‘Beka’ weight

The ‘Beka’ weight is a type of ancient weight used in the Land of Israel during the Iron Age (the 12th century BCE-586 BCE). The ‘Beka’ weight did not have a single unified standard denomination, likely because it represented half of the weight of the ‘Shekel’ weight, and there were a few types of ‘Shekel’ weights. Usually, the ‘Beka’ weighed between 5.66 and 6.65 grams. Prior to the Persian period (539-332 BCE) coins were not used as a method of payment, and so weights were used to measure the amount of silver (and occasionally also gold) used for payment.

‘Beka’ weights were first discovered when the American archaeologist Charles Torrey bought such a weight from an antiquities merchant in Jerusalem. Later, more such weights were discovered in archaeological excavations around the Land of Israel. An examination of the different weights confirmed that words of the verse in Exodus 38:26 which presents the ‘Beka’ as the name of the half-shekel weight given as a donation to the Tabernacle. However, some researchers believe that the ‘Beka’ represented only the holy half-shekel and not half of other types of Shekels (the ‘LMLK’ Shekel and the regular Shekel). Variations in the sizes of different Beka weights may be understood as erosion of the weights or a reflection of a rise of descent in the value of the holy Shekel.


L. Di Signi, ‘Weights and Measurements in Antiquity and Their Modern Presentation’, Cathedra 112 (2004), pp. 137-150 [Hebrew]

R. Y. B. Scott, ‘Weights and Measures of the Bible’, The Biblical Archaeologist 22 (1959), pp. 21-40

E. Stern, ‘Measurements and Weights’, The Biblical Encyclopedia, IV, pp. 846-878 [Hebrew]

C. C. Torrey, ‘Semitic Epigraphical Notes’, JAOS 24 (1903), pp. 205-226