Commerce a word that does not occur in the Auth. Vers., which uses the term "trade" or "traffic;" but the idea is designated by two Heb. words:
1. רכֻלָּה, rekullah' (Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1289); Sept. in Eze 26:12, τὰ ὑπάρχοντα, Vulg. negotiationes; in 27:5, 16, 18, ἐμπορία, negotiatio; from רָכִל, rakal', to travel (on foot);
2. סחֹרָה, sechorah' (Gesen. ib. p. 946), Sept. ἐμπορία, Vulg. negotiatio, Eze 27:15; from סָחִר, sachar', to travel (migrate). SEE TRADE.
1. Commerce, in its usual acceptation, means the exchange of one thing for another — the exchange of what we have to spare for what we want, in whatever country it is produced. The origin of commerce must have been nearly coeval with the world. As pasturage and agriculture were the only employments of the first inhabitants, so cattle, flocks, and the fruits of the earth were the only objects of the first commerce, or that species of it called barter. It would appear that some progress had been made in manufactures in the ages before the flood. The building of a city or village by Cain, however insignificant the houses may have been, supposes the existence of some mechanical knowledge. The musical instruments, such as harps and organs, the works in brass and in iron exhibited by the succeeding generations, confirm the belief that the arts were considerably advanced. The construction of Noah's ark, a ship of three decks, covered over with pitch, and much larger than any modern effort of architecture, proves that many separate trades were at that period carried on. There must have been parties who supplied Noah and his three sons with the great quantity and variety of materials which they required, and this they would do in exchange for other commodities, and perhaps money. That enormous pile of building, the tower of Babel, was constructed of bricks, the process of making which appears to have been well understood. Some learned astronomers are of opinion that the celestial observations of the Chinese reach back to 2249 years before the Christian era; and the celestial observations made at Babylon, contained in a calendar of above nineteen centuries, transmitted to Greece by Alexander, reach back to within fifteen years of those ascribed to the Chinese. The Indians appear to have had observations quite as early as the Babylonians. SEE ANTEDILUVIANS.
Such of the descendants of Noah as lived near the water may be presumed to have made use of vessels built in imitation of the ark — if, as some think, that was the first floating vessel ever seen in the world — but on a smaller scale, for the purpose of crossing rivers. In the course of time the descendants of his son Japheth settled in "the isles of the Gentiles," by which are understood the islands at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea, and those between Asia Minor and Greece, whence their colonies spread into Greece, Italy, and other Western lands. SEE ETHNOLOGY.
In short, from the time that men began to live in cities, trade, in some shape, must have been carried on to supply the town-dwellers with necessaries (see Heeren, Afr. Nat. 1:469); but it is also clear that international trade must have existed and affected to some extent even the pastoral nomade races, for we find that Abraham was rich, not only in cattle, but in silver, gold, and gold and silver plate and ornaments (Ge 13:2; Ge 24:22,53); and further, that gold and silver in a manufactured state, and silver, not improbably in coin, were in use both among the settled inhabitants of Palestine, and the pastoral tribes of Syria at that date (Ge 20:16; Ge 23:16; Ge 38:18; Job 42:11), to whom those metals must in all probability have been imported from other countries (Hussey, Anc. Weights, c. 12:3, p. 193; Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Pal. p. 109, 110; see Herod. 1:215). SEE CITY.
2. Among trading nations mentioned in Scripture, Egypt holds in very early times a prominent position (see Hubbard, Commerce of Ancient Egypt, in the Biblical Repository, April, 1836), though her external trade was carried on, not by her own citizens, but by foreigners, chiefly of the nomade races (Heeren, Afr. Nat. 1:468; 2:371, 372). It was an Ishmaelite caravan, laden with spices, which carried Joseph into Egypt, and the account shows that slaves formed sometimes a part of the merchandise imported (Ge 37:25; Ge 39:1; Job 6:19). From Egypt it is likely that at all times, but especially in times of general scarcity, corn would be exported, which was paid for by the non-exporting nations in silver, which was always weighed (Ge 41:57; Ge 42:3,25,35; Ge 43:11-12,21). These caravans also brought the precious stones as well as the spices of India into Egypt (Ex 25:3,7; Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 2:235, 237). Intercourse with Tyre does not appear to have taken place till a later period, and thus, though it cannot be determined whether the purple in which the Egyptian woolen and linen cloths were dyed was brought by land from Phoenicia, it is evident that colored cloths had long been made and dyed in Egypt, and the use, at least, of them adopted by the Hebrews for the tabernacle as early as the time of Moses (Ex 25:4-5; comp. Heeren, Asiat. Nat. 1:352; see Herod. 1:1). The pasture-ground of Shechem appears from the story of Joseph to have lain in the way of these caravan journeys (Ge 37:14,25), probably a thoroughfare from Damascus. SEE CARAVAN.
