Discrepant Quantities and Dimensions in Kings and Chronicles

Segment of Chapter 5

The Temple of Doom

The Message of the Covenant

Discrepant Quantities

Apart from the oddities about cubits used in the construction of Solomon’s Temple examined earlier, other aspects of measure from that time are peculiar. This consists of the fact that many dimensions are given differently in Kings versus those given in Chronicles. For example, one will notice that the dimensions of the pillars listed in Kings as eighteen cubits while Chronicles contends that the same objects are 35 cubits long. A similar anomaly exists concerning the capacity of the brazen sea. Kings states that it held 2000 baths while Chronicles maintains that it held 3000 baths. Most dimensions of the temple share this same discrepancy.

The Brazen Pillars
1 Kings 7:15 Thus he fashioned the two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high each; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it about; and so the other pillar. 16 And he made two capitals of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars; the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
2 Chronicles 3:15 Also he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five cubits high, and the capital that was on the top of each of them was five cubits. 16 And he made chains in the Sanctuary, and put them on the tops of the pillars; and he made a hundred pomegranates, and put them on the chains. 17 And he set up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand, and the other on the left; and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Jeremiah confirms that the pillars were actually 18 cubits high.

Jeremiah 52:21 And as for the pillars, the height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits; and a line of twelve cubits did compass it; and the thickness thereof was four fingers; it was hollow. 22 And a capital of brass was upon it; and the height of the one capital was five cubits, with network and pomegranates upon the capital round about, all of brass; and the second pillar also had like unto these, and pomegranates. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Some have construed the discrepancy in the length of the pillars to mean that the two pillars were combined end-to-end in Chronicles and one dimension is the length of both of them while the other is the length of them individually. This explanation leaves a remaining problem that 18 + 18 = 36 and not 35. The end-to-end theory leaves a difference of one cubit and since a cubit is a large unit in either the common or the royal standard, this would amount to a substantial error. Furthermore, this explanation does not work in all translations of the Bible because in some translations the construction of the passage in Chronicles prevents the 35-cubit dimension from applying to both pillars end-to-end. In addition to those considerations, and much more importantly, the end-to-end explanation does necessarily require that one has accepted that word of God is fallible because this explanation is predicated on that premise.

Some hold that the word of God is infallible and that issue will not be addressed here any further than to say that the author holds that view. If for the sake of solving a puzzle one worked within the constraints of Biblical infallibility, what explanation for this anomaly could there be? Stated differently, what explanation for these discrepancies could be derived that would allow the word of God to be considered an authoritative and accurate source of information about these events?

The Brazen Sea
1 Kings 7:23 And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and the height thereof was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 24 And under the brim of it round about there were knops which did compass it, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about; the knops were in two rows, cast when it was cast. 25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; and the sea was set upon them above, and all their hinder parts were inward. 26 And it was a hand-breadth thick; and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily; it held two thousand baths. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
2 Chronicles 4:2 Also he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and the height thereof was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 3 And under it was the similitude of oxen, which did compass it round about, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about. The oxen were in two rows, cast when it was cast. 4 It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; and the sea was set upon them above, and all their hinder parts were inward. 5 And it was a handbreadth thick; and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily: it received and held three thousand baths. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Formulating a plausible conclusion by means of Spirit-led deductive reasoning about the differences in the measurements of objects as presented between Kings and Chronicles, the most obvious and logical explanation for these discrepancies is simply that there were two or more different sizes of cubits and baths used when the temple was built. Not only does this explanation allow the Tanakh to be completely accurate, but also, it produces an explanation for the discrepancies that is heavily supported by additional scripture, particularly the prophets. Furthermore, it is very simple and logical. It is so simple, logical and obvious that it is difficult to fathom.

There is a great deal of scripture from the prophets concerning someone using dishonest measures. If someone used deceptive measures and one measured the same thing with two or more of the different measures that existed, the specifications would therefore obviously be different.

Hypothetical Case Study

For example, take the hypothetical case that a theoretical company allegedly sells bottles of ketchup that hold 30 units of that material. If it so happened that this company only filled the 30-unit bottles with 20 units of Ketchup, this could amount to a considerable improvement in the company's profit outlook because every third bottle could be filled to the same level for free.

In the case of filling the 30-unit bottle with only 20 units of ketchup, the bottles would only contain 2/3 or about 0.666% of the product the purchaser thought they were buying. However, some finicky consumers would notice that the bottle was only 0.666% full on the store shelf and pass it by. Those consumers that noticed that the bottles were only 2/3-full on the shelf would likely amount to a substantial portion of the market and this would cause an unfortunate decline in sales. If the bottles were opaque, consumers would not be able to easily see that the bottle is only 0.666% full on the store shelf, but some would notice that the bottle is conspicuously lacking ketchup when they opened it. Unfortunately, this would result in some of them bringing the product back for a refund.

Refunds are obviously not going to be part of this program and would certainly undermine every objective of filling the bottles partially full. It would be far cleverer to make a new bottle that is smaller because fewer people would notice that the bottle was actually smaller as long as it was filled to a reasonable level. This whole illusion could be enhanced considerably by changing the shape of the bottle so that it appears to be much larger than it really is. After all, few people are good judges of the volume of a container and this is especially true if it is an odd shape. It might also be useful to make the new bottle out of glass if the competition uses plastic because glass is much heavier and the walls are thicker. This new bottle could have extra-thick walls for that matter, provided that glass is cheaper than ketchup. To assist with the whole illusion that the bottle still holds 30 units of ketchup, some splashy phrase could be placed on the label inferring that the new bottle is bigger than the old one. It could also decry that the new bottle is a better value. This could be accomplished with wording something like:

While this would fool many consumers, in fact, the same volume of ketchup is much more expensive than it was before this product improvement began, but the new splashy label will not say exactly to whom these better economies applied. After all, false advertising is unscrupulous. If the company wanted to improve its market share instead of improving the individual profit-per-bottle sold, this innovation could come with some sort of hollow claim like
"50% MORE FREE."

