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People's Dictionary of the Bible

Measures

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Measures and Weights. The following is condensed from Schaff's Dictionary: The Jewish law contains two precepts respecting weights and measures. The first, Leviticus 19:35-36, refers to the standards kept in the sanctuary, and the second, Deuteronomy 25:13-15, to copies of them kept by every family for its own use. The standards of the weights and measures preserved in the temple were destroyed with the sacred edifice, and afterward the measures and weights of the people among whom the Jews dwelt were adopted; which, of course, adds to the perplexities of the subject.

I. Measures of Length.—The Hebrews, like all other ancient nations, took the standard of their measures of length from the human body. They made use, however, only of the finger, the hand, and the arm, not of the foot or the pace. The handbreadth or palm, 1 Kings 7:26, was four digits, or the breadth of the four fingers—from three to three and a half inches. A span, Lamentations 2:20 A. V., but the R. V. reads, "the children that are dandled in the hands," which expresses the distance across the hand from the extremity of the thumb to the extremity of the little finger, when they are stretched as far apart as possible, say nine to ten inches. A cubit, the distance from the elbow to the extremity of the middle finger, or about eighteen inches. The different expressions used in the Old Testament about this measure—such as "after the cubit of a man," Deuteronomy 3:11; "after the first measure," 2 Chronicles 3:3; "a great cubit," Ezekiel 41:8—show that it varied. A fathom, Acts 27:28, was from six to six and a half feet. The measuring-reed, Ezekiel 42:16, comprised six cubits, or from ten to eleven feet, and the measuring-line, Zechariah 2:1, a hundred and forty-six feet. The furlong, Luke 24:13, was a Greek measure, and nearly the same as at present—viz., one-eighth of a mile, or forty rods. The mile, mentioned only once, Matthew 5:41, belonged to the Roman system of measurement, as stadium to the Greek. The Roman mile was 1612 yards. The Jewish mile was longer or shorter, in accordance with the longer or shorter pace in use in the various parts of the country. The Sabbath day's journey, Acts 1:12, was about seven-eighths of a mile, and the term denoted the distance which Jewish tradition said one might travel without a violation of the law. Exodus 16:29. The term, a day's journey, Numbers 11:31; Luke 2:44, probably indicated no certain distance, but was taken to be the ordinary distance which a person in the East travels on foot, or on horseback or camel, in the prosecution of a journey—about 20 miles.

II. Measures of Capacity.— 1. Dry. A cab or kab (hollow), 2 Kings 6:25, one-third of an omer, or two pints. An omer (heap, sheaf), Exodus 16:36, one-tenth of an ephah, or six pints. The seah (measure), Genesis 18:6; Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:21, one-third of an ephah, or 20 pints, was the ordinary measure for household purposes. The ephah—a word of Egyptian origin, but often occurring in the Old Testament, Exodus 16:36; Leviticus 5:1-19 : ll; Numbers 5:15; Judges 6:19, etc.—ten omers, or three seahs, or 60 pints. The homer (heap), Isaiah 5:10, when used for dry measure, 100 omers, or 600 pints. The Greek word translated "bushel," Matthew 5:15, is supposed by some to answer to the Hebrew word seah. The Roman bushel was very nearly the same with the English peck. 2. Liquid. The log (basin), Leviticus 14:10, six egg-shells full, one-tenth of a hin, or nearly one pint. The hin—a word of Egyptian origin, but often used in the Old Testament, Exodus 29:40; Exodus 30:24; Numbers 15:4, etc.—one-sixth of a bath or ten pints. The bath (measured), the largest of the liquid measures, contained one-tenth of a homer, seven and a half gallons, or 60 pints. 1 Kings 7:26; 2 Chronicles 2:10; Isaiah 5:10. The firkin, John 2:6, was a Greek measure, containing seven and a half gallons.

III. Weights.— In the time of Moses the common weight was a shekel, which signifies a "weight." There were also the parts of a shekel, as the fourth, third, and half. The shekel, the maneh, and the talent, were all originally names of weights. When the phrase "shekel of the sanctuary" is used, Exodus 30:13, it means, not that this was different from the common shekel, but that it was a true standard weight, according to the authorized standard preserved in the sanctuary, or, as we should say, a sealed weight or measure, to denote that its accuracy is certified by authority. To weigh substances the Jews had: the shekel, Amos 8:5, half an ounce avoirdupois. The mineh or "maneh," A. V., Ezekiel 45:12, 100 shekels or 50 ounces, equal to three pounds two ounces avoirdupois. The talent, 2 Samuel 12:30, 3000 shekels, 30 maneh, 1500 ounces, equal to 93 pounds 12 ounces avoirdupois, see Money.


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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Measures'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/rpd/m/measures.html. 1893.


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