Chapter 13: Beneath the Surface

13:4 The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.

      The literal Hebrew rendering for the last half of this verse actually comes off a little different than our translation – "the soul of the diligent will be made fat." The term "fat" is used for both animal fat and vegetable oil. Both were prized commodities and represented health and prosperity.
      In fact, the sweet smell to the LORD of animal sacrifices on the altar (see Lev 1) came primarily from fat on the portion sacrificed. It's the same smell as a good steak on the grill! While "fat" in our society is not generally appreciated, in Proverbs it is always mentioned as a good thing (Hebrew dashen; 11:25; 13:4; 15:30; 28:25). In many developing countries today, people tend to be thin. In their world, someone who is "plump" is prosperous. As the assistant director of the Tall el-Hamman Excavation Project in Jordan for the past 7 years, I have met many local men. On more than one occasion, other old guys have patted my stomach – as a sign of respect. With my graying bald head and expanded tummy, it was obvious to them that I was a prosperous man! If they only knew!

13:11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

      While this verse speaks of "money," a better translation would be "wealth." The world's first coinage doesn't seem to have been issued till about 200 years later – last half of the 7th century BC. The oldest coins we know come from the western Turkey kingdom of Lydia and were made of electrum (a natural alloy of gold and silver native to that region). Each one was "struck" by hammering between two inscribes die, creating royal symbols on each side. This method of coin manufacture actually continued worldwide until the 16th century AD.
      Once introduced, the concept of coinage spread quickly, especially with the sixth century BC rise of the Persian Empire. Persian kings developed a standardized coinage system as a propaganda tool with the king's face, inscription and symbols of royal power struck on both sides of each coin.
      At the same time, Greek city states also began producing their own coins. With Alexander the Great's conquests came the Greek standard unit of silver coinage, the drachma, to the major cities throughout his empire. Meaning "handful" (Greek; from the verb "to grab"), the drachma continued to be the central coin of modern Greece's monetary system into the 21th century (recently replaced by the Euro). The tetradrachma ("four handfuls") was also widely used very early in the Greek city states (even before Alexander).
      While early on, drachmas were minted at different weights by different Greek city states, eventually a standard was developed from the Athenian coin, weighing a little over four grams of silver. By New Testament times, the silver Roman denarius became the drachma's equivalent of a day's wage (see Jesus' parable about the workers in the vineyard; Mt 20:1) and is the most frequently mentioned coin in the New Testament.