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weights and measures in Smith's Bible Dictionary

A. WEIGHTS. --The general principle of the present inquiry is to give the evidence of the monuments the preference on all doubtful points. All ancient Greek systems of weight were derived, either directly or indirectly, from an eastern source. The older systems of ancient Greece and Persia were the AEginetan, the Attic, the Babylonian and the Euboic. 1. The AEginetan talent is stated to have contained 60 minae, 6000 drachme. 2. The Attic talent is the standard weight introduced by Solon. 3. The Babylonian talent may be determined from existing weights found by. Mr. Layard at Nineveh. Pollux makes it equal to 7000 Attic drachms. 4. The Euboic talent though bearing a Greek name, is rightly held to have been originally an eastern system. The proportion of the Euboic talent to the Babylonian was probably as 60 to 72, or 5 to 6. Taking the Babylonian maneh at 7992 grs., we obtain 399,600 for the Euboic talent. The principal if not the only Persian gold coin is the daric, weighing about 129 grs. 5. The Hebrew talent or talents and divisions. A talent of silver is mentioned in Exodus, which contained 3000 shekels, distinguished as "the holy shekel," or "shekel of the sanctuary." The gold talent contained 100 manehs, 10,000 shekels. The silver talent contained 3000 shekels, 6000 bekas, 60,000 gerahs. The significations of the names of the Hebrew weights must be here stated. The chief unit was the SHEKEL (i.e. weight), called also the holy shekel or shekel of the sanctuary; subdivided into the beka (i.e. half) or half-shekel, and the gerah (i.e. a grain or beka). The chief multiple, or higher unit, was the kikkar (i.e. circle or globe, probably for an aggregate sum), translated in our version, after the LXX., TALENT; (i.e. part, portion or number), a word used in Babylonian and in the Greek hena or mina. (1) The relations of these weights, as usually: employed for the standard of weighing silver, and their absolute values, determined from the extant silver coins, and confirmed from other sources, were as follows, in grains exactly and in avoirdupois weight approximately: (2) For gold a different shekel was used, probably of foreign introduction. Its value has been calculated at from 129 to 132 grains. The former value assimilates it to the Persian daric of the Babylonian standard. The talent of this system was just double that of the silver standard; if was divided into 100 manehs, and each maneh into 100 shekels, as follows: (3) There appears to have been a third standard for copper, namely, a shekel four times as heavy as the gold shekel (or 528 grains), 1500 of which made up the copper talent of 792,000 grains. It seems to have been subdivided, in the coinage, into halves (of 264 grains), quarters (of 132 grains) and sixths (of 88 grains). B. MEASURES.-- I. MEASURES OF LENGTH. --In the Hebrew, as in every other system, these measures are of two classes: length, in the ordinary sense, for objects whose size we wish to determine, and distance, or itinerary measures, and the two are connected by some definite relation, more or less simple, between their units. The measures of the former class have been universally derived, in the first instance, from the parts of the human body; but it is remarkable that, in the Hebrew system, the only part used for this purpose is the hand and fore-arm, to the exclusion of the foot, which was the chief unit of the western nations. Hence arises the difficulty of determining the ratio of the foot to the CUBIT, (The Hebrew word for the cubit (ammah) appears to have been of Egyptian origin, as some of the measures of capacity (the hin and ephah) certainly were.) which appears as the chief Oriental unit from the very building of Noah's ark. #Ge 6:15,16; 7:20| The Hebrew lesser measures were the finger's breadth, #Jer 52:21| only; the palm or handbreadth, #Ex 25:25; 1Ki 7:26; 2Ch 4:5| used metaphorically in #Ps 39:5| the span, i.e. the full stretch between the tips of the thumb and the little finger. #Ex 28:16; 1Sa 17:4; Eze 43:13| and figuratively #Isa 40:12| The data for determining the actual length of the Mosaic cubit involve peculiar difficulties, and absolute certainty seems unattainable. The following, however, seem the most probable conclusions: First, that three cubits were used in the times of the Hebrew monarchy, namely : (1) The cubit of a man, #De 3:11| or the common cubit of Canaan (in contradistinction to the Mosaic cubit) of the Chaldean standard; (2) The old Mosaic or legal cubit, a handbreadth