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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Wages

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wā´jez , wā´jiz ( חנּם , ḥinnām , משׂכּרת , maskōreth , פּעלּה , pe‛ullāh , שׂכר , sākhar , שׂכר , sākhār ; μισθός , misthós , ὀψώνιον , opsṓnion ): (1) Ḥinnām means "gratis," without cost or any advantage, for nought, or in vain; wages in the sense of reasonable return. Jeremiah pronounces woe upon him who "useth his neighbor's service without wages, and giveth him not his hire" ( Jeremiah 22:13 ; the only place where the word is used). (2) Maskōreth means "reward" or "wages." Laban said to Jacob: "Shouldest thou therefore serve me for nought? Tell me, what shall thy wages be?" (Genesis 29:15 ). Jacob said, concerning Laban, speaking to Rachel and Leah: "Your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times" (Genesis 31:7 ; compare Genesis 31:41 ). (3) Pe‛ullāh generally means "work," "labor," "reward," "wages." The old Levitical Law was insistent on honesty in wages and on promptness in payments: "The wages of a hired servant shall not abide with thee all night until the morning" (Leviticus 19:13 ). (4) Mistakkēr means "earning," "hire," "reward," "wages," from root sākhar , meaning "to hire," and has in it the idea of temporary purchase: "He that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes" (Haggai 1:6 ). (5) Sākhār means "payment of contract," in the material way of salary, maintenance, fare, and so compensation, reward, price, benefit, wages - seemingly wages received after an understanding as to time, manner and amount of payment. Laban (employer) said to Jacob (employee): "Appoint me thy wages, and I will give it" (Genesis 30:28 ); "If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages" (Genesis 31:8 ); Pharaoh's daughter said to Moses' mother: "Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages" (Exodus 2:9 ); Nebuchadrezzar and his army served against Tyre, "yet had he no wages, nor his army" (Ezekiel 29:18 ), and the prey of Egypt "shall be the wages for his army" (Ezekiel 29:19 ); swift and sure judgment is predicted against "those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless" (Malachi 3:5 ). (6) Misthos means either in a literal or figurative sense "pay for service," either primitive or beneficial, and so reward, hire, wages. In John 4:36 Jesus said, "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal." 2 Peter 2:15 has changed "wages" (the King James Version) to "hire," reading "who loved the hire of wrongdoing." (7) Opsōnion , meaning primarily "rations for soldiers" (opson being the word for cooked meat) and so "pay" or stipend, provision wages. In Luke 3:14 John said to the soldiers, "Be content with your wages"; "The wages of sin is death" ( Romans 6:23 ); Paul said: "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them" (2 Corinthians 11:8 ); the same word in 1 Corinthians 9:7 is translated "charges."

The Bible refers to wages actual and wages figurative . Of actual wages there are three kinds: (1) money wages, (2) provision (usually food) wages, and (3) what may be called "exchange" wages, wages in kind, sometimes "human-kind," e.g. Jacob's wages from Laban. Often laborers and soldiers received both money and "keep" wages. The laborer in New Testament times received about 15 cents per day (the "shilling" of Matthew 20:2 ), besides in some cases his provisions. The old Law required daily payment, honesty in dealing, also sufficient food for the laborer.

It is practically impossible to test "Bible" wages by any of theories of modern economists. In this connection, however, mere mention of the six principal theories may be of interest. Concisely put, they are: (1) the wage-fund theory, (2) the standard-of-living theory, (3) the German-socialistic theory, (4) the production theory, (5) Henry George's theory, and (6) the laborer's value theory. The incidents in the Old Testament of Jacob and in the New Testament of Matthew 20 both show that the laborer was at the caprice of the employer. Therefore, we may designate the Bible law of wages as the "employer's theory."


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Wages'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/w/wages.html. 1915.

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