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Origins of Money – King Solomon’s Israel

Much of this research was prepared on a statement that King Solomon was the first to stamp his name, a human name, onto coinage1. The historical circumstances surely allow for this possibility, and yet I have not discovered concrete evidence to confirm the case. As such, this information is included as additional to the writings on the Origin of Money.

The Tribal Confederacy:

To understand King Solomon’s reign, it is worthwhile to begin at the period of Israel’s arrival in Palestine around 1200 AC, following their exodus from Egypt some years earlier. At this time Israel was a tribal confederacy, an amphictyonic state, a brotherhood of independent clans united in covenant under the living yet invisible God-King Yahweh. It was this covenant that created the society and which held it together2. During times of danger, for any in the confederacy, certain men would step forward from the clans by virtue of personal qualities and of charisma, which would be seen as the Spirit of Yahweh resting upon them. Once the danger had passed, with full trust in Yahweh and their clansmen that it would pass, the leadership was once again dissolved. Consider Judges viii 22-23 where Gideon says, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you”. Refer to verse 26 to see that weights of silver, Shekels, were in use for payments in this period.

Even in the loosely held confederacy there was an organised clergy headed by a Chief Priest, who presided over the amphictyonic shrine, the throne of their God-King and focal point of their faith, The Ark of the Covenant. Around 1050 AC the Philistines, thought to have been an Aegean military aristocracy with a predominantly Canaanite population, defeated and killed or dispersed this Priesthood and captured the Ark of the Covenant. In this time of danger for the tribes, Saul, a man who showed charismatic gifts, was made leader of Israel by prophetic designation and by popular acclamation. Some writers on history put forward that the fact Saul was a Benjamite, thus of a centrally located and immediately threatened clan, yet a clan small enough that jealousies would be kept to a minimum, influenced this choice. Whether chosen by God or selected by man, or both, Saul was a great military leader. His entire reign was spent at war, and during it hope returned to Israel.

Towards the end of his reign King Saul split in direction with the High Priest of Israel, Samuel. Saul desired to remain King. The priesthood as a majority rallied around Saul and so it played out, with Saul as King. This was a break, perhaps only a soft break, from any prior period in Israel’s history.

Tribal Confederacy to Dynastic Kingdom:

Saul did not develop administrative machinery nor bureaucracy of state. He had no harem nor splendid court. Saul did, however, develop what could be termed a standing military and with it an aristocratic class of leaders2. Not many years pass and a young man by the name of David appears. David was from the largest tribe, Judah, and was completing brave feats and winning popularity. Saul, history records, felt threatened and scared that the populace would think that Yahweh’s charismatic hero selection was transferring to David. Saul sought to kill David. The priesthood helped David escape to safety. On learning of this, Saul had the priesthood, of over 80, killed. The sole surviving priest went to David, who’s kinsmen in Judah were providing him refuge. A loyal group of 600 men soon soon formed around David.

Note here, except for one, the entire Priesthood of Israel, including Samuel and his successor are gone. This surely forms a large void of knowledge, direction and political sway amongst the 12 tribes. This is important to keep in mind as reading forward from here.

Hunted by Saul, David sought and obtained vassalage under Philistia. Under vassalage, David built a loyal army, gained private land ownership and was for all intents a minor feudal lord. During this time Saul lost the last battle of his career, at Gilboa to the Philistines. Saul lost three of his sons in the battle and on seeing this, took his own life on the battlefield. The Philistines then took as much land and more from Israel than they had controlled prior to Saul’s leadership. Saul’s son, Ishbaal, meaning ‘man-of-baal’, was made King of Israel by the Commander in Chief of Saul’s armies. History tells us that Ishbaal had no charismatic gifts. By this point, Judah in the south had almost entirely split from tribes of the north. There was no longer one Israel, but Israel and Judah.

Following the end of the dynastic line of Saul, when Ishbaal was murdered by his own clansmen, the northern tribes gave their allegiance to David. Whilst still a vassal of Philistia, David was acclaimed King of Israel by solemn covenant at Hebron. The Philistine King Achish learned of this and knew that David would immediately turn his loyalty to Israel. Achish set out to destroy David. David was a tactical leader and had built up favours and followers throughout the lands. David took the town of Jerusalem, central to the 12 tribes’ geographies, and made it his capital city. David relocated the Ark of the Covenant, which had lain somewhat forgotten since Saul’s reign, to Jerusalem. His attempt by these undertakings? To establish with legitimacy a political and religious capital of Israel, which had militarily advantageous geographies and strategically placed for political governance of the lands. David is forming an Empire. And he did from there expand Israelite borders.

