The term Yehud Coinage refers to a series of small silver coins bearing the Aramaic inscription 'Yehud', the Persian province of Judaea, which were minted in or near Jerusalem during the late Persian period (Yehud Medinata, The Province of Judah) and the Hellenistic period (Iudaea Province) of the 5th and 4th centuries BC after the Babylonian Exile. None of the coins bears a mint mark.[1]


Obverse of a Judean silver Yehud coin from the Persian era (.58 gram), with falcon or eagle and Aramaic inscription "יהד" "Yehud" (Judaea). Denomination is a Ma'ah


Reverse of a Yehud coin from the Persian era, with lily (symbol of Jerusalem)

Unlike later Jewish coinage, Yehud coins depict living creatures, flowers and even human beings, in contravention of the Second Commandment "Thou shalt not make for thyself a sculptured image or any likeness" (Exodus 20:4). During the First Temple period figural art was frequently used, such as the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant, the twelve oxen that supported the giant laver in front of Solomon's Temple, etc. Thus, it is likely that the Yehud coins are continuing the use of figural art from the previous period. The prohibition against graven images in Exodus was probably seen as relating only to idolatrous images rather than the purely decorative. Depictions on the coinage include imagery borrowed from other cultures, such as the owl of Athens, mythological creatures, and perhaps even images of Jewish rulers.[2] One coin depicts an enthroned deity, claimed by some experts to be Yahweh, while this is disputed by others.[3]

The coins from the Persian period tend to be inscribed in Aramaic or Paleo-Hebrew and use the Aramaic spelling of the province as 'y-h-d', while those coins from the Ptolemaic/Hellenistic period are inscribed in the Paleo-Hebrew script and usually spell Judaea as 'y-h-d', 'y-h-d-h' or 'y-h-w-d-h'.[4]

Mildenberg divides most of the Persian period 'Yehud' coinage into three groups: an early group of poorly defined coins with the head of Athena on the obverse with her owl on the reverse with the inscription 'y-h-d' in Paleo-Hebrew; the second group are more clearly defined and depict a lily, and a Egyptian falcon (see pictures), and the head of the Persian king, with the inscription 'y-h-d'; the third group has the Hebrew inscription 'Hezekiah the governor' (yhzqyh hphh). All these coins have been found in the area of Judaea.[5]

The Yehud coins come in two denominations, approximately .58 gram as a ma'ah and approximately .29 gram as a half ma'ah (chatzi ma'ah). These coins were minted in the first 40 years of the Second Temple era. For larger coinage, they first used Persian coinage, the Persian daric and the Sigloi; then Greek and Ptolemaic coins like the drachma and the tetradrachm.

See also

Further reading


  1. Greek Numismatics and Archaeology, Essays in Honor of Margaret Thompson, Leo Mildenberg, Yehud: a Preliminary Study of the Provincial Coinage of Judaea, pages 183-196.(1979)
  2. Jerusalem by Lee I. Levine Published by Jewish Publication Society, 2002 ISBN 0827607504, pg 39
  3. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000 ISBN 0802824005, pg 914
  4. The Emergence of Yehud in the Persian Period: A Social and Demographic Study by Charles E. Carter Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 1841270121, pg269
  5. A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period: Yehud, the Persian Province of Judah by Lester L. Grabbe Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004 ISBN 0567089983, pg 65

External links

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