Glimpses of Israel - Rewards of Archaeology

On the day when one of the largest troves of treasure that had ever been found in Israel was brought to light off the coast of Haifa there was great satisfaction and wonder. So often those engaged in digging up the past, or as in this case marine archaeologists diving in the sea, pursue their goals amidst much disappointment and often with little recognition.

But the find that made all their efforts worthwhile was a cache of coins – several thousands of them – dating back to the Hellenistic period. It included over forty kilograms of coins known as tetradrachmas, which were minted in Paphos about 145 B.C. during the reign of Emperor Ptolemy VI.

On one side of each coin was the portrait of the emperor, while on the other side was a large eagle, the symbol of the Ptolemaic emperors. Next to the eagle was the mint mark and the year of mintage. The tetradrachmas were very valuable in the period; we find that the daily wage of an ordinary hired soldier was one quarter the value of a silver tetradrachma.

The cache of coins found off the Haifa coast was part of the cargo of a ship which was sailing north from Egypt when it foundered near Haifa. The cache probably represented either payment for goods and slaves, or the wages of Ptolemy's hired soldiers. Ptolemy's troops were probably on their way north up the coast, as by this time the alliance between Egypt's Ptolemaic ruler and the people of Canaan had broken down.

It was an era when the area along the Mediterranean coast was a transit route from the Far East for Ptolemy's empire, and for large merchant vessels bearing slaves, olive oil, wine, wheat and other grains.

The greatest rewards of archaeology, apart from shedding light on ancient history, are in their ability as they so often do to bring the truths of God's Word to the fore. They prove time and time again that events that have been recorded in the Bible, but maybe have been difficult to understand, are there to be accepted as accurate and reliable simply because God's Word says so.