The basic Hebrew unit of weight (1Sa 17:5, 7; Eze 4:10; Am 8:5) and of monetary value. Based on the average of some 45 inscribed shekel weights, the shekel may be reckoned at 11.4 g (0.403 oz avdp; 0.367 oz t). One shekel equaled 20 gerahs (Nu 3:47; 18:16), and there is evidence that 50 shekels equaled one mina. (See MINA.) Calculated in modern values, a shekel of silver would be worth $2.20, and a shekel of gold, $128.45.
The shekel is often referred to in connection with silver or gold. (1Ch 21:25; Ne 5:15) Before coins were used, pieces of silver (and, less frequently, gold) were used for money, the weight being checked at the time the transaction was made. (Ge 23:15, 16; Jos 7:21) Things pertaining to the tabernacle were sometimes stated in terms of shekels “by the shekel of the holy place.” (Ex 30:13; Le 5:15; 27:2-7, 25) This may have been to emphasize that the weight should be precise or, perhaps, that it should conform to a standard weight kept at the tabernacle.
It is generally thought that the “silver pieces” often mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures were silver shekels, the standard monetary unit. (Jg 16:5; 1Ki 10:29; Ho 3:2) This is borne out by the Septuagint (in which the Greek word for “silver pieces” at Genesis 20:16 is the same as the Greek word for “shekels” at Genesis 23:15, 16) as well as by the Targums. According to Jeremiah 32:9, the prophet paid “seven shekels and ten silver pieces” for a field. Perhaps this was simply a legal formula meaning 17 silver shekels (AS, Da, NE, RS), or possibly, it meant seven gold shekels and ten silver shekels.
Second Samuel 14:26 may indicate that there was a “royal” shekel different from the common shekel, or the reference may be to a standard weight kept at the royal palace.