George M. Hollenback, «The Value of Pi and the Circumference of the "Molten Sea" in 3 Kingdoms 7,10», Vol. 79 (1998) 409-412
The dimensions of the "molten sea", the huge vessel fabricated for King Solomons temple, are given in 1 Kgs 7,23.26 (MT) and 3 Kingdoms 7,10.12 (LXX). All measurements of the MT correspond exactly to those of the LXX except one, the circumference. The MT gives "thirty cubits" and the LXX "thirty-three cubits". It seems probable that the MT used the value attributed to pi by the Old Babylonian (pi = 3), whereas the LXX may have known the more accurate value discovered by Archimedes and presumably known in Alexandria (pi = approximately 3 1/7).
One of the appurtenances fabricated for King Solomons temple complex by Hiram of Tyre was the "molten sea" an immense water basin of cast bronze. The dimensions of the huge vessel are given in 1 Kgs 7,23.26:
And he made the molten sea, ten cubits from brim
to brim, round in compass, five cubits high, and a line
of thirty cubits measured its circumference. . . .
Its thickness was a handbreadth; and its brim was like the
brim of a cup or the blossom of a lily . . .
The cubit (hm)) represents the length of a straightened forearm from the elbow to one of the fingertips; the handbreadth (xp+) is one-sixth of a cubit 1.Dividing the 30 cubit circumference by the 10 cubit diameter gives 3, a value for pi that had long been used by the Babylonians 2.
The corresponding LXX passages are 3 Kingdoms 7,10.12. Although the diameter, height, and wall thickness of the sea correspond to the dimensions given in the MT, the circumference does not; it is given in 3 Kingdoms 7,10 as "thirty-three cubits" instead of "thirty cubits". Why the discrepancy? Although this is a very provocative question, it has largely been neglected by OT scholars.
One exception is R. B. Y. Scott, who interprets the measurements as belonging to two different circles. Taking the 10 cubit diameter as an inside measurement, Scott surmises that the outside diameter of the sea must have been 10 1/3 cubits because the walls were one handbreadth thick, and a handbreadth is one-sixth of a cubit: 1/6 + 10 + 1/6 = 10 1/3. Multiplying this 10 1/3 cubit outside diameter by a pi value of 3 1/7 gives an outside circumference of 32.47 cubits or 33 cubits when rounded to the next greatest whole number 3.
The great Greek scientist Archimedes (287-212 BC) had determined that the value of pi lies somewhere between 3 10/71 and 3 1/7 4. The upper limit of 3 1/7 became, and still remains, a convenient approximation for pi itself. Archimedes had spent time in Alexandria where the LXX