Back in October I posted a short note on the money changers in the Temple. Money needed to be changed to an acceptable currency before it could be given to the Temple. Popular preaching usually states with confidence this is because Roman coins were blasphemous, so they were exchanged for Tyrian shekels. The usual explanation for Jesus’ anger with the money changers is that they were gouging the “tourists” with an exorbitant exchange rate. This overlooks the fact that the Tyrian shekel had an image of Melkart / Heracles as well as an eagle. The reason the Tyrian shekel was required was that it was the most pure silver coin available. Nevertheless, some sort of coin exchange was required before a worshiper entered the Temple.
An odd seal or “token” was recently discovered in Jerusalem with the words “pure to Yahweh.” Ronny Reich described as a seal placed on an object which was dedicated to the Lord. This would explain why it is a bullae, a clay seal impression. On the other hand, George Athas suggests on his blog that this seal is a kind of exchange token for use in the Temple. This would ensure than the worshiper had an accurate exchange rate with the proper coinage and that the coinage was “acceptable” for use in the Temple.
I like Athas’ suggestion, but I am not sure a clay seal could be used for a handful of coins which would be immediately taken into the Temple and “spent” as a tithe or offering almost immediately. A more durable chit would be more likely in that case.
The seal strikes me as not unlike the common l’melek seal. This impression is found on jar-handles indicating that the contents of the jar are reserved for the king, perhaps as a tithe / tax. Perhaps this seal was placed on an item being given to the Temple as an offering. People may have given all sorts of things to the Lord through the Temple aside from money (food, wine, etc.), these items could be marked as set-aside to the Lord with this sort of seal.