SPECIAL TOPIC: CUBIT

There are two cubits (BDB 52, KB 61) in the Bible. The regular cubit is the distance between an average man's longest finger and his elbow, usually around 18 inches (e.g., Gen. 6:15; Exod. 25:10,17,23; 26:2,8,13,16; 27:1,9,12,13,14,16,18; Num. 35:4,5; Deut. 3:11). There is also a longer cubit (royal cubit) used in construction (i.e., Solomon's temple), which was common in Egypt (i.e., 21 fingers), Palestine (i.e., 24 fingers), and sometimes Babylon (i.e., 30 fingers). It was 21 inches long (cf. 2 Chr. 3:3; Ezek. 40:5; 43:13).

The ancients used parts of the human body for measurement. The people of the Ancient Near East used:

1. length from elbow to middle finger (cubit)

2. width from outstretched thumb to little finger (span, cf. Exod. 28:16; 39:9; 1 Sam. 17:4)

3. length between all four fingers of a closed hand (handbreadth, cf. Exod. 25:25; 37:12; 1 Kgs. 7:26; 2 Chr. 4:5)

4. length of middle joint of finger (fingerbreadth, Jer. 52:21)

The cubit (BDB 52, KB 61) was not completely standardized, but there were two basic lengths.

a. normal male's elbow to middle finger (about 18 inches, cf. Deut. 3:11)

b. royal cubit was a bit longer (about 20 inches, cf. 2 Chr. 3:3; Ezek. 40:5; 43:13)

 

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