Monday, September 20, 2010

Exodus 30:13 - Can expression "gerah" be translated as "an ear" (of barley) ?

So here is another approach that I have decided to try in order to determine the weight of this unit (gerah). But first, I wanted to provide some extra information about barley as a crop.

First of all, here is a couple of useful excerpts from an article called ("A century of breeding - is genetic erossion a reality?" by A. Kolodinska Brantestam, 2005):

As you can see from this diagram from the article, barley seem to have been native to the Middle East region from the ancient times, spreading to Europe, Asia and later America(?).

There are many types of barley crop, especially nowadays (genetically modified strains), however as the article states, most common distinctions between them lies in kernel and spike structure:
Of'course, and especially with new genetically modified strains of barley crop, it is very difficult to ascertain the characteristics of specific traits of barley as they greatly vary. But since I'm using a rather "rough" calculations method anyway, I would like to continue and see what results can be obtained by measuring an arbitrary average weight of barley "ear" and applying it to our problem at hand.

According to this article ("Winter Barley Performance under different Cropping and Tillage Systems in Semiarid Aragon (NE Spain)" by D. Moret, J.L Arrúe, M.V. López and R. Gracia), an average "ear" of barley contains ~18 grains(kernels), with an average weight/kernel being ~36.15mg(~0.0361g or 36.15g/1000kernels). Here is a table from this article:

Like I said, I'm simply calculating an average weights without taking into the account environmental and genetic conditions, yet nevertheless the results are relatively reasonable.

Therefore, if we would apply these results to our problem, we would get the value of "gerah" that is equal to 0.0361g per kernel *18grains per ear = ~0.6507g. This, in turn, would produce a Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary weight of 0.6507g*20=~13.014g and Silver Talent weight of 13.014g*3000=~39042g or ~39.04kg.

On the other hand(and to double check our results), if we would take a similar data for spring barley from this article ("Effect of tillage systems, mulches and nitrogen fertilization on spring barley (Hordeum vulgare)" by Małecka and A. Blecharczyk), we would get an average of ~16.9 grains per "ear" of barley, with an average weight per kernel of ~0.0455g or ~45.5g/1000 kernels. Here is a table from the article:

 With this data, we would arrive to the value of "gerah" of approximately 16.9grains per ear * 0.0455g per kernel = ~ 0.76895g. This would give us value of Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary of 0.76895g*20=~15.379g,  and a value of a Silver Talent as 15.379g*3000=~46137g or ~46.13kg.

As you can see, these resulting values are far more reasonable than when we have assumed that "gerah" was equal to one grain of barley, or when we have assumed that "gerah" was equal to a cud pellet of rumination bolus of a cow. Unfortunately, to me these values seem to be too high; slightly above what would seem to be a reasonable and expected weight for these units. Therefore and yet again - further investigation is needed.

One interesting fact that have come out from these calculations, is the correlations from Talmudic approximation of "gerah" (which is called "ma'ah" in Talmud). According to the 1952-1961 Soncino translation of the Talmud, these units are defined as follows from this excerpt:
"SHEKEL - Coin or weight, equal to two denar or ten ma'ah (q.v.). The sacred shekel was worth twenty ma'ah or gerah (cf. Ex. XXX, t3), twice the value of the common shekel."

"MA'AH - The smallest current silver coin, weighing sixteen barleycorns, equal in value to two dupondia, a sixth of the silver denar or zuz."
As you can see, a value of "ma'ah"(which is "gerah") is defined as sixteen(16) barleycorns (grains), which is almost precisely matches number of "grains per ear" of barley that can be calculated by experimental methods. And whereas I have to note again, that the characteristics of barley can and will vary from type to type, it is still interesting to see a certain degree of consistency between the ancient sources and today's agricultural studies.

However, I must point out that Talmudic value for "gerah" must not be considered certain up until the time that the methodology and explanation can be found (or be provided) as to why it is specifically such, and not something else.

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