Weight (אֶבֶן eben, De 22:24; De 15:15; 2Sa 14:26; Pr 11:1; Pr 16:11; Pr 10:10; Mic 6:11; a stone, as elsewhere rendered; usually מַשׁקָל, mishkal [once מַשׁפל , manishkol, Eze 4:11], from שָׁקִל, to weigh; פֶּלֶס, peles, Pr 16:11; "scales," Isa 40:12, a balance; ὄγκος, Heb 12:1, a mass; βάρος, 2Co 4:17, elsewhere burden"). It is evident from one of these names (eben) that stones were used in the most ancient times among the Hebrews for weights, as they were also among many other nations; and from another (mishkal), that of their moneys weights and terms, the shekel was that in most common use, and the standard by which others were regulated. In later times weights were made of lead (Zec 5:6). These weights were carried in a bag (De 25:13; Pr 16:11) suspended from the girdle (Chardin, Voy. 3, 422), and were very early made the vehicles of fraud. The habit of carrying two sets of weights is denounced in De 25:13 and Pr 20:10, and the necessity of observing strict honesty in the matter is insisted upon in several precepts of the law (Le 19:36; De 25:13). But the custom lived on, and remained in full force to the days of Micah (Mic 6:11), and even to those of Zechariah, Who appears (ch. 5) to pronounce a judgment against fraud of a similar kind. SEE BAG.
Between ancient weights and money there was a very intimate connection. All Greek money was originally a certain weight of silver, and a similar rule probably held with the money of other nations. Hence, perhaps, the best mode of ascertaining an ancient weight is by weighing a good coin of the same denomination. When this is ascertained, we can form a just opinion of the other weights in the scale from their relative proportions. Gold, even as late as the time of David was not used as a standard of value, but was considered merely as a very precious article of commerce, and was weighed like other articles. In Oriental countries, as far back as the time of Abraham, the value of goods was estimated at a certain quantity of silver, the purity of which was taken into account by the merchant (Ge 23:16). But there is no trace of stamped silver or coin previous to the Captivity. Nor, indeed, was it at that early period divided into pieces of a certain size. It was commonly weighed out in balances, though its weight was sometimes ascertained by means of an instrument of weighing answering to our steelyards. SEE SCALE. By means of the balance the Hebrews appear to have been able to weigh with considerable delicacy, and — for this purpose they had weights of extreme minuteness, which are called metaphorically n. "the small dust of the balance" (Isa 40:15). The "little grain" (οπή) of their balance in Wisd. 11:22 is the, small weight which causes the scale to turn. In this passage, as, in 2 Macc. 9:8, the Greek word πλάστιγξ, rendered "balance," was originally applied to the scale-pan alone. SEE BALANCE. The balance in this form was known at a very early period. It is found on the Egyptian monuments as early as the time of Joseph, and we find allusions to its use in the story of the purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Ge 23:16) by Abraham. Before coinage was introduced, it was of necessity employed in all transactions in which the valuable metals were the mediums of exchange (43:21; Ex 22:17; 1Ki 20:39; Es 3:9; Isa 46:6; Jer 32:10, etc.). SEE MONEY.