larger than the first, and agreeing with the smaller Egyptian cubit; (3) The new cubit, which was still larger, and agreed with the larger Egyptian cubit, of about 20.8 inches, used in the Nilometer. Second, that the ordinary cubit of the Bible did not come up to the full length of the cubit of other countries. The reed (kaneh), for measuring buildings (like the Roman decempeda), was to 6 cubits. It occurs only in Ezekiel #Eze 40:5-8; 41:8; 42:16-29| The values given In the following table are to be accepted with reservation, for want of greater certainty: 2. Of measures of distance the smallest is the pace, and the largest the day's journey. (a) The pace, #2Sa 6:13| whether it be a single, like our pace, or double, like the Latin passus, is defined by nature within certain limits, its usual length being about 30 inches for the former and 5 feet for the latter. There is some reason to suppose that even before the Roman measurement of the roads of Israel, the Jews had a mile of 1000 paces, alluded to in #Mt 5:41| It is said to have been single or double, according to the length of the pace; and hence the peculiar force of our Lord's saying: "Whosoever shall compel thee [as a courier] to go a mile, go with him twain" --put the most liberal construction on the demand. (b) The day's journey was the most usual method of calculating distances in travelling, #Ge 30:36; 31:23; Ex 3:18; 5:3; Nu 10:33; 11:31; 33:8; De 1:2; 1Ki 19:4; 2Ki 3:9; Jon 3:3| 1 Macc. 5:24; 7:45; Tobit 6:1, though but one instance of it occurs in the New Testament #Lu 2:44| The ordinary day's journey among the Jews was 30 miles; but when they travelled in companies, only ten miles. Neapolis formed the first stage out of Jerusalem according to the former and Beeroth according to the latter computation, (a) The Sabbath day's journey of 2000 cubits, #Ac 1:12| is peculiar to the New Testament, and arose from a rabbinical restriction. It was founded on a universal, application of the prohibition given by Moses for a special occasion: "Let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." #Ex 16:29| An exception was allowed for the purpose of worshipping at the tabernacle; and, as 2000 cubits was the prescribed space to be kept between the ark and the people as well as the extent of the suburbs of the Levitical cities on every side, #Nu 35:5| this was taken for the length of a Sabbath-day's journey measured front the wall of the city in which the traveller lived. Computed from the value given above for the cubit, the Sabbath-day's journey would be just six tenths of a mile. (d) After the captivity the relations of the Jews to the Persians, Greeks and Romans caused the use, probably, of the parasang, and certainly of the stadium and the mile. Though the first is not mentioned in the Bible, if is well to exhibit the ratios of the three. The universal Greek standard, the stadium of 600 Greek feet, which was the length of the race-course at Olympia, occurs first in the Maccabees, and is common in the New Testament. Our version renders it furlong; it being, in fact, the eighth part of the Roman mile, as the furlong is of ours. 2 Macc. 11:5; 12:9,17,29; #Lu 24:13; Joh 6:19; 11:18; Re 14:20; 21:18| One measure remains to be mentioned. The fathom, used in sounding by the Alexandrian mariners in a voyage, is the Greek orguia, i.e. the full stretch of the two arms from tip to tip of the middle finger, which is about equal to the height, and in a man of full stature is six feet. For estimating area, and especially land there is no evidence that the Jews used any special system of square measures but they were content to express by the cubit the length and breadth of the surface to be measured #Nu 35:4,5; Eze 40:27| or by the reed. #Eze 41:8; 42:16-19; Re 21:16| II. MEASURES OF CAPACITY.-- 1. The measures of capacity for liquids were: (a) The log, #Le 14:10| etc. The name originally signifying basin. (b) The hin, a name of Egyptian origin, frequently noticed in the Bible. #Ex 29:40; 30:24; Nu 15:4,7,8; Eze 4:11| etc. (c) The bath, the name meaning "measured," the largest of the liquid measures. #1Ki 7:26,38; 2Ch 2:10; Ezr 7:22; Isa 5:10| 2. The dry measure contained the following denominations: (a) The cab, mentioned only in #2Ki 6:25| the name meaning literally hollow or concave. (b) The omer, mentioned only in #Ex 16:16-36| The word implies a heap, and secondarily a sheaf. (c) The seah, or "measure," this being the etymological meaning of the term and appropriately applied to it, inasmuch as it was the ordinary measure for household purposes. #Ge 18:6; 1Sa 25:18; 2Ki 7:1,16| The