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Alleged Biblical Contradictions Answered


Do not be surprised, dear reader, by the size and profuse number of alleged contradictions here. Nor think that this amount proves that the Bible needs defending and "twisting". About 90% of these are due to a not so great ability to read: taking figures of speech, poetry, and cultural expressions literally.

Some, whether honestly or not, are misquoted or misused facts. A further few are simply strained and completely made up objections that try to invent a contradiction out of anything. It's only around 5% of these that have legitimate weight and are actual inquiries.

As B'ruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir, says in the Talmud: "Look at the end of the verse; do not judge half a passage." Context is everything. So welcome and don't forget that for every alleged biblical contradiction out there, 9 times out of 10 there's a skeptic who hasn't passed an English class.

Old Testament

1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Song of Solomon

New Testament

1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John


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1 Samuel

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2 Samuel

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1 Kings

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2 Kings

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1 Chronicles

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2 Chronicles

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Song of Solomon

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New Testament


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1 Corinthians

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2 Corinthians

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1 Thessalonians

1 2 3 4 5

2 Thessalonians

1 2 3

1 Timothy

1 2 3 4 5 6

2 Timothy

1 2 3 4


1 2 3




1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13


1 2 3 4 5

1 Peter

1 2 3 4 5

2 Peter

1 2 3

1 John

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2 John


3 John





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Genesis 1

There are two contradictory accounts of Creation in Genesis 1 and 2

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Who created heaven and earth?

It is sometimes objected that this and other verses that say God created the heavens and the earth contradict other verses in the Bible that say God and Jesus created it (John 1:6-10, 1 Corinthians 8:6), or where only Jesus is mentioned (Colossians 1:15). But this argument presupposes that Genesis 1:1 is being exclusory, and that God didn't use any mediators in creating (in other words, God willed it, Jesus physically created it, or a similar sense).

When did God make light (=the stars and Sun+Moon)?

This objection is a favorite classic because whether you interpret the Creation account figuratively or literally, the issue is still there: how could God create light on Day 1, yet not make the stars, Sun, and Moon until Day 4 (Gen. 1:14-19)?

It becomes even more poignant due to the fact that there's a day and night from the beginning, but no Sun or Moon until Day 4.

I'll answer the second point first: the definition of a day is one revolution of the Earth around its axis (c.23 hours and 56 min), not ~12 hours of daylight and darkness. Otherwise areas near the poles which experience half a year of constant daylight/darkness have what? One day a year? Clearly not. Moreover, it's clearly a reference point with respect to God's order of creation and man's chronology. Hence why we can talk about how many days it takes for Mars to make one revolution around the Sun in terms of Earth days and not Martian days.

As for the first, more serious question, I'll draw a parallel from Tahitian customs. When Europeans first came there in the 18th century, they recorded a grand ceremony that took place on some occasions by specific entertainers called arioi - they danced and did all sorts of routines including comedy miming. It took place generally at night, on the grounds of a huge special-built house, illuminated with fires and such called rehu arui (night daylight). [Wahlroos, Sven. Mutiny and Romance in the South Seas, p.213] Clearly God can create light without stars or the Sun or the Moon, which is especially obvious as the Moon doesn't have light of its own.

The problem isn't that one can imagine this, but the fact that Gen. 1:5 says that God called the light "day" and the dark "night", which is strange at the very least if there's no Sun (no need for a Moon) until three days later. However, this part is clearly descriptive because, for example, Gen. 1:4 says God divided light from darkness, which makes no sense if taken literally (light is by definition different from darkness). So the intent is meant to be understood that God was the one who ordained the fact that days exist and that nights are dark. This is further supported by the fact that God considers light "good", as in useful, but this is used in conjunction with His "separating" it from darkness.

The bottom line is, this isn't a math equation.

1:16 God made two great lights-the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.

When were stars created?

Job 38:7 is sometimes cited as a contradiction to this, where Job is asked where he was at the foundation of the earth (38:4), after which it is added "while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (38:7) to suggest that stars were created, according to the book of Job, after the Earth. But Job's language, specifically in that section, is metaphorical, not chronological. We see from the following verse, "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb," not only the fact that chronology isn't followed, even purposely contradicted for the sake of argument, but also that facts aren't taken to their literal limit (the sea was there from the beginning, and wasn't released from any sort of "door" or "womb") in Genesis 1. We can see the metaphorical language cease being metaphorical in certain sections such as the factual and scientific verse 26:8 versus its metaphorical counterpart, 38:37.

1:26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.."

How many gods are there?

This verse doesn't imply there is more than one God. Aside from the suggestion that this refers to the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is also possible to give the interpretation that this is a reflection of the conceptual image the Jews had of God. For them he was multi-faceted and did not have only one side to his character as did the other gods around them. This was why he was called Elohim, which is the plural for the singular El (God), and this may be an ancient remnant, or a particular place of expression, where God's action/nature as non-singular was emphasized.

1:29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

Did God allow eating from all trees or not?

This verse doesn't contradict the fact that God forbade to eat from the knowledge of good and evil. First, the tree wasn't created until God made the Garden of Eden where man was placed (Genesis 2:8). However, the fact is, the message in Genesis 1:29 isn't all-inclusive, and its point is clear, and wasn't meant to be taken technical as saying that absolutely any tree formed can be eaten, but in general.

Genesis 2

2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

How long did Creation take?

This verse is sometimes used as a contradiction since the second part seems to say that everything was created in one day. But the second part, "in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens", begins a new train of thought; it is not a continuation of "these are the generations when..", that's Genesis 1:1-2:3. Proof of this is first, the fact that every commentator on Genesis has placed a new train of thought beginning from Genesis 2:4b with the "second" Creation account beginning with it. Secondly, it does not make sense to be redundant and mention "the heavens and the earth" twice. Third, most translations, such as the literal KJV translation, add a comma, or begin a new train of thought (e.g. NIV). Thus it is not the case that Genesis 2:4 says that the generations of the heaven and earth (the six days of Creation) took place in one day.

Genesis 2:17

Did God allow eating from all trees or not?

This verse doesn't contradict the fact that God forbade to eat from the knowledge of good and evil. First, the tree wasn't created until God made the Garden of Eden where man was placed (Genesis 2:8). However, the fact is, the message in Genesis 1:29 isn't all-inclusive, and its point is clear, and wasn't meant to be taken technical as saying that absolutely any tree formed can be eaten, but in general.

Did Adam die on the same day as he ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or not?

Although God says that Adam (and Eve) would die if he ate from the tree, he lives 930 years. But this presupposes a literalist interpretation of die. The meaning of "...for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17b, KJV), can certainly be understood as an expression that Adam and Eve's immortality would be lost. The author of Genesis certainly couldn't have wanted to say that Adam and Eve would die the very same day they ate of the forbidden fruit and so this remains as a Semitic expression of the kind we can see elsewhere in Ancient Near Eastern Literature (for example Xerxes and other Persian emperors' inscriptions). Even if one thinks the JEDP theory here has a redactor or a different author insert verse 2:17 (and 3:3-4), that redactor certainly couldn't have wanted to say Adam and Eve would die that very same day and not change the rest of Genesis (and explain the origin of humanity how?). It is similar to when Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross, "...today you will be with me in paradise." - simeron met emou esi en to paradeiso." (Luke 23:43).

2:18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make a help-meet for him.

Is marriage good?

It is inferred from 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul meant marriage as a bad idea to steer clear from. But 1 Corinthians 7 is simply talking about the highest honor one could give to God, a fully devoted life to Him, without a wife and taking care of marital affairs (1 Corinthians 7:32), from which Paul wanted to spare his fellow brothers (1 Corinthians 7:28). He himself says that it's no sin to marry (1 Corinthians 7:36,38), but it's simply better not to. Paul could have certainly called marriage honorable and good in that case.

Genesis 3

Genesis 3:3-4

If Adam and Eve would certainly die when the ate of the fruit, why did they live for almost 1000 years afterwards (in Adam's case)?

See Genesis 2:17.

Genesis 3:8

Does God have a body?

The verse is doubtless a metaphor, or perhaps it was a manifestation of God for Adam and Eve to see and interact more personally. Perhaps the author used this as a literary device to highlight the fact that God's grace was still on Earth and with mankind, this being prior to the Fall.

Is God omniscient/omnipresent?

Since the verse says that Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. But this is with respect to Adam and Eve, not God. It's just a literary device to point that out.

3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

How many gods are there?

This verse doesn't imply there is more than one God. Aside from the suggestion that this refers to the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is also possible to give the interpretation that this is a reflection of the conceptual image the Jews had of God. For them he was multi-faceted and did not have only one side to his character as did the other gods around them. This was why he was called Elohim, which is the plural for the singular El (God), and this may be an ancient remnant, or a particular place of expression, where God's action/nature as non-singular was emphasized.

Genesis 3:20

If Eve is the mother of all living (people) then what about Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:3)?

See Hebrews 7:3.

Genesis 4

Genesis 4:12-13

Was Cain a wanderer or did he build/live in a city?

According to verse 17, Cain had a wife, a son, and even began building a city. But this is not a contradiction. The land of Nod in verse 16, means land of wandering. Clearly then, the author did not forget that Cain was to be a vagabond and wanderer who was apparently not precluded from having a family and building a city, and the context may have been a wanderer for most of his life, having built the city only a long time later, or that his city was in a far away land, and was secluded and Cain (and his family) was a wanderer in the sense that he had to go away from everyone (and he certainly would have wandered before building the city). Whatever is the case, the text doesn't necessitate an error, and it's unlikely the author would have forgotten that Cain was to be a wanderer the very next verse after mentioning his having gone to the Land of Wandering (Nod), so in his contextual view (it's unlikely verse 17 was written by a different, later author, since it serves no purpose, and he would have changed the preceding verses that say Cain was a wanderer), apparently for the author's language and culture and what he meant by the text, building a city and having a family was not in conflict with the status of a vagabond and wanderer.

Genesis 4:17

Where did Cain get his wife?

If there were only two people on Earth: Adam and Eve, then for the human race to "fill the Earth" at one point there must have been a brother and sister who would marry. This is not a perverse establishment by God since in that time there would have been no laws and problems with brother and sister marrying. This eventually changed certainly, but in the beginning there was nothing morally incorrect with that just like in the time of Abraham there was nothing wrong with his marrying his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), which marriage God blessed (Genesis 17:16), but later those kinds of marriages were restricted in the Law of Moses (Lev. 20:19).

Was Cain a wanderer or did he build/live in a city?

See Genesis 4:12-13.

Genesis 5

Genesis 5:24

Do all people die?

Some say this contradicts passages like Hebrews 9:27, or Romans 5:12 which say all people die. But Hebrews 9:27 and Romans 5:12 talk about all men dying in the sense that all will meet their end from life, not necessarily a death in the same way most other living people experience. The implication from Genesis 5:24, and the end of Elijah is the same: their lives came to an end, albeit supernaturally. This is shown by the fact that although Elijah didn't die, he is still translated just like Moses, who did die, on the mount of Transfiguration when met by Jesus (Mark 9). More likely is the fact that Enoch did die, but Hebrews 11:5 is being metaphorical by saying he didn't to emphasize his different end, seeing how only a few verses down (11:13), it says that the preceeding list of Old Testament righteous people died.

Genesis 5:32

How old was Shem when he begat Arphaxad?

Genesi 5:32 says that Noah was 500 when he begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Genesis 7:11 says that the Flood started in Noah's 600th year. Genesis 8:13 says the Flood waters completely receded in Noah's 601st year (around 10 and a half months after it started). And Genesis 11:10 says that Shem begat Arphaxad two years after the Flood when he was 100 years old. Now, the math doesn't add up because if the Flood ended in Noah's 601st year, Shem should have been 103 (or 102 if the beginning of the Flood is counted though that's unlikely).

The answer to this riddle is that Shem is not the firstborn. Although he's listed first, this doesn't have a definitive say on who was born first. For example, in Genesis 5:32 Ham is listed second, but in Genesis 9:24 we see that he was the youngest. Therefore, the lists that place Shem first (and Ham second), do so because of his notoriety (as the ancestor of the Semites/Israelites) and Ham's second place is because of his ancestry of Canaan, which was Israel's number 1 enemy at the time of Moses (until the advent of the Philistines). From Genesis 10:21 we learn that Japheth was the older brother of Shem. The Hebrew of Genesis 10:21 which literally reads more or less: "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born." (KJV) and it's easiest to interpret that Japheth was the eldest brother of the three, which would make Shem the middle child.

Now the statement in Genesis 5:32 that Noah was 500 when he begat the three sons does not mean that all 3 were born when he was 500 (or else Ham would not be the youngest), but that the first was born when he was 500 - Japheth. Then it would have been Shem (when Noah was 502/3 and Ham). The difference of 2-3 years between Japheth and Shem might seem very small compared to the whole lifespan of Noah. However, we can be assured that Noah probably had children before he turned 500 and that the three sons (and their wives) that he had with him on the Ark were the ones that were living with/near him and this would make sense for the 100 years prior to the Flood, for Japheth, Shem and Ham to have been born within those 100 years (which Genesis 5:32 confirms). From there, whether the difference is 20-30 or 2-3 years between the births of Japheth and Shem, I don't see much of a coincidence - that's just how it happened. Therefore, we probably don't have a copyist error here, nor a contradiction.

Genesis 6

Genesis 6:3

How long does man have to live?

According to other verses like Psalm 90:10, man has a different lifespan. But Genesis 6:3 probably uses a calendar that doubles the years from 60 to 120. The ancient Mesopotamians had only two seasons: summer and winter, and the average person would've easily counted them as years. The Mesopotamian year was originally shorter than 12 months, eventually evolving.

6:4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

Some say this contradicts the story of the Flood which left only Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives alive. But this is true only if the giants are some sort of supernatural beings, and not human beings. It's only those who believe that the Nephilim weren't human, but something like fallen angels, that would have a problem with this. As we see from Numbers, the Nephilim existed in Moses' day and were clearly seen as human beings, not descendants of angels or anything like that.

6:6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (KJV)

Does God repent?

The verse doesn't say God repented the same way a person does when turning from errors/sins. Like St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, the Bible gives descriptive qualities to God that are only applicable physically to humans, such as a body, sadness, etc, to put it in terms for the reader to be able to understand. The context here implies nothing more than God's displeasure at mankind's sins.

Genesis 6:9

Are there perfect people?

Verses like Romans 3:23, and Ecclesiastes 7:20 clearly say all righteous have sinned. But that is a technical description which is not meant for verses such as the figurative languaged used in Genesis 6:9 and elsewhere (compare Luke 1:6). All Genesis 6:9 means, taking Romans 3:23 and Ecclesiastes 7:20 in mind, is that Noah followed God's commandments and will.

Genesis 6:19

How many pairs of animals were brought on the Ark?

The verse is taken to contradict Genesis 7:2 which says 7 of every clean kind. But the verse probably refers to the overall act of bringing a pair, or in absolute terms, at least a pair of every living thing (there wouldn't be that many clean animals anyway). The point of the verse is to describe that a male and a female will be brought, saving the species, and not as to exactly how many pairs will be brought. Therefore, Genesis 7:2 is more specific in a certain area. This is supported by the fact that Genesis 7:2 says 7 pairs, male and its female, which is probably the author's two by two in Genesis 7:9,15.

Genesis 7

Genesis 7:1

Are there perfect people?

See Genesis 6:9.

Genesis 7:2

How many pairs of animals were brought on the Ark?

See Genesis 6:19.

Genesis 7:8-9

How many pairs of animals were brought on the Ark?

See Genesis 6:19.

Genesis 7:10

On which day did the rain start?

This does not contradict Genesis 7:11-12. Noah was informed 7 days prior to the day of Genesis 7:10-12 (Genesis 7:4-9) on which day the rain started.

Genesis 7:11

How old was Shem when he begat Arphaxad?

See Genesis 5:32.

Genesis 7:11-12

On which day did the rain start?

See Genesis 7:10.

Genesis 7:15

How many pairs of animals were brought on the Ark?

See Genesis 6:19.

Genesis 7:17

How long did the Flood last?

This is cited as contradicting Genesis 7:24 and 8:3 which say the Flood remained on the Earth for 150 days. But Genesis 7:17 does not say how long the Flood's waters remained as do those two verses, but only for how long it rained. This is supported by Genesis 7:17b, which says: "as the waters increased" meaning the waters were increasing and it was still raining (also see Genesis 7:12).

Genesis 7:24

How long did the Flood last?

See Genesis 7:17.

Genesis 8

Genesis 8:3

• How long did the Flood last?

This is cited as contradicting Genesis 7:17 which says the Flood remained on the Earth for 150 days. But Genesis 7:17 does not say how long the Flood's waters remained as do those two verses, but only for how long it rained. This is supported by Genesis 7:17b, which says: "as the waters increased" meaning the waters were increasing and it was still raining (also see Genesis 7:12).

Genesis 8:13

How old was Shem when he begat Arphaxad?

See Genesis 5:32.

21. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake.

This does not contradict Malachi 4:6. In Malachi the threat is a metaphor, not the physical type of disaster that the Flood was.

Genesis 8:22

Some might say that this contradicts Joshua when he made the sun stop, but the point of Genesis 10:22 is not that no one will ever stop the sun, but that day and night won't stop existing as won't the season of harvest, summer, and so on, which certainly existed after Joshua.

Genesis 9

Genesis 9:3

• Are people allowed to eat meat?

Some say this contradicts other verses that don't allow the eating of some meats. Among these: Genesis 1:29, Proverbs 23:20, Daniel 1:8, the laws against eating meats in the Tanakh, and Romans 14:21. But Genesis 1:29 was prior to the Fall, when animals weren't to die. Proverbs 23:20 refers to those who don't keep the Covenant in Old Testament times which stood for the things to come, and that was what Daniel did in Daniel 1:8, and that was the purpose of the dietary laws. As far as Romans 14:21, it prohibits it insofar as it will lead a brother to sin because of it, but as Paul says (Romans 14:14) there is nothing unclean about the meat in and of itself.

Gensis 9:25

• Do children bear the iniquities of their fathers?

Certainly not on Judgment Day, but they certainly bear the shame. In any case, the nations that were under such curses were wicked themselves, and the righteous in them weren't precluded from salvation or joining Israel, as can be seen in Ruth's case.

Genesis 10

Genesis 10:5

• How many languages were there before the Tower of Babel?

The languages didn't come until after Babel. But Genesis 10:5 is speaking in hindsight about the various nations that came on the Mediterranean with their respective languages, which happened long after Babel, even though the author hadn't narrated the event yet. This is supported by the fact that the verse talks about maritime nations, which would hardly be achieved in the individual founders' lives. So Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittim (Romans, cf. Daniel) and the Rodanim were the founders of their respective nations who had a different language by the time they were nations, long after Babel. So in essence, the verse is talking with respect to the future: they became these nations after Babel in the author's time, relating this for his readers.

Genesis 10:20

These clans are enumerated for their origins prior to Babel, but the clans themselves are talked about in the author's own time. It would be like narrating a history of Medieval Europe and talking about which groups from Europe came to North America to found the US; clearly the author couldn't be accused of thinking the US existed during Medieval Europe.

31. These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

These clans are enumerated for their origins prior to Babel, but the clans themselves are talked about in the author's own time. It would be like narrating a history of Medieval Europe and talking about which groups from Europe came to North America to found the US; clearly the author couldn't be accused of thinking the US existed during Medieval Europe.

Chapter 11

7. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

Is there more than one God?

This verse doesn't imply there is more than one God. Aside from the suggestion that this refers to the three persons of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is also possible to give the interpretation that this is a reflection of the conceptual image the Jews had of God. For them he was multi-faceted and did not have only one side to his character as did the other gods around them. This was why he was called Elohim, which is the plural for the singular El (God), and this may be an ancient remnant, or a particular place of expression, where God's action/nature as non-singular was emphasized.

Is God the author of confusion?

Since 1 Corinthians 14:33 says that God is not the author of confusion, this is cited as a contradiction. But 1 Corinthians 14:33 is directed to a situation where confusion is unwarranted. It would be senseless for the faithful to be confused by God for no reason, letting there be a chaotic situation instead. However, with the godless builders of the Tower of Babel, this certainly was not the case, and so 1 Corinthians 14:33 does not apply to the same situation. The fact that it says that God is not the author of confusion is to be understood strictly in the context of the situation of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40.

Genesis 11:10

How old was Shem when he begat Arphaxad?

See Genesis 5:32.

Genesis 11:26,32

How old was Terah when he died, 145 or 205?

Genesis 11:26 says:

After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Genesis 12:4 says Abraham left Haran when he was 75, which would have made Terah 145 if Abraham was the firstborn.

But just because Abraham is placed first on the list in Gen 11:26 doesn't mean he was the eldest. The order reflects his importance, not his age, just like in Genesis 5:32 and 6:10 Ham is listed as second, but in Genesis 9:24 it's revealed he's the youngest. In Genesis 10:2-31, the genealogies are given in the order of: Japheth, Ham, Shem, even though Shem is always listed first. Similarly, Miriam is listed last in 1 Chron. 6:3, even though she's older than Moses.

Nahor was probably the oldest, since Terah's father was named Nahor (Gen. 11:24).

Genesis 12

Genesis 12:4

How old was Terah when he died, 145 or 205?

See Genesis 11:26,32.

Genesis 12:5

Is Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

Genesis 12:5 and 14:12 clearly designate Lot as Abraham's nephew, but in Genesis 13:8, 14:14, 16 (in translations like the KJV), he is called Abraham's brother; which is it? The fact is, the word translated as brother in Genesis 14:14,16, from the Hebrew 'ach can mean a wide range of kinship relations. This is evident from the use of 'ach in 1 Chron. 12:29 to refer to Saul's tribe (kinsmen) Benjamin, of whom 3000 joined David's cause; certainly Saul didn't have 3000 brothers nor did the text want to say that. So, seeing that hardly would the author call Lot the brother of Abraham 2-4 verses down after his being identified in Gen. 14:12 as Abraham's nephew, we can conclude that the general term relative is what the author meant in Gen. 13:8, 14:14, 16.

Genesis 12:7

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

See: Can God be seen or not?

Genesis 12:10-20

Did Abraham commit incest by marrying his half-sister?

See Genesis 20:12.

Genesis 12:13, 18-19

Did Abraham lie about Sarah being his sister?

Sarah was Abraham's half-sister (Genesis 20:12). However, here Abraham instructs his wife to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister (Gen. 12:13,18-19). Now did Abraham lie? A more accurate question would be, did Abraham sin? We don't know whether Abraham considered lying a sin or not and he very easily could have had a clear conscience and not thought lying was a sin (see Romans 14:4-9, 13, 22-23). But even without that, Abraham technically did not lie. The ancient word for half-sister (or brother) was still sister (Deuteronomy 27:22, Genesis 20:12, 16 presuppose this), and this pretty much seems to be how Abraham understood his statements as technically being true (Genesis 20:12). So this is also the explanation as to Abraham not lying in Genesis 20:2,11-13. Furthermore, in ancient Egypt, the way a man and woman addressed each other in terms of endearment was brother and sister similarly to our modern sweetheart, or baby. This means Abraham didn't lie on two levels over! If one wants to call that deceit, one has to understand they are purposefully dressing up Abraham's actions negatively and are putting the label for no reason than to somehow try to attack him.

Genesis 13

Genesis 13:8

Is Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

See Genesis 12:5.

Genesis 14

Genesis 14:12

Is Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

See Genesis 12:5.

Genesis 14:14

When was the city of Dan named Dan?

Since Dan lived long after Abraham, and thus his city, named Dan, couldn't have existed in Abraham's time, some see this as a contradiction. But the author is speaking to his audience. He is not saying Abraham knew of the city being named Dan, but that he went to the city named Dan (in the author's present time).

Is Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

See Genesis 12:5.

Genesis 14:16

Is Lot the brother or nephew of Abraham?

See Genesis 12:5.

Genesis 15

Genesis 15:13

How long was the captivity in Egypt?

See Exodus 12:40-41.

Genesis 17

Genesis 17:1

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 17:16

Did Abraham commit incest?

Since the marriage between Sarah and Abraham was blessed, clearly this wasn't a sin, yet the Mosaic Law clearly prohibits this (Leviticus 20:17). This is the same question when one wonders how Adam and Eve's children had children (i.e. where did Cain get his wife?). But the fact is the Mosaic Law was not introduced until 400+ years after Abraham and 2500 years after Adam and Eve, so this did not apply. One might say that this is relative morality, but the morality of the Mosaic Law was instituted as a symbol, in other words not something perennial like murder or theft, and so can be restricted by time (similarly to how the rainbow in the cloud was a sign to Noah. It was not such prior to Noah's righteous sacrifice to God). There were clearly sins regarding sex between family members prior to Moses, as is shown by Lot and his daughters, which daughters clearly committed a sin since it's narrated that they were the predecessors of the immoral nations of Moab and the Amonnites, and also the curse on Canaan for homosexual relations with his father, but specifically marrying a half-sister does not need to be restricted as a sin prior to Moses' Law, especially seeing other ordinances in the Mosaic Law that clearly did not apply prior to its inception, such as the Passover, and the prohibition of specific foods. Yet circumcision existed in Abraham's time as a ritual, so clearly we can draw a parallel. Paul appeals to the reasoning of unnatural relations when referring to sexual relations between the same sex or between mother and son in Romans, clearly that was the basis for determining a sin (for example, see Romans 14; to each his conscience as it dictates) prior to the rigorous definitions set by the Law, so that relations with a father and daughter in Lot's time were wrong whereas sister and brother in Adam's time was not.

Genesis 17:17

Why is Abraham surprised about a son at his age?

Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born. Why does he scoff the idea of having a son because he's 100? His father had him when he was 130.

The reason for this is because Sarah already had menopause (Gen. 18:11), and so his incredulity isn't with respect to himself only, but that he would have a son with Sarah after 100 years, especially now that she can no longer have children for good. Abraham isn't surprised when God told him about a son through Sarah earlier (Gen. 15:4, 6), but actually a little insistent (Gen. 15:3). This is why Sarah herself scoffs, despite knowing the spiritual identity of the visitors (similarly the Jewish unbelief that Jesus could raise Jairus' dead daughter, despite believing he could heal her - apparently the examples of Elisha can be easily ignored when it's one's own child under question). This is a little different, then, from Samuel's mother who was still young enough, as well as Rebecca and Rachael.

Abraham was simply incredulous due to his own infertility with Sarah.

Genesis 18

Genesis 18:1

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 18:8

Was Lot righteous?

Since Lot is clearly implied to be righteous by Genesis (e.g. the tone of the text, and also Abraham choosing him to save as righteous), as well as 2 Peter 2:7-8, his offering of his two daughters for sex to the crowd in Sodom outside his house seems confusing. But maybe we should agree with Ecclesiastes 7:20 and say that Lot had a moment of weakness, not excused of course, due to pressure and made a compromise he normally would not. Or perhaps there was some different attitude in those times and his conscience was clear. The former seems to be the case in my opinion. The standard text critical answer is that the author/authors of Genesis 19:1ff. included this to show Lot as on the side of the angels, and include him among the righteous. This answer seems correct, but one has to keep in mind that the authors would still be portraying Lot as willing to give his daughters over for fornication, yet it could be answered this is overshadowed by the intentions he had (similarly in Rahab's case: lying but saving the Israelite spies), and so the author didn't perceive it that way. This is very unlikely, but ultimately a forgerer would not have seen Lot's answer as the first choice, but would have been something more along the lines of: "These are guests to this city, why do you insist on doing this and insulting them this way," since Lot would have known about his city's inhabitants (2 Peter 2:7-8 implies this) and their homosexual ways, and this is reflected by his response, which therefore has to be regarded as a spurrious, albeit unrighteous, response under pressure. And the type of response showing he knew his sodomizing neighbors, plus the under pressure showing factor, favors authenticity of that part of the text.

Genesis 18:13

Who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha?

Genesis 19:24 says God rained fire down on it. But there is no contradiction because it is clear that the angels were the ones responsible for this. It is either through their being offended that God did this, or that they themselves destroyed the cities but the text gives the credit to God who ultimately gives the power to angels (e.g. Jacob wrestling an angel and winning, yet the angel causing him a limp, and also the angel which killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in king Hezekiah's day). This is supported by the angel saying to Lot in Genesis 19:21: "He said to him, "Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of." yet later on the author saying God destroyed the cities of the plain (the 5 cities except Zoar, the one Lot pleaded for; Genesis 19:29). Could someone really have a contradiction 5 verses down twice? Clearly it was the author's intent and does not contradict.

Genesis 18:30-36

Was Lot righteous?

Genesis 19:30-36 has a story about Lot impregnating his two daughters. But in the story he is drunk and his two daughters did this because of their fear that they and their father were the only people left alive in the world. From a textual criticism point of view, Lot being drunk and the daughters fearing the end of the world were inventions to cover up the shame of the righteous Lot, Abraham's cousin, and his daughters. But the fact is that is completely implausible because the story would not have involved Lot in the first place, and excusing him as being drunk does not take away the shame, only the sin. The standard answer would be that the tradition developed and this was added later on, so that Lot and his daughters being the forefathers of Moab and Ammon is part of an ancient tradition, predating Genesis much more than its other stories. But the negative feelings toward Moab and Ammon could not have come long before Joshua's Conquest, yet even by that time Abraham's relative would have had a special place of honor, so one can only wonder why such a tradition would arise if it were false. Another question is, could Moses have written this? He certainly could have because even in his day Moab and Ammon were seen negatively. Is it really an invention created to shame the two nations? Of the two, Amor was certainly more hated than Ammon, but one can postulate the two were the same (see Judges and the replacement of Ammon with Amor; yet Gen 15:16 shows Amorites were less liked than Ammonites). Perhaps there weren't other nations that were as hated (the Phillistines certainly, but they may have been known to have migrated from elsewhere, and the Canaanites were already shamed with Canaan and Noah), but that doesn't mean this points toward inauthenticity because as God told Abraham (Gen. 15:16), the Amorites' sin hadn't yet reached "its full measure", so the divine symbollism consistently portrayed in the Bible can easily explain why Moab and Ammon were the two sons of the daughters of Lot.

31. One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth.

Since Lot left Zoar with his two daughters after the incident of the cities of the plain (Sodom, Gomorrha, etc.; Genesis 19:30), it's curious why the daughters would think there wasn't a man in the world, when they knew Zoar wasn't destroyed. But the fact is, since the alleged contradiction is a few verses down, the author clearly meant this in the sense that there wasn't a man on earth to lie with us.. within proximity. For whatever reason they felt they needed descendants at that time, perhaps they were getting somewhat close to an old age, though the text does not imply something after 35 years for them, but they maybe lived in the cave for a long time, far away from Zoar. The KJV translating it "no man on earth" is probably translating the expression that there wasn't a man on earth within proximity, and they wanted to preserve their line (perhaps afraid of dying or simply it was too long without any descendants).

Genesis 20

Genesis 20:1-18

Did Abraham commit incest by marrying his half-sister?

See Genesis 20:12.

Genesis 20:2

Is Abimelech's name too Hebraic-sounding to be authentic for a Philistine king?

We have to remember that the Hebrews, like the Philistines, were Semites. The name Abram is such and is well attested in the area in the 18th and earlier centuries BC. The fact is, Abimelech was a common name for Philistine kings and rulers in that area. There is an Egyptian governor of Tyre by the name of Abimilki mentioned in the Amarna tablets (14th century BC), and so the myth of the Hebrew-invented name of Abimelech should be put to rest. The fact that Isaac also meets an Abimelech king of Gerar could be due to it being the same king, or his son (Abimelech possibly meaning "my father is king") - in Judah there were two sets of father and son named Jehoram/Joram and Ahaziah: the 5th king from Solomon was named Jehoram/Joram and his son (6th king) was Ahaziah; and this Ahaziah had a son named Jehoram who became the 7th king and his son Ahaziah became the 8th.

Are the three wife-sister stories invented?

The fact that there are three wife-sister stories in Genesis (2 with Abraham and Sarah, 1 in Egypt and 1 with Abimelech, and 1 with Isaac and Rebekah with Abimelech) doesn't necessitate invented legend: the practice simply could have been commonplace or could have been used multiple times to serve the same purpose. A lot of the reason they look forged or odd to be so many is that the author singled them out and wrote them down close to one another.

How could Abimelech fall into the same dire situation twice?

If Abimelech in Isaac's case is the same as the one in Abraham's, how could he fall for the same "trick" twice? The answer to this is that, for one, the time between Abraham and Isaac's wife-sister scenario is decades, and so the king wouldn't have had Abraham's case in mind specifically. True, some events, such as your whole harem becoming barren and being threatened with disease and destruction are unforgettable for quite some time, but if Abimelech would usually get a wife through someone he knew, and for the past 30 or more years he'd been told by others that X woman was their actual sister (in some cases it may have been a different relative), Abimelech could easily have let Isaac's wife-sister scenario reoccur again.

Genesis 20:2,11-13

Did Abraham lie?

See Genesis 12:13, 18-19.

Genesis 20:8-21

Was Ishmael an infant or grown boy when Abraham sent him away?

Genesis 17:25 says that Ishmael was circumcised when he was 13, which was when Abraham was 99, and then later on that Isaac was born when Abraham was 100. Shortly after Isaac's birth Sarah made Abraham send Hagar and her son away, yet while Ishmael would have been 13/14 years old at the very least, the text of Genesis 21:8-21 seems to imply he was an infant with verses such as: Gen. 21:15-16: "When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob." But an indepth examination shows this to simply be an awkward expression of the text. Ishmael is certainly grown as per Genesis 21:8-21. This is shown by verses 21:17b-18a: "God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand," so clearly the text is awkward since apparently Hagar takes him by the hand, so in all likelihood she told him to lie there and not come near her (the KJV has it, 'hold him in thine hand', but that in my opinion means hold by the hand, since how does someone hold a baby in their hand? and also Christ's words: "Father into thine hand I commend my spirit" so the text clearly means Hagar held him by the hand). Also, the comment in 21:14: "Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy..." clearly presupposes that Hagar did not hold Ishmael in her arms since they would be busy, leading Renaissance painters to depict her holding a basket. Overall, the text can be taken tentatively as a description of a 13 year old. This would not be the natural solution, but verses 17-18 force it to be, and so it has to be concluded the author of the pericope wrote it awkwardly, or it simply comes off that way. This speaks for authenticity of the incident (who would invent a story with such awkward details?). Genesis 21:8 talks about Isaac, not Ishmael.

Genesis 20:11

Why does God want us to be afraid of Him?

Only the most abusive parent would want his child to be afraid of him, right? But this isn't what verses that mention the "fear of God" say or intend at all. The idea is not an emphasis on fear, but that this individual, particularly the ancient Israelite, acknowledges God and no other idol. In this sense, since one is always afraid to make a mistake with respect to the things he cares about, especially if he has to answer (Rom. 13:3), this is the sense behind the expression (Judges 6:10; Gen. 31:42).

Genesis 20:12

Did Abraham commit incest by marrying his half-sister?

Since the marriage between Sarah and Abraham was blessed by God (Genesis 17:16), clearly it wasn't a sin, yet the Mosaic Law clearly prohibits marriage between half-siblings (Leviticus 20:17). But the fact is, the Mosaic Law was not introduced until 430 years after Abraham, so this restriction did not apply yet. This is not a "cop out" using moral relativism, since there are similar laws in the Mosaic law that did not exist in Abraham's time such as the commandment to not sow fields with mixed crop or wear clothes made out of two or more different interwoven fabrics (Lev. 19:19). Although Leviticus 19:19 doesn't apply after Christ, immoral things such as murder, theft, and adultery do, and so one shouldn't think that incest is ok today, neither was this incest in Abraham's time nor for Abraham. One might say that this is relative morality, but the morality of the Mosaic Law was instituted as a symbol, in other words not something perennial like murder or theft, and so can be restricted by time. There were certainly sins regarding sex between family members prior to Moses, as is shown by Lot and his daughters, which daughters clearly committed a sin since it's narrated that they were the predecessors of the immoral nations of Moab and the Amonnites. Also the curse on Canaan for homosexual relations with his father is an example. But specifically marrying a half-sister does not need to be restricted as a sin prior to Moses' Law, especially seeing other ordinances in the Mosaic Law that clearly did not apply prior to its inception, such as the examples mentioned or the prohibition of specific foods. Yet circumcision existed in Abraham's time as a ritual, so clearly we can draw a parallel. Paul appeals to the reasoning of unnatural relations when referring to sexual relations between the same sex or between mother and son in Romans. Clearly that was the basis for determining a sin prior to the rigorous definitions set by the Law, so that relations with a father and daughter in Lot's time were wrong whereas sister and brother in Adam's time was not, and in Abraham's time there was apparently no moral objection to a marriage such as Abraham and Sarah's and his conscience was clear when marrying Sarah (for example, see Romans 14; to each his conscience as it dictates) which is why God blessed them.

Genesis 20:18

• Are people punished because of the sins of others?

The point of doing this to Abimelech was to make him realize the error, which was through no fault of his, that he was committing. He was quickly corrected, and God restored everything to normal. The shame that Abimelech would have brought to his name if he had done this on purpose would have been either deserved for all the members of his family, or would have been for the better for those who didn't deserve it (just like in Joseph's case, when being sold as a slave in Egypt, eventually became the Pharaoh's second in command).

Genesis 21:31

Who named the well Beersheba?

Genesis 21:31 tells us Abraham named the well Beersheba, yet Genesis 26:33 says Isaac named it Shibah/Beersheba. But the fact is that the text in Genesis 26:23 clearly says Isaac went to Beersheba, which was named by Abraham. The Philistines had stopped the wells Abraham and his servants had dug up (Gen. 26:15), and Isaac was reopening them and giving them the same names his father gave them (Gen. 26:18). The agreement between Abimelech and Isaac happened at Beersheba as per the text's admission (Gen 26:23), and in any case Isaac called it Shibah, so the text implies that Isaac renamed the well Beersheba.

Chapter 22

Genesis 22:2

How many sons did Abraham have?

It's clear from Genesis that Abraham had other children, but Isaac was the legal descendant, and the son through the Promise, which is what is referred to here (most likely only the fact that this was his only child by his wife Sarah, since the Promise may not have had as much impact for Abraham, but that can't be known). This is reflected by Galatians 4:22 which says he had two sons, yet Abraham didn't only have Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 25:2).

Does God allow sacrifice of human beings?

Taken with the verses in the rest of the Bible prohibiting the "passing of a child through fire" induced by parents, this does not contradict since the offenses in those cases were 1) a prohibition of idolatry since the neighboring countries sacrificed children, and 2) murder, when the act is not sanctioned by God.

Genesis 22:14

Did Abraham know the name of God as Jehovah?

Since it's explicit from Exodus 6:3 that God revealed himself as Jehovah to Moses first. But Abraham undoubtedly had a name for God, not Jehovah, but something else in either ancient Aramaic, or proto-Canaanite, so the author of Genesis replaced that with the name that everyone knew God with. Suggesting this is a contradiction would be like saying the denotation "LORD" for God prior to Exodus 6:3 is one as well. Quite simply, the tradition recorded by Genesis had replaced Abraham's word for God with Jehovah long before it was written.

Genesis 24

Genesis 24:47

Was Laban the son of Bethuel or Nahor?

See Genesis 28:5.

Genesis 25

Genesis 25:1

Was Keturah Abraham's wife or concubine?

See 1 Chronicles 1:32.

Chapter 26

Genesis 26:1

Is Abimelech's name too Hebraic-sounding to be authentic for a Philistine king? Are the three wife-sister stories invented? How could Abimelech fall into the same dire situation twice?

See Genesis 20:2.

Genesis 26:2

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 26:24

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 26:33

Who named the well Beersheba?

See Genesis 21:31.

34. When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite.

Whose daughter was Basemath?

Since Genesis 36:3 says Basemath was the daughter of Ishmael. The Hittites could not have been descendants of Ishmael, who was Isaac's older brother and thus "half-uncle" of Esau and Jacob, that plus the more details make the reading in Genesis 36 probably more original. It is not impossible this is a textual corruption as in the case of Goliath and his brother in Kings.

Genesis 28

Genesis 28:5

Was Laban the son of Bethuel or Nahor

Genesis 24:47 and 28:5 say that Laban was the son of Bethuel, but Genesis 29:5 calls Laban "the son of Nahor". The reason for this is that the depiction in Genesis 29:5 is meant as Laban being a descendant of Nahor, who is related to Abraham close as a brother, but Laban's biological father was Bethuel (see Genesis 24:47; Nahor was technically Laban's grandfather).

Genesis 29

Genesis 29:5

Was Laban the son of Bethuel or Nahor

See Genesis 28:5.

Genesis 31

Jacob's magical genetics

The charge of sympathetic magic is in my opinion unwarranted here. Jacob most likely used the striped sticks as a Pavlovian reflex for the stronger flock animals breed, but to prevent the weaker by removing them. This is supported by the fact that he placed the sticks at the trough near the water, so that the flocks were refreshed. Food was how Pavlov did his experiment: here water, as the food is grass and is everywhere, but water is more concentrated and thus they will be more satisfied when quenching the thirst, plus all the animals will be at one place. Also so that Jacob wouldn't lose/confuse the sticks plus maybe as a symbol (Alexander throwing a spear from the boat on the shore when invading Asia Minor/Persia).

Adam Clarke notes, apud Symmachus, that "stronger" = firstborn (late winter/early spring as opposed to later in the spring), which means stronger ability to breed (due to breeding earlier). Probably Jacob separated the spotted offspring from the first newborns. Spots and speckles are the phenotype expressing two dominant alleles of a uniform (non-spotted) color in the genotype. Hence a dominant and recessive allele in two non-spotted parent goats can result, with a 25% chance, in a spotted/speckled offspring - like brown-haired parents producing a black-haired child. On the other hand, if the spots were due to a gene, then he could've bred it like Mendel if it was recessive (which it would've had to be if he had no spotted animals to start with, and Laban assumed he wouldn't have many after seven years). Again, this would be like brown-haired, brown-eyed parents having blue-eyed blonde children who would then almost certainly have blonde children if they married other blondes. Then Jacob only needs to separate the strong, firstborn spotted from the non-spotted to make sure the genotype retains the two dominante alleles or expressed recessive gene. He was a capable shepherd as shown not only by Gen. 30:29-30 but earlier in Gen. 29:7 (instructing the shepherds), and also knowing how to water Rachel's flocks (Gen. 29:9), and like the episode with Esau, he once again tricked someone on the monetary side, and could've dearly paid for it.

Genesis 32

30. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, as Hosea 12:4 notes. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 35

Genesis 35:7

When did Jacob rename Luz to Bethel?

Some see this as contradicting the chronology of Genesis 28:19 which says Jacob renamed Luz to Bethel before going to Padan-Aram. Although it's tempting to suggest that Genesis 28:19 is an interpolation, the fact is Genesis 28:20-22 seems to presuppose it. The fact is, in Genesis 35:7 he called Bethel "ElBethel", not Luz to Bethel. The city probably eventually became known simply as Bethel.

Genesis 35:9

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 35:19-20

Was Rachel's tomb on the road to Bethlehem or in Zelzah (1 Samuel 10:2)?

See 1 Samuel 10:2.

Genesis 36

2. Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;

Who was Anah?

Genesis 36:2,14 seem to call Anah the daughter of Zibeon (KJV), Genesis 36:20 (1 Chr 1:38) call Anah the brother of Zibeon, son of Seir the Hittite, and Genesis 36:24 (1 Chr 1:40) say Anah was the son of Zibeon. It's clear that Genesis 36:2,14 refer to Aholibamah as the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, meaning the granddaughter of Zibeon, not Anah being the daughter of Zibeon. It is also apparent that Zibeon had a brother and son named Anah (cf. 1 Chr 1:41 which continues with the sons of Anah, Zibeon's brother, as per the chronological list in 1 Chr 1:38).

3. also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

Whose daughter was Basemath?

Since Genesis 26:34 says Basemath was the daughter of Elon the Hittite. The Hittites could not have been descendants of Ishmael, who was Isaac's older brother and thus "half-uncle" of Esau and Jacob, that plus the more details make the reading here in Genesis 36 probably more original. It is not impossible this is a textual corruption as in the case of Goliath and his brother in Kings.

14. And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau's wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.

Who was Anah?

Genesis 36:2,14 seem to call Anah the daughter of Zibeon (KJV), Genesis 36:20 (1 Chr 1:38) call Anah the brother of Zibeon, son of Seir the Hittite, and Genesis 36:24 (1 Chr 1:40) say Anah was the son of Zibeon. It's clear that Genesis 36:2,14 refer to Aholibamah as the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, meaning the granddaughter of Zibeon, not Anah being the daughter of Zibeon. It is also apparent that Zibeon had a brother and son named Anah (cf. 1 Chr 1:41 which continues with the sons of Anah, Zibeon's brother, as per the chronological list in 1 Chr 1:38).

16. Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.

Korah is called the son of Eliphaz, yet in Genesis 36:14 is the direct son of Esau. The fact is that this is probably a textual corruption. The NIV note has: "Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch (see also Gen. 36:11 and 1 Chron. 1:36) does not have Korah". The fact that Genesis 36:11 earlier on has no Korah in its list proves this is most likely a textual corruption.

20. These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,

Who was Anah?

Genesis 36:2,14 seem to call Anah the daughter of Zibeon (KJV), Genesis 36:20 (1 Chr 1:38) call Anah the brother of Zibeon, son of Seir the Hittite, and Genesis 36:24 (1 Chr 1:40) say Anah was the son of Zibeon. It's clear that Genesis 36:2,14 refer to Aholibamah as the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, meaning the granddaughter of Zibeon, not Anah being the daughter of Zibeon. It is also apparent that Zibeon had a brother and son named Anah (cf. 1 Chr 1:41 which continues with the sons of Anah, Zibeon's brother, as per the chronological list in 1 Chr 1:38).

24. And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.

Who was Anah?

Genesis 36:2,14 seem to call Anah the daughter of Zibeon (KJV), Genesis 36:20 (1 Chr 1:38) call Anah the brother of Zibeon, son of Seir the Hittite, and Genesis 36:24 (1 Chr 1:40) say Anah was the son of Zibeon. It's clear that Genesis 36:2,14 refer to Aholibamah as the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon, meaning the granddaughter of Zibeon, not Anah being the daughter of Zibeon. It is also apparent that Zibeon had a brother and son named Anah (cf. 1 Chr 1:41 which continues with the sons of Anah, Zibeon's brother, as per the chronological list in 1 Chr 1:38).

Genesis 37

Genesis 37:25,27,28,36

Who was Joseph sold to: the Midianites or Ishmaelites?

Genesis 37:36 says Joseph was sold to Midianites, Genesis 37:25,27, 39:1 says to the Ishmaelites and Genesis 37:28 says to both Ishmaelites and Midianites! It's clear that by the time of the author, Midianites and Ishmaelites was an interchangeable term either because the two had mixed, or simply as a non-technical term that had grown common for the people of that area. From Judges 8:22-24 we see that the Ishmaelites lived in the area designated by the Hebrews as Midian and this more or less confirms our conclusion.

Genesis 39

Genesis 39:1

Who was Joseph sold to: the Midianites or Ishmaelites?

See Genesis 37:25,27,28,36.

Genesis 44

Genesis 44:20,22

Was Benjamin a child or grown?

These verses seem to make Benjamin a child, whereas elsewhere we're told he has children and is clearly an adult. The fact is, by the time of Joseph's reacquaintance with his brothers, a total of 22 years had passed since Joseph was sold when he 17 years old, Pharaoh making him 30 before the 7 years of plenty and famine began, and meeting his brothers in the 3rd year of the famine, making Joseph 39, and since Benjamin had been alive when Joseph was taken away, he is at least 22, and it is clear from Genesis 36 he had been born at least quite some time before then. The reason in Genesis 44:20,22 his brothers refer to him as a child is because with respect to them he is a child. I can only remember a 35 year old friend of mine and I working in our church's kitchen when a woman who was 45/50 came and referred to us to the 60 or so year-old chef as: "Don't forget to tell the children what to do", or something of the sort, which quite surprised me. Benjamin being Jacob's youngest son, who would have been in his 30's when his brothers were in their 50's/60's, would naturally be a "lad"/"child".

Genesis 46

Genesis 46:26-27

How many went down to Egypt with Jacob?

See Exodus 1:5.

Chapter 48

3. Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty appeared to me at Luz...

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Genesis 49

Genesis 49:13

Were Zebulun's borders at the sea? What about Joshua 19:10-16?

Some see the correct interpretation of Genesis 49:13 to be that Jacob prophesied Zebulun's borders to be near the sea, or toward the seashore, meaning they would greatly benefit from their proximity to two bodies of water (the Sea of Galilee to the east and the Mediterranean Sea to the west), and not that their borders would have the shores, which from the allotment in Joshua 19:10-16 belonged to Asher in the west and to Naphtali to the east.

However, I don't find this theory very convincing. Although it is a possibility, I think it's more likely that Zebulun's border simply expanded over time and they did ultimately have their border at the Mediterranean Sea to the west (and perhaps the Sea of Galilee to the east). Asher, whose population was 7000 less than Zebulun's (Asher - 53,400 [Num. 26:47] vs Zebulun - 60,500 [Numbers 26:27]) was given a territory around 4-5 times larger than that of Zebulun! Compare that to what Dan did by capturing Lemesh in Joshua 19:47 (according to the translation of the KJV which I think is more accurate than the NIV). But we can be sure that it's very possible that Zebulun's territory expanded for one reason or another. For example, Ephraim took the land of the tribe of Dan to its west later on. Also, Josephus confirms Jacob's blessing by saying that Zebulun's border extended from the Sea of Galilee to Carmel on the Mediterranean. Josephus says in Antiquties 5.1.22:
The tribe of Zebulon's lot included the land which lay as far as the Lake of Genesareth, and that which belonged to Carmel and the sea.
It's very possible that Josephus is not rehashing interpretations of Genesis 49:13 because nothing is mentioned about Carmel in the Old Testament with respect to Zebulun or anyone's border. Very possibly he is repeating Pharisaic or some other Jewish tradition about the borders being there, the historicity of which we can't know, but the fact is given the statements of Joshua 19:10-16, Josephus would not make a statement that Zebulun's border was from the sea of Galilee on the east to Carmel on the Mediterranean on the west if it did not have some historical basis in fact. This is evident since for the borders of Asher and Naphtali he more or less follows the biblical narrative but also gives additional information he knew such as the name of the city of Acco as Arce/Actipus. Furthermore, he is evidently following the biblical narrative of Joshua 19 seeing he ascribes to Dan its borders during the allotment of Joshua 19 and these borders did not last long until they were taken by Ephraim and/or the Philistines (Joshua 21:23-24 and 1 Chron. 6:66,69), and in Antiquities 5.1.23 he clearly states, "After this manner did Joshua divide the six nations that bear the name of the sons of Canaan...". The bottom line is: Josephus was aware of the division in Joshua 19:10-16 but had historical knowledge that Zebulun's border reached the Mediterranean up to Carmel on the west and the Sea of Galilee on the east, which also makes sense for Zebulun to expand in those two directions later on after the allotment in Joshua 19.

With the above observations, we can conclude that Zebulun's borders very possibly expanded after the allotment in Joshua 19:10-16 to reach the coast of the Mediterranean as far as Carmel and very probably they expanded in the opposite direction as well, to the Sea of Galilee. We can now note that Carmel is very close to the vicinity of Acco (Acre), which was a culturally and politically Phoenician city: the Israelites couldn't drive out the Canaanites (Judges 1:31), and the city apparently remained throughout Israelite rule affiliated with Phoenicia seeing that it joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser V, in 725 BC. With this observation that Acco was culturally a Phoenician city, we can note that the statement that Zebulun's border was to be at Sidon does not mean the actual city but the general area of Phoenicia (Joshua 13:4,6). Thus Carmel can easily be described as being near the vicinity of Phoenicia (Acco and lower), especially since Jacob is not going to try to describe Zebulun's border "to the tribe of Asher" but to Sidon or Phoenicia, which was also correct (as far as its vicinity) even though Asher was closer. Finally, Jacob's blessing was a prophecy for the ultimate destiny of Zebulun, not their immediate boundaries when they settled. Proof of this is the reference to rulers coming out of Judah (Gen. 49:10) which did not occur until centuries after the allotment in Joshua 15-19.

For a lot of other information, see this website.


Exodus 1

Exodus 1:5

How many in the house of Jacob?

Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 say that Jacob's family in Egypt (including Joseph and his two sons) totaled 70 people. Acts 7:14 however has Stephen say that they numbered 75. What is the true number and is Acts 7:14 in contradiction with the Old Testament? We can begin by noting as many others have that although Acts is quoting Stephen, which would normally allow someone to have spoken something technically incorrect which is simply infallibly recorded by Scripture, in Acts 7:2-53 Stephen is speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:10, 15, 7:55). In addition, Jesus said not to worry when speaking in front of leaders since then the Holy Spirit will be speaking for you (Luke 12:11-12).

Now, we can point out the fact that the Septuagint, Masoretic Text, and Dead Sea Scrolls have the number 75 for Genesis 46:27 and Exodus 1:5, and not 70. This is undoubtedly why Stephen says 75 and not 70: since he was a Hellenistic Jew, the Septuagint Old Testament would have been what Stephen was acquainted with. The manuscript tradition of the New Testament precludes the possibility that the original number in Acts 7:14 was 70 and not 75. So we have to wonder what the original number was in the Old Testament: 70 or 75. When we look at the LXX (Septuagint), we see that in the counting of Joseph's family, there are an extra 5 persons (Genesis 46:20 - Manasseh's son Makir and his son Gilead, and Ephraim's sons Sutalaam, Taam, and Taam's son Edom). However, at this point we have to make several observations. First, there is no way that Joseph, at the time of his father's arrival into Egypt being 39, would have been a great-grandfather (Gilead, Edom). Second, it is obvious that the Septuagint translators were, as in different places in the Old Testament, emending the text for the sake of reconciliation. For one, one of Benjamin's descendants (Huppim) is missing. This brings the original Hebrew count from 14 to 18 instead of 19, which is accurately reflected by the LXX version of Genesis 46:22. However, what the emender(s) didn't realize is that this brings the overall count down to 74, not 75. Secondly, it is very obvious that there was a dependence on 1 Chronicles seeing that the names of the sons of Manasseh and Ephraim come from there (with the exception of Edom). Seeing that none of Ephraim's other sons are recorded (perhaps because they hadn't been born yet) and the extrabiblical name for Ephraim's grandson, Edom, the LXX emenders were probably relying on some different source in addition to 1 Chronicles and Genesis (or perhaps their tradition was entirely separate from 1 Chronicles though this is not likely). The extremely varied in some instances spelling of various names (e.g. Anchis (Genesis) - Uzziel (1 Chronicles) - Ehi (LXX)) supports this. What maybe happened with the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew is that it was not understood how the number 70 was arrived at from 66 when Joseph and his two sons added up to 69 (not realizing that Jacob is counted in the total of 70). This probably made the addition of Makir as Manasseh's son to be made. From there, probably further miscalculation (perhaps someone realized that Jacob hadn't been counted, but with Makir it was now 71 names) ended up with two more of Joseph's grandsons and two great-grandsons to be included, taken from 1 Chronicles (and possibly other sources) with Benjamin's descendants reduced by 1 to account for 1 Chronicles' list of Benjamin's 3 sons, one of whom had 5 sons, and one of those 5 sons' son listed. This must have occurred after the count of 75 was recalculated, which made the emenders change Genesis 46:27 to have Joseph 9 (75 minus 66) descendants instead of the 7 listed, which shows that the emenders must have forgotten that Joseph and Jacob weren't counted in the first count of 66. Finally, since Exodus 1:5 is very close to Genesis 46 in terms of "distance", the emenders forgot (or didn't see) that Deuteronomy 10:22 also referred to the number 70 and not 75, which is why the LXX and other versions don't have that number different.

The fact is, a change from 70 to 75 explains the data much better than a change from 75 to 70. With this in mind, we would now have to turn to the question of what this means for the authenticity of Stephen's speech: was he right, was he wrong?

At this point I want to make two further observations:

1) The wives of Jacob and his sons are not counted in the total of 70 (Gen. 46:26).

2) The meaning of "the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt" (Gen. 46:27) does not necessitate that all of them were in Canaan and went down to Egypt, since the very same verse includes Joseph's two sons who were born there. Thus the term "which went to Egypt" is referring to the majority of Jacob's family but can include members who never had left Egypt!

With these two points in mind, it is entirely possible that the Septuagint translators deduced that there were 5 other members that accounted for Joseph's total family, very possibly wives. We cannot posit other descendants here, such as grandsons of the twelve sons of Jacob, because they would have been included in the total count of 70 persons. Therefore, it is very possible that 5 members of the family, wives (or perhaps adopted slaves/foreigners), were counted into the total of number of 70 by either Stephen or the Septuagint translators, and the total number of 75 was reached. Which wives were counted, we cannot say, though probably Jacob's wives had all passed away by that point.

There is still another explanation - Stephen as a Hellenistic Jew was merely employing the popular number of 75 (from the Septuagint), but was not intending for it to be exact - the only thing he intended to be exact about was his point, that Jacob went with Egypt with his family, which he did. This is a common Semitic way of expression much like the pesher employed by some Jews. If we take a look at what inspiration under the Holy Spirit means in terms of details like 70 or 75 members going to Egypt, we could see that the number's exactness doesn't make Stephen in error. If there is a group of people who accuse a man of murder whereas the official charge is only "rioting", someone who stands up and speaks on behalf of this person who has a valid point could refer to the man as a murderer or rioter and be equally correct. For example, if someone said to a crowd who are about to beat up the accused, "This murderer deserves to go to trial first", how less true is the person's point if he had said, "This person who started a riot deserves to go to trial first"? If Stephen, through the Holy Spirit was quoting the Septuagint to make a point, nowhere do I think does his point require for him to be technical about there being 70 people instead of 75, which is probably the number (75) that much of his audience would have known due to the Hellenistic influence in Judea at the time and with it the popularity of the Septuagint. In a sense, the Holy Spirit through Stephen could be purposefully quoting the incorrect figure without the need to be technical since much of the audience would have known a figure of 75 and not 70. A similar example would be the statement in Exodus 12:40 that the Israelites left Egypt exactly 430 years after the beginning of their stay in foreign land to the very same day. Now we know that the ancient measurement of the year (especially in spans of centuries) was off by a day or so every so many years, and this is why every once in a while the Hebrews added a 13th month, so clearly the reckoning was done with respect to their calendar and not the modern more astronomical one. Does that make Exodus 12:40 any less wrong? Of course not. This reasoning is similar to that we employ in Acts 7:14 with respect to the 75 vs 70 persons counting.

On the other hand, it's not impossible to say that the original number was indeed 75 and for some reason through miscalculation some emenders changed it to 70, and that there simply aren't old enough manuscripts for a reading of 75 in Deuteronomy 10:22. This however, I don't find very likely, but it's certainly not impossible seeing the jumble in Genesis 46 and especially taking into account that the LXX emends the text for similar reasons elsewhere. Overall, there is no contradiction either way.

Exodus 1:15

Two Hebrew midwives for an Israelite population of 1.5 million people?

See Exodus Logistics.

Exodus 1:16

How did Aaron escape Pharaoh's death edict?

An interesting question is how Aaron escaped without the hassle Moses had to go through. He's three years older than Moses (Ex. 7:7). Ancient Jewish commentators supposed, as usual without much reason, that the death order from Pharaoh applied every other year, so it'd have skipped Aaron's year. This would have been very counterproductive to the Pharaoh's goal, so it's unlikely.

The question isn't really how Aaron survived. The very following verse, Ex. 1:17 clearly states the midwives refused to follow the Pharaoh's order, and Ex. 2:2 tells us Moses himself was successfully hidden for three months. The most likely explanation, and one that saw the rise of many folklore tales of children being left in the woods, is the family couldn't afford the new baby and sought to give it to someone who could take care of it. This explains Miriam's role as overseer, as well as the fact that the Egyptian princess knows this is a Hebrew baby: it must've been a common occurrence (both Egyptians and Hebrews were circumcised, so it's unlikely anything else tipped her off). Verse 9 implies as much, and this must be why Moses' mother, Jochebed, could no longer "hide" the baby, as she would've been unable to rely on any family or neighborly support for him, due to fear of the ever-present in any age collaborators.

In this sense, Aaron, their firstborn, would've been a lighter burden, and would've had extra effort to be protected, being their first and oldest male. It's also possible that, owing to the midwives' blatant disobedience, Moses was born after the Pharaoh reissued the order to everyone (Ex. 1:22).

