Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sons of Moses, Gershon, and Levi

The Children of Adam genealogy project has been updated fleshing out Moses' family, the Gershonites, and other decedents of Levi. Click the thumbnail to access the latest version.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Discerning the Biblical Cubit

"What's a cubit?" So goes the classic skit by Bill Cosby playing both sides of the conversation between Noah and God.

A  cubit is a recurring unit of distance in the Old Testament. Whether it is figuring the size of Noah's ark or the height of Goliath, getting our minds around their actual dimensions is difficult because a cubit is no longer used.

Chances are, the notes at the bottom of the page in your Bible say a cubit is 18 inches. Although 2 Timothy 3:16 says "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," this does not include the publisher's notes. If we scour the internet and commentaries, we find a variety of possible lengths for the cubit. The most common are the rounded values of 21 inches and 18 inches. The Bible itself even notes that it uses at least two different cubits. For example, Ezekiel 43:13 mentioned a cubit that is a "cubit and a hand-breadth." 

Does the biblical text give us any clue as to the actual length of the Cubit? Providentially, there is a passage which not only relates a cubit to another unit of measure but also boxes both these units in by way of a mathematical constant. I have previously shown how 1 Kings 7 (and 2 Chronicles 4) leaves a way out of a potential geometric impossibility in the dimensions of the molten sea, however the specific conversion of the units cubit and hand-breadth were assumed. In this post, I would like to solidify the definition of the cubit and the hand-breadth in terms of the modern inch. The relevant passages are as follows:
1 Kings 7:23 And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
1 Kings 7:26 And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.
  . . . and also:
2 Chronicles 4:2 Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.
2 Chronicles 4:5 And the thickness of it was an handbreadth, and the brim of it like the work of the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies; and it received and held three thousand baths.

The relationship between the circumference of a circle and it's diameter is as follows.

π x Diameter = Circumference

Where π is the constant Pi and is approximated by 3.14159

1 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 4 give the following dimensions of the molten sea:

Inner Circumference = 30 cubits
Outer Diameter = 10 cubits
Thickness = 1 hand-breadth

To be able to use the given outer diameter in relation to the given inner circumference, the thickness must be subtracted from the outer diameter twice (once for each side). Allowing "C" to represent the number of inches represented by a cubit and "H" to represent the number of inches represented by a hand-breadth yields the following relationship:

(10C - 2H)π = 30C

Solving for "H":

H = [(10C)-(30C/π)]/2

Solving for "C":

C = 2H/(10-30/π)
The table below gives the candidates for "C" and "H" measured in inches when applying the above mathematical relationship to known cubits. Blue numbers are known cubits, red numbers are known handbreadths. Black numbers indicate the cubit or hand length corresponding known cubit or hand length as dictated by the mathematical formula based on 1 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 4.
Table 1. Cubit and Hand Breadth Comparison
For clarity, the following plot is provided using the values in Table 1. The blue markers are those values dictated by the cubit lengths; the red markers are those values dictated by the hand-breadth length. To find a hand-breadth-cubit pair that conforms to the dimensions of the molten sea, we would look for instances where the red marker and blue markers overlap. Conveniently, there is little overlap between lengths dictated by the cubit candidates and those of the hand-breadth candidates. Really none, if the "fist" (which is never really called a "hand") is thrown out all together.
Figure 1. Plot of Corresponding Cubit and Hand breadth lengths

There appears to be three clusters of cubit lengths in the vicinity of 18, 20, and 25 inches. The clusters are circled on the plot. Clusters like this are not really surprising considering that these are measurements based on variable human anatomy. Conveniently, it is only the smallest of the cubits clusters and the largest of the hand-breadths that seem to correlate. This logically narrows the field to these few definitions. The closest correlation is within 0.75% and occurs between what is known as the British hand and the Egyptian cubit. So we might deduce that the cubit of 1 Kings 7 and 2 Chronicles 4 is just under 18 inches. 

So what of Ezekiel 43:13 which gives a cubit that "is a cubit and an hand breadth?" First, because Ezekiel finds it necessary to define the cubit only this one time, it may be that this is a special unit of measurement not familiar to his audience. As such, we might not expect to have a historical reference. Second, if we add a 4-inch hand-breadth to the 18-inch cubit as Ezekiel describes, we get a value of 22 inches which is close to, however surpasses the second cluster. If Ezekiel's long cubit must be a historical cubit, this would be a good case for pushing the standard cubit toward the lower end, perhaps below 17 inches, but that would require us to find a hand breadth to match.

Image source: 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Sea of Reeds

TL;DR: Perhaps Israel only crossed a marsh at low tide. . . nah, couldn't be.

