Vol 81 (2000)

George M. Hollenback, «The Dimensions and Capacity of the 'Molten Sea' in 1 Kgs 7,23.26», Vol. 81 (2000) 391-392

The apparent discrepancy between the given dimensions and capacity of King Solomon's 'molten sea' in 1 Kgs 7,23.26 can be resolved in the light of insights provided by a particular kind of cylindrical capacity measure system attested in Old Babylonian metrology.

prismatic counterparts. Indeed there are. An Old Babylonian capacity measure known as the sila, for example, came in several different sizes, each square prismatic format having a correspondingly smaller cylindrical counterpart 4. The rationale behind a cylindrical system of measures is probably the ease it affords in performing certain calculations. For example, calculating the volume of a cylindrical structure the usual way in cubic cubits would involve tripling the diameter to obtain the circumference, squaring the circumference and multiplying that result by 11/12, to obtain the cross-sectional area, and then multiplying that result by the height 5. Calculating the capacity in 'cubit cylinders', however, would simply entail squaring the diameter and multiplying by the height 6. Squaring the diameter of the sea and multiplying by the height would give a capacity of (10 x 10) X 5 = 500 cubit cylinders, each containing 4 cylindrical baths for a total of 2,000 cylindrical baths.