Easton's Bible Dictionary
Reduced to English troy-weight, the Hebrew weights were:
|The gerah ( Leviticus
27:25 ; Numbers
3:47 ), a Hebrew word, meaning a grain or kernel, and hence a small weight.
It was the twentieth part of a shekel, and equal to 12 grains.
Bekah ( Exodus
38:26 ), meaning "a half" i.e., "half a shekel," equal to 5 pennyweight.
Shekel, "a weight," only in the Old Testament, and frequently in its original
form ( Genesis
23:16 ; Exodus
30:15 ; 38:24
, etc.). It was equal to 10 pennyweight.
Ma'neh, "a part" or "portion" ( Ezekiel
45:12 ), equal to 60 shekels, i.e., to 2 lbs. 6 oz.
Talent of silver ( 2
Kings 5:22 ), equal to 3,000 shekels, i.e., 125 lbs.
Talent of gold ( Exodus
25:39 ), double the preceding, i.e., 250 lbs.
Several words are so rendered in the Authorized Version.
|Those which are indefinite.
|(a) Hok, Isaiah
5:14 , elsewhere "statute."
(b) Mad, Job
11:9 ; Jeremiah
13:25 , elsewhere "garment."
(c) Middah, the word most frequently thus translated, Exodus
26:8 , etc.
(d) Mesurah, Leviticus
19:35 ; 1
Chronicles 23:29 .
(e) Mishpat, Jeremiah
30:11 , elsewhere "judgment."
(f) Mithkoneth and token, Ezekiel.
(g) In New Testament metron, the usual Greek word thus rendered ( Matthew
7:2 ; 23:32
Those which are definite.
|(a) 'Eyphah, Deuteronomy
25:15 , usually "ephah."
(b) Ammah, Jeremiah
51:13 , usually "cubit."
(c) Kor, 1
Kings 4:22 , elsewhere "cor;" Greek koros, Luke
(d) Seah, Genesis
18:6 ; 1
Samuel 25:18 , a seah; Greek saton, Matthew
13:33 ; Luke
(e) Shalish, "a great measure," Isaiah
40:12 ; literally a third, i.e., of an ephah.
(f) In New Testament batos, Luke
16:6 , the Hebrew "bath;" and choinix, Revelation
6:6 , the choenix, equal in dry commodities to one-eighth of a modius.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
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.
The AEginetan talent is stated to have contained 60 minae, 6000 drachme.
The Attic talent is the standard weight introduced by Solon.
The Babylonian talent may be determined from existing weights found by. Mr. Layard
Pollux makes it equal to 7000 Attic drachms.
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
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
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).
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 Noahs ark. ( Genesis 6:15 , Genesis 6:16 ; 7:20 ) The Hebrew lesser measures
were the fingers breadth , ( Jeremiah 52:21 ) only; the palm or handbreadth, (
Exodus 25:25 ; 1 Kings 7:26 ; 2 Chronicles 4:5 ) used metaphorically in ( Psalms
39:5 ) the span , i.e. the full stretch between the tips of the thumb and the
little finger. ( Exodus 28:16 ; 1 Samuel 17:4 ; Ezekiel 43:13 ) and figuratively
( Isaiah 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,
( 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 ( Ezekiel 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:
Of measures of distance the smallest is the pace, and the largest the days journey.
(a) The pace,
( 2 Samuel 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 Palestine, the
Jews had a mile of 1000 paces, alluded to in ( Matthew 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 Lords 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 days journey
was the most usual method of calculating distances in travelling, ( Genesis 30:36
; 31:23 ; Exodus 3:18 ; 5:3 ; Numbers 10:33 ; 11:31 ; 33:8 ; 1:2 ; 1 Kings 19:4
; 2 Kings 3:9 ; Jonah 3:3 ) 1 Macc. 5:24; 7:45; Tobit 6:1, though but one instance
of it occurs in the New Testament ( Luke 2:44 ) The ordinary days 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,
(c) The Sabbath days journey of 2000 cubits,
( Acts 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." ( Exodus
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,
( Numbers 35:5 ) this was taken for the length of a Sabbath-days journey measured
front the wall of the city in which the traveller lived. Computed from the value
given above for the cubit, the Sabbath-days journey would be just six tenths of
(d) (Stadium and Mile)
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; ( Luke 24:13 ; John 6:19 ; 11:18 ; Revelation 14:20 ; 21:18
One measure remains to be mentioned.
