The diameter of a bowl is mathematically incorrect

2 Chron. 4:2

  1. (2 Chronicles 4:2) - "Then he made a bronze altar, twenty cubits in length and twenty cubits in width and ten cubits in height. 2Also he made the cast metal sea, ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits and its circumference thirty cubits," (NASB).

The diameter of a circle divided into the circumference always equals 3.14159...  Here in 2 Chron. 4:2, the diameter is equal to three since the circumference of 30 divided by the diameter of 10 is equal to three and not 3.14.  Is this a problem?  Not at all.

First of all, the Bible is not intended to be a scientific book on geometry.  Second, the inside of the bowl could have been 10 cubits while the outside diameter was 31.4159 cubits.  Third, it was a common practice in the Bible to give rounded numbers to represent the whole.  Please note the following examples:

  • Num. 31:32-34, "Now the booty that remained from the spoil which the men of war had plundered was 675,000 sheep, 33and 72,000 cattle, 34and 61,000 donkeys."
  • Josh. 8:25, "And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the people of Ai."
  • Judges 7:3, "Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’" So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained."
  • 2 Chron. 1:14, "And Solomon amassed chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem."

Obviously, numbers were rounded on a regular basis.  Therefore, the rounding of the diameter measurement is consistent with the biblical method.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.