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Christian Pilgrim

 

156. Weights and Measures



Dry Measures

Omer:

Exodus 16:16 - "This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents."


The omer is therefore defined here in the collection of the manna in the wilderness, as approximately what one man can eat in a day.

Exodus 16:36 - "Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah."

We see here that an omer is a tenth of an ephah.

Leviticus 23:10 - "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest"

Here it is interesting to note that the word translated "sheaf" in the Authorised Version is the word "omer."


Ephah:

Ezekiel 45:11 - "The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer."


The ephah in turn is a tenth of an homer. The bath is the equivalent liquid measure, as this also is a tenth of an homer.


Homer:

Leviticus 27:16 - "And if a man shall sanctify unto the LORD some part of a field of his possession, then thy estimation shall be according to the seed thereof: an homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver."


An homer of barley seed is here valued at fifty shekels of silver.

Isaiah 5:10 - "Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah."

It is interesting to note that in a famine it is said that ten acres yield only one bath of wine and the seed of an homer only yields an ephah. A tenth of what was expected.



Liquid measures

Bath:

Ezekiel 45:11 - "The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer."


As we have already seen, a bath is the liquid equivalent of an ephah, and is a tenth of an homer.

Ezekiel 45:14 - "Concerning the ordinance of oil, the bath of oil, ye shall offer the tenth part of a bath out of the cor, which is an homer of ten baths; for ten baths are an homer"

Again we see that a homer is ten baths.


Hin:

This liquid measurement occurs in a lot of places in the Bible, but nowhere is it actually stated what it is.


Firkin (Metretes):

John 2:6 - "And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece."


The Authorised Version "firkin" refers to the Greek "metretes," which is an unknown liquid measure for wine.



Weight

Talent

This is a very large unit of weight mentioned in the Old Testament. It refers to the weight of metals, usually gold or silver, e.g.:

Exodus 25:39 - "Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels."

Exodus 38:27 - "And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket."

Exodus 38:29 - "And the brass of the offering was seventy talents, and two thousand and four hundred shekels."

2 KIngs 23:33 - "put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold."

A talent of silver was cheap enough to be used occasionally in ordinary transactions:

1 Kings 20:39 - "Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver."

2 Kings 5:22 - "give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments."

And a talent of gold was the approximate weight of David's crown:

2 Samuel 12:30 - "And he took their king’s crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David’s head."

But a talent of lead seemed to be enough to keep a woman in a basket:

Zechariah 5:7,8 - "And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof."

In the New Testament, there is only one reference to a talent as a weight:

Revelation 16:21 - "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great."

All other references to a talent in the New Testament are in Matthew's gospel, and they don't refer to a weight - no metal is specified. It must have become a unit of currency, and indeed a large one. Matthew was a tax collector so would have been familiar with it, whereas other disciples wouldn't.

Matthew 18:24 - "And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents." A ridiculously large sum to suit the parable.

Matthew 25:14-30 The parable of the talents - " .... And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.... "


Shekel and Gerah

Exodus 30:13 - "This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD."

Leviticus 27:25 - "And all thy estimations shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall be the shekel."

Numbers 3:47 - "Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:)"

Numbers 18:16 - "And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs."


These four places in the Bible show that the usual unit of weight is the shekel, and this is divided into twenty gerahs.

Ezekiel 45:12 - "And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh."

This verse also gives us this information, but we also see that there is a further unit of weight called the "maneh," but the verse is confusing as to what exactly it is.

The value of the shekel depends on what material is being used, gold, silver, brass etc.

Genesis 23:16 - "And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant."

Exodus 38:24 - "All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary."

Is there a difference here between the shekel of the merchants and the shekel of the sanctuary??



Length

Furlong:

The Authorised Version's "furlong" is the Greek "stadion."

Luke 24:13 - "And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs."

Here we ascertain that Emmaus was 60 furlongs from Jerusalem

John 11:18 - "Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off."

Here we ascertain that Bethany was 15 furlongs from Jerusalem.

The "furlong" also occurs in:

John 6:19 - "So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid."

Revelation 14:20 - "And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."

Revelation 21:16 - "And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal."


Mile:

Matthew 5:41 - "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."


This is the Greek (from Latin) "milion," a distance of unknown length.


Cubit:

Genesis 6:16 - "A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it."

This is a very common measurement in the Bible, but nowhere do we find out what it actually is. It is assumed it is the distance between a man's elbow and end of his middle finger. The phrase "cubit of a man" occurs once in Scripture:

Deuteronomy 3:11 - "For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man."

And we have the strange phrase in Ezekiel: "The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth."

Ezekiel 43:13 - "And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar."


Handbreadth and Span


A different word is used for each, so these are two slightly different things. The Bible does not tell us exactly what they are, but the names suggest small measurements discernible by the hand.

"Handbreadth" occurs in:

Exodus 25:25 - "And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about."

Exodus 37:12 - "Also he made thereunto a border of an handbreadth round about; and made a crown of gold for the border thereof round about."

1 KIngs 7:26 - "And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths."

2 Chronicles 4:5 - "And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths."

Psalm 39:5 - "Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah."

Ezekiel 40:5 - "And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and an hand breadth: so he measured the breadth of the building, one reed; and the height, one reed."

Ezekiel 43:13 - "And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar."


"Span" occurs in:

Exodus 28:16 - "Foursquare it shall be being doubled; a span shall be the length thereof, and a span shall be the breadth thereof."

Exodus 39:9 - "It was foursquare; they made the breastplate double: a span was the length thereof, and a span the breadth thereof, being doubled."

1 Samuel 17:4 - "And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span."

Isaiah 40:12 - "Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?"

Lamentations 2:20 - "Behold, O LORD, and consider to whom thou hast done this. Shall the women eat their fruit, and children of a span long? shall the priest and the prophet be slain in the sanctuary of the Lord?"

Ezekiel 43:13 - "And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar."