ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BIBLE DIFFICULTIES
Did God approve of Rahab's lie (Josh. 2:4-5)?
Scripture unequivocally condemns lying as a sin. In Leviticus 19:11 the Lord says, "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another" (NASB). In Proverbs 12:22 we read, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight" (NASB). In the New Testament Paul exhorts the Ephesians in 4:25: "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (NASB). These and many other passages make it clear that God is never pleased when people fail to tell the truth.
On the other hand, falsehood like every other sin can be fully atoned for by the blood of Christ on Calvary, when the liar becomes convicted in his conscience concerning his guilt and heartily repents of it. A contrite believer may claim the atoning merit of Christ and be completely forgiven. What this adds up to is the following principle that covers God's dealings with sinners: (1) the Lord has always condemned sin, so much so that He laid the guilt of every sin on His sinless Son when He died for sinners on the cross; (2) the Lord does not accept sinners as partakers of His redemption because of their sins but rather because of their faith. Even Abraham sinned in Egypt when he lied about Sarah's status as his wife—though he felt compelled to do so in order to avoid being killed on her account (Gen. 12:12-19). David lied to the high priest Ahimelech when he told him that Saul had sent him to Nob on government business, even though he was actually fleeing from Saul to save his life (1 Sam. 21:2).
In Rahab's case there were special factors that operated in her favor, and they should not be overlooked, even if they do not altogether excuse her mendacity. In this particular case the lie meant for her a step of faith that put her very life in jeopardy. The safer thing for her to do was tell the truth and let the police officials of Jericho know that she had two Hebrew spies hidden under her piles of flax stalks drying under the sun on top of her roof. But she had given her solemn word, apparently, to the two fugitives that she would not betray them to the king's agents. At any rate, she professed a very firm conviction that the Israelite forces would capture and destroy Jericho, even though from the standpoint of military science it looked as if Jericho was virtually impregnable. "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord" (Josh. 2:11-12, NASB). For a woman of ill fame and a completely pagan upbringing to attain such a conviction concerning the one true God was a far more striking display of faith than was the case of the patriarchs and the people of Moses who had been brought up in the truth of God. She had to turn her back on her own people and the cultural tradition in which she had been reared in order to take such a step as this and to throw in her lot with the covenant nation of Israel. She literally risked her life for the cause of the Lord, as she told that lie to the arresting officers. She might very easily have been discovered. A single sneeze or bodily movement on the part of the hidden spies would have sealed her doom—as well as theirs. Therefore we should recognize that there were very unusual extenuating factors involved in her deception.
The commitment Rahab made to Yahweh and His lordship led her to join the ranks of Israel after they captured Jericho and leveled it to the ground (Josh. 6:17-25); and she later married Salmon of the tribe of Judah and by him became the mother of Boaz and the ancestress of King David (Matt. 1:5-6). Despite her sinful past her faith was reckoned to her for righteousness, not only by the Lord, but also by His people; and she assumed a position of honor as an ancestress of the Lord Jesus Himself. In Hebrews 11:31 we read this tribute to her courage and faith: "By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace" (NASB). In James 2:25 the apostle commends her faith as genuine and effectual because she expressed that faith by "works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way" (NASB).
[IN THE SITUATION OF NAZI GERMANY DURING WW2, IF HELPING TO HIDE SOME JEWS, YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO LIE TO THE SS OR NAZI POLICE, IF THEY INQUIRED IF YOU HAD JEWS HIDING. SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE THE LESSER OF THE EVIL, HENCE YOU MAY HAVE HAD TO LIE TO THE NAZI THUGS, TO DO THE RIGHT THING TOWARDS SOME JEWS. AND OF COURSE IN SO DOING YOU PUT YOUR LIFE ON THE LINE IN LYING ABOUT HIDING JEWS - Keith Hunt]
Joshua 3:17 suggests that the host had already
crossed the Jordan, but Joshua 4:4,10-11 imply
that they had not done so. How can these verses
Joshua 3:17 tells us that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant remained standing in the middle of the crossing until all the rest of the congregation had passed over to the west bank. Joshua 4:4 then relates how twelve men, one from each tribe, were directed to go back from the west bank to the midway point where the priests were still standing with the ark. There they were to dig up twelve sizable stones out of the bed of the river and carry them over to the location of the first encampment of the host on the Canaan side of the Jordan (v.8). This cairn of twelve mid-river stones was to serve as a memorial to this epoch-making event in Israel's history (vv. 6-7).
Joshua 4:10-11 concludes the episode by recording how the ark-carrying priests finally left their post at the midway point of the riverbed and finished their crossing with the ark all the way to the west bank. There they continued on their way until they had come to the forefront of the entire congregation and preceded them to their new camping ground at Gilgal (cf. v.19). Not until all Israel was safely across— including the priests and the ark— were the waters of the Jordan, which had been dammed up at Adam (3:16), allowed to flow downstream once more into the Dead Sea. There is therefore no discrepancy here at all, and the account is perfectly clear.
Has not the Joshua 6 account of the capture of
Jericho by the Israelites been discredited by the
modem archaeological investigations at Tell
On the contrary, the testimony of the cemetery connected with City IV at Tefl es-Suhan (which is generally agreed to be the site of Old Testament Jericho) is quite conclusive in favor of a date around 1400 B.C, which is in complete conformity with a 1446 date for the Exodus itself. After several years of thorough archaeological investigation. John Garstang discovered that of the many scarabs found in the graves of this cemetery, not a single one dates from a period later than Amenhotep III of Egypt (1412-1376 B.C.). It is impossible to explain why no scarabs bearing the cartouche of any later Pharaoh was ever found at that level if indeed the destruction of City IV took place in the mid-thirteenth century (as modern scholarship generally maintains today). How could there have been no scarabs from the reign of any of the numerous Pharaohs between Amenhotep III and Ramses II?
Furthermore, of the 150,000 fragments of pottery discovered in this cemetery, only a single sherd has been found that is of the Mycenean type. Since Mycenean ware began to be imported into Palestine from 1400 and onward, it is difficult to explain why virtually none of it was found in the City IV cemetery unless that cemetery was abandoned around 1400 B.C.
Kathleen Kenyon's later investigations at Tell es-Sultan led her to question Garstang's identification of the collapsed walls with City IV, because the potsherds found in the earth-fill of those walls were from a period centuries earlier than 1400 B.C. The soundness of this deduction is open to question, however, because the same phenomenon would be observable if the walls of Avila in Spain or Carcasonne in France were to be leveled by an earthquake in our own generation. Since those walls were erected several centuries ago, the Kenyon criterion would compel us to believe that they must have fallen centuries ago, because they would, of course, contain no internal evidence of twentieth-century construction. But no discovery of Kenyon or Vincent—or any other excavator at that site who came there with a prior commitment to a 1250 date for the Israelite conquest of Canaan—has ever been able to shake the objective findings of Garstang and his team in regard to the scarabs and sherds found in the City IV cemetery. (See Garstang's remarks on this in the article on 1 Kings 6:1 and the date of the Exodus.)
Readers desirous of an extended discussion of the soundness of the biblical date for the Exodus itself (i.e., 1446 B.C.) are referred to my A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 223-34. A more recent work by an able young British scholar is that of John J. Bimson (Redating the Exodus and the Conquest [Sheffield: University of Sheffield, 1978]). Bimson shows how much of the archaeological evidence has been systematically manipulated by a process of circular reasoning on the part of the leading interpreters of archaeological data. He reviews the objective testimony of the stratigraphy and the artifacts and comes to a firm conclusion in favor of a fifteenth-century date of the Israelite Exodus and conquest of Canaan. This discussion is all the more impressive since Bimson himself does not hold to an Evangelical view of the inerrancy of Scripture but feels compelled to set the record straight so far as archaeology is concerned. (See also the article on 1 Kings 6:1 and the date of the Exodus.)
Was Joshua justified in exterminating the
population of Jericho?
In Joshua 6:21 we read, "And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword (NASB). Verses 22-23 go on to say that Rahab the harlot, who had risked her life in order to save the two Israelite spies who had come earlier in order to reconnoiter the city, was spared from death, along with her entire family—as the two spies had promised that she would be. But everything combustible in the city was put to the torch; and all articles of gold, silver, iron and bronze were devoted to the treasury of the tabernacle.
Such complete destruction might appear to be needlessly harsh, since it included infants who were too young to have committed overt sin, even though the older children and the adults may all have fallen into utter depravity. Should we not understand this severity to be the result of a savage Bedouin mentality on the part of the wilderness warriors rather than a punitive measure ordained of God?
In answer to this humanitarian objection, we need to recognize first of all that the biblical record indicates that Joshua was simply carrying out God's orders in this matter. In other words, the same account that tells of the massacre itself is the account that tells of God's command to carry it out. Therefore we must recognize that our criticism cannot be leveled at Joshua or the Israelites but at the God whose bidding they obeyed. (Otherwise we must demonstrate our own special competence to correct the biblical record on the basis of our own notions of probability as to what God might or might not decide to do.) If criticism there be, we should not stop there, for the destruction of Jericho was far smaller an affair than the annihilation of the populations of Sodom and Gomorrah and their allies in Genesis 19:24-25. And then again this volcanic catastrophe was far less significant in the loss of life than Noah's Flood, which, except for Noah's family, wiped out the entire human race.
[THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE WAS NOT WIPED OUT DURING NOAH’S FLOOD. THE TRUTH THAT NOAH’S FLOOD WAS NOT GLOBAL BUT LIMITED TO THE HUB OF THE WORLD AT THE TIME, IS SHOWN IN STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE DEALING WITH NOAH’S FLOOD - UNDER “MISCELLANEOUS” - Keith Hunt]
Back in Genesis 15:16 God had forewarned Abraham: "Then in the fourth generation [i.e., in four hundred years, after the migration to Egypt, since Abraham was one hundred before he became the father of Isaac] they [the Israelites] shall return here [to Canaan], for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (NASB). The implication of this last statement was that when the wickedness of the inhabitants of Canaan had reached a predetermined accumulation of guilt, then God would have them removed from the Land of Promise intended for Abraham and his seed.
The loss of innocent life in the demolition of Jericho was much to be regretted, but we must recognize that there are times when only radical surgery will save the life of a cancer-stricken body. The whole population of the antediluvian civilization had become hopelessly infected with the cancer of moral depravity (Gen. 6:5). Had any of them been permitted to live while still in rebellion against God, they might have infected Noah's family as well. The same was true of the detestable inhabitants of Sodom, wholly given over to the depravity of homosexuality and rape, in the days of Abraham and Lot. As with the Benjamites of Gibeah at a later period (Judg. 19:22-30; 20:43-48), the entire population had to be destroyed. So also it was with Jericho and Ai as well (Josh. 8:18-26); likewise with Makkedah (Josh. 10:28), Lachish (v.32), Eglon (v.35), Debir (v.39), and all the cities of the Negev and the Shephelah (v.40). In the northern campaign against Hazor, Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph, the same thorough destruction was meted out (Josh. 11:11-14).
In every case the baneful infection of degenerate idolatry and moral depravity had to be removed before Israel could safely settle down in these regions and set up a monotheistic, law-governed commonwealth as a testimony for the one true God. Much as we regret the terrible loss of life, we must remember that far greater mischief would have resulted if they had been permitted to live on in the midst of the Hebrew nation. These incorrigible degenerates of the Canaanite civilization were a sinister threat to the spiritual survival of Abraham's race. The failure to carry through completely the policy of the extermination of the heathen in the Land of Promise later led to the moral and religious downfall of the Twelve Tribes in the days of the Judges (Judg. 2:1-3, 10-15, 19-23). Not until the time of David, some centuries later, did the Israelites succeed in completing their conquest of all the land that had been promised to the descendants of Abraham (cf. Gen. 15:18-21). This triumph was only possible in a time of unprecedented religious vigor and purity of faith and practice such as prevailed under the leadership of King David, "a man after God's own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
In our Christian dispensation true believers possess resources for resisting the corrupting influence of unconverted worldlings such as were hardly available to the people of the old covenant. As warriors of Christ who have yielded our members to Him as "weapons of righteousness" (Rom. 6:13) and whose bodies are indwelt and empowered by God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), we are well able to lead our lives in the midst of a corrupt and degenerate non-Christian culture (whether in the Roman Empire or in modern secularized Europe or America) and still keep true to God. We have the example of the Cross and the victory of the Resurrection of Christ our Lord, and he goes with us everywhere and at all times as we carry out the Great Commission.
