4. Concerning Time

It would be superfluous to repeat what has been said relative to discrepancies resulting from the confounding of similar numeral letters. Obviously, in those cases where questions of time are involved, the liability to errors of the above kind becomes an element of prime importance. Taking this factor into account, together with others we have pointed out 287—the use of different methods of reckoning time, and the grouping of events not chronologically, but upon the

284See Robinsons English Harmony, p. 181.


286Comp. pp. 327-330 infra. 

287See pp. 9-14 infra.

principle of association—and we are enabled to solve with facility such cases of discrepancy as the following relative to time.

Abraham's age at migration 75years.

                                        Genesis 12:4

Apparently 135years

                                            Genesis 11:26, 32; Acts 7:4

In the twenty-sixth verse, Abraham may be mentioned first, simply on account of his theocratic importance; as Moses is usually named before Aaron, who was the elder. So that Abraham may have been the youngest son, born when Terah was 130 years old.288 It would then follow that Abraham left Haran at the age of 75, his father having previously died, at the age of 205 years. This removes the difficulty.

Some Jewish interpreters, however, think that Abraham actually left Haran sixty years before his father's death. On this theory, Stephen, in asserting that Abraham left after his father's death, simply followed the then commonly received, though inaccurate, chronology. So Ewald,289 Keil, Kurtz,290 Lange, Murphy, and others.

Absalom's tarry forty years.

                                       2 Samuel 15:7

Could not have been so long.

                                          1 Kings 2:11

De Wette 291 observes, "We are not told from what point of time the forty years are reckoned." But Josephus, 292 followed by Ewald, 293 Hervey, and most critics, assumes that there is a copyist's error in the case. In the same manner such cases as the following are to be explained. Famine—duration, 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:11-12 (DeWette: [Hebrew given] 3, mistaken for [Hebrew given] 7). Jerusalem burned, 2 Kings 25:8 and Jeremiah 52:12 (Bahr:  [Hebrew given] 7, confounded with [Hebrew given] 10). Jerusalem captured, Jeremiah 36:9 and Daniel 1:1 (Pusey 294 thinks that the bare mention that Jehoiakim was captured implies that the city was not then captured. Keil renders Daniel 1:1: Nebuchadnezzar went, set out, to Jerusalem).

Adam died on the day of his fall.

                                       Genesis 2:17

Lived 930 years.

                                       Genesis 5:5

288Davidson, Sacred Hermeneutics, p. 528; also, Hackett on Acts.

289Vol. i. 325, note.

290Vol. i. 204-205.

291Introd. to Old Testament, ii. 212.

292Ant. vii. 9,1.

293 Vol. iii. 170, note.

294 Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, p. 399.

In that very day he became spiritually dead—"dead in trespasses and sins"; 295 "alienated from the life of God." 296 Also, in a physical point of view, death began then to prey upon him; the seeds of mortality were sown in his body. That which might have been but a painless and longed-for translation became a painful and dreaded dissolution.

Agag mentioned at a certain time.

                                       Numbers 24:7

Did not live till later.

                                   1 Samuel 15:2-8

Balaam was, for the time, uttering predictions under the influence of the Spirit of God, 297 hence he may have mentioned a man not yet born. Besides, the name "Agag" was probably hereditary to the chieftains of Amalek, as "Pharaoh" was to the Egyptian monarchs. Hence the Agag of the second passage would be a later one bearing the same name.

Other examples of alleged premature mention are the following: Amalek; compare Genesis 14:7; Numbers 24:20 and Genesis 36:12 (Esau's son may have been named after the original Amalek; or the "country of the Amalekites," Genesis 14:7, may have been styled thus by historical anticipation, having acquired the name previous to the time when Moses wrote. Amalek may be termed the "first of the nations," 298 as being the first that assailed Israel, or as preeminent 299 among the neighboring nations at the time when Balaam uttered the words). Gilgal, Deuteronomy 11:30 and Joshua 4:19-20; 5:9 (two different places are intended; one of which may have been that now known as Jiljilia or Jiljulieh; 300 the site of the other is not determined). Hebrews—land, Genesis 40:15 and Joshua 1:11 (since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had "effected something like permanent settlements" at various points in the land of Canaan, it may have been popularly termed the "land of the Hebrews," 301 although the latter had not as yet taken possession of it. Besides, Joseph doubtless knew very well that, according to the divine promise, the land of Canaan belonged to the Hebrews). Hebron, Genesis 13:18 and Joshua 14:15; 15:13 (the best critics agree that the original name was Hebron; afterwards Kirjatharba was substituted; then the old name Hebron was revived. Quite similar has been the fate of Jerusalem. After Hadrians conquest

295Ephesian 2:1.

296Ephesians 4:18. 

297Numbers 24:2, 16.

298See Numbers 24:20.

299See same Hebrew expression in Amos 6:1.

300Robinson, Later Bib. Res, pp. 138-139.

