Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The word rendered in the English Version by this term, signifies primarily 'to purchase,' to obtain by some consideration on the part of the purchaser; thence to obtain on the part of the seller some consideration for something given or done, and hence to hire, to pay, or receive wages. Wages, then, according to the earliest usages of mankind, are a return made by a purchaser for something of value—specifically for work performed. And thus labor is recognized as property, and wages as the price paid or obtained in exchange for such property. In this relation there is obviously nothing improper or humiliating on the side either of the buyer or the seller. They have each a certain thing which the other wants, and in the exchange which they in consequence make, both parties are alike served. In these few words lies the theory and also the justification of all service. The entire commerce of life is barter. In hire, then, there is nothing improper or discreditable. It is only a hireling, that is, a mercenary, a mean sordid spirit, that is wrong. So long as a human being has anything to give which another human being wants, so long has he something of value in the great market, of life; and whatever that something may be, provided it does not contribute to evil passions or evil deeds, he is a truly respectable capitalist, and a useful member of the social community. The Scriptural usage in applying the term translated 'wages' to sacred subjects—thus the Almighty himself says to Abraham (), 'I am thy exceeding great reward'—tends to confirm these views, and to suggest the observance of caution in the employment of the words 'hire' and 'hireling,' which have acquired an offensive meaning by no means originally inherent in themselves, or in the Hebrew words for which they stand (; ).





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Wages'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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