As New Testament believers, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:4-5). These weapons, far mightier than those of Joshua, are able to capture men's hearts for God; and we have no occasion as ambassadors for Christ to resort to physical weapons to protect our faith and land (as the Israelites were compelled to do, if they were to survive spiritually). But on the contrary we carry on a life-saving offensive as fishers of men, and we go after the unsaved and unconverted wherever they are to be found. But we must recognize that our situation is far more advantageous than theirs, and our prospects of victory over the world are far brighter than theirs. For this we can thank God. But we must refrain from condemnation of those who lived in the very different situation that prevailed before the Cross and recognize that they acted in obedience and faith toward God when they carried out his orders concerning the Canaanites.
[IT IS NOW PROVED THROUGH MODERN SCIENCE THAT DNA IS MOVABLE BY VARIOUS SITUATIONS IN PHYSICAL LIFE. DNA IS NOT STATIC. HENCE GOD MUST HAVE KNOWN THE DNA OF VARIOUS DEGENERATE AND HUGELY EVIL TRIBES OF PEOPLE. EVEN ANIMALS CAN BE AFFECTED SUCH AS THE SO-CALLED “MAD COW DISEASE” ENTERING THE WESTERN WORLD BY FEEDING COWS MEAT, AND UN-NATURAL THINGS (NOT IN NATURE FOR COWS TO EAT) TO QUICKLY FATERN THEM UP FOR EARLIER MARKET SALES - Keith Hunt]
How can Joshua's altar on Mount
Ebal (Josh. 8:30) be reconciled with
the later condemnation of the "high places"?
It should be quite obvious that a later denunciation of the idolatrous cult-centers known as "high places" (bamot) could have no retroactive effect on altars erected to the worship of Yahweh in a time prior to the establishment of Solomon's temple in Jerusalem (ca. 960 B.C.). Those strictures that were later directed at the rival shrines established by Jeroboam I (ca. 930 B.C.), to divert his subjects of the northern kingdom from worshiping at the Jerusalem temple at the various holy festivals during the year, were erected in clear violation of God's ordinance in Deuteronomy 12:2-14. This passage required the total destruction of every altar devoted to the worship of false gods, together with their sacred pillars (massebot) and wooden posts (a serim)—which represented the abiding place of the male deity and his female consort, respectively, according to the Canaanite superstition—and confined worship to a single national sanctuary (vv.2-6). No particular location is designated for this central sanctuary—actually it shifted from Gilgal to Shiloh to Gibeon at various times between the conquest and the Solomonic temple—but it was set up wherever the tabernacle and its altar of burnt offering was located. After the Solomonic sanctuary was finally completed and solemnly dedicated at a great national assembly (1 Kings 8), it was understood that all sacrifice should be offered at that great temple and there alone.
Yet it was that same Solomon who later, under the influence of his idol-worshiping foreign wives, authorized the building of a bamah (or hilltop shrine) to Chemosh, the god of Moab, and to Milcom, the god of Ammon (1 Kings 11:5), and doubtless to other pagan deities as well, including those favored by his Egyptian wife, who was the daughter of the reigning Pharaoh. This evil example led to a more general disregard for the prohibition of Deuteronomy 12:2-14, and bamot began to be erected in many different cult centers, both in the northern kingdom (following the lead of King Jeroboam) and in the kingdom of Judah as well. The latter were periodically destroyed during times of religious revival under Asa (2 Chron. 14:3—although not in a thorough or permanent way; cf. 1 Kings 15:12-14), Jehoshaphat, Asa's son (2 Chron. 17:6), Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4), and Josiah (2 Kings 23:4-8).
Apparently some of the Judean bamott had been cult centers for Yahweh worship, and their purpose had been to serve the convenience of the local populace in the various provinces of the kingdom. Nevertheless they were maintained in violation of the law of the central sanctuary in Deuteronomy 12, and they were so denounced by the true prophets of God. Second Kings 23:8 suggests that some of these shrines were served by Levitical priests, but the fact that they were not put to death according to the law of Deut. 13, which required the execution of anyone guilty of idolatry, strongly suggests that they served at local altars dedicated to Yahweh. At the time of Josiah's reformation they were allowed to live and even to partake of food dedicated to the support of the Aaronic priesthood, but they were forbidden access to the true temple in Jerusalem.
Joshua's altar on Mount Ebal, which served the needs of the entire congregation of Israel at the solemn renewal of the national covenant (Josh. 8:30-35), was thoroughly in keeping with the earlier law of the altar promulgated in Exodus 20:24-25: "In every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you" (NASB). Even after the completion of the Solomonic temple, situations arose in the history of the northern kingdom where the erection of an altar was approved and blessed by God on the occasion of a great national crisis. Such was that of Elijah on the summit of Mount Carmel, where the miraculous fire from heaven on his burnt offering served to demonstrate to Ahab and his armies that Yahweh was the true and living God and that Baal was only a figment of the imagination of Jezebel's prophets (1 Kings 18:30-39).
Why did Israel have to keep its covenant with
the Gibeonites after they obtained that
covenant through fraud (Josh. 9)?
Joshua 9 recounts the crafty deception practiced by the Gibeonite envoys (vv.4-5) when they came to the camp of Israel to conclude a treaty of alliance and peace. They lied by saying that they had come "from a very far country" (v.9) because of their admiration for the God of Israel, who had so wonderfully prospered His people. They alleged that they had come from such a distance that their nice fresh bread had become old and brittle by the time they arrived at Gilgal. Actually Gibeon was less than a day's journey away. Unquestionably they had been guilty of misrepresentations and had lured Israel into an alliance by the use of deception. Under normal conditions, therefore, the Israelites would not have been obliged to keep their contract with them. Any court of law would have absolved them from adherence to their promises in view of the calculated deception practiced by the Gibeonites.
This however, was no ordinary contract engagement, for it was sealed by a solemn oath taken in the name of Yahweh their God. Since they did not first consult God about the matter, prior to entering into an agreement with these heathen Canaanites, they were bound to keep their covenant promises that had been sworn to in the name of Yahweh (v. 15). Feeling that they could rely on their own good judgment and on the evidence of the dry, crumbling bread, the Israelites had neglected to go to God in prayer about the matter (v. 14). Therefore they were bound by their oath, even into the indefinite future. Failure to keep this covenant obligation was one of the offenses for which God visited judgment on Israel, because Saul had put some of the Gibeonites to death (2 Sam. 21:1-14).
What is the explanation of the prolonged day
in Joshua 10:12-14?
The Book of Joshua records several miracles, but none perhaps as noteworthy or as widely discussed as that pertaining to the twenty-four-hour prolongation of the day in which the battle of Gibeon was fought (10:12-14). It has been objected that if in fact the earth was stopped in its rotation for a period of twenty-four hours, inconceivable catastrophe would have befallen the entire planet and everything on its surface. While those who believe in the omnipotence of God would hardly concede that Yahweh could not have prevented such catastrophe and held in abeyance those physical laws that might have brought it to pass, it does not seem to be absolutely necessary (on the basis of the Hebrew text itself) to hold that the planet was suddenly halted in its rotation. Verse 13 states that the sun "did not hasten to go down for about a whole day" (NASB). The words "did not hasten" seem to point to a retardation of the movement so that the rotation required forty-eight hours rather than the usual twenty-four.
In support of this interpretation, research has brought to light reports from Egyptian, Chinese, and Hindu sources of a long day. Harry Rimmer reports that some astronomers have come to the conclusion that one full day is missing in our astronomical calculation. Rimmer states that Pickering of the Harvard Observatory traced this missing day back to the time of Joshua; likewise has Totten of Yale (cf. Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954], p. 159). Ramm reports, however, that he was unable to document this report, possibly because those universities preferred not to keep records of this sort in their archives.
Another possibility has been deduced from a slightly different interpretation of the word dom (translated in KJV as "stand thou still"). This verb usually signifies to be silent, cease, or leave off. E.W. Maunders of Greenwich and Robert Dick Wilson of Princeton therefore interpreted Joshua's prayer to be a petition that the sun cease pouring down its heat on his struggling troops so that they might be permitted to press the battle under more favorable conditions. The tremendously destructive hailstorm that accompanied the battle lends some credence to this view, and it has been advocated by men of unquestioned orthodoxy. Nevertheless it must be admitted that v.13 seems to favor a prolongation of the day: "And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day" (NASB).
Keil and Delitzsch (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, p. 110) suggest that a miraculous prolongation of the day would have taken place if it seemed to Joshua and all Israel to be supernaturally prolonged, because they were able to accomplish in it the work of two days. It would have been very difficult for them to tell whether the earth was rotating at a normal rate if the earth's rotation furnished their only criterion for measuring time. They add another possibility, that God may have produced an optical prolongation of the sunshine, continuing its visibility after the normal setting time by means of a special refraction of the rays.
Hugh J. Blair ("Joshua," in Guthrie, New Bible Commentary, p. 244) suggests that Joshua's prayer was made early in the morning, since the moon was in the west and the sun was in the east. The answer came in the form of a hailstorm that prolonged the darkness and thus facilitated the surprise attack of the Israelites. Hence in the darkness of the storm the defeat of the enemy was completed; and we should speak of Joshua's "long night" rather than Joshua's "long day." This of course is essentially the view of Maunders and Wilson. Such an interpretation necessitates no stopping of the earth on its axis, but it hardly fits in with the statement of Joshua 10:13 and is therefore of dubious validity.
[THE TRUTH OF A SO-CALLED JOSHUA’S LONG DAY, IS FULLY EXPOUNDED ON THIS WEBSITE UNDER “MISCELLANEOUS” - Keith Hunt]
Exactly how did Sisera die? Judges 5: 24-27
seems to disagree with Judges 4:21 at this point.
And how could Jael be considered praiseworthy
in this act of murder?
Judges 4:21 tells us that Jael, the wife of Heber, went up to her sleeping guest, placed a long, sharp tent-peg over his temple, and then drove it down into his skull with a single blow of her hammer. Presumably she had first made him comfortable on a cot, then placed a blanket over him to keep him warm. Judges 5:24-27 confirms the information that she had first given him a refreshing cup of yogurt before he settled down for his nap. Then, after he was fast asleep, she drove the tent peg into his skull in the same manner as 4:21 had described it, thus killing him instantly. Verse 27 adds the graphic detail that after the impact of that blow his body convulsively lurched on the floor of the tent, right between Jael's feet. There is no contradiction here at any level, and it is hard to see why this question should ever have been raised.
The more difficult question has to do with the moral evaluation of Jael's act. She certainly was guilty of violation of the sacred duty of protecting a guest who had been received peaceably into her home. Technically she was guilty of first-degree murder. And even though the text of Judges nowhere says that God Himself approved of her deed, there can be no doubt that Deborah, God's prophetess (4:4), regarded it as a praiseworthy act; and both she and her colleague Barak, who collaborated in the defeat of Sisera's army and the liberation of Israel from Jabin's oppression, gave dramatic expression in chapter 5 to their approval or admiration of her daring in thus dispatching this dreaded warrior.
In evaluating Jael's act, there are several factors to be brought into focus. For one thing, after the defeat of Sisera's army and the reestablishment of Israelite government, Jael would be liable to a charge of harboring a fugitive criminal if she did receive him as a guest into her tent. Furthermore, Jael, being apparently alone at the time, was in no position to refuse him entrance, armed and powerful warrior as he was, or to order him to go on and seek refuge somewhere else. Undoubtedly, had she attempted this, he would have forced his way into the tent anyway; and probably he would have killed her first, in order to keep her from betraying his whereabouts. Finally, Sisera represented a brutal and tyrannous oppression of God's people that might well be renewed at a later time, if he were permitted to escape. This meant that Jael herself would have been involved in the guilt of the slaughter of many innocent lives in Sisera's future career of aggression against the northern tribes of Israel. She was not ready to involve herself in complicity with this guilt. Nor was she willing to face the almost certain prospect that she and her husband would both be disgraced and put to death as traitors to Israel after the victorious troops of Deborah and Barak had traced Sisera's flight to her home. Nor would Jael's own sense of commitment to Yahweh and His people have permitted her to side with His enemy in this fashion. She therefore had little choice but to adopt the strategy that she did. Facing an anguishing alternative between two moral principles, she had to choose the lesser of two evils.
Why did God allow Jephthah's foolish vow to
run its course?
The nature of Jephthah's vow has been much misunderstood. In Judges 11:30-31 Jephthah, on the eve of his decisive conflict with powerful Ammonite invaders, made a solemn promise to God that if He would grant victory over the foe, then whoever would come forth from the doors of his home to meet him would become the property of the Lord: "And I will offer him up for a burnt offering."
