WEIGHT AND MEASURES
Archaeological evidence, the Bible itself and other ancient writings provide the main basis for assigning approximate values to the various weights and measures used by the Hebrews.
The linear measures employed by the Hebrews were evidently derived from the human body: the finger, hand, arm, and so forth. Since the ratio in length or width of one part of the body to another part of the body can be determined, it is possible to ascertain the relationship of one linear measurement to another. And, based on archaeological evidence pointing to a cubit of about 17.5 inches (c. 44.5 centimeters), approximate modern values can be given to the linear measurements mentioned in the Bible. (See CUBIT.) The chart that follows presents both the relationship of the Hebrew linear measures and their approximate modern equivalents.
1 fingerbreadth = 1/4 handbreadth c. 3/4 inch (c. 1.85
1 handbreadth = 4 fingerbreadths c. 2.9 inches (c. 7.4
1 span = 3 handbreadths c. 8.75 inches (c. 22.2
1 cubit = 2 spans c. 17.5 inches (c. 44.5
1 long cubit = 7 handbreadths c. 20.4 inches (c. 51.8
(possibly the some as the “former” cubit of 2 Chronicles 3:3)
1 reed = 6 cubits c. 8 feet 9 inches (c. 2.67 meters)
1 long reed = 6 long cubits c. 10 feet 2.5 inches (c. 3.11
There is some uncertainty about the measure designated by the Hebrew term goʹmedh, appearing solely at Judges 3:16 with reference to the length of Ehud’s sword. In numerous translations this word is rendered “cubit.” (AV, Le, JB, NW, Ro, RS) Some scholars believe that goʹmedh denotes a short cubit roughly corresponding to the distance from the elbow to the knuckles of the clenched hand. This would be about “fifteen inches” (c. 38 centimeters).—NE, 1970 ed.
Other linear measurements mentioned in the Scriptures are the fathom (c. 6 feet; c. 1.8 meters), the staʹdi·on or furlong (c. 607 feet; c. 185 meters) and the mile (probably the Roman mile; 4,860 English feet; 1,481 meters). The word “journey” is often used in connection with a general distance covered. (Gen. 31:23; Ex. 3:18; Num. 10:33; 33:8) A day’s journey was perhaps twenty miles (32 kilometers) or more, while a sabbath day’s journey appears to have been approximately three-fifths of a statute mile (c. 1 kilometer).—Matt. 24:20; Acts 1:12; see FATHOM; FURLONG; JOURNEY; MILE.
MEASURES OF CAPACITY
Based on jar fragments bearing the designation “bath” in ancient Hebrew characters, the capacity of the bath measure is reckoned at approximately 5.81 gallons (22 liters). In the charts that follow, dry and liquid measures are figured in relation to the bath measure. The relationship of one measure to another, when not stated in the Bible, is drawn from other ancient writings.—See BATH; CAB; COR; HIN; HOMER; LOG; OMER; SEAH.
1 log = 1/4 cab .65 pint (.31 liter)
1 cab = 4 logs 2.58 pints (1.22 liters)
1 hin = 3 cabs 3 quarts 1.8 pints (3.67 liters)
1 bath = 6 hins 5.81 gallons (22 liters)
1 cor =10 baths 58.1 gallons (220 liters)
1 log = 1/4 cab .56 dry pint (.31 liter)
1 cab = 4 logs 2.2 dry pints (1.22 liters)
1 omer = 1 4/5 cabs 2 dry quarts (2.2 liters)
1 seah = 3 1/3 omers .21 bushel (7.33 liters)
1 ephah = 3 seahs .62 bushel (22 liters)
1 homer = 10 ephahs 6.2 bushels (220 liters)
Other dry and liquid measures
The Hebrew word ʽis·sa·rohnʹ, meaning “tenth,” often denotes a tenth of an ephah. (Ex. 29:40; Lev. 14:10; 23:13, 17; Num. 15:4) According to rabbinical sources, the “six measures of barley” (literally, “six of barley”) mentioned at Ruth 3:15 are six seah measures. On the authority of the Mishnah and the Vulgate, the Hebrew term leʹthekh is understood to designate a half homer. (Hos. 3:2; AS, AV, Da, JP, Le, NW) The Greek terms me·tre·tesʹ (appearing in the plural at John 2:6 and rendered “liquid measures” [NW]) and baʹtos (found in the plural at Luke 16:6) are equated by some with the Hebrew bath measure. The Greek khoiʹnix (“quart,” NW) is commonly thought to be slightly more than a liter or a little less than a U.S. dry quart.—Rev. 6:5, 6.
Archaeological evidence suggests that a shekel weighed about .4 ounce avoirdupois (c. .367 ounce troy; c. 11.4 grams). Using this as a basis, the chart that follows sets forth the relationship of the Hebrew weights and their approximate modern equivalent.
1 gerah = 1/20 shekel .02 ounce avdp. (.57 gram)
1 bekah = 10 gerahs .2 ounce avdp. (5.7 grams)
1 shekel = 2 bekahs .4 ounce avdp. (11.4 grams)
1 mina = 50 shekels 1.25 pounds avdp. (570 grams)
1 talent = 60 minas 75 pounds avdp. (34 kilograms)
The Greek word liʹtra is generally equated with the Roman pound (c. 11.4 ounces avdp.; c. 327 grams). The mina of the Christian Greek Scriptures is reckoned at 100 drachmas. (See DRACHMA.) This would mean that the Greek mina weighed about 11.9 ounces avoirdupois (340 grams) and the Greek talent, about 45 pounds avoirdupois (20.4 kilograms).—See GERAH; MINA; MONEY; SHEKEL; TALENT.
The Hebrews designated the size of a plot of land either by the amount of seed needed to sow it (Lev. 27:16; 1 Ki. 18:32) or by what a span of bulls could plow in a day.—1 Sam. 14:14, NW, 1955 ed., ftn.; see ACRE.