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And when he began to settle them, one slave was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents.a Bible
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A talent was worth 6,000 denari or 6,000 day’s wages. Thus 10,000 talents would take 200,000 years for a laborer to earn.

“10,000 talents.” In the New Testament, the “talent” was once used as a unit of weight (cp. Rev. 16:21), but otherwise it was a unit of money. Different cultures had different talents, but most scholars believe Christ would have been referring to the Attic talent, which was equal to 6,000 denarii, or 6,000 days wages. One denarius (the plural is denarii) was a day’s wage for a field hand or a soldier. Different classes of workers worked different weeks, most would work 6 days per week in the biblical world. If we assume they would have 2 weeks off for sickness and perhaps a small vacation, the worker would work 50 weeks, or 50 X 6 days, which equals 300 days. Thus, to be paid a talent he would work 6000 ÷ 300, or 20 years. If one talent was 20 years wage, then 10,000 was the wages for 200,000 years, or 60 million days. To arrive at an idea of how much money is being referred to, if a field hand made $8 per hour ($64 per day), then 1 talent was $384,000, and 10,000 talents was $3,840,000,000 dollars (3 billion, 840 million dollars), a ridiculously huge sum. According to Josephus, the total taxes that Judea, Samaria and Idumea made to imperial Rome was only 600 talents a year. The figure is meant to make the point that no one can ever actually pay off their debt to God. Another way of looking at the debt would be that a minimum wage worker would have to work 6,000 days times 10,000 talents, or 60 million days to work off the debt. Even if a person had a working life of 100 years he or she would only work 30,000 days, far short of the 60 million he would need to pay off the debt. At the time of Christ the average lifespan for a woman was in the early 30’s and for men it was their late 30’s. Since a person usually only worked about 300 days per year, if a boy started to work at 10 and worked to 50, he would only work 12,000 days in his life, not even getting a good start on the sixty million days needed to work to pay his debt.


Commentary for: Matthew 18:24