Weighed and Measured
by susan dayley in

One of the acts of King Hezekiah for which he is noted was that he established a standard of weights and measures throughout the kingdom of Judah. Weights had been figured for thousands of years, usually based on a volume of grain such as wheat or barley. (The carat was a unit that came from a measure of carob and is still used today in determining the value of precious stones.) King Hezekiah recognized the need to standardize weights and measures to ensure an honest exchange of goods, land, and services. He had limestone weights made and distributed throughout Judah, as well as standardizing the units of measure.

Standardized weights and measures have always been highly valued by people desiring a free society. Recognizing the importance of them and the connection to liberty (as oposed to an arbitrary standard determined by each local ruler or changed with the change of a monarch), in 1215 AD at Runnymede the barons included into the Magna Carta (Latin for Great Charter) a clause (35) which determined these for their kingdom.

The Magna Carta was significant in that it proclaimed rights to freemen and bound the king by the law. It influenced the development of the common law and was a significant influence on many constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

In America, under the Articles of Confederation the states were permitted to coin their own money, which led to, at the least, confusion. Therefore when a ‘more perfect union’ was established, Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution read: “Congress shall have the power to…coin money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures.”

The foundational idea was that the coin of the nation not only standardized, but that it hold intrinsic value. Weights and Measures are interchangeably connected to the value of coins. Anciently, a talent of gold was equivalent to a certain measure of wheat; wheat that could be used to feed a family and sustain life. Therefore the gold paid for a commodity represented real value. However, due to the nature of the metals, gold and silver themselves also have intrinsic value. Paper money originally was merely certificates that could be redeemed for gold or silver and therefore they represented real value. Today the value of money is perceived value. A paper that claims to be worth 20 units (dollars, pounds, etc.) will get you a bigger sack of flour than one that claims to be worth 5 units. Yet there is no real value beyond what is perceived. There is no gold or silver backing or measure of grain. And electronic banking has created a world that is even more hazy.

Is it no wonder that many people no longer believe that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch?” The concept that value must be given for value has become a forgotten idea. I believe there is a direct connection between establishing a standard of weights and measures and a nation of liberty.

When the finger of the Lord wrote on the wall of King Belshazzar and Daniel was called in for an interpretation, he read, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Then he gave the interpretation: “Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided and given to [your enemies].“ God was talking about real value and when the King of Babylon was weighed and measured, he was found wanting in his character and his ability as a ruler; and his nation was destroyed.

If our nation were weighed in the balance today would the scales contain only cyber numbers to weigh us against? Would it show that we have allowed much of what we should have valued to no longer exist? Has our inability to recognize and cherish the intrinsic value of real things been reflected in our attitude toward other principles such as an honest work ethic, liberty, and agency? Would we be found wanting?


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