One who buys and sells or barters with expectation of making a profit; a tradesman or a tradeswoman. The Hebrew term rendered “merchant” literally refers to one who ‘travels about’ for commercial purposes.—Ge 34:10, ftn.
Very early in man’s history people became skilled in certain fields of endeavor, specializing in their occupation. (Ge 4:20-22) Commerce and trade between them naturally followed, and in the course of events, many individuals worked exclusively as merchants and traders handling a great variety of commodities. By the time Abraham reached Canaan early in the second millennium B.C.E., certain mercantile weights and measures were used and recognized. (Ge 23:16) The Mosaic Law commanded that the merchant’s measurements be standardized and just.—De 25:13-16; Pr 11:1; 20:10; Mic 6:11.
Some merchants were shopkeepers; others did business in the cities in marketplaces and bazaars. (Ne 13:20) Some owned fleets of ships that plied the high seas to bring back valuable cargoes of merchandise from distant lands. (Ps 107:23; Pr 31:14) Other traders were travelers who followed the extensive overland trade routes of the ancient world. (1Ki 10:14, 15; 2Ch 9:13, 14) Joseph was sold by his brothers to such traveling merchants headed for Egypt.—Ge 37:25, 28.
All the nations, small and great, had their merchants, and through their activity many were made rich. There were the merchants of Ethiopia (Isa 45:14), of Assyria (Na 1:1; 3:16), of the kingdom of Solomon (1Ki 10:28; 2Ch 1:16), and of Sidon and Tyre (Isa 23:2, 8).
Ezekiel’s prophecy describes the city of Tyre as a great commercial center to which the ships and caravans from all parts of the world came and did business. This same prophecy also describes the great variety of merchandise these merchants handled, which enriched this port city, such things as silver, iron, tin, lead, copper articles, horses, mules, ivory, ebony, turquoise, wool, dyed fabrics, corals, rubies, wheat, special foodstuffs, honey, oil, balsam, wine, cassia, cane, garments of woven material, perfumes, precious stones, and gold.—Eze 27:2, 12-25.
The Greek word emʹpo·ros (poʹros meaning “journey”) refers to a traveling merchant, or one “on a journey.” An example is the traveling merchant in Jesus’ illustration who searched for fine pearls of great price. (Mt 13:45) It is the traveling merchants that the symbolic book of Revelation says are made rich by “the great harlot . . . ‘Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots,’” and who weep and mourn over her downfall and destruction. (Re 17:1, 5; 18:3, 11-15) Babylon the Great also has her own traveling merchants, “the top-ranking men of the earth.”—Re 18:23.