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 Vol. 5, No. 7 

July 2003

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld.

typewriter How Many
Sons of Jesse?

By Louis Rushmore

In I Sam. 16:6-12 it says in verse 10 that Jesse "made seven of his sons pass before Samuel." Samuel wanted to know if these were all of Jesse's sons, and Jesse indicated no, he had one more whose name was David. In I Chr. 2:13-15, Jesse's sons are listed by name and birth order, and David is said to be the seventh. What am I missing? ~ Marilyn LaStrape

You are not missing anything, not anything that is specifically stated in the Bible. At the time represented by 1 Samuel 16:6-12, Jesse had eight living sons. At the time represented by 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, Jesse had seven living sons.

Jesse had eight sons, of whom David was the youngest (1 Sam 16:10-11; 17:12). Probably one of the sons shown to Samuel at Bethlehem did not grow up. (Barnes)

David the seventh. Since it appears (1 Sam 16:10; 17:12) that Jesse had eight sons, the presumption is, from David being mentioned here as the seventh son of his father, that one of them had died at an early age, without leaving issue. (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown)

This account, which agrees with that in 1 Sam 16:8-12, may be reconciled with the enumeration in our verse, on the supposition that one of the sons died without posterity. (Keil & Delitzsch)

No contradiction exists whenever one or more plausible explanations would remove a supposed contradiction. In this case, it is an easy deduction by which these two passages can be harmonized.Image

Works Cited

Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Hendrickson Publishers.

David Numbering the People

By Louis Rushmore

Image In I Chr. 21:5 when Joab was ordered to number the people, it says that the sum of the number of the people was "one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword." Is there a reference to the fighting men being 20 years of age and over that I am not accounting for? In I Chr. 27:23-24 it says that Joab began a census, but he did not finish, "for wrath came upon Israel because of this census." Again, what is it that I am overlooking?

The question concerns a census figure presented to King David versus information that the census was incomplete. "Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to David. All Israel had one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and Judah had four hundred and seventy thousand men who drew the sword" (1 Chronicles 21:5, NKJV). "Joab the son of Zeruiah began a census, but he did not finish, for wrath came upon Israel because of this census; nor was the number recorded in the account of the chronicles of King David" (1 Chronicles 27:24, NKJV). The census of draft-age warriors was a subtotal even in the context of 1 Chronicles 21. "But he did not count Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king's word was abominable to Joab" (1 Chronicles 21:6, NKJV).

2 Sam 24:1-9. It is evident from this, that in consequence of Joab's repugnance to the numbering of the people, he had not hurried with the fulfilment of the kings' command; so that when David saw his own error, he revoked the command before the census was complete, and so the tribe of Benjamin was not numbered at all, the tribe of Levi being of course eo ipso exempt from a census that was taken for the sake of ascertaining the number of men who were capable of bearing arms. (Keil & Delitzsch)

Another question arises regarding this census respecting different totals that appear in 1 Chronicles 21:5 and 2 Samuel 24:9. "Then Joab gave the sum of the number 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, NKJV). A number of plausible explanations appear in various commentaries, any of one of which removes the contrasting numbers from the arena of alleged biblical discrepancy.

Barnes made the obvious observation: "In Chronicles the numbers are differently given. It is probable therefore that the Chronicler has included in his statement of the sum total some numbers which are not included here." Clarke made an equally swift resolution with even less satisfaction for the inquiring mind. He simply dismissed the contrasting figures as hopelessly irreconcilable owing to copyists' errors in the manuscripts that have come down to the present. Barnes also allowed for the same possibility in his comments on 1 Chronicles 21:5.

However, the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary confidently attempts to rationalize the contrasting numbers between 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel in its comments on 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5 as follows in the next two quotations.

2 Sam 24:9. The amount here stated, compared with 1 Chron 21:5, gives a difference of 300,000. The discrepancy is only apparent, and admits of an easy reconciliation; thus (see 1 Chron 27) there were twelve divisions of generals, who commanded monthly, and whose duty was to keep guard on the royal person, each having a body of troops consisting of 24,000 men, which together formed an army of 288,000; and as a separate detachment of 12,000 was attendant on the twelve princes of the twelve tribes mentioned in the same chapter, so both are equal to 300,000. These were not reckoned in this book, because they were in the actual service of the king as a regular militia. But 1 Chron 21:5 joins them to the rest, saying, 'all those of Israel were 1,100,000;' whereas the author of Samuel, who reckons only the 800,000, does not say, 'all those of Israel,' but barely, 'and Israel were,' etc. It must also be observed that, exclusive of the troops before mentioned, there was an army of observation the frontiers of the Philistines' country, composed of 30,000 men, as appears by 2 Sam 6:1; which, it seems, were included the number of 500,000 of the people of Judah by the author of Samuel: but the author of Chronicles, who mentions only 470,000, gives the number of that tribe exclusive of those 30,000 men, because they were not all of the tribe of Judah, and therefore does not say, 'all those of Judah,' as he had said, 'all those of Israel,' but only, "and those of Judah." Thus, both accounts may be reconciled (Davidson).

1 Chron 21:5. It amounted to 1,100,000 men in Israel capable of bearing arms, inclusive of the 300,000 military (1 Chr. xxvii.), which, being already enlisted in the royal service, were not reckoned, 2 Sam 24:9, and to 470,000 men in Judah, omitting 30,000 which formed an army of observation stationed on the Philistine frontier (2 Sam 6:1). The Syriac version gives the same number in this passage as is stated the parallel one, 2 Sam 24:9.

Black also noted a distinction between the number of draft-age warriors throughout the Israelite nation and the "standing army." Of King David, he wrote, "He established a standing army of two hundred eighty eight thousand men. These men were organized into twelve sections of twenty four thousand each." (205) Winter, likewise, observed that there are several numbers and equally numerous perspectives from which allusion was made in the Bible to those numbers by which apparent but unfounded contradictions might occur.

Joab and his men had counted 800,000 men in the ten tribes of Israel. There were 500,000 men in the tribe of Judah. Inasmuch as men were counted only after they had reached their twentieth birthday, this would be 1,300,000 men twenty years of age and over, thus men able to go to war (Numbers 1:3). ... The number is larger in Chronicles (I Chronicles 21:5), and an additional note is made that the men of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin were not counted (1 Chronicles 21:6). The smaller number in the book of Samuel must be without the two tribes mentioned, and the number in Chronicles probably included them. ... An additional note is made in the book of Chronicles stating that the count was not the official count (I Chronicles 27:24). (Winter 619-620)

Hence, in the first place, the census was incomplete. Second, variances in the numbers may be ascribed to different perspectives from which numbers in different passages were tabulated. Third, it would not be surprising if some numbers were incorrectly transcribed over the thousands of years between the original manuscripts and the later copies that have survived to the present. Whatever the case, none of the possible answers to the questions that arise regarding the census or the numbers discussed in any way adversely affects the doctrinal content or reliability of the surrounding passages.Image

Works Cited

Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.

Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2001.

Black, Robert E. "The Books of Chronicles." Bible Study Textbook Series. Joplin: College Press. 1973. CD-ROM. Indianapolis: Faith and Facts, 1996.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Hendrickson Publishers. 1996. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2001.

Winter, Willard W. "Studies in Samuel." Bible Study Textbook Series. Joplin: College Press. 1967. CD-ROM. Indianapolis: Faith and Facts, 1996.

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