A term of land-measurement used twice in the English versions of the Bible (Isaiah 5:10; 1 Samuel 14:14), and said to be the only term in square measure found in the Old Testament. The English word "acre" originally signified field. Then it came to denote the measure of land that an ox team could plow in a day, and upon the basis of a maximum acre of this kind the standard acre of 160 square rods (with variations in different regions) was fixed. The Hebrew word translated acre denotes a yoke of animals, in the sense of a team, a span, a pair; it is never used to denote the yoke by which the team are coupled together. The phrase `ten yokes of vineyard' (Isaiah 5:10) may naturally mean vineyard covering as much land as a team would plow in ten days, though other plausible meanings can also be suggested. In
1 Samuel 14:14 the same word is used in describing the limits of space within which Jonathan and his armor-bearer slew twenty Philistines. The translation of the Revised Version (British and American), "within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land," means, strictly, that they were slain along a line from two to twenty rods in length. The word rendered "furrow," used only here and in Psalms 129:3, is in Brown's Hebrew Lexicon defined as "plowing-ground." This gives the rendering "as it were in half a plowing-stint, a yoke of ground," the last two phrases defining each the other, so that the meaning is substantially that of the paraphrase in the King James Version. There is here an alleged obscurity and uncertainty in the text, but it is not such as to affect either the translation or the nature of the event.
Willis J. Beecher