And he made a molten sea
A large vessel made of molten brass, which, because of the great quantity of water it held, is called a sea; as it was usual with the Jews to call a large collection of waters a sea, as the sea of Tiberius and Galilee. This was made by the man of Tyre, as the pillars, by the order of Solomon, and answered to the brasen laver in the tabernacle, only larger than that; and was not only for the priests to wash their hands and feet in, but to dip upon occasion, and by the Jews ^{F16} is expressly said to be a dipping place for the priests, see ( 2 Chronicles 4:6 ) ,
ten cubits from the one brim to the other:
which was the diameter of it: it was round all about; spherical or circular; not as an hemisphere, as Josephus ^{F17}, and Procopius Gazaeus, but rather cylindrical:
and his height was five cubits;
from the bottom of it, not including the pedestal of oxen on which it stood:
and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about;
this was the circumference of it; which answers to the diameter of ten cubits, or near it, a round number being given not strictly mathematical.
(Sceptics have ridiculed the Bible for saying that the mathematical constant (p) is 3 instead of the more precise 3.14159. (This number is an "irrational number" and needs an infinite number digits to specify it exactly.) Two explanations for the apparent lack of precision in the measurement are given.
1) The circumference given may be for the inside circumference and the diameter may be the diameter including the thickness of the rim. This would yield a very accurate mathematical result for the inside circumference of thirty cubits. The outside circumference would be about 31.4 cubits giving a rim thickness of four inches or an hand breadth agreeing with ( 1 Kings 7:26 ) .
2) In ( 1 Kings 7:26 ) we read the vessel "was wrought like the brim of a cup." That is the brim on the top of the vessel was wider than the main part of the vessel. The diameter would be given for the brim. If the brim or lip extended about four inches past the main body of the vessel then the outside circumference of the main part of the vessel would be exactly thirty cubits.
In each case the mathematical ratio for circumference of the circle is (p) d, where "d" is the diameter and (p) is the number 3.14159 ..... For a more complete discussion on this see the article by Russel Grigg. {r}. Editor.)