TREASURE, TREASURY (Treasure: Heb. סְגֻלָּה ,נֶעְלָם ,מַצְפּוּן ,מִסְתָּר ,מַטְמוֹן ,חֹסֶן ,חַיִל ,בֶּצֶר ,אוֹצָר; Akk. niṣirtu; Treasury: Heb. (בֵּית נְכוֹת ,גִּנְזַךְ ,גִּנְזֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ ,בֵּית הָאוֹצָר(וֹת; Akk. bīt niṣirti, bāt nakkamīti). The concepts of treasure and treasury in the Bible are denoted by many different terms.
Semantic Range of Words Meaning Treasure
Most of the Hebrew words for treasure listed above may be divided into two semantic groups: a) Words which mean both treasure and something hidden or secret (maṭmon, mistar, maẓpun, neʿlam). b) Words which mean both treasure and strength (beẓer, ḥayil, ḥosen).
The most common Akkadian term for treasure, niṣirtu, belongs to the first group as may be seen from the following passage:
Utnapištim ana šâšuma izzakkara ana Gilgameš luptēka Gilgameš amat niṣirti u pirišta ša ilāni kâša luqbīka. "Utnapishtim said to him, to Gilgamesh: 'Let me divulge a hidden matter to you, O Gilgamesh, And let me tell you a secret of the gods'" (Gilgamesh, 11:8–10).
Types of Treasures
While the most common type of treasure referred to is "silver and gold" (kesef, zahav, e.g., Isa. 2:7; Ezek. 28:4; Eccles. 2:8; i Chron. 29:3; cf. Ps. 68:31 where perhaps the reading should be beẓer kesef, so Tur-Sinai), treasures of clothes (e.g., Jer. 38:11; Zech. 14:14), wine (i Chron. 27:27), oil (i Chron. 27:28), food in general (Joel 1:17; ii Chron. 11:11), precious stones (i Chron. 29:8), and dedicated gifts (i Chron. 26:26) are all represented. Elsewhere, temple treasures are listed in Ezra 1:9–11 (cf. Ezra 2:68–69; Neh. 7:69ff.) and include gold and silver dishes and bowls, and gold drachmas and priestly vestments, while royal treasures are mentioned in ii Chronicles 32:27–29 (period of Hezekiah) comprising silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields, and miscellaneous items. Babylonia in particular is singled out for her opulence and is called "the one rich in treasures" (Jer. 51:13). The treasures of Israel's enemies (ḥeil goyim) will all come to her when God executes His punishment upon them (Isa. 60:5, 11; 61:6; Zech. 14:14). Treasures are sometimes described as being transported on the backs of beasts of burden (Isa. 30:6; i Kings 10:2 = ii Chron. 9:1; cf. Isa. 66:20). The gold of Ophir is described as "the treasure of the rivers" (Job 22:24; cf. N.H. Tur-Sinai, in bibl.). Finally, treasures are used as bribes in the Bible. In Jeremiah 41:8 the ten men who remained after Ishmael son of Nethaniah's massacre of the rest of their group bribed Ishmael to let them live in return for treasures of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey, hidden in the fields. In i Samuel 12:3 and Amos 2:6; 8:6, there are additional instances of bribes involving treasure. In all three cases the word nʿelam, "hidden treasure" (the vocalization of which is still uncertain) must be restored to the text (in place of naʿalayim, "shoes" in Amos 2:6; 8:6, and ʾaʿalim, "I shall hide" in I Sam. 12:3, cf. Septuagint which also reads naʿalayim, "shoes"). This meaning is demonstrated both by Ben Sira 46:19 which paraphrases i Samuel 12:3, by juxtaposing the Hebrew word kofer, "gift," with the word naʿalayim, and by Targum Jonathan which translates naʿalayim in Amos 2:6 and 8:6 by a form of the word ḥosen, "treasure" (see above).
In extra-biblical sources, mention must be made of the Copper Scroll discovered in 1952 in Cave 3 of Qumran. This Copper Scroll consists of three sheets of very thin copper on which is engraved a Hebrew text. The Hebrew text is a register of 64 deposits of buried treasure supposed to be hidden in and around Qumran (in an area extending from Hebron to Mt. Gerizim). The objects listed include a silver chest, ingots of gold and silver, jars of all shapes and sizes, bowls, perfumes, and perhaps, vestments. It should be noted that the purpose of the scroll is still a mystery. Among the theories advanced by scholars are that it is a list of the treasures of the First Temple, the Second Temple, or the Qumran community. A fourth theory, posited by T.H. Gaster (see bibl.), is that the scroll represents "an unconscionable fraud [or even a cruel practical joke] perpetrated by some cynical outsider upon the naive and innocent minds of the ascetics of Qumran."
