1 Kings and 2 Chronicles include detailed descriptions of the building works of King Solomon, including the materials used and the dimensions to which his works were constructed. Among his works was a circular vessel, the “cast sea”. The dimensions given for the cast sea, however, don’t seem to be possible.
1 Kings gives the dimensions of the cast sea, stating that it was ten cubits in diameter and thirty cubits in circumference:
Then he made the cast sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely. [1 Kings 7:23 (NRSV)]
The same dimensions are given in 2 Chronicles:
Then he made the cast sea; it was round, ten cubits from rim to rim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely. [2 Chronicles 4:2 (NRSV)]
The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is pi, 3.14. A circular vessel 10 cubits in diameter would therefore not be encircled completely by a line of 30 cubits, a line of 31.4 cubits would be necessary. A circular vessel 30 cubits in circumference, on the other hand, would be just 9.55 cubits in diameter.
So was the cast sea less than 10 cubits in diameter, or more than 30 cubits in circumference?
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