David developed administrative machinery for the first time in Israel’s history that reflected a Kingdom. It was likely modelled in parts on Egypt. A man named Shavsha was State Secretary to David, Shavsha’s son Elihoreph was Secretary of State to Solomon. Shavsha’s father is abnormally left from biblical records3. His son’s name, Elihoreph, perhaps links to Egypt or to foreign lands. Two of David’s sons either watched over or temporarily entered the newly established priesthood. Does this sound familiar to Europe of yesteryear? Of today?

David is thought to have established geographical, and not tribal, taxation regions as well as laid the foundations of judicial machinery. Certainly by Solomon’s reign these were both in place, see further below. David had a harem and multiple wives. David built the largest state funded workforce that Israel had ever had. His state was not lavish by Egyptian standards, although when compared to Saul’s, the state was luxurious. Why this background information? It is to set the scene for deficit spending, and a man’s name being stamped onto what previously had been God’s gold and silver.

King Solomon’s Kingdom:

Solomon came to the throne by way of dynastic succession. He did not have the support of all Israel and many saw dynastic succession as unlawful. However, Solomon had the pledge of King David and stronger support from loyal military leaders than any other claimant to alter the authority. Also recall the throne’s newly found influence in the Priesthood. One of Solomon’s first acts as king was to have murdered his own brother in order to remove a perceived threat to the throne. He then had slain a military leader who had supported the deceased brother. Thus forms the House of David.

Solomon’s role as king was not to expand the empire. It was to hold it together. At this he was mostly successful. Solomon’s true genius was in industry and economics. Before moving to the management of the land and people, it is revealing to strengthen the link that this new state had to Egypt. One of Solomon’s wives is “Pharaoh’s daughter”4. The passage is worded to show the affinity of Israel and Egypt, and the statement appears in the same sentence as talk of building a new home for the Lord. Any allegory aside, this is thought likely to have been the daughter of a Pharaoh of the 21st Dynasty. As with Shavsha above, names are peculiarly and rather obviously left out of the script. Which Pharaoh? Which daughter? Mention of this relationship is significant due to the fact that Pharaohs did not give their daughters to foreigners lightly. The Egyptian dynasties were familial and outside political alliances by marriage were not the norm. It is equally as noteworthy that Solomon took wife outside of the Israelite faith. If there is a degree of allegory in this passage, the significance is profound, given the context included in the sentence.

As modern warfare knows, deterring a military attack is better than having to fight in one. Solomon put this tactic in place by establishing a military force that few would attempt to challenge. At the same time Solomon transformed key towns into military bases, each fortified to defend against attacks if they were to occur. With military defence and deterrence underway, Solomon set to work with economics. He leveraged his position in the north/south trade routes from Egypt and Arabia, to Syria. He allied with Tyre, buying all manner of products including for the building of the new temple. Once completed, this temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, between two wing-to-wing gold overlaid cherubim. Solomon had a merchant fleet constructed and entered into the prosperous trade routes of the Mediterranean. Solomon then negotiated refraining from certain routes, if neighbouring nations would pay a fee for the privilege5. A less talked about but significant move was the take over of the tin industry; both the mining and production of that metal.

Earlier it was said that David had a luxurious but not lavish state. Solomon’s state was lavish and equal to that of the Egyptians. This golden age brought wealth to some. To others, slavery. The price to everyone was an increase in the powers of the state and a burden, financial and jurisdictional, without precedence in Israel.

With all the multitude of income and wealth arriving to the state, the costs far exceeded them. This, even with the Canaanites, the Ammonites and other conquered peoples working as slaves. In attempting to rectify the deficits from the building projects, burgeoning bureaucracy and lavish living, Solomon laid a heavy hand on his subjects in the form of taxation. The tribes had overlaid on them 12 geographical based administrative districts, at times bisecting tribal groupings, each with a governor who was responsible to the throne. Two of these governors were Solomon’s sons-in-law. Thus, within three generations, the tribal confederacy which was united under the Covenant and Fatherhood of Yahweh was, so far as the state was concerned, virtually extinct. In place of 12 tribes caring by free-will for their amphictyonic shrine, were 12 districts taxed for the support of Solomon’s court.