Exodus 1:18-20

Is it OK to lie?

Although the verses may seem to condone lying, it is actually the intention of the Hebrew midwives that is praised here (and elsewhere, e.g. James 2:25). The Mosaic Law of not bearing false witness (if this meant against anyone) hadn't come yet, and the Hebrew midwives were acting according to their conscience (cf. Gen. 18:15).

Exodus 2

Exodus 2:14-15

Was Moses afraid of Pharaoh or not? (Hebrews 11:27)

This passage says Moses fled Egypt because he was afraid of Pharaoh's wrath - quite a natural and obvious reaction. Hebrews, referring either to this flight or the Exodus, says he did it out of faith and looking forward to God's promises, and out of spite to Pharaoh and not fear. But all Hebrews means is that Moses acted courageously - hence the contrast between faith and fear: motivation versus reaction. It's like describing a soldier charging at the enemy fearlessly: he will certainly be afraid, but the fact that he's still doing it is the point.

We can be sure any human being would've been afraid during any of those tumultous and life-threatening situations. Hebrews is being figurative and interpretive - Moses was certainly physically afraid, but not afraid enough. And the point was that Moses struck the Egyptian and preferred to defy the Pharaoh, knowing how vicious he or his predecessor dealt with his people not too long ago. For example, it's clear that Moses did not do this specifically to enjoy Christ's approval, as he didn't know of him (Heb. 11:26), but that's a pesher/midrash of what it boils down to (similarly Galatians 4 on the plurality of "seed").

Exodus 2:18, 20-21

• Who was Moses' father-in-law?

In Numbers 10:29 Moses is talking to "Hobab the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law". The reference can be interpreted as Hobab being Moses' father-in-law, Reuel being his father. I don't think the text presupposes that Moses spoke with Hobab's father, Reuel, the head of the household of Moses' wife. I don't think there is a rule in Hebrew that necessitates for the descriptive clause, "the father-in-law of Moses" to refer to Reuel; in Josh. 15:17 (Judges 1:13, 3:9), "Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother," refers to "Kenaz", but in Genesis 10:21, "To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born," the reference is clearly to the former. Hobab certainly has to be the father-in-law. Reuel is an obvious nickname, like Jethro, which is why Hobab can be described as the son of a "Reuel". Possibly it was a name used for Hobab the way multiple names were used by kings upon accession, or even people in general in the ancient Near East (and even today). It could be that Exodus 2:18 uses "Reuel" as the name of Hobab's house, perhaps out of respect or lack of knowledge of the actual name (similarly, David is given credit for the killing of Goliath's sons by four of his soldiers who are named 2 Sam. 21:15-22).

Reuel or Raguel are the same name: both are variants of the same name which means friend of God. This probaly wasn't the actual name of the father of Moses' father-in-law, but is a nickname; a euphemism for the benevolent disposition Moses and the Israelites had with him (cf. Num. 10:32). This is also why Hobab is called Jethro, which meant "excellency" - kind of like how Jacob is called Israel interchangeably.

So regarding Jethro, the name is more of a title, though it can also serve as a name as can be seen from the text, and comes from the word yether which means abundance, superiority, excellency. So Jethro is a bit like when someone addresses a prince as "your highness", though literally it would be something like "his excellency" in Jethro's case. When the Bible refers to "Pharaoh", we know that's not his actual name. Moreover, kings had accession names as well as personal names; possibly Moses' father-in-law had more for this or another reason. This would leave Hobab as the actual name for Moses' father-in-law.

In any case, a text mentioning two different names so close together (Reuel - Exodus 2:18, Jethro - Exodus 3:1) shouldn't indicate a contradiction but evidence of two different names for the same individual. The documentary hypothesis cannot be said to be accountable for the two different names because one, the text from chapters 2 to 3 is connected, and two, the name would have been most likely corrected to Jethro or vice versa if there were two competing traditions, whether by the author of the divergent tradition, or a later reconciler himself.

Exodus 3

Exodus 3:1

Who was the father-in-law of Moses?

See Exodus 2:18, 20-21.

Exodus 3:4

• Did God or an angel call to Moses from the burning bush?

Since only two verses before Exodus 3:4, it is an angel speaking to Moses, we can be sure that the author used an expression in saying God (but actually a representative - an angel) appeared in the burning bush to Moses in 3:4.

Exodus 3:14

• Was God's name I AM, or Jehovah?

Seeing from the context between Exodus 3-6, Jehovah was in all likelihood the proto-Canaanite equivalent of "I AM", since after the announcement in 3:14, in 6:3 God speaks as if Moses had announced him as Jehovah, whereas he was instructed to announce him as "I AM" in 3:14. In Exodus 6:2-3 God is not speaking as if he hasn't announced himself as Jehovah and is now prepared to do so, but that Moses had now announced him so to the Israelites, and God is telling him that he had not been known by that name to his forefathers. In 6:6ff. God designates himself as Jehovah after having already announced that this is his name, as is clear from the context, and the fact that he does not explain this is his name but seems to assume they knew it (sure "the Lord" as God's pseudonym is known to us, but how about the first people who heard "the Lord"? They would have been confused, clearly an explanation lacking; this of course would not be true for English, they would have just overtaken the meaning of Dominus from Latin and its relative meaning, but the analogy stands).

16. "Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God and would die, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin. The verses that say that those who see God will die are, in any case, about Israelites who were not in any special relation, not men such as Moses who were representatives of God, and that's all the symbol serves.

Exodus 3:18

Did God tell Moses to lie to Pharaoh?

The accusation here is that God told Moses to ask Pharaoh to let the Hebrews take a three-day journey in the wilderness to make a sacrifice, but the plan was to escape, and not to return after the three days. However, this is not true, because one doesn't need to lie to suggest something which they know will lead into another direction: namely Pharaoh's rejection of the request which leads to forcing him to free the Hebrews. So had Pharaoh let the Hebrews go on the three-day journey, they would have returned and then God would have given Moses a different plant to rescue the Hebrews (the plan He would have given in the first place instead of this), but since God knew Pharaoh's denial would simply result in the Exodus, this is why He told Moses to say this, not because it was a lie. A similar example would be if you've been grounded by your father and you suggest to go fill up his car with gas. He immediately says, "No", and you open a conversation as to why you shouldn't have been grounded in the first place: you knew your father wouldn't let you do this, but if he had, you would have filled it up and opened the conversation afterwards anyway. The same thing here, except God knew that Pharaoh would not grant the request.

Another way of looking at this as a lie is that what God told Moses is based on the fact that God knew that Moses and the elders would never be allowed to go in the wilderness so God is telling Moses to say something that was never intended to be performed. However, just like the above reasoning, just because someone knows they'll be denied, doesn't mean that they don't intend for the action to be performed.

Exodus 3:22

Why did God direct the Israelites to steal/plunder?

The fact is, the Hebrews asked for these things from the Egyptians. Everything ultimately belongs to God, and here no one is forcibly taking anything from the Egyptians. The word translated as "plunder" has the meaning of "strip away" the possessions the Egyptians had: that is, the Egyptians have a lot less than what they had before. And so this is not theft or "plunder" in the usual sense of the word. This is also not greed, since it has the purpose of punishing the Egyptians, more specifically Pharaoh (if someone gave them articles of gold and silver, they certainly wouldn't given them absolutely everything so as to starve), as well as to give the Hebrews something to survive on.

Exodus 4

5. "This," said the LORD, "is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has appeared to you."

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Exodus 4:18

Who was the father-in-law of Moses?

See Exodus 2:18, 20-21.

Exodus 4:24-26

Why is Moses going to be killed all of a sudden?

We can't know the exact details about this, but apparently Moses had angered God somehow. Very possibly this may have had something to do with his son being uncircumcised and Ex. 4:25 might suggest that his wife was somehow involved in making Moses not circumcise their son - she (and presumably Moses) already knows what to do to avert God's anger, and after touching Moses' feet with her son's foreskin, says to him that he is a bridegroom of blood (regarding the circumcision); perhaps she saw circumcision as a bloody ridiculousness and made Moses not do it. An angel or other sign from God that He will kill Moses possibly appeared and with Moses' urging, his wife acquiesces to the initial necessity of circumcision, but not without some displeasure (Ex. 4:25).

Exodus 6

Exodus 6:2-3

Is God's name "I AM" or Jehovah?

Seeing from the context between Exodus 3-6, Jehovah was in all likelihood the proto-Canaanite equivalent of "I AM", since after the announcement in 3:14, in 6:3 God speaks as if Moses had announced him as Jehovah, whereas he was instructed to announce him as "I AM" in 3:14. In Exodus 6:2-3 God is not speaking as if he hasn't announced himself as Jehovah and is now prepared to do so, but that Moses had now announced him so to the Israelites, and God is telling him that he had not been known by that name to his forefathers. In 6:6ff. God designates himself as Jehovah after having already announced that this is his name, as is clear from the context, and the fact that he does not explain this is his name but seems to assume they knew it (sure "the Lord" as God's pseudonym is known to us, but how about the first people who heard "the Lord"? They would have been confused, clearly an explanation lacking; this of course would not be true for English, they would have just overtaken the meaning of Dominus from Latin and its relative meaning, but the analogy stands).

Exodus 6:3

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

When was God's name as "Yahweh" known?

This verse is taken to contradict the many times that the Hebrews and Moses showed knowledge of God's name as Yahweh, such as, for example, Exodus 3:14-15. However, we have to note that God didn't tell Moses that only now will his name as Yahweh be known, that being the name, but that Moses was indeed speaking to Yahweh, who was El Shaddai, who had revealed Himself to Abraham and the other patriarchs. So while the other patriarchs and Hebrews knew of Yahweh, they and Moses didn't know El Shaddai was Yahweh directly, thus speaking to Moses directly.

Exodus 6:16-27

How could the Israelites' stay in Egypt last 400-430 years with so few ancestors as here?

The simple answer is that the staying in a foreign country started with Abraham's Covenant (or perhaps journey out of Ur) as can be seen from Galatians 3:17 and Acts 13:20. These verses make the 430 years start with the covenant between God and Abraham in Genesis 15 up to the Exodus. With this, we know that the Patriarchs spent about 190 (or 184/5) years in Canaan which leaves about 250 years of the Israelites in Egypt, and since Moses was 80 years old at the time of the Exodus, he was born about 170 years after Jacob went down to Egypt.

Exodus 6:21

Who was Korah's father?

See 1 Chronicles 6:22.

Exodus 7

Exodus 7:7

How did Aaron survive the edict of Pharaoh?

Aaron is three years older than Moses and the edict to kill all male Hebrew newborns may not have been issued around his time of birth. Alternatively, we already know that the Hebrew midwives didn't obey the edict and his parents may have been able to hide him longer.

Exodus 7:22.

Where did Pharaoh's magicians get water from to turn it into blood?

Since Moses and Aaron turned all of Egypt's water, whether from the Nile or in jars at homes, in blood in verses 7:19-21, the question comes as to where the magicians got the water from in verse 7:22 to turn it into blood? The fact is, the magicians didn't need to perform the sign (in their case magic) on as wide a scale as Moses had, they only needed to do it on a container that was filled with water which was the size of perhaps about a bathtub or so. The Egyptian magicians could have easily obtained water in the same way the Egyptians in verse 7:24 did and performed the magic for Pharaoh.

Now does verse 7:24 contradict 7:19 which says all the ponds, reservoirs, streams, canals, and so on will be turned to blood? No, because the point God was trying to make wasn't to kill the Egyptians from thirst, and they could easily dig new canals/wells, such as digging on the side of the blood-ridden Nile.

Exodus 9

Exodus 9:1-7

Where did Pharaoh get his horses (Ex. 14:9) if all the Egyptian horses are killed here?

Only the animals in the field (Ex. 9:3) are killed. That the phrase in the field isn't some euphemism or expression, but actually means the animals out in the field is shown by Exodus 9:20. What must've happened was that the Fifth Plague (Ex. 9:1-7) was probably a hail like the Seventh, but a localized one that hit the Egyptian sector, but not the land of the people around them (such as, for example, the Israelite one - Goshen). Some of the unrighteous Egyptians either had their animals outside of this sector, or bought them from around Egypt. Since the Pharaoh didn't relent, probably reflecting the attitude of a lot of his people, the amount of livestock that dies in the next plague covers a larger area, including that of indifferent Hebrews who would've sold livestock at a high price, but wouldn't have heeded God (cf. Ex. 9:20-21).

Of course, God's purpose wasn't to completely eradicate all Egyptian livestock; we see Pharaoh has horses again in Exodus 14:9. It was just for the warnings.

Egypt had always been a vast land that constantly traded, especially that the rest of the nearby world (Canaan) had had a famine. Every day new traders would have come in with new goods, including animals. The Hebrews themselves could've easily sold them new animals within a day, at higher prices than ever, much like an army that runs out of food (e.g. an incident recorded by Jean Froissart during the Hundred Years' War; similarly Jean of Joinville in his account of the Seventh Crusade).

Exodus 9:20

Weren't all the Egyptian livestock killed in the Fifth Plague (Exodus 9:1-7)?

See Exodus 9:1-7.

Exodus 12

Exodus 12:36

Why did God direct the Israelites to steal/plunder?

See Exodus 3:22.

Exodus 12:37

Can 70/75 Hebrews become a population of 1.5 million in about 250 years in Egypt?

See Exodus Logistics.

Can Jacob's house which came to Egypt and numbered 70 (or 75) people grow to 1.5 million 250 years later at the time of the Exodus? The answer is yes! If every couple after the first and second generation (which would have about 5) had 3 to 4 children and sixty or so percent of the Hebrews intermarried while the other half married foreigners, 70 people expand to about 1.44 million people by the tenth generation, each generation being about 25 years, at which point Moses led them out of Egypt. Here we have the following calculations and statements:

70 people - we've assumed this since if 70 people can grow to 1.5 million in 250 years, then 75 certainly can as well.

Of the 70 in Jacob's house who went to Egypt, 30 or so were unmarried (probably more). These 30 married 30 foreign wives/husbands (100% foreign marriage - necessary if they didn't bring wives/husbands). These 30 couples would have been very wealthy (Joseph's relatives were given land and money) and so they could have had as many as 5 kids each. Thomas Malthus observed that the population in America between 1750 and 1800 doubled every 25 years as a result of "unlimited" land and resources. Since we are talking about 60 people (30 couples), we could grant each couple 5 children since America in 1750 had millions and not 70-100 people so it couldn't really grow any faster.

The first generation therefore gives us 150 kids of these 30 couples. This is G1 born and raised in Egypt. The next generation still has 5 kids per couple, and most of these 150 Hebrews would have married foreign wives/husbands (as Nehemiah and Ezra show during the Exile), so we have 150 couples which produce 150x5=750 children. This is G2. The second generation we estimate to produce this time an average of about let's say 4 kids resulting in 750*4=3000 children in the third generation. After this we use a 3.5 (3 to 4) child average, with a foreign marriage of 40% (lower in my opinion than would have been the case; the Hebrews wouldn't have married only Egyptians: the Goshen region had many other Semites from the Syrian and Canaanite lands living there, and many others would go through there on their way to Egypt to trade). We've also assumed that most Hebrews who marry non-Hebrews end up integrating their non-Hebrew wife/husband into the Hebrew population as it probably would have been the case, much like in modern scenarios with Jews or Armenians. In any case, most who would marry foreigners would be male Hebrews. We also support this with Exodus 1:12 (...the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread... meaning the non-Hebrews most probably usually joined the Israelite community), so this is a fair assumption. So we get:


30-30 (G0)
150-150 (G1)
750-750 (G2)
3000-1200 (G3)
<--- marriage between Hebrews and non-Hebrews falls to 40%
7300-2900 (G4) <--- The previous Generation (#3) gives us 2100 Hebrew couples (the 1200 who married Egyptians and half of the remaining 1800 (900) that marry Hebrew to Hebrew for a total of 2100 couples which produce 2100x3.5=7350 which has been rounded down to 7300. From now on, everything is rounded down to allow for stillbirths and individuals who died before having children and the couples are multiplied by 3.5 (3 to 4 children as in Moses' case).

17,500-7,000 (G5)
42,000-16,500 (G6)
101,500-40,000 (G7)
245,000-98,000 (G8)
595,000-235,000 (G9)
1,435,000-435,000 (G10)
3,250,000 (G11), divided by 25 gives 130,000

BY the TENTH Generation this numbers about 1.44 million Hebrews (ages 1-25 years old). This is also in accordance with Malthus' observations that a region with more or less unlimited supply of food (and space) doubles the population over 25 years: if you notice, each following generation is about double the one before it, except for the first three. For example, G5 has 17,500 Hebrews of whom 7000 (40%) marry non-Hebrews. This gives a population of about 24,500 Hebrews (non-Hebrews become part of the Hebrews after marriage). In the next generation, G6, the number is 42,000 (not counting the wives/husbands that the children would later marry), which is about double the population.

If we want to see how many children there would have been amongst the population referred to in Exodus 12:37, we can simply find the estimated population that would be produced in the G11 generation, (about 3.3 million), divide that by 25 (for 1 year which would be about how much time G10 had to have any children), and get around 130,000 children under the ages of 20 (or so). This, combined with a wife for most of the 600,000 soldiers, and some slaves and older than 50 years men would give us roughly 1.44 million. Also, these calculations shouldn't be cited as a contradiction with Genesis 15:16 which tells Abraham that in the fourth generation of Egyptian captivity the people will leave (the Exodus), because here we've given one generation a timespan of 25 years, but in Genesis 15:16 the average lifetime of a person is meant which is about 70-80 years.

Finally, can we derive roughly 600,000 soldiers 20-50 years old from our calculations? No you say? If we take the 1.44 million born in the 25 years between year 225-250 of Egyptian stay (G1 starts immediately, so everyone born in G1 is born from year 0-25 in Egyptian stay. Thus adding 9*25 (225) gives us 225-250 years of stay). Of those 1.44 million only 720,000 are males. Of these males, if we spread these out over 25 years, only 20 percent of them would have qualified as soldiers. 20 percent of 720,000 is 144,000. Don't forget G9 however, who are roughly 25-50 years old. Half of the 730,000 population born in G9 (595,000 plus 235,000) gives us the number of men (all over age 20 and under 50), who can be counted under the 600,000 of Exodus 12:37. We will round down for Hebrew women who married older men amongst those 235,000 (technically 117,500 the other half foreign wives). 730,000 divided by 2 is 365,000, which when we add 144,000 we can round down to about 500,000. If we however note that in G10, by the end of that generation, of the 720,000 women, those 20-25 would have probably been married (most likely to husbands ages 20-50), we can add another 20% for the husbands of the Israelite women of G10, which as we already know is about 144,000, which gives us a total of about ~640,000. Subtract from this husbands that would have been older than 50 by the end of G10 who married wives in G9 and G10 and you have roughly 600,000 soldiers.

Exodus 12:40-41

Did the Israelites stay 400 years (Gen. 15:13, Acts 7:6), 430 years (Ex. 12:40-41, Gal. 3:17), or 450 years (Acts 13:20) in Egypt?

In Galatians 3:17 Paul takes the 430 years of Exodus 12:40-41 to refer to the period from the day God appears to Abraham and he leaves for/into Canaan to the day of the Exodus. This is the most logical interpretation because Genesis 15:13 says his descendants will be "sojourners in a foreign land" for 400 years; Abraham is 75 when he leaves Haran (Gen. 12:4), and Isaac is born to him when he's 100 (Gen. 21:5). This leaves us with 405 years technically, which is why some older commentators supposed that the 400 years began when Ishmael teased a 5-year-old Isaac (Gen. 20:9 - Ishmael laughed, presumably at Isaac's expense). This is neither possible nor necessary to prove - 405 years can easily be rounded to 400 to carry the same sense, much like other ages and numbers are.

Moreover, the day God appeared to Abraham, causing him to leave Mesopotamia would've been much more important and memorable for both Abraham and the Israelites than the day Isaac was teased (even if it could have been noted as it was illegal that Hagar be thrown out). Exodus is clear that this was known to the day. The only other alternative would be the day of Isaac's birth - certainly to be remembered by Abraham and Sarah their entire lives, especially in the moments Abraham had to walk him up to the sacrificial altar. But this would've been important mainly to Abraham and Isaac, and the day God appears to Abraham would've been infinitely more meaningful for everyone not just because man's oblivion to false deities was over, but because it was this same deity who gave Abraham a son when his wife had been barren her entire life and had entered menopause altogether (Gen. 18:11). Throughout Scripture we see altars being made and dedicated whenever God appeared to the Israelites, so this is the better candidate and makes sense with the 400 vs 430 years as well as with Gal. 3:17.

It's this 400 year value, which was the most familiar to both us and Paul's audience in Acts 13:16-41 (cf. Acts 7:6) that gives us 450 in Acts 13:20. Paul adds to the 400, the 40 year Wilderness Wandering, and rounds it to ~450 with Joshua's Conquest. Joshua's Conquest took around 7 years. This is calculated from Caleb's age. He says he's 85 and that he was 40 when Moses sent him to spy from Kadesh-Barnea (Josh. 14:7, 10; Num. 13). The Israelites reached Kadesh-Barnea and sent spies 2 years after leaving Egypt (Deut. 2:14), which would make Caleb 38 at the Exodus, and 78 at its exactly 40 year end (Deut. 1:3). If we allow for rounding on Caleb's part, we get 5-10 years for the Conquest, giving us 445-450 years from the "travellers in a foreign land" beginning with Abraham's son Isaac (Gen. 15:13).

The reason why Exodus 12:40-41 tells us of 430 years "in Egypt" only is because Egypt was the focal point of the Exodus, the oppression, the fulfillment of making Abraham a "multitude", and because Egypt was the foreign land - the Hebrews were oppressed here, despite being born here. Whereas, Isaac and Jacob were neither oppressed, nor foreigners to Canaan, being born there. Jacob even laments for Canaan and asks Joseph to bury him there and not Egypt or Haran/Ur. So it would have been quite awkward and unnatural to refer to the "foreign land" of Abraham's promise as Egypt and Canaan in Exodus 12:40-41, especially since the Israelite were going to this "foreign" land! This would've been a natural designation for Abraham in Genesis 15:13, but not for Moses and the Israelites, but logically the 430 years extended over Canaan and the Septuagint attests this by amending the text to "430 years in Egypt and Canaan," thus exercising one of its many attempts at reconciling the text.

Exodus 13

Exodus 14

Exodus 14:9

Where did the Egyptians get all the horses?

See Exodus 9:1-7.

Exodus 14:29

How can the bottom of a sea be dry?

Even if the Red Sea is split in half, wouldn't the bottom be muddy and not dry ground?

Maybe the east wind quickly dried up the ground. Or perhaps this happened by itself by the time the Israelites mobilized. The verse isn't trying to say that the ground is as dry as a desert highway, but that compared to the drowned Egyptians, the Israelites walked on a water-free route - relatively dry. There could've been some mud, but not for too long in the scorching desert heat.

Possibly the first people who went were those without heavy equipment like carts or animals, so by the time those people came, the ground was dry and not an obstacle.

Mud/sand isn't a big obstacle even for heavy equipment when there's a motivation. The Germans had difficulties with their vehicles during the Fall rains in 1941, but they still got across. Knowing that there was an army in pursuit of them, the Israelites who were merely civilians (too afraid to face an army for example - Ex. 13:17), would've had one heck of a motivation to get across quickly.

Exodus 14:30

Did the Egyptians sink to the bottom of the Red Sea or wash ashore?

Exodus 15:4-5 has Miriam sing that the Egyptians have sunk to the bottom of the Red Sea. But one can drown and have his body wash ashore, just like Jean of Joinville notes on numerous occasions in his account of the Seventh Crusade (attributes the floating to the putrefication of the bile). The Egyptian army did sink to the bottom, in the sense that they drowned, and then some washed up ashore.

Exodus 15

Exodus 15:3

Is God a God of peace or war?

The sense that Exodus 15:3 employs is that God will take action when necessary and demands justice. Romans 15:33 talks about the fact that God prefers peace and wants that over chaos, disorder, or war.

Exodus 15:4-5

Did the Egyptians sink to the bottom of the Red Sea or wash ashore?

See Exodus 14:30.

Exodus 18

Exodus 18:5

Who was the father-in-law of Moses?

See Exodus 2:18, 20-21.

Exodus 20

Exodus 20:1-26

Does this contradict Deuteronomy and elsewhere in Exodus on the Ten Commandments?

The three places where the Ten Commandments are enumerated (Exodus 20, 34, and Deuteronomy 5) are sometimes cited by critics as proof of contradiction in the Bible. However, Exodus 34 has some additions simply as rituals that the Israelites were to perform with respect to the commands originally given (and now given again). But these additions were already there in the Exodus 20 version, but simply the order is recorded differently (e.g. Exodus 23:19 and Exodus 34:26), most likely in Exodus 20 so as to put everything in categories. The version in Exodus 34 simply is a summary and isn't an exhaustive rewriting (especially since Exodus 20-30 already has everything exhaustively written down), and this is shown by the fact that the list in Exodus 34 doesn't finish listing the Ten Commandments (yet see Exodus 34:28). This is not a contradiction, but simply a summary by the author (as Exodus 34:27-28 also shows). Deuteronomy 5 on the other hand has all Ten Commandments listed as in Exodus 20, but it's not an exhaustive collection like Exodus 20-30 either. The first three Commandments are the same. The fourth, the Sabbath, is different in the reasoning provided for it. Exodus 20 says that since God rested on the seventh day, the same is here applied for the Israelites, whereas Deuteronomy 5:15 says, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." (NIV). However, much like the many things not written down in Exodus 34, the same could be the case here: this simply wasn't recorded in Exodus 20 as part of the reasoning, and it's recorded here. The fact is, the in Exodus 20 we have a theological reason, whereas in Deuteronomy 5 we simply have a reminder that God, who did a lot for the Israelites and is at the same time mighty, asks obedience to this. We know that we aren't dealing with exhaustive comments everywhere in these sections because of the following example: in Exodus 33:1-3 we have:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." (NIV)
Then in Exodus 33:4-6 we see:
When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, 'You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.'" So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.
This is not a contradiction since the author obviously didn't forget 1 verse down what God had said about the ornaments (verse 33:5), so we simply have things mentioned in one part that may have been omitted in another (Deuteronomy 5 and Exodus 20-30). After this, the other Commandments have no variation (vocabulary only, which is understandable if we have generalized injunctions), and the Commandment to not covet your neighbor's house and wife in Exodus 20:17 becomes not to covet your neighbor's wife, house and land in Deuteronomy 5:21, most likely the word "land" wasn't specified in the Exodus 20 version since the Israelites did have pastureland during the Exodus (to feed their cattle), and did settle occasionally, so could have had houses and lands, but nomads who didn't have lands/pastures certainly didn't have houses (which both Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 mention), and so the Commandment originally may have had "land" as well. It's possible that "land" was simply added as a general description to not covet property. And if the Israelites didn't have houses/land during the Exodus, the Commandment simply stands as a general rule.

Exodus 20:5

• Are children punished for the sins of the father?

Children who were punished for their father's sins weren't always physically harmed or handicapped, though this may have been sometimes the case. However, the point of this is that God keeps the person responsible shamed (primarily) throughout his descendants even to the third or fourth generation. Certainly this didn't need to always be the case especially if the children were righteous, and it probably served much more to the detriment to the father (shame in some way) than the children.

If God is a jealous God, isn't jealousy a sin?

Some jealousy is sinful, other is a godly jealousy - 2 Corinthians 11:2 and this is clear just like many things can be good and bad depending on intent and measure - i.e. wanting something such as money: it can be simply of necessity or it can lead to greed.

Exodus 22

Exodus 22:31

Can foreigners eat carrion or not?

See Deuteronomy 14:21.

Exodus 24

Exodus 24:10

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin. This is supported by the following verse, Exodus 24:11, which notes that although they "saw" God, they continued to live (ate, drank, etc.).

Exodus 25

Exodus 25:18-22

Does this violate the command against making graven images in Exodus 20:4?

No, these verses and verses like these do not violate the biblical command against making graven images because the command against making these graven images was not to worship them, not simply not to make them.

Exodus 31

14. " 'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people.

• Sabbath-breakers killed or "cut-off"?

Some see the ending clause of this verse as contradicting the command to kill Sabbath-breakers, that in the very same verse! If anything, being cut off from the people should clearly be recognized as not being exclusive to exile.

Exodus 33

11. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

See Exodus 24:10.

Exodus 33:20

• Could anyone see God and live?

There are some verses that have God talking to individuals, in Moses' case "face to face" (Exodus 33:11), but as it is clear later on in Exodus 33:20, this was not literally so. In any case, the whole is metaphorical that just as the people are not worthy to see God's Glory (to the point where Moses covers his face with a veil after his face being radiant from seeing God's Glory), in the same way Moses cannot see God's face, only his back; this being a representation of God, not God's actual back, just like Moses' face was radiant, but this radiance was not him himself, but a representation of his righteousness (and importance and authority of course; but ones that came out of his righteousness, especially seeing his speech impediment, Exodus 4:10). Overall, people could not see God's face, not even Moses, though some could see God and talk to him, whereas others would die. Exodus 33:20 talks about the first case.

23. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin. Since only verses earlier, the author writes that Moses spoke to God face to face (verse 11), clearly one of the two is symbolic, since no forger could have forgotten so easily that only moments earlier (in his writing) Moses talked to God face to face. Clearly then, one of the two is metaphoric, most likely verse 11, saying that Moses talked to God face to face, and in any case, that image of God would also be symbolic, that not even that could be looked upon without dying, let alone God Himself. An Israelite who was not the leader of the community as Moses was, would have died, due to the symbol seeing God conveys (authority, which he did not have). Thus the numerous statements that if anyone "saw" God he would die.

Exodus 34

Exodus 34:1-28

Does this contradict Deuteronomy and Exodus 20:1-26 on the Ten Commandments?

See Exodus 20:1-26.

Exodus 34:14

• Is God's name "Jealous" or Jehovah/"I AM"?

It's clear that God designating his name as "Jealous" in Exodus 34:14 is a metaphor.


Leviticus 7

Leviticus 7:24

Can foreigners eat carrion or not?

See Deuteronomy 14:21.

Leviticus 8

Leviticus 8:3-5

How did Moses speak to millions of Israelites being gathered at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting?

The assembly of Israel to whom Moses spoke here did not constitute the whole nation of Israel but only the judges who did not number in the millions (Numbers 25:5-7).

Leviticus 11

Leviticus 11:5-6

Do the rabbit and hyrax chew the cud?

See Deuteronomy 14:7.

Leviticus 11:19

Is the bat a bird?

See Deuteronomy 14:18.

Leviticus 11:20-23

Is the Bible wrong about insects having four legs?

The description of insects having "four" feet or legs in Leviticus 11:20-23 and elsewhere does not mean the Bible is saying they have four legs specifically. It is an expression which means more or less, "walking on all fours", the way the KJV translates Lev. 11:20. Since animals apart from birds, fish, and reptiles like snakes are the only ones that don't walk "on all fours", it is certain that an insect described as walking "on four legs" is a euphemism for simply something that is not a bird/fish/snake or human (that walks on two legs). This is evident from the fact that the author and the Israelites would have undoubtedly known that insects like the grasshopper don't have four but six legs and this is fairly certain from the mention of the two jointed legs of the grasshopper and such in Lev. 11:21. The objection that the grasshopper was not always around and they may have "forgotten" they have 6 legs is absurd since the author is clearly familiar with the anatomy of the grasshopper in Lev. 11:21 having twojointed legs.

Leviticus 15

Leviticus 15:24

Is a man (and woman) to be cut off from Israel (Leviticus 20:18) or only become unclean until evening if during intercourse the woman's menstrual blood touches him?

Leviticus 15:24 talks about an unexpected and accidental case where this happens. This is clear from the fact that only the man is mentioned as becoming unclean, since the woman becomes unclean by default for 7 days due to her menstruation (Lev. 15:19-23), but in Lev. 20:18 both are given the punishment. It's also obvious from Lev. 20:18 that this is purposeful and not accidental: ""'If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people." (NIV).

Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17:15

Are foreigners allowed to eat carrion or not? And if Leviticus 17:10-14 says to cut off the Israelite or foreigner who eats blood (which carrion would have), why is Lev. 17:15 talking about cleansing the person who eats carrion?

See Deuteronomy 14:21.


Numbers 3

Numbers 3:15-39

Did the Levites number 22,000 or 22,300?

The the number of males in the list of Levite clans in Numbers 3:22,28,34 adds up to 22,300. Numbers 3:39, however, says the Levites were 22,000. Since the author was already educated enough to know how to write, hardly would he make such a simple mathematical error a few verses down, especially where elsewhere in Scripture we see much more numerous and complicated numbers being given the correct value. We can suggest some possibilities why the numbers differ:

Theory 1. The 300 extra Levites weren't counted because they were firstborn

It is interesting to note that the leftover firstborn Israelites (273) is a number very close to 300. Undoubtedly the calculations were rounded when recorded, except in the count of firstborns - so the writer isn't being exchaustive (e.g. how many shekels were paid for the extra Israelite firstborns if it wasn't technically 1,365: much like how modern estimates round the value of a certain asset, like a house).

Since the 22,273 firstborn Israelites are being symbollically ransomed (a possible indicator of what Jesus would do for the world), it wouldn't make sense to ransom the Levite firstborns by ransoming them with their own selves again. Moreover, the ratio of 300 to 22,300 firstborn vs Levites matches the 22,273 vs 1.2 million for all Israelites.

I think this is the strongest theory and I prefer it over the others. One can only wonder how it was that the number of Levites matched exactly the number of firstborn Israelites, but I suppose that's why they call it Providence.

Theory 2. Rounding

We already noted that there was obvious rounding with all the numbers except the Israelite firstborn (to the nearest hundred). The numbers for the three clan heads are given as:
  • Gershon - 7500
  • Kohath - 8600
  • Merari - 6200
Instead, they could've been rounded to this from something like:
  • Gershon - 7462
  • Kohath - 8551
  • Merari - 6163

The total adds up to 22,176, which is pretty close to the 22,000 of the text.

But I feel that this explanation has problems. If we overcome the fact that the 273 difference between the firstborn Isrealites and total Levites is treated as exact (5 shekels given for each, for a total of 1,365), we're still left wondering why the number of Levites would've been rounded down to the nearest thousand, when the author does this to the nearest hundred in the previous three counts. There's no reason for this, especially when 273 people make a difference to him with the extra Israelite firstborns.

There is no way to adjust the values from the listing of the three clans to add up to 22,050 or so Levites (which could be rounded down to 22,000 for convenience), without subtracting at least 80 or more from each Levite clan. Why the author would round 7420 Gershonite Levites to 7500 or 6110 of the clan of Merari cannot be satisfactorily explained.

Theory 3. Copyist Error

When it comes to names and numbers, these are the first that get mutilated. True, the Septuagint (LXX) reads 8,300 Levites for the Kohathites instead of 8,600. But just like with the LXX reading of Exodus 12:40, I think there's harmonizing here (the so-called Western text of Acts does this a lot as well).

Numbers 3:46, 50 confirm the figure of 22,000, so unless a scribe corrected what he thought was an erroneous value (for what reason?), the transmissional error would have to be in the numbers of one or more of the Levite clans, which is nothing impossible. Like we said, an ancient author who knew how to write, would've known simple math involving three values a few verses earlier.

Copyist errors could have crept up and eventually led to some scribe rounding all the numbers of the Levite clans and the Levite total. This would explain the mathematical error only if the last scribe rounding did not realize the numbers added wrong and was distracted enough by correcting to not harmonize, which is quite possible since he's only rewriting values, not re-writing the narrative in context (hence not counting). The number 22,273 for the number of firstborn Israelites had to be kept for Numbers 3:44-51 and the whole origin, point, and significance of the Levites to make sense. Or else they would've had to remove that and a lot of interwoven parts of Scripture for no reason (especially being Levites). And finally, we already know that whoever was rounding felt compelled to "correct" the remaining math (Num. 3:46, 50), and felt no problem doctoring the text.

Although I agree there was rounding, I find Theory #1 far simpler and more convincing than copyist errors, whose signs are usually less subtle and more detectable.

Numbers 10

Numbers 10:29

Who was the father-in-law of Moses?

See Exodus 2:18, 20-21.

Numbers 12

Numbers 12:1-16

Why was ony Miriam punished, isn't this sexist?

Being the eldest, Miriam probably began this semi/mini-rebellion. Aaron, who was certainly a participant (Num. 12:11), probably played a minor role to not be punished, or it'd be absurd, especially if he was the leader. This if anything could be the charge of sexism - attributing it to Aaron and not Miriam, but the opposite could be said (i.e. Aaron gets all the blame). And if we follow this logic, then cultural considerations of the Hebrews aside (naming women leaders was rare, and one could perhaps attribute it to Aaron, who was a leader of priests later anyway, and etc), we might as well call it sexism if we open the door for a lady as if she's too weak to do it on her own.

Not punishing Aaron is similar to how George Washington dealt with a certain situation. When faced with mutiny leaders in the Continental army, he first sentenced the 8 leaders to death but then right before the hanging, pardoned 7 of them and only hanged the main instigator in a display of both discipline and clemency. The reason Korah and all of the 250 of his followers being killed was because their opposition was of a more confontational nature - every one of them were ready to oust Moses and so the situation was different and probably demanded the treatment it did there (if they would be obstinate unlike Aaron, and Miriam relented as well). Plus, Miriam's punishment, compared with Moses and Aaron's later on (barred from entering the Promised Land due to the water from the rock incident) is much more minor so hardly is there any sexism involved here (especially with Miriam declared a prophetess - Numbers 12:2).

3. Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

• Was Moses meek or a warrior?

Cited as contradicting the numerous passages that talk about Moses ordering deaths, executions, capturing and destroying of cities and so on. But as can be seen from the very example in Numbers 12 (Num 12:4-16), the numerous wars and acts Moses carried out were on behalf of God, not his own character. Just because he had the gall to do them, did not mean he was not meek; meek people become angry as well, the difference being that they are not the ones who start the situations to arouse such anger for no reason.

On the other hand some would wonder if Numbers is written by Moses how he can describe himself as meek and humble without not being humble. It is unlikely that the verse is an addition by a later author, since the whole chapter supports it, and it serves as part of the incident's narrative. It can be answered however, that we can't second guess how anyone would write about themselves, humble or not, and that this is a pure judgment call, since we did not live in those times, nor in the shoes of Moses as portrayed in Exodus-Deuteronomy, so we can't say that a humble man could not have written that about himself. It's not necessary to suppose an author doesn't seem to have written Numbers 12:3 about himself: if he was reporting a fact based on observations, he would not be exalting himself. And if Moses did have a speech disorder (Exodus 4:10), this would be moreso the case.

If Moses wrote the Pentateuch, how could he have described himself as humble so majestically here?

This isn't really a contradiction since it involves authorship and authenticity of the Pentateuch (or Numbers), but we can simply say that whatever the case is, Moses probably wrote the history that was summarized and narrated by Numbers by an author during, most likely, the Judges period, and although a lot of the Pentateuch was directly written by Moses in its composition (e.g. most of Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and possibly the history behind Genesis and Exodus), this particular section (or verse) wasn't directly written by him but a summary of his works (with verse 3 being written about him).

Numbers 14

14. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

See Exodus 24:10.

Numbers 15

Numbers 15:32-36

Why was there a court case when the Law said to kill someone who breaks the Sabbath?

1. This may have been how judgment was executed at the time.
2. The punishment of death may not have been the case all the time (e.g. the Assyrian lawcode, The Code of Assura I.14 gives the adulterers only the punishment of death whereas the next code, I.15, gives the punishment as a monetary sum).
3. The crime may not have been established as Sabbath-breaking due to his actions necessitating a judge.

Numbers 22

Numbers 22:1-20

How did the Israelites learn about these blessings by Balaam to write them down in Numbers?

Just like an oracle by this prophet was found in a 9th/8th century BC inscription (the Deir Alla Inscription), so word could have gotten out that Balaam had blessed instead of cursed Israel and what Balaam's blessings and prophecies were, either through one of Balak's officials or from Balaam himself when the Israelites were near him (before they killed him - Numbers 31:8). Balaam was so famous that even hundreds of years later his fame was not dead as attested by the Deir Alla Inscription, so it wouldn't have been too hard to learn what he had said about Israel which was at the time the latest news in Canaan and the western part of the fertile crescent.

Numbers 22:5

Was Balaam the son of Beor/Peor or Bosor (2 Peter 2:15)?

Just like Beor and Peor are variants of each other, so is most likely Bosor some sort of variant, perhaps Aramaic. Similarly Beelzebub of Beelzebul. This isn't a contradiction but a name transliteration and this was how the name of Balaam's pedigree was probably spoken of in Peter's day.

Numbers 22:20-22

Why was God angry with Balaam for going when He allowed him to go?

Although the KJV may seem to say that God was angry with Balaam for going with the officials, the language is that God was angry at Balaam while Balaam was on his journey (as he went). Who knows what Balaam did or under what peer pressure he caved in along the journey for God to get angry. God had already told him to do only what He tells him to (Num. 22:20), so we can only imagine what Balaam did along the way - not only did God speak to him and allow him to prophesy, but Balaam was making money from this, and he was at the same time trying to figure out a way to help those hiring him to get the Israelites cursed/punished, when he knew they were blessed by God (Num. 23-24).

Numbers 23

Numbers 23:21

How can Balaam's blessing and prophecy (which was from God) be correct if the Israelites sinned numerous times?

The KJV wording of Numbers 23:21 might seem to imply that Israel never sinned, but that is not what this verse is saying at all. Just like the way the NIV has it, the verse says that God sees Israel as following Him and that He will not hold Israel's sins against them (due to their following Him).

Numbers 25

Numbers 25:9

How many died in the plague: 23,000 or 24,000?

In 1 Cor. 10:8 Paul says that 23,000 died in 1 day as a result of sexual immorality. But in Numbers 25:9 the number is given as 24,000.

We can postulate and speculate many things. Would Paul, a Pharisee, have been well-versed and familiar with the Old Testament enough so that he couldn't have made such a mistake? Would he have double-checked the Old Testament for accuracy's sake, since his letter is seeking to address a real crisis and he certainly wouldn't want someone contradicting him on such a trivial point? Was it a copyist error?

I feel that none of these answers are realistic. The clever suggestion is frequently made that the 23,000 mentioned in Paul's letter were those who died in one day. But if we read carefully, Numbers 25:18 clearly tells us the plague was only during one day - "...who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor." It makes sense - did the other 1000 die in the early hours of the next day? How do we know? It's quite clear we're trying to split hairs.

Nor do I think we can suppose that this is a different plague (e.g. Exodus 32:35). Paul connects this with temporal punishment over sexual immorality and this, coupled with the closeness of the number to the one stated in Num. 25, makes that the correct plague.

So what about Paul's different number? This isn't an error any more than if he would've rounded the number to "the 20,000 who got killed." After all, we frequently round ourselves and it's irrelevant when exactness of the number isn't the point. If I round the population of Canada to 35 million, am I wrong if it's 35.85 million? The ancients had an even wider range of rounding feasibility. To quote Adam Clarke's comments on Acts 13:20:

And it may be added that the most correct writers often express a sum totally, but not exactly: so, with Demosthenes and Plautus, we find that called a talent where some drachms were either wanting or abounding." The sacred writers often express themselves in the same way: e.g. He made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about. Now we know that the circumference of any circle is only in round numbers to its diameter as three to one; but, correctly, is considerably more, nearly as 22 to 7. But even the Spirit of God does not see it necessary to enter into such niceties, which would only puzzle, and not instruct the common reader.

Paul wasn't recording a census. He was giving a lesson.

Numbers 31

Numbers 31:15-18

Is this command immoral: kill all the women who aren't virgins and all the male children and save the virgins for yourself?

We can note that the male children would have grown up to avenge their nation and they had already participated indirectly in the Midianite sin so as to give them up in a total destruction to the Lord much like any Israelite whose family member committed a grave sin (e.g. Joshua 7:24) and it is ultimately to the Lord that we live or die (Romans 14:7-9).

As far as the women vs virgin situation, the reason specifically is given in verse 16 that they were the ones that enticed Israel into sin and the whole war was because of them, yet they're supposed to live! And clearly the ones that were virgins had no part in the enticement of Israel into sin.


Deuteronomy 1

Deuteronomy 1:1

How can Moses speak to so many people at once?

Here and elsewhere Moses is said to address "all Israel". This would have been about 1.2-1.4 million people. There are dozens of places in the Sinai peninsula where tall rock cliffs and hills overlook large and wide plateaus. From there one could speak before perhaps even millions.

Deuteronomy 5

Deuteronomy 5:1-22

What are the real Ten Commandments?

See Exodus 20:1-27.

Deuteronomy 5:4

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Deuteronomy 7

Deuteronomy 10

Deuteronomy 10:7-8

When were the Levites separated and consecrated as priests?

Some see these verses in Deuteronomy as contradicting Numbers 3-8 where the Levites are separated for God (e.g. Numbers 8:18-19,21). However, in Numbers 3-8 the Levites are to do work in the Tabernacle of Meeting before Aaron and his sons (Numbers 8:22). They were not yet separated specifically for all time to be priests and to give blessings in God's name, to minister before God, and to carry the Ark exclusively as they were, apparently, at Jotbathah in Deuteronomy 10:7-8. In Numbers Aaron and his descendants are still the main instrument of the priesthood (Numbers 4:5ff.), but the Levites are to help. Only the Aaronid Levites are the center of priestly activities in Numbers, not all the Levites. In Deuteronomy 10:7-8, probably with Aaron having passed away, all Levites become priests and not just helpers of the sons of Aaron, though there are still some restrictions for specific priests of specific ancestors. In Numbers 3-8, the Levites are allowed to serve in the Tabernacle and minister unto the people (apparently different from the role of the priesthood - see Numbers 16:10 vs 16:8-9), but the Levites were not set apart as priests yet, only Aaron and his descendants were (Numbers 16:8-10).

Deuteronomy 10:22

How many went down to Egypt?

See Exodus 1:5.

Deuteronomy 14

Deuteronomy 14:7

Do rabbits chew the cud?

The rabbit technically is not a ruminant in the modern sense of the definition, that is the rabbit is a hindgut fermenter not a foregut fermenters like the camel, sheep, cow, and goat. However, as many have noted, rabbits (and the hyrax - Deuteronomy 14:7, Leviticus 11:5) practice something that serves the same purpose as rumination - refection. Instead of regurgitation of the cud from the stomach, the rabbit and hyrax (and horse!) excrete the cud which is re-eaten and re-chewed, thus in a sense the cud chewed.

This however doesn't exactly answer the question. The camel, also listed in Deuteronomy 14:7, chews the cud in the traditional sense of the phrase, but the rabbit and hyrax don't. Why aren't other animals that practice refection, such as the horse listed? The taxonomist Carl Linnaeus also erroneously mistook the rabbit and rodents as ruminants due to the motion of their jaws while chewing. Is this the source of the biblical description of the rabbit and hyrax as chewing the cud? I think the answer is simple but subtle: the rabbit and hyrax in the way we described above technically chew the cud. But while this is technically true, the Israelites saw the chewing motion of the rabbit/hare and hyrax and concluded correctly from an erroneous supposition that the rabbit chews its cud, while they did not see this in the horse, but only in the apparent motion of the mouths of hares and hyraxes. Thus we can understand the biblical restriction on the consumption of rabbits and hyraxes due to their chewing the cud, but not for the horse: the Israelites simply already thought the rabbit and hyrax chewed the cud, which technically was true, and so God in giving the Mosaic Law decided He might as well list the rabbit and hyrax as unclean due to not having a split hoof, despite (technically and socially accepted as fact) their chewing the cud.

So to better illustrate the above point, we can imagine the following scenario: Moses is speaking with God while He is giving the Law with respect to the rabbit and hyrax being unclean:

God: Ok, so this is what you should write further in the Law. Write that animals that chew the cud and split the hoof such as goats, sheep, and cows are clean to be eaten, but animals that don't chew the cud and have a split hoof such as the pig, or animals that chew the cud but don't have a split hoof like the camel are unclean. Also the rabbit and the hyrax.
Moses: What about the rabbit and the hyrax? They don't have a split hoof...and you told me that they don't have four stomachs like the goat, camel, sheep, and cow, right?
God: Yes, but all of you have seen the way the rabbits and hyraxes chew with their mouths and you all think that they chew the cud.
Moses: But it's not cud they're chewing, right?
God: No. But all of you think that already. And rabbits and hyraxes do chew the cud, technically, though not in the same way cows and sheep do through rumination, but through refection.
Moses: So while we're incorrect to think the rabbits and hyraxes chew the cud because of their mouth movements, we're correct that they chew the cud?
God: Yes.
Moses: So listing rabbits and hyraxes as animals that chew the cud yet are still unclean is technically correct even though we have the wrong reasoning as to why?
God: Yes.
Moses: And this is similar to a man thinking that the Earth is round because a fortune-cookie told him so, and so he's never afraid of walking off the edge of the Earth? His reasons are incorrect, but his conclusion is true.
God: Yes.
Moses: So the instructions to not eat hares and hyraxes because while they chew their cud, they don't have a split hoof, is simply to tell us that they're unclean despite the fact that we think, incidentally correctly, that they chew the cud so that maybe we have clear and thorough instructions?
God: Yes.
Moses: Ok, I think I understand.
God: Alright. Now, I'm going to tell you something about a certain people called, the Amorites. This time, contrary to popular belief amongst you Israelites, and unlike the situation with the rabbits and hyraxes, it is not true - king Sihon and Og do not like to play Scrabble.

Deuteronomy 14:18

Is the bat a bird?

To say that the Bible is wrong because it describes the bat as a bird is simply imposing our own personal taxonomical classifications where they never existed. It's like saying that textbooks that described Pluto as a planet before it was decided that it no longer qualified as a planet, are wrong. They weren't wrong, and there's nothing wrong with what the authors of the textbook wrote describing it as a planet. All the Bible is doing is describing things that fly and using the common word for them. The Bible does not state, "...of all the flying creatures that are not mammals such as the bat..." If the 18th century taxonomist, Linnaeus, could detect that whales were mammals and not fish (Valencic & Valencic, The Complete...Whale Watchers Guide (1975), p.10), any ancient could've been familiar with the fact that bats give birth to live young unlike birds and feed them milk, so calling them "birds" was clearly a convient description. Furthermore, the categorization is simply out of convenience. The same example can be seen in the fact that statistics regarding bird strikes of aircraft include bats into the data. The Georgia Journal of Science writes the following:
Collisions between birds and aircraft are common at Moody Air Force Base (MAFB) and around the nation, and referred to as Bird-Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH). Bats are flying mammals, but also are counted in bird strike data. (Georgia Journal of Science, Vol. 65, No. 4 (2007), p.161 ISBN: 0147-9369 http://facstaff.gpc.edu/~jaliff/GAJSci65-4.pdf Retrieved 10-8-2013.)
Deuteronomy 14:21

Can a foreigner living in Israel eat dead animal carcasses or animals torn in the wild or not (Lev. 17:15)?

We should be reserved about contradictions in the Pentateuch. Christ uses one or two to point out to the Pharisees that the Law was made for man, not man for the Law (technically speaking about the Sabbath). However, I don't think the Law contradicts itself here in Deuteronomy 14:21 against similar passages. The passages that are related to this command are: Leviticus 17:15 (which says that both the Israelite and foreigner living in Israel becomes defiled), Exodus 22:31 (tells the Israelites not to eat carrion), and Leviticus 7:24.

Let's first note one thing: Exodus 22:31 and Leviticus 7:24 talk about only Israelites not to eat carrion, and say nothing about foreigners. This leaves us with Deut. 14:21 and Lev. 17:15. However, there is no contradiction between these last two verses: Deuteronomy 14:21 talks about the fact that the Israelite is free to give carrion to foreigners who live in Israel to eat, or to sell to other foreigners (outside of Israel), whereas Leviticus 17:15 says that both Israelites and foreigners (residing in Israel) who eat carrion are unclean and that both groups must cleanse themselves, or else bear the consequences of being cut off (Lev. 17:16). To be unclean is not the same as to sin, but simply that you had to perform ritual purification. Therefore, Deuteronomy 14:21 tells us that while the Israelite is restricted from eating carrion in order that he might be cleansed later, in accordance with Exodus 22:31, the foreigner residing in Israel is not. And Leviticus 17:15 supplements that the foreigner, however, after eating carrion, is unclean and must cleanse himself. Therefore, the conclusion is that the Israelites were restricted from eating carrion, whether it is bled out or not, but the foreigner is not; however, the foreigner has to cleanse himself after eating the carrion.

One objection to this interpretation is the fact that in Leviticus 17:10-14 it says that any Israelite or foreigner who eats blood (on purpose) is to be cut off. Obviously an animal that has died from natural causes is going to have blood. However, the carrion would certainly be bled by the foreigner to be eaten, so he can eat carrion without eating blood. Therefore, this I think explains the verses that seem to have differing views, but in fact supplement each other.

Another question is how the Israelite (or foreigner) can cleanse himself in Leviticus 17:15 after having eaten carrion (which would have blood), but in Leviticus 17:10-14 it says that those who eat blood, Israelite or foreigner, will be cut off from Israel? The answer is simple: Leviticus 17:15 is for those who accidentally ate carrion (with blood) or purposefully/accidentally ate carrion that has been bled.

Deuteronomy 15

Deuteronomy 15:22

If the Law was given while the Israelites were nomads in the desert, how can this statement refer to their city gates?

This verse, and Exodus 20:10, seem to talk about cities which the Israelites would not have possessed in the desert. Although the Law certainly could have been prepared for the not so distant future when the Israelites indeed would have had cities (Gen. 22:17), the word here, sha'ar, means pretty much town/city/door and most likely: home - where they lived, whether in the wilderness or elsewhere.

Deuteronomy 16

Deuteronomy 16:3,8

6 or 7 days of eating unleavened bread?

The context of verse 8 does not entail that the seventh day one can eat leavened bread, but that there is an observance in addition to the eating of the unleavened bread, which is the only thing going on in the 6 days before (after the sacrifice on the first day). The focus in verse 8 is on the assembly on the seventh day, not on the eating of the unleavened bread, so the verse certainly presupposes that one would eat only unleavened bread on the seventh day also, and hardly would there be a contradiction like this barely 5 verses down for the author not to remember he said 7 days of unleavened bread instead of 6.

Deuteronomy 20

Deuteronomy 20:19

What about 2 Kings 3:19 where God tells the Israelites not to spare the trees?

Although divergences between the Law and commands by God elsewhere in the Old Testament are certainly due to the statement of Jesus that the law was made for man, not man for the law, I don't think we even have a divergence of this sort here: see 2 Kings 3:19.

Deuteronomy 22

Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Why is a slanderer who demanded the other person's life killed in Deuteronomy 19:16-21, but only fined 100 shekels of silver here?

There are many possible reasons for the punishments enumerated in Deuteronomy 22:13-21. First, let us note that int he ancient world, at least as far as the Middle East was concerned, written laws such as that found in Deuteronomy (and in other cultures) did not always list all options such as punishments/rewards/procedures. Very possibly, there were other options such as payment to the husband, as well as divorce, which very well could have been the motivation of someone who disliked his wife and just wanted to make money. Ancient Near Eastern laws did not list exhaustively the punishments available and the person wrong usually had the choice as to what to do with the victim. For example, proof of this is The Code of the Assura (1075 B.C.), which says,
I.13. If the wife of a man go out from her house and visit a man where he lives, and he have intercourse with her, knowing that she is a man's wife, the man and also the woman they shall put to death.
Here the punishment of the adulterer (and adultress) is death. But the very next law says the following:
I.14. If a man have intercourse with the wife of a man either in an inn or on the highway, knowing that she is a man's wife, according as the man, whose wife she is, orders to be done, they shall do to the adulterer. If not knowing that she is a man's wife he rapes her, the adulterer goes free. The man shall prosecute his wife, doing to her as he likes.
Here the very next law says that the husband can do whatever he wants to the adulterer! Certainly the difference between the place of adultery, whether the adulterer's house, or an inn/highway does not make a difference! And certainly the wife, whose punishment is not mentioned in the first half of the law here will also be punished!

We can therefore conclude that only one punishment for a promiscuous Hebrew wife (perhaps the harshest) is given here in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 (and elsewhere in the Law of Moses). From this follow two further conclusions:

1. The punishment for a false accusation does not amount to death here, since adultery vs greed are not equal sins (in the eyes of people). Thus, the husband likely was not seeking her death and cannot be accused of having wanted to kill her should the wife be found not guilty. The law in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 that the greatest punishment for the wife is death and the greatest for the husband is 100 shekels of silver and a lifetime of marriage without divorce to her is not unfair in and of itself, because the judges cannot know what's in the heart of the man who is accusing, only God can. If they somehow find out that he simply wants to kill her (perhaps to divorce her?), certainly a punishment on him will be enforced of a kind prescribed in Deuteronomy 19:16-21.

2. The wife accused of not being a virgin is not necessarily killed which means she is not being unfairly treated since the husband only gets a fine and not death. Furthermore, the possibility of death for the wife is not unfair because adultery is much more offensive than greed. Thus, the husband, whose motivation would most likely not be to kill the wife but to make money from her (seeing the possibility of the victim choosing the punishment from the Assyrian law quoted above), would be punished himself if his claim is untrue (and how many scoundrels will get away with that one if their wife really was a virgin, we can tell you will not be many), and the punishment of the husband is not only money but also a lifetime with the woman, and of course the humiliation that naturally follows from his failed attack. Can we ask: what if he intended for his wife to die? This sin is between him and God, and certainly the elders and judges of his case cannot know what's in his heart, but if he turns out to be correct, whether he wanted the death of his wife or not (to be free from her or for whatever reason). Therefore the law not only makes sense but is also perfectly fair. The only reason there isn't a stipulation against men like this is because of the more or less unverifiability of a man being a virgin or not.

Also: some say that it's unfair to fault the girl just because she did not bleed when her hymen was broken (Deut. 22:17,20), since many women don't bleed when their hymen is broken and many have accidentally broken it through non-sexual activities earlier. We can be sure that the ancients knew about this in the same way that we do and that the law here is not meant to be taken as absolute but for the overwhelming majority of situations, which would have been rightful. Therefore, just like there are exceptions mentioned in the Assyrian law quoted above, we can be sure that the Hebrews had other methods of determining whether the woman was telling the truth or not (Numbers 5:11-29) and did not stone her right away all the time, and this is not what Deuteronomy 22:13-21 says.

Deuteronomy 23

Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Do these passages exclude eunuchs, those born of an "illicit marriage", Ammonites and Moabites, and Egyptians to the third generation from salvation/the assembly of the Lord?

We cannot be too sure what the mysterious phrase, "assembly of the Lord" means. It's possible that this had some sort of judicial/legal function. We have one other mention, in Micah 2:5, but whether the phrase there refers to all Israelites or a specific group is ambiguous. In other places we have a mention of the assembly of Israel (1 Chr. 13:2-4, 1 Kings 12:3), which is certainly a distinct group and not all Israelites, but whether that is the same as the assembly of the Lord is again unknown.

So we can begin with some observations. First, if the assembly of the Lord was some sort of administrative or priestly body, then the exclusion from it for the groups mentioned in Deut. 23:1-8 does not really matter since they could still become part of Israel and have a share in their salvation. However, it is very possible that the assembly of the Lord was all of the Israelites. What then? Just because someone accidentally became a eunuch, or was born one, or was made one by others he can no longer be part of Israel?

We can note that the text does not say to cut off eunuchs or people born from an illicit marriage. An Israelite who was to be excluded from Israel is repeatedly described as "cut off" in the Pentateuch, not to be barred from entering the assembly of the Lord. Even if we say that someone who was born from an illicit marriage could technically be barred from entering the Israelite community by, for example, not being circumcised, etc, there are still two options: 1) No one knew this person was from an illicit marriage (even though in most scenarios his parents would have been known by the locals, but exceptions can occur), and once this person grew up, he would have been in the assembly of the Lord, if the phrase means Israel. Secondly, many eunuchs would have already been part of Israel prior to becoming eunuchs. This makes one wonder whether there is any exclusion from Israel/salvation at all, or whether the phrase has some other meaning.