Obviously it was some human being who was to be involved, someone from Jephthah's household or some member of his family, and one who would care enough about Jephthah personally to become the first to greet him. The Hebrew text excludes the possibility of any animal serving as a candidate for this burnt offering since the phrase rendered "whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house" is never used of an animal (Keil and Delitzsch, Josuha, Judges, Ruth, p. 385).
Had it been a beast, there would of course have been no problem about sacrificing it on the altar as a blood offering (which the Hebrew word for burnt offering ['olah] normally implied). But in this special case, since it was to be a human member of the household who would be the first to greet Jephthah, it was out of the question for a literal blood sacrifice to be performed. Why? Because human sacrifice was sternly and repeatedly forbidden by God in his law (see Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; Deut. 12:31; 18:10).
It would have been altogether unthinkable for Jephthah or any other Israelite to imagine that he could please God by committing such a heinous and abhorrent abomination in His presence or at His altar. "You shall not behave thus toward [Yahweh] your God, for every abominable act which He [Yahweh] hates they [the Canaanites] have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it" (Deut. 12:31-32). Again, we read in Deuteronomy 18:10-12: "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire.... For whoever does these ... detestable things Yahweh your God will drive them out before you."
In view of Yahweh's well-known prohibition and expressed loathing for this practice, it would have amounted to a complete renunciation of God's sovereignty for Jephthah to have undertaken such a thing. It would have been a repudiation of the very covenant that constituted Israel as God's holy people.
Equally incredible is the notion that God, foreknowing that Jephthah was intending thus to flout His law and trample on His covenant, would nevertheless have granted him victory over the foe. The understanding of the event involves an intolerable theological difficulty, for it hopelessly compromises the integrity of God Himself.
What, then, actually did happen if Jephthah did not offer up his daughter on the altar? As Delitzsch points out, the whole record of the manner in which this vow was carried out points to her dedication to the service of the Lord as a lifelong ministrant at the national sanctuary. Judges 11:37-38 states that she was allowed a mourning period of two months, not to bewail her approaching death, but rather to lament over her permanent virginity (betulim) and the resultant extinction of her father's line, since she was his only child. As one set apart for tabernacle service (cf. Exod. 38:8; 1 Sam. 2:22 for other references to these consecrated virgins who performed service at the tabernacle), she would never become a mother; hence it is emphasized that "she knew no man" (Judg. 11:39). This would have been a pointless and inane remark if in fact she were put to death.
Jephthah acted as a man of honor in carrying out his promise and presenting his daughter as a living sacrifice, as all true Christians are bidden to present themselves (Rom. 12:1). Had he committed a detested abomination like the slaughter of his own child, he never would have been listed with the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. (An extended and skillful treatment of this whole issue is found in Keil and Delitzsch, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, pp. 384-95).
How could God have incited Samson to embark
on a romance with a pagan girl as a means of
stirring up strife between Israel and her
neighbors (Judges 14:4)?
Samson seems to have enjoyed cordial relations with the Philistine overlords who held the tribe of Dan in vassalage. These aggressive and warlike foreigners from Crete had held much of Israel in humiliating bondage for many years; and they were destined to plague them all through the period of Samuel and Saul until the final successes of King David around 1000 B.C. Samson was the one figure who could break the power of the Philistines; yet he was too concerned with his personal interests and pleasures to assume that task in a responsible fashion. His enormous physical strength and courage were hardly matched by his dedication to God's call. Consecrated from infancy to serve the Lord as a Nazirite, he had developed a willful spirit that was completely self-centered. Therefore the only way to rouse him against the oppressors of his people was to allow him to get into a quarrel with them on the ground of his personal interest. His godly parents had urged him to have nothing to do with Philistine girls, no matter how pretty they were; but Samson brushed their admonitions aside and insisted on having his own way.
It is in this context that v.4 informs us: "However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel" (NASB). It was time for a new hero to appear and deliver the Israelites from heathen oppression, as had happened back in the days of Othniel, Ehud, and Gideon. But Samson was too wrapped up in himself to be attentive to God's call. Therefore he needed some strong incentive to turn against the Philistines in retaliation for a wrong he had received from them. God used even this carnal reaction on Samson's part to accomplish His gracious purpose in lightening the load of their oppressors. The result of Samson's resentment toward the Philistine wedding guests who had wormed out of his young bride the answer to his riddle was that he resorted to attacking the young men (possibly in the militia) at nearby Ashkelon in order to rob them of their garments in order to pay off his forfeited wager (14:19).
In the aftermath of this episode, Samson's unreasonable resentment at finding that the bride he had abandoned in disgust had later been given to another man led to his burning down all the standing crops of that town. The result of this was, of course, the organizing of an expeditionary force of Philistines to arrest and punish him for this deed (Judg. 15:6-8), a maneuver that led to their own destruction by the Rock of Etam and at Ramathlehi (vv. 14-17). This led to the weakening of the grip that Philistia had maintained for so long over the Israelites. Even Samson's folly in revealing the secret of his strength to his Philistine girlfriend, Delilah, led ultimately to the death of the flower of Philistine leadership in the collapse of the temple of Dagon. "So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life" (Judg. 16:30, NASB).
How could Samson's marriage be "from the
Lord," as Judges 14:4 says, if it was wrong to
Judges 14:3 makes it plain that Samson was doing the wrong thing by marrying the Philistine woman from Timnah, for his parents remonstrated with him about marrying out of the faith. Yet the headstrong young man insisted, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me." Then v.4, indicating how God was intending to use Samson as an aggressive champion against the Philistines in the years to come, says, "However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines."
It would be a mistake to conclude from this statement that God was pleased with Samson's violation of the Mosaic Law, which strictly forbade mixed marriages of this sort. But it does mean that God intended to use Samson as a champion in the deliverance of his people from the galling tyranny of the ungodly Philistines. Since up until that time Samson had enjoyed friendly relations with them, he was not likely to do anything to liberate Israel from the yoke of its heathen overlords. He needed to have a falling out with them before he would enter on his career as a champion for his country. The aftermath of this unhappy marriage, which was never really consummated, brought about the right conditions for Samson to raise a standard against Philistia.
How could Samson catch three hundred foxes
for his prank at Timnah?
Judges 15 relates how Samson sought vengeance against the Philistine town of Timnah after his bride had been given to some other man. Verse 4 states that "Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned [the foxes] tail to tail, and put one torch in the middle between two tails." Then he lit the torches and let them run loose into the standing grain of the Timnite farmers so that they might lose their entire crop. As to the methods Samson may have used to capture so many foxes, when most people find it difficult enough to hunt down even one of them, we find no information at all in the text. Whether his superhuman strength was matched by a superhuman agility that enabled him to outrun them as they tried to escape, we cannot be sure. Or else he may have devised a set of unusually enticing traps and imprisoned them in cages until he had gathered a sufficient number for his purpose. Presumably he used a pair of thick leather gloves as protection against their sharp teeth. However he managed it, he was certainly in a class by himself. But any warrior who could slay a thousand armed soldiers with the jawbone of an ass as his only weapon (v. 15) could surely take care of a mere three hundred foxes without too much difficulty.
Is not the transaction between Boaz and the
kinsman in Ruth 4:3-8 contrary to the
stipulations in Deuteronomy 25:5-10? And is
not levirate marriage at variance with the law
against incest in Leviticus 18:16?
Deuteronomy 25:5-10 provides that a childless widow is to be taken over by a surviving brother of her deceased husband to be his wife and to bear a son (if biologically possible) who will be legally accounted as the son and heir of the deceased brother. This means that the dead man's name will be carried on by the son whom his brother has begotten so that the dead man's line does not become extinct. But vv.7-8 allow such a surviving brother to refuse the role of substitute husband if he so insists. If he should choose to do so, however, the widow may lodge a complaint against him before the authorities; and he may then be publicly disgraced. That is to say, the widow may publicly untie and remove his sandal and spit in his face, saying, "Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother's house" (v.9). Verse 10 goes on to say that he shall be known from then on as "The house of him whose sandal is removed" (NASB).
As we compare this provision, with its concern for the perpetuation of the memory and family line of the deceased, with the negotiations between Boaz and the unnamed nearer kinsman in Ruth 4:3-8, we note the following additional features.
1. If there is no surviving brother in the immediate family (for Chilion had also died, as well as Ruth's husband, Mahlon), then the levirate obligation attached to the nearest surviving male cousin.
2. Along with the obligation to serve as a proxy for the deceased in the marriage bed, there was the related obligation to buy back any landed property of the deceased that was about to be sold or forfeited under foreclosure proceedings. (While this was not actually mentioned in connection with the ordinance of the levir in Deut. 25, it is specified in Lev. 25:25: "If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold" [NASB]).
3. In the case of a non-Israelite widow like Ruth the Moabitess, it might be considered a little more justifiable to refuse to perform the duty of a surrogate husband (levir) than otherwise, since a taint attached to the descendants of a Moabite. Deuteronomy 23:3 provided: "No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord: none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the Lord" (NASB). Whether this applied to a Moabite woman married to a Hebrew as much as it would to a Moabite male convert to faith in the Lord is an arguable question. But at least this possibility raised a doubt that was apparently perceived as being legitimate.
4. Whether for this reason, or whether Ruth herself had no desire to humiliate the kinsman (go'el) when she had really set her heart on Boaz, the kinsman himself was permitted to remove his own sandal; and he was even spared the humiliation of having her spit in his face.
These four special features can hardly be regarded as contradictory to the general law of the levirate in Deuteronomy 25. The basic rules there for a formal rejection of the duty to the widow and also for a public acceptance of that responsibility were carried out by both men. Ruth's failure to carry out an active role in accusing and shaming the other go'el amounted to the voluntary surrender of her right to perform this ceremony, in view of the fact that the essential purpose of the levirate ordinance was about to be achieved in a far more desirable and acceptable fashion through her kind benefactor, Boaz himself.
As for the law against incest with a brother's wife (Lev. 18:16), this obviously did not apply to a situation where the surviving brother took the childless widow into his home and undertook to act as his brother's proxy. If he had attempted to marry his sister-in-law under any other condition (as, for example, Herod the Tetrarch, who seduced his brother Philip's wife, Herodias, from him), that would have been a clear case of incest, which was a capital crime. Or if Ruth had borne a son to Mahlon, that would have made her ineligible to any surviving brother of his, or perhaps even to a first cousin (which Boaz apparently was not).
[IT IS FALSE TO BELIEVE RUTH WAS A NON-ISRAELITE. JUST BECAUSE IT IS STATED SHE WAS FROM THE LAND OF MOAB, IS LIKE SAYING SHE WAS FROM QUEBEC. THE LAND OF QUEBEC WAS ORIGINALLY A FRENCH TERRITORY, BUT EVENTUALLY BECAME PART OF THE LAND OF ENGLISH CANADA, BEING WON BY THE ENGLISH OVER THE FRENCH. SO THE LAND OF MOAB BECAME THE LAND OF ISRAEL. AND AS QUEBEC HAS SOME LAWS AND CUSTOMS UNIQUE TO ITS PROVINCE, EVEN IN RELIGION, SO IT WAS FOR THE LAND OF ISRAEL-MOAB, EVEN TO NOT BEING IN SINK WITH THE GOD OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM. RUTH WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE TRUE GOD AT JERUSALEM, HENCE, “THY PEOPLE MY PEOPLE, THY GOD WILL BE MY GOD” STATEMENT (RUTH 1: 16). WITH THIS UNDERSTANDING ALL DIFFICULTIES AS LIKE THE ABOVE MENTIONS, EVAPORATES. RUTH WAS NOT A GENTILE, BUT AN ISRAELITE IN THE LAND ONCE OWNED BY THE MOABITES, BUT THEN TAKEN OVER BY ISRAEL, AND PART OF THE OVERALL LAND OWNED BY THE ISRAELITES - Keith Hunt]
How could Bethshemesh have contained over
50,000 men in Samuel's day (1 Sam. 6:19)?
Why was such an extreme judgment visited on
It is quite true that 50,000 men would seem to have been far in excess of the normal population of a community like Bethshemesh in the eleventh century B.C. But there is very strong evidence to indicate that the original text of 1 Samuel 6:19 read a much lower number. That is to say, nowhere else is a figure like 50,070 written in this fashion according to the grammar of biblical Hebrew. Normally the wording would have been either sib'im 'is wahamissim 'elep 'is (lit., "seventy man and fifty thousand man") or else in the descending order—which was far more usual—hamissim 'elep 'is wasib'im 'is ("fifty thousand man and seventy man"). The fact that neither of these customary word orders was followed in the received Hebrew text of this passage gives rise to a very justified suspicion that the text was inadvertently garbled in the course of transmission. (Textual errors are demonstrable for 1 Samuel more frequently than for almost any other book in the Old Testament.)
