Weights and measures

Bible weights and measures


As you read through the Bible you will come across various words that refer to weights and measures of length or distance.  Words like cubit, farthing, ephah and others.  It can be helpful to have a reference to what these words equate to in modern terms.  In some cases, scholars do not agree on the exact values that these words correspond to in today’s world.  Regardless, having an idea and some context can help you.

Terms covered:


A cubit is an ancient measurement of length found throughout the Bible.  A cubit is about 18 inches or about 46 centimeters.


A talent is a measure of weight and corresponds to approximately 75 US pounds or 34.3 kilograms.


An ephah was used to measure dry goods.  One ephah equals about 20 quarts or 22 liters.


A span was 1/2 of a cubit or about 9 inches or 23 centimeters.


Was used to measure dry goods.  Corresponds to about 2 US quarts or 2.2 dry liters.


Used to measure dry or wet goods.  For dry goods, a homer corresponds to about 6 US bushels (211 liters).  For wet goods, a homer corresponds to about 58 US gallons or 220 liters.


A shekel was used as a measure of weight or money depending on context.  As a weight, a shekel is about .4 US ounces or 11.4 grams.  A shekel of money was usually a silver or gold minted coin whose value is difficult to confirm in today’s money.  Today the nation of Israel uses a shekel as a form of currency.


An ancient penny corresponds to about 16 US cents.


A mite was one of the smallest monetary amounts and corresponds to about 2 US cents.


Commonly used for money but occasionally as a measure of weight.  When used as weight it corresponds to about 40 US ounces or 1140 grams.  When used for money it corresponds to about $16 US.


A farthing was 2 mites or about 4 US cents.


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