Greek equivalent occurs in #Mt 13:33; Lu 13:21| (d) The ephah, a word of Egyptian origin and frequent recurrence in the Bible. #Ex 16:36; Le 5:11; 6:20; Nu 5:15; 28:5; Jud 6:19; Ru 2:17; 1Sa 1:24; 17:17; Eze 45:11,13; 46:5,7,11,14| (e) The lethec, or "half homer" literally meaning what is poured out; it occurs only in #Ho 3:2| (f) The homer, meaning heap. #Le 27:16; Nu 11:32; Isa 5:10; Eze 45:13| It is elsewhere termed cor, from the circular vessel in which it was measured. #1Ki 4:22; 5:11; 2Ch 2:10; 27:5; Ezr 7:22; Eze 45:14| The Greek equivalent occurs in #Lu 16:7| The absolute values of the liquid and the dry measures are stated differently by Josephus and the rabbinists, and as we are unable to decide between them, we give a double estimate to the various denominations. In the new Testament we have notices of the following foreign measures: (a) The metretes, #Joh 2:6| Authorized Version "firkin," for liquids. (b) The choenix, #Re 6:6| Authorized Version "measure," for dry goods. (c) The xestec, applied, however, not to the peculiar measure so named by the Greeks, but to any small vessel, such as a cup. #Mr 7:4,8| Authorized Version "pot." (d) The modius, similarly applied to describe any vessel of moderate dimensions, #Mt 5:15; Mr 4:21; Lu 11:33| Authorized Version "bushel," though properly meaning a Roman measure, amounting to about a peck. The value of the Attic metretes was 8.6696 gallons, and consequently the amount of liquid in six stone jars, containing on the average 2 1/2 metretae each, would exceed 110 gallons. #Joh 2:6| Very possibly, however, the Greek term represents the Hebrew bath; and if the bath be taken at the lowest estimate assigned to it, the amount would be reduced to about 60 gallons. The choenix was 1-48th of an Attic medimnus, and contained nearly a quart. It represented the amount of corn for a day's food; and hence a choenix for a penny (or denarius), which usually purchased a bushel (Cic. Verr. iii 81), indicated a great scarcity. #Re 6:6|

weights and measures in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

WEIGHTS: mishkol from "shekel" (the weight in commonest use); eben, a "stone", anciently used as a weight; peles, "scales". Of all Jewish weights the shekel was the most accurate, as a half shekel was ordered by God to be paid by every Israelite as a ransom. From the period of the Exodus there were two shekels, one for ordinary business (Exodus 38:29; Joshua 7:21; 2 Kings 7:1; Amos 8:5), the other, which was larger, for religious uses (Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 5:15; Numbers 3:47). The silver in the half-shekel was 1 shilling, 3 1/2 pence; it contained 20 gerahs, literally, beans, a name of a weight, as our grain from grain. The Attic tetradrachma, or Greek stater, was equivalent to the shekel. The didrachma of the Septuagint at Alexandria was equivalent to the Attic tetradrachma. The shekel was about 220 grains weight. In 2 Samuel 14:26 "shekel after the king's weight" refers to the perfect standard kept by David. Michaelis makes five to three the proportion of the holy shekel to the commercial shekel; for in Ezekiel 45:12 the maneh contains 60 of the holy shekels; in 1 Kings 10:17; 2 Chronicles 9:16, each maneh contained 100 commercial shekels, i.e. 100 to (60 or five to three. After the captivity the holy shekel alone was used. The half shekel (Exodus 38:26; Matthew 17:24) was the beka (meaning "division"): the "quarter shekel", reba; the "20th of the shekel", gerah. Hussey calculates the shekel at half ounce avoirdupois, and the maneh half pound, 14 oz.; 60 holy shekels were in the maneh, 3,000 in the silver talent, so 50 maneh in the talent: 660,000 grains, or 94 lbs. 5 oz. The gold talent is made by Smith's Bible Dictionary 100 manehs, double the silver talent (50 manehs); by the Imperial Bible Dictionary identical with it. (See SHEKEL; MONEY; TALENT.) A gold maneh contained 100 shekels of gold. The Hebrew talents of silver and copper were exchangeable in the proportion of about one to 80; 50 shekels of silver are thought equal to a talent of copper. "Talent" means a circle or aggregate sum. One talent of gold corresponded to 24 talents of silver. MEASURES: Those of length are derived from the human body. The Hebrew used the forearm as the "cubit," but not the "foot." The Egyptian terms hin, 'ephah, and 'ammah (cubit) favor the view that the Hebrew derived their measures from Egypt. The similarity of the Hebrew to the Athenian scales for liquids makes it likely that both came from the one origin, namely, Egypt. Piazzi Smyth observes the sacred cubit