Bible History Online
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
bi'-ing (karah, laqach, qena', qanah, shabhar; agorazo, oneomai, emporeuomai):
I. IN THE EARLIEST PERIODS AND AMONG NOMADS
1. The Primitive Stage (the "Shop")
2. In Old Testament Times
3. In New Testament Times
II. ORIENTAL BUYING A TEDIOUS PROCESS
III. SHOPS AND BAZAARS
1. Oriental Shops
2. The Market-Place
IV. BUYING ON CREDIT PAYING CASH (MONEY)
V. OPEN-AIR MARKETS AND FAIRS
I. In the Earliest Periods and among Nomads.
1. The Primitive Stage; (the "Shop"):
Among primitive races and nomads there can be, of course, no organized commerce. Yet they buy and sell, by barter and exchange, in rude and simple ways. When tribes become settled and live in villages the "shop" is established--usually at first the simple "stall" of the grocer (bakkal) where one can buy bread; cheese, salt and dried fish, olives, oil, bundles of wood or charcoal, and even earthenware vessels for the passing traveler. At a later stage the village will have also, according to demand, other shops, as, for instance, those of the baker, the blacksmith, the cobbler, and, today, will be found in many obscure places in the East the butcher's shop, and the coffee house.
2. In Old Testament Times:
These gradations and the gradual rise to the more organized commerce of the Greek-Roman period are indicated in a way by the succession of words for "buying" used in the Bible and the conditions and circumstances pictured and implied in the various accounts of buying and selling. Even as early as Abraham's time, however, there were buying and weighing of silver in exchange. "Hear me," pleads Abraham with the children of Heth, "and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah .... which is in the end of his field; for the full price let him give it to me." And Ephron said, "Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein." But Abraham said, "If thou wilt .... I will give the price of the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there. And Ephron answered .... My lord, hearken unto me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead ..... And Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver .... four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. So .... the field, and the cave, and all the trees that were in the field, .... were made sure unto Abraham for a possession" (Gen 23:8-18). Other examples of primitive buying are found in Josh 24:32 ("the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money"); in Ruth 4:5-9, where Boaz is represented as buying "the parcel of land which was Elimelech's .... of the hand of Naomi .... and of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead .... all that was Elimelech's"; and in 2 Sam 24:21-24, where David is said to have "bought the threshing-floor" of Araunah at "a price." Such cases, however, are in a sense exceptional; trade in general at that time was by barter and exchange, without intermediary or market-place.
3. In New Testament Times:
In New Testament times things have so changed that the word most commonly used for buying (agorazo) means "to use the market-place," and another (emporeuomai) points to a class of traders or merchants who go on, from city to city--"continue" here or there "and buy and sell" (Jas 4:13 the King James Version).
II. Oriental Buying a Tedious Process.
Something of this is seen even in the fine examples given above. Doubtless, however, eastern buyers and sellers of old haggled over prices with controversy and heat, even as such buyers do today. Every where you find them now keen for bargains, but "striking a bargain" is a tedious process. They grow warm and then cool off; they are swept into a frenzy by some new turn of the strife and then calm down; but soon the haggling and arguing begin over again, becoming more heated and seemingly more hopeless than ever, and often they become so excited as to threaten to come to blows. But they don't mean it all, and at last they find a common basis; the sale is made with flattering compliments to one another, and, if we may believe appearances, to the rapturous delight of both parties to the bargain.
The native Oriental clearly takes pleasure in such exercise, and sees great possibilities before him. He graciously assures you at the outset that the bargain shall be "just as you like it--just as you like it!" Is he not a servant of God? What cares he for money? What he most wants is your happiness and good will--that is the sweetest thing in life--the love and favor of brothers. After a while you offer a price. He says, "What is such a trifle between us? Take it for nothing!" But he is far from meaning it, and so the haggling begins and the fire and heat of controversy follow--perhaps for hours.
III. Shops and Bazaars.
1. Oriental Shops:
Oriental shops are all of a pattern--the workshop and the place to store and sell goods is one and the same. It is on the street, of course, and a platform, usually about 2 ft. high, extends along the whole front. A small door opens to a room back, which, as far as such a thing is possible in the Orient, is private. The goods, particularly the best articles, are displayed in front, somewhat as they are in the windows of our department stores. In the center of the platform is a sejadeh, a rug or mat. Upon this the keeper sits in true oriental fashion--cross-legged. He is never too busy with his accounts to let the passerby escape his keen eye. He will give up his nargileh any time to hail the stranger, display his goods, and coaxingly invite him to look at the special beauty and quality of his articles.
