COMMERCE (k8m'ale'rs),(Hcb. saw-khar', a primitive root; to travel round, specifically as a toddler). The idea conveyed by this word is represented in the sacred writings by the word trade.
(1) Origin. The origin of commerce must have been nearly coeval with the world. As pas turage and agriculture were the only employments of the first inhabitants, so cattle, flocks, and the fruits of the earth were the only objects of the first commerce, or that species of it called barter. It would appear that some progress had been made in manufactures in the ages before the flood. The building of a city or village by Cain, however in significant the houses may have been, supposes the existence of some mechanical knowledge. The musical instruments, such as harps and organs, the works in brass and in iron exhibited by the succeeding generations, confirm the belief that the arts were considerably advanced. The construc tion of Noah's ark, a ship of three decks, covered over with pitch, and much larger than any modern effort of architecture, proves that many separate trades were at that period carried on. That enor mous pile of building, the tower of Babel, was constructed of bricks, the process of making which appears to have been well understood.
Such of the descendants of Noah as lived near the water may be presumed to have made use of vessels built in imitation of the ark—if, as some think, that was the first floating vessel ever seen in the world—but on a smaller scale, for the pur pose of crossing rivers. In the course of time the descendants of his con Japheth settled in 'the isles of the Gentiles,' by which are understood the islands at the cast end of the Mediterranean sea, and those between Asia Minor and Greece, whence their colonies spread into Greece, Italy, and other western lands.
(2) Sldon. Sidon, which afterwards became so celebrated for the wonderful mercantile exertions of its inhabitants, was founded about 2.200 years before the Christian era. The neighboring 'noun thins, being covered with excellent cedar-trees, furnished the best and most durable timber for ship-building. The inhabitants of Sidon accord
ingly built numerous ships, and exported the prod uce of the adjoining country, and the various articles of their own manufacture, such as fine linen, embroidery, tapestry, metals, glass, both colored and figured, cut, or carved, and even mir rors. They were unrivaled by the inhabitants of the Mediterranean coasts in works of taste, ele gance, and luxury. Their great and universally acknowledged pre-eminence in the arts procured for the Phoenicians, whose principal seaport was Sidon, the honor of being esteemed, among the Greeks and other nations, as the inventors of commerce, ship-building, navigation, the applica tion of astronomy to nautical purposes, and par ticularly as the discoverers of several stars nearer to the north pole than any that were known to other nations; of naval war, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, measures and weights; to which it is probable they might have added money.
Egypt appears to have excelled all the neighbor ing countries in agriculture, and particularly in its abundant crops of corn. The fame of its fer tility induced Abraham to remove thither with his numerous family (Gen. xii:to).
(3) Early Mention of Money. The earliest accounts of bargain and sale reach no higher than the time of Abraham, and his transaction with Ephron. He is said to have weighed unto him '400 shekels of silver, current money with the merchant' (Gen. xxiii:16). The word merchant implies that the standard of money was fixed by usage among merchants, who comprised a numer ous and respectable class of the community. Manufactures were by this time so far advanced, that not only those more immediately connected with agriculture, such as flour ground from corn, wine, oil, butter, and also the most necessary articles of clothing and furniture, but even those of luxury and magnificence, were much in use, as appears by the car-rings, bracelets of gold and of silver, and other precious things presented by Abraham's steward to Rebecca (Gen. xxiv : 22, 53).