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Old 03-28-2008, 08:07 AM
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Default 2 Chron. 3:4 Hebrew wrong? 120 or 20?

2 Chronicles 3:3-4 Have the Hebrew texts been corrupted?
120 cubits or 20 cubits?

We are told about the measurements of the house of the Lord that Solomon built in two places. One is 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 and the other is 1 Kings 6:2-3.


In 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 we read: “Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after THE FIRST MEASURE was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. And the porch that was in the front of the house, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, and the height was AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY (120) and he overlaid it within with pure gold.”

The words found only here - “after the first measure” seem to imply that there was also another way of measuring the dimensions of the same house of the Lord.

In 1 Kings 6:2-3 we read a different account. There we read: ”And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and THE HEIGHT thereof THIRTY CUBITS. And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.”

In 1 Kings there is no measurement given for the height of the porch, but there is one given for the house itself - 30 cubits for each of the four walls.

When we read the account given in 2 Chronicles, it appears on the surface that the height of the walls is this time omitted and it looks like the height of the porch in front is now given for the first time as being 120 cubits. This would make the porch 4 times higher than the house itself. If one were to mistakenly look at the text in this way, then they would be correct in thinking that the Hebrew texts have been corrupted. However there is an explanation and other confirming elements found in this very chapter that show the Hebrew text to be correct.

My understanding is that the height of the four walls is recorded in BOTH texts, and the porch height is not. 1 Kings tells us that each of the 4 walls was 30 cubits high, and I believe the 120 cubits height is referring to the total height of the 4 walls (40 X 30 = 120) which needed to be “overlaid WITHIN with pure gold.”

Not only does the King James Bible correctly read “the height was 120 cubits” but so also do the following Bible versions: Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the RV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NKJV, Hebrew Names Version, all Jewish translations like the JPS 1917, Complete Jewish Bible, Judaica Press Tanach, Darby, Youngs, Rotherham’s and the World English Bible.


The NIV

However when we look at the NIV we see: “The portico at the front of the temple was twenty cubits long across the width of the building and TWENTY CUBITS [b] high.”

Then we read in their footnote: “Some Septuagint and Syriac manuscripts; Hebrew and a hundred and twenty.” “SOME” Septuagint? Just how many Septuagint versions are we talking about here? We’ll never know because they aren’t telling us. However it is clear that the NIV editors think the Hebrew text has been corrupted, as they readily admit that the Hebrew texts read 120 cubits, yet the NIV has chosen to ‘correct’ the Hebrew with “some” LXX and the Syriac.

The standard copy of the Greek Septuagint put out by Zondervan 1977 reads 120 cubits, just like the Hebrew text and the KJB.

The NKJV also reads 120 cubits in its text, but the online NKJV has this faith destroying footnote: “Following Masoretic Text, Septuagint, and Vulgate; Arabic, some manuscripts of the Septuagint, and Syriac omit one hundred and.” So now, according to the NKJV footnotes we have both the “Septuagint” and “some mss. of the Septuagint”!

Not surprisingly, Daniel “corruption” Wallace’s NET version also follows the NIV reading and then he footnotes: “The Hebrew text has “one hundred and twenty cubits,” An ancient Greek witness and the Syriac version read “twenty cubits,” . It is likely that “a hundred” is a corruption of an original* “cubits”.*

Also following this corrupt reading taken from the Syriac and “some” LXX are the 1970 New English Bible, Contemporary English Version 1995, The Message, and the TNIV.*

The Catholic versions present the usual confusion with the Douay and the 1968 Jerusalem bible reading 120 cubits, then the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970 reading 20 cubits, and then the 1985 New Jerusalem again reading 120 cubits.


Commentators are likewise all over the board on this one trying to explain the different readings in various ways. Adam Clarke thinks there is a scribal error. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown take the novel approach that “the porch would rise in the form of a tower, or two pyramidal towers, whose united height was one hundred twenty cubits, and each of them about ninety or one hundred five feet high “

John Wesley doesn’t change the 120 to 20, and says the porch was a kind of turret to the building (whatever that means) and another man called Bede says the temple itself had three stories, totalling 120 cubits.

I think the easiest explanation is to take the measurements as they stand in the Hebrew text. The text in 2 Chronicles 3:3-4 says: “Now these are the things wherein Solomon was instructed for the building of the house of God. The length by cubits after the first measure was threescore cubits, and the breadth twenty cubits. And the porch that was in the front of THE HOUSE, the length of it was according to the breadth of the house, twenty cubits, AND THE HEIGHT WAS AN HUNDRED AND TWENTY: and he overlaid it WITHIN with pure gold.”

What did Solomon overlay WITHIN with pure gold? The house, not the porch, and 120 cubit height refers back to the total number of the four walls of the house.

In 1 Kings 6:2-3 we are told “And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits. And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.”

We are told in both accounts that the four walls of the temple measured 60 cubits on the sides and 20 cubits on the breadth, and the height of the length and breath of each wall was 30 cubits. The simplest way to understand the 120 cubits high issue is to conclude that this is THE TOTAL HEIGHT OF THE FOUR WALLS ALTOGETHER - 30 cubits times 4 comes out to 120 cubits. The height of the porch appears to not even be mentioned.

We see very similar numbers right here in the immediate context of 2 Chronicles. In verse 11 we are told that “the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long”, yet it is further explained that the 20 cubits is the total length of the four wings of 5 cubits each.

In 2 Chron. 3:15 we read that “he made before the house two pillars of thirty and five (35) cubits high, and the chapiter that was on the top of each of them was five cubits.” A superficial reading would lead us to believe that each pillar was 35 cubits high.

Yet 1 Kings 7:15 tells us that the two pillars were eighteen cubits (18) high apiece. The number in 2 Chronicles is the TOTAL height (35 cubits). Note: The 5 cubit chapiters would fit over the top of the pillars, and probably sit down over them, thus taking up one-half cubit of space each and coming out to exactly 35 cubits of exposed, combined pillar height.

Again, in 2 Chronicles 3:16 we read that Solomon “made an hundred pomegranates (100), and put them on the chains.” Yet we know that there were more than 100 pomegranates total because 2 Chron. 4:13 tells us that he made “four hundred (400) pomegranates on the two wreaths; two rows of ponegranates on each wreath.” In other words, there were 100 pomegranates on each chain, 4 chains and thus 400 altogether.

This is one very likely way of explaining what the Hebrew text means and that it has not been “corrupted” according to Wallace, nor is it a scribal error that need to be corrected by referring to “some” LXXs or the Syriac as does the NIV and a few others.

Will Kinney
The King James Bible Page SwordSearcher Bible Software
 

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