God gave Noah the dimensions for the ark in cubits: “This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits” (Genesis 6:15). But what is a cubit, and how long was it?
A cubit is an ancient measurement of length based on the distance from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger.
The actual length of a cubit varied between different ancient groups of people and even within those cultures at different points in history. Here are some samples from Egypt, Babylon, and ancient Israel:
|Hebrew (in Hezekiah’s day)||17.5 in|
|Babylonian Long||19.8 in|
|Hebrew Long (estimated)||est. 20.4 in|
|Egyptian Long||20.6 in|
In large-scale construction projects, ancient civilizations typically used the long cubit (about 19.8–20.6 inches [52 centimeters]).
Though the Ark’s cubit length is uncertain, it might have been one of the long cubits (about 19.8–20.6 inches) since it was a large-scale project. If so, the ark was actually bigger than the size described in most books today, which frequently use the short cubit.
The Hebrews used at least two different cubits. Solomon’s temple was built according to cubits of “the old standard” (2 Chronicles 3:3). The mention of the old standard indicates that a different measurement was used at the time.
Here at Ark Encounter, we’ve chosen to use a cubit of 20.4 inches, which is based on a 17.5 inch cubit made into a long cubit by adding a handbreadth of 2.9 inches. This makes our life-size Noah’s Ark about 510 feet long and over 50 feet tall.
As you are walking through the Ark Encounter gift shop, keep an eye out for a unique way to remember the length of a cubit for years to come! Take home your own Noah’s Cubit or Construction Cubit unit from the gift store and see how everyday items measure up.