The first mention of silver in the Bible is in Genesis, where it states how financially wealthy was Abram (later Abraham) after he left Egypt with his family (Genesis 13:1 - 2). This means this metal was used as a method of exchange (in the form of bars and other shapes) as early as the 1900s B.C. It was used, especially among common people, as a means to buy and sell goods far more frequently than gold.
The value of precious metals, in Bible times, was determined by weight. The Biblical measure known as a Talent is roughly equivalent in modern weight to 75 U.S. pounds (34.3 kilograms) or 1,094 troy ounces. If we assume a modern price of $14 per troy ounce of silver, a Talent of the metal would today be worth $15,316 U.S.
Job, who wrote the oldest book in Scripture around the 1660's B.C., knew his earth science when it came to silver. He recorded the truth when he wrote that the precious metal was found in "veins" within the earth (Job 28:1).
This metal gave itself to a whole host of uses. Jewels made from it were among the many gifts Abrahams's steward gave to a young woman named Rebekah who was to be Isaac's wife (Genesis 24:53). Couches of rulers were made from it (Esther 1:6), as well as dishes, bowls, candlesticks, chains, cups, jewelry, musical instruments and even false idols (Numbers 7:13, 1Chronicles 28:15, Isaiah 30:22, 40:19, Genesis 44:2, Exodus 3:22, Numbers 10:2).
The children of Israel, just before they were led out of Egypt's bondage by Moses, were commanded by the Lord to take things containing this precious metal from the Egyptians (Exodus 3:22, 11:2, etc.). Silver was used extensively in Israel's tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 26:19, 38:27, Numbers 7:13, etc.). Great quantities of it were additionally used for implements and musical instruments utilized in the permanent temple in Jerusalem (2Samuel 8:11, 1Kings 7:51, 1Kings 15:18, 1Chronicles 28:14 - 16, 29:2 - 5, etc.). Idols, which were worshipped instead of the true God, were also creating using the metal (Exodus 20:23, Isaiah 30:22, Hosea 13:2).
Gold and silver coins dating back to the Jewish
Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans (c. 132 A.D.)
At the center of trouble
A man named Haman, who was prime minister of Persia under King Xeres (Esther 3:1), was willing to pay the king 10,000 talents of silver (roughly $153 million U.S. in today's money) to cover the expenses of exterminating all Jews in the land (see our study on the Book of Esther).
One of the people who caused the most problems for the Apostle Paul was an Ephesian silversmith named Demetrius. He made and sold silver shrines and idols dedicated to the pagan goddess Diana, who was held in high regard in Ephesus (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, found in the city, was the temple of Diana). Concerned that his lucrative business would suffer loss as people abandoned their pagan ways and began to worship the true God, he stirred up fellow craftsmen and others in the city against the apostle and the gospel (Acts 19:23 - 41).
Silver can symbolize a kingdom that is inferior to one that is greater (see Daniel 2). It can represent great wealth and abundance as was seen during the reign of Solomon (1Kings 10:27). God's refining of the hearts of people is likened to the refining of this metal (Psalm 66:10, Isaiah 48:10). The words of truth that come from the Eternal are said to be like silver refined seven times (Psalm 12:6).
King Solomon became so wealthy that the Bible records he made silver, in Jerusalem, as common as stones (1Kings 10:27). Yet it was he who stated that wisdom and understanding was far more valuable than pursuing this metal.
13. Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, 14. For the merchandise of it is better than the gain from silver, and its produce more than the gain of fine gold;
16. How much better it is to get wisdom than gold, and to choose understanding rather than silver! (Proverbs 3:14, 16:16, HBFV throughout)
A silver shekel made in Tyre around 33 A.D.
This precious metal has and will play a significant role in fulfilling Biblical prophecy.
King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about a great statue that had a head made of fine gold, chest and arms of silver, stomach and thighs of brass and legs of iron (Daniel 2:32 - 33). These four sections represented four prophetic world-ruling empires beginning with Babylon (verse 38). The second empire, cast in silver (symbolic of it being of less quality), which would rule immediately after Babylon, was Persia. The Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C. under Cyrus the Great.
Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for betraying Christ (Matthew 26:14 - 16, 27:9), an amount that was prophesied more than 500 years prior to this event by the prophet Zechariah. In fact, Zechariah also prophesied what would ultimately happen to money - that it would be used to buy a potter's field (see Matthew 27:3 - 7).
12. And I said to them, "If it is good, give me my price; and if not, let it go." So they weighed my price - thirty pieces of silver. 13. And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potter" - the princely price at which I was valued by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the house of the LORD (Zechariah 11:12 - 13)
Interestingly, only the gospel of Matthew records the specific amount of blood money paid to Judas by Jewish religious leaders. As an additional side note, it is likely that the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas were made in Tyre, which was the nearest city to Jerusalem that consistently made large quantities of coins from the metal (NGC Ancients: Shekels and Half-Shekels of Tyre).
The Bible states that in the end time, just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, those who place a higher value on things made of silver rather than on repentance are condemned by God (Revelation 9:20). Those who, when the devil rules the earth, grow wealthy buying and selling the precious metal and what can be made from it, will be made to "weep and mourn" when God destroys their ability to gain riches (Revelation 18:9 - 12).