While it is true that the Septuagint already found this same reading in its Hebrew Vorlage (hebdomekonta andras kai pentekonta chiliadas andron, "seventy men and fifty thousands of men"), it is highly significant that even in the late first century A.D.., Josephus (Antiquities 6.1.4) refers to the loss of life at Bethshemesh as only seventy, with no mention whatever of the "fifty thousand." There are also a few Hebrew manuscripts that entirely omit "fifty thousand man." Hence it is not necessary to defend this huge number as part of the text of the original, inerrant manuscript of 1 Samuel. Nor is it likely that more than seventy men would have become involved in the sacrilege of removing the golden propitiatory (KJV, "mercy seat") from the ark of the covenant in order to see what was inside. It is hardly conceivable that fifty thousand persons would have filed by the opened ark in order to peer into its interior and satisfy themselves that it contained only the two tablets of the Decalogue (cf. 1 Kings 8:9). Therefore such an enormous loss of life is almost impossible to account for. Yet for the seventy who were involved in this sacrilege, they showed such an impious attitude toward the God who had invested this symbol of His presence with the most solemn of sanctions that it is hardly to be wondered at that they forfeited their lives in a sudden and catastrophic way—somewhat as Uzzah in the time of David, when he merely touched the exterior of the ark, to steady it in the lurching wagon (2 Sam. 6:6-8).
[WISHFUL THINKING IT WAS ONLY SO FEW. 50,000 COULD EASILY HAVE WANTED TO LOOK INTO THE ARK; GOD BROUGHT HUGE PUNISHMENTS ON HIS PEOPLE FOR GOING ADRIFT AT OTHER TIMES. THE NUMBER MAY ALSO HAVE INCLUDED MEN FROM THE SURROUNDING AREA - Keith Hunt]
Why did God condemn the Israelites' request
for a king (1 Sam. 8:7-9) after He had laid down
rules for future kings of Israel to follow (Deut.
There can be no doubt that God's plan for Israel included a king, a specially chosen dynasty from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), and that in anticipation of that event He laid down certain basic guidelines for such a theocratic king to follow (especially the avoidance of multiplying riches, horses, or wives), as recorded in Deuteronomy 17. But this furnishes no problem at all in regard to the establishment of a monarchic form of government for Israel in the latter days of Samuel's career. After his own two sons, Joel and Abijah, had proved to be unworthy and incompetent for leadership, the Israelite people requested Samuel to choose out and anoint for office a ruler over them who should serve as a permanent king with full authority as a monarch (1 Sam. 8:5).
In view of the fluctuating fortunes of Israel under the long succession of "judges" who had followed after the death of Joshua, it was not altogether surprising for the people to look to such a solution for their ineffectiveness and disunity as a nation. But the reason why their request displeased the Lord was that it was based on the assumption that they should follow their pagan neighbors in their form of government. Their motive was to conform to the world about them rather than to abide by the holy and perfect constitution that God had given them under Moses in the form of the Pentateuchal code. There was a definite sense in which they were setting aside the laws of God as inadequate for their needs and falling in step with the idolatrous heathen. They expressed their desire to Samuel thus: "Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations" (NASB). They had forgotten that God had called them out of the world, not to conform to the world, but to walk in covenant fellowship with Yahweh as a testimony of godliness before all the pagan world.
Nevertheless, it is also clear that the Lord had in mind from the very beginning a monarchic form of government for His people. Even to Abraham He had promised, "I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you" (Gen. 17:6, NASB). He had also decreed that the chosen line of royalty should come from the tribe of Judah: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes" (Gen. 49:10, NASB) (i.e., until the coming of the Messiah, who would Himself be a descendant of the Judean royal line).
So it came about that when Samuel's contemporaries came clamoring for a king, God granted them their request, even though He rebuked them for their worldly motive in making it. He also warned them that the greater unity and efficiency of government they might achieve under a monarchy would be offset by the loss of their liberties under the oppressive and demanding rule of an autocratic king. Because of his supreme and concentrated power, he would not be as accountable to the personal and civic rights of his people in the same way the Judges had been; so the nation would have reason to regret their choice. Rather than being governed by the laws of God, they would fall under the autocratic rule of a single man and become subject to heavy taxation, corvee labor, military draft, confiscation of property, and all the rest (1 Sam. 8:11-18).
In the sequel, God first chose out for them an able and gifted ruler in the person of King Saul, but one who was basically carnal, wilfully disobedient, insanely jealous, and bloodthirsty in the later years of his reign. The purpose of Saul's reign was to prepare Israel to appreciate all the more the reign of a true man of God, David son of Jesse, who came from the tribe of Judah, and who was determined to serve as a faithful theocratic ruler and an obedient servant of Yahweh.
[THEY FAIL TO SEE THAT SAUL DID START OUT WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD GUIDING HIM; HE ALLOWED HIS HUMAN NATURE AND THE UNSEEN FORCES OF THE WICKED ONE, TO TAKE MORE AND MORE CONTROL OF HIS MIND AND HEART - Keith Hunt]
Do not the Scriptures give contradictory
accounts of how Saul was anointed king over
Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 9; 10; 12)?
There is actually only one account to be found in the scriptural record concerning the anointing of Saul to be king over Israel. That is found in 10:1, where we read that at the border of Samuel's city (presumably Ramah in the territory of Zuph [9:5]) Samuel privately anointed Saul, saying, "Has not the Lord anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?" (NASB). Therefore we must recognize that since there was only one account of the actual anointing ceremony itself, there could not possibly be any contradictory accounts of it.
What we are told in 1 Samuel 10:17-24 is that at a national assembly summoned by Samuel to Mizpah, there was a solemn casting of lots conducted with a view to finding out which man of Israel the Lord Himself had chosen to be king. The lot finally fell on Saul, who was modestly hiding himself from sight by lurking behind the baggage near the place of assembly. When searchers discovered him there and brought him out before the entire congregation, Samuel publicly acknowledged him, saying, "Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people" (v.24, NASB). Then all the multitude acclaimed him, saying, "Long live the king!" Yet there is not a word said here about a ceremonial anointing.
A still further confirmation by the military leadership of the nation came after Saul's successful lifting of the siege of Jabeshgilead and his routing of the Ammonite besiegers themselves. First Samuel 11:15 tells us: "So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly" (NASB). But we are given no indication whatever that he was anointed at that time; there is no mention of a crowning ceremony either. It simply involved an enthusiastic reaffirmation of his royal authority and glory, in line with the previous appointment made at Mizpah. First Samuel 12 simply continues the narrative of the confirmation ceremony at Gilgal, with Samuel giving his farewell address before the people and solemnly warning all the nation as well as their new ruler that the favor and protection of the Lord Yahweh would be conditioned on their faithful adherence to His holy law and their maintenance of a consistent testimony of godliness before the idol-worshiping world (vv. 14-15). He closed with a stern warning in v.25: "But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king shall be swept away"(NASB).
This record of the initial anointing of Saul by God's prophet, his subsequent acknowledgment by the nation, and his later vindication as leader by his first victory in war against the heathen all form a perfectly consistent and believable line of development as the very first king of Israel comes into office and the old system of intermittent "judges" (or charismatic rulers) comes to a close.
What is the correct number in 1 Samuel 13:1?
First Samuel 13:1 as preserved in the Masoretic or Received Text has lost the number that must have been included in the original manuscript. The Masoretic text literally says, "Saul was a son of... years when he became king, and he had ruled for two years in Israel, when [lit., 'and'] Saul chose out for himself three thousand from Israel." All we can say for certain is that he must have been more than twenty years old, since the number nineteen or less would have required the word for "years" to be put in the plural (sanim). Because the singular sanah is used here, we can tell that a numeral of twenty or more must have preceded it (cf. E. Kautzsch, ed., Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar [Oxford: Clarendon, 1910], #134.2 and Rem. 1). (This peculiar rule in the syntax of numerals is followed in Arabic also.)
"Saul reigned one year" (KJV) is not justifiable, for the Hebrew text does not say "reigned" but "Saul was son of a year when he became king" (Ifmolko). The translation "Saul was [forty] years when he began to reign" (ASV) is sheer conjecture, as its marginal note acknowledges.
The NASB follows the conjectural "forty" but then adds a second conjecture: "And he reigned thirty-two years over Israel." This is quite unnecessary if the connection between the end of v. 1 and the beginning of v.2 is handled in the way suggested above, RSV does no conjecturing at all but leaves the gaps where they are in the Masoretic text: "Saul was ... years old when he began to reign; and he reigned ... and two years over Israel." Jerusalem Bible leaves out v.l altogether but gives a baldly literal rendering of the Masoretic text in a marginal note.
The NIV has "[thirty]" for the first number and "[forty-]two" for the second. In a footnote it refers the reader to Acts 13:21, which reads: "Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish,... who ruled forty years." But if Saul ruled only forty years in all, as Acts 13:21 says, it is hard to see how he could be said in 1 Samuel 13:1 to have ruled forty-two years. Yet as indicated above, there is no need to amend the second number at all. Simply render it thus: "And he had ruled two years over Israel when he chose out for himself three thousand from Israel." This serves as an appropriate introduction to the episode of Jonathan's remarkable exploit at Michmash.
How could the Philistines have used 30,000
chariots in a place like Michmash (1 Sam.
Michmash overlooks a fairly extensive valley, and it is not inconceivable that 30,000 chariots could have been deployed in its vicinity. But the problem lies in the magnitude of the chariot force itself. Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch, Samuel, pp. 126-27) points out in his commentary on this verse that the listing of a mere 6000 horsemen in this Philistine army makes it almost conclusive that the actual number of chariots was considerably smaller. That is to say, everywhere else in the Old Testament where an army inclusive of both cavalry and chariotry comes on the scene, the number of the cavalry exceeds that of the chariots (cf. 2 Sam. 10:18; 1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chron. 12:3, etc.). Furthermore, such a large number of chariots in a single army has never been recorded in the annals of any ancient power, not even of the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, or the Persians. It is most unlikely, therefore, that a third-rate little pentarchy like Philistia could have fielded the largest chariot force in all human history. Delitzsch suggests: "The number is therefore certainly corrupt, and we must either read 3000 [?lose-t '"la-fim] instead of [flssim 'ele-ff] according to the Syriac [Peshitto] and the Arabic, or else simply 1000; and in the latter case the origin of the number thirty might be attributed to the fact, that through the oversight of a copyist the [lamed] of the word [Yisra'el] was written twice [dittography!], and consequently the second [lamed] was taken for the numeral thirty [since lamed with a dot over it was the cipher for 'thirty']."
In response to Delitzsch's suggestion, it is open to question which system of numerical notation was used by the Hebrew scribes prior to the third century B.C. The Septuagint already had the same reading as the Masoretic text (triakonta chiliades harmaton), and it probably was translated in the latter part of that century. Much more likely, therefore, is the possibility that "3000" was the original number recorded in the earliest text of 1 Samuel 13:5 and that somehow in the course of later textual transmission the notation for "3000" was miscopied as "30,000." The accurate preservation of statistics and of the spelling of proper names is notoriously difficult in manuscript transmission, and 1 Samuel has more than its share of textual errors. But the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy guarantees only the original manuscripts of Scripture as preserved from all error; it does not guarantee absolute trustworthiness of all copies ever made from that original.
[THE LORD CAN QUITE EASILY DICTATE TO HIS PEOPLE THE CORRECT AMOUNT; THE RULES THAT COPYISTS HAD TO FOLLOW WAS AMAZINGLY STRINGENT, AS I SHOW IN STUDIES UNDER “HOW WE GOT THE BIBLE” - Keith Hunt]
In 1 Samuel 13:13, how could God promise Saul
an eternal kingdom if he did not belong to the
tribe of Judah?
It was after Saul had violated God's law by offering sacrifice on the altar, instead of waiting for a priest, that Samuel said to him in 1 Samuel 13:13: "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you, for now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever." Does this last clause amount to a promise from God? Not really, for it simply sets forth what might have been if Saul had kept faith with God. He and his descendants would have occupied the throne of Israel on a permanent basis. But Saul failed God, both in the matter of the extermination of the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15) and in this episode at Gilgal, where Saul intruded on the prerogatives reserved for the priesthood alone. The judgment on him was rejection and replacement by David, of the tribe of Judah.
