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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Cubit is a word derived immediately from the Latin cubitus, the lower arm. The length of the cubit has varied in different nations, and at different times. Derived as the measure is from a part of the human body, and as the human stature has been of very dissimilar length, the cubit must of necessity have been various. That the cubit among the Hebrews was derived as a measure from the human body is clear from —'after the cubit of a man.' But it is difficult to determine whether this cubit was understood as extending to the wrist or the end of the third finger. As, however, the latter seems most natural, since men, when ignorant of anatomy, and seeking in their own frames standards of measure, were likely to take both the entire foot and the entire fore-arm, the probability is that the longer was the original cubit, namely, the length from the elbow to the extremity of the longest finger.

The hand-breadth is found as a measure in , comp. . In the latter passage the finger-breadth is another measure. The span also occurs, . So that, it appears, measures of length were, for the most part, borrowed by the Hebrews from members of the human body. Still no absolute and invariable standard presents itself. If the question, What is a hand or a finger-breadth? be asked, the answer can be only an approximation to fact. If, however, the palm or hand-breadth is taken at 3½ inches, then the cubit will amount to 21 inches. In addition to the common cubit, the Egyptians had a longer one of 6 palms 4 inches. The Hebrews also have been thought to have had a longer cubit; for, in , we read of a cubit which seems to be an ordinary 'cubit and an hand-breadth;' see also , where it is expressly said 'the cubit is a cubit and an hand-breadth.' The prophet has been supposed to refer here to the then current Babylonian cubit—a measure which it is thought the Jews borrowed during the period of their captivity. In the New Testament our Lord characteristically employs the term cubit (; ) for the enforcement of a moral and spiritual lesson. The term also occurs in , and in . In justice in measures, as well as in weights, is strictly enjoined.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Cubit'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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