Wednesday 14 May 2014

Jeremy Kidwell on Merchants in the Kingdom

Jeremy Kidwell, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh and KLICE Research Associate, has written a helpful and provocative piece for KLICE on ‘Merchants in the Kingdom?’, looking at Zechariah 14:21 – ‘and there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day’ (NRSV). Why are merchants singled out as excluded from the Lord’s house?
He puts to one side the view that the Hebrew word kena'ani (rendered by the NRSV as ‘traders’) is a possible reference to ‘Canaanites’, since ‘this interpretation... neglects a wider critique of merchant-activity which one finds with surprising regularity in the Old Testament’, seen for instance in Hosea 12:7 and Zephaniah 1:11.

He suggests:

‘I think that the conditions under which the dishonest ancient merchant profited are not so different from the present: they capitalised on knowledge asymmetry from an established position. Seen in this way, we may appreciate how manipulating scales is similar to many contemporary covert business activities which seek to manipulate the representation of value and exploit the trust of unwitting customers. Just as ancient customers questioned whether merchants added value to the goods which they sold, today’s Christians have good reason to question similar tactics used by modern firms.’

He concludes:

‘These prophets, and indeed many people in the ancient world, noted that, as the maker of all good things, God cares about truthfulness in the way we represent value in business. There has never been a more urgent need for Christian leaders to provide a counter-cultural example of honesty in business, and I would argue that such action is explicitly commanded by Christian scripture.’


Jeremy said...

Thanks Antony for the kind review and write-up on the article. I'd love to hear your comments if you have any and have put the article up on my blog in case others might want to do the same at

Antony said...

Jeremy – thanks for stopping by and commenting. As and when I’ve managed to see some of your written pieces over the last few years, I’ve been really grateful for your theological and ethical reflection on Scripture, on work in particular, which takes us beyond ‘level 1’ stuff in helpful and suggestive ways. Thanks again – Antony