Manners & Customs: Merchants
Merchants in the Ancient World
T he merchant's place of business. In the Oriental city or village, the market place is an important place for the doing of business. It is not always located in the same place. It may be near the city gates, or it may be in the open streets of the town. The market is not always in operation in some districts, but is open for business whenever there is something to be sold. The arrival in town of a camel caravan would be one great occasion for setting up the market place and the selling of produce, especially the "blessed grain."
Also, many goods are sold in the oriental bazaar. This is usually a covered arcade containing a row of narrow shops on each side, and those of like trade often having their shops together, such as those selling dry goods, grocery items, tin utensils, leather goods, sweetmeats, etc. Jeremiah speaks of the bakers' street (Jeremiah 37:21).
Buying and Selling
Oriental buying and selling. This is quite different from purchasing in the West. No fixed price is put upon whatever is to be sold. Ordinarily the buyer must expect to spend from a few minutes to an hour or so to complete a purchase. The merchant begins by asking a high price and the buyer by offering a low price. Then the bargaining continues in earnest. To a stranger this process of "striking a bargain" is a tedious one indeed, but the true Orientals enjoy it greatly. Among them, haggling over prices, and controversy, argument, and excitement usually become heated.
When the sale is made, the buyer will go away to boast of his splendid bargain, and will be greatly admired by the seller. The Book of Proverbs pictures such a purchaser: "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth" (Proverbs 20:14). The word "naught" means "bad."
Commerce in Naves Topical Bible
Le 19:36,37; 25:14,17
-Carried on by means of caravans
Ge 37:25,27; Isa 60:6
-Carried on by means of ships
1Ki 9:27,28; 10:11; 22:48; Ps 107:23-30; Pr 31:11;
-Conducted in fairs
Eze 27:12,19; Mt 11:16
-Of the Arabians
Isa 60:6; Jer 6:20; Eze 27:21-24
1Ki 9:26-28; Ne 3:31,32; Eze 27:17
2Sa 5:11; 1Ki 5:6; Isa 23:8; Eze 27; 28:5
Isa 23:2; Eze 27:8
Jer 10:9; Eze 27:25
-Evil practices connected with
Pr 29:14; Eze 22:13; Ho 12:7
Eze 27:13; Re 18:12
1Ki 5:11; Eze 27:17
Chest of rich apparel
1Ki 10:29; Re 18:13
Clothes for chariots
Jer 6:20; Re 18:13
1Ki 9:28; 10:22; 2Ch 8:18; Isa 60:6; Re 18:12
1Ki 10:29; Eze 27:14; Re 18:13
1Ki 10:22; 2Ch 9:21; Eze 27:15; Re 18:12
Iron and steel
Ge 23:13-16; Ru 4:3
1Ki 10:28; Re 18:12
1Ki 5:11; Eze 27:17
Eze 27:16,22; 28:13,16; Re 18:12
Eze 27:16; Re 18:12
Ge 37:28,36; De 24:7
1Ki 10:22; 2Ch 9:21; Re 18:12
2Ch 2:15; Eze 27:18; Re 18:13
Bodies and souls of men
-Transportation of passengers
Jon 1:3; Ac 21:2; 27:2,6,37
Commerce in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
I. Old Testament Times.
1. Early Overland Commerce:
There were forces in early Hebrew life not favorable to the
development of commerce. Intercourse with foreigners was not
encouraged by Israel's social and religious customs. From
the days of the appearance of the Hebrews in Canaan,
however, some commercial contact with the peoples around was
inevitable. There were ancient trade routes between the East
and the West, as well as between Egypt and the Mesopotamian
valley. Israel lay as a bridge between these objective
points. There were doubtless traveling merchants from very
remote times, interchanging commodities of other lands for
those of Israel Some of the Hebrew words for "trading" and
"merchant" indicate this (compare cachar, "to travel,"
rakhal, "to go about"). In the nomadic period, the people
were necessarily dependent upon overland commerce for at
least a part of their food supply, such as grain, and
doubtless for articles of clothing, too. Frequent local
famines would stimulate such trade. Companies or caravans
carrying on this overland commerce are seen in Gen 37:25,28,
"Ishmaelites" and "Midianites, merchantmen," on their way to
Egypt, with spices, balm and myrrh. Jacob caused his sons to
take certain products to Egypt as a present with money to
Joseph in return for grain: balsam, spices, honey, myrrh,
nuts, almonds (Gen 43:11 f). The presence of a "Bab mantle"
among the spoils of Ai (Josh 7:21) indicates commerce
between Canaan and the East.
