Biblical Weights and Measures

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What does the Bible teach regarding maintaining the integrity of weights and measures? How do ancient Biblical units compare to those we use today?

The maintenance of honest weights and measures was an important principle in Biblical times. God himself directly commanded his people to be honest when they traded and not attempt to cheat each other (especially those who were strangers).

The stranger (alien) that dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself . . . You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in measures and weights, or in quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin . . . (Leviticus 19:34 - 36, HBFV).

How wealthy was King David?
Why did Jesus meet with a tax collector?
Should Christians pay taxes?

Wise King Solomon also taught that maintaining honest standards of trade was critical to the success of God's people. Using different sized weights and measures, for the purpose of cheating others, was an abomination to the Eternal (Proverbs 20:10, 23).

Butcher's Shop
Butcher's Shop
Annibale Carracci, 1580s

The Bible states that greedy merchants were known to use undersized measures when selling commodities like grain. They also would weigh a buyer's money using extra heavy weights so that they could steal even more gold or silver (Amos 8:4 - 5).

Below is a list of the King James Bible words that refer to the most commonly used measurements. The information listed is a consensus from a variety of Bible commentaries, dictionaries and other study aids. Please note that the values used below are only estimates.

1 ephah = 22 liters = 5.8 Gallons
Used in the Bible for liquids (1Kings 7:26, Isaiah 5:10).

44.5 to 52 centimeters = 17.5 to 20.4 inches
The length of a cubit is based on the distance between the tip of the middle finger and the elbow (Genesis 6:13 - 16, Matthew 6:27, Luke 12:25).

There were at least two sizes of cubits used in the Old Testament. The first or ordinary cubit was about 17.5 inches (44.5 centimeters) long. The second, known as the long or "royal" (sacred) cubit, was a hand-breadth longer (see Ezekiel 40:5, 43:13) or about 20.4 inches (51.8 centimeters) long. The royal cubit was likely used by Solomon to build Jerusalem's temple (2Chronicles 3:3) and possibly utilized to construct Noah's Ark.

Day's Journey
32 kilometers = roughly 20 miles
This distance is used only once in the New Testament (Luke 2:44).

10 omers = .62 bushels = 22 liters = 20 dry quarts
Used in the Bible for a dry measure (Exodus 16:36, 1Samuel 17:17).

2 mites = 1/4th of a cent
Used only three times in the New Testament as a measure of money (Matthew 5:26, 10:29, Mark 12:42).

34 liters = 9 gallons
Used only once in the New Testament in reference to Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:6).

1/8th of a mile = 201.2 meters
Translated from the Greek word stadion and used as a measure of distance (Luke 24:13, John 6:19, 11;18, Revelation 14:20, 21:16).

1/20th of a Shekel = .57 grams = .02 ounces
The smallest weight and piece of money used in Israel (Exodus 30:13, Leviticus 27:25, Numbers 3:47).

Hand breadth
7.6 centimeters = 3 inches
Used for lengths (1Kings 7:26, Psalm 39:5).

1/6th of a Bath = 3.7 liters = 1 Gallon
Used as a measurement of liquids (Exodus 29:40, 30:24, Numbers 15:4).

Homer (Cor)
Dry Measure: 10 Ephahs = 211 liters = 6.2 bushels
Liquid: 10 Baths = 220 liters = 58 Gallons
Can be used to measure volume of dry commodities like barley or liquids (Numbers 11:32, Hosea 3:2, Ezekiel 45:11, 13 - 14).

1/72 of a bath = .3 liter = 1/3 of a quart
Used as a measure of liquid (Leviticus 14:10, 12, 15, 21, 24).

50 Shekels
Translated from the Hebrew maneh as "pound." Used as a measure of currency (1Kings 10:17, Ezra 2:69, Ezekiel 45:12).

1/2 Roman quadran = 1/2 farthing = 1/8th of a cent
Translated from the Greek word lepton, it was the smallest coin used (Mark 12:42, Luke 12:59, 21:2).

1/10 ephah = 2.2 dry liters = 2 dry quarts
The Hebrew word omer is also sometimes translated as "sheaf" or "sheaves" (Leviticus 23:10 - 12, Ruth 2:7). A sheaf was considered a quantity of grain big enough to bundle (Exodus 16:22, 32 - 33, 36).

Penny (KJV Bible)
1 Penny = 1 Roman Denarius = 1 Greek Drachma
In the KJV New Testament, the same Greek word denarion (denarius) is translated as "penny" (Matthew 20:2 - 13, 22:19, Revelation 6:6), "pennyworth" (Mark 6:37, John 6:7) and "pence" (Matthew 18:28, Mark 14:5, Luke 7:41). Jesus used a denarius to teach that it was lawful to pay Roman taxes (Matthew 22:19, Luke 20:22 - 25). One denarius was considered a single day's wages.

Used as Weight: 100 shekels
Used for Money: 100 Roman denarii = 100 Greek drachmas = $16.00 U.S.
Another common weight also used for the value of money (1Kings 10:17, Ezra 2:29, Luke 19:13, 16, 18).

3 meters = 10 feet
Used for length measurements (Ezekiel 42:16, Revelation 21:15).

Sabbath's day journey
2,000 cubits = .91 kilometers = 1/2 of a mile
According to Jewish tradition (not the Bible) this was the maximum allowable distance a person could travel on the Seventh-day Sabbath and not violate the law (Acts 1:12, Joshua 3:4).

20 gerahs = 11.4 grams = .4 ounces
A common weight also used for money (Genesis 23:15 - 16, Exodus 21:32, 30:13, Ezekiel 45:12).

1/2 cubit = 22.8 centimeters = 9 inches
A span is the width of a spread out human hand from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinky finger (Exodus 28:16, 1Samuel 17:4, Ezekiel 43:13).

3,000 shekels = 60 minas = 34.3 kilograms = 75 U.S. pounds
One of the common Biblical weights also used to value money (Exodus 38:24 - 29, 1Kings 9:14, Matthew 18:24, Revelation 16:21).

Additional Study Materials
What is Biblical numerology?
How was Abraham dragged into a war?
Why shouldn't we eat Ezekiel's bread?
What is the milk and meat of Scripture?
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