WEALTH (Heb. hôn, hayil, nekhāsîm, Gr. euporia). Abundance of possessions whether material, social, or spiritual. In the nomadic civilization of the early Hebrews, wealth consisted largely of flocks and herds, silver and gold, brass, iron, and clothing (
WEALTH. At least twenty-five Heb. words (roots) are tr. wealth, riches, prosperity, etc. In the NT only five words are used. Many of the Heb. terms appear only a few times; and no clues are given by the context concerning the exact shades of meaning. The following words are defined in such a way as to give a measure of exactness to their meaning.
כָּבוֹד, H3883, means wealth in terms of silver and gold (
רְכוּשׁ, H8214, is a general term for all kinds of movable property, e.g. when Abraham left Haran (
מַטְמוֹן, H4759, suggests money carried in sacks (
כֶּ֫סֶף, H4084, “silver,” is the general term for money.
צָלַח, H7502, “advance,” has the meaning of “to prosper.”
הוֹן, H2104, “sufficiency” is esp. a poetic term for wealth, and is widely used in Proverbs. One new source of wealth is mentioned, i.e. interest on money lent (
עֹ֫שֶׁר, H6948, is commonly tr. riches. The only new usage is its reference to the wealth of kings, i.e. Solomon, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah; riches are also attributed to Pers. kings (
The most important item of wealth was food, for in Bible times food was a matter of life and death, far more significant than it is to the average Bible reader today. “The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it” (
The wealth of the rich consisted of luxury items. White wool finished by the fuller, and linen, dyed blue and purple and finished with embroidery, provided luxurious clothing. Saddle cloths and multi-colored oriental rugs were highly valued. Precious stones of all kinds, esp. emeralds, pearls and agates were used for jewelry. Riding horses and mules, together with chariot horses were utilized by the wealthy for transportation. Ivory and ebony were imported for inlaid furniture. The OT world knew how to use metals almost as well as we do today. Ezekiel mentioned gold, silver, copper and its alloys, iron, tin, and lead.
Most tragic was the wealth in slaves, although Israel had fewer than most other ancient nations.
Wealth in Israel included gold, silver, gems, jewelry, and other precious items. Manufacturing, which began about the time of Isaiah, soon became the source of major wealth. Manufacturers leased the farmlands abandoned by the farmers who worked in their factories; thus the manufacturers also held a corner on a major grain market.
Abraham provides an example of a big business man. His trade reached from Haran to Egypt; he himself concentrated on the Negeb-Egypt area, leaving Eliezer to watch the Damascus unit, and Lot to handle the Arabian trade. Solomon is usually mentioned as the other big business man, but much of the credit for his wealth should go to David. David’s military conquest reached to the Euphrates River, and not only brought to him the booty of these campaigns, but also enabled him to be a major member of the iron monopoly when that metal was as revolutionary as aluminum is today. Furthermore, his military lines enabled him to tax any item crossing his boundary via Anatolia, the Euphrates River, the Arabian Desert, Egypt, and parts of the Mediterranean coast. It was David’s wealth that built Solomon’s Temple and Solomon’s palace complex. Solomon added horse-trading, some manufacturing, and the selling of copper—his government monopoly—to the backward peoples of the Red Sea. Wealth could not be denied to the farmer who worked large areas of productive soil or had legal rights to large grazing areas for his flocks. After David’s time the royal court gave opportunities for economic advancement. Interest could be earned on business loans and foreign deals, but not from farm land. Money could be made on the sale of city property, but farm land stayed within the immediate family.
It was in the days of Isaiah after the rapid intro. of manufacturing that wicked Israelites added Mammon to their heathen pantheon, and he quickly rose to an equality with their degenerate Baal. After Israel refused countless calls to repentance, Jerusalem was wiped out for seventy years.
There is an excellent description of the movable wealth of Tyre in
Money and coinage. Money, in the days before coinage was invented, was carried in ingots, bars, or rings of silver or gold; or the metal might be weighed out in any other form. Jewelry made of these metals was always more valuable than the metals themselves. The gold that Achan stole at Jericho (
Coinage was not invented until the 7th cent. b.c. (see Coins). The first OT reference to coinage is to the Pers. gold Daric (
NT wealth. The NT uses about one-fifth as many terms for wealth as does the OT, and only one of these terms appears more than three times. The word πλου̂τος, G4458, the term used in the parable of the sower, is used fig. more often than literally.
Πλουσίως is used in
Theology of wealth. The Bible everywhere insists that God is the Creator and that all things belong to Him. He alone is the Creator and Distributor of wealth. Wealth is the gift of God. In
Nowhere in Scripture is wealth thought of as being sinful per se. Indeed, Israel was commanded to honor the Lord with her substance (
In NT times money and philosophy became the greatest obstacles to the worship of God. The deadly danger of money is seen in Christ’s remarks, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (
The OT saints, e.g. Abraham, David, and Job, were men of great wealth, but there is no NT saint of comparable wealth. It is interesting to note, however, that the Rom. centurion of whom Christ said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Wealth may be the result of industry (
Those possessing wealth are liable to certain kinds of sins against which they are frequently warned, e.g., highmindedness (
It is of interest to note that in the five places in the
The Scriptures are not without instruction as to how we may use our wealth wisely and as well-pleasing to God. The parable of the Unjust Steward (
See also RICHES.