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 ( Numbers 35:4 , 35:5
; Ezekiel 40:27 ) or by the reed. ( Ezekiel 41:8 ; 42:16-19 ; Revelation 21:16
II. MEASURES OF CAPACITY.--
The measures of capacity for liquids were:
(a) The log,
( Leviticus 14:10 ) etc. The name originally signifying basin.
(b) The hin,
a name of Egyptian origin, frequently noticed in the Bible. ( Exodus 29:40 ; 30:24
; Numbers 15:4 , Numbers 15:7 , Numbers 15:8 ; Ezekiel 4:11 ) etc.
(c) The bath,
the name meaning "measured," the largest of the liquid measures. ( 1 Kings 7:26
, 1 Kings 7:38 ; 2 Chronicles 2:10 ; Ezra 7:22 ; Isaiah 5:10 )
The dry measure contained the following denominations:
(a) The cab,
mentioned only in ( 2 Kings 6:25 ) the name meaning literally hollow or concave.
(b) The omer,
mentioned only in ( Exodus 16:16-36 ) The word implies a heap, and secondarily
(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.
( Genesis 18:6 ; 1 Samuel 25:18 ; 2 Kings 7:1 2 Kings 7:16 ) The Greek equivalent
occurs in ( Matthew 13:33 ; Luke 13:21 )
(d) The ephah,
a word of Egyptian origin and frequent recurrence in the Bible. ( Exodus 16:36
; Leviticus 5:11 ; 6:20 ; Numbers 5:15 ; 28:5 ; Judges 6:19 ; Ruth 2:17 ; 1 Samuel
1:24 ; 17:17 ; Ezekiel 45:11 Ezekiel 45:13 ; Ezekiel 46:5 Ezekiel 46:7 , Ezekiel
46:11 , Ezekiel 46:14 )
(e) The lethec,
or "half homer" literally meaning what is poured out; it occurs only in ( Hosea
(f) The homer,
meaning heap. ( Leviticus 27:16 ; Numbers 11:32 ; Isaiah 5:10 ; Ezekiel 45:13
) It is elsewhere termed cor , from the circular vessel in which it was measured.
( 1 Kings 4:22 ; 5:11 ; 2 Chronicles 2:10 ; 27:5 ; Ezra 7:22 ; Ezekiel 45:14 )
The Greek equivalent occurs in ( Luke 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,
( John 2:6 ) Authorized Version "firkin," for liquids.
(b) The choenix,
( Revelation 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. ( Mark 7:4 Mark 7:8 ) Authorized Version "pot."
(d) The modius,
similarly applied to describe any vessel of moderate dimensions, ( Matthew 5:15
; Mark 4:21 ; Luke 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. ( John 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 days food; and hence a choenix for a penny (or denarius ), which usually
purchased a bushel (Cic. Verr. iii 81), indicated a great scarcity. ( Revelation
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
wats me'-zhur :
The system of weights and measures in use among the Hebrews
was derived from Babylonia and Egypt, especially from the former. The influence
of these countries upon Palestine has long been recognized, but archaeological
investigations in recent years have shown that the civilization of Babylonia impressed
itself upon Syria and Palestine more profoundly in early times than did that of
Egypt. The evidence of this has been most clearly shown by the discovery of the
Tell el-Amarna Letters, which reveal the fact that the official correspondence
between the Egyptian kings and their vassals in these lands was carried on in
the language of Babylonia long after its political influence had been supplanted
by that of Egypt. It is natural, then, that we should look to Babylonia for the
origin of such important elements of civilization as a system of weights and measures.