of the Jews, 25 inches (to which Sir Isaac Newton's calculation closely approximates), is represented in the great pyramid, 2500 B.C.; in contrast to the ordinary standard cubits, from 18 to 21 inches, the Egyptian one which Israel had to use in Egypt. The 25-inch cubit measure is better than any other in its superior earth-axis commensurability. The inch is the real unit of British linear measure: 25 such inches (increased on the present parliamentary inch by one thousandth) was Israel's sacred cubit; 1.00099 of an English inch makes one pyramid inch; the earlier English inch was still closer to the pyramid inch. Smyth remarks that no pagan device of idolatry, not even the sun and moon, is pourtrayed in the great pyramid, though there are such hieroglyphics in two older pyramids. He says the British grain measure "quarter" is just one fourth of the coffer in the king's chamber, which is the same capacity as the Saxon chaldron or four quarters. The small passage of the pyramid represents a unit day; the grand gallery, seven unit days or a week. The grand gallery is seven times as high as one of the small and similarly inclined passages equalling 350 inches, i.e. seven times 50 inches. The names Shofo and Noushofo (Cheops and Chephren of Herodotus) are marked in the chambers of construction by the stonemasons at the quarry. The Egyptian dislike to those two kings was not because of forced labour, for other pyramids were built so by native princes, but because they overthrew the idolatrous temples. The year is marked by the entrance step into the great gallery, 90.5 inches, going 366 times into the circumference of the pyramid. The seven overlappings of the courses of polished stones on the eastern and the western sides of the gallery represent two weeks of months of 26 days each so there are 26 holes in the western ramp; on the other ramp 28, in the antechamber two day holes over and above the 26. Four grooves represent four years, three of them hollow and one full, i.e. three years in which only one day is to be added to the 14 x 26 for the year; the fourth full from W. to E., i.e. two days to be added on leap year, 366 days. The full groove not equal in breadth to the hollow one implies that the true length of the year is not quite 365 1/4 days. Job (Job 38:6) speaks of the earth's "sockets" with imagery from the pyramid, which was built by careful measurement on a prepared platform of rock. French savants A.D. 1800 described sockets in the leveled rock fitted to receive the four corner stones. The fifth corner stone was the topstone completing the whole; the morning stars singing together at the topstone being put to creation answers to the shoutings, Grace unto it, at the topstone being put to redemption (Job 38:7; Zechariah 4:7); Ephesians 2:19, "the chief corner stone in which all the building fitly framed together groweth into an holy tern. pie." The topstone was "disallowed by the builders" as "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" to them; for the pyramids previously constructed were terrace topped, not topped with the finished pointed cornerstone. Pyramid is derived from peram "lofty" (Ewald), from puros "wheat" (P. Smyth). The mean density of the earth (5,672) is introduced into the capacity and weight measures of the pyramid (Isaiah 40:12). The Egyptians disliked the number five, the characteristic of the great pyramid, which has five sides, five angles, five corner stones, and the five sided coffer. Israel's predilection for it appears in their marching five in a rank (Hebrew for "harnessed"), Exodus 13:18; according to Manetho, 250,000, i.e. 5 x 50,000; so the shepherd kings at Avaris are described as 250,000; 50 inches is the grand standard of length in the pyramid, five is the number of books in the Pentateuch, 50 is the number of the Jubilee year, 25 inches (5 x 5) the cubit, an integral fraction of the earth's axis of rotation, 50 the number of Pentecost. (See NUMBER.) The cow sacrifice of Israel was an "abomination to the Egyptians"; and the divinely taught builders of the great pyramid were probably of the chosen race, in the line of, though preceding, Abraham and closer to Noah, introducers into Egypt of the pure worship of Jehovah (such as Melchizedek held) after its apostasy to idols, maintaining the animal sacrifices originally ordained by God (Genesis 3:21; Genesis 4:4; Genesis 4:7; Hebrews 11:4), but rejected in Egypt; forerunners of the hyksos or shepherd kings who from the Canaan quarter made themselves masters of Egypt. The enormous mass of unoccupied masonry would have been useless