This page provides a facility to convert the units of weight used in OT Israel (talents and shekels) into modern weights and values.
The units of weight used in Israel, from the largest to the smallest, were the talent, the mina, the shekel, the beka and the gerah. Unlike today, there would be considerable differences in the accuracy of the weights in OT Israel, both regionally and over time. Any calculations based on these need to be considered as approximate at best.
The largest unit of weight in OT Israel was the talent. The Hebrew word is 'kikkar'. The word 'talent' is from the Greek unit of weight 'talanton' and the Latin 'talentum', which was roughly equivalent to the Hebrew 'kikkar'. In the OT, the talent is often used to weigh gold and silver.
The other important unit of weight is the shekel. The Hebrew word is 'seqel', which comes from the root word for 'weight'. The shekel was also used to weigh gold and silver, but also to weigh less valuable materials. Shekel weights have been discovered in Israel in denominations of 1, 2, 4 and 8 shekels. From weighing these, it has been estimated that a shekel was approximately 11.5 grams or 0.4 oz.
The mina is not mentioned so often in the OT, but was also normally used to weigh gold or silver. It has been suggested that this unit of weight was only used during and after the exile in Babylon. According to Ezekiel, "20 shekels, 25 shekels, and 15 shekels shall make a mina for you." (Ex 45:12). This would suggest that there were 60 shekels in a mina.
A beka was half a shekel, "a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, measured by the sanctuary shekel)" (Ex 38:26).
The gerah was the smallest unit of weight and is defined as a twentieth of a shekel, as by Ezekiel, "The shekel shall be 20 gerahs" (Ez 45:12).
Number of shekels in a talent
The number of shekels in a talent can be calculated from the account of the building of the tabernacle, "The silver from those of the congregation who were counted was 100 talents and 1775 shekels, measured by the sanctuary shekel; a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, measured by the sanctuary shekel), for everyone who was counted in the census, from 20 years old and upward, for 603,550 men." (Ex 38:25-26). If each person brought half a shekel of silver, the total number of shekels of silver was 301,775 shekels. This was equivalent of 100 talents and 1775 shekels, showing that 100 talents was 300,000 shekels, and therefore 1 talent was 3,000 shekels. Based on the weight of one shekel being 11.5 g, this would suggest that a talent was approximately the equivalent of 34 kg (11.5 g x 3000) or 75 lb.
Summary of weight values
1 talent = 3000 shekels
1 talent = 50 minas
1 mina = 60 shekels
1 shekel = 2 bekas
1 shekel = 20 gerahs
Converting to modern equivalents
There are many places in the Old Testament where weights of gold and silver are given in talents and / or shekels. It can be interesting to calculate what these would be worth in today's prices.
These are some examples:
The amount of gold used in the construction of the tabernacle was 29 talents and 730 shekels (Ex 38:25).
David provided 100,000 talents of gold and 1 million talents of silver to construct the temple (1 Chr 22:14).
The Queen of Sheba gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (1 Kg 10:10).
The weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents (1 Kg 10:14).
A chariot was imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver (1 Kg 10:29).
This page uses the conversion rate from talents to kilograms, and from talents to shekels listed below, and the today's market prices for gold and silver shown below, to calculate the values.
Enter the number of talents and / or shekels in the boxes below, select the metal (gold or silver), and select the modern currency (British Pounds, American Dollars, or Euros).
Precious metals are weighed in troy ounces. There are 12 troy ounces in a troy pound.
The troy ounce is the equivalent of 31 grams, compared with the normal ounce which is the equivalent of 28 grams.