Posts Tagged 2 Samuel

How Many Valiant Men Drew the Sword for Israel as Counted by Joab?

22 March 2011

Q. How many valiant men drew the sword for Israel as counted by Joab?
A. Joab concluded that 1,100,000 men of Israel drew the sword – 800,000 of which were “valiant”.

If we go by the verses cited as contradictory, that seems to be the obvious answer.

“And Joab gave the number of the registration of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.” (2 Samuel 24:9)

“Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword.” (1 Chronicles 21:5)

The record of the men of Judah was simply rounded to the nearest hundred thousands’ place by the author of 2 Samuel, but recorded more precisely by the chronicler of 1 Chronicles.

Sounds too simple to be an explanation for a supposed Bible contradiction, doesn’t it? Well, maybe that leaves us some time to study Occam’s Razor

How Many Aramean Soldiers Did David Kill?

22 March 2011

Q. How many Aramean soldiers did David kill?
A. Apparently 40,000 foot soldiers and 7,000 charioteers in 700 units of 10.

The passages cited as containing a contradiction are the following:

“But the Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed 700 charioteers of the Arameans and 40,000 horsemen and struck down Shobach the commander of their army, and he died there.” (NASB)
- 2 Samuel 10:18

“The Arameans fled before Israel, and David killed of the Arameans 7,000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death Shophach the commander of the army.” (NASB)
- 1 Chronicles 19:18

Some scholars attempt to dismiss the difference in the numbers as a “copyist error”. However, that seems unnecessarily shallow. The books of Samuel and Chronicles contain details from the battlefield that the different scribes found significant to the record or the record’s audience of that moment. Different audiences have different degrees of understanding and communication lingo. It could be that a “charioteer” in the 2 Samuel verse refers to a group of charioteers, just as “troop” sometimes refers to a group of troops. The books of Chronicles tend to be more specific with genealogies, numbers, etc. than the narrative books of Samuel.

Perhaps the writer of Chronicles saw a need to count the Aramean charioteers individually in his record. {Hint: scrolling over the hyperlinked verses reveals that the translators of the King James Version (William Tyndale and his intellectual successors) noticed that the numbers did refer to different aspects of the Syrian militia – 2 Samuel refers to the men of 700 chariots, while 1 Chronicles refers to 7,000 men who fought in chariots. We don’t know for certain what type of chariots they were or how many men each chariot could hold, or if every man skilled in chariot fighting was necessarily in a chariot at the time he was killed.}

But in quarreling over the minute details, the obviously non-contradictory point is conveniently missed: Israel kicked some Aramean butt.

The debate over the numerical value of the Aramean charioteers illustrates an interesting trend amongst Bible critics. Usually the apparent contradictions they point out are found within the minuscule details. This manner of critiquing overlooks the reason why the Bible has proved so compelling throughout history. The Bible lays claim to uniqueness because of the unity of its overall message, which exists despite being written down in the midst of different cultural atmospheres and generational changes that took place over at least a millennium.

This is why it passes the internal test of historical science.

How Much Did David Pay for the Threshing Floor?

12 March 2011

Q. How much did David pay for the threshing floor?
A. Some fraction of 50 shekels of silver.

The verses cited as contradictory are the following:

“However, the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.’ So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.” (NASB)
- 2 Samuel 24:24

“So David gave Ornan [another name of Araunah] 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site.” (NASB)
- 1 Chronicles 21:25

King David purchased the entire property for 600 shekels of gold. He then included 50 shekels of silver in the payment in order to buy the oxen and the threshing floor. Assuming that the threshing floor (or threshing sledges) was worth more than the oxen, probably a greater portion of the 50 shekels was expended on the threshing floor. However, we can’t be certain how many yokes of oxen were included in the package, so figuring out exactly which fraction of the 50 shekels covered the oxen and which covered the threshing floor is virtually impossible.