The Hebrew word used in the Bible to identify the Red Sea is the same word used of the bulrushes (cuwph)  when Moses' mother placed his basket in the Nile in Exodus 2:3. Exodus 2:5 again uses the same word for bulrushes when Pharaoh's daughter drew the basket from the river.

Exodus 2:3, 5 (NASB) But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds (cuwph)  by the bank of the Nile. . . The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds (cuwph)  and sent her maid, and she brought it to her.

This same word is later used similarly in Isaiah's prophecy against Egypt.

Isaiah 19:6 (NASB) The canals will emit a stench,The streams of Egypt will thin out and dry up; The reeds and rushes (cuwph) will rot away. 
And yet again in Jonah 2:5 to describe seaweed.
Jonah 2:5 (NASB) “Water encompassed me to the point of death. 
The great deep engulfed me, Weeds (cuwph) were wrapped around my head. 
Does this provide an opportunity to downplay the Red Sea crossing described in Exodus 14? Could the crossing have simply been a trek across a marsh in the Nile River delta system, say at low tide or low river stage? The Sea of Reeds is mentioned as a geographical feature in other passages as well. First Kings 9:26 -28 (paralleled in 2 Chronicles 8:12) describes King Solomon building a merchant fleet on the Sea of Reeds.

1 Kings 9:26-28 (NASB) King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red (cuwph) Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon. They went to Ophir and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon. 
These verses contain two important details that preclude the possibility that the Sea of Reeds is simply a marsh. First, the Sea of Reeds is a navigable body of water. Not only was a fleet built there, but ships were able to sail to Ophir, excluding the possibility that it is a land-locked lake.

Second, we learn that the Sea of Reeds has shores in Edom. Among those locations listed in Exodus 14 which chronicle the journey of Israel to the Red Sea, none of them are definitively known today. However, the location of Edom is fairly well defined in scripture relative to other well-known locations. We know that Edom was on the border of Judah which is in the south of the Promise land.

Numbers 34:3 Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: 
Joshua 15:1 This then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin southward was the uttermost part of the south coast.
Joshua 15:21 And the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah toward the coast of Edom southward were Kabzeel, and Eder, and Jagur,
The Bible also tells us that Edom bordered on Moab, as King Jehosaphat, king of Judah, opted to invade Moab via Edom.

2 Kings 3:7, 8 And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses. And he said, Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.
Moab is clearly defined several times as being located on the side of the Jordan river across from Jericho. 

Numbers 22:1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho

Numbers 26:63 These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.

Numbers 26:63 These are they that were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.

Numbers 26:3 And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,

Numbers 31:12 And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil, unto Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near Jericho.

Numbers 33:48 And they departed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho. 
There are two seas that can be seen in the vicinity of both Egypt and Canaan. One is the Red Sea and the other the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea is called the "sea of the Philistines" in Exodus 23:31
Exodus 23:31 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.
God did not have Israel pass through the land of the Philistines eliminating the Mediterranean Sea as the "Reed Sea."
Exodus 13:17, 18 And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.
Drawing these pieces together, we know that Moab is to the east of Canaan and Edom is to the south of Canaan while bordering Moab and having a coast on the "Sea of Reeds." We know that the Philistines border both the land of Canaan and the Mediterranean Sea which is eliminated because they did not pass through that territory on the way to the promise land. This leaves the Red Sea as the only navigable body of water that would border both Egypt and Edom.

Because the body of water is navigable, not land-locked, and having coasts along both Edom and Egypt, the "Reed Sea" then is best understood as the what we know today as the Red Sea. This means that that, no, the Bible does not support the idea that the crossing was simply a Nile delta marsh at low tide or river stage as Israel left Egypt.

 Items for further investigation:

·     Where was the actual crossing of the Red Sea?

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Land of Ham

In mapping out the Biblical genealogy, the Egyptians seemed to be conspicuously missing. I found this odd as they play a significant role in the first five books authored by Moses. My interest was peaked when I read these verses:
Psalm 105:23 Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.

Psalm 105:27 They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.

Psalm 106:22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.

As it turns out, the word translated Egypt in English translations is the same word as Ham's son Mizraim (Genesis 19:6).

I can't imagine why translators would not use the same word in both locations for the benefit of English readers; either "Egypt" or "Mizraim". I would have preferred Mizraim as it seems to have a closer pronunciation to the original.

I have updated the diagram to clarify that Mizraim is Egypt.

Does the Bible Support an Old Earth?

TL;DR: No.