It was to Judah that the throne of Israel had been promised, back in the closing days of Jacob's career, when he was inspired on his deathbed to prophesy of the future of all the Twelve Tribes. Genesis 49:10 contains the promise that "the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes" (NASB)—that is, until the coming of Jesus the Messiah. The throne was reserved for the house of David, of the tribe of Judah, and God knew very well beforehand that Saul would fall away into disobedience and apostasy. But 1 Samuel 13:13 simply sets forth what Saul had forfeited through his willful disobedience, namely, the enjoyment of the throne of Israel, both for himself and for his descendants.
In 1 Samuel 15:11 God is said to be sorry that
He had ever set up Saul as king over Israel.
Does this imply that God did not know in
advance how poorly Saul would perform and
that He had made a mistake in choosing him in
the first place? Could this be a mere human
interpretation of God's feelings in this matter?
Even though God, who knows all things, surely knew in advance that Saul the son of Kish would utterly fail in his duties of kingship during the later years of his reign, He nevertheless saw fit to use Saul in his earlier years to deliver Israel from its pagan foes. Saul proved to be an effective leader in coping with the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and the Philistines and inspiring the Twelve Tribes to new courage and pride in their nationhood. But God foreknew that Saul would fall into disobedience and rebellion and that He would have to discard Saul completely in favor of David the son of Jesse. In fact, God made it clear through Jacob's deathbed prophecy (Gen. 49:8-10) that Judah was to supply the permanent royal line for the covenant nation of Israel. Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, not Judah (as David was); so there could have been no doubt as to what God's choice would be.
Nevertheless, it was a matter of deep regret that Saul would disregard the instructions God had given him through Samuel and that he would substitute his own will for the revealed will of God. The Lord therefore said to Samuel, "I regret that I have made Saul king" (using the verb niham, a term that implies deep emotion and concern about a situation involving others). This does not imply that God was deceived in His expectations about Saul but only that He was deeply troubled about Saul and the suffering and failure that would come on Israel because her king had turned away from the path of obedience. Yet v.29 uses the same verb to state that God does not change His mind and adopt some plan other than that which He had originally conceived: "The Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind" (NASB). This statement was unquestionably made by the prophet Samuel under divine inspiration and does not represent some fallible human interpretation, either in v.11 or v.29. Two somewhat different meanings occur for niham in the one and same chapter—a not uncommon occurrence in Hebrew words with two or more meanings.
[WHAT MOST MISS WITH SUCH PASSAGES (WE HAVE SUCH IN THE BOOK OF GENESIS ALSO); IS THAT GOD AT TIMES WILLS HIMSELF NOT TO KNOW HOW HOW THINGS WILL TURN OUT. SO INDEED THEN, WITH SUCH TIMES, GOD CAN SAY HE “REPENTED” OF SUCH AND SUCH. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE HIS MIND ON THINGS HE HAS PROMISED. SAUL AND HIS OFFSPRING COULD HAVE REMAINED ON THE THRONE BY AN OFFSPRING MARRYING INTO THE LINE OF DAVID AND JUDAH. HENCE IF SAUL HAD REMAINED FAITHFUL TO GOD, BOTH PROMISES TO JUDAH AND TO SAUL WOULD HAVE MERGED INTO ONE. GOD HAD WILLED HIMSELF NOT TO KNOW HOW SAUL WOULD TURN OUT IN CHARACTER, SO WHEN IT WAS NOT GOOD, GOD WAS SORRY HE CHOSE SAUL. THIS SHOCKS PEOPLE TO REALIZE THAT SOMETIMES GOD WILLS HIMSELF IN SUCH MATTERS NOT TO KNOW THE END RESULT. THE GENESIS EXAMPLE IS GEN. 6: 6. YES FOR GOD TO HAVE THE HUMAN EMOTION OF SORROW AND GREIF (A “REPENT” SITUATION IN A SETTING DIFFERENT THAN OUR “REPENT” OVER SIN) HE MUST AT TIMES, WHEN HE CHOOSES, WILL HIMSELF NOT TO KNOW THE OUTCOME OF CERTAIN THINGS IN HUMAN HISTORY - Keith Hunt]
Which name for David's brother is correct,
Shammah or Shimea?
In 1 Samuel 16:9 the name of Jesse's third son (David's older brother) is given as Shammah (sammah). But in 1 Chronicles 2:13 it is spelled sime’a (though the Syriac Peshitta reads samo there as well as in 1 Sam. 16:9). There is still another passage (2 Sam. 21:21) where the name is given as Shimeah (sime’ay). From these data we must come to some conclusion as to which was the correct and original spelling of this man's name.
First of all, it is significant that even though the 'ayin (') is missing from 1 Samuel 16:9, the mem (m) does have a mark of doubling (dagesh forte) within it (sammah rather than samah), which makes it identical with the adverb for "thither" or "there"—and rather unlikely as a personal name. But it could represent an assimilation with a following consonant such as 'ayin. It may be that in some regions of the Hebrew-speaking territory, such as Judah, there was a tendency to deemphasize or even omit the sound of 'ayin, especially in proper names. Thus we find the name of the Moabitess spelled rut (Ruth), rather than re’u-2t ("Friendship"), which it probably should have been. (Ru-t is a meaningless word without an 'ayin.) So also, Samuel is rendered semu'el (which could only mean "The name of God"), whereas according to Hannah's statements in 1 Samuel 1:20 and 1:27 it should have been semu"el ("Heard of God"). We must therefore conclude that the spelling in 1 Chronicles 2:13 (sime’a’) is the correct one and that the reading in 1 Samuel 16:9 is a scribal error resulting from a regional pronunciation of the name.
How many sons did Jesse have? First Samuel
16:10-11 makes it eight, but 1 Chronicles
2:13-15 makes it seven.
First Samuel 16 names only the three oldest brothers of David: Eliab (v.6), Abinadab (v.8), and Shammah (v.9), who is called Shimea in 1 Chronicles 2:13. Yet it does specify that Jesse introduced seven of his sons to Samuel (v. 10) before he had the youngest, David, called home from the field (v.11). First Chronicles 2:14 gives the names of the other three as Nethanel, Raddai, and Ozem, and specifies that David was the seventh. What became of the other son, unnamed in 1 Samuel 16 and totally ignored in 1 Chronicles 2? Delitzsch (Keil and Delitzsch, Chronicles, p.62) suggests that he might have died without posterity; therefore his name was not preserved as late as the period when Chronicles was composed. It may well have been that he died of illness or accident while still a young man, prior to marriage. Since he produced no descendants and contributed no exploits back in David's time, there was no special reason for retaining him in the later enumeration of Jesse's sons.
The writer of this article had an older brother who died quite young, which would bring up the count of the children to four. Yet after the death of that earlier son, the three surviving children always spoke of themselves as a family of three siblings. Perhaps a similar event happened in Jesse's family as well. The full number of his sons was eight, but only seven survived and played a role during David's career. (First Chron. 2:16 adds that there were two daughters as well, Zeruiah and Abigail. After they were married, their sons played an important role as well in the service of their uncle David.)
In 1 Samuel 16:19-21 Saul recognizes David as
the son of Jesse, but in 17:58 Saul is said to have
asked David, "Whose son art thou?" How can the
two be reconciled?
It is true that Saul had already been introduced to David ( 1 Sam. 16:18) as "a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man" (NASB). But it should be noted also that up until the contest with Goliath, David had shown to King Saul only his artistic side; and then David had been permitted to return home to Bethlehem. It is altogether true to life for Saul to see David in an entirely new light and to show a keen interest in his background. Apparently General Abner had no previous acquaintance with David except as a harp player and so was not even aware of Jesse's name (17:55). Abner had not been involved in David's earlier introduction to the palace as a soothing musician (16:18); rather, one of Saul's "young men" (that is, a retainer of the royal bodyguard) had mentioned Jesse's name to Saul.
Saul's rekindled interest, however, went far beyond the name of David's father—even though that was his lead-off question. It is quite apparent that Saul wanted to know whether there were any more at home like him; this was in line with his standard policy set forth in 1 Samuel 14:52: "When Saul saw any mighty man or any valiant man, he attached him to his staff" (NASB). That is to say, Saul was intent on building up a first-class bodyguard of champion fighters, and he saw in David a promising lead to obtaining more soldiers like him. From 18:1 we are informed that David then carried on a fairly extensive conversation with Saul, going far beyond the giving of his own father's name. Thus we find that when we view the two episodes in their own context and situation, they turn out to be very true to life; and there is no real contradiction between them.
First Samuel contains several instances of lying
and deceit on the part of God's chosen servant
David and of Samuel the prophet (1 Sam. 16;
20; 21; 27). Did the Lord really condone lying
and deceit as means to a good end?
In dealing with this difficult question, we must keep the following factors in view.
1. Even though Scripture records the dishonesty of men, this does not necessarily mean that it approves or condones such a sin. The same is true of other types of sin committed by religious leaders.
2. The duty to tell only what is true does not necessarily carry with it the obligation to tell the whole truth about the matter, especially if lives would be endangered or lost as a result of this information, or if divulging all the details would violate a trust of secrecy or amount to a betrayal of another's confidence.
3. The mere recording of an episode involving subterfuge or deception does not imply that the person resorting to it was acting responsibly on the highest level of faith or furnishing a valid example of conduct that believers might justifiably follow today.
With these factors in mind, we may profitably examine each of the episodes alluded to in the question.
First Samuel 16:2 relates Samuel's apprehension at carrying out the Lord's assignment to anoint a new king down in Bethlehem. "But Samuel said, 'How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.' And the Lord said, Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the Lord' " (NASB). Verse 5 relates that Samuel said to Jesse and his family, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord" (NASB). Of course this was in fact true, for he had followed God's instructions in this matter. He had actually taken along a heifer to offer on the altar in Bethlehem, even though he really had a further purpose in mind. In this entire transaction he was carrying out the instructions of God Himself. It is quite clear that the Lord had approved a policy of withholding information from King Saul that would have moved him to violence or bloodshed had he known of it in advance. If Samuel had divulged his full intention (beyond the performing of a religious sacrifice in Bethlehem), Saul would have killed not only Samuel himself but also David and his entire family. In this case then, it would have been altogether wrong and extremely harmful for Samuel to have told the entire truth or revealed his entire purpose. There is a clear distinction between resorting to actual deceit and to withholding information that would result in great harm and even failure to obey carrying out the will of God—in this case the anointing of young David to be king over Israel. In other words, Samuel was entirely within the will of God when he told only part of the truth rather than the whole truth.
First Samuel 20 relates how Jonathan handled the difficult matter of protecting the life of his dearest friend, David, in a situation where he knew (1) that God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel and (2) that his own father, Saul, was likely to attempt to prevent this purpose of God by having David killed, as a dangerous rival to the dynastic rights of the house of Saul. His loyalty to his father represented a definite conflict with his duty to the Lord Himself and to His chosen servant, David, whom he personally loved far more than himself or his insanely jealous and bloodthirsty father. Under these peculiar circumstances, Jonathan could pursue no other course than he did. That is to say, he agreed with David on a test of Saul's true intentions (which were difficult to determine, in view of his unbalanced mentality and his occasional change of mind; cf. 1 Sam. 19:6). The only way he could find out the king's real purpose was to present him with a situation to react to, namely David's failure to show up at the new moon feast at Saul's palace (which David had previously attended without fail, as a son-in-law belonging to the royal family). There had to be some plausible excuse arranged for his absence; so this was furnished by David's alleged summons to Bethlehem in order to join with the rest of his family in celebrating the new moon festival in the household of Jesse.
Unlike the previous example (1 Sam. 16:2), there seems to have been no such summons from David's oldest brother, Eliab, even though such an invitation would have been quite reasonable and justified on the part of the family in Bethlehem. Yet as the story unfolds, it is quite clear that David never went to Bethlehem after he found out that Saul was bent on having him killed. It is highly doubtful whether David would have gone home even if he had learned from Jonathan that Saul had relented in his hostility; David probably would have made his way back to the palace, instead. We can only conclude that this appointment to join the family in Bethlehem was a sheer concoction on David's part. And even though Jonathan accurately repeated what David had said to him by way of a request to be excused from attending the king's table, Jonathan, of course, knew that it was a mere subterfuge. And yet we can hardly fault Jonathan in this, for had he told his father all that he knew about the matter and the full content of his conversation with David, he would have been guilty of the basest betrayal of his trusting friend, who was also the chosen king of Israel according to Yahweh's own decision. David's blood would have been on Jonathan's head. As it was, he nearly lost his own life as he tried to defend David's rights before his father's fury; and Jonathan had to beat a hasty retreat when Saul attempted to pin him against the wall with his spear (1 Sam. 20:33).
