A “Pim” Testifies to the Bible’s Historicity

THE word “pim” occurs only once in the Bible. In the days of King Saul, the Israelites had to get their metal tools sharpened by Philistine smiths. “The price for sharpening proved to be a pim for the plowshares and for the mattocks and for the three-toothed instruments and for the axes and for fixing fast the oxgoad,” states the Bible.​—1 Samuel 13:21.

What was a pim? The answer to that question remained a mystery until 1907 C.E. when the first pim weight stone was excavated at the ancient city of Gezer. Bible translators of earlier dates had difficulty translating the word “pim.” The King James Version, for example, rendered 1 Samuel 13:21: “Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads.”

Scholars today know that a pim was a weight measure averaging 7.82 grams, or approximately two thirds of a shekel, the basic Hebrew unit of weight. A pim measure of silver scrap was the price the Philistines charged the Israelites for sharpening their tools. The shekel weight system went out of use with the fall of the kingdom of Judah and its capital, Jerusalem, in 607 B.C.E. So how does the pim measure testify to the historicity of the Hebrew text?

Some scholars argue that the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures, including the book of First Samuel, date to the Hellenistic-Roman era, even as late as from the second to the first century B.C.E. It is claimed, therefore, that “they are . . . ‘unhistorical,’ of little or no value for reconstructing a ‘biblical’ or an ‘ancient Israel,’ both of which are simply modern Jewish and Christian literary constructs.”

Referring to the pim measure mentioned at 1 Samuel 13:21, however, William G. Dever, professor of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology, says: “[It] cannot possibly have been ‘invented’ by writers living in the Hellenistic-Roman period several centuries after these weights had disappeared and had been forgotten. In fact, this bit of biblical text . . . would not be understood until the early 20th century A.D., when the first actual archaeological examples turned up, reading pîm in Hebrew.” The professor continues: “If the biblical stories are all ‘literary inventions’ of the Hellenistic-Roman era, how did this particular story come to be in the Hebrew Bible? One may object, of course, that the pîm incident is ‘only a detail.’ To be sure; but as is well known, ‘history is in the details.’”

[Picture on page 29]

A pim weight measure was about two thirds of a shekel