Questions about the Bible: What Are the Modern Equivalents of Biblical Weights and Measures?

 

The use of weights and measurements was common in ancient times, just like it is today. The problem is that the words used for various measurements were usually specific to that culture. Today, most people don’t know what a “shekel” is or what is the difference between a “furlong” and a “fathom.” Some Bible translations have replaced the archaic words with modern equivalents or approximations. Other translations simply transliterate the Greek and Hebrew words for the measurements.

Below are several terms and their approximated equivalents in both metric and imperial measurements. Since some ancient terms varied by area, we have differentiated Greek and Hebrew measurements.

Weights:

Hebrew: Talent (3,000 shekels or 60 minas, sometimes translated “100 pounds”) 34.272 kg 75.6 lbs Mina (50 shekels, sometimes translated “pound”) 571.2 g 1.26 lbs Shekel 11.424 g 0.403 oz Pim (2/3 shekel?) 7.616 g 0.258 oz Beca (1/2 shekel) 5.712 g. 201 oz Gerah (1/20 shekel) 0.571 g 0.02 oz

Greek: Litra (30 shekels, sometimes translated “pound”) 0.4 kg 12 oz Talent 40 kg 88 lbs Mina 571.2 g 1.26 lbs

Linear Measurements:

Hebrew: Reed (6 cubits) 2.7 m 8 3/4 ft or 3 yds Cubit (2 spans, sometimes translated “yard,” “half a yard,” or “foot”) 0.5 m 18 in. Span (1/2 cubit or 3 handbreadths) 23 cm 9 in. Handbreadth (1/6 cubit, 1/3 span, or 4 fingers, sometimes translated “3 or 4 inches”) 8 cm 3 in. Finger 1.8 cm 0.73 in.

Ezekiel’s Cubit (found in Ezekiel 40:5): Reed (6 of Ezekiel’s cubits) 3.1 m 10 ft, 2.4 in. Cubit (7 handbreadths) 0.5 m 20.4 in.

Greek: Milion (8 stadia, sometimes translated “mile”) 1.5 km 1,620 yds or 0.9 mi Stadion (1/8 milion or 400 cubits, sometimes translated “mile,” “furlong,” or “race”) 185 m 1/8 mi Kalamos (6 cubits, sometimes translated “rod,” “reed,” or “measuring rod”) 3 m 3 1/3 yds Fathom (4 cubits, sometimes translated “6 feet”) 2 m 2 yds Cubit (sometimes translated “yard,” “half a yard,” or “foot”) 0.5 m 18 in.

Dry Measures:

Hebrew: Kor (10 ephahs, sometimes translated “cor,” “homer,” “sack,” “measures,” “bushels”) 220 L 5.16 bsh or 200 qts Letek (5 ephahs, sometimes translated “half homer” or “half sack”) 110 L 2.68 bsh Ephah / Bath (10 omers, sometimes translated “bushel,” “peck,” “deal, “part,” “measure,” or “6 or 7 pints”) 22 L 3/5 bsh Seah (1/3 ephah, sometimes translated “measure,” “peck,” or “large amount”) 7.3 L 7 qts Omer / Issaron (1/10 ephah, sometimes translated “tenth of a deal” or “six pints”) 2 L 2.09 qts Cab (1/18 ephah, sometimes translated “cab”) 1 L 1 qt

Greek: Koros (10 ephahs, sometimes translated “sack,” “measure,” “bushel,” or “500 quartsbus”) 525 L 14.9 bsh Modios (4 omers, sometimes translated “bushel,” “bowl,” “peck,” “corn-measure,” or “meal-tub”) 9 L 1 pk or 1/4 bsh Saton (1/3 ephah, sometimes translated “measure,” “peck,” or “large amount”) 7.3 L 7 qts Choinix (1/18 ephah, sometimes translated “measure” or “quart”) 1 L 1 qt Xestes (1/2 cab, sometimes translated “pot,” “pitcher,” “kettle,” “copper bowl,” or “vessels of bronze”) 0.5 L 1 1/6 pts

Liquid Measures:

Hebrew: Cor / Homer 208 L 55 gal Bath (1 ephah, sometimes translated “gallon,” “barrel,” or “liquid measure”) 22 L 5.5 gal Hin (1/6 bath, sometimes translated “pints”) 4 L 1 gal (4 qts) Log (1/72 bath, sometimes translated “pint” or “cotulus”) 0.3 L 0.67 pt

Greek: Metretes (10 hins, sometimes translated “firkins” or “gallons”) 39 L 10 gal Batos (1 ephah, sometimes translated “gallon,” “barrel,” or “measure”) 22 L 6 gal Xestes (1/8 hin, sometimes translated “pot,” “pitcher,” “kettle,” “copper bowl,” or “vessel of bronze”) 0.5 L 1 1/6 pts

Coins and Monies: Denarius / Denarion: a day’s wage (“penny” in KJV) Daric / Drachma / Dram: a coin weighing 1/4 oz or 8.5 g Lepta: the smallest Greek copper coin; of unknown weight (translated “mite” in KJV) Kodrantess: the smallest Roman copper coin; of unknown weight (translated “mite” in KJV)[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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