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Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words
'Ammâh (אַמָּה, Strong's #520), “cubit.” This word has cognates in Akkadian, Ugaritic, and Aramaic. It appears about 245 times in biblical Hebrew and in all periods, but especially in Exod. 25- 27; 37-38 (specifications of the tabernacle); 1 Kings 6-7 (the specifications of Solomon’s temple and palace); and Ezek. 40-43 (the specifications of Ezekiel’s temple).
In one passage, 'ammâh means “pivot”: “And the posts [literally, “sockets”] of the door moved at the voice of him that cried …” (Isa. 6:4).
In almost every other occurrence, the word means “cubit,” the primary unit of linear measurement in the Old Testament. Some scholars maintain that Israel’s system of linear measurement was primarily based on the Egyptian system. In view of the history of Israel, this is a reasonable position. A “cubit” ordinarily was the distance from one’s elbow to the tip of the middle finger. Since this distance varied from individual to individual, the “cubit” was a rather imprecise measurement. Yet the first appearance of 'ammâh (Gen. 6:15) refers to the measurement of Noah’s ark, which implies that the word must refer to a more precise length than the ordinary “cubit.”
There was an official “cubit” in Egypt. In fact, there were both a shorter “cubit” (17.6 inches) and a longer “cubit” (20.65 inches). The Siloam inscription states that the Siloam tunnel was 1,200 “cubits” long. This divided by its measurement in feet (1,749) demonstrates that as late as Hezekiah’s day (cf. 2 Chron. 32:4) the “cubit” was about 17.5 inches or the shorter Egyptian cubit. Ezekiel probably used the Babylonian “cubit” in describing the temple. The Egyptian shorter cubit is only about three inches shorter than the longer cubit; on the other hand, the Babylonian shorter cubit was about four-fifths the length of the official royal “cubit,” about a handbreadth shorter: “And behold a wall on the outside of the house round about, and in the man’s hand a measuring reed of six cubits long by the cubit and a handbreadth …” (Ezek. 40:5). In other words, it was the width of seven palms rather than six.
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Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Cubit'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/c/cubit.html. 1940.