2. Sea Traffic:
While there are slight indications of a possible sea trade
as early as the days of the Judges (Jdg 5:17; compare Gen
49:13), we must wait till the days of the monarchy of David
and especially Solomon for the commerce of ships. Land
traffic was of course continued and expanded (1 Ki
10:15,28,29; 2 Ch 1:16). Sea trade at this time made large
strides forward. The Philistines were earlier in possession
of the coast. Friendship with Hiram king of Tyre gave
Solomon additional advantages seaward (1 Ki 5; 9:26; 10:19-
29; 2 Ch 8:17; 9:14), since the Phonicians were pre-
eminently the Miditerranean traders among all the people of
Israel Later, commerce declined, but Jehoshaphat attempted
to revive it (1 Ki 22:48; 2 Ch 20:36), but without success.
Tyre and Sidon as great commercial centers, however, long
impressed the life of Israel (Isa 23; Ezek 26 through 27).
Later, in the Maccabean period, Simon acquired Joppa as a
Jewish port (1 Macc 14:5), and so extended Mediterranean
3. Land Traffic in the Time of the Kings:
During the peaceful reign of Solomon, there came, with
internal improvements and foreign friendships, a stimulus to
traffic with Egypt and the Far East over the ancient trade
routes as well as with Phoenicia on the northwest. He
greatly added to his wealth through tariffs levied upon
Oriental method of measuring grain. In selling grain in Bible lands it is the custom that each measure must run over.
Likewise such liquids as oil or milk should run over a small amount into the buyer's vessel. A bushel measure is used for measuring the grain. As this measure begins to be full to the brim, the grain is pressed down, and then two or three shakes are given from side to side to settle the grain. The man who is doing the measuring then puts more grain on top, and repeats the shaking process until the measure is actually full clear to the brim. He then presses gently on the grain and makes a small hollow place on top and taking additional handfuls of grain he makes a cone on the surface. He builds up the cone until it can hold no more, some of it beginning to run over. Following this the grain is emptied into the buyer's container. Such is Oriental measure.
JESUS said, "Give, and it shall be given you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). The word translated "bosom" means "lap," it is not in his bosom but in the skirt of his garment that there is ample room, and there the Oriental carries his grain, like a woman among us might carry things in her folded apron.
Merchandise in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
mur'-chan-diz ((1) `amar (2) cachar, (3) cachar, (4)
cechorach, (5) rekhullah, (6) ma`arabh, (7) markoleth; (8)
emporia (9) emporion, (10) gomos): There seem to be 4
distinct meanings of the word according to the Revised
Version (British and American), namely: (1) The products,
i.e. goods or things sold or exchanged, and so merchandise
in the present-day usage: (a) cachar is translated thus in
Prov 31:18; Isa 23:18; (b) cachar is translated thus in Isa
45:14; these two are from a root meaning "to travel around
as a peddler"; (c) rekhullah, translated thus in Ezek 26:12,
from a root meaning "to travel for trading purposes"; (d)
ma`arabh, translated thus in Ezek 27:9,27,33,34, from a root
meaning "to intermix, to barter"; (e) markoleth, translated
thus in Ezek 27:24 (the above 5 Hebrew words are all used to
designate the goods or wares which were bartered); (f)
`amar, occurring in Dt 21:14; 24:7, translated in the King
James Version "make merchandise of," but in the Revised
Version (British and American) "deal with as a slave," or
the Revised Version margin "deal with as a chattel"; (g)
emporia, translated "merchandise" in Mt 22:5; (h) emporion,
likewise in Jn 2:16 (the same Greek word is used in 2 Pet
2:3 for the American Standard Revised Version "make
merchandise of you"); (i) gomos, "merchandise," margin
(2) The process of trade itself, i.e. the business:
rekhullah has in it the root meaning of "itinerant trading",
and so in Ezek 28:16 the correct translation is not
"merchandise," as in the King James Version, but "traffic,"
"abundance of thy traffic," i.e. doing a thriving business:
"trade was good."