Money of the Period:

Leaving politics and turning to money, Gerard Klockenbring records that King Solomon was the first person to mint his name, a human name, on metallic coins1. Paul Einzig credits Cappadocia, Turkey, as the first nation to have used ingots stamped by a state authority, around 2250 – 2150 AC6. In Cappadocia, interest was charged on lending and borrowing of these ingots at a different rate to the equivalent unstamped metal. No mention is made by Paul of a ‘personal name’ or ‘face’ being stamped, only a mark of state. Paul lists Lydia7 between 700-800 AC to be the first to use a state coinage. By these two facts, a state in Turkey, Cappadocia, stamped ingots and some 1300-1400 years later a different state in Turkey, Lydia, stamped coins. In the intervening years we have the period of the Iliad and the Odyssey, refer to Part 4, as well as Solomon’s Kingdom, which ran almost to those dates ascribed above. Solomon traded heavily with nations of the north and through the Mediterranean. It is highly probable that Solomon knew of metals carrying the stamp of a state.

There is opportunity for Solomon to have introduced a stamped coinage. He is king and ideologies present in Ancient Egypt are present in his courts. Combine this with knowledge that some of the twelve tribes may have arrived from the regions of Turkey8, 9, and even Greece9, 10, where stamping by states had occurred. Solomon applied strict taxation to his empire and ran a large bureaucracy in order to manage and enforce his laws. This could well have required either a unit of account, a standard of value and/or a means of payment. Solomon was a diplomat and trader. He traded with foreign nations as much and likely more than any other empire of the time. He traded goods and even land boundaries. Coinage with a state guarantee on weight and/or quality would bring a level of trust to foreign trade that raw metal and payment in kind may never achieve. And yet, I find no record that Solomon implemented the stamped coinage. Gerrard’s piece1 is well researched and I assume that I have not found the concrete evidence which Gerrard did find.

Conclusions:

Here more than any period covered so far we begin to see the competing ideas to the origin of money. The interplay between religion and state. Those societies operating by free association, and those of the authoritarian state. What’s more, different societies over different periods of time used similar processes to solve different problems that they faced. There was the requirement of:

  • A Unit of Account – something with which to keep track of receipts and expenses.
  • A Medium of Exchange, a divisible and abundant ‘liquid’ for the marketplace.
  • A Trusted Value – to avoid counterfeit metals and having to weigh or assay at every transaction. This came to be important in foreign trade, nothing to do with internal marketplace efficiency. It could equally solve issues with internal barter.
  • A Standardised Value – something to standardise goods received. For example not all livestock were equal in quality. A ‘standard cow’ would be required, with all cows measured to this standard to arrive at value. See Part 4 for more on this.
  • A Portable Value, and,
  • A Store of Wealth – being able to make large payments, including at times for diplomatic trading of national land boundaries, required something with large value and something that would maintain its value once traded; not perish in a short time.
  • Lastly, deficit spending was greatly assisted when the king or temple was able to convert some of their gold and silver treasures to coinage as required. They may then convert them back to treasures as the coins returned from circulation. In this way, both state and temple remained content. The metals were temporarily borrowed from God, to serve the state interest, before being re-sacrificed and returned to the Lord from which they came.

One can begin to see, especially when learning that societies sought solutions in no particular order or preference, how the origin in one society, the nature or characteristic of money in one society, is not the origin or nature in another society. Thus, we need to understand, what is the nature today?


  1. Geld, Gold, Gewissen, by Gerard Klockenbring, 1976.
  2. A History of Israel, by John Bright, 1960.
  3. 1 Chronicles xviii 14-17.
  4. 1 Kings iii 1-3.
  5. The Queen of Sheba, for example.
  6. Primitive Money in its Ethnological, Historical and Economic Aspects, by Paul Einzig, 1949.
  7. Note that both Lydia in Turkey and Argos in Greece are put forward at the same period. Argos was the origins of Alexander the Great who most assuredly used state coinage.
  8. Genesis xi 31-32.
  9. The Sea Peoples & The Late Bronze Age Collapse, by Peter Kelly, 2020.
  10. The Exodus Decoded, research by Simcha Jacobvici, 2006. Simcha goes as far as tracing part of Israel’s origins in Greece, as well as a return to Greece following the Exodus.

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