First Samuel 21 records the sorry choice David made in fleeing to the town of Nob, where the high priest, Ahimelech, served at the tabernacle of the Lord. David should never had brought that community into such terrible danger from the wrath of the king, and his brief visit there brought on him the guilt of their subsequent massacre at the hands of Saul's agents, under the leadership of the despicable Doeg (22:18-19). In fairness to David, it may well be that he did not foresee the extreme to which Saul would go in slaughtering all those innocent priests. But after the atrocity was accomplished and Abiathar brought him the sorrowful tidings, David had to acknowledge how inexcusably guilty he was when he lied to Ahimelech about his mission at Nob and gave the priest no opportunity to choose whether he was willing to court death for David's sake.
In this entire episode David involved himself in the greatest guilt—as he himself recognized afterward. "Then David said to Abiathar, 'I knew on that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul. I have brought about the death of every person in your father's household'" (1 Sam. 22:22, NASB). But as for the Lord's involvement in this entire tragedy, there is really no indication whatever that He condoned David's deception toward Ahimelech. The only mitigation of David's guilt was that he really had not thought ahead about what harm he was going to cause to others when he sought refuge at Nob. But, in retrospect, David should have turned in some other direction when he fled from Saul. If David had really looked to the Lord for guidance, he might have found safety at Engedi or some other remote wilderness to which he later resorted. He certainly was out of the will of God when he lied his way into Nob and made off with the sword of Goliath.
It is interesting to notice that Jesus later used David's example at Nob, where he and his followers partook of the week-old showbread when they were starving, even though that bread was intended for the priests alone (Matt. 12:3-4). Our Lord seems to imply that under those unusual circumstances, David was justified in doing that, since the preservation of human life was even more important than strict observance of the ritual law. But even so, David certainly suffered the deepest humiliation when he allowed panic to lead him to King Achish at Gath, instead of waiting on the Lord for His guidance. David only succeeded in putting his life into even greater danger when he sought refuge with the ungodly Philistines. He only escaped from that peril by pretending to be hopelessly demented while he was in the palace of Achish, with the result that they utterly despised him and drove him from their borders like some wild animal (1 Sam. 21:13-15).
[THE SHOWBREAD EPISODE IS NOT UNDERSTOOD BY MOST, FOR THEY FAIL TO CONTINUE TO READ FURTHER ON, SEE 1 SAM. 21: 3-4 AND ALSO 22: 9-10. ENQUIRY WAS MADE TO THE LORD IF DAVID AND HIS MEN SHOULD HAVE THE SHOWBREAD. A LESSON HERE IN BIBLE READING—— OFTEN THE CONTEXT MUST BE ALSO READ TO UNDERSTAND A CERTAIN VERSE - Keith Hunt]
In 1 Samuel 27:8-12 we read of a long-continued deception David practiced toward King Achish. After he had been allowed to set up his headquarters in Ziklag (as a vassal or ally of Achish of Gath), David supported himself and his six hundred followers by raiding the tribesmen of the Negeb (the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amale-kites) and slaughtering the entire population of every community that he invaded. The purpose of this bloody practice was to keep any survivors from informing the Philistines at Gath that David was not really attacking the Jerahmeelites and Judeans, as he claimed he was doing, but was actually raiding non-Israelite communities that were on good terms with the Philistines (vv. 11-12). He manged to keep Achish from ever finding out the truth about his activities and made him believe that he had become an enemy of his own countrymen by preying on their villages and carrying off their livestock.
After this review of those sorry episodes in the early career of David, we must recognize that God did not favor and protect the son of Jesse on account of his occasional deceptions or his occasional hardness toward pagan enemies (like the Ammonites in 2 Sam.12:31). On the contrary, God put David through an arduous educative process of suffering, uncertainty, and danger, because He found in him an instrument well suited to deliver his nation from their heathen foes and to establish a strong and stable government in fulfillment of His ancient promise to Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21). It was not because of his virtue and his good deeds that God chose David for his role of leadership but because of his great faith. Despite the episodes where he failed to trust the Lord completely or to seek His guidance as carefully as he should have, David gave his heart to the Lord sincerely and made it his chief purpose and desire to do the will of God and glorify His name.
[INDEED, DAVID WAS NOT WITHOUT SIN, BUT NO ONE IS, SO HE MADE SOME BAD MISTAKES OVER HIS LIFETIME, YET HIS HEART TOWARDS THE LORD WAS RIGHT; HE REPENTED DEEPLY WHEN HE SAW HIS SIN. DAVID WAS IN LIFE AS WE FIND IN 1 JOHN CHAPTER 1 AND INTO CHAPTER 2. DAVID WAS IN THE SITUATION OF LIFE, AND CHOSEN BY GOD FOR HIGH LEADERSHIP IN ISRAEL, THAT SOME OF HIS SINS AFFECTED MANY PEOPLE - Keith Hunt]
Who killed Goliath—David or Elhanan?
First Samuel 17:50 states that David cut off Goliath's head with the giant's own sword, after he had first felled him with a sling and a stone. Because of this amazing victory over the Philistine, David became the foremost battle-champion among the Israelite troops, even though he was still a mere teenager. But 2 Samuel 21:19 in the Hebrew Masoretic text states that "Elhanan the son of Yaareoregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam." As this verse stands in the Masoretic text, it certainly contradicts 1 Samuel 17. But fortunately we have a parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 20:5, which words the episode this way: "And Elhanan the son of Jair slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite." It is quite apparent that this was the true reading, not only for the Chronicles passage but also for 2 Samuel 21:19.
The earlier manuscript from which the copyist was reading must have been blurred or damaged at this particular verse, and hence he made two or three mistakes. What apparently happened was the following:
1. The sign of the direct object, which in Chronicles comes just before "Lahmi," was ‘-t; the copyist mistook it for b-t or b-y-t ("Beth") and thus got Bet hal-Lahmi ("the Bethlehemite") out of it.
2. He misread the word for "brother" (‘-h) as the sign of the direct object (‘-t) right before g-l-y-t ("Goliath"). Thus he made "Goliath" the object of "killed" (wayyak), instead of the "brother" of Goliath (as the Chron. passage does).
3. The copyist misplaced the word for "weavers" (‘-r-g-ym), so as to put it right after “Elhanan” as his patronymic (ben Y - r-y-r—g-ym, or ben ya-rey ‘or-gim—"the son of the forests of weavers"—a most unlikely name for anyone's father!). In Chronicles the ‘or-gim ("weavers") comes right after me nor ("a beam of")—thus making perfectly good sense.
In other words, the 2 Samuel 21 passage is a perfectly traceable corruption of the original wording, which fortunately has been correctly preserved in 1 Chronicles 20:5.
First Samuel 18:10 says that an evil spirit from God
came on King Saul. How can this be explained if only
good comes from God?
It is not quite accurate to say that only good comes from God. While it is true that God's original creation was good (Gen. 1:31) and that God Himself is not tempted by evil, nor does He tempt (in the sense of attracting or enticing) any man to evil (James 1:13), nevertheless it remains true that genuine goodness in a moral God requires that a real difference be made between good and evil. As the ordainer and preserver of the moral order, it is absolutely necessary for God to punish sin, no matter how much love and compassion He may feel toward the sinner.
In Isaiah 45:7 we read, "[I am] the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these" (NASB). The word rendered by NASB as "calamity" is the Hebrew ra', which has the basic meaning of "evil" (either moral evil or misfortune evil). Here it points to the painful, harmful consequences that followed the commission of sin. Notice how James goes on to indicate how this process works: "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14-15, NASB).
In Saul's case, he had knowingly flouted the law of God—first, by performing priestly sacrifice at the Lord's altar contrary to the divine command (1 Sam. 13:12-13), and, second, by sparing King Agag and some of the cattle of the Amalekites after he had been ordered to put them all to death (1 Sam. 15:20-23). Moreover in 1 Samuel 18:8 it is stated that Saul became insanely jealous of young David because of the public praise he had received for his prowess in slaying Goliath and the Philistines. By these successive acts of rebellion against the will and law of God, King Saul left himself wide open to satanic influence— just as Judas Iscariot did after he had determined to betray the Lord Jesus (cf.John 13:2).
Insofar as God has established the spiritual laws of cause and effect, it is accurate to say that Saul's disobedience cut him off from the guidance and communion of the Holy Spirit that he had formerly enjoyed and left him a prey to a malign spirit of depression and intense jealousy that drove him increasingly to irrational paranoia. Although he was doubtless acting as an agent of Satan, Saul's evil bent was by the permission and plan of God. We must realize that in the last analysis all penal consequences for sin come from God, as the Author of the moral law and the one who always does what is right (Gen. 18:25).
First Samuel 19:23-24 states of King Saul that
"the spirit of God was upon him also, and he
went on, and prophesied.... And he stripped off
his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel
in like manner." Why did he prophesy naked?
The passage beginning with v. 19 indicates that Saul was in pursuit of his son-in-law, young David, and that David had gotten to Naioth in Ramah. Saul was informed that David was there with the prophets who had been trained for the Lord's service under Samuel. So he sent his agents up to arrest David and to bring him down in chains.
When the king's agents got there, however, and saw the august figure of Samuel himself and his prophetic assistants all engaged in a joyous praise service before the Lord, they too came under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Unable to control themselves or carry out the business for which they had been sent, they could do nothing else but surrender to the same emotional excitement and join in the songs and shouts of adoration before the Lord. By that time they felt utterly unable to perform their mission, and they had to return to Saul empty-handed.
After the same thing had happened to two other teams of soldiers whom Saul sent up to Samuel's group, Saul finally resolved to carry out his mission himself. Until then he had hung back, hoping to avoid confrontation with Samuel, with whom he had had a complete falling out after the episode at Gilgal (1 Sam. 15:17-35), where Samuel had announced that Saul had been rejected by God from the kingship. Saul did not relish the prospect of facing that fearsome prophet again, but he felt there was no alternative.
Also, Saul was subject to manic depression and given to extreme changes of mood (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14-23; 18:10-11; 19:9). As he came near the praise service over which Samuel was presiding, Saul found himself coming under the spell of the excitement of the occasion; and he could not control himself. He too began to sing, shout, and dance along with the prophets themselves. (Somewhat similar cases have been reported at camp meetings during the Great Awakening in America in 1740 under George Whitefield and in 1800 at the revival meetings held in Kentucky.) Such an overpowering sense of the presence, power, and glory of God came over this wicked king that he recalled his earlier revival experience near Bethel (1 Sam. 10:5-6,10), when he had first been called to the throne; and he succumbed to the same excitement again.
Unlike the other worshipers, Saul became so carried away with his enthusiasm that he stripped off his clothes as he shouted and danced, and he finally collapsed exhausted on the ground and lay there in a stupor or trance the rest of the day and all through the night (1 Sam. 19:24). Undoubtedly this humiliation came on him as a divine judgment because in his heart he was radically opposed to the will of God, insofar as it went counter to his own ambition.
What took place in 1 Samuel 28:8-16? Did
Samuel really appear to Saul? Did Saul
actually talk with him in the witch's cave?
There is little doubt that satanic powers are able to produce illusionary images and communicate with the living by this means. Such "lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9) are part of the Devil's stock in trade. On the other hand, it certainly lies within God's power as well to present an appearance for the purpose of conveying His message by a special revelation.
The oracle delivered by this shade or apparition sounded like an authentic message from God, with its announcement of doom on the guilty, unfaithful king. It even sounded like something Samuel himself would have said, had he remained alive after the massacre of Ahimelech and the priests of Nob (1 Sam. 22:11-19). Therefore it is entirely possible that this apparition was the actual shade of Samuel himself, when he asked, "Why has thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" Apparently Samuel had been directed by God to leave his abode in Sheol or Hades (where even the saved believers awaited the future resurrection of Christ, which would bring about their transferal to heaven itself) in order to deliver this final message to King Saul. Conceivably the deceased Samuel could have communicated long distance through an apparition in the cave of Endor, but the words "to bring me up" make this very doubtful.
On the other hand, it should be observed that the witch herself was quite startled by this ghostly visitor, as she said, "I see a god [Heb. 'elohim] coming up out of the earth" (v. 13). This clearly implies that this authentic appearance of the dead (if such it was) was no result of her own witchcraft; rather, it was an act of God Himself that terrified her and that she had in no sense brought about in her own power. It would seem that God chose this particular occasion and setting to give His final word to the evil king who had once served His cause with courage and zeal. No scriptural basis for spiritism is furnished by this episode, nor for necromancy—both of which are sternly condemned as abominations before the Lord (Deut. 18:9-12; cf. Exod. 22:18; Lev. 19:26,31; 20: 6,27; Jer. 27:9-10).