But there is a much better observation that makes all of this speculation irrelevant. The ancient near eastern laws did not necessarily state the only punishment/course of action for a certain situation. For example, being stoned to death for doing work on the Sabbath was not always the guaranteed punishment, sometimes it may have been less severe as we see from the fact that a man who worked on the Sabbath was first judged and determined as to the outcome of his punishment by Moses (Numbers 15:32-36 - sadly he was sentenced to stoning). Similarly then to the practice for punishment, is the practice of exclusion based on criteria. We can probably safely assume (based on the example of Ruth), that the restrictions in Deuteronomy 23:1-8 were not directed towards people who simply had those characteristics (eunuch, born in an illicit marriage, Moabite/Ammonite), but as to the reasons why they had them - emasculating one's self by crushing or cutting off at that time was one of the pagan religious rituals; one born in an illicit marriage was usually the son of a prostitute and thus most likely would have grown up with similar detestable practices; we can be sure that the Moabites and Ammonites are excluded on similar grounds in addition to the reasons given in Deut. 23:4-5; and the same goes for the Egyptians, though they are allowed in the third generation of their children. But if the people in these four groups did not have the actions associated with the identity of these groups, then they certainly could enter the Israelite community, and this is aptly shown by the example of Ruth. For instance, in their book, An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds (7th ed., 2008), Christian Hauer and William Young write to the similar practice by Ezra and Nehemiah of banning marriage to "foreign" women:
Nehemiah, Ezra, and prophets like Malachi were vexed by Israelite marriages to foreign women. The two reformers obliged citizens of Jerusalem to rid themselves of foreign wives. This policy was not racist. The women who troubled the reformers were those who remained pagan and foreign. Women who converted to Judaism were no longer foreigners. Before the Exile, Israel, as a flourishing independent state, could permit marriages to foreigners. But in the postexilic period, the Judean community was small and threatened. They could not afford losses. The seeming harsh marriage policy was motivated by a realistic concern for survival. (p.201 - emphasis in original)
We can say that this was probably the case with the Deuteronomic (and other Mosaic) prohibitions in Deut. 23:1-8 and elsewhere as well. And the fear in Deuteronomy was of foreign pollution through idolatry. In the case of the Mosaic Law, the foreigners excluded would be those unwilling or uncaring enough to convert to Judaism or become Israelites. This brings us to a second point. How was Ruth accepted into the Israelite community when she was a Moabitess, and how was king appointed king, and promised to have his line rule forever by God, with a Moabite ancestor? With the above observations, we can easily conclude that Ruth's acceptable attitude toward Israel and God was never blocked by a prohibition in the Law.

Deuteronomy 27

Deuteronomy 27:22

Why did God bless Abraham and Sarah's marriage since they were half-brother and half-sister seeing this prohibition?

See Genesis 20:12.

Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:11

Do eagles carry their young on their wings?

The phrasing of the verse is clear that this refers to the eagle covering the young with her wings and the eagle "bearing them under her wings". Let's examine the verse with the original Hebrew:

"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:"

The verb fluttereth is the Hebrew, rachaph, which means the eagle is "brooding" over her young in the nest. The word beareth is the Hebrew nasa' and has the general sense of "lift" (like lift on her wings) but not necessarily always and in many verses it means to bring (Gen. 45:19, Deut. 28:49, 1 Sam. 4:4, etc.). The word for on in the phrase, beareth them on her wings..." is the Hebrew, 'al, and has the meaning of, above, over, upon, against. This last meaning is in Genesis 40:2, 2 Chronicles 32:19. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon adds that where the meaning is against it has a "downward aspect" - that is it's a synonym for upon/over/above. However, this isn't exactly always the case: it is true for Genesis 40:2 but not for 2 Chronicles 32:19 where the preposition has the exact same sense as it does in Deuteronomy 32:11 for an eagle bringing her young against her wings (while in the nest). The imagery of God defending his nation as an eagle covering her wings over her young makes much more sense than an eagle flying with them on her wings. We can therefore plausibly reconstruct the verse the way it most likely was intended to be read:

"As an eagle stirreth up her nest, broodeth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, bringeth them against her wings:"

Deuteronomy 33

Deuteronomy 33:23

Geographical error for Naphtali?

Naphtali's location was in the North and not in the south and west and the tribe never possessed those regions. However, we should note that the Hebrew was probably incorrectly translated here in the KJV. The phrase is literally in Hebrew: "...the yam and the darowm [will you] possess." darowm can soundly be translated as "the south". However, yam has more of the meaning of "sea, large river, lake". In this case, a better translation (and one that certainly makes much more sense than "...you will possess the west and south"), is: "...and you will possess the lake [Sea of Galilee] and south." The lake would be the Sea of Galilee and the south would be the south with respect to the tribe of Naphtali and the area south of the Sea of Galilee (as the NIV has it - southward to the lake). This certainly was part of Naphtali's territory.

Deuteronomy 34

Deuteronomy 34:10

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.


Joshua 1

Joshua 1:3

Was Joshua always successful?

Some may see a contradiction to God's promise in Joshua 1:3 that Joshua will always be successful in verses like Joshua 15:63, 16:10, 17:12-13, Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 3:1-5. First of all, the statement in Joshua 1:3 is not absolute but had consequences if Israel did not do something right (Deut. 7:22-32, Josh. 7:7-12). Secondly, in Joshua 15:63, 16:10, and 17:12-13 the cities and areas are clearly under the control of Israel (with respect to 17:12-13, 17:11 and 13 show the cities and regions were under Israelite rule). They simply couldn't get them to leave the area. This isn't a military failure. With respect to Judges 1:21,27 it is the same scenario, though by then Joshua had died (Judges 1:1) so Joshua 1:3 no longer applied so Judges 1:19 and similar such verses do not pose a contradiction. Judges 3:1-6 was not a military failure (since it was something not done in Joshua's time) but simply that Joshua was not directed to fight these people seeing the reasoning in the verses themselves as well as verses like Deut. 7:22, and so on. Overall Joshua was a successful commander who, through God's blessing, did not lose a battle, just like commanders of history that we know of never to have lost one: Alexander the Great, Khaled ibn al-Waleed, Musa ibn Nusayr, Genghis Khan, the Duke of Wellington, and so on. Unless perhaps one counts the defeat at Ai, then he would be like Charles Martel who only lost a very minor battle.

Joshua 1:3-4

Is this depiction of the extent of Israelite land historically inaccurate?

We know that Israelite territory during the time of the Judges and later didn't extend much east of the Jordan, and that's only when Israel wasn't conquered or oppressed by anyone! However, this objection fails to note that Joshua 1:3-4 was spoken to, well, Joshua! Joshua 1:2-3,5 clearly show that this promise was specifically for Joshua and would not apply for all time for all of Israel. After the destruction of the two Amorite kings and the capture of their territory which was north of Moab and Ammon (Joshua 2:10, Judges 11:14-27), the Israelite territory did indeed extend from Lebanon (Mount Hermon which is north of the Barada River, north of Damascus) to the Dead Sea and in the Arabah east of the Jordan. The description of the measurement "as far as the Euphrates" does not refer that the Israelites took all the land to the east but to the north where the Euphrates went into Syria (this verse describes it like this as does Deuteronomy 1:7) - Mount Hermon, part of the territory of king Og.

Joshua 2

Joshua 6

Joshua 6:3

How is it that 600,000 Israelites passed around ancient Jericho, which was very small?

The verse says that only the men of war (logically) circled, and their number was 40,000 as Joshua 4:13 tells us. Judging from Numbers 31 where 12,000 Israelites fight a comparable number of Midianites, most of these 40,000 would've been in reserve, as any commander would've done, especially with overwhelming odds in his favor. (The number of Midianites: 5 cities/areas of ~15,000 people judging from the number of sheep [675,000 sheep; 36 sheep per person {P. Nick Kardulias, The Ecology of Pastoralism (UPC: 2015), Ch.3}])

Even with such a fraction, there is a mathematical problem, since ancient Jericho was very small (6-10 acres). But perhaps a few hundred to a thousand could've been circling. Also, we only have an issue if we assume that the soldiers went around in a perfect circle/oval, instead of flowing out of their camp, making a circle and coming back (see image below). With such a path, any number of people of any row-depth can go around even a small city. The fact that they only circle once, but takes them until nightfall to do this (Josh. 6:11) suggests that this is exactly what they did.

Joshua 7

Joshua 7:18,24

Was Achan the son of Carmi or Zerah

The ancient Semitic usage of "son" can mean descendant as well as a literal son. Usually if the ancestor is not the literal father he is someone noteworthy, and in this case Zerah is one of the founders of one of the clans of Judah (thus Judah's son?). This is also clear from the fact that in Josh. 7:21 Achan is the great-grandson of Zerah and hardly would the author forget that 6 verses later (this section is a unity so the JEDP passage cannot be invoked; plus a later redactor/author would have used Josh 7:18 or vice versa for his material and would have hardl left the original verse untouched if he was redacting).

Joshua 8:28

Was Ai to be a heap of rubble forever?

This verse is not a prophecy but simply a statement of what Joshua did to Ai with the metaphor that he permanently made it a heap of rubble. This doesn't mean that it could have never been rebuilt, but that he didn't sack the city in a way that it could have recovered (with inhabitants still living there) some time later, with people doing things there as soon as the battle was over.

Joshua 15

Joshua 15:31

29 or 36 towns?

The verse says there were 29 towns but 36 are listed. This is demonstratably a copyist error where the original either had fewer names or the number (more likely) was originally 36. If the author was knowledgeable and educated enough to write at that time, he certainly knew how to count.

Joshua 15:33

Did Zorah and Eshtaol belong to Judah or Dan (Joshua 19:40-41)?

See Joshua 19:40-41.

Joshua 15:33-36

The counting says 14 cities but 15 are listed

This is an error of the KJV translation. The Hebrew should be translated with the last city, Gederothaim, as a synonym for the second to last city - Gederah. This is the way the NIV renders it and much like Joshua 19:2, it's most likely that the last name mentioned in Joshua 15:36 should read, "...Gederah, or Gederothaim..." not, "...Gederah, and Gederothaim". For more information, see Joshua 19:2-6 below.

Joshua 19

Joshua 19:2-6

The number of cities is stated as 13 but 14 are enumerated

The KJV erroneously adds the word "and" in Joshua 19:2 in front of Sheba to read, "And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, and Sheba, and..." The verse should read, "And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, or Sheba, and..." The Hebrew for and and or is a prefix which is pretty much the same (a waw, w' or û, etc), so one can't really tell unless from knowledge and the context that the translation should be, "...Beersheba, or Sheba... not "...and Sheba...", and this is how the NIV , ASV, NASB, and NKJV translate the verse, leaving a total of 13 instead of 14 cities listed.

Joshua 19:40-41

Did Zorah and Eshtaol belong to Judah (Josh. 15:33) or Dan?

While it is true that Zorah and Eshtaol originally belonged to Judah (Joshua 15:33), in Joshua 18:1-10 we see that there was some further assignment of tribes, so the tribe of Judah and the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim had their land assigned prior to the other tribes. This leaves us with two very strong possibilities:

1. The phrase in Joshua 18:5 says that Judah will keep its territory in the south, but perhaps there was minor shuffling with these two cities and the overall boundaries of Judah (and Joseph) would not change is meant. This first possibility then sees the two towns as originally belonging to Judah and then being reassigned to Dan (perhaps due to the small space for Dan - Josh. 19:48).

OR 2. The border of Judah had no other nearby towns and while it technically wasn't at Zorah and Eshtaol, these two cities were described as "on the coast" of its territory and border. This would make these two cities simply as markers as to the relative location where Judah's border ended (who would put their border on the other side of two extra cities? - but this is not an error due to typical Semitic exaggeration), and these two cities technically would not be within Judah's boundaries, which is in-line with Semitic exaggeration and later Zorah and Eshtaol were given to Dan.

Conclusion: while it is indeed curious why these two cities are mentioned as belonging to Judah and then to Dan, here are two very plausible explanations, aside from claiming a biblical contradiction, and we can add that we weren't there to know how the allotments and arrangements of the boundaries was done so there could be many different reasons for this, two very strong possibilities of which we have given, and so we can be sure there was most likely some sort of arrangement the details of which we don't know and that this is the reason for the double mention of Zorah and Eshtaol and not due to a biblical contradiction.

Joshua 21

Joshua 21:23-24

Were these cities in Dan or Ephraim (1 Chr. 6:66,69)?

See 1 Chronicles 6:66,69.


Judges 1

Judges 1:8

When did Israel capture Jerusalem?

Here the Israelites capture Jerusalem, but in Judges 1:21 we are told they couldn't dislodge the Jebusites from there. The Jebusite control is confirmed by Judges 19:11-12 where it's a foreign, non-Israelite city. Jerusalem isn't permanently taken until 2 Samuel 5 by David.

The Israelite Conquest was more of a paralysis of Canaan (like the Habiru of the Amarna letters) rather than a complete domination with colonies like the Romans. Multiple places in Joshua say the Canaanites could not be driven out (16:10, 17:12-13), including Jerusalem itself (15:63). The Jebusites could have easily returned, rebuilt, and reoccupied after Judah burned the city to the ground. The Romans did the same during the Boudica revolt in Britain when three of their cities were completely destroyed and everyone killed; in fact these cities prospered after. There were just far more Canaanites. There's no indication that the events in Judges 1 can't span over many years (Judges 2:10). Judah seems to have been preoccupied with the south after this victory, allowing the enemy to regroup and oppose the second wave a little better, perhaps being more prepared against the smaller foe, Benjamin and not Judah (1:21), who was now perhaps following up on his big brother's initial victories.

The Israelites were mostly in the hill country during Judges. In David's day, Jerusalem was totally in Jebusite hands. This had already happened generations earlier: by Judges 19:10-12 the city is well-known to be foreign and non-Israelite. These verses are why I reject the Ellicott Commentary's suggestion that the Israelites had Jerusalem but the citadel fortress was still held by the Jebusites (commentary on 1 Sam. 17:54) - how would the Jebusites farm and live if the surrounding area was controlled by a stronger power? Citadels are emergency backup defenses with stored food in case of a siege (e.g. Antioch in the First Crusade), but they anticipate an end. Judges 19:10-12 certainly presupposes the whole city to be in Jebusite hands - the man wouldn't go lodge for the night in a foreign place; showing there was always some tension between the Jebusites and Israelites. The Jebusites could have sued for peace and retained their independence, maybe by tribute like Hezekiah with Sennacherib.

In 1 Sam. 17:54 David goes to Jerusalem with Goliath's head. Perhaps because of the impression he made on Saul with it (17:57), Saul asked him to bring it there. Not necessarily to intimidate the Jebusites, but perhaps they were allies (like the Kenites and others - cf. 1 Sam. 15:6; 27:9-10), so as a trophy (1 Sam. 31:10). He would've gone with the army, I suppose, Jerusalem being on the way to the capital, Gibeah, from the battle site. Alternatively, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges commentary suggests he could have been bringing the head to the sanctuary at Nob, which was near Jerusalem, the way he probably devoted the sword (1 Sam. 21:9; cf. 1 Sam. 31:10).

Judges 1:19

Was God powerful enough to drive out the Canaanites who had iron chariots or not?

The object in this verse who was unable to drive out iron chariots was Judah not God (see the NIV translation). This wasn't a failure by God since He was with Judah to drive out the people of the hill country. However for reasons that we cannot know, he did not allow Judah to capture the plains. Possibly due to some disobedience, since God was testing them for some reason (Deut. 11:22-32; Judges 3:1-4). Or perhaps this wasn't its time yet. Many times we're not told the specific, personal reason for God's anger (Num. 22:22; 2 Sam. 24:1). Needless to say, God was not powerless before chariots just because they were made of iron (Joshua 17:18), though this was a factor in the Hyksos takeover in Egypt. The fact that Judges 1:19 doesn't bother explaining why Judah failed shows he knew or could assume there was a good reason.

Neither is this a contradiction to God's promises in the Pentateuch and Joshua where God says that the nations will be given to Israel wherever they set foot; this was always conditional (Lev. 26:14-45; Judges 3:1-4). These verses guarantee the Israelites will be established in the Promised Land, but certainly not that they will gain possession of it without any failure, due to disobedience or various other reasons (Deut. 7:22).

Judges 1:21

When was Jerusalem captured?

See Judges 1:8.

Judges 4

Judges 4:11

Who was Moses' father-in-law?

See Exodus 2:18, 20-21.

Judges 6

Judges 6:36-40

Did Gideon tempt God and get away with it?

We know from the Bible that tempting God is a sin (Matthew 4:7, Deuteronomy 6:16). But is this what Gideon did here? Gideon was merely asking for a sign due to the need of assurance that his actions were with God. He is not tempting God or testing Him in the sinful way Israel did at Massah. At Massah (Exodus 17:1-7, Numbers 20:1-13), the Israelites insulted God by maintaining that it was better for them to have been left in Egypt where they had everything (except freedom from oppression that is!), whereas here they were on the verge of dying from thirst, or so they thought (Numbers 20:2-5). As a result of this, they "tested" God in the sense that they questioned Him through rebellious and sinful actions (i.e. quarreling about water and provisions). They weren't inquiring, as Gideon was, about God's decisions. With this in mind, we can only see that the modern notion of "testing" is not what was meant in Deuteronomy 6:16 and the sinful testing of Massah is not what Gideon did.

Judges 11

How could Jephthah sacrifice his own daughter and does this mean that God condones human sacrifice?

Jephthah made a vow to God which in Israelite religion was unbreakable. He promised to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house (thinking of an animal) to meet him, and it happened to be his only child - his 12 year old daughter. Both Jephthah and his daughter were grieved but both knew that obedience to God is what he wanted (1 Samuel 15:22), and they both knew that God's will with respect to the way He ordained things was more important than man's desire. This is therefore neither unfair, nor cruel, nor does it make God condoning or endorsing human sacrifice (as if He wants and enjoys this; oaths to God today do not obligate the Christian the way they did the ancient Israelite - see Galatians 3:2,22).

Some might think that Jephthah did not sacrifice his daughter literally but the "burnt offering" of his daughter was dedicating her in the service to God - i.e. a girl that served the priesthood for life, and the sadness was that she was his only child who would thus remain unmarried and a virgin and end his line. This doesn't really explain why the girl was so grieved - was she really that grieved for 2 months with her friends in the hills just because she had to become an unmarried servant to the priesthood for life (Judges 11:37-38)? Was it really that great of a tragedy for all Israelite women to go out each year to commemorate it for four days (Judges 11:39b-40)? Neither does this explain why her father would be so grieved (whereas see John the Baptist's or Samuel's parents - even though he had kids, his parents visited him and weren't totally sad but happy they at least had the child), nor why the author of Judges 11 would not explain this deviation of "a burnt offering". Overall, this thesis should be rejected.

Judges 13

Judges 13:22

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

Since Manoah and his wife, Samson's parents, did not die, this is cited as a contradiction, as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin. In this case, the text may reflect a common Hebrew misunderstanding, but certainly reinforces the fact that seeing God was an expression for seeing a messenger/image of God.

Judges 14

Judges 14:15-17

Samson's wife cried the whole seven days of the feast?

How could Samson's wife have cried "all of the seven days of the feast" in Judges 14:17 when she asked him to tell her the answer only on the fourth day (Judges 14:15 - some manuscripts have instead of fourth, the seventh day that she asked him! But that is clearly a copyist error and the fourth day is most likely the original reading)? The phrase, "she cried the whole seven days of the feast..." is clearly an expression denoting the rest of the seven days of the feast. Certainly if the author of Judges was educated enough to write, he would have been educated enough to count, and hardly would he forget 2 verses later that he said that Samson's wife asked him on the fourth day of the feast, so he was clearly using an expression not meant to be taken literally. We can see the same situation in Joshua 6:12-15 where the text says,
Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. (NIV)
The expression in Joshua 6:14 is the same as Judges 14:17 and clearly the rest of the seven days of the feast are meant in Judges 14:17 the same way the rest of the six days are meant in Joshua 6:14.

Judges 19

Judges 19:11-12

When was Jerusalem captured?

See Judges 1:8.

Judges 20

Judges 20:18-25

Did God lie to the men of Judah and Israel here?

In Judges 20:18-25 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel have gathered together to fight and bring justice to the rebellious tribe of Benjamin for not giving up criminals that raped and killed a certain Levite's wife (Judges 19). When they ask God who should go first, God tells them in Judges 20:18 Judah. However, the Benjamites kill 22,000 of Judah and the Israelites do not win! Then again, in Judges 20:23 the Israelites ask if they should go up against Benjamin another time and God says yes. And another 18,000 are killed! Did God lie here?

The answer is No! God told the men of Judah and Israel to go twice and be defeated which resulted in the Benjamites to become overconfident leading to their eventual defeat (Judges 20:26-48). Usually when God pronounces these kinds of defeats, he deals death on the unrighteous. So of the 22,000 Judahites and 18,000 other Israelites who died, most if not all were probably sinful and worthy of justice in their own time. This is supported by the fact that in Judges 20:26 the Israelites fast and so perhaps they realized that many of them had sinned, bringing judgment upon them. Furthermore, God did not lie: he only said for Judah to come up and then for the Israelites to come up one more time before He finally told them, on the third time (Judges 20:28) that they will defeat the Benjamites. The lesson: do not think you can be sinful and safe just because you're on the side that has the righteous and just cause.

1 Samuel

1 Samuel 2

1 Samuel 2:35

Was Samuel's house "sure" and did his sons walk before God's anointed one "forever"?

The exaggerated language is to contrast with Eli's weakness who couldn't chastise his sons for their inexcusable transgressions. Although Samuel's sons were also sinful, they did not pollute God's temple in the same way and there was nothing Samuel could do to prevent them from their errors - perverting justice by bribery - as this is purely on a case by case basis and one would have to oversee both constantly, which besides being impossible, would clearly defeat the purpose of their being judges.

This is a classic example of God needing to work within a system (such as putting up with the stubborn Exodus generation). It's not like the alternative, a king, was any better (cf. 1 Sam. 8:8-9), so it was the lesser of two evils (greater as God knew actually). As for the sure house, we have no reason to suppose that his sons and their descendants didn't continue to be priests. Now with their power having been removed and given to a king, they would have only spiritual authority. In that sense Samuel and his house were surely established as "good" (cf. Eccl. 7:20 vs Agrippa's over the line error in Acts 12), and remained "forever" (like David's line of kings which ended with Zedekiah in 587 BC). This language is to contrast with Eli's house which ended now, the emphasis and intent of the message.

1 Samuel 7

1 Samuel 7:2

How long was the Ark at Kiriath-Jearim?

The Ark was brought to Kiriath-Jearim before Saul was made king and taken from there shortly after David was crowned. Saul reigned 42 years. How then could the Ark have been at Kiriath-Jearim 20 years?

There are two simple answers: either Saul's reign was not 42 years but 2 years as many manuscripts have. Also, the Ark could have been moved at various times without acknowledgement of this in Scripture (e.g. 1 Samuel 14:18 Saul takes the Ark with him to battle. Possibly at other times it was taken and it may have stayed somewhere else, or perhaps Saul did not return it to Kiriath-Jearim; also 2 Samuel 6:10-11). In summary, we can trust the biblical record especially since 1-2 Samuel (like 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles) had access to ancient, reliable, and authentic historical documents.

1 Samuel 10

1 Samuel 10:2

Was Rachel buried on the road to Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19-20) or at Zelzah?

"On the road to Bethlehem" is clearly not in Bethlehem. The place where she was buried may very well have been at Zelzah (whether this is a village or some kind of place archaeology does not yet know). This is also possible if Zelzah was a minor village/place and the more general location of Bethlehem's vicinity, in other words "on the road" to Bethlehem, is how Genesis 35:19 chose to describe the location of the tomb, or if Zelzah didn't exist yet and "on the road to Bethlehem" is the best way the location could have been described in the time of Genesis' composition. This is why, for example, the Battle of Gaugamela is also known as the Battle of Arbela. Other examples include mentioning the location of a small town in relation to a recognizable city: "Michelangelo born in Caprese, near Arezzo in Florence"

There is another possibility. The text says "...by Rachel's tomb, at Zelzah on the border of Benjamin." The word for by or near in Hebrew is 'im and the text is certainly talking about the location of Zelzah with respect to Rachel's tomb, or else the fact that it was in Benjamin near its border (which is not where Bethlehem is) would not have been specified. Thus, while Zelzah was near Rachel's tomb, Rachel's tomb was not in Zelzah. I think this second understanding of the text is more probable than the first explanation.

1 Samuel 13

1 Samuel 13:9, 13-14

Why did God reject Saul as king?

See 1 Samuel 15.

1 Samuel 15

Why did God reject Saul as king?

In 1 Samuel 13 God rejects Saul's line of descendants from having his kingdom (1 Samuel 13:13-14). True in 1 Samuel 13:14 the prophet Samuel talks about David replacing him, but this didn't need to happen for some time, and the point was that this other person (David) would be someone who followed God that would succeed/replace Saul and not someone from Saul's house, but not that Saul was yet rejected as king as definitively as in 1 Samuel 15. In 1 Samuel 15:23,28 Saul seals his fate and was the decisive point where his replacement by David was set in motion (just because 1 Samuel 15:28 says "today your kingdom will be torn from you" which didn't happen for some time after this, doesn't make it false: it's a metaphor that today Saul sealed his fate). Samuel may have also wanted to remind Saul that he was rejected in 1 Samuel 15 because of yet another even more serious mistake, and that this time it was a sure rejection.

While it is true that Ishbosheth reigned for two years after Saul's death, this wasn't really a reign and all of Israel de facto were on David's side. And this is what 1 Samuel 13 and 15 say about Saul and does not contradict if Ishbosheth went in a civil war and proclaimed himself as king in Jerusalem. It was David who had been anointed by Samuel earlier on and not Ishbosheth anyway.

1 Samuel 15:8

Were the Amalekites completely annihilated?

1 Samuel 15:8 says that the Amalekites were utterly destroyed from Havilah to Shur (except king Agag, who was later killed too), yet in 1 Samuel 27:8-9, 30:1,17, and 2 Samuel 1:8-10 we see them again. First, Saul would have only destroyed the Amalekites that he managed to find/capture. This is how 400 Amalekites escaped from David in 1 Samuel 30:17. Second, he most likely would have been ordered to destroy only certain cities or areas (the territory between Havilah and Shur is too huge to eradicate absolutely every Amalekite). This is in any case shown by 1 Samuel 27:8-9 which has verse 9 say, "Whenever David attacked an area..." This is how Deuteronomy 2:24-37 talks about the complete annihilation of the Amorite king Sihon and his country, leaving no survivors (Deut. 2:24, 34), but then later on we see more Amorites under the Amorite king Og (Deut. 3:1-2) and during Joshua's time (Joshua 7:7). It is therefore very possible that Saul went up against specific cities or a specific area/villages with Agag as its king.

1 Samuel 15:33

Was every one of the Amalekites killed?

Some might think that this verse which has Samuel say that he will leave Agag's mother childless after he kills him implies that Agag's mother was still alive. But Samuel is being metaphorical here.

1 Samuel 16

1 Samuel 16:1-2

Did God tell Samuel to lie to Saul?

No because as 1 Samuel 16:3 shows, technically, there really would have been a sacrifice. God didn't tell Samuel to say, "I have come to sacrifice, but not to anoint anyone as king to replace you".

1 Samuel 16:10-11

How many sons did Jesse have?

1 Samuel 16:10-11 and 17:12 tell us Jesse had eight sons, with David the youngest, but 1 Chronicles 2:13-15 lists seven and calls David the seventh. Jesse was a poor man, so it's unlikely the other son was from a concubine so that Chronicles ignored him.

Technically it's possible that one of Jesse's sons died and David became the 7th. The preface to the British biographical encyclopedia of recently deceased persons, Who Was Who, says that the number of children listed are the surviving ones. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle does something similar with William the Conqueror's sons who are listed as, "Robert, the eldest, William, the second, and Henry, the third," whereas we know the actual second son was Richard who died 10-15 years before his father. It's not very likely the Chronicle is unaware of this death, though it's strange it doesn't mention it. It is perhaps hinted by the fact that it says, "William [the Conqueror] left behind him [i.e. after his death?]..." implying these three survived him. The fact that it mentions a deceased illegitimate son of Henry I, also named Richard, along with his legitimate heir, William, as dying in the White Ship disaster for the year 1120 also goes against the "concubine" thesis above.

1 Samuel 17

1 Samuel 17:4-7

Are Goliath's height and armor historical?

There are a number of grievances with these four verses. Goliath's height is given as 9'6" (3 meters). His armor is way too heavy and considered by some unhistorical. And the spearhead being 15 pounds/7kg is not only impractical, but would be some kind of world record, ancient or medieval, when the average spearhead and spear was supposed to be as light as possible (~4kg) for quick stabs.

  1. The name Goliath - In 2005, a Philistine inscription at Gath was discovered that had the two names: WLT and 'ALWT, whose etymology is similar to the name "Goliath". [Source] The Philistine pottery from 1200 BC is essentially Mycenean/Greek, and it's more plausible that the people are Aegean rather than just traders to have followed them (and the invaders had no pottery of their own?). So for this reason, the biblical Philistines of this period are considered Aegean. Goliath is probably from the Greek "Calliades". Lucian of Samosata mentions a painter and sculptor in the 4th century BC of that name (Dialogues of the Courtesans 8). There is also a philosopher by the similar "Colotes" in the same period. If 1 Samuel 17 mentions it, then the name clearly existed in the area by the 7th century BC.

  2. Height - Although legends also paint Confucius as 9+ feet tall, to my mind, the height is a clear exaggeration (also a spear like a "weaver's beam" - cf. 1 Chron. 11:23), and was possibly the equivalent to our "this weighs a ton" but height-wise. The Septuagint tries to correct this to the plausible 6 feet, so the original definitely spoke of 9+ feet. The ancient Israelite was doubtless under 6 feet on average: sandals found at Qumran indicate closer to 5 feet (152cm) than 6 (183cm). These expressions could help with some of the references to "Nephilim" and "Rephaim" in the Old Testament, as well as "giant" grapes found by the 12 spies of Canaan. Marbot, an officer of Napoleon, frequently speaks of battles with the "giant Russians." At one point he explicitly describes a 6 foot (183cm) hussar as a giant - even if that were French feet, that would make him 6'5" (195cm). Goliath was clearly taller than Saul, who was taller than other Israelites.
  3. Armor - It's sometimes alleged that the armor at the time was mainly leather, with very little metal, and no scale armor, based on the Peleset reliefs from Egypt. But champions had armor, including scale armor, as well as greaves, etc, as has been found depicted on vases and actual armor at tombs in Mycenae in the 14th century BC [Source]. In fact the armor covered from the neck to the groin, explaining the heavy weight mentioned in 1 Sam. 17:4-7. The later hoplite armor did not have scale armor, but a solid cuirass which weighed way less, and also no shield bearers, so 1 Sam. 17:4-7 isn't a later embellishment. And the feathered band helmet of the Peleset isn't the only helmet depicted: the Egyptian reliefs also show Sea Peoples with the round cap of the Tursha and the horned helmet of the Sherden. Any one of these could've exposed the brow or part of the forehead for David's stone to dance along.

    These were champions who led the way in battle. Homer calls them, promachoi - first men. Makes sense - you send the tank first in. The single combat is also an old practice. The Iliad gives numerous examples: Menelaus and Paris, Patroclus and Hector, Achilles and Hector, so it obviously happened occasionally in Greece in Homer's day (9th century BC) and before, even if the duels are fictional. In the 7th century, Heraclitus defeated a Sassanian general one on one, during the last Byzantine-Sassanian War. In the 6th century, Belisarius declined a duel with a Persian commander during his eastern campaign. The ancient Egyptian warrior Sinuhe also had a single combat fight. Clearly the phenomenon existed in Israel by the 7th century BC if 1 Samuel 17 imagined it. The battle was essentially a stalement on two opposite hills (v.3), neither side willing to give up their defensive advantage for weeks - a situation similar at the second battle between Octavian and Brutus at the Battle of Philippi (42 BC).

  4. Spearhead - The spearhead being 15lbs/7kg probably counted the spearhead itself plus the sputum - a sharpened metal end on the other side. That the spears of that time had a sputum is strongly supported by 2 Samuel 2:23. The sputum was not just for extra defense/offense, but also mainly for balance, so it would've been in near-equal weight to the spearhead. A 7lb/3.5kg spearhead is nothing impossible for a big man like that, as demonstrated by this recreation of the same weight based on artifacts from Gad, and the maker isn't even a giant.

  5. The Fight - The combat is not impossible at all. David noted his experience fighting animals (1 Sam. 17:34-36; see Amos 3:12 to understand how brave and skilled David must've been). Shortly after Alexander's defeat of the Persians, he staged a contest between a Macedonian champion, Coragus, and a Greek master of pankration (ancient Greek boxing-wrestling similar to modern Mixed Martial Arts), Dioxippus. Coragus was in full body armor, while Dioxippus was nude with only a cloak and club in his hands. The latter defeated the former, as Rufus [Book 9.7] and Diodorus Siculus tell us.

1 Samuel 17:12

How many sons did Jesse have?

See 1 Samuel 16:10-11.

1 Samuel 17:28

If Jesse was poor, how did David learn to play the lyre?

Jesse could not have been very poor: sends bread, wine, and a goat for Saul (16:20), ten cheeses to the Israelite commander so David could check on his brothers (17:18). His brother does mention his father having few sheep, but it seems like a mild exaggeration by an angry older sibling.

1 Samuel 17:50-51

David kills Goliath twice?

In verse 50 it says David struck Goliath (with the sling) and killed him. In verse 51 he runs over to him and kills him with his sword and beheads him. This simply means David finished him off. Similarly Joab thrusting javelins in Absalom's heart who is then "killed" (perhaps overkilled) by the other soldiers (2 Sam. 8:14-15). The sling hit was the main cause, which left him mortally wounded, like the animals David occasionally fought (1 Sam. 17:35).

1 Samuel 17:54

When was Jerusalem conquered?

See Judges 1:8.

1 Samuel 17:54

Did Saul know David or not?

In chapter 16, David is brought in as a lyre-player for Saul. While Saul knows David in 1 Sam. 16:14-23, in 1 Sam. 17:55ff the two seem to be complete strangers.

David would have been the only lyrist, since presumably after some time they couldn't find anyone else and had to bring the shepherd boy in (16:19). Or finding only one was necessary and Bethlehem was close. Saul's servants could find anyone (cf. 1 Sam. 28:7). Maybe the servant saw David playing the lyre at some gathering (1 Sam. 20:29). David's trophies from his fights with bears and lions would've been convincing of his courageous nature.

So how could Saul not know him? It's not like he couldn't recognize him from the distance when he was fighting Goliath, because he was personally brought to him before the battle (17:31-40). David certainly wouldn't have forgotten Saul. At the battle David could be speaking to Saul as someone who realizes the monarch does not recall him.

The natural idea that comes is the author of 1 Samuel decided to include competing traditions. But why he didn't bother changing such obvious differences so close to each other in the text should at least make us curious if there aren't other possibilities. He's obviously aware in chapter 18 of David's background as a lyre-player in Saul's court before all this (18:10), so he couldn't have accidentally put vv.16:14-23 before the Goliath story, which would've been more famous anyway, so hardly would he invent or confuse David's prominence because of his lyre skills instead of his slaying Goliath. The idea that originally Elhanan son of Jair slew Goliath (2 Sam. 21:19) and later legends attributed this feat to David, the beloved king, would make sense but why anyone would record or keep Elhanan's deed is a mystery. If the truth that it was Elhanan was so pervasive it would've been erased from 2 Samuel or more likely the story about David simply would've never taken shape.

Among other suggestions, I've seen:

  • 1 Samuel 16:14-23 does not chronologically precede chapter 17 (and some of 18)
  • A lot of time could've passed between chapters 16 and 17
  • Saul wasn't very sane to begin with
  • Saul was jealous of David and pretended to not know him
  • Saul was only asking who David's father was and chapter 17 is misinterpreted to mean David and Saul didn't know each other
  • Chapter 17 (and some of 18) have interpolated verses

1 Samuel 16:14-23 does not chronologically precede 1 Samuel 17:1-18:5

This idea is not impossible for ancient writings with history and biography in general. For example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke famously depict only one Passover of Jesus' ministry, his last, whereas John gives at least three! They place the Temple cleansing at the end, while John puts it at the beginning. There's evidence of some of this in the Goliath episode, but it's mostly irrelevant (17:53; 18:5-8).

The main problem with this theory is that David is clearly unknown in 16:18 as anything but "a son of Jesse". Also, no knowledge of his musical abilities, which would be very odd if he stayed with Saul permanently/frequently after Goliath. And the fact that he's in Bethlehem, called upon as if he's nothing but a random shepherd boy (16:19), combined with the introduction of "entering Saul's service" (16:21) doesn't strike as anything except a first meeting. The idea that David was called to Saul while the king was at the field against the Philistines cannot be sustained because Saul's memory of who he and his father were would have been fresh ("this is the boy you called to be your lyrist, sire" - Abner). That David is known by name in 16:19 does not mean these verses should be placed after 17:55. It was the servant who knew him, and maybe he remembered the name - certainly if he knew of David as a brave man (16:18b). Maybe they did research. For example, G.H. Hardy seems to know of Ramanujan in his first reply, because he checked up on his publications after the astounding first letter. Though for them to learn David's name they may as well have just asked for him. Probably the letter simply referred to him as "your son who plays the lyre", while 1 Samuel 16:19 wrote "David" for the reader's convenience.

A lot of time between chapters 16 and 17

For Saul to not recognize his lyre-player, at least a few years must've passed between 1 Sam 16 and 17. The battle in chapter 17 could have lasted a few months (17:16), but would not have kept Saul away from his capital at Gibeah for years. Even if we see the Goliath battle as the latest in a series of conflicts, we can assume Saul would've been at Gibeah with David frequently present as his musician for at least several months. So it's unlikely he wouldn't recognize him, despite how dirty, unshaven, or differently clothed he would've been: he simply would've been remembered and wouldn't have grown that much more. Ironically, the more time we stretch between chapters 16 and 17, the less likely it would be for Saul to not remember David.

More than a few years aren't even possible, really, because David was still too young to even be considered a challenge to Goliath by Saul (17:33), contrasting the Philistine's experience. And he must've needed time to learn to play the lyre before this, so it couldn't have been many years. Jesse is an old man, and four of his sons, David's other older brothers, aren't in the army, though this can't be pushed nor helps much for David's age: perhaps they were too poor to afford more weapons and armor or were maybe needed to work. 1 Sam. 17:14-15 may imply they simply didn't choose the military life. 1 Sam. 17:35 may point to a physically developed man of at least 20. But even so, the issue of time between chapters 16 and 17 remains.

Saul's rationality and envy

Saul had such capricious mood-swings that he could easily be described as paranoid and borderline bipolar (1 Sam. 16:23, 18:10-11 vs 12-13, 17; 20:32-34; 22:13-19). But he appears quite rational in chapter 17, perhaps sobered by the urgent situation. For Abner to also not recognize David means Saul was not the strange amnesiac.

On the other hand, could he have been jealous of David and pretend he didn't know him? This not only imposes his mood from chapter 18 prematurely, but would also be an impossible or pointless pretense to sustain, if David, the only lyre-player introduced (16:18), had been known to many at the court. Unlikely they would've had more than one lyrist (16:18; also implied in 18:10-11). If he was mildly jealous, why would he even bother? If he was intensely jealous, we know he would've probably slandered or even tried to kill David like in chapter 18, not try to help him by giving him his armor and weapons! What a perfect opportunity that David volunteer to fight Goliath if Saul wanted to get rid of him.

Saul only wanted to know the identity of David's father

There's some merit to the idea that Saul only wanted to know who David's father was. There was a reward of household tax exemption for killing Goliath (17:25). But this would be a very odd way for Saul to start off with Abner and David himself: for the text to focus on this strongly implies Saul was curious of David's identity. If David was known, the immediate topic would be celebration, not the technical details of what Saul has to now do for David. Moreover, 1 Sam. 16:18 strongly suggests knowledge of a man's pedigree meant knowledge of his identity and vice versa.

Interpolated verses

The suggestion is that verses 17:12-31 and 17:55-18:5,9-11,17-19 are an ancient interpolation (before the 2nd century, since Aquila's text has them). So instead of David being introduced and showing up with the food, asking around about Goliath until he's brought to Saul, we have him already present at the battlefield with Goliath mocking Israel. They certainly run smooth:

11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words from the Philistine, they lost their courage and were terrified.
32 David said to Saul, "Don't let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!" (HCSB)
And then the story continues with David trying on the armor, his experience fighting animals, and the fight. He notes these verses are missing from the Septuagint.

But the biggest weakness of this theory is exactly the reason that the text flows better this way: why would an interpolator even bother? Adam Clarke's hypothesis is so convoluted and artificial: little additions over time because of margin glosses, by "the hands of careless, ignorant, and temerarious scribes," whose imagination and disregard for the literal text ultimately got the better of them, as we see in Josephus' shorter, more sensible narration and the various Apocrypha.

Although the Jews frequently included explanatory notes (e.g. the Targums), this description does not match the history of the manuscript tradition at all. The only place where significant differences occur is exactly places like these where someone like the Septuagint was trying to figure out or "smooth over" the text; not make it so obviously convoluted! It's apparent that like the Septuagint, Josephus was clearing up the story, leaving traces of the original, full text.

There are parts of chapter 17 that necessitate verses 12-31 anyway. In 1 Sam. 17:34-37 David explains the rationality of his confidence to Saul in a way that seems the two couldn't have known each other that well: Saul would've known of David's exploits with animals, and wouldn't have been too surprised to hear David step up, nor doubt him. This may be explainable if David was adamant and Saul unwilling to give up his young armor-bearer whom he liked.

But verses 17:38-40 firmly speak against any interpolation because David would have had his own armor and they wouldn't have bothered trying on Saul's, which aptly highlights the desperate situation if 17:22-31 are authentic. How likely is it Saul's armor-bearer would be unused to armor (vv.39-40)?! Or be too poor to afford it without Saul to even give him a sword (17:39)? Why would David have a staff instead (17:40)? In 1 Sam. 14:14 Jonathan and his armor-bearer kill 20 men alone together, and Joab's 10 armor-bearers kill Absalom (2 Sam. 18:15), so clearly the armor-bearer was expected to have his own weapons, armor, and be used to their weight wearing them! The Septuagint redactors, the real butchers of the text, simply never noticed this logical inconsistency to remove those verses too, so the text could read:

10Then the Philistine said, "I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!"
11When Saul and all Israel heard these words from the Philistine, they lost their courage and were terrified.
32David said to Saul, "Don't let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!"
37bSaul said to David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you."
41The Philistine came closer and closer to David, with the shield-bearer in front of him.

Why stop there? Why not just make the Exodus be:

Now a man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. (Ex. 2:1)
She named him Moses. (Ex. 2:10b)
Years later, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his own people and observed their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. (Ex. 2:11)
Then the Lord said, "I have observed the misery of My people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I know about their sufferings. (Ex. 3:7)
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh and tell him: This is what Yahweh says: Let My people go, so that they may worship Me. (Ex. 8:1)
He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, "Get up, leave my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship Yahweh as you have asked. (Ex. 12:31)
Moses was there with the Lord 40 days and 40 nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. He wrote the Ten Commandments, the words of the covenant, on the tablets. (Ex. 34:28)
The Lord spoke to Moses: "Go, leave here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring. (Ex. 33:1)

Here's the Gospel:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, (Matt. 2:1)
The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God's grace was on Him. (Luke 2:40)
While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. (John 2:23)
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do since this man does many signs? If we let Him continue in this way, everyone will believe in Him! Then the Romans will come and remove both our place and our nation." (John 11:47-48)
Then the company of soldiers, the commander, and the Jewish temple police arrested Jesus and tied Him up. (John 18:12)
So then, because of them, he [Pilate] handed Him over to be crucified. (John 19:16)
After this, Jesus revealed Himself again to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21:1a)
He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. (Acts 1:9b)
We could make the whole Bible much easier to read so more would do it:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
There is certainly no righteous man on the earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
So the four angels who were prepared for the hour, day, month, and year were released to kill a third of the human race. The number of mounted troops was 200 million; I heard their number. (Rev. 9:15-16)
Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-15)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. (Revelation 21:1)
That's how Marcion handled the Nativity at any rate.

Adam Clarke cites additional reasons he feels speak for interpolation - the internal evidence of 1 Sam. 17:12-31, which I respond to in blue:

  • It doesn't make sense for Saul to request a permanent post for David in his court (16:22), yet have David as a shepherd in his lands and not on the front lines
    • The request by Saul could've been negotiated where David is at Saul's court some of the time like before (16:21-22; 17:15) if Jesse needed David. 1 Sam. 16:23 doesn't have to be an inescapably permanent situation. Or maybe no agreement was reached prior to Philistine hostilities (or this arrangement was forgotten/abandoned at the news of the Philistine invasion).

  • Saul's rewards in 17:25 are inconsistent with later verses (e.g. 18:17 - the daughter offered for different reasons; 18:23 where David states he's poor)
    • It wouldn't be outside Saul's character that his promises regarding Goliath were unfulfilled or forgotten. Also, if David wasn't exaggerating his poverty like he does his fame (18:18 vs 18:8, 16; commoner origin - v.23), perhaps he needed it and used it by that point. Maybe he was comparing his wealth to Saul and other nobles when it came to marrying within the royal family. The same humility is exhibited by the Aramean king, Ben-Hadad II's commander, Hazael (2 Kings 8:13).

  • Eliab, the eldest brother, is incomprehensibly and improbably rude (17:28). His criticism is also illogical (David came with gifts - 17:17-18), and he wouldn't have criticized David, knowing he was anointed by Samuel (16:1-13, esp. v.5)
    • Eliab was obviously projecting in his accusations. This much is implied by David's response, "what did I do this time?" (17:29). It wouldn't be the first time an older and younger brother didn't see eye to eye (Joseph and his brothers). Clearly Eliab was suspicious of David's nosy questions despite the gifts, which could've made him wonder if they were from Jesse at all. Anointed or not didn't make David perfect, especially in his older brother's view. Perhaps Eliab was jealous or easily missed what Samuel saw in him. It wouldn't be the first time someone disagreed with a prophet and recalls the Nazareth rejection of Jesus merely because they knew him (Luke 4:22-30).

  • Nobody would've bothered Saul with the trivial report that someone/David was asking around what the reward was
    • It's clear that by the time David's comments were reported to Saul, David was saying he would respond to Goliath's challenge. This much is implied by his firm conviction in 17:32. Saul would of course want to see this possible hope.

  • Verses 12 and on begin awkwardly after verse 11
    • 17:53 also interjects the story as does 18:5-8 which seems to presuppose David went on various campaigns, yet has him returning the next day (v.6). It's just how the author wrote down his traditions: with prolepsis and analepsis. Similar reconstructions can be invented anywhere for one's theological and critical liking.

  • 17:25-27 doesn't jive with the fact that the soldiers would've been either running from Goliath or busy at the battle lines (17:8, 23-24)
    • There were battle lines ahead of the Israelite camp. Otherwise the retreat from Goliath in 17:24 would have been a route. Instead, David is at the army's camp, with some Israelite defensive formations in the front.

  • It's unlikely the two armies sat opposite each other "peacefully" for over 40 days (17:16)
    • If the two armies at the Battle of Philippi (42 BC) sat opposite each other's encampments for 20 days, why couldn't these? Neither side wanted to cross the ravine between them (17:4) and give up their strategic, defensive hill advantage (17:3). So Maurice Keen writes about Edward III's 1339 campaign in the French countryside, where the French army under Philip VI shadowed the English, neither daring to engage each other for weeks:
      "[T]here was a great advantage to be gained by holding to the tactical defensive...Philip's troops blocked any supply columns from reaching the Anglo-German army and implemented a virtual scorched-earth policy to hinder the invaders further. After a stand-off in which each side occupied a strong position in the unfulfilled hope that the other would accept the disadvantages inherent in taking the tactical offensive (a quite common occurrence during this period) the campaign simply fizzled out." [Keen, Maurice. Medieval Warfare: A History (2010), pp.146-7]
      This is possibly why the two armies were willing to settle the conflict with a one on one, perhaps similar to the Battle of Carberry Hill (1567), but that was simply Goliath's challenge - no general would've agreed to this, as the later route shows: the Israelites decided to attack instead of the Philistines retreating (they obviously expected this attack).

  • David could not have heard Goliath's challenge (17:23), which he uttered every morning and evening (17:16), because the evening challenge would've been too late for the subsequent pursuit, and he couldn't have brought all the stuff (15 miles) early enough for the morning
    • Certainly David couldn't have heard Goliath's evening call, but the morning one would certainly not be impossible; David would've gotten up early at dawn, maybe even slightly before, like all shepherds, to maximize the light out of habit, and 15 miles with his gifts would not have taken more than a few hours. Why does Goliath have to call out early in the morning as opposed to later? And couldn't the expression "morning and evening" mean pretty much all day?

  • The offer of the king's daughter (17:25) seems to be foreign in the text later; someone would've taken it up long before David
    • Saul's offer is in no way "foreign" to the subsequent text, since he offers both of his daughters' hands in marriage to David (but for different reasons)! Alternatively, he could've easily gone back on his promise, something not outside his character, especially under pressure (disobedience to Samuel; caves in to troops' pleas for Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14; 19:6-10), or the whole idea could've been forgotten. And it's an assumption that someone else would've challenged Goliath before David and won if there was that much time between the two armies; certainly someone could have tried and died.

  • Pointless second conversation about the rewards (17:25-26 vs 30-1)
    • I have never heard the act of double-checking one's sources described as "pointless" before. Someone could've easily gotten their info wrong, and for something so important David wanted to weigh the risks as accurately as possible. If anything, his only mistake was that he asked people nearby, who could've easily heard the same (erroneous) source, but it's possible Eliab didn't give him much choice in walking around the camp. It could've been inexperience on David's part too.

  • David's father couldn't have been unknown to Saul and Abner (17:55)
    • The objection that David's father couldn't have been unknown is related to the objection that David couldn't have been unknown, and is what this issue will deal with (below), so it begs the question to assume this. Moreover, if there is some plausible reason for Saul to have forgotten David, then certainly also his father.

  • An absurdly leisure for compliments in 17:55ff is out of place when the Israelites needed to be on pursuit of the Philistines
    • This objection I can't understand: Saul speaks with David after the Israelites chase the routed Philistines (vv.51-53).

  • Jonathan's friendship with David is related elsewhere in a different way
    • I can't see anywhere a different origin or contradictory development of the friendship between Jonathan and David: the prince simply liked the brave, capable warrior from the start because he was just like him! If I had to guess, which I do, the later story in 1 Samuel sees Jonathan alienated from his father's unjust, shameful hatred of David to the point of being irrational and clearly wrong, whereas David was a capable, loyal commander. But this is in no way anything but a continuation of Jonathan's first encounter with and admiration of David after Goliath. Was he too rash with his gifts? This could be an epitome for Jonathan's actions over time, or Jonathan could have been extremely happy. In fact, the covenant mentioned in 1 Sam. 20:8 presupposes the authenticity of 1 Sam. 18:3, which collapses the whole argument for interpolation for the rest of the verses.

  • David couldn't have had a tent (17:53) unless he was an officer
    • David could've set up a spot near his brothers, or their tent could be meant. Or it's an expression - i.e. David brought back the loot to where his stuff was (donkey, etc).

  • To these I can add that hardly would David have remained with Saul after having a spear chucked at him twice (1 Sam. 18:10-11)!
    • Saul's moody temperament was well-known. He even throws a spear at Jonathan. So probably people were used to dodging spears and had him sort of figured out. Alternatively, David could've left for good, with Saul trying to appease him by a post that sent him far from him; or he made an oath (19:6-10 - after which David is hunted for good).


The best theory is simply that David spent very little time, perhaps not more than a few weeks, in Saul's court before the latter set off against the Philistine threat. This explains why David is back at his father's lands as a shepherd, described as having only gone back and forth between Saul and Bethlehem (17:15), probably when Saul had an episode (16:16,23). Alternatively this talks about David going back and forth to the battlefield to see his brothers, which means he was needed back at his father's lands (cf. 17:28). Having no military experience, he would've been excused despite being an armor-bearer. Perhaps there was no time for a reply from Jesse, or David had been there so shortly, he had no business or established routine and job.

Maybe Saul had an inkling of who he was, but couldn't imagine his shepherd lyre-player killed Goliath. For example, shortly before the end of the Second Punic War, the Roman envoy Gaius Laelius took tribunes and centurions as spies to the Carthaginian camp by pretending they were his slaves. When one of their identity was under suspicion, Laelius beat him with his cane to remove such doubts (Frontinus, Strategemata I.3). But I find this unlikely because Saul encountered David personally before the fight.

It wouldn't have taken long for Saul to like David because of his musical ability. Seeing his rash character (1 Sam. 14 oath, etc) and need of good soldiers (1 Sam. 14:52), he could have easily made him an armor-bearer because he liked him, as well as his reputation of a warrior (16:18). Perhaps David proved his bravery during hunts, though the explanation of fighting wild animals (17:34-37), which would've naturally come up, would mean Saul forgot. As a lyrist, he could've been at the palace/house infrequently, somewhere in the background amidst other guests. But Saul is alone with him numerous times to throw spears at him (18:10-11; 19:9-10) without Jonathan's knowledge (20:2). As mentioned, more than one lyrists is unlikely: they barely find David the shepherd (16:18).

David could've been neglected now that a real threat was at large (cf. 17:33), before he had any real training. Saul would've had more than one armor-bearer (cf. 2 Sam. 18:15), so David could've been drowned out by the others' presence, and eventually forgotten when excused to go back to Jesse.

1 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18:19

Who was the wife of Adriel?

2 Samuel 21:8 has a copyist error and just like the way many manuscripts have Merab instead of Michal as Adriel's wife there, so does this verse support that the original of 2 Samuel 21:8 had Merab and not Michal. Also see 2 Samuel 6:23 which affirms that Michal was childless for the rest of her life.

1 Samuel 18:20-27

Was Michal one of David's wives or not?

Here David marries Saul's daughter, Michal, but later there is a mention of two of David's wives (1 Samuel 27:3, 30:5,18), and Michal isn't one of them. But 1 Samuel 25:44 informs us that Saul gave away David's wife to Paltiel son of Laish.

1 Samuel 22

1 Samuel 22:20

Was Ahimelech the father or son of Abiathar?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Samuel 23

1 Samuel 23:6

Was Ahimelech the father or son of Abiathar?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Samuel 25

Was David's treatment of Nabal horrid?

David does not ask for everything Nabal has. He merely asks for anything he can give to his men to eat out of his (Nabal's) good will, and David also points out that he had protected Nabal's property and was respectful. Not an unreasonable request at all, is it? And what does Nabal do? He not only denies the request, but insults David as even his own wife noted (1 Samuel 25:14 - if the author wrote it and "spoke for" Nabal's wife here, i.e. invented the story, certainly the author also thought this was insulting. And so there is no unjustified response to Nabal). This was apparently a man who loved to quarrel (Proverbs 17:19), and his response was equally abrasive.

1 Samuel 25:22

Ban on urination against walls?

The phrase means "male" (see also 1 Kings 14:10).

1 Samuel 27

1 Samuel 27:3

Was Michal David's wife according to 1 Samuel 18:20-27 or not?

See 1 Samuel 18:20-27.

1 Samuel 27:8-9

Were the Amalekites completely destroyed by Saul?

See 1 Samuel 15:8. In any case, however, 1 Samuel 27:8 is clear that David attacked specific areas and not all of Amalekite territory.

1 Samuel 28

1 Samuel 28:6

Did Saul consult of the medium or not?

See 1 Chronicles 10.

1 Samuel 30

1 Samuel 30:1

Were the Amalekites completely destroyed by Saul?

See 1 Samuel 15:8.

1 Samuel 30:5

Was Michal David's wife according to 1 Samuel 18:20-27 or not?

See 1 Samuel 18:20-27.

1 Samuel 30:7

Was Abiathar the son or father of Ahimelech?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Samuel 30:17

Were the Amalekites completely destroyed by Saul?

See 1 Samuel 15:8.

1 Samuel 30:18

Was Michal David's wife according to 1 Samuel 18:20-27 or not?

See 1 Samuel 18:20-27.

1 Samuel 31

1 Samuel 31:4

How did Saul die?

See 1 Chronicles 10.

2 Samuel

2 Samuel 1

2 Samuel 1:10

How did Saul die?

The Amalekite was certainly lying (see 2 Sam. 1:15-16 below). It's just not specified in the text, showing the author was drawing on old tradition.

2 Samuel 1:15-16

Is David an irrationally vengeful sadist?

David literally kills the messenger, bearing good news! An Amalekite tells him that Saul was mortally wounded and requested a merciful death. David considers this and uses some twisted rationale to kill the man. The issue isn't so much of his reputation as a great king, as that of a righteous servant of God whose only serious error was sending Uriah to his death so he could marry Bathsheba.

Was the Amalekite lying? David's location would've been known to the Israelites, so we can't say the messenger's knowledge of this proves he was with the Philistines. In fact it makes sense that an Amalekite would be willing to cross into Philistine territory to tell David if he really was part of the Israelite army. Unlikely David got any news from someone else later that day that would expose the Amalekite, because how likely is it this second messenger witnessed Saul's true death and lived to tell it and made it through Philistine territory to tell David? The difference between Saul's death only in the previous chapter and this means the Amalekite must've been lying.

Although the Amalekite was lying, David did not know this, nor should such an extreme reaction be excusable at all. My view is that David realized the Amalekite was lying. For one, his story doesn't make sense: a random soldier nearby called upon by Saul to finish him off; like what actually happened, why not ask an armor-bearer? Maybe none were around. But out of cleverness before he's called out by David and his men (his accent, clothes), the Amalekite says he revealed himself as one to Saul. David mourned till the evening (1:12), and in the meantime probably realized Saul would've never let his sworn enemy, whom he struck wherever he could, be in his army nor be killed by him, and would've preferred to fall on his own sword.

It follows that this Amalekite was part of the Philistine army that defeated Saul. Certainly no looter afterwards, because the Philistines would've found Saul's crown with his body. Enraged not only at the lie, but at the fact that an Amalekite of all people, David can't wait or contain his rage. The reason he gives is to mask his embarrassment, the fact that he knows so the Amalekite can't deny any of David's sure doubts, and to entrap him by his own words (v.16), because that way the Amalekite's only way is to admit he was a Philistine ally. Possibly he was an Amalekite spy, (compare Hushai in 2 Sam. 16-17).

2 Samuel 4:10 seems to imply David took the Amalekite at his word. 2 Samuel 5:8 and 8:2 seem rather harsh, perhaps inkeeping with an unjust character assessment. But 8:2 was typical for its day to prevent further rebellion and bloodshed by executing soldiers (compare Roman decimation), and 5:8 is a bit strange, but nothing murderous. In all likelihood David either pretended he believed the Amalekite (to leave the killers of Ishbosheth in 2 Sam. 4:10 without defense that they actually did this for David), or the story was paraphrased to not explain too much. Simply, if David believed him, he would've killed the Amalekite on the spot if he was either hot with anger over him being an Amalekite who did this, or because of the news. Saul was like David's father (Jesse probably having died not too long after the Goliath incident) and David believed in the Israelite kingship: why he spared Saul. He didn't rashly kill the messenger, nor without cause. The Amalekite was clearly before David personally both times, just like the two brothers in 2 Sam. 4. It wouldn't make sense for him to mourn so long until evening, I don't think it would be a custom that could make him do it that long.

2 Samuel 4:12

bull; Is David a cold-blooded murderer?

Aside from his "tens of thousands" that the folksongs sing he killed, does David's killing of the two brothers in chapter 4 make him insane? It's difficult to excuse their actions, though. Even if they preferred David as king, as far as Ishbosheth was concerned, he was Saul's descendant and thus the next king. The rivalry between David and Saul would've been well-known, and Saul's jealousy would've undoubtedly shown his insecurity and the fact that Samuel anointed someone else to be king. Even without anyone else's knowledge of that, David would've been preferred as the next king, like in 2 Sam. 1 with the messenger.

On that note, the killing of Ishbosheth was a murder similar to that of Darius III by his bodyguard. Like Alexander, David would've been more popular due to his conquests, though not completely because Ishbosheth still had support from his tribe. So David reasoned that these men could not be trusted, especially killing someone in their sleep (4:11). It's clear these guys simply switched sides after the blow to morale from Abner's death (4:1-2).

2 Samuel 5

When was Jerusalem captured?

See Judges 1:8.

2 Samuel 5:4-5

When did Absalom rebel against David?

See 2 Samuel 15:7.

How long was David's reign: 40 years or 40 years and 6 months?

