What's A Cubit?
By Mike Bauml
Comedian Bill Cosby did a comedy routine in which God was giving directions to Noah on how to build the Ark. God told Noah to build the Ark 300 cubits by 80 cubits by 40 cubits. Noah answered God saying, “Right… What’s a cubit?”
The truth is that we read the Old Testament and come across many unfamiliar terms of measurement that we simply ignore. For the record, according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
“A cubit is the first recorded unit of length and was one of many different standards of measurement used throughout history.
It was originally based on measuring by comparing to one's forearm length. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the unit shows this symbol. It was employed through Antiquity, the Middle- Ages, up to the Early Modern Times, especially for measuring cords and textiles, but also for timbers, stone and volumes of grain.
The Egyptian cubit was not subdivided into centimeters or inches, but into palms and digits. The cubit was subdivided into 7 'palms' of 4 'digits', making 28 parts in all. The distance between the thumb and another finger to the elbow on an average person measures about 24 digits, or 6 palms, or 1½ feet. This is about 45 cm or 18 inches. This is sometimes referred to as a "natural cubit" of 1½ feet and was used in the Roman system of measures and in different Greek systems.”
Another source states that a cubic is 17.5 inches.
Space precludes an in depth definition of all the various terms of measurement in the Old Testament, but for your information:
A mite is one fifth of a cent.
A shekel is equal to a nickel.
A mina equals 25 dollars.
A talent equals 1500 dollars.
Another thing I always wondered about was whether or not people really lived 500, 600, or even 900 years ,or did they measure years differently? The Bible tells us that: Adam lived 930 years (Genesis 5:5), Seth lived 912 years (Genesis 5:8), Methuselah lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27), and Noah lived 950 years (Genesis 9:29).
In researching on the internet, I found that there is no clear cut consensus and that people can be passionate about this topic. Atheists for example use this to discount the entire text of the Bible. They seem to say that it absurd to believe that people lived this long and if this part of the Bible is obviously false then so is the rest of it. Others just as firmly believe that the life spans stated are numerically accurate and offer various theories to back this up. For example three such theories are as follows:
Progression of sin: When Adam and Eve were throw out of the Garden of Eden. They were still very close to God and as time has passed. We are more removed from Paradise, and our world is therefore a more sinful place. The further removed from God we are, the shorter our life span. God created the earth perfectly. But when Adam sinned the world began to decay.
Environmental Changes and The Flood: This theory believes that the earth pre-flood was covered in a vapor canopy (the firmament in GEN 1:6 ) that filtered out radiation, and held in incoming solar heat making the earth a warmer place to live. The Flood destroyed this vapor canopy and allowed harmful radiation to enter the earth more easily than before, bringing with it all kinds of damaging effects. This in effect dropped the life span of man to less than 100 in the 200 years after the flood.
Length of Years Were Measured Differently: The theory that the length of years were measured differently doesn’t hold any water mathematically. Some so called "scholars" claim that the ancient calendar made the year a month, or one lunar period. Others assert that a year equals one growing season of three or four months. One group says that a year in the bible was actually three months from Adam till Abraham, eight months till Joseph's time, and twelve months thereafter. If we accept the idea that one year actually equaled one month in our time, we have Enoch at five years old when his son Methuselah was born.
One does have to ask, why have we not found any 900 year old human fossils? One expert tries to answer this question by explaining that the measurement determinations of age are based on current human characteristics and the pre-flood humans aged differently and this would make age determinations on fossils from this time invalid.
The bottom line is that no one really knows the answers for certain. What I believe is that if God is forgiving to me, when my time comes, I may find out. Until then I will continue to believe that they could live as long as the Bible states.
Oh, and by the way, it is 3,133,061 cubits from St. Luke Parish to Wall Drug, South Dakota.