First Judaic Coins Issued During Persian Period *LINK*

from Ancient Jewish Coins Related to the Works of Josephus :

Persian Era:

The first coins to be used in Judea appeared in the 4th century BCE while Judea was part of the Persian Empire. These tiny silver coins depicted a falcon and the head of a Persian king, and had inscribed on them the name of the region, YEHUD, in the ancient Hebrew alphabet. This period is described in Book 11 of Josephus' Antiquities.

Greek Era:

Judea came under Greek rule when Alexander the Great conquered the area from the Persians in 333 BCE. Josephus describes this victory and the encounter between Alexander and the High Priest of Jerusalem in Antiquities 11.8.1-7.

Alexander's empire was divided after his death among his generals, with Ptolemy taking Egypt and Seleucus ruling Syria. The people of Judea fell under the dominion of one or the other of these dynasties for the next two centuries, "so that they were like a ship in a storm, which is tossed by the waves on both sides" (Antiquities 12.3.3).

The coins of the period found in Israel include the Greek-lettered coins of the Ptolemaic and Seleucid rulers minted in their respective countries, but also there are found coins minted in, or specifically for, Judea.

These latter coins include small silver coins, half the size of a U.S. dime, with the head of Ptolemy I on one side and an eagle on the other with the inscription YEHUDAH (Judea) in ancient Hebrew. Variations of these coins are also found, including those bearing the bust of the goddess Athena.

This period is described in Book 12, Chapters 1-11, of Josephus' Antiquities.

Hasmonean / Maccabean Era:

The Seleucid rule over was Jerusalem unexpectedly ended in by the revolt of the Jews led by Judah Maccabee (December, 165 BCE).

"Now Judah celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the Temple for eight daysAnd from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason for the name was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us." (Antiquities 12.7.7 323-325)

This restored of a Jewish kingdom for the first time since the Babylonian captivity. (And so it also served as inspiration for the revolt against the Romans two centuries later.) Judah and his brothers were descended from Asmoneus Accompanying this rule was the first Jewish coinage. The series of coins record the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty (named after Asmoneus, the ancestor of Judah and his brothers).

The coins of the Judean kingdom are quite different from the coins of its neighbors. Most distinctive is the absence of any depiction of a human head, bird, or animal throughout the entire series. The obvious explanation is that the kings were obeying the Second Commandment to make no graven images. Thus the coins attest that the government was officially dedicated to preserving the Jewish religion.

Instead of symbols of living animals, the coins of the Hasmoneans were filled on one side with text written in ancient Hebrew script. This script differs from the calligraphic Babylonian-style lettering familiar today. The older script had been used to write the holy books prior to the Babylonian captivity, and even in the Hasmonean days it was antique (the Dead Sea scrolls, for example, are written in the later script). The use of the older lettering may have been to draw a direct link between the new kings and the kings of Israel prior to the captivity.

On the reverse of the coins one finds pictures of inanimate objects or plants that symbolize the nation or its religion. Most commonly found are cornucopia, "horns of plenty," representing the abundance of the land, combined with a pomegranate, a priestly symbol.

All of these coins are bronze and about three-quarters the size of a U.S. dime.

Charles, we then have the coins issued during the reigns of Hyrcanus I, Alexander Janneus, Aristobulus II, Hyrcanus II, and Antigonus before we enter the Herodian era.

My fave coin in the history of the world is this one, featuring (as you know) the real people that Jesus and Mary Magdalene are based on:

The portion of Lebanon called Chalcis was given to the son of Aristobulus (Mariamme's son). Herod III eventually passed his land on to his own son named Aristobulus.

One extremely interesting coin was known to have been issued by Aristobulus. On one side is shown the head of Aristobulus with the inscription OF KING ARISTOBULUS in Greek. On the other side is the head of a woman wearing a crown. surrounded by the inscription QUEEN SALOME. This is Aristobulus' wife (Antiquities 18.5.4 137), who is the same Salome as in the John the Baptist story. It is a rare depiction of a person from a New Testament story.

After Agripppa, Agrippa II, coins of the Procurators etc., then came the coins of the Revolt Against Rome:

Jerusalem The Holy coins

The most famous coins of the revolt are the large, thick silver shekels. As discussed above, the Temple would only take the Tyrian shekel as payment for the Temple tax. The new revolutionary coins of the same weight were undoubtedly intended as nationalist replacements for the foreign and idolatrous Tyrian shekel.

The shekels have about the same diameter as a U. S. quarter and the same weight as the U. S. half dollar.

These coins are beautifully made. On the obverse is a chalice surrounded by the inscription sheqel yisroael, SHEKEL OF ISRAEL, and an indication of the date, YEAR 1,2,3, or 4, with coins of the last year (69/70 CE) being extremely rare.

On the reverse is a stem with three of what appear to be pomegranates. The careful positioning of the fruits implies this symbol was of great importance to the revolt, but we do not know what that was. Surrounding this is the inscription yerushalaim hakodesh, JERUSALEM THE HOLY.

Okay, enough numismatic history for now, so here is the point of my post. I am wondering why a falcon was the symbol on the earliest Judaic coins, and why, by the time of the New Testament Herodians, did the pomegranate take over as the premier symbol of the Chosen People?

I am interested in reading any theories backed up by reference to the contemporaneous importance of the symbols that appear on the various coins.