Treasures in War
The defeated nation often was obliged to give up all of her treasures to the victor (Isa. 39:6ff.). For example, Shishak of Egypt took from Jerusalem the royal treasures, the Temple treasures, and everything else (i Kings 14:26 = ii Chron. 12:9). While no part of the ḥerem of Jericho after Joshua's conquest could be taken by any Israelite, all the silver and gold, and the copper and iron vessels were to be added to the Temple treasury (Josh. 6:19, 24). As part of Israel's punishment, Babylon would carry off all of her treasures as spoil (Jer. 15:13; 17:3; 20:5); but the day would also come when Babylon would be punished in kind (Jer. 50:37). Likewise, Moab (Jer. 48:7) and the Ammonites (Jer. 49:4), who trusted in their treasures, and Edom (Jer. 49:10; cf. Obad. 6) would suffer the same consequences. In extra-biblical sources, the same situation prevailed in times of war. Sennacherib of Assyria in describing his defeat of Merodach-Baladan of Babylon claims:
Ann ekallišu ša qereb Bāb-ili ērumma aptēma bīt niṣirtišu hurāṣa kaspa unūt hurāṣi kaspi abnu aqartu bušê makkūr ēkallišu ašlula. "I entered his palace in Babylon and I opened his treasury. I took as spoil – gold, silver, gold and silver vessels, precious stones, valuables, and property of his palace" (D.D. Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib (1924), p. 67, lines 5–6).
Both Israel and God are spoken of as each other's treasure. Israel is spoken of as God's segullah, "treasured/private possession" (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; cf. Mal. 3:17; Ps. 135:4; for this meaning compare likewise Akk. sikiltu). Eliphaz instructs Job to return to God and consider the Lord his treasure (Job 22:23–25). There are many references to the heavens as God's treasure (Deut. 28:12; Jer. 10:13; 51:16; Ps. 135:7), while various forces of God are described as His treasure (Jer. 50:25; Ps. 33:6–7; Job 38:22). Finally, wisdom and devotion to God are described as the treasure of faith (Isa. 33:6).
Concept of Treasure in Wisdom Literature
The connection between wisdom and treasure may best be seen from those passages where wisdom is personified. Wisdom fills the treasuries of those who seek her (Prov. 8:21), and, in turn, should be sought after like buried treasure (Prov. 2:4). Elsewhere, there are many references to the treasures of the wise man, but the fool has none (Prov. 15:6; 21:20). Treasures gained through wickedness are of no avail (Prov. 10:2), while a little in the way of material goods plus a good deal of faith are better than the most precious treasures (Prov. 15:16). Finally, the acquisition of treasures through deceitful means will cause their owner's downfall (Prov. 21:6ff.), a theme which has several extra-biblical parallels. In an Akkadian composition entitled "Counsels of Wisdom," the following advice is given:
My son, if it be the desire of the prince that you be his, if you are entrusted with his closely guarded seal, open his treasure house [niṣirtašu], enter into [it]; apart from you there is not another man [who may enter into it]. You will find therein untold wealth. Do not covet anything. Do not take it into your head to conceal something. For afterwards, the matter will be investigated, and what you have concealed will come to light … (W.G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (1960), p. 102, lines 81ff.).
Of the three words for treasury listed above, only one, bet nekhot, was not understood until fairly recently. The context of the single biblical verse in which this term occurs (ii Kings 20:13 = Isa. 39:2) showed that it must mean treasury, but the origin of the term was still a mystery. It is now known that bet nekhot is a loanword from the Akkadian bīt nakkamāti, "treasury." Both the Hebrew and Akkadian nouns have corresponding verbs, ʾẓr and nakāmu, meaning "to amass, store up." For example, Ashurbanipal boasts in his annals about his conquest of Susa:
Aptēma bīt nakkamātišu (nu) sa kaspu ḥurāṣu bušû makkūru nukkumū qrebšun. "I opened his treasure house wherein silver, gold, valuables and property were stored …" (M. Streck, Aššurbanipal … (1916), p. 50, lines 132–4).
Elsewhere, ʾ oẓrot bet yhwh, "Temple treasury" (e.g., i Kings 7:51 = ii Chron. 5:1), and oʾẓrot bet ha-melekh, "palace treasury" (e.g., i Kings 14:26), are often mentioned together. For example, Asa gave all he had in both treasuries to Ben-Hadad (i Kings 15:18 = ii Chron. 16:2), Joash gave up both his treasuries to Hazael (ii Kings 12:19), and Nebuchadnezzar took everything from the treasuries in Jerusalem (e.g., ii Kings 24:13; ii Chron. 36:10, 18). Another instance is the discussion between Isaiah and Hezekiah concerning the delegation sent by the Babylonian king to see Hezekiah (ii Kings 20:12ff. = Isa. 39:1ff.). Finally, the term genazim is used three times in the latest biblical books to refer to the treasury of Persia (Esth. 3:9; 4:7) and the treasuries of multicolored garments of many nations (Ezek. 27:24).
H. Zimmern, Akkadische Fremdwoerter (1917), 8; M. Greenberg, in: jaos, 71 (1951), 172–4; T.H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (1956), 382–5; M.Z. Segal, Sifrei Shemu'el (1964), 86–87; N.H. Tur-Sinai, The Book of Job (1967), 347–8.