1. Linear Measures:
|It was quite natural that men should have found a
standard for linear measures in the parts of the human body, and we find the cubit,
originally the length of the forearm, taken as the standard, and the span, the
palm and the digit, or finger-breadth, associated with it in linear measurement.
They do not seem to have employed the foot, though it is represented in the two-thirds
of the cubit, which was used by the Babylonians in the manufacture of building-brick.
This system, though adequate enough for man in the earliest times, was not so
for an advanced stage of civilization, such as the Babylonians reached before
the days of Abraham, and we find that they had introduced a far more accurate
and scientific system (see CUBIT). They seem to have employed, however, two cubits,
of different lengths, one for commercial purposes and one for building. We have
no undoubted examples of either, but judging by the dimensions of their square
building-bricks, which are regarded as being two-thirds of a cubit on a side,
we judge the latter to have been of about 19 or 20 inches. Now we learn from investigations
in Egypt that a similar cubit was employed there, being of from 20.6 to 20.77
inches, and it can hardly be doubted that the Hebrews were familiar with this
cubit, but that in more common use was certainly shorter. We have no certain means
of determining the length of the ordinary cubit among the Hebrews, but there are
two ways by which we may approximate its value. The Siloam Inscription states
that the tunnel in which it was found was 1,200 cubits long. The actual length
has been found to be about 1,707 feet, which would give a cubit of about 17.1
in. (see PEFS, 1902, 179). Of course the given length may be a round number, but
it gives a close approximation.
Again, the Mishna states that the height of a man is 4 cubits, which we may thus
regard as the average stature of a Jew in former times. By reference to Jewish
tombs we find that they were of a length to give a cubit of something over 17
inches, supposing the stature to be as above, which approximates very closely
to the cubit of the Siloam tunnel. The consensus of opinion at the present day
inclines toward a cubit of 17.6 inches for commercial purposes and one of about
20 inches for building. This custom of having two standards is illustrated by
the practice in Syria today, where the builder's measure, or dra', is about 2
inches longer than the commercial.
Of multiples of the cubit we have the measuring-reed of 6 long cubits, which consisted
of a cubit and a hand-breadth each (Ezekiel 40:5), or about 10 feet. Another measure
was the Sabbath day's journey, which was reckoned at 2,000 cubits, or about 1,000
yards. The measuring-line was used also, but whether it had a fixed length we
do not know.
See SABBATH DAY'S JOURNEY; MEASURING LINE.
In the New Testament we have the fathom (orguia), about 6 feet, and the furlong
(stadion), 600 Greek feet or 606 3/4 English feet, which is somewhat less than
one-eighth of a mile. The mile (milion) was 5,000 Roman feet, or 4,854 English
feet, somewhat less than the English mile.
2. Measures of Capacity:
|Regarding the absolute value of the measures of capacity
among the Hebrews there is rather more uncertainty than there is concerning those
of length and weight, since no examples of the former have come down to us; but
their relative value is known. Sir Charles Warren considers them to have been
derived from the measures of length by cubing the cubit and its divisions, as
also in the case of weight. We learn from Ezekiel 45:11 that the bath and ephah
were equivalent, and he (Warren) estimates the capacity of these as that of 1/30
of the cubit cubed, or about 2,333.3 cubic inches, which would correspond to about
9 gallons English measure. Assuming this as the standard, we get the following
tables for liquid and dry measure:
Ce'ah and lethekh, in the above, occur in the Hebrew text, but only in the margin
of the English. It will be noticed that the prevailing element in these tables
is the duodecimal which corresponds to the sexagesimal of the Babylonian system,
but it will be seen that in the case of weights there was a tendency on the part
of the Hebrews to employ the decimal system, making the maneh 50 shekels instead
of 60, and the talent 3,000 instead of 3,600, of the Babylonian, so here we see
the same tendency in making the 'omer the tenth of the 'ephah and the 'ephah the
tenth of the chomer or kor.
