On "A Few Alleged Contradictions"
Keyword Search
Get a stripped-down copy of this page.


Some claims of contradiction in the Bible:

I Kings 6:1 says that work on the temple began 480 years after the exodus from Egypt: "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah (Yahweh)."
But the Apostle Paul made a speech in Antioch of Pisidia in which his math contradicted this statement: "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they sojourned in the land of Egypt, and with a high arm led he them forth out of it. And for about the time of forty years as a nursing-father bare he them in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land for an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years: and after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they asked for a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; to whom also he bare witness and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who shall do all my will," (Acts 13:17-22).
With nothing else considered, the 40 years in the wilderness and the 450 years that the Israelites had the land of Canaan for an inheritance before the advent of the judges total 10 years more than the 480 years of I Kings 6:1. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states that the period of the judges "could not reasonably be reduced to less than 280 years," (p. 610). Saul, as Paul noted, reigned as king for 40 years, as did also David who succeeded him (I Kings 2:11). So if we add the four years that Solomon reigned before work on the temple began, we have 40 + 450 + 280 + 40 + 40 + 4, for a total of 854, a significant variation from the 480 years claimed in I Kings 6:1. Even if we let Paul's 450 years for the inheritance of Canaan include also the advent of the judges, as some translations strain to do, his chronology will still total 574 years, almost a century longer than what was claimed in I Kings 6:1.

Technically inerrantists may point out that this was what was said by Paul, and was recorded accurately even if he was wrong. But it isn't necessary to make that point and disrepect Paul thusly. The critic above, and the KJV as well, are quoting from versions that use the inferior Western textual tradition [Witherington, Acts commentary, 410], which does read as above suggesting 450 years of Judges. The "about" 450 years -- an estimate -- refers to the 400 years in Egypt, the 40 of the Exodus, and the (perhaps as much as) 10 years for the conquest.


I Chronicles 2:13-15 in listing the sons of Jesse says that David was the seventh. Yet I Samuel 16:10-11 states that David was Jesse's eighth son: "And Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Jehovah hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he is keeping the sheep."

Gleason Archer prefers to think that one of Jesse's sons died at any early age and that is the reason for the difference. The solution is not unreasonable; my own preference is to posit that the Chronicles writer purposely omitted one of the sons, perhaps as a shaming device.

Shaun Doyle of Creation Ministries International wrote me with this thought that fits in with that: I just thought 1 Chronicles may be intentionally giving David a prime place by making him the 7th son, since 7 is the number of fullness, and David's name in Hebrew adds up to 14. That would seem to give David a place of honour in his line.


Joshua 17:18 promised the Israelites that they would "drive out the Canaanites though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong." Yet Judges 1:19 states that Judah's assault against Canaanites in the lowlands failed because they were equipped with iron chariots: "And Jehovah was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the hill-country; for he could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron."

Joshua 17:18 wasn't address to the "Israelites" but to the house of Joseph (Josh. 17:17; Judg. 1:19 referred to what was done by the tribe of Judah), and anyway, was said by Joshua, who was giving the Joseph tribe a pep talk -- what made him infallible in this regard? (On Judges 1:19, see here.)


Numbers 3 and 4 describe the separation of the Levites for the priesthood and temple service (including care of the ark of testimony) while the Israelites were camped at Mt. Sinai in the second year after the exodus, but Deuteronomy 10:7-8 claims that the separation of the Levites occurred at a place called Jotbathah: "From thence they journeyed unto Gudgodah; and from Gudgodah to Jotbathah, a land of brooks of water. At that time Jehovah set apart the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, to stand before Jehovah to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day." Verse 6 records the death of Aaron, who died "in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt" (Num. 33:38); hence, this passage also claims that the separation of the Levites took place 38 years after the account in Numbers 3 and 4.

No quotes from Numbers here? Let's look at what we have in Numbers. Levi is given charge thusly:

Numbers 3:6-9 Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister unto him. And they shall keep his charge, and the charge of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of the congregation, to do the service of the tabernacle. And they shall keep all the instruments of the tabernacle of the congregation, and the charge of the children of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. And thou shalt give the Levites unto Aaron and to his sons: they are wholly given unto him out of the children of Israel.

From there the Levite families are split up by duties associated with the tabernacle. But here's the big diff: In Numbers, they all minister unto Aaron. In Deuteronomy, they minister unto Yahweh -- since Aaron has just died. This was a change in leadership.

-JPH