At the same period it is clear that trade was carried on between Babylon and the Syrian cities (see Hubbard, Commerce of Anc. Bab. in the Biblical Repos. July, 1837), and also that gold and silver ornaments were common among the Syrian and Arabian races; a trade which was obviously carried on by land-carriage (Nu 31:50; Jos 7:21; Jg 5:30; Jg 8:24; Job 6:19). SEE BABYLON.
Sidon, which afterwards became so celebrated for the wonderful mercantile exertions of its inhabitants, was founded about 2200 years before the Christian aera. The neighboring mountains, being covered with excellent cedar-trees, furnished the best and most durable timber for ship-building. The inhabitants of Sidon accordingly built numerous ships, and exported the produce of the adjoining country, and the various articles of their own manufacture, such as fine linen, embroidery, tapestry, metals, glass, both colored and figured, cut, or carved, and even mirrors. They were unrivaled by the inhabitants of the Mediterranean coasts in works of taste, elegance, and luxury. Their great and universally acknowledged pre-eminence in the arts procured for the Phoenicians, whose principal seaport was Sidon, the honor of being esteemed, among the Greeks and other nations, as the inventors of commerce, ship-building, navigation, the application of astronomy to nautical purposes, and particularly as the discoverers of several stars nearer to the north pole than any that were known to other nations; of naval war, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, measures and weights-to which, it is probable, they might have added money. SEE SIDON.
The earliest accounts of bargain and sale reach no higher than the time of Abraham, and his transaction with Ephron. He is said to have weighed unto him "400 shekels of silver, current money with the merchant" (Ge 23:16). The word merchant implies that the standard of money was fixed by usage among merchants, who comprised a numerous and respectable class of the community. Manufactures were by this time so far advanced that not only those more immediately connected with agriculture, such as flour ground from corn, wine, oil, butter, and also the most necessary articles of clothing and furniture, but even those of luxury and magnificence, were much in use, as appears by the ear-rings, bracelets of gold and of silver, and other precious things presented by Abraham's steward to Rebecca (Ge 24:22,53.) SEE BARGAIN.
In the book of Job, whose author, in the opinion of the most learned commentators, resided in Arabia, and was nearly contemporary with Abraham, much light is thrown upon the commerce, manufactures, and science of the age and country in which he lived. There is mention of gold, iron, brass, lead, crystal, jewels, the art of weaving, merchants, gold brought from Ophir, which implies commerce with a remote country, and topazes from Ethiopia; ship-building, so far improved that some ships were distinguished for the velocity of their motion; writing in a book, and engraving letters or writing on plates of lead and on stone with iron pens, and also seal-engraving; fishing with hooks, and nets, and spears; musical instruments, the harp and organ; astronomy, and names given to particular stars. These notices tend to prove that, although the patriarchal system of making pasturage the chief object of attention was still maintained by many of the greatest inhabitants where the author of the book of Job resided, the sciences were actively cultivated, the useful and ornamental arts in an advanced state, and commerce prosecuted with diligence and success; and this at a period when, if the chronology of Job is correctly settled, the arts and sciences were scarcely so far advanced in Egypt, from whence, and from the other countries bordering upon the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, they afterwards gradually found their way into Greece. SEE JOB.
The inhabitants of Arabia appear to have availed themselves at a very early period of their advantageous situation between the two fertile and opulent countries of India and Egypt, and to have obtained the exclusive monopoly of a very profitable carrying trade between those countries. They were a class of people who gave their whole attention to merchandise as a regular and established profession, and traveled with caravans between Arabia and Egypt, carrying upon the backs of camels the spiceries of India, the balm of Canaan, and the myrrh produced in their own country, or of a superior quality from the opposite coast of Abyssinia-all of which were in great demand among the Egyptians for embalming the dead, in their religious ceremonies, and for ministering to the pleasures of that superstitious and luxurious people. The merchants of one of these caravans bought Joseph from his brothers for twenty pieces of silver, and carried him into Egypt. The southern Arabs were eminent traders, and enjoyed a large proportion, and in general the entire monopoly, of the trade between India and the western world from the earliest ages, until the system of that important commerce was totally overturned when the inhabitants of Europe discovered a direct route to India by the Cape of Good Hope. SEE ARABIA.