as a tomb, but necessary if the pyramid was designed to preserve an equal temperature for unexceptionable scientific observations; 100 ft. deep inside the pyramid would prevent a variation of heat beyond 01 degree of Fahrenheit, but the king's chamber is 180 ft. deep to compensate for the altering of air currents through the passages. The Hebrew finger, about seven tenths of an inch, was the smaller measure. The palm or handbreadth was four fingers, three or four inches; illustrates the shortness of time (Psalm 39:5). The span, the space between the extended extremities of the thumb and little finger, three palms, about seven and a half inches. The old Mosaic or sacred cubit (the length from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, 25 inches) was a handbreadth longer than the civil cubit of the time of the captivity (from the elbow to the wrist, 21 inches): Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 43:13; 2 Chronicles 3:3, "cubits after the first (according to the earlier) measure." The Mosaic cubit (Thenius in Keil on 1 Kings 6:2) was two spans, 20 1/2 Dresden inches, 214,512 Parisian lines long. Og's bedstead, nine cubits long (Deuteronomy 3:11) "after the cubit of a man," i.e. according to the ordinary cubit (compare Revelation 21:17) as contrasted with any smaller cubit, was of course much longer than the giant himself. In Ezekiel 41:8 (atsilah) Henderson translated for "great" cubits, literally, "to the extremity" of the hand; Fairbairn, "to the joining" between one chamber and another below; Buxtorf, "to the wing" of the house. The measuring reed of Ezekiel 40:5 was six cubits long. Furlong (stadion), one eighth of a Roman mile, or 606 3/4 ft. (Luke 24:13), Luke 24:53 1/2 ft. less than our furlong. The mile was eight furlongs or 1618 English yards, i.e. 142 yards less than the English statute mile; the milestones still remain in some places. Matthew 5:41, "compel," angareusei, means literally, impress you as a post courier, originally a Persian custom, but adopted by the Romans. Sabbath day's journey (See SABBATH.) A little way (Genesis 35:16, kibrah) is a definite length: Onkelos, an acre; Syriac, a parasang (30 furlongs). The Jews take it to be a mile, which tradition makes the interval between Rachel's tomb and Ephrath, or Bethlehem (Genesis 48:7); Gesenius, a French league. A day's journey was about 20 to 22 miles (Numbers 11:31; 1 Kings 19:4). DRY MEASURES. A cab (2 Kings 6:25), a sixth of a seah; four sextaries or two quarts. Omer, an Egyptian word, only in Exodus and Leviticus (Exodus 16:16; Leviticus 23:10); the tenth of an ephah; Josephus makes it seven Attic cotylae or three and a half pints (Ant. 3:6, section 6), but its proportion to the bath (Ezekiel 45:11; Josephus, Ant. 8:2, section 9) would make the omer seven and a half pints; issaron or a tenth was its later name; an omer of manna was each Israelite's daily allowance; one was kept in the holiest place as a memorial (Exodus 16:33-34), but had disappeared before Solomon's reign (1 Kings 8:9). A seah (Genesis 18:6), the third of an ephah, and containing six cabs (rabbins), three gallons (Josephus, Ant. 9:4, section 5); the Greek saton (Matthew 13:33). 'ephah, from 'if to measure, ten omers, equal to the bath (Ezekiel 45:11); Josephus (Ant. 8:2, section 9) makes it nine gallons; the rabbis make it only half. The half homer was called lethek (Hosea 3:2). The homer or cor was originally an donkey load; Gesenius, an heap. A measure for liquids or dry goods; ten ephahs (Ezekiel 45:14), i.e. 90 gallons, if Josephus' (Ant. 8:2, section 9) computation of the bath or ephah as nine gallons is right. The rabbis make it 45 gallons. LIQUID MEASURES. The log, a cotyle or half pint; related to our lake, a hollow; twelfth of the hin, which was sixth of a bath or 12 pints. The bath was an ephah, the largest Hebrew liquid measure, nine gallons (Josephus), but four and a half (rabbis). The sextary contained nearly a pint, translated "pots" in Mark 7:4-8. The choenix (Revelation 6:6) one quart, or else one pint and a half; in scarcity a penny or denarius only bought a choenix, but ordinarily a bushel of wheat. The modius, "bushel," two gallons, found in every household, therefore preceded by the Greek "the" (Matthew 5:15). Metretes, "firkin" (John 2:6), nearly nine gallons; answering to the Hebrew bath. The koros or cor, "measure" (Luke 16:7) of grain; bath (Luke 16:6), "measure" of oil. Twelve logs to one hin; six bins to one bath. One cab and four-fifths to one omer. Three omers and one third, one seah. Three seahs to one ephah. Ten ephahs to one homer.