Dictionary of Bible Themes
These terms were based on natural units of measurement that could be easily applied. Measures are given in ascending order, with their approximate imperial and metric equivalents.
Finger (1/4 handbreadth): about 3/4 inch (about 1.85 centimetres)
Jeremiah 52:21 The finger was 1/4 handbreadth and was the smallest subdivision of the cubit. This is its only mention in Scripture.
Handbreadth (4 fingers): about 3 inches (about 8 centimetres)
Exodus 25:25 pp Exodus 37:12 The handbreadth was the width of the hand at the base of the four fingers. See also 1 Kings 7:26 pp 2 Chronicles 4:5; Psalm 39:5 The handbreadth is here used figuratively of the shortness of human life; Ezekiel 40:5
Span (half a cubit): about 9 inches (about 23 centimetres)
Exodus 28:16 pp Exodus 39:9 The span was the width of the outstretched hand from thumb to little finger. See also 1 Samuel 17:4 Goliath's height is given in the Hebrew as “six cubits and a span”; Psalm 90:10 The span is here used figuratively of the shortness of human life; Ezekiel 43:13
Cubit (2 spans): about 18 inches (about 0.5 metre)
Exodus 25:10 pp Exodus 37:1 The cubit was the distance from the fingertip to the elbow, and was used to measure height, size, depth and distance. See also Genesis 7:20 The Hebrew describes the depth of the water as “fifteen cubits”; Exodus 27:9-18 pp Exodus 38:9-15; 1 Kings 6:2-3 pp 2 Chronicles 3:3-4; 1 Chronicles 11:23 The Hebrew describes the man as “five cubits tall”; Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 45:1-6; Ezekiel 47:3-5; John 21:8 The Greek text describes the distance as “about two hundred cubits”; Revelation 21:17
Reed (6 cubits): about 10 feet (about 3 metres)
Matthew 5:41 The Greek word for “mile” here is “milion”, a transliteration of the Roman measurement “mille passuum”, “a thousand paces”. See also Luke 24:13 The measurement in the Greek is “sixty stadia”. Eight stadia were about one mile (about 1480 metres); John 6:19 The measurement in the Greek is “twenty-five or thirty stadia”; John 11:18 The measurement in the Greek is “fifteen stadia”.