The author did not forget in the very next sentence (2 Samuel 5:5) that he had said (2 Samuel 5:4) that David's reign was 40 years. He simply rounded in 5:4 and was more specific in 5:5.

2 Samuel 6

2 Samuel 6:23

Did Michal have kids (2 Samuel 21:8) or not?

2 Samuel 21:8 has a copyist error and the daughter of Saul there should read Merab and not Michal as some manuscripts show and as 1 Samuel 19:18 confirms saying that Merab was Adriel's wife. The original of 2 Samuel 21:8 therefore undoubtedly had Merab's name and not Michal's.

2 Samuel 8

2 Samuel 8:4

700 or 7000 horsemen/charioteers?

See 1 Chronicles 18:4.

2 Samuel 8:17

Was Ahimelech the father or son of Abiathar?

I wrote this explanation some time ago. Just to pre-emptively clear the charge of plagiarism.

Copyist error.

I suspect a scribe copying 2 Samuel wrote down "Ahimelech son of Abiathar" instead of the opposite. Then, some time after the composition of 1 Chronicles, another scribe made the error of trying to "correct" what he thought was the true reading in 2 Samuel 8:17. Either he or someone else thought 1 Chron. 18:16, based 2 Sam. 8:17, was a mistake, perhaps by a previous scribe.

Why an error in the copies and not in the originals? For 2 Samuel to make such an error, when the entire time he talks about Abiathar and no Ahimelech, is illogical. Nor did someone come and try to replace Abiathar with Ahimelech for whatever reason, since he would have done it in more places. If we suppose he did change other places, the scribes changing it back, they wouldn't have left 8:17 as well, a big error not to be noticed (either way, it shows the original had "Abiathar son of Ahimelech"). It couldn't have been an error on the part of the author of 1 Chron. as he acknowledges Abiathar as priest alongside Zadok in 1 Chron. 15:11. If it's suggested he came upon 2 Sam. 8:17 and changed his mind from Abiathar -> Ahimelech, would he not have changed the Abiathar reference just 3 chapter earlier to Ahimelech? So what happened in my opinion is this:

  • Original of 2 Sam. 8:17 had "Ab son of Ahi".
  • Original of 1 Chron. 18:16 and the other 4 references also had the correct name.
  • Some time shortly after 1-2 Chron. was written, before the Septuagint in the 3rd century BC made the Old Testament more widespread, a scribe saw 2 Sam. 8:17: "Zadok son of Ahitub, and Abiathar son of Ahimelech."
  • Since Ahimelech was also a son of Ahitub, he got confused with the genealogy and thought he saw "Ahitub->Abiathar->Ahimelech" since that would've been the positioning of those three names. He thought it was implying Abiathar was Ahitub's son and Ahimelech's father, changed the names without reading the context fully (he saw son of and assumed it was a genealogy saying Abiathar and his son Ahimelech). Some Latin and Greek copies of the New Testament transpose words like this, and it's easier with Hebrew, which had no vowels, especially if the copyist knew Aramaic better, living in the 4th century BC.
  • A different scribe later compares 1 Chron. with 2 Sam, sees the discrepancy and changes 4 Abiathars into Ahimelechs. But he misses the Abiathar in 15:11 since he isn't stated to be Ahimelech's son and the verse precedes 18:16 which first caught his eye as contradicting 2 Sam 8:17. He, or less likely someone else, proceeds to correct the rest of the Abiathars all of which are found in 1 Chron. 24.
  • As for 1 Kings 4:4, our only evidence for a second Abiathar: most likely a copyist error that knew the pair names Zadok and Abiathar as the author wouldn't forget just 2 chapters earlier that Abiathar was banished. If it were a competing tradition that didn't believe Abiathar was banished or hated it they probably would have added him everywhere else and not just there.

Another Theory

This was my theory. Here is another theory, which I don't feel satisfies all the evidence. Two Abiathars and Ahimelechs who respectively came from two different Levitical family lines. One Abiathar was "bad", another was "good" (1 Ki 4:4):
  • "good" Ahimelech is the father of "good" Abiathar. "good" Ahimelech is referred to in 1 Samuel 21-22, and his son is "good" Abiathar in 1 Samuel 22-23 (called son of Ahimelech in 1 Sam. 23:6; 30:7) at least, and 1 Ki 4:4.
  • "bad" Abiathar is the father of "bad" Ahimelech. "bad" Abiathar is mentioned in 1 Kings (except for 1 Ki 4:4) and maybe 1-2 Samuel//1 Chron 15:11? "bad" Ahimelech is 2 Sam 8:17 + 1 Chron. 24.
The Problem:

I don't think there is a need to suppose two sets of Abiathars and Ahimelechs where one is father-son and the other vice versa. First, 1 Kings 2:26-27 is clear that it was indeed the so-called "good" Abiathar it's talking about since verse 27 notes that his life was spared due to enduring the same hardships as David. Secondly, if the Ahimelech son of Abiathar and other Abiathar were so obscure so as to be mentioned once each in all of 2 Samuel and 1 Kings (8:17 and 4:4 respectively; Ahimelech a further 4 times in 1 Chronicles but that's not as early or detailed and will be discussed), how is it that this unknown Ahimelech got to be alongside Zadok if he wasn't prominent enough to even be mentioned?

The Ahitub referred to as the father of the "good" Abiathar/Ahimelech in 1 Chron. 6:7 (verse 11 refers to a different Ahitub), is the father of Zadok, and 1 Chronicles 6:7ff. makes no mention of any Abiathars or Ahimelechs as descendants of this Ahitub (father of Zadok). He might have had other kids ("good" Ahimelech one of them), but the text makes no mention of this. The Abiathar of 1 Samuel 22 and on must be the "good" Abiathar according to you, however this Abiathar is the priest that serves David and shares in his troubles and you identify him as the "bad" Abiathar (1 Kings 2:26 also says the "bad" Abiathar shared in David's troubles; no mention of the "good" anywhere but 1 Kings 4:4). There is no room for the "bad" Abiathar to suddenly displace this "good" Abiathar anywhere: 1 Samuel 22:20-23 clearly identifies the "good" Ahimelech as his father. 1 Samuel 23 and on clearly continue the story and call him the son of Ahimelech (even if we suppose the "bad" Abiathar also had a father named Ahimelech!). Also, (bad) Abiathar wasn't relieved of being a high priest until Solomon's day so why does 1 Chronicles 15:11 say he and Zadok were priests, but then in 2 Samuel 8:17, 1 Chr 18:16; +ch.24 it's Ahimelech, of whom there is no mention after 1 Samuel 22, besides the singular name in 2 Samuel 8:17, whereas the rest of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings speak of "Zadok and Abiathar the priests" and no Ahimelech? Moreover, 1 Kings 2:35 says that Zadok replaced Abiathar as priest - that is, there was only one high priest from now on.

Moreover, it doesn't stand to reason that either the "good" or "bad" Abiathars/Ahimelechs were from Eleazer's line because Zadok was from Eleazer's line and the other high priest was to be from Ithamar's (1 Chron. 24:3ff.). Since David created this division, the Ahimelech killed by Saul could've theoretically been of Eleazer, but the "good" Abiathar of 1 Ki 4:4 can't, unless Solomon abrogated this, but we know from 1 Kings 2:35 that the only change he made was to make Zadok sole high priest.

The only way I can see this hypothesis working is if the Ahimelech of 1 Samuel 21-22 is the father of "bad" Abiathar (1 Sam. 22:20 till 1 Ki 2:26; 1 Chr. 15:11) who was the father of "bad" Ahimelech (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Chr. 18:16; 24). Perhaps "bad" Ahimelech served alongside his father (and not Jonathan who is the only son to be given a story). And the "good" Abiathar of 1 Kings 4:4 shows up (unconnected to any "good" Ahimelech) to take the place of "bad" Abiathar (+Ahimelech? Perhaps unmentioned because unimportant or shared his father's fate). But besides this improbable convolution, what defeats this only solution that I can see is the fact that Solomon abrogated the dual priesthood after kicking out "bad" Abiathar (1 Ki 2:35).

Alternatively, it does not make sense to make Abiathar himself have a son named Ahimelech, or vice versa: Ahimelech to have had an Abiathar as a father. First, Ahimelech's father was Ahitub (1 Sam. 22:20; which may have additionally helped confuse matters). And there is no time or place for any unknown Ahimelech to be dual priest with Zadok in David's day. It would make no sense for him to have substituted Abiathar (2 Sam. 8:17), or for Solomon to keep a son of Abiathar's in the priesthood (1 Ki 4:4 = Abiathar; a son of Ahimelech, the son of Abiathar? Or? Perhaps another son of Abiathar's? Certainly not Ahimelech's grandfather or something. A kinsman? Or just an unknown other priest? None of these are likely).

2 Samuel 10

2 Samuel 10:4

Is David's response unfair here?

If one wonders whether David's response was an overreaction, then one should show that doing this was not really an insult, which even to us is easily recognizable that it was. We have a similar example from 11th century Spain. When Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, more commonly known as El Cid, defeated a Granadian army led by Count García Ordóńez, he pulled his beard which was the ultimate insult at that time. We can then imagine how insulted David may have been from this incident and that his reaction is not really excessive.

2 Samuel 10:18

40,000 horsemen or foot soldiers?

It is unlikely that an army consisted of 700+ charioteers and 40,000 cavalry or that 2 Samuel 10:18 recorded it that way (if one wants to presume he omitted the infantry numbers). Although the Septuagint manuscripts that have foot soldiers in the place of horsemen in 2 Samuel 10:18 are doubtlessly emendations to harmonize 1 Chr. 19:18 and 2 Sam. 10:18, the fact is that a copyist error is what we have here, where the original of 2 Samuel 10:18 had foot soldiers instead of cavalry, and later on a textual corruption became horsemen. This is supported by the fact that an army of 40,000 cavalry is ridiculous as we noted with the above reasoning, and that 1 Chr. 19:18 undoubtedly narrated the history of 2 Sam. 10:18 so 1 Chr. 19:18 shows that earlier copies of 2 Sam. 10:18 (c.5th/4th century BC) had the word foot soldiers, not horsemen.

2 Samuel 12

2 Samuel 12:1-8

Do these verses mean God considered women as property (of men)?

Some might claim that the example of the man owning a lamb/flocks in 2 Samuel 12:1-6, which is used as an analogy for David's sin in taking another man's wife as his own, means that God considers women to be men's property. This is not true - the analogy only goes insofar as someone being wronged with respect to a relationship, and does not extend to any statements of ownership of women by men. That David is told in verse 8 that all of Saul's women were given to him means that they became his wives, due to Saul's death, the same way a daughter is given in marriage to someone. Without a doubt these women were not forced to be either Saul's or David's wives: as we see in the book of Esther, it was a very lucky privilege for someone to become one of the king's wives.

2 Samuel 12:11-12

Is this a disgusting punishment?

There is nothing disgusting about this punishment which is exactly what David did except in reverse - it won't be in secret. David's wives are not going to be "raped out in broad daylight by his neighbor while others watch", that is not what the verses say at all. The verses say simply that what David did will be done to him except everyone will know it, and this happened when Absalom temporarily ousted David (2 Sam. 16:21-22).

2 Samuel 12:14

Is it unfair to the newborn baby of David that it gets to be killed for David's sin?

David's sin of killing Uriah to marry Bathsheba was very detestable to God. The punishment for taking away his son is more than just. However, the little child didn't do anything and had no say in the matter. But this objection ignores the fact that we all die and that the newborn, which had no social connections in life, was still David's child much more than anything else. The objection is almost as absurd as saying that just because a criminal (which is what David became with respect to Uriah in God's eyes) is killed, then you are killing the hundreds of descendants that he would have had, if you hadn't killed him. Yes, in this example it is David's son and not David who is killed, but the point remains the same.

2 Samuel 14

2 Samuel 14:27

How many sons did Absalom have?

See 2 Samuel 18:18.

2 Samuel 15

2 Samuel 15:7

When did Absalom rebel?

2 Samuel 15:7 says that Absalom plotted the overthrow of David for forty years but the entire reign of David was forty years according to 2 Samuel 5:4. Looking at these two verses one would think that Absalom must have succeeded if David only reigned during the forty years the plot was being created being finally executed and removing him! However, the fact is that 2 Samuel 5:4 undoubtedly has a copyist error where the original certainly said four years, which became forty through a copying error that crept into the main manuscript tradition.

I've seen other explanations for the forty year plot by Absalom. Since technically David's reign was 40 years and 6 months (2 Samuel 5:5) which were rounded to 40 years in 2 Samuel 5:4, Absalom rebellion (and Sheba's later on) was short-lived, but so was David's resumption on the throne - 6 months and he passed away. While the absurdity of a 40 year old plot is self-evident, we can point out that this can't be true since David continued to reign for years after this incident (2 Samuel 21:1, etc). So in any case, there's no contradiction here because there was a copyist error.

2 Samuel 17

2 Samuel 17:25

Who was the father of Amasa?

See 1 Chronicles 2:17.

2 Samuel 18

1 Samuel 18:14-15

Absalom killed twice?

Joab left him mortally wounded for his armor-bearers to finish off, or the soldiers simply made sure he was dead (cf. a 16th century man stabbed 7 times and left for dead that survived when Vesalius, the father of surgery, bandaged him).

2 Samuel 18:18

How many sons did Absalom have?

2 Samuel 18:18 seems to say he had none, but 2 Samuel 14:27 says he had three. These three sons, however, had most likely died by the time Absalom became king and built the monument. His daughter, Tamar, would not have been able to preserve his house as a son would have.

2 Samuel 21

2 Samuel 21:8

Did Michal have children or not?

See 2 Samuel 6:23.

Was the wife of Adriel Merab or Michal?

See 1 Samuel 18:19.

2 Samuel 21:8-14

Does God want human sacrifice?

These verses do not talk about human sacrifice in the sense of offering them like burnt/peace offerings of animals but simply justice for Saul's crimes against the Gibeonites. If one wants to call that human sacrifice, so be it, and I don't see how that is an argument against God or His morality.

2 Samuel 21:12

How did Saul die?

This verse says the Philistines killed him but elsewhere (1 Sam. 31; 1 Chron. 10) it's clear Saul technically fell on his own sword. Clearly the Philistines are the reason he killed himself.

2 Samuel 21:19

Who killed Goliath?

See 1 Chronicles 20:5.

2 Samuel 23

2 Samuel 23:8

Did Jashobeam/Josheb-Basshebeth kill 300 or 800 men?

See 1 Chronicles 11:11.

2 Samuel 23:8,18

Are these legends and incredibly exaggerated/invented stories and accomplishments?

See 1 Chronicles 11:11,13-14,18,20,22, 12:14-15.

2 Samuel 24

2 Samuel 24:1

• Did God or Satan "incite" David to take the census?

1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us it was Satan who incited David to take the census. Incited is a loaded word, God simply allowed David to take the census without intervening by prophets or other means, since he was angry with Israel for some reason. Satan, was the actual means by which David committed this sin, though it was certainly not God's will that Satan tempt him, and for David to take the census. In the same way, Habakkuk asks God how he allows wickedness and injustice to exist (Hab. 1:13) and God's answer is that it has its purposes, with the remnant of Israel, those who believe, being spared, while the rest are not. God raises up the wicked Babylonians to carry out judgment on faithless Israel (Hab. 1:5-10), but this does not mean he tempts them into doing something, but only unleashes them by not destroying them as 1:13 confirms, in the same way Satan was when God was angry with unbelievers in Israel in David's time.

2 Samuel 24:9

How many soldiers did king David have?

In 2 Samuel 24:9 it says that Joab's census reported 800,000 men for Israel and 500,000 men for Judah, whereas in 1 Chronicles 21:5 it says there were 1.1 million Israelite soldiers and 470,000 from Judah. There are as many as four possible reasons why these counts are different.

1. The figure for Judah in 2 Samuel 24:9 is most likely rounded and 1 Chronicles 21:5 gives the more exact 470,000. 1 Chronicles shows that it had other sources for this event (e.g. 1 Chr. 21:6) so we can be sure that the author knew the more exact total was 470,000 and simply rounded it at that instead of rounding to 500,000. The suggestion that the totals of Benjamin and Levi were not included in the census narrated in 1 Chr. 21:5 is in my opinion incorrect, because 1 Chronicles 21 is reporting the same event as 2 Samuel 24 and how likely is it that one records the census plus Benjamin and Levi and the other book records only the census? However, a rounding in 2 Samuel 24:9 is a good explanation for that number.

2. The author of Chronicles may be counting differently and may have access to records we obviously don't. For example, in 1 Chronicles 27 the author states that there was a professional army of 12 divisions consisting of 24,000 men each. This amounts to 288,000. Adding this to the figure of 800,000 in 2 Samuel 24:9, we get 1,088,000 which is certainly going to be rounded to 1.1 million. Also, in 2 Samuel 24:9, the phrase chayil 'iysh is used, which can roughly be translated the way the KJV does: valiant men or perhaps veterans. If 1 Chronicles 21:5 isn't counting only veterans but the entire paramilitary of Israel, then he might arrive at a larger number, the 1.1 million. This runs aground, however, on the fact that in 1 Chronicles 27 the 12 divisions of 24,000 (the 288,000) are the professional army of king David, so hardly would they not be included in the category of valiant men or able-bodied men/veterans. But as we already noted there might be some other information that Chronicles had that we don't have from where he gets the count. The 288,000 certainly could have been included in the 800,000 of 2 Samuel 24:9, whereas there were 300,000 others who weren't mentioned by 2 Samuel 24:9 as valiant men. Also, it is possible that the counting in 2 Samuel 24:9, while describing them as valiant men, or more possibly able-bodied men (NIV), is referring to the paramilitary of Israel besides the 288,000 professional army.

3. Rounding is one possible suggestion, but it is clear that the numbers were already rounded and this is probably not the case especially since one doesn't round 800,000 to 1.1 million or vice versa, and if the original number was something inbetween, hardly would the two authors round in these two directions: the numbers 1 Chronicles 21:5 was looking at certainly would have exceeded 1 million for him to round to 1.1 million, whereas had that been the case for 2 Samuel 24:9 there is no way he would have rounded down to 800,000.

4. Finally, there is always the possibility that we have here a copyist error. However, in this case I don't think this is what we have here for the simple reason that the numbers look like they had a specific source: e.g. 470,000 for Judah and 1.1 million for Israel in 1 Chronicles 21:5.

In conclusion, I think solution 1 (for Judah) and 2 (Israel) are the most likely scenario. With respect to solution #2, it is already clear that 1 Chronicles 21 had a source that was more detailed than 2 Samuel 24 (proof: verses like 1 Chr. 21:6), besides the fact that it is clearly narrating the history of 2 Samuel 24. Perhaps 1 Chronicles 21:5 is counting the able-bodied men available in Israel alongside the professional army mentioned in 1 Chr. 27, or perhaps he is including something else that 2 Samuel 24:9 is not. Supporting this is the fact that 2 Samuel 24:9 includes the description able-bodied men, which can possibly be taken to mean he is excluding some military. Overall, the author of 1 Chronicles had sources that were as ancient, authentic, and even more detailed than 2 Samuel which used equally ancient and authentic sources. The many possibilities, particularly that 1 Chronicles 21:5 is most likely including a military group not counted in 2 Samuel 24:9 for whatever reason, are more likely than a contradiction here.

2 Samuel 24:13

Three (1 Chr. 21:12) or seven years of famine?

See 1 Chronicles 21:12.

2 Samuel 24:24

50 shekels of silver or 600 shekels of gold (1 Chr. 21:25)?

See 1 Chronicles 21:25.

1 Kings

1 Kings 3

1 Kings 3:12

Was Jesus greater than Solomon (Matt. 12:42)?

1 Kings 3:12 is a metaphor for the wisdom and understanding that Solomon received. Yes, there was no one wiser, greater, or richer/more prestigious (1 Kings 3:13), but this metaphor wasn't meant to be an all-inclusive for absolutely every human being including the Messiah - certainly the Messiah can be excluded from this category just like in the many places that the Bible calls people righteous yet Paul notes that none are righteous (Rom. 3:23) and so does Ecclesiastes 7:20. In fact, when Paul says that none are righteous in Romans 3:23, he certainly isn't talking about the Messiah as well! It's simply that just like in Romans 3:23, Solomon is wiser than so many people (perhaps everyone except Jesus) that he can be said to have been wiser than anyone before or after him in that way.

1 Kings 4

1 Kings 4:4

How is Abiathar a priest alongside Zadok again if he was kicked out and the dual priesthood abolished by Solomon?

Copyist error. See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Kings 4:26

How many stalls were there?

Since the difference between 1 Kings 4:26 and 2 Chr. 9:25 is 40,000 to 4000, it's clear that originally 1 Kings 4:26 (most likely) had 4000 which the chronicler used as a source to write the history of Israel and later on, throughout the centuries, a copyist error crept into 1 Kings 4:26 giving our present copies 40,000 instead of the (almost certainly original) 4000 of 2 Chronicles.

1 Kings 5

1 Kings 5:15-16

How did the Temple take so long?

The size of the Temple was about 100 feet by 32 by 48 (1 Kings 6:2). If one wants to wonder how the number of workers mentioned in 1 Kings 5:15 weren't enough to build the Temple faster than 7 years, then one hasn't understood many things. There was a lot of work in extracting the resources (1 Kings 5:14; also carving/making - 1 Kings 6:7). At a time when there was no technical equipment, work by hand would make it much more difficult and harder to carry and build large stones from a quarry. Not just that, while many of the workers were away gathering resources (4 months out of the year - 1 Kings 5:14), there were factors like the weather (rain, winds, snow, etc), the Sabbath when no one worked, and winter (people disbanded during winter: for example when Croesus king of Lydia capture Sardis, his army disbanded for the winter and Cyrus captured the king because he didn't disband his). Not just this but there were many things constructed inside such as rooms, and there were a total of three stories, and the walls were being covered with wood which was being overlaid with gold.

Just like this Temple, the constructions around the Second Temple Complex by Herod the Great included around 10,000 workers and the projects, which were massive, took 80 years to finish (resources took 1 and a half years to gather, construction began from 19 BC until 62 AD)! Yes, he had much more projects and they were much more numerous, but given a comparatively even number of workers, 7 years is not excessive to build the Temple given its dimensions in 1 Kings 6:2.

1 Kings 5:16

Were there 3600 or 3300 foremen?

See 2 Chronicles 2:2.

1 Kings 6

1 Kings 6:1

How long was the time between the Exodus and Solomon?

Acts 13:19-20 says that after the Conquest Canaan was occupied by the Israelites 450 years and then by the judges (who were there centuries) and then Saul and David so how can the 4th year of Solomon be the 480th year from the Exodus? Adding the Exodus (40 years), the Conquest (10 years), the 450 years mentioned by Paul, the period of the Judges (a few hundred years), and the reigns of Saul and David (80 years total), gives us 570+ years since the Exodus.

The answer is that the KJV and related translations have bad manuscripts when translating Acts 13:19-20 and that older, more original manuscripts place the 450 years from the time of the Patriarchs in Canaan until the Exodus and Conquest (which is indeed roughly 450 years - see Exodus 12:40 above).

A different solution is proposed by the Chinese Christian, Watchman Nee, in Practical Issues of This Life (1980) pp.61-63. He writes that the 480 years mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1 are the ones that God counted and does not include the servitude the Israelites endured under various nations due to their sins. He writes,
Watchman Nee, Practical Issues of Thsi Life (1980), pp.61-63

Let us see how many years there were from the time of the exodus to the beginning of the building of the temple by Solomon.

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 Kit, 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...(Acts 13.18-22a)

Now David had been king for 40 years (see 2 Sam. 5.4). So how many years were there from the exodus to the fourth year of the reign of Solomon when he began to build the temple? Forty years plus 450 years equal 490 years; adding to it 40 years two times will bring the number to 570 years; adding further the three years of Solomon's reign before he commenced building the temple, the total reaches 573 years. Yet in 1 Kings it says: "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 Iv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of Jehovah" (6.1). Here we are told of 480 years, not 573 - a difference of 93 years!

Why is there such a discrepancy? Is the record of the book of Acts incorrect, or even that of 1 Kings? No, neither record is wrong. In the difference of years between these two records lies a very important spiritual principle. By comparing the records of Acts with those in the Old Testament, we find that the 40 years in the wilderness, Saul's 40 years, David's 40 years, and Solomon's three years before he commenced the building of the temple are all unquestionably correct. The only figure open to question is the 450 years. In that period 1 Kings numbers 93 years less than Acts. How can we account for these apparently missing 93 years? In searching the book of Judges we discover the following fact, that during those years the children of Israel had been oppressed by foreign nations on several occasions. Accordingly, let us see from Judges how many years were due to such oppression.

"Therefore the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of Cu-shan-rish-a-tha-im king of Mesopotamia: and the children of Israel served Cu-shan-rish-a-tha-im eight years" (Judges 3.8). This was Israel's first oppression, which lasted for eight years. "And the children of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years" (3.14). This was Israel's second oppression, which spanned 18 years. "And Jehovah sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel" (4.2,3). This was Israel's third oppression, which was prolonged for 20 years. "And the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah: and Jehovah delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years" (6.1). Here was Israel's fourth oppression, and its duration was seven years. "And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah; and Jehovah delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years" (13.1). This was Israel's fifth oppression, in which they served the Philistines for 40 years.

How many years, therefore, was Israel oppressed by foreign countries these five times? Eight years plus 18 years plus 20 years plus seven years plus 40 years come to 93 years, no more and no less. And thus we have found the solution. In Acts Paul was narrating a history of the Israelites; hence he included these 93 years. 1 Kings, however, emphasized the condition of the children of Israel before God, and therefore excluded these 93 years.

The fact of these 93 years not being numbered is very meaningful. These were lost years, for whenever the children of Israel lost their freedom and thus served the Gentiles and were without a judge of their own, their years were not counted at all. They were a people who had been delivered out of Egypt and who belonged to God. But when subsequently they were ruled by their enemies - being enslaved and under bondage once again - they could not freely serve God. And hence these days were never numbered: such days that they served anyone other than God were automatically considered lost, and consequently the Lord did not number them.
This is not a bad suggestion at all. However, there are some very serious problems. Let us ignore that the principle of "lost years" in the 1 Kings 6:1 counting is assumed (the principle is not impossible). Let us ignore the fact that years were probably rounded in the servitudes (they were rounded in Paul's counting in Acts 13:19-20 too). There are still several problems. First, Watchman Nee omits a Philistine-Ammonite servitude that lasted 18 years inbetween his fourth and fifth servitude mentioned - Judges 10:7-8. This brings his total to 111 years instead of 93. Second, Saul's reign was 42 years (1 Sam. 13:1). Finally, he does not count the 10 years of Conquest - he simply counts 3 x 40 years (Exodus-Saul-David), the 450 menioned by Paul and the first three years of Solomon.

With this we can say that the calculations of Watchman Nee here are wrong. We therefore remain with the above solution and with the general solution in Exodus 12:40 (see above).

1 Kings 6:2

How did the Temple take so long?

See 1 Kings 5:15-16.

1 Kings 6:23-35

Is this against the command not to make graven images?

See 2 Chronicles 3:7.

1 Kings 6:38

How did the Temple take so long?

See 1 Kings 5:15-16.

1 Kings 7

1 Kings 7:13-14

Was Huram's mother from Dan or Naphtali?

See 2 Chronicles 2:13-14.

1 Kings 7:15

Were the pillars 18 cubits long each (both - 36 cubits) or 35 long together?

See 2 Chronicles 3:15.

1 Kings 7:20

Were there one hundred or two hundred pomegranates?

See 2 Chronicles 3:16.

1 Kings 7:23

Does the Bible give an incorrect value for π (pi)?

The Sea of bronze was a massive, circular-shaped container Solomon built. But 1 Kings 7:23 (and 2 Chr. 4:2) say that its circumference was 30 cubits and its diameter was 10. This would make pi 3.0 not 3.14!

Several answers have been given, such as that the measurements were rounded, or perhaps the container wasn't entirely circular. Another explanation is that the thickness of the container was not counted. However, first, the container would be very circular since we can't expect the king's hired workers to screw up so much that the diameter at some place was about half a cubit longer. And also, while rounding may have been a possible reason for the measurements given, we have additional information which explains exactly why we have a 30 cubit circumference with a 10 cubit diameter. And if one wants to posit that the thickness wasn't measured by the diameter, then one has to understand that this would make the value of pi larger not smaller than 3.14 (bigger circumference gives a bigger ratio for pi).

1 Kings 7:26//2 Chr. 4:5 say that the rim of the Sea was "like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom". Anyone who has seen a lilly blossom or ancient cup will know that this makes the rim curl outward. This inevitably makes the diameter longer than the circumference which would not have been measured exactly at the rim, but below it, giving a smaller value for pi (circumference/diameter):

These types of chalices were most popular in the Iron IIA-B period (1000-800 BC), later to be mostly replaced by the goblet in the Iron IIC period (800-587 BC). [Amiran, Ruth. Ancient Pottery of the Holy Land, pp.213-4] The author is clearly using older, and thus reliable sources, because Solomon would've made the huge container after the commonplace cups in his day, whereas the author/compiler of 1 Kings has to elaborate that this cup had a rim like the flower of a lily (chalices with rims like this were still around in his day to compare, but unlike the ones from Iron IIA-B, the typical ones didn't have dimensions that would've added up to the 3-1 ratio - therefore he used earlier, reliable information here and probably throughout all of 1-2 Samuel/Kings).

1 Kings 7:26

2000 or 3000 baths?

See 2 Chronicles 4:5.

1 Kings 7:29, 36

Is this against the command not to make graven images?

See 2 Chronicles 3:7.

1 Kings 8

1 Kings 8:9

What was inside the Ark of the Covenant?

See Hebrews 9:4 below.

1 Kings 9

1 Kings 9:23

Were there 550 officers or 250?

See 2 Chronicles 8:10.

1 Kings 9:28

Did Hiram's men bring back 420 or 450 talents?

See 2 Chronicles 8:18.

1 Kings 10

1 Kings 10:14

Is Solomon's wealth exaggerated?

See 1 Chronicles 22:14.

1 Kings 14

1 Kings 14:10

Ban on urination against walls? And is this verse disgusting?

The phrase "him that pisseth against the wall" is an expression denoting a "male" person (we can understand why; see also 1 Samuel 25:22 that shows this is the case). On the other hand, this verse is not "disgusting" or "perverse" as it is simply a way God announced His displeasure and eventual judgment.

1 Kings 14:25-26

Wouldn't the Ark have been taken by Shishaq when he looted the treasures of the Temple?

If Shishaq was successfully making his way toward Jerusalem, the Ark would've been quickly hidden, just like Jeremiah did in Manasseh's day. Similarly, when the Muslims were inevitably going to besiege Jerusalem in the 630's, the Jerusalem Patriarch Sophronius quickly gathered all relics and sent them on a ship to Constantinople. Why would the Israelites wait for Shishaq to take the Ark? From 2 Chron. 35:3 it's clear that the Ark was occasionally moved out of the Temple for whatever reason.

1 Kings 15

1 Kings 15:2

Who was Maakah's father?

See 2 Chronicles 11:20-21.

1 Kings 15:14

Was Asa righteous or did he have sins?

See 2 Chronicles 15:17.

Did Asa remove the high places or not?

According to this verse, they weren't, though 2 Chronicles 14:3-5 says they were, but in 2 Chronicles 15:17 it says they weren't removed in Israel which was not Asa's kingdom! The reason for these descriptions is that Asa conquered some land from the kingdom of Israel (2 Chr. 15:8-9). Now, 2 Chr. 15:8 says that Asa removed the idols from those towns. We can, however, say that Asa very possibly conquered more territory (especially after Baasha's retreat from fortifying Ramah where Ben Hadad conquered a lot of territory - 1 Kings 15:20), and that either he didn't have enough time to remove the high places, which could have been different from removed idols mentioned in 2 Chr. 15:8 (i.e. home altars and idols; also see 1 Kings 15:13 and 2 Chr. 14:3 where the Asherah pole of Maakah is distinct from the general "high places" which were in the hills where the Israelites built shrines to Baal and such Canaanite deities), or that others rebuilt some of the high places (the numerous Israelites coming to Asa's kingdom mentioned in 2 Chr. 15:9 perhaps some did this, even though they came because they considered God on Asa's side, but as we know from Israel in the Old Testament, many times the Hebrews reversed into idolatry). Less likely, 2 Chr. 15:17 means that Asa failed to remove the high places of all of Israel, i.e. since he didn't subdue all of Israel. But overall, the above suggestions is certainly what the author of 2 Chronicles meant, who wrote only a few verses earlier in 15:8 that the Israelite villages/towns of Ephraim had their idols removed.

1 Kings 15:16

Was there peace in Asa's 15th year and 3rd month or were Asa and Baasha constantly at war?

See 2 Chronicles 15:10-15.

1 Kings 15:25,28

When did Baasha die?

See 2 Chronicles 15:19.

1 Kings 15:32

Was there peace in Asa's 15th year and 3rd month or were Asa and Baasha constantly at war?

See 2 Chronicles 15:10-15.

1 Kings 15:33

When did Baasha die?

See 2 Chronicles 15:19.

1 Kings 16

1 Kings 16:8,15,23,29

When did Baasha die?

See 2 Chronicles 15:19.

1 Kings 17

1 Kings 17:1

How long was the drought brought by Elijah?

See 1 Kings 18:1.

1 Kings 17:3

Isn't the Kerith Ravine west and not east of the Jordan?

Yes, and 1 Kings 17:3 does not say that it is east of the Jordan, only some translations do. Elijah was speaking to Ahab who was probably in Samaria (way west of the Jordan) and then, as the KJV accurately translating the Hebrew has it, God told him, "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan." (1 Kings 17:3, KJV, emphasis mine).

1 Kings 17:4,6

Isn't the feeding of Elijah through ravens, an unclean bird, against the Law of Moses God established? Why would God break His own Law?

This is another example where Christ's point that "the law was made for man, not man for the law" is shown (Mark 2:27 - technically Sabbath here). Many other places within the Old Testament itself have statements and actions by God which don't go according to the Law of Moses (e.g. priests working and circumcising on the Sabbath if necessary, the Israelites marching 7 days, which certainly included a Sabbath, to break the walls of Jericho and so on).

1 Kings 18

1 Kings 18:1

How long was the drought brought by Elijah?

Here the text says that Elijah met king Ahab in the third year of the drought which would remove it. In James 5:17 says that the drought was three and a half years. Is there a contradiction?

The answer is No: the Hebrew expression "in the third year" (or any year/day) can mean after three years or after 2 years, and is only an expression and approximation - Esther 4:16 vs 5:1. So, since James, being a Jew, would have understood the language much better, is probably approximating just like 1 Kings 18:1 in saying three and a half years which very possibly had the same idiomatic meaning as "in the third year" in 1 Kings 18:1 seeing the examples of Esther 4:16 vs 5:1.

1 Kings 19

1 Kings 19:16

Was Jehu the son or grandson of Nimshi?

The Ancient Near Eastern use of "son/daughter" also had the connotation of descendant just like when the Israelites are referred to as sons of Abraham, and Jesus is referred to as the Son of David in the New Testament. Therefore, Nimshi was the grandfather of Jehu and 1 Kings 19:16 refers to Jehu as son of Nimshi in the sense of descendant.

1 Kings 20

1 Kings 20:30

Is this an absurd number of soldiers to be killed by a fallen wall?

No! Over twenty-seven thousand people who flood a city that certainly wouldn't have been designed to accomodate that many more could easily have been killed by the walls when they were collapsed by the Israelites, especially since that's where the Arameans would have been to defend themselves: on top of the walls.

1 Kings 22

1 Kings 22:19

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

1 Kings 22:43

Did Jehoshaphat remove the high places or not?

See 2 Chronicles 17:6.

2 Kings

2 Kings 1

2 Kings 1:9-12

Is Elijah unjust?

Elijah throws fire from Heaven upon two groups of soldiers of fifty and their captain. These men are simply sent by the king to escort him and are killed for only doing their job?

The issue isn't so simple. They could've had orders to kill him, perhaps after a meeting with the king. He seems to have been afraid (v.15). Their address to Elijah as "man of God," was perhaps seen as a superficial facade by the prophet, who focuses upon it as he metes out their fate. Or it could be because its true meaning is empty for them, being idolaters. For these reasons, God doesn't even need a motive to fulfill Elijah's curse. Elijah would've been in full accord with God's will anyway, being informed of the motives of the men (v.15), and maybe those of the king, prior to their death by fire. The angel perhaps even directed the course of action.

A puzzling question would be why the second captain and his fifty men came so boldly before Elijah as if the first set didn't evaporate into thin air. But the report could've been disbelieved just like Elijah's own disciples couldn't believe the prophecy of his physical ascension (1 Kings 18:12 - if the Keil-Delitzsch Commentary is correct). Alternatively, Ahaziah's actions are reminiscent of the Pharaoh's continuous recalcitrance with Moses and the plagues - the king and his soldiers could've reasoned the fire was a coincidence (cf. 1 Sam. 6:9), or perhaps avoidable, especially out of anger. The promise of reward wouldn't have been absent.

On the subject of men "only doing their job," this was the prime mechanism by which atrocities are committed as Hannah Arendt's The Banality of Evil concludes. The Milgram and Asch experiments confirm this by showing the power of authority. Although enemy POWs are to be repatriated under the terms of the Geneva Convention, this doesn't necessarily absolve them of any moral responsibility in their own eyes as some WWII documentaries show when interviewing German soldiers (e.g. "The Allies could say they were fighting for freedom. What were we fighting for?"). Calel Perechodnik, a member of the Jewish Police in the Warsaw Ghetto, wrote how his own conscience condemned him by bringing Jews to the execution place out of fear (Perechodnik. Am I a Murderer? (1996 - E.T. Frank Fox).

2 Kings 2

2 Kings 2:23-24

How can Elisha kill kids over a taunt?

In verse 23 little children is from Hebrew "qatan na'ar" (singular - little child). In verse 24 the word is "yeled". These were adolescents and old enough to be responsible. "Qatan na'ar" can mean anyone up to and including the age of a teenager. It's used of Jonathan's armor-bearer (1 Sam. 20:35), who's big enough to carry his weapons back to the city (1 Sam. 20:41). Similarly Naaman's Israelite servant girl is old enough to appreciate the gravity of his leprosy and remember Elisha's presence in Jerusalem as a solution (2 Kings 5:2-4). It's simply how 2 Kings spoke, who was probably an old man so an adolescent compared to him was like a little child. That's why Solomon, without exaggeration, calls himself this for the position of the kingship (1 Kings 3:7), whereas he's 30.

Xenophon in his Cyropaedia describes a fourfold Persian division based on age: his youngest, that of "boys" (younger than the next one, "youths"), is up to the age 16/17 (Cyropaedia 1.2.8). These were as answerable to the law for their actions and potential crimes, including robbery and assault, as their older counterparts (Cyropaedia 1.2.6-7). Many juveniles are tried as adults in murder cases, even as young as 15, depending on the severity. "Yeled" is even more flexible in terms of age. It can mean someone even older (Gen. 32:22; Ruth 1:5).

In the Persepolis Fortification Texts (Persian rations documents from 509-494 BC), there are groups of "men" "women", "boys", and "girls" designated as workers. Yet sometimes the "boys" are given wine, receive grain more than enough for adults, and are occasionally alternately called "men" (PF 1137). [Hallock (1969), Persepolis Fortification Tablets, p.30]

Whether the insult "baldy" was accurate is irrelevant (even if men covered their heads, one could still see hair or absence thereof). Sudden, aggressive, unprovoked, and unwarranted harrassment implies that they'd done it to others and that their intent was nothing short of malicious. It was God who brought out the bears, Elisha only cursed the offenders according to their crimes and allowed God to judge their conscience (v.24). He not only spared 3000 Syrian soldiers besieging Samaria, but fed them and sent them on their way (2 Kings 6:8-23), so this wasn't excess out of unrestrained vindictiveness.

2 Kings 3

2 Kings 3:19

Doesn't this contradict Deuteronomy 20:19?

Deuteronomy 20:19 talks about cities that are planned to be inhabited, so that the Israelites don't become rage-prone senselessly. In 2 Kings 3:19 the destruction of the cities and punishment toward Moab is meant and is not the same as the situation depicted in Deuteronomy 20:19.

2 Kings 3:27

Did the sacrifice of Mesha of his oldest son invoke his god Chemosh to defeat Israel (the "wrath" mentioned)?

The text probably relates to the bitter fighting the Moabites resorted to, being backed into a corner like that. Similarly, following Sun Tzu's timeless logic, the Mongols purposely left open gaps for the routed enemy to retreat and then pick them off one by one. This is also why the Mongols took 7 weeks to take Kozelsk as opposed to the usual 1-2 weeks: the people fought to the last man, house by house. The Moabites seeing their king sacrifice his own son could have only encouraged them.

Hardly would 2 Kings 3:4-26 describe how God, through Elisha, delivered the three kings only to suddenly say in 3:27 that Mesha and his Moabite god "won". The meaning of 2 Kings 3:27 is certainly not that the god Chemosh whom Mesha invoked through the sacrifice of his son (3:26) is stronger, but that the Israelites' faith was weaker (than it should be, not Mesha's and his son-sacrifice) - an easy fallacy to make when an absolute reference point is lost or unavailable, similar to many of the theological and symbolic points God makes throughout the Bible.

2 Kings 8

2 Kings 8:26

How old was Ahaziah when he became king: 22 or 42?

See 2 Chronicles 21:20.

2 Kings 9

2 Kings 9:2

Was Jehu the son or grandson of Nimshi?

See 1 Kings 19:16.

2 Kings 9:27-29

How did Ahaziah die?

See 2 Chronicles 22:9 below.

2 Kings 9:29

How old was Ahaziah when he became king: 22 or 42?

See 2 Chronicles 21:20.

2 Kings 10

2 Kings 10:13-14

Did Jehu kill Ahaziah's brothers or nephews?

See 2 Chronicles 22:8.

2 Kings 10:30

Was Jehu to be praised or condemned (Hosea 1:4) for destroying Ahab's house?

See Hosea 1:4.

2 Kings 18

2 Kings 18:13-19:37

Sennacherib's Invasion and History

The Sennacherib Prism, made c.690 BC or around 10-11 years after the attack, mentions his siege on Jerusalem. The differences are that the amount of silver is 800 and not 300 talents, and it's given later when Sennacherib has returned to Assyria. Whereas the Bible says Hezekiah gave this to Sennacherib while he was besieging Lachish, which he accepted but still went on to besiege Jerusalem.

One could assume that both versions are wrong since it makes most sense that Sennacherib was paid off when he besieged Jerusalem. It certainly doesn't make sense to receive tribute after he's returned to Assyria, which implies a failed siege - something assumed since Jerusalem is the only city that isn't mentioned as captured in the Prism.

On the other hand, since Sennacherib did not take Jerusalem, but instead mentions the tribute and messengers of Hezekiah when he's already returned to Assyria, it's clear the siege did not succeed so there's a cover-up at least on that due to the silence. So it's unlikely the tribute was offered during the siege, or that would've been given as the reason. Instead the tribute given prior to the siege was transposed as Hezekiah's yearly vassalage where it was brought to Assyria regularly. But that massive initial offering mentioned in the Prism and 2 Kings 18:14 could not have been the amount for a yearly tribute. So the biblical account is probably more likely than the other two options: Hezekiah realizes he's losing city after city, offers the tribute, the tribute taken and Sennacherib decides to continue with the siege. (similarly Bartolome de Las Casas records in his Devastation of the Indies how some Spanish conquistadors were given a huge amount of gold when near Nicaragua, so they reasoned if they had that much, they must have more so looted them anyway)

As for the siege failure, why the Assyrians didn't avenge must've been help from the Egyptians as 2 Kings 18-19 mentions Taharqa. He possibly marched to help and the Assyrian siege broken off. Egyptian influence in Palestine south of Syria is shown by the region's Egyptian system of weights for trade, disregarded Assyria's ban on Lebanese cedar exports to Egypt while Taharqa was building his temple to Amun at Kawa, no invasions until Esarhaddon for 20 years unlike prior to 701,[Aubin, Henry T. (2002). The Rescue of Jerusalem. New York, NY: Soho Press, Inc. pp. x, 152–3, 155-6. ISBN 1-56947-275-0.] and paying tribute to Amun of Karnak in the first half of Taharqa's reign,[Török, László (1998). The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization. Leiden: BRILL. pp. 132–133, 170–184. ISBN 90-04-10448-8.] This influence explains why the Assyrian commander refers to Egyptian help despite Hezekiah's submission (which clearly was not enough).

Since Taharqa did not come to the throne until 10 years after the siege, in 690 BC, unless he was a commander prince (he was the previous Pharaoh's nephew), it may be that there was a different reason for the siege's failure (a plague or waterborne illness), and the Assyrians weren't able to return to the region especially after Taharqa's influence was present from 690 BC until Esarhaddon, if not earlier. In that case the references to Egyptian help would be to their later influence in the region and the threat they posed to the Assyrian invasion as the Assyrian commander notes in his speech.

A somewhat similar event, Black Monday, occurred in the Hundred Years' War, when in 1360 Edward III's forces suffered heavy casualties, more than in all previous battles combined, from a freak hailstorm on the first day of their siege of Chartres, causing him to break it off, being convinced it was a sign from God, and sue for peace with France. Possibly a similar event in China, 1490 Ch'ing-yang event, killed tens of thousands. Not that a freak hailstorm would've killed 175,000 but something could've caused the king to abandon the attack for decades, though as mentioned, this was most likely due to Egypt, still some kind of intermediate cause or event could've happened where Sennacherib loses a large amount of soldiers through a mishap, perhaps as a contributing factor.

2 Kings 12

2 Kings 12:20-21

How did king Joash die and where was he buried?

See 2 Chronicles 24:25.

2 Kings 23

2 Kings 23:29-30

Where did Josiah die - Megiddo or Jerusalem?

2 Kings 23:29-30 (ESV) - In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him, and Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo, as soon as he saw him. And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo and brought him to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's place.

2 Chronicles 35:23-24 (ESV) - And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded." So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.

2 Kings says, "...his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo and brought him to Jerusalem..." Chronicles seems to imply he died at Jerusalem. But Chronicles could easily be summarizing and not giving a chronological account of when Josiah died - simply that he died and was buried. Moreover, although in this case I don't think it's probably the case, 2 Kings could be summarizing the fact that Josiah was mortally wounded at Megiddo which was responsible for his death wherever his final breath may have actually taken place. The same way, a soccer player for some country like Brazil can be described as a "Brazilian soccer player" for brevity's sake when his team is playing in FIFA (even if his country is unknown - this is not under question, esp with respect to validity and the important point of information), even if the player is from another country.

There is a similar parallel in the medieval knight and chronicler, Jean of Joinville. While on the Seventh Crusade with King Louis IX, he noted a "curious incident," where six knights were loudly and obnoxiously talking during Mass. They were making fun of a fallen comrade, saying his wife was now available. After reproving them, Jean notes that the next day they were all either "killed or mortally wounded," (Penguin Classics, Villehardouin and Jean of Joinville, p.238) so that all of their wives were themselves available at the same time. At least as far as Jean of Joinville was concerned in this respect, mortally wounded was as good as mortally dead.

2 Kings 24

2 Kings 24:6

Did Jehoiakim have no one from his descendants reign?

See Jeremiah 36:30.

2 Kings 24:8

How old was Jehoiachin when he became king?

See 2 Chronicles 36:9.

How long did Jehoiachin reign?

See 2 Chronicles 36:9.

2 Kings 24:17

Was Zedekiah the uncle or brother of Jehoiachin?

See 2 Chronicles 36:10.

2 Kings 25

2 Kings 25:8

On what day did Nebuchadnezzar come to Jerusalem: the seventh or the tenth (Jeremiah 52:12)?

See Jeremiah 52:12.

2 Kings 25:17

Were the bronze capitals three or five (Jeremiah 52:22) cubits high?

See Jeremiah 52:22.

2 Kings 25:19

Did Nebuzaradan take five (2 Kings 25:19) or seven royal advisers?

See Jeremiah 52:25.

1 Chronicles

1 Chronicles 1

1 Chronicles 1:32

Was Keturah Abraham's wife or concubine?

The Hebrew word here in 1 Chr. 1:32, piylegesh means concubine seeing other verses, when relating to a woman in this sense. In Genesis 25:1, the word is ishash, and it has the general meaning of wife, concubine, or simply woman. The KJV translates ishash as wife in Genesis 25:1 only in the loose sense of the word, since she was Abraham's concubine as Gen. 25:5-6 acknowledge. Technically speaking Keturah was Abraham's concubine, similarly to Hagar, since Isaac is said to be Abraham's only child at some places (in other words, the only legitimate child), and Genesis 25 implies she wasn't legally his wife (e.g. Gen. 25:5-6).

1 Chronicles 2

1 Chronicles 2:15

How many sons did Jesse have?

See 1 Samuel 16:10-11.

1 Chronicles 2:17

Who was the father of Amasa?

Jether (1 Chr. 2:17) and Ithra (2 Sam. 17:25) are both variations of words which are variations of one another that mean "excellency" - Yether and Yithra'. Similarly to how the original KJV Bible had the letter u in place of the letter v which replaced it in later editions wherever the word had a "v" sound. Or Latin names such as CORNELIUS which in their Latin form were spelled CORNELIVS. It's the same as how the Arabic physician, Ibn-Sina, was called in the West Avicenna - not an error, simply a transliteration.

1 Chronicles 2:18

Was Caleb the son of Hezron or Hur (1 Chr. 2:50)?

Although the NIV has 1 Chr. 2:50 say that Hur was a son of Caleb, the context doesn't favor this kind of interpretation of the Hebrew text when seeing the arrangement of the genealogy in the following verses. Hezron and Hur are, however, most probably variations of each other, similarly to how this happened to other Hebrew names (e.g. Ezra 2:18, Jorah, vs. Neh. 7:24, Hariph). It is not very likely that in 1 Chr. 2:50, Caleb, son of Hur refers to a more distant ancestor than the Hezron of 2:18 (in other words, a skipped genealogy), since Caleb son of Hezron is already mentioned in 2:18 and it doesn't seem that a different ancestor would be mentioned in 2:50 to replace one that was famous enough to be given in 2:18 (since nobody knew a lot about Caleb or a lot about him).

1 Chronicles 2:50

Was Caleb the son of Hezron (1 Chr. 2:18) or Hur?

See 1 Chr. 2:18.

1 Chronicles 3

1 Chronicles 3:15

Was Zedekiah older or younger than Shallum/Jehoahaz?

The problem is easy to miss. Zedekiah is listed as thirdborn in 1 Chron. 3:15. Yet we're told Zedekiah was 21 when he became king after Jehoiachin (2 Ki 24:18), whereas Jehoahaz was 23 when he reigned after Josiah's death nearly 12 years earlier (2 Ki 23:31: after Josiah's death Jehoahaz (=Shallum) reigns for 3 months, and Necho II appoints Jehoiakim after him who reigns for 11 years, and then a 3 month 10 day reign by Jehoiachin and then Zedekiah).

One could mistakenly assume this was not Zedekiah the son of Josiah (1 Chr. 3:15) but the son of Jehoiakim, also with the same name (1 Chr. 3:16). That 2 Kings and Jeremiah refer to Zedekiah as son of Josiah out of bias against Jehoiakim, so son = descendant here. What rules this out is that 2 Ki 24:17 clearly identifies this Zedekiah as Jehoiachin's uncle, not brother or relative. The word is "dod", which unequivocally means father's brother.

Yet if the Chronicler knew Jehoahaz (Shallum) reigned before Jehoiakim, he must be doing something similar to making David 7th and not Jesse's 8th son - a pesher perhaps (see 1 Sam. 16:10-11).

1 Chr. 3:16 places Jehoiachin before Zedekiah in the genealogy, but that's probably due to the order from kingship, as there is no qualifier of "firstborn, second" etc (cf. Abraham (Gen. 11:27) and Shem named first (Gen. 5:32) but actually the youngest).

1 Chronicles 3:19

Is Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel or Pedaiah?

Most of the biblical text speaks of a Zerubbabel "son of Shealtiel", except here he's listed as a son of Pedaiah and nephew of Shealtiel. But there's no reason why the Chronicler would invent or make a mistake like this, so unless there's a scribal error, which I think wasn't the case, Shealtiel had no children (none mentioned in 1 Chronicles) or Zerubbabel simply was his successor, the way Jezebel deridingly calls Jehu, a rebellion leader, "son of Zimri" the usurper before Omri (himself an usurper, but presumably because of the injustice of Zimri). Or how Zedekiah is called Jeconiah's brother, but the word was flexible enough to mean nephew (2 Chr. 36:10). Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel was mainly a political title.

Perhaps Pedaiah married Shealtiel's childless widow.

1 Chronicles 3:20

Five or Eight children?

The count of five in verse 20 here probably does not refer to all the children in vv.19-20 but only to the children of Zerubbabel aside from the first three mentioned as the NIV has it, seeing the list of the first three ends with a sister and resumes with the names of the rest of the children of Pedaiah.

1 Chronicles 3:22

Five or six sons?

This verse lists five names but says the number of sons "six in all". The reason for this is probably that either the original of 1 Chronicles 3:22 had another name (most likely), or a copy of 1 Chronicles accidentally put 6 instead of "5 in all". Obviously the author knew how to count if he knew how to write and would have known there were 5 names and he clearly would have noticed that after Shemaiah and his sons: there was a list of five names.

There is another possibility. If 1 Chronicles 3:22 is counting Shemaiah along with his five sons as the descendants of Shekaniah, this would explain why the number is "six in all". Thus Jacob goes down to Egypt with "his 70" while being part of the 70.

1 Chronicles 6

1 Chronicles 6:22

Who was Korah's father? Whose son is Amminadab?

The sons of Kohath, a son of Levi, are named as: Amram (Moses' father), Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel in both Exodus (Ex. 6:18) and 1 Chronicles (1 Chron. 6:2, 18). Amminadab is listed as Korah's father (1 Chron. 6:22), despite Izhar being named by both books in the same set of verses (Ex. 6:21; 1 Chron. 6:37-38). Unless there was some kind of textual corruption, which I find unlikely because Amminadab's name is present in both books' sections, this must mean that Amminadab was another name for Izhar; hardly would 1 Chronicles make a mistake while naming Izhar as Korah's father in the same breath.

That Amminadab is some sort of relative from the generation of Moses and Aaron's father, Amram, is suggested by the fact that Aaron marries a daughter of his (Ex. 6:23), and would mean Aaron married his aunt, whether by (full) blood or not, like Moses' father. This was probably for inheritance concerns, both couples being Levites - cf. Zelophehad's daughters marrying cousins of their tribe for the same reasons (Num. 36:11), and the well-known parallel of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty. The same dual name situation could be true for Putiel (Ex. 6:25), being perhaps another name for one of the cousins of Moses and Aaron.

1 Chronicles 6:66,69

Were these towns in Ephraim or Dan?

By the time of 1 Chronicles the territory of Ephraim and Dan had very likely shifted where the towns listed in 1 Chronicles 6:69 were no longer in Dan, but in Ephraim. This part of Dan was right next to Ephraim and this is very likely what happened and similar to many other times this shift in the boundary of a tribe happened. As a result, for the author and readers of 1 Chronicles, these towns were in Ephraim's territory, not Dan's.

1 Chronicles 10

1 Chronicles 10:14

Did Saul inquire of the Lord or not?

To inquire of God correctly is what is meant. Clearly the consultation with the medium mentioned right before (v.13) was an offense typical of Saul's weak-willed character to the point of grave, conscious disobedience. The Chronicler obviously knows the account in 1 Samuel 28, so he cannot be imagining Saul didn't ask God first: that's the only logical explanation for Saul going to the medium in the first place given the account of his relative obedience and success in 1 Samuel.

Like in 1 Samuel 13:8-15, Saul lost his nerve and committed essentially the worst mistake short of idolatry. It's not that Saul didn't physically ask God, but that after years of willful disobedience, tries using him as his personal genie once more and consults a medium when he gets no answer. After a lot of aggravation, the medium was the straw that broke the camel's back.

1 Chronicles 10:6

Did all of Saul's house die?

Jehu, when fulfilling the prophecy that all of the house of Ahab would die exterminated so many people that he even killed relatives of the king of Judah just because the king of Judah's wife was of the house of Ahab. But we know Saul's son Ishbosheth survived and so did his concubines and wives. The fact is, Jehu may have taken the prophecy a little far, perhaps for personal safety, and the house of Saul certainly died when his sons and men died, and Ishbosheth was never really truly a king despite a two year reign amidst a civil war. In this sense, the house of Saul was ended, and it does not need to mean every person physically related to Saul to have died, but merely that his house no longer retained any power due to those who could (in essence) wield that power were dead - and Ishbosheth didn't ever really wield power fully nor have the allegiance of all of Israel nor was anointed as king.

1 Chronicles 10:13-14

Did Saul inquire of God or not? And was he killed because he consulted a medium or because he didn't kill all the Amalekites?

See 1 Chronicles 10.

1 Chronicles 11

1 Chronicles 11:11,13-14,18,20,22, 12:14-15

Are these legends and incredibly exaggerated/invented stories and accomplishments?

David and the other warriors mentioned here did not single handedly kill hundreds of men. Ancient and medieval writers mentioned the commander having killed X number of hundreds or thousands of enemies as we see in parallel, contemporary accounts. Now, in 1 Chr. 11:13-14 we don't really think David and the mighty warrior Eleazer stood alone against a Philistine army, especially in an open field were they would have been immediately surrounded. We can be sure that the main Israelite army fled but the men under David and Eleazer's more personal command stayed and with their leadership defeated the Philistines. The medieval knight and chronicler, Jean of Joinville mentions similar such incidents where the main French army fighting in Egypt left, but the king (i.e. his personal batallion) stayed, etc. That the text only mentions David and Eleazer staying does not mean they didn't have some troops with them, much like when ancient texts that say X person built something, they don't mean he built it by himself (e.g. Nehemiah 3 or Xerxes' palace inscriptions; also 1 Chr. 12:14-15).

As far as 1 Chr. 11:18 does not mean that the three men broke through the lines by themselves. These are commanders of units who are not mentioned, similarly to how medieval chroniclers only mentioned the number of knights in a battle, from which one adds 3-4 men per knight for the total number of men-at-arms present in addition. For example, Jean of Joinville, frequently speaks of such and such knight or group of knights, occasionally but not always adding "not counting other men-at-arms with them." (Penguin Classics, Villehardouin and Jean of Joinville, pp.216, 218). In one place he notes how the king "by himself" crossed a branch of the Nile on the opposite side of which the Egyptians were encamped - this clearly means the king and his batallion, not just the king himself or even his personal guard.

It is not impossible for three brave commanders and their skilled warriors to break through enemy lines: this isn't the age of machine guns and grenades but spears, swords, and arrows. Plus they would have known the terrain, and would have been able to go through areas that weren't as densely populated by enemy soldiers. Certainly nothing impossible, considering they drew water from a well near the gate of the town (11:17), which means they probably didn't have Philistine soldiers in hot pursuit right behind them, but went through places they could fight off soldiers and not raise much of an alarm in time.

The killing of two mighty warriors in 11:22 and the Egyptian (11:23, whose height is nothing impossible either - 7.5 feet) is nothing impossible. The lion killed was certainly done so with a weapon, probably a spear. Lions were a possibility for one to meet his death (like the prophet who announced Josiah's reign 300 years in the future), and lion hunting was very popular in the Middle East - the Persian emperors constantly did this. The legend regarding Darius I's accession to the throne was that when he was a boy, his father put him in a cage with a lion and gave him a spear, reasoning that if the boy killed the lion he was fit to rule, and if not, he wasn't. Certainly this may have been a legend, but if the ancients thought a boy (about 15-20 years old) had a chance against a grown lion with a spear, then a mighty warrior certainly had one. Also, Samson killed a young lion with his bare hands when he had the miraculous strength of the Nazirite vow, so we can be sure 1 Chr. 11:22 does not presuppose that Benaiah killed the lion with his bare hands.

Finally, 1 Chr. 12:14-15 does not presuppose that each of David's commanders could single-handedly kill 100-1000 people, but that their skill with the skill of the men under their command could.

Did Jashobeam/Josheb-Basshebeth kill 300 or 800 men?

This is most likely a copyist error which originally had either 300 or 800 in the originals of 2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:11.

1 Chronicles 12

1 Chronicles 12:14-15

Are these numbers exaggerated?

See 1 Chr. 11:13-14,18,20,22, 12:14-15.

