Measurement in the Bible

Integration as a Measurement Tool

1 Kings 7:23 NIV

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

Genesis 6:15 NIV

This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.

1 Kings 6:2-3 NIV

The temple that King Solomon built for the lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple.

Are measurements in the Bible are to be taken literally?  If so, then p is exactly three--the Great Sea in Solomon's temple was circular in shape, ten cubits in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference. Most mathematicians take exception with this value for p!  Here we must assume that either the measurements or the circular shape are not exact. 

Other biblical measurements are also interesting.  Noah's ark is 450 feet long by 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, assuming an 18 inch cubit.  Compared to an NFL football field, the ark would be 1.25 the length, a little less than half as wide, and 1.5 times the height of the goal post.  So the ark wouldn't fit completely on the marked field, but would fit in the central arena of Soldier Field in Chicago.  Solomon's temple was much smaller, only 90 feet long and 30 feet wide with a height of 45 feet.  Approximately ten copies of this temple would fit in the inside of Noah's ark.  Intriguing, isn't it?

In general, I believe that numbers in the Bible are to be taken figuratively, not literally.  Knowing that measurement was important enough to the Israelites to be recorded is what I find most interesting.  I take comfort in the fact that whether or not these numbers are accurate does not change the story of God's redemption for people and his creation.