‘Netzef’ weight

The ‘Netzef’ weight is a a type of ancient weight used in the Land of Israel during the Iron Age (the 12th century BCE-586 BCE). The ‘Netzef’ weight did not have a single unified standard denomination, likely because it represented 5/6 of the weight of the ‘Shekel’ weight, and there were a few types of ‘Shekel’ weights. Usually, the ‘Netzef’ weighed between 9.28 and 10.51 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.

The ’Netzef’ weight was first discovered by the American archaeologist Frederick Jones Bliss during his excavations at Azekah (Tel Zakariya) in 1898. He had difficulty reading the letters upon the weights and suggested reading ‘NZP’. Other researchers suggested ‘NTzG’, ‘KSP’ and ‘NTzP’. A few months later two other such weights were found, and this time Bliss managed to read ‘NTzP’ (Netzef).

The word ‘Netzef’ doesn’t appear in the Bible. Some researchers have suggested interpreting the word in light of the Arabic word ‘Nitzaf’, which means ‘half’. Since the word is missing from the Bible, some have suggested that this weight was originally a foreign one which later found its way into the Israelite/Judahite weight system.


G. A. Barton, ‘Two New Hebrew Weights’, JAOS 24 (1903), pp. 384-387

F. J. Bliss, ‘Second Report on the Excavations at Tell Zakariya’, PEFQS 31 (1899), pp. 89-111

D. Diringer, ‘The Early Hebrew Weights Found at Lachish’, PEQ 74, pp. 82-103

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