1 Chronicles 13

1 Chronicles 13:9

Was Uzzah struck at Nachon (2 Sam. 6:6) or Kidon?

The two names could have been variations of one another. Alternatively, it may be that by the time of 1-2 Chronicles the name of the place was Kidon/Chidon, and no longer Nachon.

Quite possibly the Chronicler changes the name purposefully doing a midrash as he does elsewhere (see 1 Chronicles 2:15, 3:15). The author knew the original name was "Nachon" not only because of the account he followed (2 Sam. 6), but because the name he gives later on in verse 11 has the same sense as Nachon See. I find a copyist error unlikely (Josephus also has "Chidon"), so it must be a purposeful name change to reflect something the Chronicler wanted to say (Chidon means dart).

1 Chronicles 15

1 Chronicles 15:11

Was Abiathar the son or father of Ahimelech?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Chronicles 18

1 Chronicles 18:4

700 or 7000 horsemen/charioteers?

The reading in 1 Chron. 18:4 is more likely. If both 2 Sam. 8:4 and 1 Chron. 18:4 admit that David left enough horses for Hadadezer to defend himself with 100 chariots (similar to the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles after WWI), then he must have taken at least several hundred chariots from him. Since 2 Samuel 8:4 doesn't give us any such value, and 1700 cavalry is far too low for people who were "warriors of the plain" (1 Ki 20:23-25; also note the amount of soldiers and the call for chariot replacements, suitable for the terrain). If this same Hadadezer had 1200 chariots according to the Kurkh Monolith (853 BC), then clearly 1000 chariots is the likely value for the Syrian kingdom in David's day. 7000 horsemen is too excessive (again the Kurkh Monolith gives 1200 horsemen for Hadadezer), so probably the original value was 1000 chariots and 700 horsemen. This much is actually stated in 2 Sam. 8:4 with the word chariots omitted and perhaps implied given the note on the 100 chariots leftover in verse 4b. Therefore we have an accurate elaboration in 1 Chronicles and a probable later correction or copyist error (as it makes no sense for 1 Chronicles himself to change the value when he's elaborating on 2 Samuel 8:4 which he obviously presumes as accurate by expanding with scholia such as adding "chariots" to the 1000, recognizing that the original author didn't mean 1700 horsemen; but a later author could've deemed 700 horsemen to be too few). It is unlikely that there were no chariots meant by 2 Sam. 8:4 given both verse 4b and the Kurkh Monolith's evidence.

1 Chronicles 18:16

Was Abiathar the son or father of Ahimelech?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Chronicles 20

1 Chronicles 20:5

Who killed Goliath?

Here we have Elhanan, not David, kill Goliath. The KJV has the phrase "brother of Goliath" in 2 Sam. 21:19 but that's their own addition, not the actual text. It's tempting to claim that 1 Chronicles has the original reading and 2 Samuel 21:19 has a copyist error. 2 Samuel's "Jaareoregim" is certainly a corruption of the original "Jair", oregim being "weavers", which is undoubtedly a dittographical error from the "like a weaver's rod" at the end of the verses.

But I don't feel this explains everything best. First of all, "brother Lahmi" in 1 Chron. 20:5 is clearly based off "Bethlehemite", Elhanan's origins. We could suppose that some Greek name is possibly behind Lahmi, such as Alcman or Alcamenes, which are both ancient (8th/7th century BC or earlier) names. But it would be too much of a coincidence that in 2 Sam. 23:24 (1 Chron. 11:26) there is another Elhanan of the Thirty who happens to be a Bethlehemite. It's true that this one is a son of "Dodo" and not "Jair". But numerous people have multiple names in the Bible (and Ancient Near East); Moses' father-in-law had three: Jethro/Reuel/Hobab. Moreover, one of these two could've been a more distant ancestor of Elhanan's, just as the Bible does elsewhere (e.g. Zechariah calls himself the son of Iddo in Zech. 1:1, but in Ezra 5:1, 6:14, Iddo is his grandfather).

I find it unlikely Jair to have been some kind of (textually corrupted) nickname for Elhanan. One of the two could've been a more famous ancestor of Elhanan's. I think the actual name of Elhanan's father is probably "Dodo", the Phoenician origin of "David". It seems too coincidental to me and more likely that this is the same Elhanan. There aren't any other possibilities for another Elhanan anyway. Even though there are a few members of the Thirty that are unnamed (2 Sam. 23:32b - "the sons of Jashen"), none of these are sons of a Jair (and it's unlikely Jair had a third name or that Elhanan, portrayed as a son of Dodo/Jair would there be portrayed as a son of Jashen). So we have to accept that this is the same Elhanan as the one in 2 Sam. 21:19.

The question then becomes two-fold: who actually killed Goliath and did 1 Chronicles 20:5 goof or consider 2 Samuel 21:19 to have goofed?

The second question can easily be answered in that both verses have textual corruption. Aside the obvious one in 2 Sa, the name "Jair" appears twice in 1 Chr. 20:5, so most likely textual emendation of the original occurred at some point where Bethlehemite was "corrected" to brother Lahmi. The same kind of corruptions occur frequently in Curtius Rufus, [Bosworth, A. B. "The Government of Syria under Alexander the Great." The Classical Quarterly Vol. 24, no. 1 (1974): 51; also p.51, n.7] where for example one of Alexander's governors, Balakros, becomes Socrates! [Bosworth, 59] Another example is a copyist error in Arrian, where an unknown Bessus is "sandwiched" between two references to the only other known Bessus of the time. [Bosworth, p.61] This is just like the copyist error in 2 Sa 21:19 and more or less the extra "Jair" in 1 Chr. 20:5. This extra "Jair" right next to each other shows that the text had corruptions from copyists who eventually cleaned it up to "Brother Lahmi", because hardly would 1 Chronicles' author write the name twice.

Who killed Goliath then? I think we can rule out there being a second Goliath, even if the Greeks, like the Persians, named their sons (and daughters) after the child's grandparents; big as the city of Gath was, the coincidence is unlikely given the different names noteworthy enough to be remembered by 2 Sa 21 are only four. But the fact that 2 Samuel 21:22 seems to call them "descendants of the giant" is maybe the first clue. Noting that the reports in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 are obviously oral tradition from different sources, we can suppose that if verse 22 is to be interpreted to equate "the giant" with Goliath, then these would be children or relatives of Goliath (the Hebrew reads, "sons of the giant" singular (Rapha), and clearly refer to his children).

In that case, the source in verse 19 would have simply spoken of "Goliath" = "house of Goliath", so slaying his son or relative (perhaps the last one?), would be like slaying Goliath. An example of this is in Amos 7:9 where the prophet condemns the "house of Jeroboam", and Amaziah interprets this as a threat to Jeroboam himself (Amos 7:14). Similarly, in Genesis 15:7-8, God tells Abraham he will possess Canaan, but later this is clarified to the (obvious) intent that it's his house or descendants who will (Gen. 15:18-20).

It's unlikely the brother/son was "Jair" that somehow became the father of Elhanan instead of the relative of Goliath, since both texts have "son of" and its order uncorrupted.

1 Chronicles 21

1 Chronicles 21:5

How many men in the census in Israel and Judah?

See 2 Samuel 24:9.

1 Chronicles 21:12

Three or seven (2 Samuel 24:13) of famine?

Since the other two punishments offer "three months of war and three days of plague", the original number was most likely three years of famine. The Septuagint of 2 Sam. 24:13 agrees with 1 Chronicles here, therefore 2 Samuel 24:13 most likely has a copyist error. Possibly due to the years of plenty and famine relating to Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 41).

1 Chronicles 21:25

50 shekels (2 Samuel 24:24) of silver or 600 shekels of gold?

The author of 1 Chronicles adjusts for inflation for his readers' day. Even modern scholars have done this. We know he does this intentionally because he includes units like the daric (1 Chron. 29:7), and he would've known the daric had been created by Darius I only 100-200 years earlier, hundreds of years after David, because he had good sources that he follows elsewhere; and everyone for hundreds of years afterwards knew Darius I created the daric (e.g. Harpocration in the 2nd century), and that he would lived only a few hundred years before Alexander the Great. The Chronicler certainly would've known that David lived long before this because neither Babylon nor Persia had yet dominated Palestine (obviously), and also the years of the reigns of the Hebrew kings.

As for the inflation adjustment, even scholars today do this. Some of the older scholars calculated the 50,000 drachmae of books burned in Ephesus (Acts 19:19) to have been 36,000 "gold marks" or for a quire of sheets: 20 pfennings in Rome! [Haenchen, Ernst. Acts (1971), p.567]

See more such examples at 1 Chron. 2:15, 3:15, 13:9, 29:7.

1 Chronicles 22

1 Chronicles 22:14

How could Solomon have this much money? Fictitious wealth? Excessive need for such wealth?

Assuming David isn't overestimating or exaggerating in typical Ancient Near Eastern kingly fashion, a value close to such amounts isn't completely unimaginable. David was a successful conqueror, subduing nations around him, plundering them and putting their populations to work (2 Sam. 12:30-31). He had conquered and made vassals of the Ammonites, Moabites, Arameans, and Philistines, and his kingdom was located along the valuable trade routes in the Fertile Crescent. And one could presume he was balanced with finances as well - he doesn't seem to have been a spendthrift.

The curious statement in 2 Chron. 9:20 means that the silver to gold ratio was very high, so gold would've been very inexpensive. The higher this ratio, the poorer the society. The poorest societies of the world had a ratio of 8 or 10, and this is similar to the 10-fold amount of silver David indicates in 1 Chron. 22:14, making silver much more desired (economically, not aesthetically like that verse) as that's how commerce flowed (cf. Hezekiah's tribute in 2 Ki 18:14 and the yearly tax by the pharaoh in 2 Chron. 36:3). This shows just how taxed and poor the Israelites must've been under these kings, and the Israelite complaint to Rehoboam about Solomon, who must've increased this taxation, reflects this (1 Kings 12:4; cf. also Samuel's warnings against kings in 1 Sam. 8:10-18).

2 Chron. 9:13 tells us that Solomon made 666 talents of gold a year not including other sources. The Turin papyrus map lists 1300 gold mines in ancient Egypt, but the metal had no economic importance for them so only about 1 ton (~30 talents) of gold was made a year. Roman Spain brought ~40,000 talents (1400 tons) of gold annually. But even with the statement in 2 Chron. 9:20 that silver had no importance like gold, the numbers in 1 Chr. 29 are probably closer to the amounts at Solomon's disposal.

1 Chronicles 24

1 Chronicles 24:3

Was Abiathar or Ahimelech priest alongside Zadok?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Chronicles 24:6

Was Abiathar the son or father of Ahimelech?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Chronicles 24:31

Was Abiathar the son or father of Ahimelech?

See 2 Samuel 8:17.

1 Chronicles 25

1 Chronicles 25:3

Five or six sons?

Very likely a name dropped out (Septuagint and one Hebrew manuscript have an extra son, Shimei). If not, then it was clearly a copyist error as to the number of sons - hardly would the Chronicler be so illiterate as to state a man had six sons and go on to list only five; unless one was omitted due to irrelevance (though why would the other five be so relevant?) or shame/death the way, for example, the British biographical encyclopedia Who Was Who did (preface to the second edition of Vol. 5 (1951-1960) for example).

Another possibility, though I don't think very likely due to practice in 1 Chronicles with genealogies elsewhere, is that Jeduthun is counted in the total number of six.

1 Chronicles 29

1 Chronicles 29:7

Did the field cost 50 silver shekels or 600 gold ones?

The Chronicler wanted to relate the amount of money that his audience in his day would've understood. He does this in 1 Chron. 21:25 by converting the 50 shekels of silver of 2 Sam. 24:24 into 600 shekels of gold: what a threshing floor around Jerusalem would've cost in his day probably.

It was common knowledge that Darius I created the daric (cf. Harpocration in the 2nd century), and that he reigned long after David: neither Babylon nor Persia had yet dominated Palestine (obviously), and also if the years of the reigns of the Hebrew kings are added up.

Even modern scholars have done this. Some of the older scholars calculated the 50,000 drachmae of magic books burned in Ephesus (Acts 19:19) to have been 36,000 "gold marks" or for a quire of sheets: 20 pfennings in Rome! [Haenchen, Ernst. Acts (1971), p.567]

2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 2

2 Chronicles 2:2

Were there 3600 or 3300 foremen?

This is undoubtedly a copyist error which most likely crept into the text of 1 Kings 5:16 as it was copied throughout the centuries. 2 Chronicles 2:2 (and 2:18) is based on 1 Kings 5:16 which afterwards apparently had a copyist error which easily happens with numbers (i.e. see Ezra 2). 2 Chronicles 2:2,18 clearly used 1 Kings 5:16 to write its history and unless the author were blind, there is no way he would have written down 3600 for 3300. The same goes for 2 Chronicles 2:18 which was either based on the original number of 3600 in 1 Kings 5:16 or was smoothed over to resolve the difference if 1 Kings 5:16 is the original number.

2 Chronicles 2:12

How likely is it that the king of Tyre would address Solomon's God in such a way when he had his own religion?

The ancient near eastern kings certainly addressed other kings like this, especially if they were their subjects/vassals or the other simply was much stronger. For example, from the Amarna letters, which were correspondences between Egypt and various Palestinian kings in the 14th century BC, we see some very similar examples:
Rib-Addu sends to his lord, the king of the world, the great king, the king of the universe (?) (whom) the divine lady of Gebal has known alone; to the king my lord, at the feet of my lord, my Sun-god seven times seven I prostrate myself. This year (certain) men into the presence of the king, who (is) like the god Assur and the Sun-god in heaven, have come; they have reported to him: "The sons of Ebed-Asherah according to their desires have taken 2 horses of the king and chariots, and the men whom he sent have given (them); and the Yîvâna is on a mission to the country of Tyre, for eight days doing this deed in it." They speak words of accusation before the king, the Sun-god. I am thy faithful servant, and the news which (the king) knows and hears have I sent to the king my lord. [But (?)] they (are) dogs, and they have [gone] into the presence of the household troops of the king, the Sun-god. I sent [messages] to thy father, and he [listened] to his servant, and [the father] des[patched] the household troops. The country was not taken by Ebed-Asherah for [himself]: it was the property of the governors, since I fought before them against him, and they (were) always strong, and the Misians brought the [straw (?)] of barley always: they did not [despise (?)] the officer, since I collected horses and (was) strong before them, since we know that both strength and existence (belong) to a strong king. As yet they have not marched up (the country) since I have despatched two men, messengers, to the city of Zemar, and also the leader of all the men, this one (here present), to bring back word to the king of each one thing as much as they have heard. The two men by night have carried (it), and by night they have brought (it) back, even the messengers of the king, from the presence of the dogs. If the heart of the king, the Sun-god, at this time they have engaged, [this] year I shall dwell [in] my [city]...in thy heart and the [horses (?)]...and the men... The Beduin are marching away from the city of Zemar [and] I defend the city, and I have not given it up; and the king will hear the words of his servant, and will send ten men of the country of Melukhkha and ten men of the country of Egypt to defend the city for the king, the Sun-god, the lord of thy faithful servant. - Records of the Past, Series 2, Vol.5 (1891).
In another letter, the following paragraph occurs where the king of Gubla (Hathor) addresses the Egyptian king for help relating this help to that of one of Egypt's gods:
They have occupied the country of the Amorites; in quietude they have marched through it. This have I done of myself along with Yapa-Addu and along with Kha[tip]. And the king will send...all the property which they have taken from these men for the king. Another man has not taken it for another. We have been successful for the king. Accordingly the king will send a horse to his servant, and I will defend the city of the king. I have nothing at all whatsoever; everything has been given away to save my life; and as for this messenger, the king shall send him in all haste, and shall furnish guards to defend his faithful servant and the city, and (shall furnish) men of Melukhkha along with them like the god Zi of thy fathers.
Rib-Addu was a king whose country was a vassal to Egypt. There are many more such examples from the Amarna letters (EA 75, 244, 280, 298). In EA 23, Tushratta, the king of Mittani, sends a statue of Ishtar to Amenhotep III. In the conclusion of the letter he says, "May Shauskha, Lady of the Heavens, protect us, my brother and myself, one hundred thousand years, and may our Queen grant us both great joy and may we treat each other as friends. Is it because Shauskha is my only Mistress? Maybe She is also the Mistress of my brother?". True, Hiram was not a vassal to king Solomon, but at the time the Israelite kingdom was fairly powerful and seeing from the above parallels it was certainly not impossible for Hiram to write something like this to king Solomon.

2 Chronicles 2:13-14

What tribe was Hyrum's widowed mother from?

While here it says that Hyrum's mother was from Dan, whereas 1 Kings 7:13-14 says she was from the tribe of Naphtali. We can note that in 2 Chronicles we have a record of the king's letter, so perhaps the king got the tribe wrong. But how likely is it that this expert bronze-maker would have had his (mother's) origin confused? If the king already knew enough of Israel to know of a tribe of Dan, how can he confuse the origin of his mother then? Perhaps he was misinformed, even though he knew the culture and geography of Israel, but overall this is unlikely. I think that this is simply a copyist error since in these sections the account of 2 Chronicles is clearly narrating the history of 1 Kings and so no author would have changed the tribe from Naphtali to Dan for no reason, and we can be fairly certain there wasn't any theological reason in assigning the "pagan" tribe of Dan in the place of Naphtali - for one Huram is praised and there's nowhere a hint of negativity due to his (presumed) paganism. So a copyist error where Naphtali was substituted for Dan is in my opinion the most probably answer, even from a secular point of view.

It's also possibly, though in my opinion less likely, that Huram's mother's ancestry was from Dan as well as Naphtali just like Huram himself was both Israelite and Phoenician.

2 Chronicles 3

2 Chronicles 3:7, 10-14

Is this against the command to make graven images?

The second commandment, not to make graven images of "make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them" (Ex. 20:4-5), says nothing about not making graven images but only not to make them for worship. Since the ancients made statues to which they ascribed divine power (e.g. Laban chasing after his idols, Gen. 31:32-35; also a letter from the king of Mittani, Tushratta, to the pharaoh of Egypt, Akhenaten, in the 14th century BC, where Tushratta loans a statue saying,
Thus speaks Shauskha of Nineveh, Lady of all the lands: I wish to go to Egypt, a land I love and then return from there. Now I am sending you this letter and She is on the way...Then, in the times of my father She was in that country, and just as on other occasions She stayed there and was honoured. May my brother honour Her now ten times more than the other time. May my brother honour Her. May you let Her leave when She pleases, so She may return. - EA 23
The prohibition was never against making graven images of anything in heaven or on earth or under the water for purposes that weren't worship/idolatry.

2 Chronicles 3:15

How long were the two pillars in front of the Temple?

1 Kings 7:15 says that the two pillars were 18 cubits each but 2 Chronicles 3:15 says together they were 35 cubits long. The reason for this is likely that the measurements were rounded to the nearest cubit. For one, there was no fourth of a cubit, or third, only a whole cubit and half a cubit. Only when we have smaller objects (under 5 cubits in dimension) do we see the half-cubit unit used by 1 Kings (1 Kings 7:31-32) the history of which 2 Chronicles narrates. Thus if the pillars were around 17.6 or so cubits long, they would add up to about 35 cubits. True, 2 Chronicles also has other sources (or else how would he know that the two pillars added up to 35 and not 36 cubits?), but the author certainly wouldn't have made a mistake to add up 18 and 18 and so very possibly had a source that told him the total added up to about 35 and thus the individual pillars were a little under 18 cubits long..

2 Chronicles 3:16

Were there one hundred or two hundred pomegranates?

Although he doesn't specify like earlier when he adds up measurement (3:10-13, 15), the writer of 2 Chronicles most likely divided the counting of the pomegranates between the two pillars (2 Chr. 3:15-17), whereas in 1 Kings 7 the total counting of the pomegranates between the two pillars is given. Similarly to this, in 1 Kings 6:23-25 the wingspan of the cherubim is given as two wingspans of 10 cubits each totalling 20 cubits, but in 2 Chronicles 3:10-13 the author gives the measurement of each individual wing, and also in 2 Chr. 3:15 gives the total height of the two pillars versus the individual count in 1 Kings 7. Similarly to that, he most likely divided the count of the pomegranates for each pillar.

2 Chronicles 4

2 Chronicles 4:2

Is the Bible wrong about the value of pi?

See 1 Kings 7:23.

2 Chronicles 4:5

2000 or 3000 baths?

In 1 Kings 7:26 we are told that the Sea of bronze held 2000 baths (about 12,000 gallons or 44,000 liters). But here in 2 Chr. 4:5 we are told it was 3000. While it is not impossible that originally both 2 Chronicles and 1 Kings had either 2000 or 3000 baths as the measurement and throughout the centuries one of the two books (or both) had a copyist error where the values we have through our manuscripts now are different, the 18th century commentary of Adam Clarke proposes two other possible solutions:
In 1 Kings vii. 26, it is said to hold only two thousand baths. As this book [2 Chronicles] was written after the Babylonish captivity, it is very possible that reference is here made to the Babylonish bath which might have been less than the Jewish. We have already seen that the cubit of Moses, or of the ancient Hebrews, was longer than the Babylonish by one palm; see on chap. iii. 3. It might be the same with the measures of capacity; so that two thousand of the ancient Jewish baths might have been equal to three thousand of those used after the captivity. The Targum cuts the knot by saying, "It received three thousand baths of dry measure, and held two thousand of liquid measure."

2 Chronicles 7

2 Chronicles 7:5

Is this an exaggeration?

It is certainly not impossible for King Solomon to have sacrificed 142,000 animals in a short amount of time seeing the large workforce he had at his disposal (1 Kings 5:13,15). The population of Israel at the time certainly had that many animals for King Solomon to find and purchase (Numbers 31:32-46, 2 Kings 3:4), not to mention he could buy some from other countries, and Solomon certainly had the wealth to buy them. Also, for that large amount of animals, similarly the Bulgarian king (or more technically knyaz) Boris, whose country was of a similar size to Solomon's, though probably not nearly as wealthy, after converting the country to Christianity in 865 AD, killed 100,000 sheep whose sheepskins he used to make copies of the Bible.

2 Chronicles 8

2 Chronicles 8:10

Were there 550 officers or 250?

The difference in numbers would be due to mistakes made in the copying of the inerrant, inspired originals, i.e. copyist errors. The foremen in 1 Kings 5:16 are numbered as 3300, and those in 2 Chronicles 2:2 are 3600, yet here 1 Kings gives us 250 chief officials and 2 Chronicles gives us 550, adding up both to a total of 3850. But I don't think these two numbers were meant to be added and the purposes of the 3300/3600 and 250/550 seem to be different. Also why someone would split them up into these two groups is unknown, so I think a copyist error is more likely.

2 Chronicles 8:18

Did Hiram's men bring back 420 or 450 talents of gold?

Since 2 Chronicles 8:18 clearly narrated the history recorded in 1 Kings 9:28, the reason we have divergent numbers here is most probably due to a copyist error - as the manuscript copies of the two books were being copied throughout the centuries, one or both of the manuscript traditions of the books copied an incorrect amount, but the originals we hold had the same amount written in both.

2 Chronicles 9

2 Chronicles 9:25

How many stalls?

See 1 Kings 4:26.

2 Chronicles 11

2 Chronicles 11:20-21

Was Rehoboam's wife's name Micaiah or Maakah? Was she the daughter of Absalom or Uriel?

The names Micaiah and Maakah are variations of each other, and this is not a contradiction in the normal sense of the word (i.e. X person lived 25 years but in his 30th year he built a house for his children). The same can be seen with name variations, especially over time (e.g. Ezra 2:18/Neh. 7:24 - Jorah/Hariph).

As far as who Maakah's father was, Absalom would not have been her direct father but more likely her grandfather (or perhaps great-grandfather). The Semitic usage of "father/son" or "daughter" in this case also had the meaning of descendant, especially when the ancestor was noteworthy (also in this case royalty), whether for good or for bad as in Absalom's case (see also 1 Chr. 21:6 and 22:2). Maakah then could have been the daughter of one of Absalom's sons, or the daughter of Uriel who would be the husband of Absalom's daughter, Tamar. Another possibility is that Uriel was Absalom's grandson which would make Maakah Absalom's great-granddaughter. We find out in 2 Samuel 18:18 that Absalom lamented that he had no sons to take over the reign after he passed away, which means his sons passed away young (probably in his wars), which would allow for the possibility that Uriel be born fairly early to one of Absalom's sons. 2 Samuel 5:4-5 tells us that David became king at 30 and reigned 40 years and 6 months. Absalom, his second son, was certainly born before he became king. David became king some time around 1010 BC, so we can put Absalom's birth around 1015 BC. His death would be some time around 980 BC in his late 30's. If any of his sons were old enough to be fathers and dead by Absalom's death, then Absalom would have been a father by 20, and so would one of his sons who would be the father of Uriel, Absalom's grandson. This would place Uriel's birth around 980 BC, and since Maakah certainly wouldn't have been the most loved wife by Rehoboam in her 50's by 930 BC, she would not be born in 980 BC, but perhaps 25 years later in 955 BC making her around 30 years old in Rehoboam's reign.

However, it is not very likely that Absalom would build a monument lamenting the absence of any sons when he had a grandson, presumably Uriel. Therefore, this scenario of one of Absalom's sons becoming Uriel's father at 18 is less likely than Uriel simply being the husband of the daughter of Absalom, Tamar. Also Uriel of Gibeah supports that he was not related to Absalom (or else Uriel son of Absalom). Also, Absalom is not being "stricken out" due to shame since only a couple of chapters earlier Maakah is mentioned twice as his descendant. Thus Uriel best remains as the son-in-law of Absalom, and Maakah as Absalom's granddaughter.

2 Chronicles 13

2 Chronicles 13:2

Who was Maakah's father?

See 2 Chronicles 11:20-21.

2 Chronicles 14

2 Chronicles 14:1

Did Asa have peace for some time or war throughout his reign with Baasha?

See 2 Chronicles 15:10-15.

2 Chronicles 14:3-5

Did Asa remove the high places or not?

See 1 Kings 15:14.

2 Chronicles 14:6-7

Did Asa have peace for some time or war throughout his reign with Baasha?

See 2 Chronicles 15:10-15.

2 Chronicles 14:9

Isn't this army's size exaggerated?

We can rightfully wonder how Zerah brought an army of such gigantic proportions: one million soldiers. We know the logistics for fielding such a large army would make it very hard to sustain. We can immediately rule out two explanations for this huge army. First, some translations of the Bible, such as the NIV has "thousands upon thousands" for the "thousand thousand" (eleph eleph, i.e. million) which cannot be what the author of 2 Chronicles meant for two reasons: ancient authors such as Simonides of Ceos who wrote about the Persian attack on Greece gave the size of the army as 3 thousand thousand (i.e. 3 million). Second, for Asa to be in desperation of help (2 Chr. 14:11) when he had 580,000 soldiers (2 Chr. 14:8) does not make sense if the Cushites did not number something close to a million. This second observation also rules out a copyist error for Zerah's forces since Asa was facing him with 580,000 and still didn't think it was enough. One might say that Asa did not know exactly how many troops Zerah had and may have thought they had much more soldiers than him, but how likely is it that Asa confused, say, 150,000-500,000 for 1 million and became so afraid, if Zerah had about as many troops as him or less? It would be ad hoc to speculate this.

So where does this leave us with Zerah and his army? At this point we naturally would look to Herodotus who records that Persia attacked Greece in the Second Persian War with Greece with about 1.7 million troops. Each soldier would have needed 1 man for supplies so this was doubled to about 3 million (hence probably Simonides' value)! Many historians for the past 150 years or so have started doubting this number of 1.7 million giving a better estimate from 150,000 or 300,000 to 25,000! This website has a very interesting case somewhat defending Herodotus' number, suggesting that Herodotus miscalculated and that 1.7 million was the total number of troops including the supply-men, making Xerxes' army around 600,000-700,000. Now, we don't need to go against the consensus of historians and argue that Herodotus was close to the real number of Xerxes' Persian army that invaded Greece in 480 BC. The Persian army, and later Roman, was a professional, standing army, which needed to be transported a very long distance. The Cushite army came from Egypt (where it assembled, probably near Gerar or a little further), which was not that far. Asa chased them to Gerar, which is probably not that far from the battle at Maresha. The fact that the Cushites had only 300 chariots with 1 million infantry suggests that they had simply amassed themselves (at Gerar perhaps? Or near it?) and weren't really that organized and Zerah threw them on towards Judah. Perhaps Judah wasn't Zerah's target but Egypt was simply trying to reestablish control of the Levant much like Sheshonq I tried 30 years earlier when he attacked Rehoboam. But in any case, a battle like this is not impossible, and the ancients weren't very well-known for recording losses, especially one where a million soldiers are routed.

But the observation above that the Cushites probably assembled massively at some city such as perhaps Gerar without much organization is possibly a key to understanding how this large amount of troops was possible. Much like the reason for the large numbers in many conflicts between the Israelites and Judeans (e.g. 2 Chr. 13:3, 17:14-18), the Cushite army was assembled by calling out every able-bodied man (2 Kings 3:21). This was not a standing army that was paid yearly or anything like that as the fact that only 300 chariots were there attests (meaning they were called out and their pay would have been any spoils they kept). A standing or professional army in these days consisted of something around 15,000-25,000 soldiers (e.g. 1 Chronicles 27 where there was a division of 24,000 soldiers standing for each month of the year, with 12 divisions total). The Cushite army here were simply assembled somewhere near Judah and launched. This would make their need for provisions not to be that much. Maresha is some distance away from the sea and so would Gerar most likely be, so they probably were not being supplied by ships the way Alexander the Great was who marched through Asia Minor capturing cities along the western and southern coasts to resupply himself, so they would probably go through the territory using its resources much like Sherman did in the American Civil War.

Two other of the four river civilizations have comparable numbers about their troops, though doubtless they may have been exaggerated. Pliny in his Natural History (Hist. Nat. VI. 21), based on Megasthenes' work Indika, narrates that the king Chandragupta Maurya had a standing army of 600,000 foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants. However, this may have been a copyist error from 60,000 because another source (Fragment LVI.B. Solin. 52.6-17. Catalogue of Indian Races) which used Megasthenes records 60,000 foot soldiers and 30,000 horses and 8,000 elephants. However, if one adds up all the armies recorded by Pliny of the various other regions in India (the other source has a shortened list of these areas and their armies but it agrees with Pliny's numbers more or less), the total we get are 450,000 foot soldiers standing army, that is a paid army, and if we add the 150,000 for the women controlled state supposedly descendant from Hercules' daughter (which seems mythical), we get 600,000. We can be assured that in the whole Indian subcontinent in the time of Megasthenes (4th century BC) there were hundreds of thousands of soldiers aside from the able-bodied men there. The same we hear about the Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang (the builder of the Terra Cotta soldiers): he supposedly had a ready army of 1,000,000 soldiers. Now we can doubtlessly say that this number was exaggerated. But this means that he at least had hundreds of thousands ready, which does not include the able bodied men that could get a weapon, shield, and some provisions and go to war if necessary.

With this we can simply say that it may not have been impossible for a Cushite pharaoh or general to assault Judah with around one million troops. They could have carried their own supplies or been supplied from others such as the city of Gerar (e.g. 1 Chronicles 12:39-40). As Hershell Shanks noted in his Mystery and Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, "only a fragment of history has been recorded, and only a fragment of that recorded history survives for us today". Perhaps there have been many other such titanic battles about which we don't know anything, and due to the not so far distances, a one million man army is not a total impossibility to have attacked Judah some time around 895 BC.

2 Chronicles 15

2 Chronicles 15:8

Did Asa remove the high places or not?

See 1 Kings 15:14.

2 Chronicles 15:10-15

Did Asa have peace for some time or war throughout his reign with Baasha?

1 Kings 15:16 says that Asa and Baasha had war throughout their reigns, but verses like 2 Chr. 15:15, and 16:9 suggest that Asa's reign until the challenge at Ramah by Baasha was peaceful. We can't say that Asa had "peace" because his fight was in Israel, and not in Judah (2 Chr. 15:8) because whether Asa was fighting in Judah or Israel, he would have still used Judean soldiers. Ultimately, however, this objection fails to note that there were 15 years before the renewal of the people of Judah's faith in 2 Chr. 15:10-15 which could have had some conflicts between Asa and Baasha. True, 2 Chr. 14:1,6-7 notes that Asa had peace the first 10 years of his reign. But Asa and Baasha didn't need to have war with each other every year. Compared with his predecessor, Rehoboam, where Judah and Israel did not have any wars (2 Chr. 11:1-4), and the singular albeit large battle by Abijah, Asa and Baasha certainly could be described as "constantly at war with each other" if they had conflicts in the first years of Baasha's reign (Baasha's first year is Asa's 3rd) and from the time the prophet Hanani condemned Asa to war for the rest of his reign (even though perhaps Baasha's reign did not last long after the failure at Ramah). The fact is, Baasha and Asa certainly had conflicts before the renewal of the Covenant with God (2 Chr. 15:10-15) in Asa's 15th year, because we find out in 1 Chr. 15:8 that Asa took some of Baasha's territory in Ephraim, and since his first 10 years were peaceful, this occurred in year 11-15, which was Baasha's 7th/8th-11th/12th years.

2 Chronicles 15:17

Was Asa's heart perfect with the Lord?

Asa was righteous: he followed God's commands and removed idolatry from his kingdom, though the high places weren't removed in apparently some of the territory he conquered in Israel (perhaps later). In this sense his heart was always with the Lord despite some temporary slip ups (see Ecclesiastes 7:20) such as allying himself with Ben-Hadad and imprisoning the prophet Hanani for condemning him. Asa did not oppress all the people all the time: 2 Chronicles 16:10 "some of the people" at that time, i.e. a temporary slip up, one which certainly didn't help his case. And the same goes for consulting the physician over God (at that time the Hebrews certainly viewed it as a sin to consult the more or less inept physicians exclusively as 2 Chr. 16:12 says over God; the same with trusting foreign kings over God as the example here). The king was overall righteous and had righteous acts and was certainly not in the same boat as wicked kings such as Jeroboam, Baasha, Ahab, or Manasseh.

Did Asa remove the high places or not?

See 1 Kings 15:14.

2 Chronicles 15:19

When did Baasha die?

See 2 Chronicles 16:1 below.

2 Chronicles 16

2 Chronicles 16:1

When did Baasha die?

Baasha reigns for 26 years starting in Asa's 3rd year, but here he attacks Judah in Asa's 36th. One suggestion is that this dates from the beginning of the split between the two kingdoms, which would make it Asa's 26th year or so. The problem is that this is unwarranted. But there was probably a gloss in the year, along with the previous verse (2 Chr. 15:19), similar to Jehoiada's age, 130 according to 2 Chr. 24:15!

2 Chronicles 16:1-14

Was Asa righteous or not?

See 2 Chronicles 15:17.

2 Chronicles 16:7-9

Did Asa have peace for some time or war throughout his reign with Baasha?

See 2 Chronicles 15:10-15.

2 Chronicles 17

2 Chronicles 17:3-4,6

Was Jehoshaphat righteous?

These and other verses declare Jehoshaphat righteous yet some incidents have him a bit condemned (2 Chr. 19:2, 20:37). The fact is, as 2 Chr. 19:3 notes, Jehoshaphat was not an idolater and although he had a few incidents or slip-ups (see Ecclesiastes 7:20), in general he was a righteous king (2 Chr. 20:32).

2 Chronicles 17:6

Did Jehoshaphat remove the high places or not?

2 Chr. 20:33 and 1 Kings 22:43 tell us that the high places were not removed, but 2 Chr. 17:6 tells us that Jehoshaphat did indeed remove them. The reason for these differing statements is very possibly that, while Jehoshaphat was righteous throughout his reign (2 Chr. 17:3-4,6, 20:32), he wasn't successful in making the people turn to God (2 Chr. 20:32) and as a result the high places were eventually rebuilt (2 Chr. 20:31-37 deals with the end of Jehoshaphat's reign), and so "weren't taken down".

2 Chronicles 19

2 Chronicles 19:2

Was Jehoshaphat righteous?

See 2 Chronicles 17:3-4,6.

2 Chronicles 20

2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Were the people of the kingdom of Judah righteous in Jehoshaphat's reign or not?

The episode where all the people go and inquire of the Lord and praise Him here which leads to the defeat of the invading army of Ammonites, Moabites, and "men of Mount Seir" might be contrasted with 2 Chr. 20:33 which says that the people still had high places and their hearts weren't turned to God. But just like many other times in Israel's history, in tough times the population turns for a brief moment to God, and then goes back to its wicked ways, which is sadly what apparently happened here.

2 Chronicles 20:33

Were the people of the kingdom of Judah righteous in Jehoshaphat's reign or not?

See 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.

2 Chronicles 20:37

Was Jehoshaphat righteous?

See 2 Chronicles 17:3-4,6.

2 Chronicles 21

2 Chronicles 21:6

Was Athaliah the daughter of Ahab or Omri?

The Semitic usage of son/father and daughter/mother extended to predecessors and in this case, Athaliah was Ahab's direct daughter and Omri's granddaughter. Omri was simply listed as her ancestor since she was from the house of Omri.

2 Chronicles 21:12

When did Elijah die?

How is it that Elijah sent a letter in the reign of Jehoram king of Judah when Elijah went with the chariot some time in the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 2-3)?

The events in 2 Kings 3 do not necessarily postdate those of the previous chapter. Simply, Kings gives everything about Elijah in a connected narrative. Although by 2 Kings 5 and on Elisha is clearly the main prophet and has been for some years (otherwise why would Naaman's servant girl refer Elisha and not Elijah, and how would she know of him if he wasn't already widely known?), it's by no means certain before (2 Kings 4 is undatable and could be from any point in Elisha's career).

Just because Elisha is called to prophesy for Jehoshaphat and Joram in 2 Ki 3:11, doesn't mean Elijah wasn't on Earth anymore. In 1 Kings 22:8 the prophet Micaiah is called upon by Jehoshaphat and Ahab; Elijah outlives Ahab, so neither he nor Elisha are called upon. Quite likely, Elijah was still hunted by Ahab's son, Ahaziah, though only actively because of his curse. Joram was actually righteous, but Elijah wouldn't have risked it. Ahab's language implies Micaiah prophesied for him many times - always negative things. The kings of this period were accustomed to positive answers. For example, the Zakkur Stele, where king Zakkur's prophets foretell his deliverance, which against all odds happened; rationalization of failures was better than being a defeatist. Elijah frequently wandered all over Israel (2 Ki 2:2,4), so that could explain his absence in 2 Ki 3:11.

The exact order of events as they can best be placed given the Bible and extrabiblical evidence is:

  • Elijah tasked with anointing Hazael, Jehu, and appointing Elisha (1 Ki 19:15-18)
  • Elijah appoints Elisha (1 Ki 19:19-21)
  • Ahab dies
  • Ahaziah of Israel dies (1 Ki 22:51-2 Ki 1:18)
  • Elijah ascends
Here is where we make a crucial observation. Although Elijah is called upon to anoint Hazael and Jehu (1 Ki 19:15-18), it is actually Elisha who does this (2 Ki 8:7-15; 9:1-15). This can easily slip our notice, but it's crucial to resolving this minor riddle (and enlightening us a little more). Hazael and Jehu's anointment was solely to eradicate Ahab's line. This was already set in motion after Ahab's death, during the reign of Ahaziah, keeping God's promise not to end Ahab's house during his lifetime (1 Ki 21:29).

Since Ahaziah's reign was so short, this was to happen during Joram's. However, it doesn't happen until 8 years after. Because of this, one would presume it simply took some time, but why would God take Elijah without doing 2 out of 3 important tasks He set out to do? God must've changed His plan, but why? Either the Arameans did something to displease Him, or as is more common, the Israelites did something to appease. In this case, it could only be the Israelite king. And that's exactly what we find: we see in 2 Ki 3:2 that although not particularly righteous, Joram was not the idolater like his parents. For an Israelite king to remove the Baal altar during all this was the equivalent of Stalin's successor to renounce communism: it was a pretty big gesture. This explains why Elisha, Elijah's successor, feels perfectly safe living in Israel's cities, including the capital Samaria (2 Ki 2:25; 6:24), while Elijah had to hide in the wilderness during Ahab and Ahaziah's reign.

This is enough to persuade God to leave Joram alone, but as we learn from 2 Kings 3:3, that wasn't going to really last. Joram threatens to kill Elisha because of the siege of Samaria (2 Ki 6:31 - the "king of Israel" can be no other, because Ben-Hadad II of Aram dies during Joram's reign).

Jehoram of Judah must've received Elijah's letter after Jehoshaphat's reign and not during the coregency when the latter was ill. There is no way Jehoram could've killed his younger brothers if Jehoshaphat was still alive. Since Jehoshaphat's reign ends around 849 BC, and Elijah ascends before Jehu's rise (841 BC), Elijah's ascension occurs 849-841 BC. More precisely, Elisha is the main prophet when Ben-Hadad II attacks Israel (2 Kings 6-7), and Ben-Hadad II died in 842 BC. It would've been at least a few years before Ben-Hadad suspected a traitor due to the inability to ambush Joram (2 Ki 6:11) as well as the two sieges of Dothan and Samaria (2 Ki 6-7). Although Jehoram would've killed his relatives immediately, Elijah's letter implies he enticed Judah for some time (2 Chr. 21:13a), so some time must've passed, perhaps a year. In addition, Elijah's prediction for Jerhoram's disease happens in Jehoram's last 2 years, so Elijah doesn't ascend later than 845/4 BC.

This puts Elijah's ascension (and letter) sometime around 848-845/4 BC, probably closer to 848/7.

Alternate ideas not without merit are that:

  1. Elijah wrote the letter prophetically before Jehoram became king; gave it to Elisha to deliver
  2. Elijah told Elisha what would happen who wrote the letter either at Elijah's behest or in his name
  3. Elijah wasn't translated to Heaven in 2 Kings 2, but like Philip in Acts 8:39-40 taken elsewhere to die in secrecy
My problem with these suggestions is that they have too many unnecessary constructions. #1 and #2 are basically the same. Why Elijah should concern himself with the future Jehoram of Judah (not Israel), is a good question. The fratricide was certainly evil and the same unnecessary act by the sultan Mehmed III is why he was remembered as cruel even by the Ottomans.

But why have Elijah write a letter that could easily be ruined or lost after the years? And theory #2 is very unlikely: Elisha would've likely forgotten the message, and if he was to write it down immediately, Elijah might as well have done that himself (=theory #1). Why not just have Elisha compose and send the letter if Elijah is gone? He had enough credibility as Elijah's successor (2 Ki 2; 8-9). So a letter from Elijah from heaven is a little shakey too. Finally, if Elijah was transported somewhere else on Earth by the fiery chariot, it's unlikely he would've had any news of Judah, especially given 2 Ki 2:12: "...Then he [Elisha] never saw Elijah again..."

One could suppose that the letter was written during Jehoram's coregency with Jehoshaphat while the latter was ill. But this would be necessary entirely on Elijah's absence vs Elisha in 2 Kings 3:11. So either we're dealing with the same suggestion (that Elijah was unavailable to the kings in 2 Ki 3:11), or we have to explain how Jehoshaphat was too sick to stop (or know about) Jehoram killing his brothers (2 Chr. 21:13), but got better, joined Joram of Israel in battle (2 Ki 3), but didn't learn of Jehoram's mass-fratricide or did nothing about it.

The best suggestion in my opinion remains that Elijah ascended some time around 848/7 BC, and that 2 Kings 2 is thematically, not chronologically, placed before 2 Ki 3. Ancient Assyrian records do something similar. For example, the Saba'a Stela talks about Adad-Nirari III of Assyria's Palestinian campaign in 805 BC. Shuichi Hasegawa writes:

The chronological designation does not indicate that all the land of Hatti [Palestine] was conquered in this year. Compared with teh Eponym Chronicles, it is apparent that the scribe brought together all the western campaigns of Adad-nērāri from 805 to 796 BCE, the year when the stela was probably engraved. As a summary inscription, this stela summarises Adad-nērāri III's military achievements in the west up to 796 BCE. Hasegawa (2012). Aram and Israel during the Jehuite Dynasty pp.92-3]
Similarly Hasegawa considers the campaigns during Shalmaneser III's 21st and 22nd years to be conflated to a single campaign in his records. [ibid., p.52, n.1] These omissions are at any rate possible seeing how 2 Ki 3:5 seems to skip Ahaziah's brief reign, which is depicted a few chapters earlier (2 Ki 1). So the fact that Elijah is spoken of in the past tense in 2 Ki 3:11 doesn't necessarily mean much.

The suggestion that Jehoram of Israel was originally meant by the text is unlikely as there are numerous references to the kings of Judah being his father in the letter (vv.12-13). For the Chronicler himself to have confused the two is unlikely as Elijah outlives Ahaziah (2 Ki 1:16), and his ascension is placed in the following chapter, so 2 Chronicles 21 believes Elijah lived a few years into Joram of Israel's reign, which is implied by 1 King 1 (Joram's sixth year would be Jehoram of Judah's second, when Elijah sends the letter). This other Jehoram/Joram was one of the infamous victims of Jehu's slaughter, so one can only consider the Chronicler to be wrong with respect to chronology given 2 Ki 3, which is attempted to be explained above.

2 Chronicles 21:20

How old was Ahaziah when he became king: 22 or 42? And how could Ahaziah be 42 years old when he succeeded his father Jehoram who died at 40?

Here we have a copyist error where the original in 2 Chronicles 22:2 undoubtedly said 22 instead of 42 as the parallel (from where 2 Chronicles narrated its history) in 2 Kings 8:26 says.

2 Chronicles 22

2 Chronicles 22:1

How likely is it that Ahaziah was Jehoram's youngest son since Ahaziah was 22 when Jehoram died, meaning Jehoram was 18 when he became father of his last son?

Possibly Ahaziah was the youngest of Jehoram's legitimate children, the ones by his concubines not counted (cf. 1 Chron. 3:9), if Jehoram spent a lot of time with his concubines, like Solomon. Perhaps no other surviving male heirs younger than Ahaziah due to disease (the ancient death rate for children younger than 5 was about 50%) or they had also been killed in battle (2 Chron. 22:1b).

2 Chronicles 22:2

How old was Ahaziah when he became king: 22 or 42? And how could Ahaziah be 42 years old when he succeeded his father Jehoram who died at 40?

See 2 Chronicles 21:20 above.

Was Athaliah the daughter of Ahab or Omri?

See 2 Chronicles 21:6 above.

2 Chronicles 22:8

Did Jehu kill Ahaziah's brothers or nephews?

The word "brother" can also mean nephew (Gen. 14:12 vs 16). The idea that he killed both is probably precluded from the fact that Ahaziah's brothers were already dead or taken hostage (2 Chron. 22:1). It's unlikely to be other, illegitimate brothers that are meant, because these (70 of them!) wouldn't have been in Samaria, but in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 22:9

How did Ahaziah die?

The Tel Dan Stele, commonly considered to be made by Hazael, mentions the mutual death of Ahaziah and Jehoram. Although the Aramean king claims to have killed them both, this is likely an exaggeration due to defeating them in battle (2 Kings 9:15). Similarly, Esarhaddon claimed to have killed the Pharaoh Taharqa in his successful Egyptian campaign (671 BC; and another in 668 BC):

I slew multitudes of his [Taharqa's] men and I smote him five times with the point of my javelin, with wounds from which there were no recovery. [Luckenbill, Daniel David (1927). Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia Volume 2: Historical Records of Assyria From Sargon to the End. University of Chicago Press. p.227]
But we know Taharqa lived to at least 665 BC. [Török, László (1997). The Kingdom of Kush: Handbook of the Napatan-Meroitic Civilization. Brill 9789004294011. p.183]

Here we're told Ahaziah escaped to Samaria where he was captured, brought to Jehu and killed. In 2 Kings 9:24-28 Ahaziah runs away from the meeting with Jehu and Joram, only to be shot by Ibleam and die in Megiddo.

The mention of the otherwise unknown pass of Gur suggests some possible authenticity for Hasegawa. [Hasegawa, Shuichi. Aram and Israel during the Jehuite Dynasty (2012), p.32]

Even though it's the fuller account, if we look at the Kings story a little closer, we see a few details that are missing or need a slight explanation. For example, we're told that Ahaziah made it to Megiddo, which is quite the (chariot) drive from Ibleam. This is noted by Hasegawa, who writes:

Beth-haggan is often identified with modern Jenin, and Ibleam is identified with modern Khirbet Bel'ameh, two kilometers south of Jenin. The ascent of Gur cannot be located with certainity. Given that these identifications of toponyms are correct, it is unclear why Ahaziah, after he was wounded near Ibleam, which is further southward to Beth-haggan, proceeded to Megiddo, far northwest of Ibleam. [Hasegawa, ibid, pp.32-33]
He notes some who consider Ahaziah to have turned out of fear of being caught on the ascenting slope (of Gur), but concludes that ultimately none of the solutions, including a conflation of sources, can be substantiated. He does note that if one omits Megiddo from the itinerary, everything lines up (p.33, n.101). So perhaps Megiddo was a gloss in the Kings text, or Samaria came first as 2 Chronicles' text has it.

But it makes perfect sense if Ahaziah escaped first to Samaria, where Jehu's men took over the city. And then slipped out and was chased by them, like Zedekiah from Nebuchadnezzar's siege who was equally unsuccessful (2 Kings 25:4-7). If the way south was, logically, much more heavily guarded, Ahaziah could've started north. This scenario makes much more sense of the geographical details in 2 Kings 9, so that he's running away from Jehu's men going north, is wounded near Ibleam, continues north toward Beth-haggan, and then goes to Megiddo where he dies.

Jehu's troops likely pursued him to his death, perhaps represented in 2 Chron. 22:9, besides the "servants of Ahaziah" that bury him in 2 Kings 9:28. Jehu's men might've had a positive view as 2 Chr. 22:9 says, otherwise wouldn't have allowed the burial. Jehu probably allowed it (cf. 2 Ki 9:34).

This best explains the text of 2 Kings 9. Otherwise why run to Megiddo? Jehu comes from Ramoth-Gilead which is to the east of Jezreel. It's pretty far so that explains his recklessly fast driving (2 Ki 9:20), trying to get to the two Hebrew kings as quickly as possible. Samaria is a much more logical choice and Ibleam is southwest on the way to it from Jezreel.

Ahaziah was obviously at some distance from Jehu and his troops during the meeting; only Joram approaches (2 Ki 9:23), or he wouldn't be shouting to Ahaziah of treachery the latter would've already known. The possible betrayal is already suspected by Joram from the get go: Jehu was probably supposed to be at Ramoth-Gilead instead of coming with troops. Or perhaps someone alerted him despite Jehu's precautions in 2 Ki 9:15. There must've been quite a bit of discontent with king Joram: the troops at Ramoth-Gilead immediately accept Jehu as the new king (2 Ki 9:13); the sentries from Jezreel readily join him (2 Ki 9:18-20); some of the eunuchs immediately go on his side and defenestrate Jezebel (2 Ki 9:32f); the Samarians kill the rest of the royal house for him (2 Ki 10:1-8); Jehu isn't assassinated like the only other usurper in Israelite history, Zimri, who reigned a mere 7 days - a fact Jezebel tries to remind Jehu of (2 Ki 9:31).

This wouldn't make Ahaziah suspicious to not go to Samaria because his relatives were there (2 Ki 10:1), and Jehu clearly didn't have any followers there (2 Ki 10:2-3) - he didn't have any at Jezreel until his arrival. So between Megiddo and Samaria, the latter would've been a better option.

Being chased so closely by Jehu's men, he most likely didn't have much time or provisions to leave Samaria. If anything, Jehu's men were faster hence how he was caught up to and wounded near Ibleam. So hiding at Samaria was his best option, along with the safety of his uncle's people and servants who took care of his relatives (2 Ki 10:6). Then escapes as his brothers were being slaughtered (2 Ki 10:6-7) to Megiddo, perhaps intending to go to Tyre and back to Jerusalem by sea.

The other minor differences in Chronicles are inconsequential as they're narrative "filler". "Jehu's" soldiers capture him (2 Chron. 22:9) not the Samarians (who are under Jehu's orders). He's brought to Jehu seemingly alive (2 Chron. 22:9), but like his relatives, Jehu ordered Ahaziah's immediate death, to shoot at him in the chariot as he ran away from the meeting with Joram (2 Kings 9:27).

2 Chronicles 24

2 Chronicles 24:25

How did king Joash die and where was he buried?

2 Chronicles 24:25 (NIV): "When the Arameans withdrew, they left Joash severely wounded. His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. So he died and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings."

2 Kings 12:20-21 (NIV): "His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla. The officials who murdered him were Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer. He died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. And Amaziah his son succeeded him as king."

So we seem to have two differences here. The expression translated in the NIV as "...assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla," refers to the location of Beth Millo, as the Hebrew text confirms, not that the king was on the road to Silla. A translation like the KJV shows this. Joash was buried with his fathers in the City of David in the sense that like the other kings, he's in Jerusalem. However, 2 Chronicles is more specific in that he wasn't buried in the kings' tomb per se, and so "buried with his fathers" remains a stock expression the writers of the books of Kings used as we see them doing in many other places. Also, perhaps aware of this, 2 Chronicles 21:1 for example, differentiates "died with his fathers" from "was buried with his fathers."

Such stock expressions are frequent for writers of any generation. For example, Jean of Joinville in his account of his experiences in the ill-fated Seventh Crusade frequently refers to specific knights engaged in battle as being "armed...with his shield hanging at his neck and helmet on his head." (Penguin Classics, Villehardouin and Jean of Joinville, pp.204, 208; sometimes an axe is hanging at the neck (?!) - p.252) No one would fault him if these details aren't exactly like this and the shield was missing for example (unlikely) - it's an expression like "I ran out of there," even if I just got out in a hurry. In ancient Near Eastern accounts, the expression so-and-so "raised his spear against 1,000 enemies," is frequently used - no one would consider it an error if the person had a sword - the spear was a euphemism for battle, just like in Alexander the Great's expedition against Persia, a spear was thrown from the Greek ships onto Asian soil as a symbol of victory, when he landed in Asia Minor in 334 BC.

2 Chronicles 28

2 Chronicles 28:5-8

Was Judah conquered or not (Isaiah 7:3-9)?

See Isaiah 7:3-9.

2 Chronicles 35

2 Chronicles 35:23-24

Where did Josiah die - Megiddo or Jerusalem?

See 2 Kings 23:29-30.

2 Chronicles 36

2 Chronicles 36:6

Did Jehoiakim die in Israel or Babylon?

This verse may seem to say he was deported, but it only says he was bound for deportation, not that he actually went there like his son, Jehoiachin, explicitly mentioned so a few verses later (2 Chr. 36:10). Since the Chronicler knew of Kings and Jeremiah, he as well as his readers would've known of Jehoiakim's shameful death, "the burial of a donkey" outside the city walls (i.e. exposed to rot away). 2 Chr. 36:6 probably refers to an earlier expedition against Palestine, which was customarily very frequently - and he had the kings of "Hatti" (Palestine) come to him in person with tribute (Glassner, J.J. Mesopotamian Chronicles (2004). pp.230f.), perhaps bound in chains for being former Egyptian vassals (who possibly helped with troops in Carchemish). Having just come from his victory at Carchemish, this would be perhaps late 604 BC (he had to go and establish his authority in Mesopotamia following his father's death in 605). Perhaps Chronicles is using a stock expression to denote defeat/early death (Jehoiachin and Zedekiah bound in chains).

The lack of details in the Kings and Chronicles books is reflected by the Rabbinic confliction over how Jehoiakim died. The suggestion by Josephus that he was killed by the Babylonians, perhaps while initially bound for Babylon, and thrown over the walls of Jerusalem has to be seen as an attempt at reconciliation. By that point Jehoiachin had been king for 3 months.

A coregency is completely out of the question. The Babylonian Chronicles speak of one deposed king. [Horn, Siegfried H.. "The Babylonian Chronicle and the Ancient Calendar of the Kingdom of Judah." Andrews University Seminary Studies 5.1 (1967): 21] Very unlikely given the texts' language and none of the biblical books would've failed to mention Jehoiakim's death during Jehoiachin's exile, so we have to place Jehoiakim's death 3 months and 10 days prior to Jehoiachin's surrender (Adar 2=March 16, 597 BC) on Marcheshvan 22 (=Dec. 10) 598 BC.

It's possible Jehoiakim died in pre-siege skirmishes (2 Ki 24:2). More info, see Jeremiah 22:18-19 below.

2 Chronicles 36:9

How old was Jehoiachin when he started reigning?

Much like in other places with numbers, we have a copyist error here where the original of 2 Chronicles 36:9 said 18 and later on many of the Hebrew manuscripts incorrectly copied an 8. This is obvious from 2 Chr. 36 which narrated the history of 2 Kings 24, and 2 Kings 24:8 tells us Jehoiachin was 18 when he became king.

How long did Jehoiachin reign?

Chronicles gives the reign as 3 months and 10 days, and 2 Kings gives it as 3 months: is there really a contradiction? The book of 2 Kings rounded the number whereas 2 Chronicles gave the exact number of days, similarly to 2 Samuel 5:4-5.

2 Chronicles 36:10

Was Zedekiah the uncle or brother of Jehoiachin?

The Hebrew word brother can mean other relatives such as cousin or uncle, similarly to how son/daughter can mean grandson/granddaughter or even a more distant relative. Lot is alternately called Abraham's nephew ("brother's son" - Gen. 14:12) or brother (Gen. 14:16).

2 Chronicles 36:20

Were Nabonidus and Belshazzar the sons of Nebuchadnezzar?

It is true that all the Babylonian kings after Evil-Merodach (Nebuchadnezzar's son, r.562-561 BC) weren't related by blood to Nebuchadnezzar; though Neriglissar had married one of Nebuchadnezzar's daughters so technically he was in his family. However, the designation of son, especially in this context with respect to a royal succession does not need to mean a biological son (cf. 2 Kings 8:27 - son-in-law, but connected enough for Jehu to kill him along with all descendants of Ahab). The ancient Oriental designation can mean a successor in the position, in this case the successors to Nebuchadnezzar. This is exemplified by writings like Ecclesiasticus 48:25 which refers to David as Hezekiah's father. Although Hezekiah was related biologically to David, he lived over 200 years after him. Furthermore, in the Ancient Near East, a successor king did not need to be directly related (by blood) to a previous king to be called his son in terms of his office as king. For example, Josephus, when describing Vespasian's victories in Germany and Britain, calls the emperor Claudius his father (War III 1:2), who issued a triumph in his honor. To that, William Whiston says,
We may also here note from Josephus, that Claudius the emperor, who triumphed for the conquest of Britain, was enabled so to do by Vespasian's conduct and bravery, and that he is here styled "the father of Vespasian."
In the same way, someone could easily describe the king who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar as "son of Nebuchadnezzar" (Belshazzar reign jointly with his father Nabonidus - Neriglissar and two other Babylonian kings who predate Nabonidus, reigned briefly and could be skipped in terms of "father"/predecessor). Furthermore, Belshazzar may have been related to Nebuchadnezzar if he had married one of his daughters or a female relation of Nebuchadnezzar's. But overall it should be understood that "son of" could mean successor in this sense.


Ezra 1

Ezra 1:2

How was it that Cyrus ruled all of the world?

This was 1) said by Cyrus and 2) a metaphor for the vast size of the Persian empire typical of the Ancient Near East.

Ezra 1:9-11

How many articles were there?

Since the numbers in Ezra 1:9-10 don't equal the number cited in Ezra 1:11 one might say there's a contradiction. But the list isn't meant to be exhaustive since only the more prominent articles are listed and the rest are relegated to the total count just like verse 10 shows ("other articles - 1000). After all, is someone going to start listing all the other types of articles - gold shields, silver shields, gold swords, silver swords...? Now, verse 10 does say other articles - 1000, but this isn't meant to be inclusive of absolutely every article but simply either other types that are related or something else - the writer would not make such an error by about 3000 articles the very next sentence, so clearly he was not being exhaustive.

Ezra 2

Ezra 2:3-69

What is the real count of the number of exiles returned and how could these numbers add up to 42,360 when both Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 add up to under 20,000?