In the former case, to accomplish the true objective of magically improving the bottom line, it is necessary to make the individual units smaller because the clever "NEW AND IMPROVED" bottle will still be marked as holding 30 units while it really only holds 20 units by the true standard. Therefore, in reality this company has developed an entirely new unit of measure. It would obviously be counterproductive to also develop a new name for the new unit because most people would catch on to this detail very rapidly and it is usually required that the quantity be expressed in the units of the prevailing standard of measure. Furthermore, this bottle must compete with bottles of ketchup by less astute competitors so it needs to have the same size and units clearly marked on the label as their bottles do so that consumers will be able to compare. Never mind that consumers are now comparing apples with oranges, so to speak. Therefore, this new unit will have exactly the same name as the old unit even though it is actually smaller, and realistically, a different unit altogether. In fact, one might dub this the brazen unit. It naturally follows that if the exact same amount of ketchup was measured with both the old unit and the "NEW AND IMPROVED" unit, two completely different figures for the quantity will be the result.

For example, if one had a super-giant sized bottle of ketchup that held, say, 2000 units, and the contents of this same bottle were measured with the "NEW AND IMPROVED" unit, one then obtains a figure of 3000 units for the volume of this bottle. This is the true essence of "50% MORE FREE" in every respect. It is interesting that this new bottle of ketchup and the brazen sea from Solomon's Temple share the same phenomena in their specifications. While we know that nothing of this sort could happen in contemporary societies, similar things have happened from time-to-time throughout history.

Deuteronomy 25:13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag diverse weights, a great and a small. 14 Thou shalt not have in thy house diverse measures, a great and a small. 15 A perfect and just weight shalt thou have; a perfect and just measure shalt thou have; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 16 For all that do such things, even all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Hosea 12:7 [He is] a merchant, balances of deceit are in his hand; he loveth to oppress. (Darby) (Emphasis added)
Amos 8:4 Hear this, O ye that would swallow the needy, and destroy the poor of the land, 5 Saying: 'When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? and the sabbath, that we may set forth corn? making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances of deceit; 6 That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and sell the refuse of the corn?' 7 the Lord hath sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their works. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Ezekiel 45:9 Thus saith the L-rd GOD: Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel; remove violence and spoil, and execute justice and righteousness; take away your exactions from My people, saith the L-rd GOD. 10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. 11 The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of a homer, and the ephah the tenth part of a homer; the measure thereof shall be after the homer. 12 And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs; twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, ten, and five shekels, shall be your maneh. 13 This is the offering that ye shall set apart: the sixth part of an ephah out of a homer of wheat, and ye shall give the sixth part of an ephah out of a homer of barley; 14 and the set portion of oil, the bath of oil, shall be the tithe of the bath out of the cor, which is ten baths, even a homer; for ten baths are a homer. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Leviticus 19:11 Ye shall not steal; neither shall ye deal falsely, nor lie one to another. (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Micah 6:10 Are there yet the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is abominable? 11 'Shall I be pure with wicked balances, and with a bag of deceitful weights?' (JPS)
Micah 6:10 Am I still to forget, O wicked house, your ill-gotten treasures and the short ephah, [2] which is accursed? 11 Shall I acquit a man with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? (NIV)
(Footnote for 6:10: An ephah was a dry measure.)

The Tanakh does make mention of dishonest weights and measures being used at some point in time in Israel. Dealing dishonestly was not exclusive to Solomon’s time nor is it peculiar to Israel or Jews. The ancient Romans developed a couple of widely coined phrases that continue in worldwide use today such as caveat emptor and caveat venditor for describing the perils of trade. Obviously, merchants are more prone to using dishonest measurements because they are constantly engaged in trade.

It is apparent from scripture that at least several kings of Israel dealt dishonestly. However, if there was a king that was particularly noted for being engaged in trade, it is conceivable that that king might be the subject of at least some of the prophecies involving dishonest weights and measures. The Tanakh does mention one particular king that was heavily involved in trade and there is a clear indication that his dealings were not always honest.

1 Kings 9:10 And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, wherein Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord and the king's house-- 11 now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and cypress-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire--that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12 And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him: and they pleased him not. 13 And he said: 'What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother?' And they were called the land of Cabul, unto this day. (JPS)
(Emphasis added)

The name Cabul appearing in 1 Kings 9:13 means worthless. Obviously, Hiram felt that Solomon cheated him since he was exceedingly displeased with the worthless real estate that Solomon tendered as payment for all of the materials that Hiram had supplied for twenty years. This is a clear indication that Solomon did not deal honestly with Hiram, one of his closest business associates.

Other Aspects of the Dimensions of the Pillars

It is also worthwhile to consider the dimensions of the pillars at the symbolic level. One will notice that according to 1 Kings 7:15 they were actually 18 cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference, as corroborated by Jeremiah 52:21. If one considers these dimensions symbolically, it becomes apparent that the height of the pillars could be expressed as 6 + 6 + 6 as well as 18, not including the capitals. Obviously, their circumference can also be factored by 6.

It's cohesive!
The reader's appropriate response to this material:
Acts 17:11 And these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, receiving the word with all readiness of mind, daily searching the scriptures if these things were so. (Darby) (Emphasis added)