Questions From Readers
● At 1 Kings 7:23 and; 2 Chronicles 4:2 we are told that the circular molten sea in the courtyard of Solomon’s temple was ten cubits from brim to brim and that “it took a line of thirty cubits to circle all around it.” Is this not incorrect, since it is impossible to have a circle with these two values?—H.S., U.S.A.
There is no reason to conclude that the writers were guilty of serious error. Jeremiah, who wrote First Kings, and Ezra, who penned Second Chronicles, were reliable men who wrote these accounts under divine inspiration.
Today, in mathematical calculations, it is customary to use pi, which denotes the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. According to general practice, it is a quantity equivalent to 3.1416. However, in ancient times persons did not give decimals down to the last fraction. For that matter, pi itself is not just 3.1416. Persons who insist on scrupulous accuracy and consider the Bible to be in error in giving the measurements of the molten sea would do well to realize that, to be more accurate themselves, it would be appropriate to carry pi to at least eight decimal places, which would be 3.14159265, though even a figure in excess of 3.1415926535 could be used.
Bible commentator Christopher Wordsworth quotes a certain Rennie, who made this interesting observation regarding the measurements of the molten sea: “Up to the time of Archimedes [third century B.C.E.], the circumference of a circle was always measured in straight lines by the radius; and Hiram would naturally describe the sea as thirty cubits round, measuring it, as was then invariably the practice, by its radius, or semidiameter, of five cubits, which being applied six times round the perimeter, or ‘brim,’ would give the thirty cubits stated. There was evidently no intention in the passage but to give the dimensions of the Sea, in the usual language that every one would understand, measuring the circumference in the way in which all skilled workers, like Hiram, did measure circles at that time. He, of course, must however have known perfectly well, that as the polygonal hexagon thus inscribed by the radius was thirty cubits, the actual curved circumference would be somewhat more.”
According to 1 Kings 7:23 and; 2 Chronicles 4:2, the molten sea was ten cubits, or fifteen feet, in diameter and it took a line of thirty cubits, or forty-five feet, to encompass it. That is a ratio of one to three, which, for practical purposes, was quite adequate for the sake of a record. Jeremiah and Ezra, therefore, gave approximate figures, which, of course, satisfy thoughtful Bible students.
● Jehovah God is against all forms of demonism. Yet Ezekiel 21:21, 22 and its context seem to indicate that he directed divination so that Nebuchadnezzar moved his military forces against Jerusalem. Why did God do this?—K. M., U.S.A.
According to Ezekiel 21:21, 22 Jehovah told his prophet Ezekiel: “For the king of Babylon stood still at the crossways, at the head of the two ways, in order to resort to divination. He has shaken the arrows. He has asked by means of the teraphim; he has looked into the liver. In his right hand the divination proved to be for Jerusalem, to set battering-rams, to open one’s mouth for a slaying, to raise the sound in an alarm signal, to set battering-rams against gates, to throw up a siege rampart, to build a siege wall.” Nebuchadnezzar had determined to pursue a course of conquest. But he was faced with a choice. He could march against Rabbah in Ammon or turn the fury of his forces upon Jerusalem in Judah. The pagan Babylonian monarch resorted to divination and, as a result of it, Jerusalem became the object of attack.
In considering the account in Ezekiel 21:18-23, it is fitting to realize that the error of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem had become considerable. For that reason Jehovah God had determined to bring destruction upon Jerusalem. So, having the Babylonians besiege that city was in harmony with Jehovah’s will. Fittingly, he saw to it that Nebuchadnezzar chose the road to Jerusalem.
But, would Jehovah God use the demons to accomplish his purposes? Definitely not. He would not move or inspire them to act as his instruments in guiding matters through forms of divination. Yet, the demons are powerless to resist or block God’s will. Jehovah could certainly do what he pleased when Nebuchadnezzar was trying to make a military decision; He would not let the divining process go contrary to His will. The Most High could interfere with divination, if that was necessary. That would be, not a use of demonism, but a thwarting of it. For instance, Jehovah could have made the liver used for divination on that occasion look a certain way, if necessary. God could thus interfere with the divination.
After Jerusalem and Judah had paid for their delinquency, there would be restoration. Of this and of his own supremacy, Jehovah declared: “I am frustrating the signs of the empty talkers, and I am the one that makes diviners themselves act crazily [by his making their forecasts prove false]; the One turning wise men backwards, and the One that turns even their knowledge into foolishness; the One making the word of his servant come true, and the One that carries out completely the counsel of his own messengers; the One saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They will be rebuilt, and her desolated places I shall raise up.’” (Isa. 44:25, 26) History attests that Jerusalem was rebuilt and that the various cities of Judah were inhabited once again.
We do not know exactly how Jehovah intervened when Nebuchadnezzar applied to divination and it was determined by the way that the diviners read and interpreted things that Babylonian troops should march against Jerusalem instead of Rabbah. It seems sufficient to realize that Jehovah always accomplishes his purposes.—Isa 55:8-11.