The Fish and the Shekel

Many detectorists have taken up the hobby via their love of angling. And that is why the anglers amongst you may find this story particularly interesting and thought-provoking.

The Israeli government has recently announced a ban on fishing, claiming that stocks have fallen to a dangerous low because nets with small holes have exceeded legal limits. The ban came into effect at the end of last year, thus ending a tradition that has continued virtually unchanged since Biblical times.

The Sea of Galilee – actually a freshwater lake – happens to be the site of several miracles described in the Bible, including the place where Jesus told his disciples that he would make them the ‘fishers of men’. The area has long been known for its plentiful stocks of fish and the most common catches are known as St Peter’s Fish, so named after the Bible passage in which Peter, one of the disciples, hooks a fish with a coin in its mouth. It was hailed as a miracle and enabled him to pay his temple tax. You can check out the story in the good book at Matthew 17: 24-2

Jesus said to PeterBut so that we may not cause offence, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” – Matthew 17:27

The type of coin in the fish’s mouth has intrigued scholars for centuries. That it was a silver coin is agreed and is thought to be the coin depicted here, the so-called silver shekel of Tyre

Silver Shekel in the mouth of the fish –

Due to its purity of silver this was the only coin acceptable for payment of the temple tax in Jerusalem. Coins of this type are also widely believed to have been the most likely coin which Judas was paid his ‘30 pieces of silver’. As with many ancient units, the shekel had a variety of values depending on era, government and region. We even use (informally) the term ‘shekel’ when talking about money. The new shekel is the currency of the modern state of Israel. I like stability.

The Apostle Peter paying the temple tax with a coin from the fish’s mouth, by Augustin Tünger, 1486.Wikipedia

I leave you with the thought that if disciples James, Andrew, John or Peter – the fisherman who worked on the shores of Galilee – were to ply their trade now, they would soon find themselves in court! But it’s only to give the small fish a chance to grow, stocks to increase and the lake to recover. I wonder if the fish caught in the future are likely to have coins in their mouths. Now that would be a miracle.

Shekel of TyreHeritage Auctions

Obverse: Laureate head of Melkart facing right.
Reverse: Eagle standing left on prow, palm-branch over shoulder, above club

The next time you reel in a fish, check its mouth for coins. You never know!


I posted a blog on this subject a couple of days ago, but it was inadvertently trashed because of my crap motor skills. Long story. Sorry to those of you who clicked on a duff link and especially my Canadian friend Micheal who left a comment.

My usual penance for creating such a major mistake is to go down the bottom of the garden and eat worms. It’s a kinda Aussie bush-tucker trial but in the Home Counties. Unfortunately the ground is so hard and the critters are hibernating, I’ll ask the carer to take me down when it warms up.

5 thoughts on “The Fish and the Shekel

  1. Nice to see I am not the only one who is , let us say, ‘computer challenged’, John., LOL Suffice it to say, I did enjoy the read..But then again, I always enjoy the reads that you post my friend.

    No worm eating.. we need them for the gardens.

    I truly hope all is well..


    Liked by 1 person

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