(3) The place of trading, i.e. emporium, mart, etc.:
cechorah in Ezek 27:15 is translated "mart." In Jn 2:16
reference is made to the "house of merchandise."
(4) The profits of trading: In Prov 3:14, cachar is
translated "gaining." Referring to wisdom, "For the gaining
of it is better than the gaining of silver, and the profit
thereof than fine gold"; the King James Version
Merchant in Easton's Bible Dictionary
The Hebrew word so rendered is from a root meaning "to
about," "to migrate," and hence "a traveller." In
the East, in
ancient times, merchants travelled about with their
from place to place (Gen. 37:25; Job 6:18), and
carried on their
trade mainly by bartering (Gen. 37:28; 39:1). After
became settled in Israel they began to engage in
pursuits, which gradually expanded (49:13; Deut.
5:17), till in the time of Solomon they are found in
marts of the world (1 Kings 9:26; 10:11, 26, 28;
22:48; 2 Chr.
1:16; 9:10, 21). After Solomon's time their trade
nations began to decline. After the Exile it again
wider foreign relations, because now the Jews were
Merchant in Naves Topical Bible
General scriptures concerning
Ge 23:16; 37:28; 1Ki 10:15,28; 2Ch 9:14; Ne 3:32;
Job 41:6; So 3:6; Isa 23:2; 47:15; Eze 17:4;
38:13; Ho 12:7; Na 3:16; Mt 13:45; Re 18:3,11,23
Merchant Scripture - Ezekiel 27:12
Tarshish [was] thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all
[kind of] riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they
traded in thy fairs.
Merchant Scripture - Ezekiel 27:16
Syria [was] thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the
wares of thy making: they occupied in thy fairs with emeralds,
purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral, and
Merchant Scripture - Ezekiel 27:18
Damascus [was] thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of
thy making, for the multitude of all riches; in the wine of
Helbon, and white wool.
Merchant Scripture - Ezekiel 27:20
Dedan [was] thy merchant in precious clothes for chariots.
Merchant Scripture - Ezekiel 27:3
And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of
the sea, [which art] a merchant of the people for many isles,
Thus saith the Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I [am] of
Merchant Scripture - Genesis 23:16
And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to
Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the
sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current [money]
with the merchant.
Merchant Scripture - Hosea 12:7
[He is] a merchant, the balances of deceit [are] in his hand:
he loveth to oppress.
Merchant Scripture - Isaiah 23:11
He stretched out his hand over the sea, he shook the kingdoms:
the LORD hath given a commandment against the merchant [city],
to destroy the strong holds thereof.
Merchant Scripture - Matthew 13:45
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man,
seeking goodly pearls:
Merchant Scripture - Proverbs 31:24
She maketh fine linen, and selleth [it]; and delivereth
girdles unto the merchant.
Merchant Scripture - Song of Solomon 3:6
Who [is] this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars
of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all
powders of the merchant?
Merchant Scripture - Zephaniah 1:11
Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people
are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.
Merchants in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
See COMMERCE; MERCHANDISE; TRADE.
Money and Trade
Payment for goods. Payment is not always in cash or coins for goods purchased. Barter and trade originally took the place money. There was exchange of goods in kind. In early Old Testament times the giving of money took the form of weighing precious metals to be given the seller. Thus "Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth" (Genesis 23:16). This was the purchase price for the Cave of Machpelah. Concerning the money in the sacks of Joseph's brethren, Scripture says: "Every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight" (Genesis 43:21). The first coins did not appear until about 700 B. C. The New Testament refers to the coinage of the Roman Empire which was in general use in those days for business transactions. But the Oriental seller does not always receive cash. Debt is common among many. Sometimes a poor peasant will sow seed he has borrowed, on borrowed land, using borrowed tools, and will even live in a borrowed house.47
The parable JESUS told of the unjust steward refers to men who owed their lord various amounts such as "an hundred measures of oil," and "an hundred measures of wheat" (Luke 16:5-7).
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