Thursday, May 13, 2010

Exodus 30:5 - The Altar Of Incense of the Tent of The Tabernacle - Part 4 - Gold plated Staves and Precise value of a Cubit

This is the most interesting verse in the description of the Altar Of Incense. Also this verse is very important for understanding the connection between different measurements of the Mishkan and the value of a Cubit. Let's take a look:

Exodus 30:5

5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.

‎5 ‏וְעָשִׂ֥יתָ אֶת־הַבַּדִּ֖ים עֲצֵ֣י שִׁטִּ֑ים וְצִפִּיתָ֥ אֹתָ֖ם זָהָֽב׃
So just like the Staves of other artefacts of the Mishkan, the Staves of the Altar of Incense were also made out of Shittim Wood. I'm also not sure yet of how the length of the Staves was calculated(or what it might have been), but it had to be sufficient enough to allow comfortable transport of the Altar, as well as not to be too large so as not to overstress the Staves.
At this point I'm going to assume that the Staves were seven(7) cubits long and 4-5 cm in diameter(a hand grip diameter), as it is shown on this image:

And just like the Staves of the other artefacts, the Staves of the Altar Of Incense were also overlayed with metal(Gold), resulting in this:

And here you can see the front view of the Altar with both Staves inside its Golden Rings...

And here is a view from an angle, so that you can better see the mounting of Staves...

Now we get to the most interesting part. If you remember, according to Ex. 30:2, the Altar of Incense was one(1) cubit long by one(1) cubit wide, and according to Ex. 30:4 it had only two(2) Golden Rings. What this basically means, is that the Altar required only two(2) people to carry it, as it was the lightest artefact of the Mishkan. And what this also means, is that the both Staves on each side of the Altar would have just enough space between that was equal to that of a shoulder width of an average, physically fit adult male.

According to standard modern anthropometric charts(like this, for example), the shoulder width varies between 17 and 26 inches(or between 0.944 and 1.44 cubits, considering a cubit as 18 inches), with an Average of 20.8 inches (or 1.155 cubits). If we were to apply these measurements to the Altar, we would see that the Cubit would be close to the most commonly accepted value - around 18 inches(45cm).
I will try to provide more details on the precise calculation of a Cubit in my next posts, but for now here is an image of an Altar of Incense being carried:

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