[THIS DOES NOT PROVE AN IMMORTAL SOUL TEACHING. THE DEAD ARE DEAD NOT ALIVE SOMEWHERE, THE BIBLE TEACHING IS CLEAR ON THAT. IT PROVES GOD CAN DO WHATEVER HE LIKES TO GET A MESSAGE ACROSS. AS JESUS SAID IN THE GOSPELS, IF GOD WANTED HE COULD USE THE STONES TO PREACH AND TEACH HIS WORD AND TRUTHS - Keith Hunt]
First Samuel 31 gives an account of Saul's death
that conflicts with another given in 2 Samuel 1.
How can both be correct?
First Samuel 31:3-4 informs us that Saul was fatally wounded by a Philistine arrow at the disastrous battle of Mount Gilboa. Realizing that he was about to die, Saul himself appealed to his own armorbearer to thrust his sword through his heart and kill him immediately—"lest these uncircumcized [Philistines] come and pierce me through and make sport of me" (NASB). But since the armorbearer could not bring himself to take the life of his king, Saul took his own sword, fastened its hilt firmly in the ground, and then fell on it in such a way as to end his misery right then and there.
In 2 Samuel 1 we read that a certain Amalekite who had served in Saul's bodyguard fled from the battlefield and made his way to David's camp, in order to bring him news of Saul's death. According to the account he gave to David (vv.6-10), he was summoned by King Saul to his side while he was hopelessly surrounded by the triumphant Philistines; and he was ordered by the king to take his life immediately, in order to end his misery from his fatal wounds. The Amalekite then complied with his request (v. 10): "So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord" (NASB).
This presents obvious discrepancies with the account in 1 Samuel 31, but it is not presented as being an actual record of what happened during Saul's dying moments; it is only a record of what the Amalekite mercenary said had taken place. Coming with Saul's crown and bracelet in hand and presenting them before the new king of Israel, the Amalekite obviously expected a handsome reward and high preferment in the service of Saul's successor. In the light of the straightforward account in the previous chapter, we must conclude that the Amalekite was lying in order to gain a cordial welcome from David. But what had actually happened was that after Saul had killed himself, and the armorbearer had followed his lord's example by taking his own life (1 Sam. 31:5), the Amalekite happened by at that moment, recognized the king's corpse, and quickly stripped off the bracelet and crown before the Philistine troops discovered it. Capitalizing on his good fortune, the Amalekite then escaped from the bloody field and made his way down to David's headquarters in Ziklag. But his hoped-for reward turned out to be a warrant for his death; David had him killed on the spot, saying: "Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, 'I have killed the Lord's anointed'" (2 Sam. 1:16; NASB). His glib falsehood had brought him the very opposite of what he had expected, for he failed to foresee that David's high code of honor would lead him to make just the response he did. It should be added that this particular Amalekite came from a different Amalekite tribe from that which Saul had earlier destroyed at God's command—the tribe over which Agag had ruled (1 Sam. 15:7-8). Those Amalekites lived between Havilah and Shur. But there were other Amalekites not involved in this campaign, some of whom raided David's settlement at Ziklag (1 Sam. 30).
How could David have reigned seven and a half
years in Hebron if Ishbosheth, his rival,
reigned only two years before he died?
In 2 Samuel 5:5 we are told that the length of David's reign in Hebron as king of Judah (before he became acknowledged by the northern tribes as king over all Israel) was seven and a half years. This is confirmed by 1 Chronicles 3:4. Yet 2 Samuel 2:10 reports that David's rival, Ishbosheth son of Saul, ruled over Israel (under Abner's sponsorship) for only two years. But this did not prevent the very next verse from affirming that David's rule in Hebron was indeed seven and a half years. How could both statements be true? On the assumption that the two years for Ishbosheth represented the true interval, the Jerusalem Bible even amended 1 Chron. 3:4 to read, "Hebron, where he reigned for three years and six months" [italics mine]— even though no similar alteration has been made in the other two passages [2 Sam. 2:11; 5:5], interestingly enough!
A careful survey of the circumstances surrounding the career of Ishbosheth furnishes a clue for the brevity of his reign. After the total collapse of Israel's army at the disaster of Mount Gilboa, it became necessary for Abner and the other fugitives from the victorious Philistines to take refuge east of the Jordan, leaving the entire area of Ephraim and Manasseh to the control of the conquerors. Abner must have set up his headquarters at Mahanaim, where he placed Ishbosheth for safekeeping in the hinterland of the tribe of Gad. It apparently took Abner five long years of hard fighting to force the Philistines back from Bethshan (where they had displayed the impaled bodies of Saul and his sons) all the way up the Valley of the Esdraelon, and thus link up the northern tribes of Issachar, Naphtali, and Asher with Benjamin to the south. But until that was accomplished, it was premature to celebrate any formal coronation of Ishbosheth as king of Israel.
However, at the end of five years Abner had been sufficiently successful to call representatives from all Ten Tribes to a public coronation ceremony in Mahanaim—which remained the provisional capital for the time being, safely out of the reach of retaliatory expeditions launched by the Philistines. Thus it came about that Ish-bosheth actually reigned for only two years, at the end of which he was assassinated in bed by two of his army commanders, Baanah and Rechab (2 Sam. 4:5-6), sometime after they had heard of Abner's murder at the hand of the treacherous Joab (2 Sam. 3:27).
David, however, had been crowned by the men of Judah at Hebron quite soon after the battle of Mount Gilboa; and thus he wore the crown for a full seven and a half years, even though Ishbosheth had formally begun his reign only two years before his death.
What is the correct number of horsemen that
David took in his battle over Hadadezer,
seventeen hundred (2 Sam. 8:4)
or seven thousand (1 Chron. 18:4)?
In the war against Hadadezer of Zobah, David won a significant victory near Hamath, capturing many prisoners, listed in 2 Samuel 8:4 as "a thousand and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen." But in 1 Chronicles 18:4 the number taken in this engagement is given as "a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen [i.e., infantry]." There is no question but that these two accounts refer to the same episode, and therefore the prisoner count should be the same in both instances. There has been a scribal error or two either in Samuel or in Chronicles.
Keil and Delitzsch (Samuel, p. 360) have a most convincing solution, that the word for chariotry (rekeb) was inadvertently omitted by the scribe in copying 2 Samuel 8:4, and that the second figure, seven thousand (for the parasim "cavalrymen"), was necessarily reduced to seven hundred from the seven thousand he saw in his Vorlage for the simple reason that no one would write seven thousand after he had written one thousand in the recording of the one and the same figure. The omission of rekeb might have occurred with an earlier scribe, and the reduction of seven thousand to seven hundred would have followed by chain reaction when the defective copy was next copied by a later scribe. But in all probability the Chronicles figure is right and the Samuel numbers should be corrected to agree with it.
Second Samuel 14:27 says Absalom had three sons;
2 Samuel 18:18 says he had none. Which is right?
Second Samuel 14:27 says, "And to Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar" (NASB). But 2 Samuel 18:18 states, "Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King's Valley, for he said, 'I have no son to preserve my name.' So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's monument to this day" (NASB)—that is, to the time of the final composition of 2 Samuel, which may have been in the middle of the eighth century B.C. (The so-called Absalom's Tomb that now stands in the Kidron Valley probably dates from Hellenistic times, ca. second century B.C., judging from the style of its facade [cf. K.N. Schoville, Biblical Archaeology in Focus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978), p. 414].) This establishes the fact that by the time he set up his monument (which may have been a year or two before his rebellion against his father, David), Absalom had no male heirs surviving to him. But it does not prove that none had been born to him previously.
Keil and Delitzsch (Samuel, p. 412) point out, in regard to 2 Samuel 14:27, that "contrary to general usage, the names of the sons are not given, in all probability for no other reason than because they died in infancy. Consequently, as Absalom had no sons, he afterwards erected a pillar to preserve his name (ch. xviii. 18)." Apparently he endured the heartbreak of losing all three little boys in their infancy, and it had become apparent that his wife would not bear him any more. It would seem that Tamar was the only one to survive out of all his children; and that meant he had no male heir to carry on his name, hence the poignancy of his remark in 18:18, and the rather pathetic attempt to compensate by the erection of a monument in stone. Within a few years Absalom himself died in disgrace, as the would-be slayer of his own father, David, and as a defiler of his father's wives. Thus any son of his would have had a sorry heritage had he survived to adulthood.
As for the daughter, Tamar (named after Absalom's beautiful sister, whom her half-brother Amnon had raped, but whom Absalom later avenged by having Amnon assassinated), she apparently lived on and married well. Her husband was Uriel of Gibeah (cf. 2 Chron. 11:20-22; 13:1). Their daughter was the infamous Maacah (=Micaiah), who married King Rehoboam (1 Kings 15:2) and became the mother of his successor, Abijam. Her grandson King Asa finally removed her from the position of Queen Mother because of her involvement in idolatry (1 Kings 15:10-13; 2 Chron. 15:16).
How could a kind and loving God take the life
of Bathsheba's first child just because of the sin
of its parents (2 Sam. 12:15-23)?
One of the profoundest insights granted to us through Holy Scripture is the true meaning of death. Apart from divine revelation we may think of death as a fearsome menace, a terrible curse, a final stroke of judgment. Insofar as death—that is to say, physical death with its separation of the soul from the body—means the end of all opportunity to find God and to glorify Him with a godly life, there is something very solemn and awesome about death. But God's Word tells us very plainly that physical death, regardless of how it looks to the human observer, is not the end for any man. He goes right on into the eternal phase of his career, whether in heaven or in hell— whichever he has chosen during his earthly life. But since the Son of God has come and given His trustworthy assurance to all believers, “that everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:26), death has taken on an entirely new meaning. Because it was through death—death as the sinner's substitute on the cross— that our Savior "conquered death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10) death has been robbed of its sting and the grave has been deprived of its victory (1 Cor. 15:54-56). "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord that they may rest from their labors" (Rev. 14:13, NASB).
[WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ON DEATH AND RESURRECTION IS FULLY AND IN-DEPTH, EXPOUNDED IN MANY STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt]
In the case of children who die in infancy, it may well be that they are spared a life of tragedy, heartbreak, and pain by their immediate departure from this world. It is perhaps too simplistic to maintain that all children dying in infancy are thereby guaranteed a place in heaven, as if the saving benefits of Calvary were somehow imputed to them without any response of faith on their own part. Such a doctrine would be a powerful encouragement to parents to kill their babies before they reached the age of accountability, as the only sure way of their getting into heaven. But since infanticide is sternly condemned in Scripture as an abomination before God (Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:31; 2 Chron. 28:3; Isa. 57:5; Jer. 19:4-7), even when perpetrated in the name of religion, we must conclude that there is some other principle involved in the salvation of infants besides their managing to die in infancy. That is to say, the omniscience of God extends not only to the actual but also to the potential. He foreknows not only whatever will happen but also whatever would happen. In the case of babies who die at birth or before they reach the age of accountability, God knows what their response would be to the proffers of His grace, whether acceptance or rejection, whether faith or unbelief.
[ALL MAN MADE THOUGHTS BECAUSE THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE PLAN OF GOD FOR SALVATION TO BE OFFERED TO EVERYONE IN DUE TIME; THEY JUST DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH OF THE SECOND RESURRECTION, THE WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT RESURRECTION OF REVELATION 20; FULLY EXPOUNDED IN STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt]
It was probably for this reason that David took comfort after he learned that his prayers had been fruitless, and that God had taken his little one "home." He resigned his baby to the grace of God and said only, "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:23, NASB). David had a quiet confidence in the perfection of God's will, even in a heart-rending situation like this. And, furthermore, he understood why God had seen fit to chasten the guilty couple by taking from them the fruit of their sinful passion. He saw that they needed this rebuke as a reminder that God's children, even though forgiven, must bear the temporal consequences of their sin and patiently endure them as an important part of their repentance.
[DAVID KNEW HIS CHILD WOULD LIVE AGAIN, AS DAVID WOULD ALSO. THE SALVATION PLAN OF GOD MEANS ALL WILL LIVE AGAIN; THOSE WHO WERE NOT GIVEN A CALL TO SALVATION IN THIS LIFE, WILL BE RAISED IN THE SECOND RESURRECTION, THE WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT AGE, AND THE BOOK OF LIFE OPENED TO THEM, AS IT WAS TO THOSE WHO WILL OBTAIN THE FIRST RESURRECTION - Keith Hunt]
Was Absalom actually buried in Absalom's Tomb
in the Kidron Valley?
