Daily Archives: February 11, 2008

Israel Issues a New 2-Shekel Coin

A new 2-shekel coin entered circulation recently in Israel. This might be of interest to people who plan to travel to Israel. The Israeli New Shekel is worth about 27 cents in US money, so the 2-shekel (NIS 2) will be roughly equivalent to our half-dollar. Most American tourists who are in travel groups have prepaid their arrangements and have little need to exchange funds. Dollars are widely accepted in Israel.

The new coin has an interesting historical association on the reverse side. It is a design of a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, and a pomegranate. This design is from an historical coin minted in the days of John Hyrcanus. Hyrcanus was one of the Maccabeans who successed Judas. He became high priest, and then ruler of the Hasmonean Dynasty from 135-104 B.C. During his reign we have the first reference to the Jewish parties, Pharisees and Sadducees, that are prominent in New Testament times.

John Hyrcanus extended the territory of the Maccabeans by seizing Idumaea (enter Herod!) and compelling the Idumaeans to be circumcised. He seized Samaritan territory and destroyed the temple of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. This is the temple alluded to by the woman of Samaria when she said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain [Gerizim], and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20).

History is interesting, isn’t it? Here is a photo of the new 2-shekel and the bronze Prutah minted in the time of Hyrcanus. The photo is from Wikimedia Commons. Glancing through Hendin and Meshorer, I see that this design was fairly common during the period of the Maccabees.

Israel 2-shekel and coin from time of John Hyrcanus.

The pomegranate can be eaten fresh, used for fresh juice, or processed into an alcoholic drink for future use. Writers say the pomegranate,

“is a beautiful, symmetrical fruit, scarlet in color. Filled with small seeds surrounded by juicy pulp, the fruit became an obvious symbol of fertility” (King and Stager, Life in Biblical Israel, 104).

Another source says,

“The pulp is divided into 9 or 10 partitions which hold the numerous seeds. The pulp is delicious and very refreshing to eat because of its copious juice. the seeds yield a syrup called grenadine. The flowers are used in the treatment of dysentery” (Fauna and Flora of the Bible, 169).

Saul stayed on the outskirts of Gibeah “under the pomegranate tree” (1 Samuel 14:2). The girl of the Song of Solomon is told twice that her “temples are like a slice of a pomegranate behind your veil” (Song 4:3; 6:7). She also says, “I would give you spiced wine to drink from the juice of my pomegranates” (Song 8:2). The fruit was used as the design for decoration on the hem of the garment of the high priest (Exodus 28:33).

This beautiful pomegranate was growing at the site of ancient Aphrodisias in Turkey. The photo is better than some I have from Israel. Enjoy.

Pomegranate growing at Aphrodisias in Turkey.