Approximately the size of a quarter. Each purchase includes ONE coin.
There are four Bible stories that involve this coin:
- Jesus cleansing the Temple (early in His ministry), turning over the moneychanging tables and running out the merchants and animals with a whip (John 2:13-22).
- Jesus sending Peter to get a coin from the fish’s mouth to pay the Temple tax (Matthew 17:24–27).
- Jesus cleansing the Temple (later in His ministry), again turning over the moneychanging tables (Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, and Luke 19:45–48)
- Judas being paid with 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16)
However, the talmud, which contains Jewish rabbinical teachings, instructed that the Temple tax had to be paid with a coin of the highest silver purity. This was a man-made stipulation and not one given in Scripture. Nevertheless, the primary coin in Jesus’ day that qualified for the silver content was the “shekel of Tyre.” Romans coins were only about 80% silver but the Tyrian coins were composed of 94% or more in its silver content.
The Tyrian shekel was a silver coin that was minted by the Phonecian city of Tyre and was produced from 126 B.C. to 57 A.D. On one side the shekel had the head of Melqart, the god of Tyre, also known as “Baal” or “Heracles.” The reverse side shows an eagle and is inscribed with the statement “Tyre, the Holy and Inviolable,” essentially meaning the “holy city that is never to be broken or dishonored” or the “holy city of refuge.”
This coin created an issue with religious Jews of Jesus’ day. The inscriptions were contrary to the second commandment for not making graven images. Exodus 20:4 says, “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…” The shekel of Tyre was engraved with a depiction of a “foreign” god as well as an eagle. It was further offensive because it called Tyre the “holy city.”
Because of this, many Jews would not carry the Tyrian shekel but since it was the only coin accepted for the Temple tax, money-changers were set up in the Temple courtyards. A devout Jew would bring his Jewish money to the Temple and exchange it for a Tyrian shekel with which he would pay the Temple tax. But the money-changers charged outrageous rates for this service, which was part of what made Jesus indignant and the reason He turned over their tables and rebuked them for making the temple a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).
Learn more about Jesus Cleansing the Temple HERE.