Second Samuel 18:17 relates what happened to Absalom after Joab caught him hanging by the hair from the bough of an oak and dispatched him with a spear: "And they took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest and erected over him a very great heap of stones" (NASB). The "forest" in question was the so-called Forest of Ephraim, which was apparently located in the land of Gilead (on the East Bank—whereas the tribal territory of Ephraim was on the West Bank). As soon as Absalom's body was cut down from the tree branch it was given an inglorious burial in a deep pit, even before Absalom's father, King David, had heard of his death.
The background for the so-called Tomb of Absalom in the Kidron Valley is to be found in 2 Samuel 18:18, which refers to a pillar (massebet) that Absalom had erected in that valley as a compensation for his childlessness so far as sons were concerned. "So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom's monument to this day" (NASB, i.e.; the day when 2 Samuel was finished, ca. 750 B.C.). But this pillar was at most a cenotaph; it never represented the actual place of interment for Absalom's body, which rotted away in the forest pit on the East Bank, on the other side of Jordan.
Who moved David to number his people,
God or Satan?
In 2 Samuel 24:1 we read, "And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 it is stated: "And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it." The wording of 1 Chronicles 21:2 is very similar to that of 2 Samuel 24:2; there is no significant difference. But so far as the first verse of each chapter is concerned, it appears in 2 Samuel 24 that God Himself incited David to conduct the census, whereas in 1 Chronicles 21 it was Satan, the adversary of God. This would seem to be a serious discrepancy— unless both statements are true.
In neither book are we given a definite context for this census taking, and we have no way of knowing whether it took place before or after Absalom's revolt. But since it led indirectly to the acquisition of the hill (Mt. Moriah) that became the location of the temple and of the royal palaces, it must have occurred several years before the end of David's career. Only thus could he have had opportunity to amass the large amount of costly ornamentation and material that Solomon was later to use in fashioning that temple (1 Chron. 29:3-5).
Without being fully aware of what was going on in his heart, David had apparently been building up an attitude of pride and self-admiration for what he had achieved in the way of military success and economic expansion of his people. He began to think more in terms of armaments and troops than in terms of the faithful mercies of God. In his youth he had put his entire trust in God alone, whether he was facing Goliath with a slingshot or an army of Amalekites with a band of four hundred men. But in later years he had come to rely more and more on material resources, like any hardheaded realist, and he learned to measure his strength by the yardstick of numbers and wealth.
The Lord therefore decided that it was time for David to be brought to his knees once more and to be cast on the grace of God through a time of soul-searching trial. He therefore encouraged David to carry out the plan he had long cherished, that of counting up his manpower resources in order to plan his future military strategy with a view to the most effective deployment of his armies. Quite possibly this would also afford him a better base for assessment of taxes. And so God in effect said to him: "All right, go ahead and do it. Then you will find out how much good it will do you."
Though he was a hard-bitten and ambitious commander, General Joab felt a definite uneasiness about this whole project. He sensed that David and his advisors were becoming increasingly puffed up over their brilliant conquests, which had brought the Palestinian, Syrian, and Phoenician kingdoms into a state of vassalage and dependency on Israel. Joab was fearful that the Lord was displeased with this new attitude of self-confidence and self-esteem, and he tried to dissuade David from his purpose. First Chronicles 21:3 records Joab as saying, "The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? Why then doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?" There is a definite sense in which Yahweh gave David a final warning through the lips of Joab, before David finally committed himself to the census.
It was not that census taking was inherently evil. The Lord was not displeased with the two censuses taken in the time of Moses; in fact, He gave Moses positive directions to number all his military effectives (Num. 1:2-3; 26:2), both at the beginning of the forty years' wandering in the desert and at the end of that period, as they were on the threshold of the conquest. The second census was designed to show that the total of Israel's armed forces was actually a bit less than it had been forty years earlier. And yet with that smaller force they would sweep all their enemies before them, rather than cowering in fear at the prospect of war as their fathers had done at Kadesh-Barnea. The second census would also serve a useful purpose as a basis for the distribution of the conquered territory among the Twelve Tribes. The more numerous tribes should be awarded the larger tracts in the apportionment of land. But this census on which David had set his heart could serve no other purpose than to inflate the national ego. As soon as the numbering was complete, God meant to chasten the nation by a disastrous plague that would cause a considerable loss of life and a decrease in the numbers of their citizens.
But as we turn back to the opening verse in 1 Chronicles 21, we are faced with the statement that it was Satan who moved David to conduct the census even over Joab's warning and protest. The verb for "incited" is identical in both accounts (wayyaset). Why would Satan get himself involved in this affair if God had already prompted David to commit the folly he had in mind? It was because Satan found it in his own interest to do so. The situation here somewhat resembles the first and second chapters of Job, in which it was really a challenge to Satan from God that led to Job's calamities. God's purpose was to purify Job's faith and ennoble his character through the discipline of adversity. Satan's purpose was purely malicious; he wished to do Job as much harm as he possibly could, and if possible drive him to curse God for his misfortunes. Thus it came about that both God and Satan were involved in Job's downfall and disaster.
Similarly we find both God and Satan involved in the sufferings of persecuted Christians according to 1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God's purpose is to strengthen their faith and to enable them to share in the sufferings of Christ in this life, that they may rejoice with Him in the glories of heaven to come (4:13-14). But Satan's purpose is to "devour" them (5:8), that is, to draw them into bitterness or self-pity, and thus drag them down to his level and his baneful destiny. Even in the case of Christ Himself, it was Satan's purpose to deflect the Savior from His messianic mission by the three temptations he offered Him; but it was the Father's purpose for the Second Adam to triumph completely over the very tempter who had lured the first Adam to his fall.
Also, at the Crucifixion it was Satan's purpose to have Jesus betrayed by Judas (whose heart he filled with treachery and hate [John 13:27]); but it was the Father's purpose that the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world should give His life as a ransom for many—and this was symbolized by the cup that Christ was forced to accept at Gethsemane. And in the case of Peter, Jesus informed him before his triple denial in the court of the high priest: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22: 31-32, NIV).
Here, then, we have five other examples of incidents or situations in which both Satan and God were involved in soul-searching testings and trials—God with a basically benevolent motive and a view to eventual victory and increasing usefulness for the person so tested, but Satan with an altogether malicious motive, hoping to do as much damage as he possibly can. Therefore we can say without hesitation that both accounts of David's incitement were correct. God incited him in order to teach him and his people a lesson they needed to learn and to humble them in a way that would promote their spiritual growth. Satan incited him in order to deal a severe blow to Israel and to mar David's prestige before his subjects. As it turned out (and this is true of virtually all the other examples as well), Satan's success was limited and transient; but in the end God's purpose was well served and His cause was substantially furthered.
In the aftermath of the plague, which cost the lives of seventy thousand Israelites (2 Sam. 24:15), the angel of the Lord designated the exact spot on Mount Moriah where the plague was stopped as the chosen spot for the future temple of the Lord (v. 18). This structure was destined to bring much blessing into the lives of God's people for many generations to come. Once again Satan's malice was surpassed by the overruling grace of God.
[GOD ALLOWED SATAN TO INFLUENCE DAVID IN A TIME WHEN DAVID’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS “ARMY NUMBERS” WAS PRIDE AND A WRONG ATTITUDE. BY GOD ALLOWING SATAN TO WORK HIS WORK, IT CAN BE SAID, GOD ALSO TOOK RESPONSIBILITY, WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO ISAIAH 45: 7 - Keith Hunt]
Second Samuel 24:9 gives the total population
for Israel as 800,000, which is 300,000 less than
the corresponding figure in 1 Chronicles 21:5.
On the other hand, 2 Samuel 24 gives 500,000
for Judah, as over against a mere 470,000 in 1
Chronicles 21. How can these apparent
discrepancies be reconciled?
A possible solution may be found along these lines. So far as Israel (i.e., the tribes north of Judah) is concerned, the 1 Chronicles figure includes all the available men of fighting age, whether battle seasoned or not. But from 2 Samuel 24 we learn that Joab's report gave a subtotal of "mighty men" ('is hayil), i.e., battle-seasoned troops, consisting of 800,000 veterans. But in addition there may have been 300,000 more men of military age who served in the reserves but had not yet been involved in field combat. These two contingents would make up a total of 1,100,000—as 1 Chronicles 21 reports them, without employing the term 'is hayil.
So far as Judah was concerned, 2 Samuel 24 gives the round figure of 500,000, which was 30,000 more than the corresponding item in 1 Chronicles 21. Now it should be observed that Chronicles 21:6 makes it clear that Joab did not complete the numbering, for he did not get around to a census of the tribe of Benjamin (nor that of Levi, either) before David came under conviction about completing the census at all. Joab was glad to desist when he saw the king's change of heart. The procedure for conducting the census had been to start with the Transjor-danian tribes (2 Sam. 24:5) and then shift to the northernmost tribe of Dan and work southward back toward Jerusalem (v.7). This meant that the numbering of Benjamin would have come last. Hence Benjamin was not included with the total for Israel or that for Judah, either. But in the case of Samuel 24, the figure for Judah included the already known figure of 30,000 troops mustered by Benjamin (which lay immediately adjacent to Jerusalem itself). Hence the total of 500,000 included the Benjamite contingent.
Observe that after the division of the united kingdom into North and South following the death of Solomon in 930 B.C., most of the Benjamites remained loyal to the dynasty of David and constituted (along with Simeon to the south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it was reasonable to include Benjamin with Judah and Simeon in the subtotal figure of 500,000—even though Joab may not have itemized it in the first report he gave to David (1 Chron. 21:5). It would seem then that the completed grand total of the fighting forces available to David for military service was 1,600,000 (1,100,000 of Israel, 470,000 of Judah-Simeon, and 30,000 of Benjamin).
Why is there a discrepancy in the number of
years of famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 24:13
and in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12?
Second Samuel 24:13 relates the visit of the prophet Gad to King David after he had finished the census of his kingdom in a spirit of pride. Gad relays God's message to him in the following terms: "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land?" (NASB). To this David replies in a spirit of humble repentance, "Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man" (v. 14, NASB).
In 1 Chronicles 21:11-12, Gad comes to David and says to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Take for yourself either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, ... or else three days of the sword of the Lord, even pestilence in the land.'" (NASB). Note that the wording here is significantly different from that of 2 Samuel 24:13 (i.e., "Shall seven years of famine come to you?"). Rather than that simple question in 2 Samuel, we have it given here in 1 Chronicles as an alternative imperative ("Take for yourself either three years of famine...").
From this we may reasonably conclude that 2 Samuel records the first approach of Gad to David, in which the alternative prospect was seven years; the Chronicles account gives us the second and final approach of Nathan to the king, in which the Lord (doubtless in response to David's earnest entreaty in private prayer) reduced the severity of that grim alternative to three years rather than an entire span of seven. As it turned out, however, David finally opted for God's own preference (whether famine or pestilence); and God sent three days of severe pestilence, which carried off the lives of seventy thousand men of Israel.
In 2 Samuel 24:24 it says that David "bought
the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty
shekels of silver." But in 1 Chronicles 21:25 it
says David gave to Oman for the place "600
shekels of gold by weight." How are these two
statements to be reconciled?
The record in 2 Samuel 24:24 refers to the immediate purchase price paid by King David to Araunah (or "Ornan," as his name was alternatively spelled) for the two oxen and the wooden threshing cart being used by the Jebusite owner at the time David came up to see him. David's exact words in v.21 are as follows: "To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the Lord" (NASB). A threshing floor is generally an area of modest dimensions, not usually broader than thirty or forty feet. The market price for the two oxen and the cart would scarcely exceed the sum of fifty shekels of silver under the market values then prevailing.
In 1 Chronicles 21:25, however, we are told that David paid the much larger price of six hundred shekels of gold, which was possibly 180 times as much as fifty shekels of silver. But the Chronicles figure seems to include not merely the oxen and the threshing sledge but also the entire site. The Hebrew wayyitten... bammagom ("And he gave for the place") seems to be far more inclusive than the mere threshing floor. Neither in the fifth century B.C., nor in any other period in ancient history, would a threshing floor have cost anything like six hundred gold shekels. Consequently we may safely conclude that Oman possessed the entire area of Mount Moriah.
About sixteen hundred feet long and on a commanding elevation, Mount Moriah was an extremely valuable piece of real estate, easily worth six hundred shekels of gold. The advisability of acquiring enough square footage for a temple site must have commended itself to King David, as he viewed the area of the threshing floor and realized how advantageous it would be to have the entire hilltop set apart for religious and governmental purposes. It was probably a somewhat later transaction with Oman when David paid him the much larger price for the whole tract, and the Chronicler saw fit to record this entire transaction from the standpoint of its end result.