This is a list of the things that people traded at the time of John. It is not very different from the things that people were trading at the time of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:12-25) or Solomon (2 Chronicles 9:9-28). People would bring these objects across land and sea from foreign nations, in order to sell them.
At the time of the Bible, it was expensive, difficult and dangerous to travel. Therefore, people would usually bring only very valuable objects in order to trade. The basic objects that poor people needed were usually already available in their local area. International trade was for the benefit of rich people. The list begins with gold and silver. People used these as money, and rulers made their coins from them.
Matthew 13:45-46 describes well the trade in precious stones. Such objects are tiny, extremely valuable, and the richest people desire them greatly.
Plain clothes were available everywhere, but the best quality and the most beautiful colours were expensive. The colour purple, for example, was difficult to make and only the richest people could afford it. They chose it because they wanted to impress other people by their wealth.
Metals were expensive because we cannot normally find pure metals in nature. Often people must dig deep under the ground to find the right substances and then they use fire to get the metal (Job 28:2-11)
On the other hand, we find bone, wood and stone everywhere. Everyone had objects that people had made from such things. Rich people had those things too, but of course they demanded the best bone, wood and stone. They bought a beautiful white bone called ivory. They chose wood with a good scent (smell). They selected the best marble, a stone with attractive marks and colours.
Next part: How trade can become evil (Revelation 18:13)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.