2. The Market-Place:
All the shops or storerooms of the oriental village line the "market," which as a rule, is in the center of the village, or on the chief street. This the Arabs call suk, sookh (compare Mt 20:3). Here the peasant is found with his donkeys or camels laden with food-stuffs and country produce. The gardener is there with his small fruits, and the fisherman with his latest "catch." All the shopkeepers, too, are on or near to this street or market center. "The sookh in a country village," says J. Carrow Duncan, "is one of the most interesting sights of modern Egypt. Formerly the cattle and dry-goods markets were uniformly held in an open space in the center of each village. Now the government compels them to go to a fenced enclosure outside of the town. At Belbeys the ordinary market is still held in the center of the town, but the cattle market is a mile away, across the canal. As in a bazaar, such as the traveler sees in Cairo, the merchants of the various trades dispose themselves here in lanes, all easily accessible from the main street, which is thus left clear. On the left are the dealers in copper utensils, busily plying their trade; next to them the makers of sieves and riddles; then comes a large space filled with pottery ware, and, close by, the vegetable yentiers. There, jammed in between the pottery space and the coppersmiths, is a lane of gold- and silversmiths--the greatest sharks in the market, their chief prey being the women. On the other side of the main street are the shoemakers' lane, the drapers' lane, the grocers, the seed men, the sweetmeat-sellers, fruit-merchants, dealers in glass and carnelian jewelry and, lastly, the butchers' stalls, all arranged in lanes, and all equally ready to trade or to enjoy a joke at each other's expense. There is apparently little eagerness to trade--except when a tourist appears." To one who is ignorant of the value of his wares, the oriental dealer has no fixed price. This is really regulated by the supposed ignorance of the purchaser. If you choose, you may give him what he asks, and be laughed at all round the sookh. If you are wise, you will offer something near to the real value and firmly refuse to vary or haggle, and he will come to terms.
Professor Elihu Grant tells of a shop in a Syrian village--"a small room, 6 to 12 ft. square, with a door, but no window, a counter or bench, and shelves and bins along the sides, where sugar, flour, oil, matches, candies, spice, starch, coffee, rice, dried figs, etc., were found, but no wrapping-paper. The buyer must bring his own dish for liquids; other things he carries away in the ample folds of his skirt or in a handkerchief." "Every considerable Turkish town," says Van Lennep, "has a bazaar, bezesten, or `arcade': a stone structure, open at both ends, a narrow alley or street running through it, covered with an arched roof, the sides pierced with openings or windows. This covered street is lined on both sides with shops, narrow and shallow. Dealers in similar goods and articles flock together here, as do the artisans of like trades in all oriental cities." Such shops can yet be seen in quite characteristic form in Damascus, Bagdad, Cairo and Constantinople, as in ancient days they were found in Babylon, Jerusalem and Noph (see Ezek 27:13-24).
IV. Buying on Credit.
The shop-keeper does not always get cash from the native buyer. Dr. Post found that debt was well-nigh universal in Syria. The peasant sows "borrowed" seed, in "borrowed" soil, plants and reaps with "borrowed" tools, and lives in a "borrowed" house. Even in case of an abundant harvest the proportion of the crop left by the landlord and the tax-gatherer leaves the man and his family but the barest living at best; at times he can barely pay the debt accumulated in making and gathering in the crop, and sometimes fails in doing this.
Paying Cash (Money):
In the rare cases when the buyer pays cash for his purchases, he makes payment, after a true oriental fashion, in coin of the most various or varying values, or in rings of copper, silver or gold, such as are now common in the market-places of China. This throws light upon some Scriptural passages, as, for example, Gen 43:21,22, where the language implies that the "rings" or "strings of money' were weighed: "Behold, every man's money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in fill weight .... and other money have we brought down in our hand to buy food." In Ezr 2:69, three kinds of currency are mentioned, "darics of gold," "pounds of silver," and "priests' garments," as having been given into the treasury for the house of God. The term rendered "darics of gold," 'adharkonim, stands for Persian coins, which were similar to the Greek "darics." The Persians are said to have got the idea of coining from Lydia, at the capture of Sardis, 564 BC. Early Lydian coins were of electrum, but Croesus changed this to coins of gold and silver, probably about 568 BC. Examples of these ancient coins are now known (Rice, Orientalisms in Bible Lands, 234).
V. Open-Air Markets and Fairs.
In inland towns and cities, markets and market-places are often found in the open air, as well as under cover. Great fairs are held thus on certain days of the week. Several towns will agree upon different days as market days and will offer in turn whatever they have for sale: lambs, sheep, cattle, horses, mules, chickens, eggs, butter, cheese, vegetables, fruits, and even jewelry and garments. In such a case it is as if the whole town for the day was turned into a market or exhibition, where everything is for sale. On such days peasants and townspeople come together in much larger numbers than is ordinary, and mingle freely together. The day thus chosen now, as in olden times, is often a holy day--Friday, which is the Moslem Sabbath, or the Christian Sunday, where Christians abound. Such instances form a side-light on such passages as Neh 13:15-22: "In those days saw I in Judah some men treading winepresses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses therewith; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them." Morier testifies that he attended similar fairs in Persia, where were gathered sellers of all sorts of goods in temporary shops or tents, such as sellers of barley and flour, as it was at the gate of Samaria after the famine (2 Ki 7). Layard also speaks of having seen at the gate of the modern town of Mosul, opposite the site of ancient Nineveh shops for the sale of wheat, barley, bread-stuffs, and drinks for the thirsty. It will be recalled that it was "at the gate" that Boaz (Ruth 4:1-3) called the elders and people to witness that he had bought all that was Elimelech's. For similar allusions see Job 5:4; Prov 31:23; Ps 127:5; Lam 5:14.
See MONEY; TRADE, etc.; also DB, DCG, etc.
George B. Eager
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'buying'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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