What are Weights and Measures in Biblical Law? by Jack Kettler
What do the Scriptures say about Weights and Measures?
A contemporary definition:
Weights and Measures, a Definition from the U.S. Legal Code:
“Weights, measures or weighing or measuring devices are defined to include all weights, scales, beams, measures of every kind, instruments and mechanical devices for weighing, or measuring, and any appliances and accessories connected with any or all such instruments. The federal government has adopted a standard for weights and measures which is adopted on a state-by-state basis. In states which adopt the federal standard, all contracts made within the state for any work to be done or for anything to be sold or delivered must be construed to have been according to the standard, unless the parties stipulate to the contrary.
Weights and measures regulatory professionals set standards and enforce uniform procedures to verify weight, volume, length or count, ensuring that consumers get the quantity that they pay for and that businesses sell the quantity that they advertise. Inspections may be conducted at such places as grocery stores and gas stations. Some of the items affected include home heating oil, fabrics, parking meters, and taxi fares.”
Where did the notion about weights and measures in the U.S. Legal code come from? It did not arise out of thin air. As with many other legal principles and laws in Western legal codes, it is rooted in Scripture.
“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 ESV) (All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted)
“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:35-36 ESV)
“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small.” (Deuteronomy 25:13)
Comments from Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers are apropos:
“Deuteronomy 25:13-16. JUST WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.
So Leviticus 19:35-36. Among the laws of moral holiness comes the law of just weights and measures.
(16) An abomination unto the Lord.—So in Proverbs 11:1, “a false balance is abomination to the Lord.” (See also Amos 8:4-8.) The protection of the poor is the chief practical end in this; rich men can take care of themselves. Poor men are doubly robbed by short weight and measure, because they cannot protect themselves against it. The injustice tends to perpetuate their poverty.” (1)
“A full and fair weight you shall have a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 25:15)
“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)
The Pulpit Commentary explains this nicely:
“Verse 1. - A false balance; literally, balances of deceit (Proverbs 20:23). The repetition of the injunctions of Deuteronomy 25:13, 14 and Leviticus 19:35, 36 points to fraud consequent on increased commercial dealings, and the necessity of moral and religious considerations to control practices, which the civil authority could not adequately supervise. The standard weights and measures were deposited in the sanctuary (Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 27:25; 1 Chronicles 23:29), but cupidity was not to be restrained by law, and the prophets had continually to inveigh against this besetting sin (see Ezekiel 45:10; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11). Honesty and integrity are at the foundation of social duties, which the author is now teaching. Hence comes the reiteration of these warnings (Proverbs 16:11; Proverbs 20:10). A just weight; literally, a perfect stone, stones having been used as weights from early times. So we read (2 Samuel 14:26) that Absalom weighed his hair “by the king's stone” (eben).” (2)
“A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.” (Proverbs 16:11)
“Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 20:10)
“Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?” (Amos 8:4-6)
“Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights? Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth. Therefore, I strike you with a grievous blow, making you desolate because of your sins. You shall eat, but not be satisfied, and there shall be hunger within you; you shall put away, but not preserve, and what you preserve I will give to the sword.” (Micah 6:10-14)
“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” (James 5:4”
Falsified weights and measures has been and is a deceitful technique to obtain an unfair advantage in trade. Therefore, in can be concluded that unfair weights and measures is nothing short of stealing. Im balanced weights and measures is a violation of the seventh commandment.
In conclusion, implications for today:
“Why Paper Money Represents Theft
By Mark R. Rushdoony
June 16, 2005
Every hour of every day the government is stealing your wealth, and, like a good thief, is never suspected. It does it by creating paper (or digital) money and spending it, just like a counterfeiter.
Scripture demands just weights and measures (Lev.19:35–36; Deut. 25:13–15). Obviously, a butcher who holds his finger on the scale when he weighs meat violates this requirement. However, this demand is also a reference to money, which was then also by weight of gold and silver and was counterfeited by adding impurities to it so that its weight was unjust. Tampering with scales or the money that measured wealth in economic transactions was called “unrighteousness” (Lev.19:35) because it was theft. Isaiah condemned Jerusalem for its sin. It had become a city of murderers, thieves, and bribe-takers, and, as Isaiah said, their “silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water” (Isa. 1:22). In other words, Jerusalem was a place where you were going to get clipped.
Melting worthless metals into precious ones, however, is cumbersome. Today’s unjust monetary weights are represented by paper money issued by the government. Increasingly, paper is eliminated and money is created digitally in a computer. Click, and dollars appear because the Federal Reserve System so commands. The government spends these artificial dollars at full value; it is only after they circulate that the increased circulation causes market forces to realize there is more money chasing the same amount of goods. The result is higher prices, reflecting the fact that all money is now worth a little less. Paper inflation is like adding water to wine; the wine becomes less valuable, not more.
Paper money works in the same manner as counterfeiting; only governments allow themselves the exclusive right to inflate the money supply. It still represents a morally lawless money because it is an artificial money, an unjust, unrighteous weight (really no weight at all). Inflation is the government creating spending power by “watering down” the money supply.
Paper money is the greatest single means of government control of wealth. We measure our economy, in fact, in terms of the government’s success in manipulating the flow of money. We watch the Federal Reserve to see if they can maintain a balance between recession and inflation. The health of our economy is increasingly measured in terms of government management, not in terms of productivity, savings, or capital. In reality, an economy that demands government management is already a troubled one.
Critics of hard (gold, silver) money note these are commodities that can fluctuate in value. They can vary in an open market, but paper money always varies and does so in a consistently downward trend. Money represents wealth, and government-inflated paper dollars are a manipulated sliding scale of wealth. How much has our scale slid? It is estimated that if you had held on to a 1934 paper dollar, its spending power today would be the equivalent of five 1934 cents!
We usually realize the tenuous nature of our money’s value. We scramble to avoid holding paper. We put paper money into tangibles we hope will increase in real value faster than paper dollars will decline. Antiques, art, real estate, and stocks all offer us some hope of outpacing the decline in value of our paper money.
Inflation destroys money, the measure of wealth, and is a poison for a capitalistic economy. Inflation means there is no security to acquired wealth, that we must do more than invest, we must speculate on what will outpace inflation.
Our money represents a counterfeiting government’s theft of our wealth. It is an unjust, that is, an unrighteous, weight that produces an artificial economic atmosphere. Like Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day, our counterfeiting government is ripe for judgment. Because it is unjust, the godly ought not to justify it.
Most of God’s judgments are the inevitable consequences of ignoring His laws. If you jump off a cliff, God does not have to do anything to judge you; His gravity will do the job. In our personal finances, we know that theft and debt will lead to our ruin. Our economy is based on the theft of false measurements and debt. One day it will see a severe correction. It will be a hard one, and the hurt will be universal. Avoid both debt and depending on the value of paper money to protect your wealth, however, and you will come out of it better than most.” (3)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)
1. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Deuteronomy, Vol. 2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 68.
2. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Proverbs, Vol. 9, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 214.
3. Mark R. Rushdoony, Why Paper Money Represents Theft, (Vallecito, California, Chalcedon), online https ://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/why-paper-money-represents-theft
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
Honest Money by Gary North
Mises on Money by Gary North