II Chronicles – Chapter 4

Are Pi Square?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Here, Chronicles recounts the construction of various elements of the Temple, starting with the copper altar. It then moves on to the “sea,” which was a giant basin the kohanim used to purify themselves. The “sea” stood on statues of twelve oxen, three facing in each direction. We are told that the “sea” was ten cubits in diameter, with a circumference of thirty cubits. For these measurements to be accurate, pi would have to be 3.0, not 3.14. The Talmud (Eruvin 14a) says that the interior circumference was 30 cubits, the outside circumference was greater. (In fact, Tosfos Rabbeinu Peretz says that the only reason the circumference is given is for the interior, since that of the exterior can be easily calculated using pi!)

The text moves on to describe the bowls used to rinse the sacrifices; there were ten of them, five on either side. There were ten golden menoras (candelabra), with five positioned on either side of the Sanctuary. There were likewise ten tables, five on either side of the Sanctuary. There were also 100 golden bowls for handling the blood of the sacrifices. The priests’ courtyard was constructed, as was the Israelites’ courtyard with its copper-coated doors. Hiram provided various utensils, including forks, shovels and bowls.

The chapter now recaps the things Hiram had made for the Temple. These included the pillars we previously discussed, along with all their ornate decorations. He made the stands that held the ten bowls Solomon had made, plus the “sea” and the oxen that supported it. And, of course, all the utensils. The copper utensils were made in great numbers because Solomon had more copper than he could count. Solomon made the altar, tables to prepare the show bread, and menoras of pure gold. He also made the musical instruments and various utensils of gold. The doors to the Temple and to its interior were likewise covered in gold.

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