Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2 Samuel 12:26-31 - The Talent of Gold, The "Saws" and The King David

There is yet one more approach one can explore in search of the correct values for the basic units of weights and measures of the Pentateuch. Even though it is least preferable one, and hardly conclusive, it is still worth checking out. Let's take a look at the Second Book of Samuel, Chapter 12:26-31:

26 And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city.

27 And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.

28 Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.

29 And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.

30 And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.
31 And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.
‎26 ‏וַיִּלָּ֣חֶם יוֹאָ֔ב בְּרַבַּ֖ת בְּנֵ֣י עַמּ֑וֹן וַיִּלְכֹּ֖ד אֶת־עִ֥יר הַמְּלוּכָֽה׃

‎27 ‏וַיִּשְׁלַ֥ח יוֹאָ֛ב מַלְאָכִ֖ים אֶל־דָּוִ֑ד וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ נִלְחַ֣מְתִּי בְרַבָּ֔ה גַּם־לָכַ֖דְתִּי אֶת־עִ֥יר הַמָּֽיִם׃

‎28 ‏וְעַתָּ֗ה אֱסֹף֙ אֶת־יֶ֣תֶר הָעָ֔ם וַחֲנֵ֥ה עַל־הָעִ֖יר וְלָכְדָ֑הּ פֶּן־אֶלְכֹּ֤ד אֲנִי֙ אֶת־הָעִ֔יר וְנִקְרָ֥א שְׁמִ֖י עָלֶֽיהָ׃

‎29 ‏וַיֶּאֱסֹ֥ף דָּוִ֛ד אֶת־כָּל־הָעָ֖ם וַיֵּ֣לֶךְ רַבָּ֑תָה וַיִּלָּ֥חֶם בָּ֖הּ וַֽיִּלְכְּדָֽהּ׃

‎30 ‏וַיִּקַּ֣ח אֶת־עֲטֶֽרֶת־מַלְכָּם֩ מֵעַ֨ל רֹאשׁ֜וֹ וּמִשְׁקָלָ֨הּ כִּכַּ֤ר זָהָב֙ וְאֶ֣בֶן יְקָרָ֔ה וַתְּהִ֖י עַל־רֹ֣אשׁ דָּוִ֑ד וּשְׁלַ֥ל הָעִ֛יר הוֹצִ֖יא הַרְבֵּ֥ה מְאֹֽד׃

‎31 ‏וְאֶת־הָעָ֨ם אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֜הּ הוֹצִ֗יא וַיָּ֣שֶׂם בַּ֠מְּגֵרָה וּבַחֲרִצֵ֨י הַבַּרְזֶ֜ל וּֽבְמַגְזְרֹ֣ת הַבַּרְזֶ֗ל וְהֶעֱבִ֤יר אוֹתָם֙ במלכן בַּמַּלְבֵּ֔ן וְכֵ֣ן יַעֲשֶׂ֔ה לְכֹ֖ל עָרֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־עַמּ֑וֹן וַיָּ֧שָׁב דָּוִ֛ד וְכָל־הָעָ֖ם יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ פ
The information we are looking for is contained in the last two verses (30-31). As the text states,  after conquering the city, King David "...took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head."
Now, according to the widely accepted estimations, the Talent of Gold(assuming it is the original Pentateuch Talent) would have been considerably heavy (say between 15-40 kg). The question here: is it possible, that the king of Rabbah(and later - King David) could handle such a heavy crown? Well, the answer to this question is - yes.

According to this book ("Ergonomics in Developing Regions: Needs and Applications" by Patricia Anne Scott, CRC Press, 2009), and I quote:
"...They added, that the maximum head load for an Indian male on firm terrain should be 30kg."

 "...It would seem that for experienced head-loaders about 20% of body weight can be carried on the level without incurring a metabolic cost, but, thereafter, oxygen uptake increases (e.g. see Maloiy et al., 1986; Charteris et al., 1989)".
Since an approximate average weight of a human male is between 166-185 pounds (75-84 kg), we can conclude that this would translate into ~15-17kg of a head load. A pretty reasonable number, in my opinion.

Therefore, reverse calculations would produce the following numbers: Talent of Gold = ~15-17kg, Silver Shekel of the Sanctuary = 15-17kg/3000 = ~5-5.6g, and "gerah" = 5-5.6g/20 = ~0.25-0.28g or ~250-280mg. And since I have approximated the weight of one kernel of barley at 40mg, this would give an approximation of "gerah" as ~6-7 barley seeds (barleycorns). 

Once again, I have to point out that this approach does not constitutes a precise way of calculating the value of these units. However, it does provide a way to confirm of disprove calculated values of these units.

Before I wrap this up, I would like to point out to an interesting fact...

In the last verse of the 2 Samuel 12, verse 31, the expression "Saws"("מגרה", "me-gerah") seem to utilize the root "גרה" ("gerah"). This is very interesting, especially considering the fact that in the context of this verse, the expression ("מגרה", "me-gerah") confirms the notion that "gerah" is something rather small and round, such as a tooth on an actual saw, or a "pellet" on a grinding saw or a drum. 

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