Both in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 the number of people listed that return is less than the 42,360 mentioned in Ezra 2:64 and Nehemiah 7:66. We have to explain this difference on the fact that neither Ezra nor Nehemiah, on whose list Ezra's is based, give an exhaustive list of absolutely everyone who came back. This is apparent from the similar counting of the articles in Ezra 1:9-11 where the author wasn't being exhaustive in his list either but in the end says there were 5400 articles of gold and silver whereas he only mentions about 2499 in his list (also see Ezra 1:9-11). Also, for example, the men of Magbish in Ezra 2:30 has no parallel in Nehemiah 7. Also, 1 Esdras, which is another ancient document, based mostly on Ezra, that records the number of returnees, has a few groups that have no parallel in either Ezra or Nehemiah, which is undoubtedly due to other sources - this shows that either Ezra and Nehemiah did not have exhaustive lists (on purpose like Ezra 1:9-11) or if this extrabiblical source in 1 Esdras is incorrect, it at least shows that the Jews were aware that the list in Ezra and Nehemiah was most likely not meant to be exhaustive.

Second, what about the divergent numbers between Ezra and Nehemiah? Just like different copies of Schindler's list being written and updated at different times (logically) diverge, so could Ezra and Nehemiah. The problem is that the numbers are off by only a few numbers in some cases, and hardly would these individuals have arrived later than their group, only to be recounted in some other official counting.

But the most obvious explanation is not an error. We can see that the numbers are off by a single number in most cases. We know that there were many copyist errors specifically in numbers and names before the printing press was invented (1453 AD). This answer isn't just an attempt to wash away the divergent numbers: the numerous copies and sources that relied on Ezra and Nehemiah show that as far as numbers go, copyist errors are much more numerous, and we shouldn't be surprised to have so many here where there's 45 numbers involved! In fact, the number of agreements we do have goes to show the reliability of ancient copyists as well as the sources of Ezra and Nehemiah. But let's take a bit of a more detailed look and give some examples of extensive copyist errors of the numbers:

Of the 45 counted numbers, 28 of these agree between Ezra and Nehemiah and 7 disagree. Around the 1st century BC the book of 1 Esdras was written which also listed the number of exiles who returned (1 Esdras 5:9-45). This book used Ezra primarily, and although it seems it may have used other sources, it doesn't look like it used Nehemiah at all. Before we make a chart, we should note that the lists in Ezra and Nehemiah are meant to be identical - one author used the historical information of the other, and seeing the more detailed descriptions in Nehemiah, it seems that Ezra used Nehemiah's list. This was a typical practice of recording history that the ancients used in many cases and this isn't "forgery" or "plagiarism" in any sense (i.e. the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles which in some cases used the history written by the prophets and other people - 2 Samuel 1:18, 1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 9:29, 12:15, 13:22, 20:34, 32:32, 33:19, 35:25). We can therefore see that 1 Esdras serves as a copy of Ezra's list, somewhat frozen in time since 1 Esdras comes from the 1st century BC but manuscripts of 1 Esdras would also have copyist errors, though not the same ones as Ezra, and in this way we can see in some places where Ezra has diverged from Nehemiah's list (or if Nehemiah used Ezra then whether Nehemiah doesn't have a copyist error in our current manuscripts). For this comparison between Ezra-Nehemiah-1 Esdras we should establish some criteria:

  1. Agreements between all three, obviously, support an accurate number.
  2. Agreements between Ezra and Nehemiah have priority over 1 Esdras because Ezra and Nehemiah are older than 1 Esdras and are closer to each other chronologically.
  3. Agreements between 1 Esdras and Nehemiah have priority over Ezra because 1 Esdras was based on Ezra and this would mean Ezra originally probably had Nehemiah's number/digit.
  4. Agreements between Ezra and 1 Esdras over Nehemiah have very slight weight since 1 Esdras was based on Ezra.
  5. Disagreements between all three say nothing.
Now the way the disagreement in the numbers is calculated is not: 323 - 223 = 1 disagreement. The numbers 323 and 223 have in their digits 1 disagreement and 2 agreements. We should also note that Josephus, who based his numbers on 1 Esdras, also gives us some numbers (Ant. 11.1.3 - 42,462; 11:3.10 the rest). The section titled "Final Agreement" is the likely number the original Ezra-Nehemiah books had (certainly Ezra could have copied Nehemiah's list, or vice versa, without error). So for example if there are two numbers, 656 and 454, then the original number had a 5 in the middle which is designated as X5X. So below is the chart:

People of Ezra Nehemiah 1 Esdras Josephus Final Agreement
Parosh 2172 2172 2172 - 2172
Shephathiah 372 372 472 - 372
Arah 775 652 756 - X5X
Pahath-Moab 2812 2818 2812 - 281X
Elam 1254 1254 1254 - 1254
Zattu 945 845 945 - X45
Zakkai 760 760 705 - 760
Bani 642 648 648 - 648
Bebai 623 628 623 - 62X
Azgad 1222 2322 1322 - X322
Adonikam 666 667 667 - 667
Bigvai 2056 2067 2066 - 206X
Adin 454 655 454 - X5X
Ater 98 98 92 - 98
Bezai 323 324 323 - 32X
Jorah/Hariph 112 112 112 - 112
Hashum 223 328 - - X2X
Gibar/Gibeon 95 95 - - 95
Bethlehem and Netophah 179 (123+56) 188 178 (123+55) - 1X8
Anathoth 128 128 158 - 128
Azmaveth 42 42 42 - 42
Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 743 768 (25+743) - 743
Ramah and Geba 621 621 621 - 621
Mikmash 122 122 122 - 122
Nebo 52 52 52 - 52
Magbish 156 - 156 - 156
The other Elam 1254 1254 - - 1254
Harim 320 320 - - 320
Lod, Hadid, and Ono 725 721 725 - 72X
Jericho 345 345 345 - 345
Senaah 3630 3930 3360 - 3X30
Priests through Jedaiah 973 973 972 - 973
Priests through Immer 1052 1052 1052 - 1052
Priests through Passhur 1247 1247 1247 - 1247
Harim 1017 1017 1017 - 1017
Levites 74 74 74 74 74
Musicians 128 148 128 128 1X8 (Josephus is dependent on 1 Esdras who is dependent on Ezra so we only have 1 source here, not 3)
Gatekeepers 139 138 139 110 13X
Temple Servants 392 392 372 392 392
No Genealogy 652 642 652 662 6X2 (possibly 642 seeing the divergence in Josephus meaning there was maybe a copyist error in 1 Esdras/Ezra originally, but who knows; interestingly the excluded from the priesthood not numbered in Ezra 2:61-63 and Neh. 7:63-65 are numbered in Josephus as 525)
Total Returnees 42,360 42,360 42,360 42,462 42,360
Servants 7337 7337 7337 7337 7337
Singers 200 245 245 245 245
Horses 736 736 7036 - 736
Mules 245 245 245 - 245
Camels 435 435 435 435 435
Donkeys 6720 6720 5525 5525 6720
Gold 61,000 41,000 1000 100 X1,000
Silver 5000 4000 5000 5000 X000
Priestly Garments 100 597 (530+67) 100 - Unknown though most probably Nehemiah has the correct count. Josephus certainly had a corrupt copy which said the excluded priests (Ezra 2:61-63, Neh. 7:63-65) was 525 which means that at some point 1 Esdras possibly had the reference to the 530 priestly garments which means so did Ezra. More likely, however, is that 1 Esdras had this inserted and it was somehow copied wrong for Josephus' copy (or our copy of Josephus' work). In all, Ezra probably had the number 530+67 (597) which may have become 100 through a copyist error or perhaps Ezra had a different counting, not being exhaustive like the examples mentioned above.

Overall, this table shows that copyist errors, especially for so many numbers, easily occurred in ancient copies of manuscripts. For example, we can see how either Josephus' copy of 1 Esdras, or our copies of Josephus' work have it that the priests donate 100 pounds of gold and 5000 of silver. But this clearly confused the 100 priestly garments for the 41,000 or 61,000 darics of Nehemiah and Ezra. Also, the 525 priests excluded from the priesthood mentioned in Josephus (Ant. 11.3.10) were very likely taken from Nehemiah's 530 priestly vestments which someone inserted into Josephus' copy of 1 Esdras. In conclusion, neither does the non-exhaustive list of returnees in Ezra and Nehemiah show a contradiction (in 1 Esdras we have more lists of returnees numbering an additional 5000 or so, so the Jews very possibly knew the lists weren't exhaustive to add more numbers from other towns), nor do the divergent numbers between Ezra and Nehemiah prove an error in the Bible since: 1) the list from Ezra was taken from Nehemiah (or vice versa), which has a much lower chance of a divergence, meaning there must have been copyist errors down the centuries, and 2) the numerous copyist errors we see of Ezra through 1 Esdras and Josephus show that there were copyist errors that made the divergences between Ezra and Nehemiah and for 45 numbers, the numerous numbers that match (28 out of 45), compared with those of 1 Esdras and Ezra, are certainly pretty high.

The bottom line is this. If Ezra used Nehemiah (or vice versa; some evidence of independence in the ordering/naming of the families, beside the numbers perhaps), both accounts give the total as 42,360 - using sources from official channels which could be obtained from either writers' connections (like Villehardouin whose position of Marshall of Romania allowed him to use documents for his account of the Fourth Crusade). The numbers don't add up to 42,360 because, as Nehemiah 7:67 shows us, some weren't mentioned either out of brevity or relevance - just like how medieval chroniclers typically mentioned the number of knights that partook in a certain battle, from which it's presumed there were 3-4 times as many additional men-at-arms at these knights' disposal.

Ezra 5

Ezra 5:1

Is Zechariah the son or grandson of Iddo?

See Zechariah 1:1.

Ezra 6

Ezra 6:14

Is Zechariah the son or grandson of Iddo?

See Zechariah 1:1.


Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah 7:4-72

What is the real count of the number of exiles returned and how could these numbers add up to 42,360 when both Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 add up to under 20,000?

See Ezra 2:3-69.


Esther 1

Esther 1:1

How many satrapies did the Persian Empire have?

While Esther 1:1, 8:9, and 9:30 say that Xerxes had 127 provinces, it is well known that the Persian Empire had 20 satrapies and 23 satrapies at the height of its power. But Esther clearly distinguishes between satrapies and provinces (Esther 3:12) so the provinces mentioned in Esther are not equivalent to the satrapies established by Cyrus and governed by the later Persian kings.

Esther 2

Esther 2:5-6

How old was Mordecai?

Verse 6 seems to say Mordecai was one of the exiles from Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem (587 BC), but this would make him around 100 years old - hardly possible for an uncle of a young Jewish girl who'd be the prettiest in the land.

But verse 6 refers to the ancestor Kish and not Mordecai (cf. Joshua 15:17, Judges 1:13 - "Othniel son of Kenaz, brother of Caleb" referring to Kenaz and not Othniel being the brother [Othniel marries a daughter of Caleb, so he can't be the brother]).


Job 1

Job 1:6

Are there other Sons of God?

The Hebrew sons of God here and elsewhere in the Bible usually refers to angels. They were indeed sons of God in the sense that they were created by Him (i.e. Luke 3:38). But Jesus is the Son of God in the sense of the Messiah and sinless Savior of mankind who is the only son of God in that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God: an allusion to his special relationship with respect to God. Christians are also sons of God in the spiritual sense (Gal. 3:26).

Job 2

Job 2:1

Are there other Sons of God?

See Job 1:6.

Job 11

Job 11:7

Can God be found?

This verse, unlike Romans 1:20, talks about physically finding God and understanding Him. Romans 1:20 says that one can "find" God in the sense that one can see His existence through His work, and also one can "find" God in the sense of faith in Him, not to understand Him or physically find Him.

Job 14

Job 14:4

Could Jesus have Incarnated or not?

If what is impure can't bring what is pure then how was Jesus born sinless? How did he remain sinless? But this is a misunderstanding of the nature of sin and impurity. When someone is born from someone who has sinned (thus sinful, impure), they aren't born impure because of this. Children don't carry the sins of their fathers. It is only until that person sins that they fall short of God's grace and glory (Luke 15:11-20, Romans 3:23). Thus a person, who has sinned and is spiritually in that sense impure, who gives birth to someone does not make that someone impure automatically just because of that.

Job 25

Job 25:4-6

If a human being is impure, a maggot, and a worm, how can Jesus (a human) be a Savior at the right hand of God?

This chapter compares human beings that have clearly sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20) with respect to God. Bildad asks Job how humans can compare themselves to God when even the light of the moon isn't bright enough nor stars "pure" enough in God's sight (25:5). In this sense, most people are being talked about even though the verse is talking with respect to all of mankind. This is a literary expression, much like when Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God in Romans 3:10-18, 23 and then a few verses down describes Jesus Christ as a mediator and sinless (Rom. 3:24-26, 5:17,21, 2 Cor. 5:21). As Paul says, it is the flesh that's sinful and impure, not the person unless he sins (Romans 8:3).

Job 26

Job 26:11

• Is the sky supported by pillars according to the Bible?

Although the Greeks had the myth of Atlas who held the sky from falling, since in the previous verses of Job 26, such as 26:6 "Death is naked before God; Destruction lies uncovered", are clearly metaphorical, at least in some parts (exceptions being 26:7,8 for example; yet 26:6 can't be understood in that way, so the literary devices change clearly), the point of 26:11 is that the sky shakes if God so wishes, despite that being clearly nonsensical for the average person to imagine (purposefully so), and the "pillars that support the sky" would just be the expression surrounding to describe this, not necessarily that the author wrote that there were actual pillars to support the sky.

Job 42

Job 42:5

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin. In any case, the meaning is most likely metaphorical, in that Job "saw" God by the reproval and conversation he had.


Psalm 14

Psalm 14:1

Can people be called fools or not?

The word nabal here designates someone immoral. So the verse reads better as, "The immoral man has said in his heart, 'There is no God'"; something that was more fitting in the time as there weren't as many atheists but certainly were immoral people. However, the word for "fool" in Matthew 5:22 and other such verses (Matt. 23:17 - also tiflos which is more in the sense of "foolish") is also the same, so see Matthew 5:22.

Psalm 58

Psalm 58:8

Do snails melt?

Some see an error in the Bible here since it says that a snail melts as it moves, but anyone who has ever seen a snail knows it leaves a trail of sloth behind, which looks just like the way water from melting ice does, and it's clearly known this comes from their bodies and the analogy is because of that especially if the snail can't find water to not "melt". And that's all the metaphorically used word in this verse means.

Psalm 63

Psalm 63:2

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

But in this case, the Psalmist is clearly referring to the metaphorical seeing of God when partaking in the cult of the Temple, thus he is not saying he physically saw God, not even in the sense of Moses' highly personal revelations and visions or even an angelic appearance.

Psalm 76

Psalm 76:2

Does God dwell in Heaven or in Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple?

See Joel 3:17.

Psalm 89

Psalm 89:3-4

Was David's throne ever vacant?

The verse here, like Jeremiah 33:17-18, does not mean that the throne of David will always have a king ruling but that the royal line of kings from David's house won't end. This is evident from the fact that all of Jeremiah 33 (more or less the origin of the prophecy quoted in Psalm 89) narrates the destruction of Judah and the prophet knows that the royal line has ceased, or at least will cease in the near future, and this certainly does not invalidate the prophecy. And there are no kings today because Christ sat on David's throne and rules from it forever (Acts 2:30, Heb. 1:8).

Psalm 90

Psalm 90:10

How long is the human lifespan?

See Genesis 6:3.

Psalm 112

Psalm 112:1-3

Are riches a good thing or not (Matthew 19:24)?

See Proverbs 18:11.

Psalm 123

Psalm 123:1

Does God dwell in Heaven or in Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple?

See Joel 3:17.

Psalm 136

Psalm 136:4

Who has the power to do wonders?

While this verse says God alone does great wonders, and Matthew 28:18 says all power belongs to Christ, verses like 2 Thess. 2:9 say Satan will be able to do them and other verses talk about others doing wonders (John 14:12). But what Psalm 136:4 (and Matt. 28:18) means is that all power ultimately lies with God and so only He can do great wonders while others can do signs and wonders only through the permission of God.

Psalm 145

Psalm 145:15-16

Does God provide for everyone and everything?

Many people and living things don't have enough (Romans 8:22). But what Psalm 145 is saying here is what does indeed become accomplished for a person and even animal's well-being is through God alone. This is the same point as Matthew 5:45 and Acts 14:16-17. True, many die from poverty, hunger, and disease but this is not what the verse relates to since God appointed everything for His own reasons (Exodus 4:10-17, John 9:1-5, Philippians 1:28, Romans 8:28) and it's repentance that matters in the end (Luke 13:1-5, Romans 8:18, 35-39). In fact, just a few verses down from Romans 8:22 Paul notes that God is on the side of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and gives everything to them (Romans 8:31-33). In view of that, Psalm 145 and Romans 8:22 (and other such verses as well as what we know about the world) are talking about the same thing - everything such as the food that we eat or things we enjoy are due to God on Whom we wait (Matt. 6:25-26).


Proverbs 1

Proverbs 1:28

Do those who seek God find wisdom (Proverbs 8:17) or not?

This verse does not negate Proverbs 8:17 and similar other verses which do confirm that those seeking God and wisdom will find them. In Proverbs 1:20-33 God is talking about people who didn't listen to Him and neglected Him (1:24-25) and turn to Him in times of disaster much like Israel had done continuously throughout the time of the judges and would continue to do so during the reign of the kings (Judges 2:20-23, 3:7-11). Now it is true that in many if not all instances God "relented" (Judges 2:18) and helped the Israelites who had turned from paganism or some other sin back to God, whereas here God says that those same wicked who seek after disaster won't find Him. But in the historical case the Israelites really did repent, albeit because of calamity and God didn't want to destroy them. In this case here, God is pointing out that while He was trying to reach them, they didn't listen, but now they're calling and He won't answer so as to teach a lesson (Jeremiah 11:11). This doesn't necessitate no answer forever, but simply illustrates the error of the situation.

Proverbs 3

Proverbs 3:13

Is wisdom a good thing or bad (Ecclesiastes 1:18, Isaiah 29:14, 1 Cor. 1:19)?

Wisdom is not a bad thing. It's what gives you understanding and helps you to achieve and do things (Job 39:14-17). However, used in an improper context, wisdom can become a problem and "stumbling block". If someone reaches through "wisdom" a sinful or incorrect way, that person's wisdom is useless and bad. And this is all that Isaiah 29:14 and 1 Cor. 1:19 and similar such verses mean. Ecclesiastes 1:18 on the other hand highlights the fact that just as knowledge and power (and thus happiness) come from wisdom, in the same way a lot of grief and burden can (and usually does).

Proverbs 4

Proverbs 4:7

Is wisdom good (Proverbs 3:13, 4:7) or not?

See Proverbs 3:13.

Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8:17

Do those who seek God find wisdom (Proverbs 8:17) or not?

See Proverbs 1:28.

Proverbs 13

Proverbs 13:24

Is discipline with force correct?

Many people will agree that for many children a simple "time out" or punishment by not watching TV or no candy simply won't work. The rod accomplishes things much faster and better. But many will say that even the toughest and most stubborn child to teach can be taught without physical force, and could probably refer to many professionals who have dealt with such successfully. I clearly remember someone who said something along the lines of, "Yeah, 'spare the rod, hate the child': how many have beaten their kids to death or made them bleed and said that they were just doing it for the kid's own good or that they didn't realize they were going too far?"

To this I can only say that very few people could beat a child so severely that they could honestly say they were doing it for their own good and didn't realize they went far. Of those very few none who really wanted to follow Proverbs' teaching on discipline would repeat the beating so severely if at all. Most who beat their kids so severely and say this are simply making excuses for their violent and in that case anti-biblical behavior. And what about the success of professionals with even the most out of control kids? Unfortunately many of us aren't experts or professionals nor have the time and money to hire one and this principle is simple enough in that it works and results in good. True, at the time it doesn't seem very great for the child (Hebrews 12:11), but in the end they are better off to learn things that would drastically improve their lives as opposed to grow up unbeaten and unlearned. The bottom line is, just like Proverbs 22:15 says, the only purpose of such measures (when none others work) is to make the child learn and become smarter.

Proverbs 18

Proverbs 18:6

Should we argue and strive for things or not?

Verses like this one and 2 Timothy 2:24 where one is told not to strive in an argument or contend are contrasted with ones like Jude 1:3 which tell us, ...I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith... Can one really think that to contend is always either good or bad. It can't be good (to contend for the faith) and bad (foolish contention - Proverbs 18:6, 2 Timothy 2:24) depending on the situation, much like anger?

Proverbs 18:11

Is wealth good or not (Matthew 19:24)?

Wealth in and of itself isn't a sin and as opposed to poverty, yes it's good. But when one only cares about wealth and obtaining it (or more of it), that's when it becomes a sin and this is what Jesus told the rich young ruler. And verses like Psalm 112:1-3 say that God rewards with wealth those who follow His commandments. Now we and the psalmist know that it's not always the case and this is only as a sign of the destruction of the wicked (Philippians 1:28), and the verse means that those who are righteous are favored by God. In addition, Psalm 112 is more or less eschatological (Psalm 112:10, 6-9).

Proverbs 19

Proverbs 19:18

Is discipline with force correct?

See Proverbs 13:24.

Proverbs 22

Proverbs 22:24-25

Is it ok to be angry (Ephesians 4:26) or not?

To get a habit of being angry all the time and for this to happen by being associated with such people is not ok (Proverbs 17:19), but to be correctly angry about something that deserves anger is certainly so.

Proverbs 22

Proverbs 22:15

Is discipline with force correct?

Proverbs 23

Proverbs 23:13-14

Is discipline with force correct?

See Proverbs 13:24.

Proverbs 26

Proverbs 26:3

Is discipline with force correct?

See Proverbs 13:24.

Proverbs 26:4-5

Should we answer a fool or not?

Since the author clearly wouldn't contradict himself in the very next verse, these two verses are supposed to be taken exactly as they are: antithetical parallelism. You answer or don't answer a fool depending on the situation: if their accusation/claim/comment is too ridiculous or absurd to answer, Proverbs suggests that you leave them alone so that you don't look silly answering something foolish that even the fool knows that is foolish. On the other hand, depending on the situation, don't let such a comment go unanswered if it might make you seem foolish if you don't. Simple lesson about life that many know.

Proverbs 30

Proverbs 30:5-6

Did the New Testament (and Jesus) add to the Word of God in violation of this?

For Jesus, the New Testament, and Christianity to be going against Proverbs 30:5-6 there needs to be a denial (by those three) that God's Word is flawless. Nowhere does the New Testament deny this but Christ and the New Testament simply want to point out that the Old Testament continues in a way that interprets it in accord with God's true desires: righteous living, not burnt offerings. With respect to verse 6 adding is condemned in the sense that one adds with the aim to alter (e.g. Islam's Quran or the Book of Mormon), since many new prophecies and a lot of the Word of God was added in addition to what was there over the centuries. Overall, Christianity doesn't make God's Word flawed but has the same message as Hab. 2:4 and Hos. 6:6 (cf. Rom. 1:17).


Does Ecclesiastes deny God's justice?

That without its title we could've confused this for an atheist book many times can't be denied. But the question is why does the author decry injustice as if it's unrectifiable? Michael V. Fox writes:

Qohelet [=Ecclesiastes] lacks hope that human action can correct or even ameliorate wrongs. Such an attitude is foreign not only to prophecy and law, but also to Wisdom Literature, which demands justice and charity and assumes that the individual can promote social justice...Again, social injustice is an inalterable reality; all that people can affect is their own emotional response to it...Distortions of justice are a fact of life... [Qohelet and his Contradictions (1989), p.141]
Fox summarizes the position that plagues Ecclesiastes by saying that, although he does not question God's just judgment in the end, for him, this does not detract from the fact that injustices did happen and continue to do so. One death is as good as another "in the end", so the fact that injustices happen at all is the anomaly to justice - not the final fate. And unlike other Wisdom Literature, he doesn't offer any solutions. In that sense, the idea of an afterlife final judgment is neither denied nor affirmed, because it's not related to how a man feels while evil is happening, although God's justice is not rejected (3:17).

This doesn't make the author reach a dead-end despite being pessimistic:

Qohelet's obsession with the violations of the principle of retribution is not polemical. He does not engage in a "sustained argument against the doctrine of retributive justice". He is not even skeptical about these doctrines, in the sense of doubting their validity, but, on the contrary, stubbornly holds to belief in retributive justice. To differ is not to attack. Qohelet does not attack or cast doubt upon any teaching of Wisdom. He shows no awareness that his observations clash with the beliefs of other sages - and, except in emphasis, they do not. He distinguishes his wisdom from others' only by its greater degree...Nor are Qohelet's observations a struggle against a theodicy. He treats the inequities he observes as a frustrating problem, not as evidence for or against a particular solution. [ibid., p.146]
The Declaration of Independence is mostly a complaint against the British government, but it doesn't preclude for there to have been a solution one way ("no taxation without representation") or another (self-governemnt and the Constitution). There is nothing to be done while a man suffers evil except to cope: this much the rest of the Bible teaches such as the various lamentations over the destruction of Jerusalem.

Ecclesiastes 1

Ecclesiastes 1:4

Will the Earth pass away (Matthew 5:18, Matthew 24:35, Revelation 21:1) or not?

The Earth and sky have been around since before even man (Genesis 1:1). Generations do come and go, but with respect to them, the Earth does indeed remain "forever". This is a poetic and metaphorical expression, not to be taken absolutely literally. Matthew 5:18 simply emphasizes how binding God's law and commands are in that they are even more standing than the sky and Earth, and the same is true of Matthew 24:35, and Revelation 21:1 talks about the new after God's final victory over evil through the Second Coming of Christ.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10

Is there really nothing new under the sun (airplanes, technology, etc)?

I clearly remember how one elderly woman told me, "How is there nothing new under the Sun? Don't you see airplanes, and everything today?" But I answered that, yes, although there's new technology and things that the ancients never even thought of, everything remains the same - the people in the airplane still get angry (at stewardesses who spill their tea on them), scared (of airplanes), frustrated (at delayed flights), and happy (to see relatives or others where they're headed). In that sense, there really isn't anything "new" under the Sun, and that's the sense the author of Ecclesiastes means with this verse. He certainly would have known of the tradition of various things "new" under the Sun such as the Exodus and its miracles, or Joshua's long day, so he clearly isn't talking about the world in that sense. This is confirmed by the following verse (1:11) which says that no one remembers past generations and future ones will be forgotten too. That of course isn't necessarily true - the Israelites had an account of the generation of the Exodus for example. But that is not what the author is saying: merely poetically stating that future generations don't have a connection with past ones. And in the same way he makes the statements about nothing new under the sun in 1:9-10.

Ecclesiastes 1:11

Are past generations entirely forgotten?

Since many remember people and generations from long ago, is this true? See second part of Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 above. The sense of this verse is that they no longer interact with anyone or anything and in that way they are indeed forgotten on a day-to-day basis.

Ecclesiastes 1:18

Is wisdom good (Proverbs 3:13, 4:7) or not?

See Proverbs 3:13.

Ecclesiastes 3

Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

Do these verses teach no Heaven or Hell?

Ecclesiastes certainly doesn't negate the importance of the essence of humans. It is only a few verses prior to these that the author affirms his belief that everything God does is good (3:9-14) and just (3:15-17). The author is simply expressing the seemingly obvious reality that people die (much like animals) and who is to say that their soul goes this way or that way when you're on Earth and you're doing this and that? This is essentially what 3:22 says, So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? But this doesn't mean the author disbelieved in a final resurrection or human importance in any way seeing verses like 3:15 and 3:17. The mood is simply pessimistic to express and highlight the reality of life - that it is pessimistic many times and so one should do and be with the things that make them happy.

Ecclesiastes 9

Ecclesiastes 9:5

Does this verse teach no Heaven or Hell?

See Ecclesiastes 3:18-22. The following verse (9:6) shows that the author is speaking with respect to the temporal earthly life. In that respect, yes, the dead don't have a further "reward".


Isaiah 3

Isaiah 3:16-17

What is this "gross" verse (3:17) doing in Isaiah and why is God condemning women so injustly?

The verse reads, Therefore the LORD will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts. The meaning of the phrase translated in the KJV as secret parts, poth is somewhat uncertain. The NIV translates it as, the LORD will make their scalps bald, though whether this is a more accurate translation or the former is anybody's guess. The Hebrew word before poth translated as "discover" is 'arah which means "to be/make bare", but whether it's to the woman's scalp, or her "secret parts" can't be determined. But the fact is, even if this does refer to making these haughty (Isaiah 3:16) women ashamed through being naked, this is nothing "gross" nor "sexist" nor injust because it is exactly because of their shameful sins that this punishment is being brought (Isaiah 3:16 - '"The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, strutting along with swaying hips, with ornaments jingling on their ankles."' which was considered detestable to the Hebrews and the women knew it, similarly for example Proverbs 6:24-25,7:10,21).

Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6:1

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

5. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Isaiah 7

Isaiah 7:3-9

Was this promise fulfilled (2 Chronicles 28:5-8)?

While Isaiah tells Ahaz that his country won't be "torn apart" and a new king installed, 2 Chronicles 28:5-8 tells us of a huge defeat and destruction that happens to Ahaz. However, this isn't a contradiction. Ahaz was being punished for his sins through Israel and Aram (2 Chronicles 28:5) and although they inflicted huge losses on him they didn't succeed in their plans (2 Kings 16:5) and eventually all the captives and plunder was taken back (2 Chronicles 28:8-15). So while Judah was ravaged (except for Jerusalem and some other cities), plundered, and many captives taken, it wasn't conquered, a new king wasn't installed, and the plunder and captives were returned.

Isaiah 9

Isaiah 9:1

Were Galilee, Zebulon, and Naphtali east of the Jordan?

See Matthew 4:13-15.

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26:14

Does this verse in Isaiah deny the resurrection of the dead?

The verse isn't a theological or doctrinal statement. The verse simply says that others who ruled over the (conquered/destroyed) Israelites are now gone and that all glory is for God alone. The verse simply says that other rulers are dead and aren't even remembered anymore.

Isaiah 44

Isaiah 44:14

The ash does not grow in/near Israel.

The KJV translates this word, 'oren, as ash but it's probably either the fir tree, cedar, or pine as many modern translations have it.

Isaiah 57

Isaiah 57:1

Does this verse negate the triumph of the righteous over wicked?

As the second half of this verse shows (the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.), and also 57:2, it is precisely because of the righteous' triumph that they "perish" and are "taken away" and this is an earthly "perishing" and not one of Hell.

Isaiah 66

Isaiah 66:1-2

Does God dwell in Heaven or on Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple (Joel 3:17)?

See Joel 3:17.


Jeremiah 3

Jeremiah 3:12

Does God's anger remain forever (Jeremiah 17:4) or not?

In Jeremiah 3:12 God informs the Israelites that their punishment will not continue if they repent. In Jeremiah 17:4 God is extremely frustrated with the sin of Judah and he uses the metaphor for an eternal anger to emphasize the severity of both their sins and God's wrath. This certainly wouldn't last forever, especially if the Hebrews repented, as Jeremiah 3:12 shows with the kingdom of Israel.

Jeremiah 4

Jeremiah 4:10

Does God lie/deceive?

The comment by the prophet Jeremiah in this verse where he quotes God as having said, "You will have peace", when in fact "the sword is at our throats", isn't to be mean that God actually told the people that they would have peace but simply that the destruction came without much of a warning, and that the destruction was very severe. God didn't warn, and this is how He is said by Jeremiah to have "deceived this people and Jerusalem". And for God not to warn or inform Jerusalem that of this impending doom isn't a deception itself with the negative connotation of the word: it is merely God's judgment upon the (once again) faithless Hebrews, of which He does indeed warn them through Jeremiah anyway (who unsurprisingly becomes rejected and driven to flee to Egypt).

Jeremiah 7

Jeremiah 7:22

Did God order sacrifices to the generation of the Exodus (Exodus-Deuteronomy) or not?

This verse cannot be taken to mean that the prophet Jeremiah claimed that the Israelites of the Exodus and later were commanded by God simply to obey instead of any commands about sacrifices and offerings. The prophet isn't saying that God didn't command sacrifices and offerings, but that God's emphasis even in the Exodus and Moses' time was for the Israelites primarily to obey Him, and that the meaning of sacrifices is lost without this fundamental understanding (see Deuteronomy 6:1-3, 20-25; although Deuteronomy 6:20-25 says that the commands are kept so that the Israelites live long and aren't destroyed, their ultimate meaning was to fear (respect) and worship God - Deuteronomy 6:3, also verses 6:4-9). It is inherently impossible for Jeremiah to seriously claim that God never commanded any sacrifices or offerings to the Israelites coming out of Egypt, especially since in Jeremiah 7:22 he more or less refers to Leviticus 26:12 which talks about keeping those very same commands (but for the purpose of obeying the Lord, as Jeremiah emphasizes). There would have been a lot more focus on proving God never commanded sacrifices than the simple claim that He didn't in 7:22 if this were really what Jeremiah was saying. Jeremiah was simply referring to various episodes of disobedience from the golden calf of Aaron to the current situation of the sins of Judah all of which were far more serious offenses than missed offerings, and that such similar offenses are what have started up God's anger with the Israelites again. The literary way that Jeremiah is expressing this is the same as 1 John 2:7-8 where in verse 7 John states that living like Jesus did (1 John 2:6) isn't a new command but an old one that has been given, and immediately in verse 8 he says that it's a "new" command, i.e. "renewed" by the author's exhortation. This literary expression is the same situation with Jeremiah 7:22. Ultimately, Jeremiah 7:22 is saying the same thing as Hosea 6:6 and there is no contradiction between here and the Mosaic Law.

Jeremiah 8

Jeremiah 8:8

Does Jeremiah admit the Bible has errors?

The sinful nation of Judah is again transgressing God's commands and in addition to that they think that they know everything (which doesn't excuse sinful behavior). But not only are they in the wrong, but many copies of their laws have forgeries! The people's confidence in having the Law here is much the same as John the Baptist's audience in Luke 3:7-9, except in Jeremiah's day, not only did the people not realize that having the law but not following it (Jeremiah 8:9) means nothing, but in many cases they didn't even really have the actual Law, but one that was tampered with by scribes! Now, we have to answer many (including atheists and muslims) who claim that this proves that the Bible was forged. The manuscript tradition of the Law by Jeremiah's day in the 7th century BC would certainly have been widespread enough so that the main manuscript evidence would have preserved the law as it really were. The problem is that for many of the sinful people in Judah, equally sinful scribes had tampered with the Law on which they relied (but don't follow). That was the situation in Jeremiah's day: false prophets comforted the kings and people (Jeremiah 37:1-2, 19) and the priests and these prophets partook in such things as tampering the law (whether written or oral - Jeremiah 18:18). Needless to say, Jeremiah 8:9 presumes that these people, had they been inclined towards righteousness, would not have had a problem with following God's commands as opposed to a tampered Law.

Jeremiah 8:17

The KJV has the verse as follows, For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD. Now a cockatrice was a legendary creature which was more or less a dragon with a rooster's head, hatched out of an egg. The problem is that the creature as a recognized monster didn't exist until about the twelfth century, long after the composition of Jeremiah. The basilisk became more or less synonymous with the cockatrice, but the fact is the Hebrew word translated by the KJV, tsepha' stands for a poisonous snake or viper/adder, and this is exactly what Jeremiah 8:17 has in mind. A 17th century translation of the Hebrew does not mean Jeremiah actually talked about a legendary snake-like creature.

Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:11

Jerusalem will be a den of dragons?

The dragon is hard to come by nowadays, especially a den of them! But the word translated here as dragon, tanniyn can mean many creatures such as the whale, dragon, sea/river monster, serpent, and so on. One of the meanings that has been given by lexicons and translators is jackal and this is likely what Jeremiah means, unless the author expected the people to believe him that Jerusalem would actually be inhabited by dragons. Seeing the broad range of meanings for tanniyn (and its related word tanniym in Ezekiel and elsewhere), the word "creature" was most likely meant. There is a similar situation in Old Bulgarian where the word for dragon and wolf/tiger is more or less the same ([i]Ver/Vereni[/i] - Bulgar Calendar; see also Imennik na bulgarskite hanove - novo talkuvane (ET - Namelist of the Bulgarian khans - a new interpretation), Mosko Moskov, 1988, § 80,70). Clearly, then, Jeremiah was referring to no dragon, but apparently Oriental and Asian peoples had a word that denoted the general idea of a monster/creature that was fearful, whether real (such as a wolf, tiger, whale, etc) or imaginary (dragon).

Jeremiah 17

Jeremiah 17:4

Does God's anger remain forever or not (Jeremiah 3:12)?

See Jeremiah 3:12.

Jeremiah 20

Jeremiah 20:7

Does God lie/deceive?

The Hebrew word here translated by the KJV as deceive, pathah, does not mean deceive in the immoral way but has the same sense as someone who is "led" in a certain situation, as in persuaded or tricked (but not in the immoral sense of the word). Jeremiah is complaining that the Lord "deceived" or "led" him into the life/situation he is in now: mocked and persecuted. Jeremiah is not faulting God with neither immoral deception nor even blaming God for having led him to this situation (knowing it is the Judeans' actions and fault that cause this) since in verses 20:11-13 Jeremiah praises God and rightfully attributes to Him righteousness and justice.

Jeremiah 22

Jeremiah 22:18-19

Did Jehoiakim die peacefully or in shame?

2 Kings 24:6 says he was buried peacefully with his fathers, 2 Chronicles 36:6 says he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar. This verse says he dies in Jerusalem and his body was thrown outside the city, unburied, like a dog.

The actual facts that we know are as follows: following a failed expedition against Egypt by the Babylonians in 601 BC, Jehoiakim makes a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar by refusing to pay the tribute. Nebuchadnezzar marches against Jerusalem and, as we know from Babylonian records, takes the city in the spring of 597 BC, deposing Jehoiachin, who's taken captive, and installing Zedekiah. It's clear Jehoiakim died inbetween all this, but how?

Jehoiakim was probably usurped by a coup that installed his son, Jehoiachin, because of Jehoiakim's rebellion, which spelled doom to some more reasonable people. This is probably why Jehoiakim was tossed over the walls, like Jezebel's defenestration: to appease the Babylonians. Similar political conundrums led to Sennacherib's assassination by his sons; their father's disrespect of Babylon and its deities whose temples he sacked caused major disruption throughout even Assyria.

The statement that he "rested with his fathers" (2 Ki 24:6) does not imply anything like a peaceful or dignified burial anymore than the same prediction for Josiah to be gathered to his fathers and die "in peace" (2 Ki 22:20a). Josiah died in battle and the text clearly states the basis for a "peaceful" death was that he wouldn't see Jerusalem destroyed in his lifetime (2 Ki 22:20b).

An usurpation by a pro-Babylonian party that installed Jehoiachin explains things well. News of the decision to invade Palestine would've reached long before the actual departure of troops in Kislev (=Dec.18 598 BC - Jan.15 597 BC). The Babylonian siege lasts less than 3 months unlike the 2 year siege in Zedekiah's day. Like the quick takeover of Babylon by Cyrus in 539 BC compared to the year and a half struggle Darius I had to face less than 20 years later by a revolt, after which he destroyed Babylon's walls - an action not done by Nebuchadnezzar in Jehoiachin's day but in Zedekiah's. This also explains why Jehoiachin was treated so kindly by Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Amel-Marduk (Jer. 52:31ff; 2 Ki 25:27ff), compared to Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar had to replace Jehoiachin because he was Jehoiakim's son and couldn't trust him: similarly to Necho replacing Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim (2 Ki 23:31, 34). Being replaced by a brother after the first revolts was not uncommon or considered unwise by the Mesopotamians. One of Nebuchadnezzar's own ancestors, Nabu-zer-kitti-lishir, revolted under Esarhaddon and was replaced by his brother. [Olmstead, A.T. “The Chaldaean Dynasty” Hebrew Union College Annual, vol. 2, 1925, p.30]

Jeremiah emphasizes the exile (Jer. 22:25ff.) and not a shameful or brutal death the way he does with his father (Jer. 22:18-19), which means that, contrary to Lippschits, it's not because Jeremiah 36:30 was a failed prophecy (Jehoiakim's son did reign for 3 months, and both Jer. 22:24 and 37:1 acknowledge this), thus spoken by Jeremiah historically.[Oded Lipschits. ""Jehoiakim Slept with his Fathers..." (II Kings 24:6) - Did He?" The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Vol.4 (2002), pp.1-33] It wouldn't take a prophet to foresee that a defiant Jehoiakim would be quickly crushed by the Babylonians and left without an heir. Simply put, Jehoiachin's reign was cut much earlier than otherwise (Jer. 22:24b), such as his successor Zedekiah's 11 years, which would've been longer without his own revolt.

This may be why the Bible condemns Jehoiachin only on moral grounds, nothing political mentioned unlike Jehoiakim, but we don't have enough information about his short reign. It's possible that upon hearing of the Babylonian decision to attack Palestine, Jehoiakim was overthrown, so perhaps Jehoiachin wasn't pro-Babylonian at all, but, as Jer. 22:25f. says, afraid of the consequences, being perhaps also young and inexperienced in war.

Why Jehoiachin would put up a siege instead of surrendering to the Babylonians the way Babylon surrendered to the Persians in 539 BC, and many cities to the Mongols, is a good question. The difference is Jerusalem opened hostilities and the Babylonians were out on a campaign specifically for it. In a quite similar situation, when the Mongols attacked the Jin city of Zhongdu (Beijing) in August 1213, the Chinese emperor was assassinated by a general who installed his nephew. This happened a month into the siege, which continued for some months until the Mongols withdrew in early 1214. A Chinese princess had been given to Genghis Khan and a large tribute. This Chinese general was himself assassinated within a month, so perhaps the pro-Babylonian appeasement party was not so strong. At any rate, Nebuchadnezzar would've had to attack Jerusalem to remove whatever king was there and install another as a show of power, much like Sennacherib continued with his attack even after Hezekiah paid him tribute. A rebellious city that restored allegiance did not have much assurance of being spared no matter how friendly it could be to the aggressor such as what happened at Moscow (1382) and Baghdad (1258) when the city let the invaders in after only a few days of being besieged. Similarly, the Babylonian army could not have been besieging Jerusalem for more than a month if they left Mesopotamia 3 months prior to deposing Jehoiachin. Siegfried H. Horn gives Necho's army a month to cover the 340 mile distance between Megiddo and Carchemish ["The Babylonian Chronicle and the Ancient Calendar of the Kingdom of Judah" Andrews University Seminary Studies 5.1 (1967), p.18], and the distance between Jerusalem and Babylon is four times that; the army was not leaving without loot! So Jehoiachin, no matter how pro-Babylonian he and his court may have been at that point, would've been afraid and made some kind of brief defense prior to discussing peace. So no messengers or tribute from Jehoiachin would've been enough. At any rate, the quick siege and the subsequent events make this the most plausible theory and this is in my opinion one way we could explain the Jehoiakim-Jehoiachin succession. At any rate, Jehoiachin did not put up much of a siege unlike Ashkelon in 604 BC (Year 1 of Babylonian Chronicle). This would explain why Jehoiachin was not only not killed, but treated well by Nebuchadnezzar in the Ration Tablets.

It could be as Siegfried H. Horn supposes, that Jehoiakim was killed in the skirmishes that preceded the actual invasion (2 Ki 24:2). This would mean there was no overthrow and Jehoiachin was simply not seen as an instigator or culprit responsible for the rebellion by the Babylonians. This would explain why in the Jehoiachin Ration Tablets he's given provisions since at least Nebuchadnezzar's 13th year. The Babylonian chronicles do mention a king removed, so Jehoiakim was not killed by them during/after the siege, and this would explain why there was a siege, but a very brief one where he surrendered the city.

Jehoiakim's death must've been, as mentioned, court murder and his body thrown from the wall perhaps to the besieging Babylonians to appease Nebuchadnezzar; maybe it was exhumed after an initial burial, though if that was a coup due to the advancing enemy, it's unlikely. Lipschits concedes Jehoiakim's death would be the only thing to appease, but proposes that he died of natural causes (at 36!) coincidentally shortly before the siege (!), and was peacefully buried in Jerusalem - the deuteronomistic history had a hard time explaining this in light of the condemnations against the king and simply omitted writing anything except that he "slept with his fathers", because at the time the information that he did not die a shameful, untimely death would've been known to be false (again, the Bible is early and close to reliable sources when it suits these critics). This led to later sources (Jeremiah 22:18-23, 2 Chronicles 36:6, Josephus) to interpret the death as they could.

The problems with this theory are so numerous. Circumstantial as the theory is, it's full of so many coincidences: Jehoiakim dies at 36 from natural causes shortly before the Babylonian attack. The ancient evidence, which certainly relies on multiple sources overall is ignored in favor of "historiographic" motivations, which Lipschitz admits 2 Kings couldn't really cover up anyway. It's obvious 2 Kings 24 rushes with its brief overview to get to the final destruction of Jerusalem. The passage on Jehoiakim refers to the historical sources (v.5 - not eyewitness memory) right after the supposed silence on his manner of death, which according to Lipschits would contradict him; so why refer the reader to it? Other writers cover up even obvious sources (e.g. Grote using Johann Gustav Groysen's terminology on ancient Greece without giving him credit; only mentions him when criticizing him).

Lipschits even says that the fate of Zedekiah and the other 3 was well-known to Chronicles and his readers several centuries later (probably true), so....what does he think Jeremiah decided to do? Invent/record failed prophecies everyone knew didn't happen? He rightfully disregards the Lucian version where Chronicles says Jehoiakim was buried in the garden of Uzza as a later addition from the parallels for Manasseh and Amon (2 Ki 21:16, 26), expanding on 2 Ki 24:6. 2 Chr. 36:6 says that Jehoiachin was bound to be sent to Babylon, but apparently never reached it, which Jehoiachin did (2 Chr. 36:10). Verse 36:6 probably refers to the first attack on Jerusalem, which Lipschits places some time in the second half of 604 BC as a follow up by Nebuchadnezzar on Carchemish through Palestine and to Egypt. Jehoiakim became a vassal (2 Ki 24:1), and Chronicles possibly uses an expression that he was bound to be exiled. 2 Chr. 36 rushes through the narrative and v.6 is an expression regarding the post-Carchemish attack anyway.

The theory is even less plausible when one realizes that according to Lipschits of the last four kings of Judah, Jehoiakim is specifically singled out as the link between Manasseh's crimes and Judah's fall (e.g. 2 Ki 24:2-4, 19). This only makes one wonder why the author of Kings or Jeremiah would slap this onto Jehoiakim of all of them, rather than Zedekiah who both made the final doomed revolt and without question was brutally dealt with. The fact is that Jehoiakim is the first wicked king to have a long reign after Manasseh, and the brevity of Jehoiachin's reign is also why Zedekiah is compared to Jehoiakim; not because Jehoiakim in particular was so wicked. The closing formula is the same for Jehoiakim vs the other 3 because he didn't die on foreign soil or live to see Jerusalem destroyed (2 Ki 22:20).

This leads Lipschits to make the unsubstantiated and strange claim that the author of Kings had a problem that Jehoiakim was the only one who didn't die in exile on foreign soil. Something so specific would hardly be necessary; a brutal death like that described in Jeremiah would have been enough, but obviously Jehoiakim was not that big of a target for the author, he simply was one of the longer reigned kings before the destruction.

The bottom line is that Jehoiakim was probably killed out of fear by pro-Babylonian intrigue and tossed over the walls for the Babylonians to see his corpse to appease Nebuchadnezzar. And he was left out in the open for dead - the burial of a donkey, like the decomposed donkey skeleton found by Samson whose jaw he used as a weapon (Judges 15:15).

Did Jehoiakim die "outside Jerusalem" or in Babylon?

See Jeremiah 22:18-19 above.

Jeremiah 25

Jeremiah 25:27

Does God tell others to get drunk here?

God is not telling, teaching, endorsing, nor commanding anyone to get drunk. He is simply telling Judah that their end with these actions are coming while they are getting drunk (and other sins). It's the same as when for example someone wants to cross a major street on red and if a friend hears him tells him, "Go, go, and get killed! Don't do that anymore, just wait for green, it's not that hard."

Jeremiah 27

Jeremiah 27:6,8,20

Is Nebuchadnezzar's name misspelled (original is Nebuchadrezzar)?

In Hebrew the "r" often became an "n" and vice versa as did other letters. See for example Genesis 46:10 vs Numbers 26:12 for Jemuel aka Nemuel (one of Simeon's sons) and Genesis 46:10 vs 1 Chronicles 4:24 for Jachin vs. Jarib, another of Simeon's sons. Transliteration was a common ancient practice (most notably between Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic) and there's no question of error just because a different culture called someone else by a different variation of their name (i.e. Tiglath-Pileser III = Pul in Assyrian).

Jeremiah 36

Jeremiah 36:30

Did Jehoiakim have descendants reign or not?

While Jehoiakim is cursed here, 2 Kings 24:6 notes his son, Jehoiachin reigned 3 months (and 10 days) in Jerusalem. However, we have to note that the point of the prophecy is that his line reigning would end more or less with him (Jehoiakim) and although his son ruled for three months and 10 days, to call that ruling is very tentative since his record is only beat by Shallum's month and the 7 days of Zimri and matched by Jehoahaz. The ancient near eastern expression allowed for something like this as long as the point was driven home, and this is exactly what the point was: his son had an almost nonexistent reign and none of his descendants ever sat on the throne again.

Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah 42:15-18

Does this say no Jew would ever live in Egypt and is this injust?

Many of the sinful population of Judah thought or would come to think (after Nebuchadnezzar's invasion) that they would escape to Egypt. This was simply God's warning that His wrath won't be escaped by them. This is not injust, since God is punishing them rightfully for their sins. This doesn't say that no Jew would ever go to live in Egypt but none from amongst the Jews spoken of by Jeremiah in his generation. (Jeremiah 42:19-22, especially verse 22)

Jeremiah 49

Jeremiah 49:33

Were there dragons in Hazor?

See Jeremiah 9:11.

Jeremiah 52

Jeremiah 52:12

Date of Jerusalem destruction?

One would be excused for thinking this question was settled. But there is an even split among scholars whether Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 or 586 BC. The problem is that there were several different ways of reckoning the regnal years of a king. In Babylon, a king's year started on Nisan 1 following whatever day he came to the throne. The time between that was counted to the previous king's years. This is less likely to produce errors when counting the years of a dynasty or else you would get overlaps.

In Judah, this is a debated question, but the civil calendar that began in the Fall (Tishri) was probably an accession calendar. [Horn, Siegfried H.. "The Babylonian Chronicle and the Ancient Calendar of the Kingdom of Judah." Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 5.1 (1967): 12-27] Yet the internal evidence in 2 Kings and Jeremiah makes this inconsistent in two places: Jer. 52:28-30 and Jer. 46:2. The first of these is clearly a different reckoning because Jeremiah considered the destruction of Jerusalem to be in Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year, which he equated with Zedekiah's 11th (Jer. 32:1, 52:1, 12). So Jer. 52:28-30 is clearly the Babylonian Nisan accession reckoning, because the first siege of Jerusalem was in Nebuchadnezzar's 7th year counted this way, but the Tishri accession 8th (2 Ki 24:12). All of this points to 586 BC. However, the 18th Nisan accession year makes the destruction in 587. Unless someone added "official" years to Jeremiah 52 and counted down by 1 for both 8th and 19th, luckily being right in the first, but mistaken in the second, these verse don't support 586 BC.

On the other hand, if one assumes Tishri non-accession years, then everything matches 587 BC except for Jer. 25:1, 3 and the fact that Jehoiakim reigns 11 years indisputably in the sources. The 23 year count in Jer. 25:3 isn't a big problem: one can assume Jeremiah started preaching early in Josiah's 13th year, and that it was late in Jehoiakim's 4th, which would make it over 22 and a half years which he rounded to 23. But there is no possible way Jehoiakim died in his 11th year with Tishri non-accession because the Babylonian Chronicle has him installed in 609 BC, and his death in December 598 BC, which would be in his 12th year.

Finally, a Spring accession reckoning in Jeremiah and 2 Kings 24-5 contradicts because Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year is consistently equated with Zedekiah's 11th (Jer. 32:1, 52:1, 12; 2 Ki 25:2, 8) and also has a problem with Jer. 25:1 and 52:29.

So looking at the above, let's see the two Fall Calendar possibilities:

  1. Tishri Non-Accession Calendar (587 BC) needs to assume:
    • Jer. 25:3 was rounding 22+ years (reasonable)
    • Jer. 25:1 is a postscript added later by erroneous calculations (possible)
    • Judah changed from a Tishri accession calendar to non-accession for some reason by Zedekiah's reign (implausible)

  2. Tishri Accession Calendar (586 BC) needs to assume:
    • Jer. 46:2 refers not to the date of Carchemish, but when the prophecy is given (shaky esp with the in this case irrelevant mention of Carchemish, but possible)
    • Jer. 52:28-30 is either:
      • a pre-invasion raid (possible, but shaky)
      • a later addition that incorrectly subtracted 1 from the Judean reckoning of Nebuchadnezzar's 19th Year (possible)

To me, the second is much simpler explanation. Of course, there could've been multiple calendars used when Jeremiah's oracles were collected, thus explaining the postscripts. Different counting methods exist in at least one place, Jeremiah 52, so this is not implausible. In reality, because there are so many possible combinations (more than above if one maintains different calendars in the sources behind Jeremiah and 2 Kings), no consensus would ever be reached until Babylonian campaign records are found, which are missing for the years 593-557.

On what day did Nebuchadnezzar come to Jerusalem: the seventh (2 Kings 25:8) or the tenth?

The ancient rabbis knew of this difference of the day of Nebuchadnezzar's arrival. Their opinion was that Nebuchadnezzar came on the seventh day when he lit the important buildings of Jerusalem on fire (Jeremiah 52:13, 2 Kings 25:9) which burned for three days until the tenth day. However, this is unlikely. For one, the account in 2 Kings 25 is based on Jeremiah - the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles in many places are verbatim copies of the prophets' writings who wrote history which is how the historical books were compiled. Therefore, a copyist error is likely.

Jeremiah 52:22

Were the bronze capitals five cubits or three cubits high (2 Kings 25:17)?

Since the account in 2 Kings 25 is based on Jeremiah 52 (see Jeremiah 52:12), there was undoubtedly a copyist error.

Jeremiah 52:25

Did Nebuzaradan take five (2 Kings 25:19) or seven royal advisers?

Since the account in 2 Kings 25 is based on Jeremiah 52 (see Jeremiah 52:12), there was undoubtedly a copyist error.


Ezekiel 1

Ezekiel 1:27

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Ezekiel 4

Ezekiel 4:12

How can this disgusting command be given?

The command to Ezekiel (later revoked on his request - Ezekiel 4:14-15) to use human excrement as fuel is not "gross" but is simply a method that one could use fuel which God wanted to use as a symbol of Israel's future (of eating defiled food, Ezekiel 4:13). Ezekiel was overall supposed to symbolize many of the afflictions that would be visited on the Israelites due to their sins (4:1-11, 16-17, 5:1-17, etc) and Ezekiel using human excrement for fuel was simply one such symbol, it was not a "gross" command of God.

Ezekiel 14

Ezekiel 14:9-10

Why would God deceive his prophets and why would he punish them and the Israelites inquiring of a prophecy from the one true God?

The word usually translated as "deceive" (pathah) has the sense of "delude", that is the prophet has been deluded and his prophecy isn't real/true. This isn't a lie by God, it is simply a delusion induced by God on the prophet. Now, why would God do this? The key is in verses 14:1-8: many of the Israelites have become idolaters (again) and in times of deep trouble they come running back to God and his priests and prophets (14:3). God doesn't want this kind of worship and undoubtedly this is why He doesn't want prophecies given in this way. However, should a prophet give one outside of God's permission (i.e. when the idolater has run to him), the guilt for disobeying God is just as much his as is the inquirer, and they certainly would have wanted. The prophets spoken of in verses 14:9-10 are ones who went to prophesy outside of God's permission. As Adam Clarke notes,
"I the Lord have deceived that prophet" - That is, he ran before he was sent; he willingly became the servant of Satan's illusions; and I suffered this to take place, because he and his followers refused to consult and serve me. I have often had occasion to remark that it is common in the Hebrew language to state a thing as done by the Lord which he only suffers or permits to be done; for so absolute and universal is the government of God, that the smallest occurrence cannot take place without his will or permission.
And a permission of this deception to occur is not necessarily endorsement, similarly to how giving permission for someone to act unkind simply reflects being humble, though we are arguing that the word simply means (a sinless) delusion sent by God on the disobedient prophet.

Ezekiel 20

Ezekiel 20:35

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Ezekiel 39

Ezekiel 39:10

Does God order theft/plunder?

This isn't really a command by God, but more of a prophecy/prediction of what will happen. If it's asked why God would allow this (or make events that lead up to this), it can be easily replied that someone's actions are always their own decision regardless of what other actions preceded and influenced them: in other words, you can't blame a jewelry store robbery on the jewelry store for having jewelry there in the first place!


Daniel 1

Daniel 1:1

Chronological error?

The two sieges of Jerusalem were in 597 and 587/6 BC, both after Jehoiakim's death. So how are Daniel and his friends captured in Jehoiakim's 3rd year?

This probably refers to Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Palestine immediately following Carchemish (April/May, 605 BC). [Siegfried H. Horn, "The Babylonian Chronicle and the Ancient Calendar of the Kingdom of Judah" Andrews University Seminary Studies 5.1 (1967), p.20] The Babylonian Chronicles say that he "conquered the whole area of the Hatti-country" (=Palestine). [ibid.] 2 Kings 24:1a notes that Jehoiakim was attacked prior to the 597 BC siege. However, there was no siege of Jerusalem before 604 BC when Nebuchadnezzar left for a campaign in the Levant in the spring. 604 BC would make it Jehoiakim's 4th or 5th year by a Tishri accession which is the only one that works with Daniel 1:1 to have Nebuchadnezzar on the scene.

Perhaps some skirmishes occurred prior to actual attacks (compare 2 Ki 24:2), which Nebuchadnezzar resumed and Daniel 1:1 is just mentioning those as the beginning which led up to the later attack (and eventual siege) - in which case Daniel was taken either in the 604 BC attacks or 597 BC siege. That Nebuchadnezzar had control of the Levant following Carchemish is shown by 2 Ki 24:7. [Eph'al, Israel. “Nebuchadnezzar the Warrior: Remarks on His Military Achievements.” Israel Exploration Journal 53, no. 2 (2003): 179] When he departed for Babylon to be crowned, most of his army probably did not return with him. [ibid., 180] If the Philistines along with Phoenicia were taken, then perhaps there was some kind of action against Judah that could've produced prisoners. [Olmstead, A. T. “The Chaldaean Dynasty” Hebrew Union College Annual 2 (1925): 34 - though he dates Nebuchadnezzar's accession to 604 BC (p.35), he intends his accession year]

Another possibility is that Daniel is describing the 597 BC attack but dates Jehoiakim's reign in a different way. Perhaps he meant in the third year of Jehoiakim's revolt, which is chronologically possible since he probably revolted some time after the failed Babylonian attack on Egypt in Kislev (~December) 601 BC. [ibid., 180] This would make the siege in early 597 BC be three years later.

This implies that Daniel 1:1 refers to after Carchemish. Jer. 46:2, however, dates it to the 4th year of Jehoiakim. But Jeremiah, at least in this part, is apparently using Spring Accession reckoning, because Jehoiakim became king in Tishri 609 BC. The Jewish civil calendar at this time used Tishri Accession dating [ibid., pp.21ff], and this agrees with April/May 605 BC being in Jehoiakim's 3rd year, whose accession year would be from his installation in 609 BC until the Fall of 608 BC when his first year would've started.

Daniel 5

Daniel 5:2, 11, 13, 18

Who was Belshazzar's father?

Belshazzar's father was Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar. It's presumed that Nabonidus married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Monarchs frequently did this for legitimacy (e.g. Neriglissar, an usurper, married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar; Darius married Atossa, daughter of Cyrus). But if Nabonidus did this after his coup, this couldn't be Belshazzar's mother because he was grown by then. He's Nabonidus' eldest as the Nabonidus Cylinder from Ur tells us. Belshazzar participated in the 556 BC coup that installed his father, and was at least 20, probably closer to 25, which means he was born c.575-580 BC at the latest. Nabonidus may have been influential enough earlier to marry a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. He refers to his father as a "prince," "wise counsellor" etc, and his mother claims to have had influence over Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, and Neriglissar, which may be an exaggeration, but the cumulative evidence suggests Nabonidus had a fairly important status prior to becoming king; especially if he was able to be installed so stably despite his 10 year absence at Tayma (552-543/2 BC) in Arabia. This means there's a good chance Belshazzar's mother, and the queen mentioned in Daniel 5:10, is a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar is a blood descendant of his. But that's irrelevant.