|Weights were probably based by the ancients upon grains
of wheat or barley, but the Egyptians and Babylonians early adopted a more scientific
method. Sir Charles Warren thinks that they took the cubes of the measures of
length and ascertained how many grains of barley corresponded to the quantity
of water these cubes would contain. Thus, he infers that the Egyptians fixed the
weight of a cubic inch of rain water at 220 grains, and the Babylonians at 222
2/9. Taking the cubic palm at 25,928 cubic inches, the weight of that quantity
of water would be 5,760 ancient grains. The talent he regards as the weight of
2/3 of a cubit cubed, which would be equal to 101,6 cubic palms, but assumes that
for convenience it was taken at 100, the weight being 576,000 grains, deriving
from this the maneh (1/60 of the talent) of 9,600 grains, and a shekel (1/50 of
the maneh) 192 grains. But we have evidence that the Hebrew shekel differed from
this and that they used different shekels at different periods. The shekel derived
from Babylonia had a double standard:
the light of 160 grains, or 1/3600 of the talent; and the heavy of just double
this, of 320 grains. The former seems to have been used before the captivity and
the latter after. The Babylonian system was sexagesimal, i.e. 60 shekels went
to the maneh and 60 manehs to the talent, but the Hebrews reckoned only 50 shekels
to the maneh, as appears from Exodus 38:25,26, where it is stated that the amount
of silver collected from 603,550 males was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, and,
as each contributed a half-shekel, the whole amount must have been 301,775. Deducting
the 1,775 shekels mentioned besides the 100 talents, we have 300,000 or 3,000
to the talent, and, as there were 60 manehs in the talent, there were 50 shekels
to each maneh. When the Hebrews adopted this system we do not know, but it was
in vogue at a very early date.
The shekel was divided into gerahs, 20 to a shekel (Exodus 30:13). The gerah (gerah)
is supposed to be some kind of seed, perhaps a bean or some such plant. The shekel
of which it formed a part was probably the royal or commercial shekel of 160 grains,
derived from Babylon. But the Hebrews certainly had another shekel, called the
Phoenician from its being the standard of the Phoenician traders. This would be
natural on account of the close connection of the two peoples ever since the days
of David and Solomon, but we have certain evidence of it from the extant examples
of the monetary shekels of the Jews, which are of this standard, or very nearly
so, allowing some loss from abrasion. The Phoenician shekel was about 224 grains,
varying somewhat in different localities, and the Jewish shekels now in existence
vary from 212 to 220 grains. They were coined after the captivity (see COINS),
but whether this standard was in use before we have no means of knowing.
Examples of ancient weights have been discovered in Palestine by archaeological
research during recent years, among them one from Samaria, obtained by Dr. Chaplin,
bearing the inscription, in Hebrew rebha' netseph. This is interpreted, by the
help of the cognate Arabic, as meaning "quarter-half," i.e. of a shekel. The actual
weight is 39.2 grains, which, allowing a slight loss, would correspond quite closely
to a quarter-shekel of the light Babylonian standard of 160 grains, or the quarter
of the half of the double standard. Another specimen discovered at Tell Zakariyeh
weighs 154 grains, which would seem to belong to the same standard. The weights,
of which illustrations are given in the table, are all in the collection of the
Syrian Protestant College, at Beirut, and were obtained from Palestine and Phoenicia
and are of the Phoenician standard, which was the common commercial standard of
Palestine. The largest, of the spindle or barrel type, weighs 1,350 grains, or
87.46 grams, evidently intended for a 6-shekel weight, and the smaller ones of
the same type are fractions of the Phoenician shekel. They were of the same standard,
one a shekel and the other a two-shekel weight. They each have 12 faces, and the
smaller has a lion stamped on each face save one, reminding us of the lion-weights
discovered in Assyria and Babylonia. The spindle weights are of black stone, the
others of bronze.
The above is the Phoenician standard. In the Babylonian the shekel would be 160
or 320 grains; the maneh 8,000 or 16,000, and the talent 480,000 or 960,000 grains,
according as it was of the light or heavy standard.
bath, bekah, bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, cab, define, ephah, gerah, hin, homer, lethec, ma'neh, omer, pace, seah, shekel, talent, weights-and-measures