Plain reading of Genesis 1 would seem to indicate that the universe and the earth were created in just six days, but is there any way to extract billions of years for the universe and millions of years for life to accommodate modern science? As follows I will address two theories which seek to harmonize the Bible with an aged earth. In keeping with the flavor of this blog, I will show that the Bible supports a young earth clearly from other passages and avoid getting bogged down in the original languages, trusting the competency of the translation scholars.


Simply put, the Day-Age view interprets each of the days in Genesis 1 as an age or eon. However, Genesis 1 specifically says that for each day there was evening and morning, two components of a day as we understand it today. We understand the time period of a day as one rotation of the earth allowing the sun to pass through our frame of reference once every 24 hours. To try and stretch out those days following creation of the sun (Day 4), we have to assume a speed of the earth's rotation which has not been observed nor specifically indicated in the text.

Consider that vegetation was created on Day 3, waiting much longer than a day without the sun could cause the vegetation to die. However, Genesis 1:3 does indicate that there was light prior to the sun. Revelation 21:23 describes how in the new Jerusalem there will be no need for the sun because God’s glory will light it. Exodus 13:21 describes a similar provision by God as he led Israel by night in a pillar of fire to give them light to follow. Genesis 1:2 tells us that God moved upon the waters. If this was an orbit, it would explain the evening and morning without a sun. If God had been providing the light in the early days of creation, the requirement for standard length of a day is removed and a cycle of light and dark could be greater than (or less than) 24 hours without killing the plant life. However, there are other occurances in scripture where cycles of light and dark do not correlate with a 24-hour day.

Exodus 10:22 describes the plague of darkness over Egypt as lasting three days. Here days are used to count the length of time of the darkness. Therefore, day is not described as a period of light and dark, but rather, we presume, a standard 24 hours.

In Joshua 10, the Lord caused the sun to stand still to allow Israel to defeat its enemy. Joshua 10:13 says “and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” Here a day is not counted simply as a cycle of light and dark, rather, a day is used to count how long the sun stood still. Again strengthening the concept that a Biblical day is a set number of hours.

Yet another example is at Christ’s crucifixion. There was a period of three hours of darkness in the middle of the day (Mark 15:33). Jesus was resurrected on the third day. Jesus had predicted his resurrection as the sign of Jonah, three days (Matthew 12:40). If the Biblical day was simply a cycle of light and dark, this event would have added a day, throwing off the prediction, yet later passages confirm that the period from His death to resurrection was in fact three days. 1 Corinthians 15:4 "And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”

As shown elsewhere in scripture, a day is a set amount of time, rather than a cycle of light and dark. Applying the same to Genesis 1, all six days, with or without the sun should be considered 24-hour days.


The Gap Theory attributes an unspecified amount of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2:

(Genesis 1:1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.


(Genesis 1:2) And the earth was without form, and void; [etc. etc. etc.]

In support of the theory, some say that “was” should be translated as “became" implying anything from the fall of Satan to conflict and judgement involving a pre-adamic civilization which plunged the earth into disorder. But this modification to the text would conflict with other passages based on timeline alone. For example, at the giving of the law in Exodus 20, God uses the days of creation as a precedence for the law of the sabbath.

(Exodus 20:9,10a, 11) “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: . . . For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."

Exodus 20:11 does not allow for creation of the universe and then a long period of time before creation of the earth. Nor does it allow time for a creation, a conflict, then a recreation because “in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.”

One creative application of scripture suggests that Job 38:4-7 supports an old earth because the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy (Job 38:7) when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4). Assuming Job 38:7 is talking about angels, this observation posits that angels were created prior to creation of the earth. Some have used this to say the Bible does support an old earth as a single day for creation of the heavens and the earth would not give enough time for the angels to sing together and shout for joy. Pre-existing angels therefore implies a gap between the creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1. However, looking at the Genesis 1 account we can see two uses of the word earth. In Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 earth seems to be used of the planet (Day 1), however in Genesis 1:10, God names the dry land earth (Day 3). 2 Peter 3:5 says that the earth was formed out of water and by water (NIV). This follows the Genesis 1 creation account. The world was made of water and then the land, which God calls earth, comes from the water on Day 3. It does not make sense to lay foundations for a liquid, however forming land from water would require something to foundate the land and keep it from sinking. Job 38:4 is talking about laying the foundations of the dry land on Day 3, not creation of the heavens and the planet earth on Day 1. Creation of the angels with the heavens and the earth on Day 1 or 2 is a plausible conclusion which allows them to sing together and shout for joy as God laid the foundations of the dry land.


Undoubtedly, the theories discussed above come from a genuine effort to harmonize inerrant scripture within the accepted scientific timeline, however details about the Biblical account of creation as well as clarity concerning the Author's intent can be found elsewhere in Scripture.