The shekel, the half-shekel, the talent, are not only denominations of moneys, of certain values, in gold and silver, but also of certain weights. The earliest weight to which reference is made is the a קשַׂיטָה, kesitadh (Genesis 33:19 Jos 24:32; Job 42:11), which in the margin of our version-is in two passages rendered "lambs," while in the text it is "piece of money." It may have derived its name from being in the shape of a lamb. SEE SHEEP. A number of small statues, of a crouching lion in bronze, forming a series of various dimensions, from one inch to twelve in length, found at Nimruld, and now in the British Museum, appear to have been Assyrian weights. On the tombs at Thebes are representations of weights having the form of stags, sheep, gazelles, etc. There are also among the Egyptian antiquities some Coptic weights of great antiquity, but not antecedent to the Christian era. They are circular, and have grooves or channels cut in them. See The Weight of the Sanctuary, or Weight of the Temple (Ex 30:13,24; Le 5:15; Nu 3:50; Nu 7:19; Nu 18:16, etc.) was probably the standard weight, preserved in some apartment of the Temple, and into a different weight from the common shekel (1Ch 23:29); for though Moses appoints that all things valued by their price in silver should be rated by the weight of the sanctuary (Le 27:25), he makes no difference between this shekel of twenty oboli, or twenty gerahs, and the common shekel. Ezekiel (Eze 45:12), speaking of the ordinary weights and measures used in traffic among the Jews, say-s that the shekel weighed twenty oboli, or gerahs; it was therefore equal to the weight of the sanctuary. Neither. Josephus nor Philonor Jerome, nor any ancient author, speaks of a distinction between the weights of the Temple and those "in common use. Besides, the custom of preserving the standards of weights and measures in temples is not peculiar to the Hebrews. The Egyptians, as Clemens Alexandrinus informs us, had an officer in the college of priests whose business it was to examine all sorts of measures and to take care of the originals; the Romans had the same custom (Fannius, De Amphora); and the emperor Justinian decreed that standards of weights and measures should be kept in Christian churches. The Jews do not seem to have had any officers whose especial duty it was to superintend weighing transactions like the kabbaneh, or public weighers of Egypt, the Greek ζυγόσταται (Artemnitl. 2, 37), or Latin libripendes (Pliny, 33:3); but care was always taken that the money used should be of full weight (Ge 43:21). For the estimation of Hebrew weights, SEE METEROLOGY.
The expression in Da 5:27, "thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting," has been supposed to be illustrated by the custom of weighing the Great Mogul on his birthday in the presence of his chief grandees. The ceremony is ascribed in a passage from-Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage in India, quoted in Taylor's Calmet, Frag. 186: "The scales in which he was thus weighed were, plated with gold, and so the beam on. which they hung by great chains, made likewise of that most precious metal. The king, sitting in one of them, was weighed first against silver coin, which immediately after was distributed among the poor; then was he weighed against gold; after that against jewels (as they say); but I observed (being there present with my lord ambassador) that he was weighed against three several things, laid in, silken bags, on the contrary scale.... By his weight (of which his physicians yearly keep an exact account) they presume to guess of the present state of his body; of which they speak flatteringly, however they think it to be." It appears, however, from a consideration of the other metaphorical expressions in the same passage of Daniel that the weighing in balances is simply a figure, and may or may not have reference to such a custom as that above-described. Many examples of the use of the same figure of speech among Orientals are given in Roberts's Oriental Illustrations, p. 502. The allusion, however; maybe of a far more solemn character. The Egyptians entertained the belief that the actions of the dead were solemnly weighed in balances before Osiris, and that the condition of the departed was determined according to the preponderance of good or evil. Such judgment scenes are very frequently represented in the paintings and papyri of ancient Egypt, and one of them (given on the following page) we have copied as a suitable illustration of the present subject. One of these scenes, as represented on the walls of a small temple at Deir-el- Medlneh, has been so well explained by Mr. Wilkinson that we shall avail ourselves of his description; for although that to which it refers is somewhat different from the one which we have engraved, his account affords an adequate elucidation of all that ours contains: "Osiris, seated on his throne, awaits the arrival of those souls that are ushered into Amenti. The four genii stand before him on a lotus-blossom [ours has the lotus without the genii], the female Cerberus sits behind them, and Harpocrates of the crook of Osiris. Thoth, the god of letters, arrives in the presence of Osiris, bearing in his hand a tablet, on which the actions of the deceased are noted down, while Horus and Aroeris are employed in Weighing the good deeds of the judged against the ostrich feather, the symbol of truth and justice. A cynocephalus, the emblem of truth, is seated on the top of the balance. At length arrives the deceased, who appears between two figures of the goddess, and bears in his hand the symbol of truth, indicating his meritorious actions, and his fitness for admission to the presence of Osiris" (Kitto, Pict. Bible. note ad loc.).
A weight of glory, of which Paul speaks (2Co 4:17), is opposed to the lightness of the evils of this life. The troubles now endure are really of no more weight than a feather, or of no weight at all, if compared to the weight or intenseness of that glory which shall be hereafter a compensation for them. In addition to this, it is probable the apostle had in view the double meaning of the Hebrew word כָּבוֹד kabod, which signifies not only weight, but glory; that is splendor is in this world the lightest thing in nature; but in the other world it may be real, at once substantial and radiant.