Bill Heinrich  -  Dec 24, 2015  -  Comments Off on 12.03.05 PARABLE OF THE LOST COIN

12.03.05 Lk. 15:8-10




8 “Or what woman who has 10 silver coins,

A if she loses one,


B does not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?


C 9 When she finds it, she calls her women friends and neighbors together saying, ‘Rejoice with me;


B’ because I have found


A’ the silver coin I lost.” 


10 I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”


Literary style[1]  This poetic parable has an introduction and a conclusion.  The next instep is a reference to the lost coin in A and A’, followed by the search to find it in B and B’.  The theme is the rejoicing with her neighbors and friends when it was found in C. This is a typical Hebraic chiastic literary structure.[2]


The ten coins may have been the woman’s dowry, that is, money she brought into the marriage and would remain hers should the marriage end, regardless of the reason. The small quantity suggests that she was poor; making its discovery significant. Since most people were economic slaves[3] due to the Roman taxation, this parable was one to which all could relate.[4] It has also been suggested that the dowry coin was sown to a linen or silk shawl, known as a “generation shawl.” Attaching coins, usually Roman denarii (plural for denarius), to a shawl was a popular trend during the Roman era, especially during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberias.[5] If she was wealthy she would have dozens of coins attached; if she was poor, then possibly only a dozen coins would be sewn to the garment. In the parable, the coin probably became lost because the thread broke that held it to her head scarf.


The floors in the homes of common peasants consisted of paving stones.  Houses were dark because windows were merely small openings in the walls. Those of somewhat more financial means had their floors and walls plastered, while the very wealthy had mosaic tiles.  But the poor woman who lost a coin conceivably lost a significant portion of her meager treasure.   Stone floors frequently had small cracks in the joints and a coin could easily have fallen into a crack and, therefore, was not readily seen.   She had to sweep the floor to find it.



A typical home in Capernaum was built with rough and uneven basalt (dark volcanic) rock. It was cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer.  Homes were usually built in such a manner that four houses created a square with a private courtyard in the center.  Interior walls often had window openings near the floor to provide for ventilation.  Exterior walls had small openings for fresh air and a minimal amount of light.  Large openings would invite intruders to enter and, hence, were not used. Privacy in a typical home was unknown, especially with four families in very close proximity.  Losing a coin in the joints between floor stones created a crisis.  A small hand-held oil lamp gave a dull glow, which was hardly worth the effort.  At best, such a lamp would reveal the general outline of large objects in the room.  Wax candles, as we know them today, were unknown in the first century. The story Jesus told was all too familiar and everyone identified with it.



12.03.05.B ROUGH STONE FLOOR IN A 4TH CENTURY (A.D.) RABBI’S HOUSE IN KATZRIM. The floors of common homes were amazingly rough, presenting the opportunity for something small, such as a coin, to be out of sight and therefore, lost. Photograph by the author.

[1]. Bailey, Poet and Peasant. Part I, 156; Fleming, The Parables of Jesus. 69.

[2]. See “Chiastic Literary Structure” in Appendix 26.


[3]. The subject of high taxation that resulted in economic slavery is presented by Josephus, Antiquities 17.11.2 (307-308).  See also 02.03.03 “Economy” and 03.06.04 “4 B.C. The Death of Herod the Great.”


[4]. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary. 232.


[5]. See Appendices 1 and 20.


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