One of the first references to treasure in the Old Testament is the episode of Joseph’s brothers buying food in Egypt during the famine and Joseph returned their money in their sacks with the food and said to his frightened brothers “Rest assured, do not be afraid; your God and the God of your father must have put treasure in your sack, for you” (Gen 42:23). King David and King Solomon were known for the great wealth which they amassed in their palaces, and also stored in the house of the Lord. The treasure of the Temple in Jerusalem consisted of the vessels, the golden altar, the golden table for the bread of the Presence, the lampstands of gold, the lamps, the tongs, cups, snuffers, basins, dishes for incense, fire-pans, and even the doors and the building itself was a great treasure all made of gold. “Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated, the silver, the gold, and the vessels, and stored them in the treasuries of the house of the Lord” (1 Kings 7:48-51). Like the palaces of other monarchs of the ancient world, so the palaces of the kings of Judah and Israel had vast storehouses for the treasures of the nation. Concerning the wars with the powerful countries around Israel, the Old Testament speaks again and again of foreign powers taking away the treasures of the king’s house. Shishak, king of Egypt, besieged Jerusalem and “took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made” (1 Kings 14:25, 26).
Sometimes the treasures of the palaces of the kings of Judah and Israel were at stake in the local wars in Pal. For example, when Baasha, king of Israel, and Asa, king of Judah, were at war, Asa sent all of the treasures of the nation to Benhadad, king of Syria, to make a bargain with him to attack Baasha so that he would leave Judah, “Asa took all of the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures in the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and gave them into the hands of his servants; and King Asa sent them to Benhadad...who dwelt in Damascus” (1 Kings 15:16-19). In the rebuilding of Israel during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah the same system of gathering huge treasures and wealth in the ruler’s house (“treasury of the work”) and in the Temple was used (Ezra 2:69; Neh 7:70-71; 10:38; 12:44).
Often the term treasure “or storehouse” is used in the Old Testament in a fig. sense. For instance, in a dry land like Pal. rain from heaven for the parched crops was considered treasure: “The Lord will open to you his good treasury the heavens, to give the rain of your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands” (Deut 28:12). Wisdom was considered a great treasure among the ancients: “Precious treasure remains in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it” (Prov 21:20). Another common word-picture is that the fear of the Lord is a man’s treasure, as Isaiah told the people of Israel, “The fear of the Lord is his treasure” (Isa 33:6). The prophet Ezekiel echoes the same sentiment: “By your wisdom and your understanding you have gotten wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries” (Ezek 28:4).
While in the Old Testament treasure or storehouse of treasure refers to the vast treasures concentrated in the king’s palace or in the Temple, in the New Testament treasure (thesauros) speaks of treasure in individual terms as personal property. The Magi of the E (not necessarily kings) brought great treasures to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. Since Jesus is a King their gifts were those fit for a king—gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt 2:11). Their gifts remind one of the king’s treasury in the Old Testament. Outside of the few instances such as in Hebrews 11:26 where we are told that Moses “considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt,” and Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to a “treasure hidden in a field” (Matt 13:44), the term is used more generally in the New Testament in a metaphorical sense. Jesus admonishes His disciples, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The term “treasure” is used also for a person’s greatest desire or possession, for the Lord says, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt 6:20, 21).
Our Lord also uses the term treasure to designate the good and evil in a man: “The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt 12:35). Since the kingdom of heaven is the ultimate desire, Jesus likens it to a treasure which is hidden in a field and a man will sell all of his possessions and buy the entire field so that he is certain to obtain the treasure (Matt 13:44). Love and works of love are treasures which are stored in heaven, as Jesus tells the young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (19:21). Jesus tells His disciples that such works of providing for the poor through selling one’s possessions is “a treasure in the heavens that does not fail” (Luke 12:33). The writer of the gospel according to Matthew speaks of treasure as the spiritual wisdom and knowledge which a scribe who is a member of the kingdom produces: “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matt 13:52). The Apostle Paul terms the Gospel of Jesus Christ a treasure which dwells in weak human beings: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). The capstone and ultimate meaning of treasure in the New Testament is Paul’s statement that all divine wisdom and knowledge centers in Jesus Christ, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
trezh’-ur, trezh’-ur-er, trezh’-ur-i (otsar, genaz, genez, ganzakh, chocen matmon, mickenah, mikhman, `athudh, saphan; gaza, thesauros):
I. In the Old Testament.
The English word "treasure" has in the Old Testament at least five somewhat distinct meanings as expressed in the words: "treasure," genaz (Aramaic) or genez (Hebrew), usually meaning "the thing stored"; translated "treasures" in Ezr 6:1, but in 5:17 and 7:20 translated "treasure-house": "search made in the king’s treasure-house." In Es 3:9; 4:7 the Hebrew form is translated "treasury," as is ganzakh in 1Ch 28:11.
3. Hidden Riches:
"Treasure" or something concealed. There are 3 Hebrew words with this meaning and all in the King James Version translated "treasure." (1) Matmon, which literally means "a secret storehouse" and so a secreted valuable, usually money buried, and so hidden riches of any kind, hid treasures: "treasure in your sacks" (Ge 43:23); "dig for it more than for hid treasures" (Job 3:21); "search for her as for hid treasures" (Pr 2:4); "We have stores hidden in the field, of wheat," etc. (Jer 41:8). (2) Mikhman, treasure as hidden, used only in Da 11:43: "have power over the treasures of gold and silver." (3) Saphan, meaning hidden treasure or valuables concealed: "hidden treasures of the sand" (De 33:19).
Perhaps the strength of riches and so treasure, the Hebrew word being chocen, from a root meaning to hoard or lay up: "In the house of the righteous is much treasure" (Pr 15:6); "They take treasure and precious things" (Eze 22:25).
5. Something Prepared:
"Something prepared," made ready, the Hebrew word being `athudh, meaning "prepared," "ready," therefore something of value and so treasure: "have robbed their treasures," fortifications or other things "made ready" (Isa 10:13).
II. In the New Testament.
There are two words translated "treasure": Gaza is of Persian origin, meaning "treasure." Found only once in Ac 8:27 concerning the Ethiopian "who was over all her (Queen Candace’s) treasure." In the compound gazophulakion, "guarding of gaza," the same word appears and the compound is translated "treasury" in Mr 12:41,43 parallel Lu 21:1; Joh 8:20.
See Temple; Treasury (OF TEMPLE).
The word thesauros means literally, a "deposit," so wealth and treasure. Evidently throughout the New Testament it has a twofold usage as describing
(1) material treasure, either money or other valuable material possession, and
(2) spiritual treasure, e.g. "like unto treasure hid in a field" (Mt 13:44); "good treasure of the heart" (Mt 12:35).
In Mt 27:6 the word for "treasury" is korbanas; compare the Revised Version margin.
M. S. Miller, Encyclopedia of Bible Life (1944) 143ff.;
F. H. Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (1953) 224-230;
S. W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews (1954), Vol. 7;
J. Pedersen, Israel, Its Life and Culture (1959), Vol. 4, 306ff.; IDB (1962) Vol. 4.