Here is the verse: “Then he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference” (1 Kings 7:23). These were the dimensions given for a large round vessel.
When my wife told me we were only getting twenty miles per gallon with our station wagon, she was rounding off the number. It would be unusual for her to say, “Guess what? I got 19.662 miles per gallon on my last tank!” We know when someone is just rounding off the number.
In the same way, someone would be amused if I answered their question of, “How old are you?” with, “I am 48 years, 11 months, 4 days, 12 hours, and 23 minutes old.” Anyone would be satisfied with “48 years old,” “Almost 49 years,” or even, “I’ll be 49 this month.” Using a whole number just comes naturally to us.
The Bible supplied whole numbers for the diameter of a vessel and its circumference. Pi is the ratio of circumference divided by diameter, which is always 3.1415. When you do the math regarding the recorded circumference (30 cubits) and the diameter (10 cubits) of a giant bowl, it appears that pi = 3. To be accurate, the 30-cubit figure should have been 31.415 cubits.
I believe the Bible rounds off the measurements, just like we do with many of our measurements. At that time, in a non-technological age, the people measured in whole numbers. In some cases, they would measure something with the span of their hand, which is the width of a hand with the fingers spread apart. How accurate can you get with that?
What Do You Think?
a. Is it reasonable to insist that people in ancient civilizations must have decimal-point accuracy in their measurements?
b. If you can respect the cultural differences of less-advanced nations, including their makeshift measuring devices, can God be faulted for doing the same? Why or why not?