301This name seems to mean "trans-Euphratics," that is, those who had come across the Euphrates. See Joshua 24:14; also Kurtz, i. 167-169 and Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 987.

the early name "Jerusalem" was displaced, and, dropping out of contemporaneous history, was forgotten. The new city bore the name of "AElia Captolina." Not till the reign of Constantine did the old name come again into use). 302 Joshua, Exodus 17:9; 24:13 and Numbers 13:16 (the author, as Kurtz thinks, writing after the name Joshua had become common, employs it by anticipation. Or Joshua may have received the name at the defeat of Amalek, 303 in which case Numbers 13:16 should be rendered, "And Moses had called Oshea," 304 etc.). Kings in Israel, Genesis 36:31 and 1 Samuel 10:24-25 (the idea of monarchy was familiar to the Israelites from the example of the surrounding nations, all of which had kings. Besides, there were express promises 305 to Abraham and Jacob that kings should spring from them), Levites' land, Leviticus 25:32-34; Numbers 35:2-8 and Joshua 21:2-3, 41 (in the first two passages the land is mentioned by anticipation). Luz, Joshua 16:2 and Judges 1:26 (Eichhorn and Bertholdt say that different places are meant. The name "Luz" was, according to the second text, transferred to another town). 306 Ophir, Genesis 10:29 and 1 Kings 9:28 (the Ophir of the first text seems to have been a man, or else a tribe. Either might give name to the place). Sabbath, Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:23 and Exodus 20:8 (the Sabbath may have been observed from early times, although no explicit injunction to that effect is recorded previous to the giving of the law at Sinai). Tabernacle, Exodus 33:7 and Exodus 40:17 (it is possible that the narrative does not follow the chronological order, and that the tabernacle proper was completed before the time referred to in the first text. Or, since the usual word for tabernacle, "mishkan," is not used in the thirty-third chapter at all, the reference may be to an old sanctuary or sacred tent which had come down from the days of the patriarchs. So Michaelis, Le Clerc, and Rosenmiiller. Otherwise, it may have been Moses' own tent, set apart for this temporary purpose. So the Septuagint, Syriac, Aben Ezra, Rashi, Keil, Kurtz, and Wogue). Temple, 1 Samuel 1:9; 3:3, and 1 Kings 6:14 (the Hebrew word "hekal," in the first two texts, means a large building or dwelling, an edifice, and is not restricted to the Temple proper. Gesenius says it is applied to "the sacred tabernacle in use before the building of the Temple"). Temple mount, Exodus 15:13-17 and 2 Chronicles 3:1 (there is no proof that the real temple mount is here specified. That Jehovah would, however, select a "high and stately mountain" 307 in Canaan as the place of

302See "Jerusalem, the City of Herod and Saladin," by Besant and Palmer, pp. 54-55; also, Smith's Bible Diet., ii. 1309.

303 Exodus 17:9.

304So Rosenmiiller, Eichhorn, and Kanne; and substantially Hengstenberg and Ranke.

305Genesis 17:6,16; 35:11.

306 See Smith's Bib. Diet., ii. 1699-1700. 


his sanctuary was the natural inference of Miriam, who was doubtless familiar with the promises and with the history of the patriarchs). 308 Testimony, Exodus 16:34 and Exodus 40:20 (the first passage was written, probably, near the close of Moses' life, by historic anticipation, in order to finish the story about the manna).

Ahab died in 19th year of Jehoshaphat.


                              1 Kings 15:10;16:29; 22:41

In his 17th year.

                                                 1 Kings 22:51

Most probably the difference arose from a slight mistake in numeral letters. It is to be remembered, however, that the Hebrews had peculiar methods of reckoning the length of reigns. Regnal years seem to have been counted from the beginning of the year, not from the day of the king's accession. Thus, if a king began to reign in the last month of one year, reigned the whole of the next year, and one month of the third, we should, although his reign lasted not over fourteen months, have dates in his first, second, and third years. Any dates in the year of his accession, but previous to that event, or in the year of his death, but subsequent to it, would be assigned to the last year of his predecessor or to the first of his successor. 309 Thus, as Rashi 310 says, since parts of years are reckoned as whole ones, we shall have the same year sometimes twice reckoned, once to the father, and then again to the son. The Talmudists say that the years of the kings are reckoned from the month Nisan to Nisan again, and that with such precision that even a single day before or after Nisan is counted for a year. Hence, if a king reigned from the first day of Nisan, a year and a day, to the second day of the next Nisan, he was reckoned as reigning two years. So Keil and Bahr. Taking these facts into account, together with the use of round numbers, and of different and sometimes obscure eras of computation, 311 and it is obvious that Hebrew chronology becomes somewhat complicated and intricate.

Should it be objected that the above methods of computation adopted by the Hebrew historians are incorrect, we reply that those were their methods, and the writers are to be judged by their own standards, not by ours. Unless, then, it can be shown that according to their own Oriental ideas and methods of constructing history and of reckoning time these writers disagree with themselves, the charge of "discrepancy" does not fairly lie against them.

308See Genesis 22:2; Exodus 3:1-2.

309Smith's Bib. Diet., i. 439; also, compare pp. 11-14 infra, where the subject is discussed more fully.

310Conciliator, ii. 86.

311 Browne, "Ordo Saeclorum," p. 221-248, maintains that some of the reigns are enumerated in years current, others in years complete; and that the kings of Judah reckoned their reigns from an epoch different from that employed by the kings of Israel.