At the period when Joseph's brethren visited Egypt, inns were established for the accommodation of travelers in that country and in the northern parts of Arabia. The more civilized southern parts of the peninsula would no doubt be furnished with caravanserais still more commodious. SEE CARAVANSERAI.
During the residence of the Israelites in Egypt manufactures of almost every description were carried to great perfection. Flax, fine linen, garments of cotton, rings and jewels of gold and silver, works in all kinds of materials, chariots for pleasure, and chariots for war, are all mentioned by Moses. They had extensive manufactories of brick. Literature was in a flourishing state; and, in order to give an enlarged idea of the accomplishments of Moses, it is said he was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians" (Ac 12:22). SEE EGYPT.
The expulsion of the Canaanites from a great part of their territories by the Israelites under Joshua led to the gradual establishment of colonies in Cyprus, Rhodes, and several islands in the AEgean Sea; they penetrated into the Euxine or Black Sea, and, spreading along the shores of Sicily, Sardinia, Gaul, Spain, and Africa, established numerous trading places, which gradually rose into more or less importance. At this period mention is first made of Tyre as a strong or fortified city, whilst Sidon is dignified with the title of Great. SEE CANAANITE.
The rising prosperity of Tyre soon eclipsed the ancient and long-flourishing commercial city of Sidon. About 600 years before Christ her commercial splendor appears to have been at its height, and is graphically described by Ezekiel (). The imports into Tyre were fine linen from Egypt; blue and purple from the isles of Elishah; silver, iron, tin, and lead from Tarshish-the south part of Spain; slaves and brazen vessels from Javan or Greece, Tubal, and Meshech; horses, slaves bred to horsemanship, and mules from Togarmah; emeralds, purple, embroidery, fine linen, corals, and agates from Syria; corn, balm, honey, oil, and gum from the Israelites; wine and wool from Damascus; polished ironware, precious oils, and cinnamon from Dan, Javan, and Uzal; magnificent carpets from Dedan; sheep and goats from the pastoral tribes of Arabia; costly spices, some the produce of India, precious stones, and gold from the' merchants of Sheba or Sabaea, and Ramah or Regma, countries in the south part of Arabia; blue cloths, embroidered works, rich apparel in corded cedar-chests, supposed to be original India packages, and other goods from Sheba, Ashur, and Chilmad, and from Haran, Canneh, and Eden, trading ports on the south coast of Arabia. The vast wealth that thus flowed into Tyre from all quarters brought with it its too general concomitants-extravagance, dissipation, and relaxation of morals. SEE TYRE.
The subjection of Tyre, "the renowned city which was strong in the sea, whose merchants were princes, whose traffickers were the honorable of the earth," by Cyrus, and its subsequent overthrow by Alexander, after a determined and most formidable resistance, terminated alike the grandeur of that city and the history of ancient commerce, as far as they are alluded to in Scripture. (See Anderson's History of Commerce, Lond. 1764, and latest 1801; Vincent's Commerce and Navigation of the Indian Ocean, Lond. 1807; Heeren's Researches; Barnes on the Ancient Commerce of Western Asia, in the Biblical Repository, Oct. 1840, Jan. 1841; Gilbert, Lects. on Anc. Commerce, Lond. 1847.) SEE ALEXANDER.
3. Until the time of Solomon the Hebrew nation may be said to have had no foreign trade (see Tychsen, De Comm. et Nav. Hebreorum, in the Con. Soc. Gott. 1808, p. 150-79). Foreign trade was indeed contemplated by the Law, and strict rules for morality in commercial dealings were laid down by it (De 28:12; De 25:13-16; Le 19:35-36), and the tribes near the sea and the Phoenician territory appear to have engaged to some extent in maritime affairs (Ge 49:13; De 33:18; Jg 5:17); but the spirit of the Law was more in favor of agriculture and against foreign trade (De 17:16-17; Le 25; see Josephus, Apion, 1:12). SEE ALLIANCE.