One didn't need to be a direct son: Ecclesiasticus 48:25 calls David the father of Hezekiah, though well aware the two were separated by centuries. Nebuchadnezzar was the most renowned king of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty. There would have been no problem referring to him as Belshazzar's father any more than Josephus calls Agrippa I a "king, the son of a king" (Ant. 18.7.1), intending Herod the Great, whereas Josephus was well aware and mentions in the same passage that Agrippa was his grandson and his father, Aristobulus IV, was never king. Elsewhere, Josephus of his own accord calls Claudius "father of Vespasian" out of honor for Vespasian's military victories [War III 1:2], whereas the two are unrelated and separated by several emperors at the time he wrote. Second century BC texts, as Daniel is presumed to be, were very well aware of Nabonidus and were quite accurate about a lot of his life (e.g. the exile at Tayma), such as The Testament of Nabonidus (150 BC). It may be noted that Belshazzar had stationed himself at Sippar in 546 BC out of fear of Cyrus, but was not there in 539 BC. So the writing on the wall would've accurately made his knees shake from fear, knowing that Babylon and its walls were all that stood between him and the Persians after the disasterous Battle of Opis. Daniel's response in the face of the king's son reflects the impending doom all were wary of. Xenophon's fictionalized account has Belshazzar be cruel and his impiety by drinking from the sacred vessels is stated in Dan. 5:3-4. But unlike later sources, he's not depicted as cruel and the sacrilege, if conscious or appreciative of the magnitude, is described as the result of intoxication (Dan. 5:2a). So there's no invective either stated or portrayed by a story of cruelty like with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel rejects his offers, perhaps knowing they're meaningless with the end so near. He has an attitude of coolness he retains toward later monarchs; perhaps having your friends thrown in a furnace and you yourself in a lion's den can engender that.

The feast would've happened despite the impending attack since the Babylonians were prepared with provisions for several years according to Herodotus. If anything, as Herodotus' narrative goes, a festival would've been the best time for an attack - much like Washington's New Year's attack on the (drunk) Hessians. That Babylon must've fallen by some kind of trick like David's taking of Jerusalem, or the fall of Antioch in the First Crusade is supported not only by Herodotus (I.190-1), but by how quickly it was taken. The last tablet of Nabonidus dates to October 12 in Uruk, whereas Cyrus entered the city on October 30, with Gubaru having had control of it earlier. Also Opis was fought in September. For the city to fall that quickly, there couldn't have been a siege, or it would've lasted over a year as in its revolt against Darius. The fact that Babylon could revolt twice only 15 years later and hold out for over a year (taken again only by subterfuge) shows that there couldn't have been much of a bloody takeover in 539: obviously some fighting, but nothing like the Fall of Jerusalem, whose burned remains could still be found over 100 years later by Nehemiah.

Belshazzar's fate is unknown, but he would've been mentioned if killed or captured in battle. Only his father's fate is related, so it's unlikely he was exiled to Carmania like him. If he had died at Opis, the enemy would've known of it by his armor and entourage (cf. 2 Chron. 18:29-32). Most likely he died at Babylon, where amidst the chaos, he would've been unrecognized among the numerous other dead nobles. A near equally mysterious end is Constantine XI's fate at the fall of Constantinople. Unlike him, however, Belshazzar is unlikely to have potentially escaped Babylon - he would've raised a new revolt, etc. His position merely as crown prince would've made him less notable than the king to be killed (compare 2 Kings 25:4-7), but not to the point of unmentioned (e.g. Jehoiachin and his five sons in the ration tablets). For Belshazzar, the ignomy is also perhaps due to his father's return: Daniel was his appointee, so for him he was the central figure of authority, yet the highest position he could get is third, not second, in the kingdom (Dan. 5:7,16,29; compare Mordecai in Esther 10:3). A slightly more marginalized Belshazzar is less relevant at Babylon than as a commander at Opis. Very few commanders were killed or captured in battle because they could easily escape with their superior in equipment and training guard. Even when encircled they could break out, like Kitbuqa could've at Ain Jalut, instead preferring to fight to the end in the Mongol martial tradition, gaining him the respect of even his Mamluk enemies. Or how Ahab can simply leave the battle with his chariot - 2 Chron. 18:33-34. A king or commander had to willingly not avoid danger, such as Richard III's all or nothing charge, or the Roman devotio where the commander was prepared to die for victory. Most captured nobles were ransomed. Hence killing one's horse signified no way out. Even the common cavalryman could outrun the enemy in many situations as one Roman wrote, who would not take the horse of a wounded countryman and pull him off? (Rom. 5:7)

The problem in Daniel 5 may be that Belshazzar acts and is described as a regent, even though at this point (539 BC as Babylon gets taken that night), Nabonidus had returned and had relieved all officials appointed by Belshazzar. But Belshazzar retained the title of crown prince, so like all royal members, he could've thrown the lavish party in Daniel 5, and promised the gifts and honors of third highest in the kingdom with his influence and the importance of his needs. The Persian Verse Account of Nabonidus, tells us that Nabonidus “started out for a long journey”, and “entrusted the kingship” to “his oldest, the firstborn." [Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement (1969), p.313] The Nabonidus Chronicle says the "crown prince" Belshazzar was entrusted with all affairs at Babylon [ibid., p.306] and that Nabonidus wasn't at Babylon when it fell. For Daniel and his readers, he was as good as king (cf. Matt. 14:1, 9 - tetrarch and informally, king).

Daniel 6

Daniel 6:28

Who is Darius the Mede?

Darius the Mede was most likely another name for Cyrus the Great used by Daniel, perhaps for his accession year. See the article: Who is Darius the Mede?.

Daniel 9

Daniel 9:1

Who is Darius the Mede?

Darius the Mede was most likely another name for Cyrus the Great used by Daniel, perhaps for his accession year. See the article: Who is Darius the Mede?.


Hosea 1

Hosea 1:2

How could Hosea be told by God to marry a prostitute?

Ancient Jewish writings were also bothered by this, and tried to explain it as a metaphor for Israel's relationship with God - which is what it was - except without an actual marriage by the prophet; except the makes it obvious Hosea did marry. Hosea wasn't told to marry the prostitute because of her lewdness or immorality (Hosea 3:3). A marriage to a woman who is a prostitute in order for her not to commit those sins is nothing wrong and that's what God had symbolically done with Israel, which continuously committed sins and "prostituted" herself to idols. And when Hosea's wife left him, the image of Israel's similar actions was complete. This is why Jesus says he ate and drank with "publicans, sinners, and prostitutes".

Hosea 1:4

Why is Jehu condemned by Hosea for something God predicted and praises him for in 2 Kings 10:30?

The result of Jehu's actions was praised. God ordained a disaster upon a big source of sin for the Israelites - the house of Ahab. It is true that the prophet Elisha gave him the instruction to do this (1 Ki 9), but Jehu could have had dual reasons with an impure conscience for carrying out such a massacre. The same idea is found in Jeremiah 43:10 where Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon's selfish and brutal actions of conquest, condemned on a personal level elsewhere, are praised. In Jer. 25:8-12 Babylon is used as an instrument and then itself condemned. The commander of Sennacherib even claims a direct revelation from God in his attack on Jerusalem (2 Ki 18:25; similarly Necho in 2 Chron. 35:21).

The opposite is also found: Saul goes against Samuel's commands for practical reasons and is condemned (1 Sam. 15). Cyrus is praised as God's servant even though he probably restored the Israelites for public relations as he had with the Babylonians. To praise Jehu for fulfilling a prophecy, even if he wilfully did it because of said prophecy (but with corrupt inner motivations), is like praising Judas for fulfilling the same about Jesus, who was himself also directly told of it (John 13:26 - regardless of whether Judas understood that Jesus was onto him or not).

But with respect to Jehu, he was just carrying out a selfish, murderous campaign that happened to correspond with God's will for different reasons. He certainly goes too far by exterminating not only the descendants of the House of Ahab, but also his "chief men", close friends, and close priests (2 Ki 10:9-11). This was a typical action of any usurper/dictator who wanted to stay in power, ancient or modern: for example the Abbasids exterminated dozens of Umayyad descendants and only one escaped to found the Cordoban Emirate. Jehu was probably very popular and ambitious: he seems to have authority and no qualms over telling the king's servants about Elisha's proclammation of his kingship, and these readily acknowledge him right away (2 Ki 9:11-13). Compare with how secret Samuel had to be when going to anoint David (1 Sam. 16:2-3).

The phrase, "leaving him no survivor" (2 Kings 10:11, NIV), is applied to the chief men, close friends, and priests associated with Ahab's house not surviving, not that they were all "of his house" (which is certainly not what God's prophecy entailed seeing that Jehu only wants to execute the 70 sons/descendants in 2 Kings 10:1-8 and leaves the guardians and the others alone - 2 Kings 10:5-6).

Alternative opinions include that of Adam Clarke who writes that the "blood of Jezreel" Jehu's house was going to be punished for was not the destruction of Ahab's house, but because of Jehu's "acts of cruelty while he resided at Jezreel...where the kings of Israel had a palace" (1 Kings 21:1). This however isn't very likely because Jehu resided in Samaria (2 Kings 10:35-36). Moreover, the prophet Hosea clearly refers to the major event that could be identified with "the blood of Jezreel": the slaughter of Ahab's house. This is also why we can't really have Hosea condemn Jehu's house for any other singular unknown errors that may have occurred in or around Jezreel, and should focus entirely on the account in 2 Kings 9-10.

There's also the suggestion that the word in Hosea 1:4, paqad, usually translated as "revenge/punish" isn't the usual word used by Hosea, such as naqam. The whole book of Hosea is a condemnation of Israel's sin, and the wiping out of Ahab's house in Jezreel was a major example of this. The word paqad in its more universal use can be roughly understood as oversee/muster/call up or in a better sense, apply - that is, the blood of Jezreel will be applied to the house of Jehu for their sins (2 Ki 10:31-33). When all of chapter 1 is seen, it says there will be punishment for Israel's sins, and Hosea 1:11 implies that Israel as a whole is being punished for their sins in a way that will be much like what happened at Jezreel. Given Hosea 1:2-5 and its tone of punishment for the sins of Israel (unrelated to the destruction of Ahab's house), it seems apt to see Hosea 1:4 as using the example of Ahab's line at Jezreel as to what will happen to Jehu's house (and Israel - Hosea 1:11), due to sins (but those sins don't include the wiping out of Ahab's house by Jehu), as opposed to seeing a condemnation by Hosea of Jehu's destruction of Ahab's house. Possibly why most translations translate Hos. 1:4 as "punish" is because paqad, depending on the context, can indicate both good and bad, so since the context is negative, the idea of "vengeance" is perhaps seen by most translators as an easier option than the perhaps more contextual verb "apply".


Joel 2

Joel 2:32

Will all who call on the name of the Lord be saved or not (Matthew 7:21)?

The problem with seeing a contradiction between this verse and Matthew 7:21 is that the sense in which Joel 2:32 talks about "calling on the name of the Lord" implies the very thing that is deficient in Matthew 7:21. The sense that Jesus talks about when he refers to those "calling Jesus Lord" is that they do so without real faith and works of God. The phrase in Joel means the opposite in the sense the prophet uses it - those who call on the name of the Lord there obviously have faith as opposed to those who are destroyed (Joel 2:28-32). Much like the Hebrew word for faith, amunah, which implied faith that produced righteous works, "calling on the name of the Lord" is different from the literal calling of His name. This is the same meaning that Paul assigns to the phrase in Romans 10:13 (also Acts 2:21), and the same sense that Jesus refers to in Matthew 7:21 is used in Micah 3:4.

Joel 3

Joel 3:17

Does God dwell in Heaven (Psalm 123:1) or on Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple?

When the Bible talks about God's dwelling on Zion, or in Jerusalem/the Temple, this isn't a literal presence, but that God is with Israel. This point was made by Paul (Acts 7:48-50, 17:24). As Saint Thomas Aquinas notes, in many cases Scripture uses words that describe actions or emotions by God so that his will and intent could be understood by us, and not that literal definition is meant. Ultimately, God dwells in Heaven (Psalm 123:1, Isaiah 66:1-2).

Joel 3:21

Does God dwellin Heaven (Psalm 123:1) or on Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple?

See Joel 3:17.


Amos 7

Amos 7:7

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

Amos 7:11

Did Jeroboam die by the sword (Amos 7:11) or peacefully, sleeping with his fathers (2 Kings 14:29)?

The Hebrew word shakab in 2 Kings 14:29 does not necessitate a peaceful death seeing the death of Ahab is described with the same word in 1 Kings 22:40, yet Ahab certainly didn't die a peaceful death (1 Kings 22:29-38). In any case, the account in 2 Kings 14:29 for the most part focuses on Jeroboam's positive achievements (which might explain any reference to a violent death willed by God, predicted by prophets) and isn't an exhaustive account of his life and death, as 2 Kings 14:28 indicates.

Amos 7:14-17

How does the prophecy for Amaziah's fate here add up with king Amaziah's death and such in 2 Kings 14:19 and other places that conflict with this prophecy?

This Amaziah was a priest at Bethel (Amos 7:10), not the king. Uzziah was reigning when Amos began prophesying (Amos 1:1), and even if one wants to say that king Amaziah was still alive (Uzziah and Amaziah were coregents for some time), hardly would the king have had time or been able to be both king and a priest at Bethel.

Amos 9

1. I saw the Lord standing by the altar...

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.


Jonah 1

Jonah 1:17

Is a whale a fish?

Here Jonah is twice described as having been swallowed by a fish (Hebrew: dag). In Matthew 12:40 Jesus says he was swallowed by a whale (Greek: Cetus). Is the Bible (or Jesus) mistaken in calling the whale a fish?

We know Jonah 1:17 presupposes a "fish" large enough that it's most likely a whale. But this doesn't have to be an error because nowhere does the story indicate that it considers mammals to be fish, or that it doesn't consider the whale to be a mammal. A story typically doesn't have its focus on irrelevant minutae such as "was it a whale or a (big, non-mammal) fish?" Ancient people didn't see the whale as anything but a big fish and the Bible has no reason to insist on a distinction as if it's an error otherwise.

This convenience is seen by the fact that by the 18th century Linnaeus had understood that whales were mammals and not fish, yet some continued to call it a fish well into the 19th century (e.g. Herman Melville in Moby Dick (1851) - perhaps for the sake of the story and the rather "crude" Captain Ahab, which would still support the point that it's a colloquial expression). The mammalian order to which whales belong, Cetacea, has 84 species of totally aquatic animals. All are technically whales, including dolphins, but it's used for only 9 of these [Valencic & Valencic, The Complete...Whale Watchers Guide (1975), p.11]. So if a dolphin is technically a whale, would you be wrong to distinguish it from one if you wrote a story because none of your audience thinks of them as such? Of course not, and it's not "everyone makes this mistake so it's ok," or truth by majority vote kind of logic, but simply the fact that you aren't dealing with technical definitions. Even a science book would be justified in making this distinction. The issue is fully elucidated by the fact that the authors, for example, say regarding the Pacific Pilot Whale that, "A pilot whale is actually a 20 foot dolphin." [ibid., p.33].

Similarly, ancient Israelites or any group of people did not seek anatomical differences or taxonomical classifications which were created later by biology to classify life forms. The Bible simply wants to point out the context, such as for example where Leviticus 11:20-23 talks about "all flying insects that walk on all fours...", whereas the author certainly knew that insects had more than 4 legs (though some of the insects mentioned may not have appeared for extended periods of time, surely the literate author knew of crickets and grasshoppers [Lev. 11:22]). For the author of Leviticus, "on all fours" was an expression which simply contrasted animals that weren't birds or fish. In the same way, "fish" in Jonah 1:17 is an expression which simply wants to describe a creature that lives in the sea.

The suggestion that the Greek word kitos was diverse enough to mean many aquatic creatures besides the whale doesn't really explain how this huge "creature" swallows Jonah if it isn't a whale in my opinion.

The identity of the whale has often quite correctly been supposed to be the sperm whale, which along with the fin-backed whale can be seen in the Mediterranean Sea. Whaling has a long history with this whale for this reason - its numerous encounters with ships; many whalers would carve intricate scenes on sperm whale teeth for example (p.35).

Although a sperm whale has 18 to 28 teeth which can grow up to 8 inches long (Valencic, p.17), it eats its prey with a single gulp (p.35). It feeds primarily on octopus and squid, but it can also eat shark and other fish (p.35), so Jonah could have easily been swallowed unharmed. Two comparable modern cases exist: Michael Packard and Rainer Schimpf. Humpback whales in their case, both were in the whale's mouth for only 30 seconds, with Packard perhaps a bit deeper in the mouth, but even this short length of time shows it's not impossible to get lodged in the mouth and not go in the gut. Both men were in their 50's and neither had broken bones - Packard had soft tissue damage, but Schimpf was perfectly fine.

Sperm whales are known to be aggressive and sometimes attack ships without provocation. Since Jonah was swallowed soon after his fellow travellers' extremely logical solution, presumably this whale was near the surface, or he would've drowned as few people knew how to swim in the pre-modern era anyway. One can wonder if it had any role in the crew's fears and proceedings. Perhaps someone saw the creature and decided to use Jonah as bait to distract it from assaulting the ship, just like whalers who hunt it would do by throwing a wooden barrel overboard to hopefully divert its attack. But had that been the case, Jonah would've probably been torn to pieces (p.35). The whale's presence near the ship is comparable to both Packard and Schimpf who were near a lot of fish, which the whales would eat. Orcas are known for following naval ships and occasionally feeding on the birds that also accompany the vessels.

Jonah's prayer in Jonah 2:5-6 tells us he was quite deep in the water and that he was basically blacking out from near-drowning (v.7). Verse 3 doesn't have to mean he was somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, since even a few miles would give that impression to a man drowning to the "root of the mountains". Sperm whales are known for their quick and deep dives (ibid., p.15) and toothed whales normally penetrate the deeper depths, to 3000 feet, searching for food (p.17). Obviously Jonah would've been long drowned by even a tenth of that depth, so possibly a smaller one was there, or perhaps he was merely sinking and one picked him up on its quick way up. Sperm whales don't suffer from the bends, so a very quick resurface could've happened. One could've easily picked him up and surfaced for air, for up to several hours. Both Packard and Schimpf had their whale resurface quickly and shake its head to spit them out. Schimpf notes that he expected it to dive deeply so he held his breath.

The question of Jonah's survival in the whale's "belly" naturally comes up. It's tempting and typical to ascribe it to a miracle, which although unmentioned by Jonah (or elsewhere), could easily be implied (much like how the Ninevites, including their king, would turn to sackloth if Jonah were merely preaching without miracles that must've been there but aren't narrated).

Yet I feel it's possible for Jonah, unlikely as it is, to have survived in the whale for three days - perhaps a little over an actual day with Jewish inclusive reckoning (the evening and morning counted as a day like in Jesus' death - Friday evening to Sunday morning was about a day and a half). He wouldn't have been swallowed all the way to the digestive tract, because aside from the digestive juices which would've killed and drowned him, he would've been vomited/excreted (!) as ambergris, and possibly floated around for a while if he even survived in it. Since the esophagus isn't that big, possibly he could've been lodged like Schimpf somewhere in the mouth. Something as large as a human could easily get jammed in the mouth (esp of the larger-sized male, who'd be big enough to gulp Jonah). The ancient Israelites were not tall (frequent mentions of giants and giant fruits when they enter Canaan), and sandals at Qumran confirm a height of about 5'1" (155cm). Saul, the tallest Israelite, was still no match for Goliath (whose height is exaggerated). This would keep the whale near the surface as in Schimpf and Packard's cases, so Jonah could've had access to air.

Although a sperm whale's dive can last up to 90 minutes, whales normally stay underwater 4 to 7 minutes between breaths (for each minute, one two-three second breath is taken, so 4-7 min underwater: 8-21 seconds breathing above water). Japanese and Korean women pearl divers have learned to dive to 100 feet and spend up to 3 minutes underwater (p.15). But they spend hours doing this every day, for years, and Jonah's experience here is hardly something that happened to him annually. But when going at high speeds, especially when frightened, whales resurface more often. Since a young sperm whale would consume around 1/5 of a ton of plankton per day (a large one can consume a ton - p.35), maybe even only 1/10 if it was frightened. The baleen of the whales feeds them when food is low, so at worst, Jonah would've had to hold his breath through some water every now and then. For every pound of plankton, a whale needs to filter a million gallons of water, so a tenth of a ton would be 200 million gallons. Spread over 24 hours, this is around 8 million gallons of water Jonah would have to hold his breath through every hour, or about 130,000 gallons every minute. This is 1/4 of an Olympic sized pool going through the whale's mouth and Jonah every minute, which is quite survivable for it to filter through the whale while it's taking breaths. Of course, the whale doesn't have to constantly eat, one that was perhaps frightened by what couldn't get unstuck from its mouth (which wouldn't cause it to dive deeper and longer, because of the aforementioned need to resurface more for air when frightened).

After some time, the amount of things that could've been stuck in the whale's mouth because of Jonah, including Jonah himself, if he was continually pulling his leg out or something, could've caused the whale to vomit him, near the shore if it's a small, frightened, inexperienced young whale, which is as good a place.

Jonah's prophecy mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25 shows that the prophet was first active no later than the 740's BC when Jeroboam II's reign ends, and no earlier than 780's when it begins. Amos 7:10, 14-15 shows that he didn't need to have any kind of extensive prophetic training to utter the prophecy successfully throughout Israel. The desire for death because of the hot sun beating on his head (Jonah 4:8-9) shows that he was probably an old man by the time he preached to Nineveh, but this isn't conclusive. A guesstimate would have Jonah born around 800 BC or possibly 10 years later at the latest.

The Assyrian king is at Nineveh (Jonah 3:6ff), which did not become the capital of Assyria until Sennacherib's reign (705-681 BC). However, starting with Ashurbanipal II (883-859 BC) and on, there was considerable expansion of the city including the building of palaces, so it's possible the king was there at the time, just like how the Babylonian and Persian monarchs would spend part of the year at one of the other major cities (which became additional capitals).

The possible identity of the Assyrian king is certainly not going to be Sennacherib himself or his successor Esarhaddon. Anyone after that would make Jonah too old. Jonah is painfully aware of Assyria's hostile relationship with Israel, but the text doesn't make it clear whether this is past or future. If his hostile attitude toward the Ninevites was so intense that he'd decide to flee from God's commands, then perhaps a date of around 732 with the fall of Galilee is possible. It's quite possible there were enough raids by the Assyrians into Galilee before then, and Jonah, in addition to his prophetic knowledge, may have heard about or witnessed the typical slaughter by Assyrians in other places such as neighboring Syria which had been under their control since the previous century.

The Assyrian king who repented may have been Ashur-nirari V (754-745 BC), who stayed in Assyria without campaigning 4 years of his reign. His brothers and predecessors Ashur-dan III (r.772-755 BC) or Shalmaneser IV (r.783-773 BC) are also possibilities, though I prefer one of the two brothers after Shalmaneser IV because of the various calamities that hit Assyria in Ashur-dan's reign (two plagues and a revolt), which would've made the king a little more malleable to the Israelite prophet. That an Israelite prophet could convert the populace to humility is nothing impossible as the reputation of Elisha had spread well into hostile Syria as well, and Jonah presumably had some kind of convincing proof, perhaps unmentioned. The disposition of the king is obviously a huge factor, as he's the one who induces the people to repent by a decree (3:6ff). But certainly the king was not their father, Adad-nirari III (811-783). Not only is Adad-Nirari III's reign too early, but the power of Assyria, which waned with his three sons, doesn't accord with the seemingly marginalized Assyria of Jonah. A date closer to 750 BC or later is also favored by the fact that the population of Nineveh being 120,000 was around the amount (perhaps as much as 150,000) of Ninevites in Sennacherib's day (c.700 BC).

Even if Jonah was in his 40's/50's in the whale, he still could've survived a day without food or water, with enough air in the whale as we detailed. It is possible that the fulfillment of the prophecy is closer to the mid 8th century BC (Jeroboam's day), and that Jonah was aware of the threat of the Assyrians. Even in the Middle Assyrian empire 500 years earlier, the laws were more brutal compared to their neighbors - something everyone would've known. This could make him a young man, or someone no older than his 40's; strong enough to survive the ~24-36 hour ordeal with the whale.

The consensus amongst critics is that the story is ahistorical and was meant to be an allegory like Job. I can't say the idea is impossible, much like many of Jesus' parables like "The Rich Man and Lazarus," but the accuracy of some details make me doubt this: the population of Nineveh, the fact that Jonah is a northern prophet, who were omitted/unemphasized (cf. 1-2 Chronicles which barely mentions only Elijah!), etc. Aramaic traces in the work don't mean anything - popular books were frequently recopied in the common vernacular; there were many older English Bibles than the KJV, so just because the KJV is in 17th century English, doesn't mean Jonah was a story written in 1611. Sometimes scribes couldn't understand some older terms so they copied them, which is evidence that this sort of language updating existed in some places. The fact that Assyria is such a focal point without any allusion, even implicitly, of Babylon, suggests that the book was written either before the Babylonian conquest or long after its pain was forgotten. But judging from books like Judith, the second option is less likely, not to mention some of the details such as the population size would've been too lucky a guess.

Whatever the case, it was clear that an experience like Jonah's inside the mouth of a giant creature was traumatic. So scarring it must've been that despite continued animosity which Jonah displays after the Ninevites repent, he immediately goes to his objective and wholeheartedly preaches repentance.

Jonah 3

Jonah 3:3-4

How could Nineveh be three days' (~45 miles) journey wide?

City limits included vast areas outside of the actual city walls, and this is what the verse means. In the early days of Rome (c.400 BC), the city had a radius of about 30 miles, which is the same as the 3-days diamater here. Similarly see the Philistine city of Gaza "and its territory" (2 Ki 18:8). See also Joshua 15:54: three cities and their villages. This is why some ancient historians also gave such diameters. In modern days for example, Los Angeles County and LAUSD (LA Unified School District) extend way past Los Angeles itself and into other adjacent cities such as the ones in the San Fernando Valley (North Hollywood, Van Nuys).


Micah 3

Micah 3:4

Will all who call on the name of the Lord be saved or not (Matthew 7:21)?

See Joel 2:32.


Nahum 3

Nahum 3:5-6

How can these verses be part of the Bible?

The metaphors in verses 3:5 and 6 only serve to illustrate how God wants to shame and punish the wickedness of Nineveh. There is nothing "gross" nor "perverted" about these expressions which are only metaphors that try to elucidate how much God's wrath had risen because of the wickedness enumerated in Nahum 3:1-4.


Habakkuk 3

3-4. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.


Zechariah 1

Zechariah 1:1

Is Zechariah the son or grandson of Iddo?

Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 call Zechariah the grandson/descendant of Iddo, but in Zechariah 1:1 the prophet refers to himself as the son of Iddo. The fact is, the Hebrew word for "son" in Zechariah 1:1, ben, can mean grandson/child/member of a group in addition to son. The Brown-Driver-Briggs (Old Testament Hebrew-English Lexicon) says,
a son (as a builder of the family name), in the widest sense (of literal and figurative relationship, including grandson, subject, nation, quality or condition, etc.
The word in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 has the same meaning but is the Aramaic equivalent (ben) of the Hebrew (bar),so Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 may very well have meant that Zechariah was Iddo's descendant/grandson, since both bar and ben can mean son or descendant/grandson. Iddo was likely well-known and this is why Ezra designates Iddo as Zechariah's "father" or predecessor, seeing that Zechariah himself names Iddo as the father of his father which is unusual unless Iddo was known for something. The translation of bar in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 depends on the translator since it could mean both son and a more distant descendant, but with respect to Zechariah 1:1 it should mean predecessor and there is no contradiction.


Malachi 2

How is this verse which relates a threat of "dung" being smeared in unrepentant Israelite priests' faces in the Bible?

Malachi 2:3

This infamouse verse is simply a demonstration (as is much of Malachi) as to how much and to what level God's displeasure had risen with Israel and the people's sins. The verse is not "gross" or "perverted" but God wanted to illustrate how angry he was with (much of) Israel at the time. The verses preceding and following (Malachi 2:1-2, 4-9) say it all:
"And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me... And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty. "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

"For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the LORD Almighty. "So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law." (NIV)
Clearly the metaphor of smearing dung on the unrepentant priests' faces is connected with the fact that their sins not only don't have an end, but they lead others into sin as well, which causes God to seek (and convey) their humiliation and their being despised.


Matthew 1

The genealogy of Matthew vs Luke

There are several differences in the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, not the least of which is the fact that aside from the famous Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, none of the names in Jesus' genealogy match!

The standard solution since the 16th century has been to ascribe the genealogy in Matthew to Joseph and that in Luke to Mary. Form criticism certainly would dismiss this as a "Christian apologetic", and at first it would seem that way, but the fact is, the language in Luke (3:23: "...He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of..") makes it fairly likely this is the case.

The first problem that comes up is the fact that Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Shealtiel are mentioned in both genealogies, which would suggest they are about the same person. Either way, however, the differences from David until Shealtiel remain, so it's not impossible that both Mary and Joseph were descended from Zerubbabel. It would make sense for Luke to trace the biological, not royal, line, since Christ's only biological parent would have been Mary. The different number of generations from David to Christ in Matthew as opposed to Luke is because of Matthew's omissions of generations in order to have 3 groups of 14, seeing the Evangelist's own admission (Matthew 1:17). If we have resolved the question as to why Matthew says Jesus descended from David through Solomon, and through Nathan according to Luke being because one talks about Mary, the other Joseph, the question still remains as to why both give different fathers for Shealtiel. In this case it has to be realized that in the same way that Matthew applies the royal line to Jesus, though through his own admission conceding that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus (1:16), similarly he applied the royal line to Shealtiel, who was only the brother of Jeconiah. This also resolves the fact that it was said in Jeremiah that none of Jeconiah's descendants would be kings of Israel. We know that Matthew skipped generations and so omitted actual fathers, such as for example Jeconiah's, whose father was not Josiah, but Jehoiakim

As far as Zerubbabel being the son of Pedaiah versus Shealtiel (according to 1 Chronicles 3:19), it should be noted that this is not the Pedaiah of 2 Kings 23:36, the uncle of Jehoiakim's mother, Zebidah, and Jehoiachin being Jehoiakim's son, but is the son of Jehoiachin mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:18. It can't be inferred with certainty from 1 Chr. 3:17, but if Jeconiah adopted Shealtiel, then it would explain why he is singled out from the end of verse 1 Chr. 3:17. From this then we can wonder if Pedaiah is Zerubbabel's biological father, or Zerubbabel is somehow in his succession. The only succession Zerubbabel could be is king, but that wouldn't really make sense, as neither were king. The language of 1 Chr. 3:17: "The descendants of Jehoiachin" seem to indicate they were not biological sons, similar to the "successors of Jehoiakim" which were Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, neither of which were his sons. If that's the case, Shealtiel being his son, might indicate him being a biological son, and the rest being descendants simply through adoption, and so on. But, if the rest are his sons through adoption they would have been mentioned so, and Shealtiel's mother would have likely been mentioned if he was the only biological son from the list, so the indication has to be due to the importance of Shealtiel, perhaps. This then would mean that Pedaiah was also not a biological son of Jehoiachin. If Shealtiel is not Zerubbabel's biological father, but Pedaiah is instead, this can be understood for Matthew, who follows the royal line, but not for Luke. Maybe Luke chose to include the Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel out of honor and then skipped to Neri, who was the grandfather of Zerubbabel and father of Pedaiah. Or it could have been that Pedaiah was not the biological father of Zerubbabel and was listed as his father due to having adopted him, this being information we don't know, but Luke certainly could have. I think the latter option is most likely if the genealogies are not to be held contradictory. Both are possibilities to explain the divergence from Shealtiel to David in Luke and Matthew. We can be certain that Luke had some sort of independent tradition because he would have listed either Jeconiah or Pedaiah as the father of Shealtiel, and this certainly has to be given some value seeing how Matthew follows 1 Chronicles' list (seemingly at least) for his genealogy. So we can't outright say Luke was wrong; there certainly could have been genealogical records for Jesus' relatives up to David (seeing how Ezra and Nehemiah have exiles returning who prove they are Levites through genealogies all the way to Levi).

It is true that Josephus in his autobiography says that he found information on his genealogy in the public records of the Temple only up to the time of the Maccabees, c.150 BC, and this being so far back only because he was a priest from a family of priests, and one that was in high regard. But this is not a private genealogy, but the public records; they can't have the genealogies of every Judean, and this is confirmed by the very fact with the pre-eminence of the record of Josephus' family. Private genealogies could go back 1000 years as seen from Ezra and Nehemiah, and so certainly some could have extended from Jesus' time until David and beyond. This would of course certainly cease to be the case for the majority of Jews after Israel's destruction in 135 AD, and by the time of the Babylonian era, c.400-640 any authentic information about genealogies would have been gone, especially so after the Muslim conquests of the 630's.

On the other hand, both genealogies could belong either to Joseph or Mary, since it's slightly odd that both Joseph and Mary come from Shealtiel (especially if Mary's relatives are Levites, see Luke 1: Elizabeth, an Aaronid, is her cousin). But Mary having been a relative of a Levite, even a first cousin (not as close as sister), doesn't mean she was herself a Levite, since her father could have been from Judah (unlikely a Levite man would marry a woman from Judah, but more likely the other way around). In any case, both the epistle to the Hebrews and the Gospels say Christ was from Judah, so Mary must have been from Judah, as was Joseph seeing he goes to Bethlehem with Mary for the census. I don't think the genealogies are for the same person, because one would expect to see some of Matthew's names in Luke's list up to Zerubbabel, and vice versa, and the hypothesis that there could have been different names for the same individuals begs again the incredible that all of them were chosen in such a way. If Matthew followed some sort of royal line that included Zerubbabel and Shealtiel though not biologically up to Christ, it still doesn't make sense for two reasons: one he includes people totally unknown for no reason up to Christ, and two it's still fairly too much of a coincidence that Luke's list goes through Shealtiel and Zerubbabel.

The fact that Luke's list goes through Nathan (and not Solomon), has Rhesa as the son of Shealtiel (instead of 1 Chronicles' list) and has Neri as the father of Shealtiel are points arguing for authenticity. But nothing can be said for any of his genealogy as well as Matthew's. It's not impossible both Joseph and Mary are descended from Zerubbabel. Since both Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, is it unlikely that if some of Zerubbabel's descendants lived in that area, two married people might be ultimately descendants of Zerubbabel. The fact that Rhesa is not any of the sons in 1 Chronicles' list could be due to a different name. 1 Chronicles lists about 4 generations for 100 years (from Zerubbabel, c.520 BC until the end of 1 Chronicles' time, c.400 BC), Luke having 20 from Zerubbabel, making it likely he was recording literal fathers of sons, not descendants like Matthew.

Matthew 1:17

How many generations were there according to Matthew?

The issue is that the number of people in Matthew 1:1-16 from Abraham until Jesus is 41, not 42, thus it cannot be 42 (3x14) generations as verse 17 says. We are fortunate the Evangelist divided the genealogy into periods. We see from his first group that, logically, he considered 14 people as 14 generations, Abraham being the first generation until he became the father of Isaac. We see this same number of people in the second group: fourteen people and fourteen generations. The problem comes with the fact that the third group has 13 names (excluding Jeconiah, counted in group 2). However, the division between group 2 and 3 is not a generation associated with a specific person (as is the division between 1 and 2: Abraham to David), but an event, the Exile. For Matthew and most Jews the Exile was such a turning point that he ended his second group with it instead of an ancestor. One could easily refer to a major event like this as ending a generation and beginning a new one, just like how the years between WWI and WWII are sometimes called "the Silent Generation", despite the fact that it's only 20 or so years - much shorter than the average generation being 30-40.

So, to illustrate:

Group 1

  • Abraham to the birth of Isaac
  • Isaac to the birth of Jacob
  • Jacob to the birth of Judah
  • Judah to the birth of Perez
  • Perez to the birth of Hezron
  • Hezron to the birth of Ram
  • Ram to the birth of Amminadab
  • Amminadab to the birth of Nahshon
  • Nahshon to the birth of Salmon
  • Salmon to the birth of Boaz
  • Boaz to the birth of Obed
  • Obed to the birth of Jesse
  • Jesse to the birth of David
  • David grown up
Group 2
  • Solomon grown up to the birth of Rehoboam
  • Rehoboam to the birth of Abijah
  • Abijah to the birth of Asa
  • Asa to the birth of Jehoshaphat
  • Jehoshaphat to the birth of Jehoram
  • Jehoram to the birth of Uzziah
  • Uzziah to the birth of Jotham
  • Jotham to the birth of Ahaz
  • Ahaz to the birth of Hezekiah
  • Hezekiah to the birth of Manasseh
  • Manasseh to the birth of Amon
  • Amon to the birth of Josiah
  • Josiah to the birth of Jeconiah
  • Jeconiah grown up to the Exile
Group 3
  • Exile to the birth of Shealtiel
  • Shealtiel to the birth of Zerubbabel
  • Zerubbabel to the birth of Abihud
  • Abihud to the birth of Eliakim
  • Eliakim to the birth of Azor
  • Azor to the birth of Zadok
  • Zadok to the birth of Akim
  • Akim to the birth of Elihud
  • Elihud to the birth of Eleazar
  • Eleazar to the birth of Matthan
  • Matthan to the birth of Jacob
  • Jacob to the birth of Joseph
  • Joseph to the birth of Jesus
  • Jesus grown up and beginning his ministry

Two more minor points. One, it does not concern us that Shealtiel was probably born in Judah before the Exile (suggested by the fact that his son/successor Zerubbabel means "seed of Babel" - i.e. the first to be born in Babylon, after the Exile), because as explained, the Exile was so momentous and restructured so much of Hebrew life, as well as was so distant in time, that it became the stop for not only that generation but Matthew's group - almost as equal in chronologically divisible importance as beginning it with Abraham and not his father Terah, for example.

The other point is that Ahaz was probably Hezekiah's older brother and not father. He'd have been 14 or so when Hezekiah was born, which while not impossible, makes it likelier that he was a brother. But Hezekiah ruled for some time on his own and had a generation of his own after Ahaz, so this is irrelevant.

Matthew 3

Matthew 3:14-15

Did John the Baptist know who Jesus was prior to His baptism or not (John 1:29-33)?

In Matthew 3:14-15 it seems clear that John the Baptist knew of Jesus' importance prior to baptizing Him whereas in John 1:32-33 John the Baptist relates that he didn't know who Jesus was until after the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus (which happened after His baptism - Matthew 3:16). So did John the Baptist know of Jesus before or after Jesus' baptism?

It's implied from John 1:29-31 that John the Baptist is speaking about not knowing Jesus for the past 30 years of their lives (they were born 6 months apart), and that he didn't know Jesus until around the day of His baptism. Very likely John the Baptist simply mentions the most spectacular event surrounding the day of Jesus' baptism (as certainly would be the case). With this, he simply didn't know who Jesus was prior to the day or hour around when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him which confirmed more or less without doubt that Jesus was the person that John the Baptist was told about. We can note that John 1:33 does not state directly that John the Baptist knew that Jesus was the Messiah only after the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, but the verse focuses on the important symbol of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit being confirmed by the Holy Spirit descending upon Him. From John 1:33 we see that prior to baptizing Jesus, John the Baptist received a revelation that told him who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Moreover, John 1:32-34 seems to be focused on external proof regarding the importance and identity of Jesus (esp. see John 1:34) which would mean that John the Baptist was not focusing (as the text of John 1:33 implies) on when he knew of Jesus, but on the sign that was told to him and that was given in front of everyone - the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus.

This would be similar to a situation where we have two very prominent, let's say, physicists who also teach at universities and who never met. Now one physicist is going to come to visit the university where the other teaches and the physicist that teaches there is told about this. The two meet for the very first time in the morning in, let's say, the university cafeteria. Later, the two again meet outside of the other's classroom and the guest physicist comes in and starts speaking to other professors or students who wanted to come to see him.

What would the physicist who wasn't the guest say? He would say that he never knew the other physicist until when he arrived to teach at the university right? Now you'll say that the difference here is that the physicist is correct since he says that he never met the other prior to when he arrived to teach. But this is exactly what John the Baptist means as well, except that he doesn't say it. Both the physicist in this story (who would word the meeting the way most would) and John the Baptist focus on the important event surrounding their introduction: the first on the guest-physicist's teaching, the second on the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus.

Perhaps after some time, including the setback of being imprisoned, the Baptist was wondering whether he misinterpreted Jesus' role. Perhaps Jesus was just a prophet, or righteous teacher. He wanted to hear it from Jesus himself. This is why Mary is frantic about getting Jesus away from his followers in Mark 3:28, even reports of her considering him crazy, whereas the Angel made it clear that her son was no ordinary man in the Annunciation, and in John 2:3,5, at the start of his ministry, she fully believes and knows he can do miracles. In Jesus' day, followers of the size he had was considered revolt by the Romans.

Matthew 4

Matthew 4:10

Did Jesus misquote Deuteronomy 6:13?

The literal translation of both the Masoretic text and the Septuagint have Deuteronomy 6:13 say something to the effect of, "You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." (New King James Version). However, Matthew 4:10 says, "Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Thus one might ask if Jesus added the words "and serve Him only" to the text of Deuteronomy 6:13. Is this a contradiction?

Jesus was paraphrasing - that's exactly what Deuteronomy 6:13-14 intends to say. Fearing God only was the archaic way of saying worshipping Him only, because that meant one was afraid only of God's punishment for sins and not any other deity's (Judges 6:10).

Matthew 4:13-15

Was Zebulon and Naphtali beyond or east of the Jordan?

In Isaiah 9:1 where it says, "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles...", there is no possible way either Isaiah or Matthew considered Galilee, Zebulon, or Naphtali to be east of the Jordan. The word here translated as beyond, 'eber, has the connotation of against, beyond (usually for the Jordan, usually east), but clearly this is not what was meant since hardly would the Hebrew prophet Isaiah confuse it, nor would Matthew who from his numerous references to the Old Testament, was apparently very well acquainted with it, and so 'eber has to be translated as "against the river Jordan" in the same way the word is translated in Exodus 25:37.

Also, the term could be a euphemism that meant "beyond Jordan" in the sense of west of it, if the origin of the phrase comes from Mesopotamia. A similar phrase that describes the Levant as "beyond the Euphrates" appeared in the late 3rd millenium BC and was adopted even by the Canaanites and Amorites who lived in Palestine. Thus, possibly God promised to give the Israelites the land "as far as the Euphrates" (Genesis 15:18-21; Deuteronomy 1:7) meaning the Levant, not literally everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the actual river, though this probably means the direction stretched north from (basically) the Wadi to Lebanon which is near the Euphrates, perhaps utilizing this term or convention.

Matthew 5

Matthew 5:7-11

Are the prayers of believers always answered?

See John 14:12-14.

Matthew 5:14

Isn't Jesus the light of the world?

See John 9:22.

Matthew 5:16

Should we show our good works to people or not?

Matthew 6:1-4 says not to "practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them." Matthew 23:5 condemns the Pharisees: "Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long." Matthew 5:16 and other verses such as 1 Peter 2:12 however say to let your works be seen by others to maybe convert them. Which is it? The answer is within the verses themself: works that are meant to be seen by others to make you look good (Matt. 6:1) aren't real works, but ones that are really because of your obedience to God are good to be seen by others to glorify God not you. This is why Matt. 6:1 says, "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them." The warning is for the motivation, not the result of being seen. There is always a clear difference between doing things just for publicity, however minor it may be, and things that are done for the good they are meant to do. And this is the difference between the Pharisees in Matthew 23:5 and the people who are exhorted to practice good in front of people so that they may bring them to Christ (1 Peter 2:12, Matt. 5:16).

Matthew 5:18

Will the Earth pass away or not?

See Ecclesiastes 1:4 above.

Matthew 5:22

Can people be called fools or not?

When Jesus said that he who calls his brother a fool will be in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5:22) the context is clear that this is a sin only when the label is unwarranted thus resulting in hatred (which is murder). When someone is justified in calling someone a fool for foolish actions, it's not a sin seeing that for one Jesus Himself did this when the Pharisees had lost all boundaries with respect to misleading Israel (Matt. 23:17). The answer that some Christians have to Matthew 23:17 and related verses is that Jesus isn't talking to his "brothers" (Matt. 12:48-50). But this is clearly not the sense that is meant in Matthew 5:21-24 - Matthew 5:43-48.

Matthew 5:32

Is divorce allowed or not?

See Matthew 19:9.

Matthew 5:43

Did Jesus misquote Leviticus 19:18?

Some might say that Jesus misquoted Leviticus 19:18 because it doesn't have the additional phrase, "...and hate thine enemy" that Matthew 5:43 does in citing Jesus' words. However, Jesus is not quoting Leviticus 19:18 per se, but is referring to a common teaching that is indeed based on Leviticus 19:18 which apparently Israel's religious leaders taught where it was acceptable to hate non-Israelites who were one's enemies.

Matthew 6

Matthew 6:1-4

Are we to show our good works in front of others or not?

See Matthew 5:16.

Matthew 7

Matthew 7:17

Do all good trees necessarily produce good fruit?

In this verse Jesus says that in the same way that all good trees by default produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit, those who are righteous would have righteous works, and those who are not will have wicked ones. However, someone might say that many good trees can have a rotten apple with worms, or something like that. In addition, there are many plants that have very pleasant-looking fruit but it's poisonous, such as the Arum maculatum, the Atropa belladonna, and the Coriaria myrtifolia whose berries resemble blackberries.

The example that Jesus gives here relates to whether the tree is (organically) good so as to produce good fruit when the conditions are right - i.e. the season, no pests, etc. It's assuming that there are no problems such as worms and so on. However, if one really wanted to extend the example, even if a tree did indeed have its fruit infested with worms or bugs, this is still exactly the point Jesus is making: bad fruit means the tree is no longer good - if your tree is full of rotten apples, then clearly it's no longer a good tree. If it has only one rotten apple then that's still more or less a good tree despite that rotten apple (which is an exception). Moreover, poisonous plants that have appealing-looking fruit are just like deceivers and false prophets - they appear good on the outside, but are poisonous on the inside. True, a tree can't really defend itself against worms, but that's not the extent or nature that the teaching of Jesus here is talking about, just like technically speaking it's not really the tree's fault if organically its fruit is lacking (and Jesus certainly wouldn't have blamed a tree for not "being able to have fruit"). If one really wants to say that a good apple tree with one rotten apple ruins Jesus' example, one has completely misunderstood the application of the saying - the tree is simply good because it has good fruit and that's how one knows this.

Matthew 7:21

Will all who call on the name of the Lord be saved (Joel 2:32) or not?

See Joel 2:32.

Matthew 9

Matthew 9:4

Is this a scientific error?

Matthew 9:4 says, "Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" Now, we all know that the brain stores the thoughts, and we know that the ancients did not exactly know this (the Egyptians thought the thoughts and feelings were in one's heart), but Jesus being God certainly should have known this.

We all know that Jesus is speaking metaphorically here much like we still do when we refer to good and evil coming "out of the heart" today. This is demonstratable through the fact that in Matthew 22:37, in quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus shows that neither he nor any ancient really thought that thoughts literally came from the heart: " Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'" (New King James Version). In fact, the Greek word dianoia is specifically distinguished from the soul (psyche) and the heart (kardia). If one wants to say that Jesus was simply using metaphors for the same faculty, in other words that the mind is simply a synonym for the heart just like water and H2O are different ways of saying the same thing and that Jesus was indeed saying that the heart was one's mind (after all, there is only one place from where feelings and thoughts arise not 2 or 3), then this means that Jesus thought the literal heart was one's literal soul, which is certainly implausible. Thus Jesus is simply listing metaphors for the same faculty - that the heart feels, that the soul feels, and that the mind also feels, and so clearly distinguishes from all three and thus did not consider the heart to be one's literal mind. Therefore, the idea that thoughts literally came from the heart remains a peculiarity of Egypt.

Matthew 9:18

Was Jairus' daughter dead or dying?

Mark and Luke say that Jairus went to Jesus saying his daughter was dying, whereas Matthew has Jairus say that she was already dead. Is there a contradiction here?

There is no contradiction here because, although the two accounts are different on the details regarding the condition of Jairus' daughter, Matthew is simply using a literary device where something is exaggerated to its logical conclusion - i.e. a person who is at the point of death can be described as basically dead. Similar exaggerations can be seen by other Oriental cultures like Persia.

Most likely Jairus' daughter was not dead yet. This is supported by two strong factors: 1) Luke and Mark agree over Matthew which shows that Matthew has amended the account for its dramatic impact, and 2) the Jews did not apparently see it as very likely to have someone raised from the dead versus the much higher chance of someone already known for his healing powers to heal. This is reflected by both the parallel accounts in Mark and LUke (Mk. 5:35; Lk. 8:49), as well as the despair of Mary over Lazarus' death (John 11:21-24,32).

Matthew 9:24

Was Jesus lying when he said that Jairus' daughter wasn't really dead (when everyone including him knew she was) but was only sleeping?

Jesus was certainly not lying when he told the more or less disrespectful crowd who disbelieved his abilities that Jairus' daughter wasn't dead. He was merely being metaphorical by saying that due to the fact that:

1. She will be brought back to life and get up as soon as he gets to her and heals her.
2. Death does not have power over God.

Thus in essence, even though technically Jairus' daughter had died, due to the fact that she was going to be healed very soon, she could be described metaphorically as merely sleeping.

Matthew 10

Matthew 10:10

Were the disciples allowed to carry a staff and sandals (Mark 6:8-9) or not (Luke 9:3)?

This famous alleged contradiction involves the question as to whether Jesus allowed his disciples to carry a staff (and sandals) or not. Matthew says no staff and no sandals, Mark says staff and sandals, and Luke says no staff and nothing about sandals. Is there a contradiction here?

If poverty is the point, then both depict it well. Similarly, Philostratus says Crates of Thebes threw his wallet in the sea (Life of Apollonius 1.13), whereas Plutarch tells us, "though he had but a wallet and a threadbare cloak, passed his whole life jesting and laughing as though at a festival." [Plutarch, Moralia: On the Tranquility of Mind 4]

Matthew 10:34

Is Jesus' purpose to bring violence and strife (a sword)?

See Luke 14:26 below.

Matthew 11

Matthew 11:14

Was John the Baptist Elijah or not (John 1:21)?

The Jews of Jesus' day certainly interpreted Malachi 4:5-6 as referring to the actual prophet Elijah returning, who was taken up in a chariot of fire. However, the prophecy doesn't need to be speaking about the literal Elijah any more than Jeremiah 23:5-6, Hosea 3:5 and Ezekiel 34:23-24 speak about a literal David. Since David had died 250 years before Hosea's day, and 350 from Jeremiah and Ezekiel's time, those verses are clearly referring to David as a type for the Messiah, as is most likely Malachi 4:5-6 and this is how Jesus applies it to John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13), who was right in denying the physical identification of Elijah when the Jewish authorities asked him, who were implying it literally (John 1:21).

Matthew 11:21-24

If Tyre and Sidon (and Sodom) would have repented had the miracles Jesus performed in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum been performed there, why weren't the miracles done so that they would repent?

In Matthew 11:21-22 Jesus rebukes Chorazin and Bethsaida for not repenting due to his miracles, saying that had he performed them in Tyre and Sidon, they would have done so. Now, the question is, why weren't such miracles performed by him at Tyre and Sidon then? We can say that perhaps Jesus meant a long time ago, since Tyre and Sidon were well known as centers of paganism, much like the example in Matthew 11:23-24 refers to Sodom in Abraham's time (some 1800+ years before). However, this only shifts the question to why weren't these miracles performed during that time - why didn't somebody, such as perhaps an angel, come and perform such miracles at Sodom as well as Tyre and Sidon (if the past is referenced)?

The answer is that regardless of how much someone is shocked by a miracle, if one doesn't truly want to follow God's will, not even a miracle will make them have a lifelong commitment of belief and righteousness. This is explicitly stated by the episode of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), where the Rich Man, finding himself in the pit of fire, asks Abraham if he would perhaps resurrect him so that his 5 brothers would see the miracle and repent and believe. Abraham answers that, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31). And this is in effect why Tyre and Sidon and Sodom weren't places where miracles were performed. True, some cities like Nineveh did repent due to God's will, but in the case of Nineveh they were preached to!

All Jesus is saying here is that Chorazin and Bethsaida (and Capernaum) were such unrighteous cities that their wickedness exceeded that of even pagan Tyre and Sidon and that of Sodom of ancient days since the very same miracles that Jesus performed in Tyre and Sidon (and Sodom) would have made those cities repent whereas Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum did not.

Matthew 11:27

If Jesus was the only one who knew God the Father, then how did Old Testament prophets prophesy?

The sense here is that Jesus is the only one that has "known" God in the sense that he was in the presence of and has seen the invisible God whom no one else has (1 Timothy 6:16). Proof of this is the fact that in the beginning of the verse Jesus says that no one except the Father knows the Son, yet certainly many knew him, such as his disciples. Thus Jesus is talking about the more theological part of his and God's nature (Philippians 2:6-8) and not something like divine revelation or Moses' seeing the physical manifestation of the metaphorical symbolism of the back of God (Exodus 33). Prophecy, visions, and divine revelation are not the same as "knowing" God in this sense. For example, sometimes dreams are used as predictions of the future (Genesis 40). There are also other indirect interventions by God (2 Chronicles 18:30-32). No one will call these having "knowledge of God" in the sense that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 11:27, and direct revelation, miracles, and visions are of the same category though one step further.

Matthew 11:28,30

Don't these verses contradict verses that talk about Christians suffering for the Name (1 Peter 4:12-14, etc)?

When Jesus refers to his burden being light and his yoke not being heavy, he means the requirements for one's repentance are such - namely to repent and believe; not that one's life would be easy and light, and that's the context of those verses. True that for many some sins are difficult to overcome, but it's certainly a light burden to simply say "No" to those sins versus the legalistic and restrictive measures the Pharisees and Jewish teachers had put on Israel, such as, for example, the Sabbath restrictions - none existed with Christ! Certainly the Sabbath is one of many examples of the lightness of the burden of Christ.

Matthew 12

Matthew 12:40

Is the whale a fish?

See Jonah 1:17.

Three days in the tomb, or on the third day Jesus will rise?

Technically, Jesus was crucified around 3 PM (the 9th hour) on Friday, April 6, 30 AD, and rose on Sunday morning, some time before 6 AM Sunday, April 8, 30 AD, less than 48 hours. Jewish inclusive reckoning made chronological counting to count as a whole unit, any part of the day/year, so if a king reigned a year and some months he would have been said to reign for two years, unless the text specified. This is why "on the third day" and "three days" have the same meaning here. The Jewish holiday of Pentecost was Greek for "50 days" but the holiday was after 49 days (7 weeks), seeing this same principle. The same thing can also be seen in Esther (Esther 4:16 vs 5:1).

Matthew 12:42

Is Jesus wiser than Solomon or not (1 Kings 3:12)?

See 1 Kings 3:12 above.

Matthew 13

Matthew 13:10-11

Did Jesus speak openly (John 18:20) or in secret?

The verses here in Matthew have Jesus say that he was speaking in parables so that only his disciples could understand. However, this was only one instance where Jesus spoke in parables. Elsewhere he speaks plainly, especially when it comes to ethical and moral issues (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5-7, and places like John 6, etc.). Furthermore, Jesus isn't saying something that is very fundamental to his message - he's only mentioning the types of people with respect to faith. Finally, those who do not understand are those who choose to remain with hardened hearts (Matthew 13:12-17), and so it could be argued Jesus isn't even really saying anything secret to anyone as long as they want to truly hear him.

It's a little like saying that a mathematician is teaching in secret because his math is too complex for someone when that person doesn't even want to bother to try and learn it, which he would have by now. Would Jesus really turn away someone from the crowd who came with his disciples to understand the parables (Matthew 13:10,36)? He didn't do this with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15//Mark 7), whose persistence indicated that she genuinely believed in Jesus' good - whereas another person would have turned away and gone to one of the many other pseudo-healers (Jesus was famous enough for her to have known enough about him). If anything, that could have been his way of drawing people to him, who really wanted to hear him and believe.

Matthew 13:31-32

Is this a scientific error? Aren't there smaller seeds than the mustard seed?

There are two objections against the parable of the mustard seed that some might raise: 1. There are seeds that are smaller than the mustard seed (i.e. the orchid seed), and 2. Is it really likely that the mustard tree can grow big enough to hold birds' nests?

In general, yes, there are seeds smaller than the mustard seed but Jesus isn't talking about all seeds in the world: he's merely referring to the common seeds a Palestinian farmer would sow and know about and the black mustard seed is indeed the smallest seed the Palestinian farmer would sow. And black mustard seeds in Israel/Palestine (Brassica nigra, Sinapis nigra) can indeed grow as tall as 9+ feet which I think would mean they can hold birds' nests. In general, Jesus was giving an example of a small seed (the smallest his audience would have known which is what he means by calling the mustard seed the smallest of all seeds) growing to become the biggest of shrubs/herbs and into a tree, which it certainly does. For more information, this article from ChristianAnswers.net is very good: Is the mustard seed the smallest of seeds?

Matthew 14

Matthew 14:1-12

When did John the Baptist die?

In the Gospels, John the Baptist's death precedes that of Jesus. Since Jesus died either in 30 or 33 AD, that would also be the latest for the Baptist's death. Yet from Josephus, it may seem as if he died later than that, closer to 35. The battle between Aretas and Herod (Antipas) was probably sometime in 36 AD. Josephus' narrative implies a very short timeline: Herod returns to Rome to fetch Herodias or straighten out the arrangement, and his wife (Phasaelis), leaves, and Aretas prepares for war. There doesn't seem to be any time for Herod to be with Herodias for it to become a public outcry, particularly by John the Baptist, who is then, presumably after some time, arrested for this. And then after more time, executed.

The chronology in Josephus is extremely simplified. One gets the impression that Herod Antipas falls in love with Herodias at Rome and his wife finds out and goes back to Aretas. But it's clear from his "went to Rome again" that Antipas returned, then went to Rome again, and returned again, which would've given enough time for someone more loyal to Herodias for one reason or another to inform her. It could've been years before Aretas decided to prepare for war, knowing it would be a problem with Rome. The same chronological skip is seen when Josephus describes Herodias divorcing Herod II: "who had a daughter, Salome; after whose birth Herodias took upon her to confound the laws of our country, and divorced herself from her husband while he was alive, and was married to Herod", implying as if it was shortly after Salome's birth, even though immediately after notes Salome was married to Philip the Tetrarch (d.34), and thus old enough to have danced at Herod's feast. The episode with Antipas was not decades before the conflict in c.35, so we can't really use Josephus' brief description as a strict chronology.

This chronology, and the fact that Josephus doesn't know the second name of Herod II, previous husband of Herodias, shows that, as Whiston observes (n.5),

We may here take notice, as well as in the parallel parts of the books Of the War, B. II. ch. 9. sect. 1, that after the death of Herod the Great, and the succession of Archclaus, Josephus is very brief in his accounts of Judea, till near his own time. I suppose the reason is, that after the large history of Nicolaus of Damascus, including the life of Herod, and probably the succession and first actions of his sons, he had but few good histories of those times before him.
He certainly zips around, such as from the foundation of Tiberias (c.20 AD), to the death of Phraates IV (2 BC), the death of Antiochus III of Commagene (17 AD), to Pilate (26-36AD), then to Tiberius' expulsion of the Jews from Rome (c.19 AD) in that sequence. [Ant.18.2-3] Also under consideration would be if Josephus misdated the meeting between Artabanus of Parthia and Vitellius and Antipas to Tiberius' reign when others place it under Caligula's, showing Josephus did not have much details about the exact chronology of this period. So I wouldn't bet on a specific year about Herodias' divorce based from his passage about the Baptist, even if he intended his execution was shortly before the conflict with Aretas. It's clear from Antiquities 18.6.2 that Herod and Herodias married for some time, beginning while Herod II was alive, but Herod II's death date is unknown.

Vengeance for injustice sometimes took years anyway. Aelianus [Varia Historia 13.3] considers Xerxes punished (assassination in 465 BC) for opening the tomb of Bel in 484 BC. Aelianus clearly considered Xerxes' ultimate punishment - assassination - to be years later (says after the Greek campaign). Sennacherib's murder by his sons was also considered divine retribution for desecrating Babylon's religious buildings 8 years earlier.

