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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. in the dual מאֹזְנִיַם, mozena'yim, i.e. two poisers; and so the Chald. equivalent, מאֹזְנִיַן, mozena'yin, Daniel 5:27; once the Hebrews קָנֶה, kaneh', prop. a branch, as of "cane," used in the sing. Isaiah 46:6, the rod or beam of a steel-yard; in Revelation 6:5, ζύγος, a yoke, hence a "pair of balances"). In the early periods of the world gold and silver were paid by weight, so that persons employed in traffic of any kind carried with them a pair of scales or balances and different weights (generally stones of different sizes) in a pouch or bag. Fraudulent men would carry two sorts of weights, the lighter to sell with and the other to buy with (Micah 6:11). Balances or scales of various forms are frequently seen upon the most ancient Egyptian monuments, and were also used for dividing the spoil by the ancient Assyrian warriors (Bonomi, Nineveh, p. 163, 268); they bear a general resemblance to those now in use, and most likely they are similar to those used by the ancient Hebrews (Leviticus 19:36). Among the Egyptians large scales were generally a flat wooden board, with four ropes attached to a ring at the extremity of the beam; and those of smaller size were of bronze, one and a half inch in diameter, pierced near the edge in three places for the strings. The principle of the common balance was simple and ingenious: the beam passed through a ring suspended from a horizontal rod, immediately above and parallel to it, and when equally balanced, the ring, which was large enough to allow the beam to play freely, showed when the scales were equally poised, and had the additional effect of preventing the beam tilting when the goods were taken out of one and the weights suffered to remain in the other scale. To the lower part of the ring a small plummet was fixed, and this being touched by the hand, and found to hang freely, indicated, without the necessity of looking at the beam, that the weight was just. The figure of a baboon was sometimes placed upon the top, as the emblem of the god Thoth, the regulator of measures, of time, and of writing, in his character of the moon; but there is no appearance of the goddess of justice being connected with the balance, except in the judgment scenes of the dead. The pair of scales was the ordinary and, apparently, only kind of balance used by the Egyptians, no instance of the steel-yard being met with in the paintings of Thebes or of Beni Hassan; and the introduction of the latter is confined to a Roman era. The other kind of balance, whose invention has been ascribed by Pliny to Daedalus, is shown to have been known and applied in Egypt at least as early as the time of the Osirtasens. One kind of balance used for weighing gold, (See GOLDSMITH), differed slightly from those of ordinary construction, and was probably more delicately formed. It was made, as usual, with an upright pole, rising from a broad base or stand, and a cross- beam turning on a pin at its summit; but instead of strings suspending the scales was an arm on either side, terminating in a hook, to which the gold was attached in small bags (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. abridg. 2:151, 152). (See WEIGHT).

A pair of scales is likewise a well-known symbol of a strict observation of justice and fair dealing. It is thus used in several places of Scripture, as Job 31:6; Psalms 62:9; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11. But balance, joined with symbols denoting the sale of corn and fruits by weight, becomes the symbol of scarcity; bread by weight being a curse in Leviticus 26:26, and in Ezekiel 4:16-17. So in Revelation 6:5, "He that sat upon him had a pair of balances in his hand." Here the balance is used to weigh corn and the necessaries of life, in order to signify great want and scarcity, and to threaten the world with famine. (See SCALES).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Bake'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Bake, Henry