During the reign of David, king of Israel, that powerful monarch disposed of a part of the wealth obtained by his conquests in purchasing cedar- timber from Hiram, king of Tyre, with whom he kept up a friendly correspondence while he lived. He also hired Tyrian masons and carpenters for carrying on his works. SEE DAVID. Solomon, however, organized an extensive trade with foreign countries, but chiefly, at least so far as the more distant nations were concerned, of an import character. He imported linen yarn, horses, and chariots from Egypt. Of the horses, some appear to have been resold to Syrian and Canaanitish princes. For all these he paid gold, which was imported by sea from India and Arabia by his fleets in conjunction with the Phoenicians (1Ki 10:22-29; see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 1202; comp. Heeren, As. Nat. 1:334). It was by Phoenicians also that the cedar and other timber for his great architectural works was brought by sea to Joppa, whilst Solomon found the provisions necessary for the workmen in Mount Lebanon (1Ki 5:6,9; 2Ch 2:16). The united fleets used to sail into the Indian Ocean every three years from Elath and Eziongebler, ports on the AElanitic gulf of the Red Sea, which David had probably gained from Edom; and they brought back gold, silver, ivory, sandal-wood, ebony, precious stones, apes, and peacocks. Some of these may have come from India and Ceylon, and some from the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the east coast of Africa (2Sa 8:14;
1Ki 9:26; 1Ki 10:11,22; 2Ch 8:17; see Herod. 3:114; comp. Livingstone, Travels, p. 637, 662). SEE OPHIR.
But the trade which Solomon took so much pains to encourage was not a maritime trade only. He built; or more probably fortified, Baalbek and Palmyra; the latter at least expressly as a caravan station for the land- commerce with eastern and south-eastern Asia (1Ki 9:18). SEE SOLOMON.
After his death the maritime trade declined, and an attempt made by Jehoshaphat to revive it proved unsuccessful (1Ki 22:48-49). SEE TARSHISH. We know, however, that Phoenicia was supplied from Judaea with wheat, honey, oil, and balm (1Ki 5:11; Eze 27:17; Ac 12:20; see Josephus, War, 2:21, 2; Life, 13), whilst Tyrian dealers brought fish and other merchandise to Jerusalem at the time of the return from captivity (Ne 13:16), as well as timber for the rebuilding of the Temple, which then, as in Solomon's time, was brought by sea to Joppa (Ezr 3:7). Oil was exported to Egypt (Ho 12:1), and fine linen and ornamental girdles of domestic manufacture were sold to the merchants (Pr 31:24). The successive invasions to which Palestine was subjected, involving both large abstraction of treasure by invaders, — and heavy imposts on the inhabitants to purchase immunity or to satisfy demands for tribute must have impoverished the country from time to time (under Rehoboam, 1Ki 14:26; Asa 15; 18; Joash, 2 Kings, 12:18; Amaziah, 14:13; Ahaz, 16:8; Hezekiah, 18:15-16; Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim, 23:33, 35: Jehoiachin, 24:13); but it is also clear, as the denunciations of the prophets bear witness, that much wealth must somewhere have existed in the country, and much foreign merchandise have been imported; so much so that, in the language of Ezekiel, Jerusalem appears as the rival of Tyre, and through its port, Joppa, to have carried on trade with foreign countries (Isa 2:6,16; Isa 3:11,23; Ho 12:7; Eze 26:2; Jonah, 1:3; comp. Heeren, As. Nat. i, p. 328). SEE PHOENICIA.
Under the Maccabees Joppa was fortified (1 Maccabees 14:34), and later still Caesarea was built and made a port by Herod (Joseph. Ant. 15:9, 6; Ac 27:2). Joppa became afterwards a haunt for pirates, and was taken by Cestius; afterwards by Vespasian, and destroyed by him (Strab. 16, p. 759; Josephus, War, 2:18,10; 3:9, 1). SEE PALESTINE.
4. The internal trade of the Jews, as well as the external, was much promoted, as was the case also in Egypt, by the festivals, which brought large numbers of persons to Jerusalem, and caused great outlay in victims for sacrifices and in incense (1Ki 8:63; comp. Heeren, As. Nat. 2:363). SEE FESTIVAL.
The places of public market were, then as now, chiefly the open spaces near the gates, to which goods were brought for sale by those who came from the outside (Ne 13:15-16; Zep 1:10). SEE GATE.
The traders in later times were allowed to intrude into the Temple, in the outer courts of which victims were publicly sold for the sacrifices (Zec 14:21; Mt 21:12; Joh 2:14). SEE TEMPLE.
In the matter of buying and selling great stress is laid by the Law on fairness in dealing. Just weights and balances are stringently ordered (Le 19:35-36; De 25:13-16). Kidnapping slaves is forbidden under the severest penalty (Ex 21:16; De 24:7). Trade in swine was forbidden by the Jewish doctors (see Surenhusius, Mischna, de danme. c. 7, vol. 4:60; Lightfoot, Flor. Heb. on Matth. 8:33; Saalschutz, Arch. Hehr. c. 15, 16). SEE MERCHANT.