Coming across unfamiliar terms describing weights and measurements while reading the Bible can prevent the reader from fully understanding what is being described. Just as we use measurements today in our daily interactions, whether it be in making a recipe, following driving directions, or determining prices, all peoples throughout history have used measurements in their own cultures. Knowing modern-day equivalents to the measurements in the Bible will help the reader better understand and relate to the biblical account.
What are the biblical weights and measures in modern terms?
Measurements can be divided into weight (often also used for money), distance, dry capacity, and liquid capacity. Here is a list of some biblical measurements and their approximate US and Metric equivalents.
Talent (60 minas) is 75 pounds or 34 kilograms.
Mina (50 shekels) is 1.25 pounds or .6 kilograms (600 grams).
Shekel (2 bekas) is 2/5 of an ounce or 11.5 grams.
Pim (2/3 shekel) is 1/4 of an ounce or 7.6 grams.
Beka (10 gerahs) is 1/5 of an ounce or 5.7 grams.
Gerah is 1/50 of an ounce or .6 grams (600 milligrams).
Shekel is a silver Hebrew coin that is 11.5 grams of silver.
Gerah is a silver Hebrew coin that is .6 grams of silver and is sometimes referred to as ma'ah meaning "money."
Prutah is a copper Hebrew coin that is .22 grams of copper.
A talent of gold is 3000 silver shekels.
Silver dinar is a silver Roman coin that is 4.26 grams of silver and is called a Zuz in Hebrew. The silver dinar was equal to one day's wages.
Mina is a silver Roman coin that is 425 grams of silver (or 100 Zuz/Dinarii).
Gold dinar is a gold Roman coin that is 8 grams of gold.
Issar is a copper Roman coin that is .177 grams of copper.
Pundion is a copper Roman coin that is .349 grams of copper.
Cubit is 18 inches or .5 meters.
Span is 9 inches or 23 centimeters.
Handbreadth is 3 inches or 8 centimeters.
Finger is 3/4 of an inch or 1.8 centimeters.
Yoke is the amount of land a pair of yoked oxen could plow in a single day or about 1/3 of an acre.
Homer (or Cor) (10 ephahs) comes from the Hebrew word for donkey or ass, so this measurement was approximately one donkey-load or a little over 5 bushels (200 quarts) or 220 liters.
Lethek (5 ephahs) is 2.7 bushels or 110 liters.
Ephah (10 omers) is 3/5 of a bushel or 22 liters.
Seah (1/3 ephah) is 7 quarts or 7.3 liters.
Omer (1/10 ephah) is 2 quarts or 2 liters.
Cab (1/18 ephah) is 1 quart or 1 liter.
Bath is the liquid equivalent of 1 Ephah or 5.5 gallons or 22 liters.
Hin (1/6 bath) is 1 gallon (4 quarts) or 4 liters.
Log (1/72 bath) is 1/3 of a quart (11 ounces) or .3 liter.
The previous measurements are approximate and not intended to be mathematically precise. It's also important to note that measurements differed at various times and places throughout the Bible. There were often royal measurements and common measurements by the same name which differed slightly. The cubits in the book of Ezekiel are 1/6 longer than the cubits mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. However, the previous list of approximate measurements should help the reader have an idea of the basic measurements being described in the Bible.
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