know what type of talent it was, how many talents there were, and the appropriate present day value of that type of talent."
Writing and Solving Equations for the Ancient Money Lesson
Write the first equation on the board as an example:
- 5 (gold) talents X $28,880 (approximate present day value) = $144,000.00
Instruct the class to copy the equation on their paper and then work it out. Ask for a volunteer to come to the board and show their work to the rest of the class.
Work through the rest of the equations in a similar manner:
- 2 gold talents X $28,800.00 = $57,600.00
- 1 gold talent X $28,800.00 = $28,800.00
- 5 silver talents X $1,920.00 = $9,600.00
- 2 silver talents X $1,920 = $3,840.00
- 1 silver talent X $1,920 = $1,920.00
After all the equations are solved, ask for a volunteer to read the scripture again and to insert the present day values for the gold talents. Do the same thing and insert the values for the silver talents.
- Here's an example: To one he gave $144,000.00, to another $57,600.00, and to another $28,800, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
Encourage class discussion about the prices and how this information changes their perception of the story and its meaning. Do the same thing using the present day values for the silver talents.
When you feel comfortable your students understand how to work with the scriptures and the conversion chart to find the information they need, hand out the worksheets. Let the students complete them in class and self-check their work or exchange their papers with a classmate.
Money of the Bible Worksheet Instructions
Copy and paste the text below into any word processing program to create a printable worksheet for your students.
Permission is granted to copy this information for classroom or personal use only; all other rights are reserved by the author.
Read each scripture below and identify the unit (or units) of measure that are described. Write down all the units of measure you find in the scripture.
Use the information from the table of approximate present day values to find your multiplier. Work the equation (show your work). The first problem is done for you as an example.
1. Genesis 23:16: "And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant."
400 silver shekels X $0.64 = $256.00
2. 2 Kings 18:14
3. 2 Chronicles 9:15
4. 2 Chronicles 9:9
5. Nehemiah 5:15
6. Exodus 37:24
7. Mark 12: 42
8. Matthew 26: 15
Ancient Money Math Lesson: Currency Conversion Chart
|Money of the Bible: Name||Approximate Present Day Value|
Gold Talent (heavy)
Silver Talent (heavy)
Gold Shekel (heavy)
Silver Shekel (heavy)
Didrachma (piece of silver)
Use the table above to determine the current value of each monetary unit that is mentioned in the scripture and fill in the blanks on the worksheet. Work the equation and show your work.
Ancient Money Math Lesson Plans: Teacher Key
1. 400 x $0.64 = $256.00
2. 300 silver talents, 30 gold talents:
- 300 X $1,920.00 = $576,000.00
- 30 X $28,800.00 = $864,000.00
- Total: $1,440,000.00
3. 200 gold talents, 600 gold shekels
- 200 X $28,800.00 = $5,760,000.00
- 600 X $9.60 = $5,760.00
- Total: $5,765,760.00
4. 120 gold talents
- 120 X $28,800.00 = $3,456,000.00
5. 40 silver shekels
- 40 X $0.64 = $25.60
6. One gold talent
- One gold talent = $28,800.00
7. Two mites
- 2 X $0.0012 = $0.0024
8. 30 didrachma (or pieces of silver)
- 30 X $0.32 = $9.60
Extension Resources for the Ancient Money Math Lesson Plan
- Free Elementary Sunday School Lesson for Daniel 5 the Handwriting on the Wall
Are you teaching children’s church or homeschool? Try this fun lesson from Daniel about the handwriting on the wall.
- Moses and the Burning Bush Worksheets: Free Elementary Activities for Sunday School or Homeschool
Are you looking for free Sunday school or homeschool worksheets? Try these activities for the story of Moses and the burning bush with your elementary aged kids, and see how much fun they have while they learn.
Money of the Bible Resources and References
Edwards, Tom, "Bible Weights, Measures, and Monetary Values," http://www.spiritrestoration.org/Church/Research%20History%20and%20Great%20Links/Biblical%20Weights%20Measure%20and%20Monetary%20System.htm
All scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, KING JAMES VERSION ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission Zondervan. All rights reserved.
© 2011 Donna Cosmato
How Did Your Students Like This Ancient Money Math Lesson Plan?
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on November 01, 2011:
Aww...thanks, Jackie!I really appreciate your kind words and encouragment:)
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 01, 2011:
It use to upset me some if not many visited a hub I thought many should but now I just do them for my enjoyment and don't worry about it and many do read or benefit even if they don't comment as you can see from the stats. Hubs like this though I feel will have you at the top in no time. It's a winner.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on November 01, 2011:
Thank you for taking time to read and to comment on this hub, Jackie! My curiosity was piqued one day by a scripture that made me wonder what the monetary value would be in our currency. I hope students enjoy it as much as I did when I was creating it :)
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on October 31, 2011:
This is really unique, I don't think I have ever seen anything like it. Great fun and educational hub.
Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on October 31, 2011:
Oh thanks, Donna! I really learned a lot while I was compiling the information for this, lol!
Donna Sundblad from Georgia on October 31, 2011:
Excellent hub. I voted it up and will share on facebook. Very useful.