Biblical Money--Part 3
Dec 16, 2008
Babylon used a single standard--gold--by which to measure all things. Essentially, it lasted 2,520 years. The account in Daniel 3 involved Daniel's three friends, who had been taken to Babylon with him to be trained as officials in Nebuchadnezzar's government. They went to Babylon in the first captivity about 600 B.C. Daniel 3 is not dated, but there is an interesting clue from the standpoint of the all-important 2,520-year time cycle.
Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem in 604 B.C., but when King Zedekiah revolted later, the result was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem from 588-586 B.C. Calculating the time cycle, we see that 2,520 years later is 1933-1935. This suggests that Babylon's gold standard was probably established just before the siege of Jerusalem in 588 B.C. If so, then it lasted precisely 2,520 years to 1933 when President Roosevelt confiscated all the gold at $22.50/oz and then revalued it at $33/oz. That is, he devalued the dollar relative to gold in order to fund the treasury.
In the past, we find that barter was the most common form of exchange for goods and services. In fact, whether workers get paid in silver or in potatoes is somewhat irrelevant. Whether a man buys something with gold, paper, or chickens, it is called "trade." It is an exchange of equal value. Labor may be exchanged for silver or for wheat, if that is the agreement. The point is that anything that has value is money, though we have more recently invented something called "currency."
Currency issued by a private party is a paper IOU, an agreement or contract to pay something. It can be payable in anything that has value to the one receiving it. Value is determined by the amount of goods and services a person can receive by redeeming the note.
In recent years we have largely stopped thinking in terms of barter, even though economists still use the term "trade" to denote business transactions. We no longer think of bartering, because currency is no longer issued by private parties but by governments (including the Babylonian government, whose monetary officials own the Fed).
It used to be that banks issued paper currency. These notes represented bank debt--that is, the bank issued IOU's to people, giving them the right to redeem those notes in gold or silver at the bank that issued the notes in the first place. In such cases, a wheat bank could just as easily have been set up, with bank notes specifying how many bushels of wheat could be redeemed by each note. The notes could have circulated among the people as currency, as long as people knew that the notes were backed by something of value.
Yet it was not until the time of Abraham Lincoln that government currency was actually issued in America for the first time. His money was called the Greenback, because it had green ink on the back side. For the first time, money was taken out of private hands and put where it belonged as a government prerogative.
When "money" is a private creation (such as a privately-owned bank), it is limited in what it can use as backing. It can only back its money according to its limited assets--usually, gold and silver. But when money is issued by government, it becomes a national currency and does not need to be backed merely by gold and silver. It is backed by all the assets of the nation itself--the productivity, mind and labor, of the entire population and work force.
Currency then is more easily exchanged for virtually anything of value, not simply gold or silver, and its supply is not limited to the amount of any single item of value in the nation. It represents someone's labor. In other words, true currency is a receipt for labor, which you may trade for the products of someone else's labor. That is honest "money." It is not a debt-note, because it has already been produced. When the amount of money in circulation equals the amount of wealth that has already been produced, then it is not a debt but a check that can be drawn on a storehouse of wealth.
The Barley Standard
In Bible days, the most basic economic law was rooted in the land itself. I call it the Barley Standard, but because barley is produced from the land itself, the economic system was actually more basic than that. Barley was the staple diet of donkeys and average people. Those who were more wealthy ate more wheat, because it tasted better. It could be refined and was considered to be a delicacy. Hence, "fine flour" was wheat. In Gen. 18:6, Abraham told Sarah to make some bread quickly with "fine flour" to provide for their guests--the angels coming to visit him before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah.
Likewise, in Lev. 2:1 we find that the meal offering was to be of "fine flour" (wheat). In the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests, they were also to use wheat flour, but of course it had to be unleavened in order to be a type of incorruption (Ex. 29:2). Wheat represents goodness, as long as it is unleavened. The problem, prophetically speaking, is that wheat has the potential of being leavened as well--and hence it is a type of the Church under Pentecost.
When God divided up the land of Canaan for the families of each tribe, He removed from most of the land its speculative value. He did this by telling them that they had no right to buy and sell land, except in urban areas. Lev. 25:23, 24 says,
" (23) The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. (24) Thus for every piece of property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land."
The effects of this legislation are enormous upon the national economy. The only "sale" of land allowed was what we would call a LEASE, which could run for a maximum of 49 years. Every lease had to end no later than the day the priest blew the trumpet of the Jubilee--the 10th day of the 7th month, which was 10 days into the 50th year of the cycle.
There is no prohibition against leasing land, if a family is rich enough to travel abroad for years, even decades. However, the VALUE of the land is predetermined, not according to its speculative value, but according to its ability to produce BARLEY. In Lev. 25:50-52 the value of land is calculated according to the number of years it is being leased, not merely as a matter of time, but of productivity. But in Lev. 27:16, in the context of consecrating land to God (where time is not a factor, because it is a permanent transfer of title), the land is valued in terms of barley.
" (16) Again, if a man consecrates to the Lord part of the fields of his own property, thenyour valuation shall be proportionate to the seed needed for it; a homer of barley seed at fifty shekels of silver."
We learn here also that God fixed the price of "a homer of barley seed at fifty shekels of silver." Does this indicate a silver standard, or a barley standard? It is really both, and it presumes a non-inflationary economy. Really, it factors in the amount of labor to mine and refine a shekel of silver, compared to the labor needed to produce a homer of barley.
Both silver and barley come from the earth, and God lays claim to both the land and all mineral rights. Haggai 2:8 says, "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, declares the Lord of hosts."
The net effect of God's claim to ownership of all He created is that men cannot speculate on something they do not own. More than any other factor, this establishes a stable economy that is based upon production and labor--true wealth--rather than speculative wealth which leads to inflationary and deflationary cycles.
This is the third part of a series titled "Biblical Money." To view all parts, click the link below.