Why was Herod's birthday celebrated at Macherus, a prison? As excavations show, there was a palace at Macherus and Herod's first wife, Phasaelis, is allowed to go there without suspicion, so it wasn't just a prison. There were feasts everywhere, such as Tyre. [Ant. 18.6.2] Although it was a border town and Josephus notes Herod and Aretas didn't fight in person, Aretas' Petra was all the way to the south, so he didn't need to worry due to the friction with Aretas of an army attacking him there: he would've been informed of a large army moving such a long distance. He also must've had enough confidence in his own forces, such as having enough armor for 70,000 soldiers. [Ant. 18.7.2] Very possibly Herodias insisted they celebrate his birthday at Macherus where John was imprisoned to have him killed. Certainly Salome's dance isn't depicted as spontaneous and uncalculated. The energy between Herodias and Herod is accurate in that she was conniving and insistent [Ant.18.7.2], getting Herod to give Tiberias to Agrippa [Ant.18.6.2], and Josephus doesn't paint Herodias in a good light: envy being her and Herod's downfall. [Ant. 19.7.2]

On the other hand, the immediacy of and main reason for John's death may be how Mark colored the episode for brevity and to point out the impure motives (cf. Herod's worries that John rose, vs Luke 9:7-9 where he's more suspicious of this, implying a less religious attitude and thus less sympathetic, more culpable role in his death). John was in jail for some time, implied by Josephus who mentions an imprisonment [Ant.18.5.2], which would probably have been omitted if John was immediately executed. Otherwise, why explain he was imprisoned at Macherus, if he was sent there directly after arrested to be executed? Compare how Josephus in Jewish War 1.2.3 talks about a certain Simon's son-in-law, Ptolemy, who "put his wife and two sons into prison, and sent some persons to kill John, who was also called Hyrcanus." He doesn't imprison and then kill John, he simply cuts to the chase. The Gospels imply the prison sentence was some time, as John had enough time to inquire about Jesus and receive an answer. This may imply his prison sentence wasn't too uncomfortable, reflecting Mark's depiction of a somewhat sympathetic Herod. John would've been imprisoned early on in Jesus' ministry to have been perplexed at his growing popularity. In addition, Jesus seems to give a reply confirming John's suspicion he was the Messiah, which along with how easy John's messengers find Jesus, means Jesus is not yet afraid of the Pharisees (compare also his announcement of being the Messiah early on at Nazareth, not yet realizing how much enmity he would incur by numerous people - Luke 4:16-30). So probably John was killed sometime a year after Jesus' ministry started, around early 31 AD. He's already dead at the Transfiguration (Matt. 16:14; 17:1), which occurs around the time Jesus is becoming famous, since Herod wonders who this famous Jesus is, people saying it was John risen (Luke 9:7-9). So Jesus is somewhat famous, but not the infamous enemy of the Pharisees yet. The disciples are also beginning to believe Jesus to be the Messiah (Matt. 16:13-20), so it would be earlier rather than later in his ministry that John dies.

The historical John the Baptist likely criticized Herod's marriage openly. Josephus criticizes Herodias' divorce as against Jewish law [Ant.19.5.4], so most Jews would've disapproved, including the historical John the Baptist. And these views couldn't have stayed hidden, seeing his open, public ministry where all followed and listened to his moralistic advice as Josephus, like the Gospels, notes. [Ant. 18.5.2] It is not necessary to assume that the Baptist's criticism was based on Herodias being Herod Antipas' (half) brother's wife (forbidden by Leviticus 18), but that her first husband was still alive, a criticism Josephus shares, or John couldn't have exactly proclaimed it publicly if most didn't agree with his theology and thus not understand his point.

Josephus makes Herod the main culprit for the death of John from fear of a possible revolt. This may be Josephus' guess (as he psychologizes Herod the Great, saying for example he was offended when people didn't do things way out of their way just because he himself would or would have done). This can't be far from the truth (Luke's version of the Baptist's death - LK 9:7-9). His main reason being Herod's wariness of the Baptist's support and a possible revolt are probably accurate (cf. Luke 9:7-9), though not necessarily his only concern. Seeing the rest of his history in this section, Josephus highlights the political aspect, while Mark and Matthew give the more personal, ethical consideration, even if it was maybe a contributing factor and not a main cause. After all, if a popular potential in Herod's eyes rebel was heavily criticizing him, why take the chance and allow him to be free? John could've easily irked Herodias' scheming and envious character. [Ant.18.7.2] So there could've been a mixture of fear, appeal (as the Baptist was popular for a reason), and obligation (to Herodias). This is within Herod's character, whom Josephus describes as "love of ease" [Ant. 18.7.2], but hardly would've kept John in prison solely because of Herodias if he didn't have his own reason as his recalcitrance over Agrippa with Tiberias shows. [Ant.18.6.2] So perhaps it's not impossible for Mark to depict him liking to listen to John, which may be how he dared imprison him in that John would consider him a bit on the friendly side and not be as antagonistic about him to those seeing him in jail. This may explain why he could have visitors such as Jesus' messengers, and how his disciples could obtain his body, though that may have been to prevent/quell rumors of him being alive/resurrected.

Attempts to equate Herod, Herodias, and John the Baptist with Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah [Florence Morgan Gillman, Herodias: At Home In That Fox's Den, p. 84 (Liturgical Press, 2003). ISBN 0-8146-5108-9] should be disregarded, seeing the likely historicity of John's criticism of the divorce and second marriage, as well as the historical fact of Herod killing him.

That Mark 6:14 calls him "king" is irrelevant, as Josephus himself uses this title informally. He calls Archelaus king in 17.1.1, 17.13.4, 18.4.3, while noting in 17.11.4 that he was an ethnarch and not confirmed as king (17.8.4). Mark 6:27 uses the Latin word speculator for the executioner of John the Baptist, showing that like Josephus, the Evangelist's tradition had John the Baptist considered a prophet by Jews so none of Herod's soldiers would do it (cf. John 7:45-47; 1 Sam. 22:17-19). This subtlety lends authenticity to the narrative.

Matthew 15

Matthew 15:22

Was the woman Greek or Canaanite?

Mark 7:26 tells us that the woman whose daughter Jesus exorcised was a Greek born in Syrian Phoenicia, whereas Matthew 15:22 tells us she was a Canaanite. It should be clear that this is nothing but Mark being more specific as to the heritage of the woman who was both a Greek and a Syrophoenician in terms of where she was born, Canaanite being the common description of that area. It is the same as if a Greek would be born in Rome to parents who were citizens (thus being a citizen) - one writer might describe him as a Roman, another as a Greek born in Rome.

Matthew 16

Matthew 16:13-20

When did Peter confess Jesus as Christ? And when was Peter named Cephas?

See John 1:42.

Matthew 17

Matthew 17:1

Did the Transfiguration take place 6 (Mark 9:2) or 8 days (Luke 9:28) after the journey to Caesarea Philippi?

Matthew 17:1 and Mark 9:2 say that "after 6 days" Jesus took Peter, John, and James to pray on a mountain where his Transfiguration occurred. Luke 9:28 however says, "about 8 days after". As many have noted, technically Luke says "about 8 days" later, whereas Matthew and Mark are perhaps being a little more specific. Now, yes, 6 and 8 days don't seem to be very close approximations of a time period that, reading Matthew and Mark, would be closer to 6 or 6 and a half days, but we note again that Luke is using an approximation whereas Matthew and Mark are being more specific. The reason, then, why Luke might have used "after about 8 days" instead of 7 days, is perhaps the point after which he started his counting. The events of Peter's confession (Matthew 16:13-20//Mark 8:27-30//Luke 9:18-20) and Jesus' prediction of his own death (Matthew 16:21-28//Mark 8:31-38//Luke 9:21-27) are linked by all three Evangelists (Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, 34, Luke 9:21-23), whereas the events preceeding are clearly separated (Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18). The events in these verses - Peter's confession, which occurred while Jesus and his disciples were privately praying (Luke 9:18), along with preaching and prediction of his death - could have easily taken the better part of a day. From that point it really depends on how one counts the time: from the end of Jesus' predictions about his death in Matthew 16:21-28 (and parallels) or from the whole joined narrative (Matthew 16:13-28 and parallels)? If Matthew and Mark count the days from the end of the previous events, and it was a little over 6 days or so, and Luke takes the general timeframe of the whole of the events from Luke 9:18-23 which would have taken perhaps a day or a day and a half, then that would give Luke about 7+ or 7 and a half (or more) days which can easily be approximated as "about 8 days". Thus it is one thing if Matthew and Mark said the Transfiguration occurred 6 days later whereas Luke says it occurs 13, and another if Luke clearly says, "about (Greek: osei) 8 days later".

Matthew 17:10-13

Was John the Baptist Elijah or not?

See Matthew 11:14.

Matthew 17:20

Are the prayers of believers always answered?

See John 14:12-14.

Matthew 18

Matthew 18:10

Can God be seen without dying and has anyone seen Him?

This verse is usually cited as contradicting the verses of the Old and New Testament that say that if anyone sees God he will die, and that no one has seen God. The fact is, however, that whereas it is true that no one has seen God, "seeing God" in the Old Testament does not denote actually seeing God, but is usually a metaphor for seeing, usually, an angel, or some other message God directly sent (for example the burning bush Moses saw, he said later on, he saw God, yet is a burning bush God?). This is most likely a visit by an angel, although it's not impossible that a projection of God was seen, as in the case of Moses and Adam and Eve. As far as those who saw God dying, there certainly were exceptions as the case of Moses shows where it is clearly noted he saw God face to face and did not die, but this exception is not problematic if God is "seen" through an angel or some other message of clearly divine origin.

But in this case, it is clearly a metaphor for the righteousness of the children, since angels in Heaven do see the face of our Father.

Matthew 18:14

How is it that God doesn't want one of these little ones to perish, yet the Flood, and various wars directed by God's command such as ones on the Amalekites and Midianites have certainly killed many children?

I think that the meaning of Matthew 18:10-14 is best understood as Jesus' statement that God wants everyone to come to repentance and doesn't want any little child, when he grows up, to be out of repentance and perish (eternally) - since we are all God's children in His eyes. Supporting this would be the fact that the Parable of the Lost Sheep here in Matthew 18:12-14 is applied in Luke 15:3-7 for the wish and rejoicing of God for everyone's repentance.

Matthew 18:15-17

Should we rebuke brothers and sisters in private or in public in front of others (1 Timothy 5:19-20)?

Matthew 18:15-17 - ""If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." (NIV).
1 Timothy 5:19-20 - "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning." (NIV).

So are those who sin to be privately rebuked, or publicly (at once)? It should be clear from 1 Timothy 5:19-20 that the situation that Paul is talking about there is in the case of a major, well-known offense of which the offender has not repented. This is similar to the case in 1 Cor. 5 where a member of the Corinthian church was sexually immoral and this was known to everyone and he didn't seem to really care (or else it probably wouldn't have gotten to the point where the Corinthians would have to include a notice of the incident to Paul about it in their letter). But if someone has wronged someone else by insulting him needlessly, does this really need to be brought to the attention of the whole church and to rebuke him publicly? Clearly the offended would first go to the offender and then afterwards, with the sin clearly being the offender's, if he doesn't want to repent of it, bigger measures can be taken (as Matthew 18:16-17 says). The two texts (Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20) simply deal with different levels of the situation, 1 Timothy 5:19-20 being the level of Matthew 18:16.

Matthew 19

Matthew 19:9

Is divorce allowed (Matthew 5:32) or not (Mark 10:11-12)?

This infamous alleged biblical contradiction involves the so-called fornication-exception clause, where Mark 10:12, Luke 16:18, Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 forbid divorce for any reason, whereas Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 allows it in the case of a sexually immoral wife (or husband).

This alleged contradiction is probably best seen as a misunderstanding of the fact that in the ancient world, a sexually immoral (or adulterous) wife/husband was automatically accepted as grounds for divorce and so perhaps Mark, Luke, and Paul (Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Corinthians 7:10-16) implied that a promiscuous wife (or husband) made it permissible to divorce, though didn't explicitly state it. For a lot more information see here: Jesus on Divorce.

Matthew 19:16-17

Did Jesus deny being good (and thus deny being sinless or God)?

The Gospels consider Jesus sinless (Mark 2:17 - he comes for sinners, not the righteous, implying none are righteous - yet he can't be part of the unrighteous to have any effect: this is the implicit basis for the perfect Passover lamb). So Matthew 19:16-17 and the other two Gospel parallels weren't meant as anything other than a rhetorical question. Jesus was being humble. Tiberius hated being called "Lord" (dominus)[Suetonius, Tiberius 27], but had no problem calling Senators this [ibid, 29 - "dominos"]. Augustus issued an edict against being called this and even forbade his children to call him that - even to each other; not even "Sire". [Suetonius, Augustus 53]

The young man outright addresses Jesus with the title, "good teacher". It was Jewish to refer to God as "good". [Berakhot 60b: "If we say this means that just as one recites a blessing for a positive event with the formula: Who is good and does good, so too one recites a blessing for a calamity with the formula: Who is good and does good, didn’t we learn in our mishna that over good tidings one recites: Who is good and does good, while over bad tidings one recites: Blessed…the true Judge?"] The young man did not know of the fundamental identity of Jesus.

There is nothing incorrect about identifying a righteous person as "a good man" in the usual sense of the word (e.g. Acts 11:24). But from a theological standpoint, no one who had ever sinned was good, and this was everyone - Romans 3:23! Romans 3:23 excludes Jesus (Romans 5:12-19), who otherwise would not be able to bring reconciliation through his righteousness if he had ever committed a sin (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21). It is in this sense that Jesus mildly corrects (Jesus doesn't focus on the rich young man's statement but then answers his main question - Matthew 19:17). True, Jesus' fame as someone who performed many miracles was widespread and well-known. However, even miracle-workers and prophets weren't considered sinless - Ecclesiastes 7:20, Matthew 7:22, 1 Timothy 1:16 (Paul performed miracles - Romans 15:19), and the well-known later life of Solomon. So maybe he saw some assumptions to pronounce the typical rabbis of his day as "good" (Luke 18:9-14), or perhaps Jesus knew the meaning that was employed for the rabbis as "good" or some other title that wasn't exactly appropriate (Matthew 23:7-10) and wanted to subtly correct another popular misconception about the Pharisees.

Matthew 20

Matthew 20:23

Doesn't this statement contradict verses like John 3:35 and Matthew 28:18?

I think that perhaps Matthew 28:18 should be interpreted as referring to Jesus after his resurrection - Romans 1:4. It was through Jesus' resurrection that he was perhaps declared (with respect to the world?) to have all power and authority on Earth and in Heaven, even though he had it before (1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:15-20). With that, we can note that John 3:35 can refer to all things being given to Jesus but things that pertain to Christ. For example, John 3:35 certainly does not mean that Jesus was given something such as the power to disobey God. Furthermore, from the context of John 3:22-36 (especially verse 36), it is more or less implied that John 3:35 refers to all things such as the power of salvation through Christ and what accompanies that, not simply an all-exclusive power and authority about absolutely anything.

On the other hand, even if we assume that Matthew 28:18 referred to Jesus' power and authority prior to the resurrection, there still isn't really any contradiction between Matthew 20:23 and verses like Matthew 28:18 and John 3:35. We can right away note that John 3:35 and Matthew 28:18 more or less speak of the same thing - the authority that Jesus was granted to do various things on Earth and in Heaven. However, despite the word "all" in John 3:35 and Matthew 28:18, this power and authority is clearly within a certain context. For example, although in Matthew 26:45-46 Jesus knew that his death had to happen, his human side still did not find anything pleasant about the death that he knew was awaiting him (Matthew 26:39 - but accepts that this has to happen: Matthew 26:42). Now, Jesus certainly had all power and authority in that sense, but he certainly wouldn't have been able to commit a sin against God by disobeying His will. It is in this same sense - Jesus' human role as servant expressed the relationship between Father and Son - God the Father and God the Son. It is in this sense that Jesus says that it's not his right to grant who will sit at his right or left - in the same way that Jesus cannot grant himself the authority to not die - it simply is neither his will nor God's. And it wasn't Jesus' will to grant who is to sit at his right or left because his relationship with God as Son was that the ability to grant the request in Matthew 20:23 was God's.

Matthew 21

Matthew 21:1-6

Did Jesus steal the donkey and its colt?

Just because in this story we are not told that Jesus didn't go ahead of time and ask for permission to borrow the donkey and its colt from someone in Bethphage, doesn't mean this didn't happen. First, the way Jesus instructs his disciples to go and get the two animals implies that he had no anticipation of a problem such as, for one, being accused of theft or being denied permission (Matthew 21:3). It is clear from the parallel story in Mark that the owners of the animals (Luke 19:33) would certainly not allow them to be stolen (Mark 11:4-6). Second, how likely is it that the answer Jesus instructs his disciples to give (Matthew 21:3 - the Lord needs it) will be accepted by an owner who did not give prior permission, most probably expressly to Jesus? Or if they would have considered the disciples' actions theft even with the answer they were instructed to say (which they didn't - Mark 11:6)? The Jewish custom of borrowing was that one should repay his debt on the agreed upon time (Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 1) and in general one should repay it soon (Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta Chapter 3). Not doing so was both punishable by court (Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 4) and a sin (Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 1). Jesus is explicit in telling his disciples to say, if anyone says something to them about taking the donkey and colt, that he will return the animals immediately (Matthew 21:3).

Therefore anyone who wants to insist on this being an example of Jesus committing theft has not read the text carefully enough.

Come and hear. The proselyte Beluria (a woman) asked R. Gamaliel (concerning the following apparent contradiction): It is written in your Law [Deut. 17]: "The Lord who regardeth not persons" (literally, who lifteth not up countenances); and it is also written [Numb. vi. 26]: "May the Lord lift up his countenance." R. Jose, the priest, joined her, and said to her: "I will tell thee a parable. To what may this be compared? To one who lent money to his neighbor, and set a time for its repayment before the king, and (the borrower) swore by the king's life (to repay it on time). The time arrived, and he did not pay, and he came to appease the king. Said the king to him, 'I can forgive you only your offence against me, but I cannot forgive you your offence against your neighbor; go and ask him to forgive you.'" So also here; in the one place it means sins committed by a man against Himself (the Lord), but in the other it means sins committed by one man against another. - Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 1
A certain woman was summoned for judgment before Ameimar in Neherdai. Ameimar went away to Me'huzza, but she did not follow him, and he wrote a letter to put her in the ban. Said R. Ashi to Ameimar: "Have we not learned that it mattered not where the chief of the Beth Din might be, the witnesses need only go to the meeting place (of the Beth Din)?" Answered Ameimar: "That is true in respect to evidence for the new moon; but with regard to my action, in which case she has been summoned for debt, 'The borrower is servant to the lender,' and she must come to the place where the chief court is" [Prov. xxii. 7]. - Tractate Rosh Hashana Chapter 4
If thou hast guaranteed for some one, remember that it must be paid by thyself. If thou hast borrowed money, know that thou hast borrowed it to be repaid in time. If thou hast loaned money to somebody, be prepared to have difficulty in collecting it. Remember the time thou hast to repay, and settle thy accounts. - Tractate Derech Eretz Zuta Chapter 3
Matthew 21:7

Did Jesus sit on one or two donkeys?

The objections to Matthew's account of the triumphal entry compared with that of the other two Evangelists' can be summed up as follows:

1. Mark and Luke mention only one donkey which is ("logically") the only one being ridden whereas Matthew has two.
2. How is Jesus supposed to have ridden two animals at once?
3. It seems as if Matthew misread Zechariah 9:9 and supposed that there were two animals wereas Zechariah 9:9 speaks of one and the same animal (which is repeated).

In answer to this Tektonics.org has an excellent article here: Were there two donkeys or one?. We can briefly answer the above three points in that:

1. Mark and Luke mention the important animal - the never-before-ridden colt, which symbolizes the honor Jesus has since no one has ridden it before. Therefore it is entirely possible that they referred only to the colt due to its importance (and to simply mention that one animal was ridden, instead of telling us two were which would have made Mark and Luke's readers ask the above question #2). Furthermore, the above article notes that usually colts that have never been ridden needed their mother to keep it calm (especially in the middle of shouting crowds).
2. It is not very hard to put cloaks on both animals and to sit on and ride only (or mostly - does not defeat the purpose) on the unridden colt. Matthew 21:7 does not have to say that Jesus rode both animals, but that the cloaks were placed over both (so as to keep the animals together perhaps), and Jesus sat on them (i.e. the clothes - "...and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon." (Matthew 21:7 KJV); the Greek epano does not necessitate sitting upon them to be either on the donkeys or the clothes - either way, there is no contradiction, especially since the clothes cover both animals and Jesus would have mostly been riding atop the colt).
3. The citation of Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21:7 is not a misreading but a purposeful targumizing that more or less interpreted texts at the time. Since they were a lot closer to the social context and time of composition of Zechariah, interpretations like that of Matthew 21:7 may very well be closer to the truth. And the Evangelist in his other quotations, as per commentators (again see article linked to above), shows excellent knowledge in Hebrew so as to make it very unlikely that he thought and interpreted Zechariah 9:9 to be speaking of the same donkey.

Matthew 21:18-22

Was Jesus being unnecessarily angry at a fig tree for not having fruit when it wasn't its season?

We have two objections here. First, why was Jesus acting like "an angry child" when the fig tree didn't have any fruit when he was hungry (when something like that can certainly happen to anyone), and second how he could expect for the fig tree to have fruit when it wasn't its time to bloom as Mark notes (Mark 11:12-13).

The first question we can easily answer by the fact that Jesus was using the fig tree as a symbol for the nation of Israel and the fig tree's lack of fruit as an analogy to Israel's faithlessness (Luke 13:6-9). But how can Jesus find fruit when it's not the right season? This is not relevant because the whole point is to symbolize Israel's lack of faith in the Messiah. The same way that Mark or his source knew that it wasn't the season for figs, so most likely would have Jesus, and so the fact that it wasn't the season for figs was irrelevant, since the episode served to illustrate how those who have no faith will be withered.

Matthew 21:33-41

Did the rulers of Jesus' day recognize who he was?

Verses like Acts 3:17, 13:27, 1 Corinthians 2:8, and Luke 23:34 clearly state that those who condemned Jesus to death didn't know who he was or exactly the magnitude of what they were doing. However, in the Parable of the Tenants those who are opposing the Son know that he is the son of the owner (God). How is this to be reconciled?

The important thing is to realize that Matthew 21:38 is part of a parable. In the parable, yes, the unjust tenants know that the Son is the son of the owner. But the symbol doesn't go that far, since for one, those who killed Jesus didn't do so in order for his inheritance to belong to them - but instead so that they could get away with their wickedness - i.e. to steal the fruit (good works) that belongs to the Father (Mark 12:17). In the same way, they didn't really recognize Jesus as God's Messiah, since that would have put them in an impossible situation. The analogy simply doesn't extend that far.

Matthew 22

Matthew 22:32

Does God rule over both the living and the dead (Romans 14:9) or not?

It is important to understand the context of Matthew 22:31-32:

'But about the resurrection of the dead - have you not read what God said to you, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living."' - (NIV).

In this story, Jesus is asked for proof of the resurrection in the Pentateuch by the Sadducees, one of the four major Jewish Schools of interpretation, who acknowledged only the books of Moses as authoritative and nothing else. Jesus mentions the time when Moses saw the burning bush which didn't burn up and how God told Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - who all had died by Moses' time. Jesus isn't saying at all that God doesn't rule over the dead since these men were all dead! The meaning of what Jesus is saying is that God isn't a God over those who die and stay dead, but since He is a God of the living, then those who have died (over whom God still rules as is evident from Matthew 22:32) won't stay dead.

Matthew 23

Matthew 23:5

Are we to show our good works in front of others or not?

See Matthew 5:16.

Matthew 23:8,10

Are we to call others "Instructor", "Teacher", "master" or not?

Numerous New Testament verses refer to teachers, instructors, and masters. Do they contradict Matthew 23:8,10? Certainly not. The sense of "master" is used for temporal, physical masters in the New Testament wherever it asks obedience to such (who are only people), whereas in Matthew, Jesus means it in the spiritual sense. With respect to the other two titles, these are not forbidden for people who do the will of Christ and God. The type of people that Jesus refers to in Matthew 23:1-7 are hypocrites who like these titles only for their personal prestige - something that nobody would consider correct. It is for these kinds of people that these titles in their spiritual sense are dismissed as applicable only.

Matthew 23:9

Are we allowed to call others father or not?

This is a very interesting question. The debate arises from when Jesus says, ""But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah." Matthew 23:8-10.

This is merely Jesus' (correct) recommendation not to give honor that is in fact only truly God's. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:15 Paul says, "Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." Well he certainly was not their physical father in any sense, and so a spiritual sense is implied. I've seen this interpreted by some Protestants as Paul being a father in the sense that he is offering protection to the congregation to whom he preached and giving a correct sense of spiritual direction. But this still makes him a "father" in the sense that Protestants think Jesus says to reject! And this is certainly not what Paul is trying to say - he is saying that he is their spiritual "father" through the Gospel.

It has to be understood that the Bible is not a hyperliterarist's tool. When Jesus says not to call any man your "father" he means to not give honor with that title to a man when it belongs to God. He also says not to call them "Teacher" or "Instructor", and if one wants to be technical, there are many spiritual instructors and teachers. What Jesus is saying is this. In ancient Judea, in Christ's time, there were many rabbis with students who learned from them. They would literally follow them and do what they did and learn what they taught them. Many of these teachers, as Jesus notes, only taught God and his will on the outside, but on the inside were corrupt, "white-washed tombs" (clean on the outside, rotten and dead on the inside). This can be applied even to someone who isn't like this. When you start giving credit to the man and not God for whom that man is supposed to stand for, that is when you are doing what Jesus advises not to. This is in effect what the Rabbis in his time were doing - gaining honor for themselves and not God. It is, in my opinion, not wrong at all to refer to someone as their spiritual father when they are such ultimately because they represent God's will and not themselves. For example, when Moses appeared before the Hebrew congregation, he represented God by having Aaron speak for him. He wasn't God, but as God Himself told him, with respect to Aaron, "as if you were God to him" (Exodus 4:16).

Matthew 23:35

Did Zechariah son of Jehoiada or son of Berechiah die between the altar and the sanctuary?

The issue is that the only Zechariah to die like this was son of Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24:20-21) not Berechiah, the father of Zechariah the Minor Prophet (Zech. 1:1, 7).

I explore the following:

  1. Zechariah son of Baruch, mentioned by Josephus (War IV.5.4)
  2. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist
  3. Zechariah son of Berechiah the Minor Prophet
  4. Zechariah son of Jehoiada

Josephus' Zechariah son of Baruch

He died in the late 60's AD, over 30 year after Jesus. Maybe Matthew was calling to mind to his readers the murder of another Zechariah, son of Baruch, during the Jewish war with Rome, who according to Josephus was also murdered at the Temple. Possibly the Evangelist subtly alludes to this relatively recent murder which might have been well-known enough, since Zechariah was a very prominent and influential person.

William Whiston denies the identification because he was murdered in a completely different part of the Temple. He writes [Wars IV.5.4 - note 10]:

And since that slaughter [in Matt. 23:35] was between the temple and the altar, in the court of the priests, one of the most sacred and remote parts of the whole temple, while this was, in Josephus' own words, in the middle of the temple, and much the most probably in the court of Israel only: (for we have had no intimation that the zealots had at this time profaned the court of the priests. See Book V.1.2). Nor do I believe that our Josephus, who always insists on the peculiar sacredness of the inmost court, and of the Holy House that was in it, would have omitted so material an aggravation of this barbarous murder, as perpetrated in a place so very holy, had that been the true place of it. See Antiq. Book XI.7.1, and the note here on Book V.1.2.

Daniel Whitby in his commentary on Matt. 23:35 also rejects it, stating that the names "Berechiah" and "Baruch" were completely different for the ancient writers. So the Septuagint always translates Jeremiah's scribe and others named Baruch as "Barouch" (Βαρουχ), but Berechiah is always "Berechias" (Βερεχιας) - cf. Neh. 3:20 (Baruch) and 3:30 (Berechiah), two different men, clearly showing the two names were treated differently. It would be a little like equating Josephus' Zechariah (who was rich) with the rich Zachaeus of Luke 19:2.

Additionally he denies him on the grounds that he wasn't a prophet, apparently based on the parallel in Luke 11:50-51. I don't find this second reason very convincing because Matthew's text clearly considers the inclusion to be for all righteous people, including sages and scribes (v.34).

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist

If John the Baptist's father was meant, I think Matthew would've elaborated instead of giving us an otherwise unknown pedigree of "son of Berechiah". Whitby also rejects this identification, noting that nobody knew Zechariah as a "son of Berechiah" aside from a citation by Nikephoros Kallistos (9th century) of Hippolytus of Rome (3rd century). The ancient tradition that he was slain in the Temple he rejects on the basis that it incorrectly claims this was because Zechariah placed Mary in the temple place for virgins. While there was a court for women, there was none for virgins in particular, leading Jerome to say this tradition arose from "the dreams of apocryphal writers."

Zechariah son of Berechiah the Minor Prophet

Interestingly, although Whitby also rejects this identification, he notes how the Targum of Lamentations 2:20 identifies Zechariah, son of Iddo, as the one murdered in the temple: "Was it fit for you, even in the day of propitiation, to kill a priest and prophet, as you did Zachariah the son of Iddo, in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord, because he would have withdrawn you from your evil ways?"

This would be an error of identification because the Lamentations Rabbah correctly identifies him as the son of Jehoiada. Like Luke 11:51, the Midrash Coheleth (=Qohelet = Ecclesiastes), and the Talmud (Sanhedrin 96b) only say "Zechariah", leading one to believe this was Matthew's addition and Jesus would've spoken to the common people only of a "Zechariah".

Zechariah son of Jehoiada

Adam Clarke in his commentary gives the following opinions:

  • Jehoiada and Berechiah have the same meaning, "blessed" - and Matthew was transliterating (maybe to call in mind Zechariah the prophet)
  • Double names were frequent (e.g. Saul's father - Benjamin/Kish)
  • Jerome mentions that the Gospel of the Nazoreans, a Hebrew/Aramaic gospel (vs our Greek, possibly translated, Matthew), has Jehoiada instead of Berechiah

These ideas I can't agree with:

  • While Berechiah is related to "blessing", Jehoiada means "Yahweh knows". The two aren't really similar in meaning thematically (knowledge vs blessing), unless there was some cultural connection such as between prophets and encouragement and peace (Acts 4:36, 1 Cor. 14:3, 32-33). But that's unlikely since it was a name and hardly would anyone know Zechariah's father as "Jehoiada", but simply the story of the murder of "Zechariah" (as Luke 11:51 has it).
  • There is no evidence of this double name, or way for Matthew, his readers, or Jesus' audience to have known it
  • Matthew is not a translation but was originally written in Greek. The Gospel of the Nazoreans is certainly dependent upon it, expanding various ideas (for example, it painstakingly tries to explain why Jesus was baptized by having Mary and Jesus' brothers tell him for everyone to go get baptized by John the Baptist, with Jesus asking why since he was sinless [Jerome, Against the Pelagians 3.2]). Like many other ancient texts (like the Septuagint on Exodus 12:40 for example), it corrects the text, showing Matthew's "son of Berechiah" was an ancient issue.

But I believe this is the Zechariah meant. As we saw above, the Rabbinic sources widely believed his murder was one of the main reasons for the destruction of the Temple centuries later. This shows the tradition was well-known in Jesus' day, by the simple "Zechariah", and is who Jesus meant. Would the Targum of Lamentations would call him "son of Iddo" if he was widely known as the "son of Jehoiada"? I attribute "son of Berechiah" to Matthew and not Jesus because it's not found in Luke 11:51, and Matthew's text is as usual longer and more elaborated, probably by him. In the end, it's irrelevant whether Jesus or Matthew said "son of Berechiah" for this identification.

Unlikely Iddo was a variant of Jehoiada the way Joiada seems to be (Neh. 12:10; also Joiakim from Jehoiakim). The name Iddo, mentioned in the same chapter of Neh., was different for centuries (1 Ki 4:14; 2 Chron. 9:29; Neh. 12:4; Ezra 8:17). My hypothesis here is that for Matthew it was pretty irrelevant who this Zechariah's actual father was. Since the Targumist probably made a mistake, I cannot assume this and cannot assume Matthew (or his audience) would have known the father was Jehoiada.

Objections to this include that this was certainly not the last prophet killed for Jesus to point to. But this is an unnecessary technicality that misses the point. Zechariah was a great example of calamity upon the Israelites (destruction by Babylon) because of Israelites (Zechariah's murderers) acknowledged by Israelites (2 Chronicles; the Talmud). Technically, John the Baptist was the latest prophet: although murdered by Herod, neither was Abel murdered by any Jew. No one else after Zechariah son of Jehoiada is really mentioned by name either the average Judean would've known of, in all honesty.

Tradition, error, or something else?

Two questions come up then: was there some sort of tradition the Targum on Lamentations used? Or if the Targum made a simple error of identity, did Matthew also make a mistake?

Targum Lamentations is from no earlier than around the 5th century, about the same time as the Lamentations Rabbah, which has the correct name. So this can't be any early, reliable tradition when no one else mentions it.

Did Matthew also make this mistake? The numerous prophecies he quotes shows he knew and consulted it frequently enough. He certainly knows of the book of Zechariah (Matt. 21:5), whose prophecy (Zech. 9:9) he not only included as opposed to Luke 19:38//Mark 11:9-10, but fully transcribed where it seems he's saying Jesus sat on two animals: a donkey and its colt!

To use "son of Berechiah" versus the much more common "son of Iddo" (Ezra 5:1, 6:14; Targum Lamentations 2:20; possibly Neh. 12:16) he must've read Zech. 1:1,7, the only place that mentions it. If he was willing to do this much research, perhaps it would stand to reason he knew Zechariah's father was Jehoiada and was doing some allegory himself, much like he does elsewhere (e.g. Matt. 2:18, 23; etc). If the author(s) of the Gospel of the Nazoreans knew of this Zechariah as son of Jehoiada, maybe so did Matthew, whom they used as a source. Moreover, the Targum of Lamentations has fewer and fewer parallels as the verses progress and eventually becomes just a translation without any commentary; perhaps the author wasn't very thorough. He's certainly not really too careful with his translation: regarding Lam. 3:16ff - "Tg. manages to begin each stich [verse] with waw, as in the Hebrew, probably more by accident than design." [Alexander, Philip S. The Targum of Lamentations (2007), p.147 n.27]

Further technical knowledge is shown for example in Matt. 12:4. He deletes Mark 2:26's reference to "in the days of Abiathar the high priest," which is probably original to Jesus' argument, exactly because Abiathar wasn't really a high priest nor even a priest in that incident (it was Ahimelech). Here the Abiathar reference is strictly chronological and serves no allegorical purpose. Its removal shows Matthew knew or at least researched the details of the relevant Old Testament texts for his Gospel (as did Luke - 6:4, his prologues).

The change of the name of Jesus' apostle Levi (Mark 2:15; Luke 5:27) to Matthew (Matt. 9:9) is probably something he took from tradition because of the absence of Levi's name in any list of apostles, so some connection between Levi as another name for one of the apostles must've existed, the way it did for Simon - Peter, though more minor in memory. In that case, one can argue his identification of Zechariah as "son of Berechiah" was a mistake if Matthew looked for which apostle equated to this mysterious Levi. Francis Galton in the preface to his Hereditary Genius (1869; p.vi) writes, "I trust the reader will pardon a small percentage of error and inaccuracy...I have often had to run my eyes over many pages of large biographical dictionaries and volumes of memoirs to arrive at data, destined to be packed into half a dozen lines, in an appendix to one of my many chapters."

But the number of sources and amount of information Matthew would've searched through would not have been as much. Just the idea for his book came to Galton after looking through the biographies of 400 "illustrious men" (Hereditary Genius, p.v). And as we saw, this Zechariah was widespread and famous, moreso to the literary elite, who knew his real identity, so Matthew wanting to identify him would not have been that much of a challenge. The only way he could've made the mistake is if he rashly assumed it. His changes of Mark and the common source between him and Luke can't help determine one way or the other, except to make the text more comprehensible (e.g. MT 24; Canaanite woman). He does delete references to Jewish customs. Various disjointed sayings put in groups that make more sense, but he often leaves doublets (MT 16:18 vs. 18:18; exception clause), which means he wasn't dogmatic but appealed to tradition or common sense whenever he could.

It would be justified to assume an error if it weren't for the frequent allegory in Jewish writings, including Matthew's. The Book of Judith intentionally misidentifies historical figures and events because of its purpose (the "errors" become too numerous and obvious later and later to be historical mistakes). In the Targum on Lamentations, Rome is Edom (e.g. 4:17) and even the obvious and certainly known to the targumist historical context of Lam. 1:19/Jer. 2:17-19, 36 being Egypt and Assyria, is consciously and anachronistically turned into Rome: for him the historical circumstances of his present day justify it, although he doesn't pretend it's the biblical context, he merely uses it as a parallel for his present day. This may explain why Lamentations Rabbah seems to think the northern kingdom existed in the time of Necho (4:17). Some sources interpret the bear and lion in Lam. 3:10 to be Vespasian and Trajan - two emperors who attacked Israel. [Alexander, Philip S. The Targum of Lamentations (2007), p.146 n.18] Targum Lamentations certainly knew and read some of 2 Chronicles: the fuller account of the death of Josiah is used for 1:18. Possibly the targumist is also intentionally conflating the two Zechariahs.

Matthew does this throughout his Gospel, showing the Semitic background of the author. Jesus' genealogy becomes three sets of seven generations (1:17), for one. Not to mention the innumerable prophecies he cites, which have been the source of a lot of criticism: the Virgin Birth in Isaiah (Isa. 7:13-14), Jesus a Nazarene (2:23), the Flight to Egypt (2:15 with Hosea 11:1), and so on. Jesus himself employs this in Matt. 23:30-31 (similar logic and trap in Matt. 21:42,44 and John 9:40-41). The very verse where Zechariah is mentioned does this as well, "all the righteous blood shed on the earth will come on you", because of the typical Jewish argument to associate the sins of one's fathers onto their sons. Polemic is effective when designed to entrap one by his own words, but this has to be backed up by verifiable evidence from reality (the corruption of the Pharisees; healing of the blind man from birth).

The verses under question connect the popular Jewish and early Christian theme of the Israelites as obstinate and rebellious to God, to the point of killing their prophets (1 Kings 19:10, 14; Neh. 9:26; Jer. 2:30; Lam. 2:20; 1 Thess. 2:15; Acts 7) and the hostility of the Jewish religious establishment against Jesus and the average man whom they corrupted (Matt. 15:3-14; and most of chapter 23). If he was employing a pesher, or midrash, perhaps he wanted to identify a more well-known Zechariah for his audience.

One could give many examples of this. For example, when Alexander the Great captured Darius' family after the Battle of Issus, Darius' mother mistook Hephaestion for Alexander while begging for the royal family's lives. When embarrassed after realizing her mistake, Alexander in a typical cheerful-humored quip resonds, "You were not mistaken, Mother; this man too is Alexander" - perhaps to signify his own equality. But that's a specific, correlated situation.

The fact that Matthew allegorically calls Jesus "Immanuel" based on its meaning and connection to Isaiah 7:14 (another allegory) shows that he was more than willing to employ such an metaphor and pesher of name identification. So in my view it becomes a matter of opinion whether he made a mistake or purposefully conflated Zechariah son of Jehoiada with the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah.

I think that given the disposition of the ancient Jewish writers to allegorically connect historically unconnected but thematically equivalent situations, and Matthew's carefulness and knowledge of the Old Testament, it becomes a matter of opinion whether he made a mistake or was employing a pesher/midrash by calling this Zechariah a son of Berechiah.

Matthew 24

Matthew 24:35

Will the Earth pass away or not (Ecclesiastes 1:4)?

See Ecclesiastes 1:4 above.

Matthew 24:36

Shouldn't Jesus and the Holy Spirit know the time of the End Times?

This verse, which says, "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father", does not need to exclude the Holy Spirit from knowing any more than Paul's statement cannot exclude Jesus in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned" as it obviously does.

As far as Jesus' lack of knowledge, if the words, "the Son" are original (some manuscripts don't have them), then this doesn't need to reflect anything other than his human knowledge, which is what he chose to access and refer to.

Matthew 25

Matthew 25:34

Were the places for Jesus' followers prepared or did Jesus go to prepare them (John 14:2-3)?

Matthew 25:34 is undoubtedly the literal theological statement that the Kingdom of Heaven and the place for every believer has been prepared since the Creation of the World. John 14:2-3 is a metaphor where Jesus is simply returning to God and is going to assure the place for his disciples. It is not meant to be taken literally the way Matthew 25:34 is.

Matthew 26

Matthew 26:11

Will Jesus always be with the Disciples/believers or not?

See Matthew 28:20 below.

Matthew 26:34

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 below.

Matthew 26:42

Was Jesus unwilling to go to be crucified and thus not want to obey God?

I once saw someone claim that here Jesus "clearly" didn't want to obey God and didn't want to go to be crucified and was asking for this part of his mission to be removed (the most important part of His mission! - cf. Mark 8:31-33). The problem with that interpretation is, however, that it misunderstands the difference between dislike of the pain and suffering (and humiliation) that Jesus was about to experience, versus the willingness to go with the action. It's clear that Jesus went ahead and did something that he wasn't exactly enthusiastic about - the crucifixion which gave salvation for mankind's sin, but which also entailed a lot of pain and suffering for him. It would be a mistake to confuse negative sentiments about the second of these with the former.

As J.P. Holding notes (in Couldn't Jesus Save Himself?),
Obviously it is quite possible to do something unpleasant voluntarily: One weighs the consequences and the results, and makes a decision, and even then can cry out from the hardship. The attitudes are not mutually exclusive.

Matthew 26:55

Is Jesus incorrect about the Pharisees not taking measures to arrest him?

Does this verse contradict John 8:59? It doesn't, because 1) in John 8:59 it is the people who want to seize Jesus, not the Pharisees, and 2) Jesus is talking about his teaching at the Temple courts, and the Pharisees who wanted to arrest him certainly didn't do anything publicly (Matt. 21:46, Luke 20:19). The only other time where action was taken publicly against Jesus, he wasn't arrested (John 7:32, 45-46). Quite simply, there were too many people who believed in Jesus, which made the Pharisees inactive (see for example John 7:25-26). It isn't until when a large part of the crowd has a negative reaction that the Pharisees actually do something - John 7:30-32. This is quite in line with the predominant attitude and policy of the time - Herod executed John the Baptist because of a fear like this, but at the same time was afraid to do it because the very action might incite a revolt. Pilate, and the Roman governors in general did not want to go against the crowd.

Matthew 26:56

Did Jesus lose any of his sheep?

See John 10:28-29.

Matthew 26:74-75

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30.

Matthew 27

Matthew 27:1-10

Did Judas die by a hanging or a fall (Acts 1:18-19)?

The death of Judas

Matthew 27:8

Why was the field called Akeldama?

Matthew says the field where Judas died was called Akeldama because it was bought with blood money. Acts 1:20 says because Judas' corpse polluted it. But Matthew is giving a theological reason - a pesher. He's saying ultimately it was because of this, whereas the more direct reason would be the one mentioned in Acts. Josephus gives two reasons in the same breath for Caligula's death: that he dared to elevate himself to divine worship (theological), but also abuses of the senatorian class (the immediate, direct cause of death) - Antiquities 18.8.9.

Matthew 27:9-10

Why is Jeremiah cited only for a quote of both Jeremiah and Zechariah?

This brief article by J.P. Holding explains things well (Errors in attribution in the New Testament?).

Its basic point is that Rabbinic literature would cite different authors under the same name when they had similarities (e.g. Ezra 10:2 and Malachi 2:2 - Meg. 15a; Z.H. Chages, The Student's Guide to the Talmud, pp.172ff). Basically the most major prophet is cited as the authority despite there being another writing (or more). This is reflected in Mark 1:1-3 which also quotes two prophets (Malachi and Isaiah), but lists only Isaiah as the citation. Clearly this was a practice common in Judea (as we have noted) and perhaps in the Hellenistic world as well, and it is not just a mistake on the part of both Matthew and Mark as we see from the parallels in the Rabbinic literature.

Matthew 27:34

Did Jesus drink myrrh, gall, or hyssop? Also did he refuse it, or taste/drink it?

Since all three words denote "bitter" (myrrh is Aramaic [and Hebrew] for bitter, as is gall for Greek, and hyssop is a bitter plant), they all denote Jesus drinking something bitter. Most likely John has the physical description of the objects - a sponge dipped in a jar of wine and vinegar and then put on the stalk of a hyssop plant, and Mark and Matthew use euphemisms for that with the description of a bitter mixture, something completely acceptable in writing history in their day.

Another objection here is that Mark 15:23 says Jesus refused the bitter wine, whereas Matthew 27:34 says he tasted it and refused it and John 19:29-30 says he "received the drink" (NIV). Here, clearly we have the different Evangelists focusing on different aspects of what Jesus did. It should be obvious that Jesus tasted the bitter wine and then refused it, which Mark epitomizes to Jesus having "refused it" (omitting the part about him tasting it - completely acceptable historiographical practice of the day), and John focuses on the fact that he "received it" insofar as it was given to him and he tasted it.

Matthew 27:37

What was written on the inscription at Jesus' crucifixion?

See Mark 15:26 below.

Matthew 27:39-44

How can Jesus be God if he couldn't save himself?

It's not that Jesus couldn't save himself from the cross, it's that it wasn't his wish, nor God's will. This is abundantly clear from his statement that if he were to so choose, he could pray for twelve legions of angels from God (Matt. 26:53-54). It's not as if he tried and failed to avoid the cross to which he constantly noted throughout his ministry he was going to (Mark 8:31, 14:21, etc).

Matthew 27:46

Doesn't this verse show that Jesus simply "failed" in his mission and was disappointed with what was happening to him? Doesn't this show that Jesus did not want to be on the cross, being crucified and sacrificed for the world's sins? How could the Savior really say something like this?

Considering the fact that 1) Jesus is showing human lament for his situation due to the unbelieving Jews, and that 2) he is quoting Psalm 22 which is expressing this lament, the answer to the above questions is No. If the psalm can lament a dire situation, and still not be in any opposition with God, then so can Jesus. It is simply a mistake to impose someone's conscience on someone else; different people will view this differently - one might consider it simply a sinless expression of affliction, as it is in Psalm 22, another might consider it questioning God's justice, and that's what it would be for that person, but Jesus did not necessarily mean it in this way (Romans 14:5-6).

Does what Jesus said last on the cross contradict in the Gospels?

Mark and Matthew agree with respect to Jesus' words before he died (Mark 15:34, Matt. 27:46). But both Luke and John have different words that Jesus said. Do the Gospels contradict here?

They don't. In both Mark and Matthew (Mark 15:37, Matt. 27:50) Jesus is said to have given out a cry before he died. This doesn't need to be merely a loud shout, it certainly could be spoken words (e.g. Matthew 12:19, citing Isaiah 42:2 - in the LXX Isaiah 42:2 has the same word and spoken words are implied). Needless to say, Mark's tradition (which Matthew is following) most likely had something spoken that Mark omitted. It's obvious that the sayings recorded in Luke and John are not meant to replace those given in Mark and Matthew since Mark and Matthew's saying occurs before the drinking of vinegar wine with gall (Matthew 27:46-49//Mark 15:34-36), whereas John's saying is spoken after it (John 19:28-30), and Luke has the words put in the same place as John (before his death), and the "loud voice" of Luke 22:46 is most certainly the "great cry" of Mark 15:37 and Matt. 27:50.

This brings us to Luke and John who both state that Jesus died as soon as he had spoken what they record (Luke 23:46, John 19:30). They both give different sayings, but it can hardly be impossible to imagine that Jesus said both. Doubtless, when someone's sayings when speaking are recorded some writers will have written a certain part of their speech, whereas another would have recorded a different, yet in some areas complementary, set of sayings. Simply Luke and John recorded two different things, both of which we can say Jesus said. Since the words recorded in John make more sense to have be spoken after those in Luke, we can reconstruct the order of what Jesus said like this: Matthew 27:46//Mark 15:34, then he was offered something to drink (Matt. 27:48, Mark 15:36, John 19:28-30), then spoke the words in Luke 23:46, and then those of John 19:30 and died. Luke 23:46b ("When he had said this, he breathed his last.") have simply omitted John's words and skipped to the fact that Jesus died shortly after Luke 23:46a (something completely acceptable in history-writing).

Matthew 27:51

When was the Temple's curtain torn?

Matthew 27:51 and Mark 15:38 both place the tearing of the Temple's curtain after Jesus' death, whereas Luke 23:45 describes it as happening before Jesus' death. This however isn't a contradiction since Luke is merely grouping all (known to his traditions) miraculous events surrounding Jesus' crucifixion and death into one place (for whatever reason), and so is not giving a strict chronological outline in that respect - he is merely retelling of what happened to the Temple's curtain around the time of Jesus' death, something that is acceptable when one's interests aren't strictly chronology in these minute details.

Matthew 28

Matthew 28:18

Does this verse contradict Matthew 20:23?

See Matthew 20:23 above.

Matthew 28:19

Do we need to baptize or not?

Some might claim that this verse in Matthew is contradicted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 which says, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel - not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Is this an obvious example of a contradiction in the Bible?

Certainly not! Paul is combatting those who have divided themselves over who they give preeminence to in Christian and spiritual (and perhaps theological) matters, and Paul is combatting the unnecessary division this has caused. Paul is not "throwing away" baptism, because the fact that he mentions it as such a central issue (1 Cor. 1:13-17) shows that everyone was in fact being baptized. Baptism is indeed one's symbollic gesture of communion with God and entrance into the church, and that's what Matthew 28:19 refers to, but it is not the most important thing, certainly not over the Gospel. In effect, the only thing Matthew 28:19 is saying is to go and preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations and symbolizing this by baptizing them, but not that this was the central mission of the sending, and that's all Paul is noting - that the Gospel is the purpose of Christianity, and not baptism, and there is nothing in Matthew 28:19 that contradicts that.

Do we baptize in Jesus' name or in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

If one is baptizing in Jesus' name, who was sent and approved of by God, then one is clearly baptizing in the name of God as well (similarly see John 12:44-45). And the Holy Spirit was never certainly less important in the early Church (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 2 Corinthians 13:14). The Apostles may have baptized by mentioning only, "in the name of Jesus", but Matthew 28:19 is what is symbolized and meant by the expression "I baptize you in the name of Jesus".

Matthew 28:20

Will Jesus always be with the Disciples/believers or not?

It should be abundantly clear that where verses like John 7:34 and Matthew 26:11 are being literal about Jesus' presence not being physically present on Earth after some time, Matthew 28:20 is the promise that Jesus will never really be apart from the disciples (and other believers later). These followers continued to perform multiple signs and miracles to the people (Acts 3:1-10, 5:12-16, 8:6-8, 26-40), were helped numerous times (Acts 5:17-20, 12:1-11, 27:21-26), and ultimately God directed them and other believers on many occasions (Acts 10, 11:19-24, 13:1-5, 16:6-10). So, yes, Jesus certainly was with the believers in spirit. After all, the Evangelist Matthew certainly would know that Jesus would not be physically present after his Ascension, and in addition the meaning of Matthew 28:20 is certainly to be understood metaphorically since it is spoken right before the Ascension, implied by the conclusion of the Gospel.

Doesn't this verse contradict 2 Thessalonians 2:9 which says the lawless one has "all power" and wonderous signs?

See 2 Thessalonians 2:9 below. Satan coming with "all power" is figurative and doesn't mean he has "all the power" - but all sorts of powers/great power, allowed by God who holds all power ultimately.


Mark 1

Mark 1:1-3

Is Mark wrong in attributing the citation of Malachi and Isaiah only to Isaiah?

See Matthew 27:9-10 above.

Mark 1:23-24

Did the impure spirit confess Jesus meaning it must be of God (1 John 4:2)?

Mark 1:23-24 (and its parallel Luke 4:33-34; also Acts 16:16-18) does not imply the (obviously demonic) spirit is of God for merely stating that Jesus was the Holy One of God. First, we don't really know if 1 John 4 is referring to actual spirits or merely people/prophets (1 John 4:1). If 1 John 4 does indeed include literal spirits, it in no way means that stating a fact is the same as the acknowledgement of a believer, which is what is clearly meant by 1 John 4:2 to be out of true faith. Just like James 2:19 says, even the demons believe there is one God, and shudder! But that doesn't make them have any living faith, the kind presupposed in 1 John 4, and not in verses like Mark 1:23-24, Luke 4:33-34, and Acts 16:16-18. 1 John 4 was written for an audience that was to be able to distinguish between heretics/Gnostics who were denying Jesus had come in the flesh.

Mark 2

Mark 2:5-12

Who forgives sin - Jesus or God?

It should be clear that both Jesus and God have the power to forgive sin. In this case, one might wonder why in Luke 23:34 Jesus asks God to forgive those responsible for crucifying and insulting him since they don't know what they're doing. This however doesn't have to mean Jesus is unable to forgive them since it is just a metaphor for Jesus' statement that they are ignorant - after all, those responsible were still unrepentant and many of them had witnessed Jesus' miracles and rejected him and are most certainly not going to be forgiven of that lest they repented. Thus the statement in Luke 23:34 is best seen as a lament similar to someone who, for example, is unfairly deprived of something by someone who should know better, but doesn't.

Mark 2:25-26

Why does Jesus refer to David's companions as real when David was on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 21) when David made them up so that Ahimelech would help him?

In medieval chronicles, only the names and number of knights who participated in battles were mentioned/counted, but it was always known and presumed that each knight had at least 3-4 men-at-arms with him, so the total number of people would have been larger. The same was without a doubt the case in David's situation - he had lived with royalty for years and would have had money and retinue accumulated.

We can't be sure whether Jesus is making a pesher or midrash by assuming something that he knew was false for the sake of the point that still stands from 1 Samuel 21 (anyone who had heard the story would probably know). Or he could be presuming something irrelevant to his point that others believed that he knew was false. But if it's really impossible for David to have had a few companions who were unmentioned, then how is it that David's family found out that he had gone to the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-2)? Certainly it wouldn't have been widespread news throughout all of Judah, since Saul would have easily gone and hunted down David and his 400 men, who were afraid to be in Judah since they could be detected by Saul (1 Samuel 23:3). Perhaps he got in touch with someone, the way he did with Ahimelech, but it's not impossible he had men with him, at least somewhere, who joined him at Nob at least. So we can see that there might have been a few (two or three) people with David, despite the fact that he sets out alone after Jonathan warns him (1 Samuel 20:42). Perhaps along the way to Nob, he went somewhere and got a few friends or supporters (certainly only trusted ones) to go with him. Then again, Jesus could be merely making or using a pesher or midrash that was not interpreting David's (possible) lie as literal, but only indulging it for the sake of the example for the point being made.

Mark 2:26

Is Mark mistaken about Abiathar being high priest at that time? Is he also mistaken about there having been a high priest?

First, the word archehiereus can be translated as chief priest, as it is in other places in the New Testament (Mark 8:31, 10:33, 11:18, 27, 12:12; Luke 9:22). This would mean, like its New Testament usage, that Abiathar is a priest with more responsibilities and authority than an average synagogue leader. In that respect, Abiathar was indeed a chief priest while he served with Zadok during David's reign.

However, it was Ahimelech to whom David went requesting food, and not Abiathar (who was not yet a priest). This objection can be answered by the fact that Jesus' reference can be understood as "in the days very close to the chief priest Abiathar, David did this..." This doesn't need to be an error any more than saying, "In the days of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire was the dominant power in the Mediterranean". Whereas the Roman Empire did not come into existence until after the death of Julius Caesar (being the Roman Republic before). Only someone who isn't focused on the point would bring this up. Jesus' audience would have been more familiar with Abiathar than with Ahimelech, and so the reference doesn't need to mean anything more than "1000 years agoAbiathar's time". Abiathar is a much better reference to the period of David's life, as well as the subject matter. And is infinitely better than using the Olympiad count of how many years ago this happened (not as relevant as who and what happened), or the, impossible in this case, datable/relatable reign of a (usually recent) former king.

Mark 3

Did Jesus' mother know about him as Messiah, or consider him crazy?

The original words have Jesus and his family try and extricate him from the crowd because they thought he was crazy. Yet the Angel made it clear that her son was no ordinary man in the Annunciation, and in John 2:3,5, at the start of his ministry, she fully believes and knows he can do miracles. Verses like Luke 2:51 are also clear that Mary didn't just "forget".

In Jesus' day, followers of the size he had was considered revolt by the Romans. The Jewish understanding of the Messiah was a Davidic Restorer who would remove all foreign oppression. So Theudas and the Egyptian who tried to imitate Moses and Joshua were quickly attacked. Similarly the Samaritan prophet by Pilate. It was one thing to be a prophet and to have miracles, it was a whole other level to claim you were the Messiah. For this reason, Jesus did not want it to be publicly known: the Messianic Secret. To the point where even John the Baptist had to wonder if he wasn't mistaken about him, though Jesus' answer, in typical metaphorical but straight to the point style of his, was an unmistakable confirmation (LK 7:18-23) (and shows what parts of the Old Testament some Jews at the time considered Messianic prophecies).

Mark 4

Mark 4:10-12

Did Jesus teach openly (John 18:20) or in secret?

See Matthew 13:10-11.

Mark 4:31-32

Does Jesus have errors about the mustard seed?

There are two objections here: 1) that the mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds, and 2) that the mustard plant does not grow to be a tree, let alone a tree where birds can perch.

To the first objection we can refer to the ChristianAnswers.net website here: Is the mustard seed the smallest of all seeds? The main point of their answer is that Jesus was speaking about the seeds that a farmer in Palestine would plant, not about absolutely every seed in the world:
Please note that Jesus was not comparing the mustard seed to all other seeds in the world, but to seeds that a local, Palestinian farmer might have "sowed in his field," i.e., a key qualifying phrase in verse 31. And it's absolutely true that the black mustard seed (Brassica nigra = Sinapis nigra) was the smallest seed ever sown by a first-century farmer in that part of the world.

When people come to visit us here in north central Maine, we might take them on a drive, passing a good number of lakes and ponds, to Moosehead Lake, which I will describe to them as being "the largest lake of all." Of course, our guests will usually realize that I'm speaking locally, not globally. They don't often question my credibility.

The context of Matthew 13 makes it quite clear that Jesus was addressing a local lay audience, not an international conference of botanists.
As far as the second objection, the black mustard seed (Sinapis nigra) can grow to a height of several feet (2-12 feet), enough to have a bird such as a sparrow perched on its branches (In the above article by ChristianAnswers.net they cite Matthew 13:31-32 as saying the mustard tree can hold a bird's nest, but I only see the words "lodge" and "perched" in the KJV and NIV respectively, and lodged in the KJV in my opinion means perched, and not that it made the nest. Neither interpretation however is impossible with a mustard tree that can grow as big as perhaps 12 feet).

Mark 5

Mark 5:1

Gadara or Gerasa (or Gergasa)? Is this an error in Mark's geography?

Luke and Mark agree about Jesus and the disciples going to the land of the Gerasenes, whereas Matthew says it was the land of the Gadarenes. Which is it?

Two problems are raised here. Gerasa (Mark and Luke) is about 30 miles away from the Sea of Galilee. Gadara (Matthew) is 5 miles away. How then could the pigs run to drown themselves? Moreover, how could a shore 30 miles away be called "the region of Gerasa"? And on this basis it has been suggested that this is an error in Mark's geography (and Luke's), which Matthew has corrected by replacing Gerasa with Gadara, obviously having a better knowledge of geography.

Firstly, all three Gospels note that Jesus and the apostles landed in the region of Gerasa/Gadara. Both Gadara and Gerasa are in the opposite direction from Capernaum with respect to the Sea of Galilee. Simply one author was using one broad geographic area as a reference, and another was using a different, closer one, regardless of the distance. For Mark it was sufficient to locate the relative area and direction in which Jesus went by the broad reference of Gerasa. Matthew decided to be a little more specific, but is in no way contradicting Mark (and Luke), since Gerasa and Gadara are along the same path towards the Sea of Galilee. The region of Gerasa could certainly overlap, depending on the author's description and point-of-view, the region of Gadara the same way that the region of Los Angeles can overlap with that of one of the smaller cities next to it (over which institutions like LAPD and the LAUSD have authority) such as West Hollywood, or Van Nuys. Someone living in North Hollywood can describe themselves both as living in the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles.

Nor does Matthew's change to Gadara prove an error in Markan geography, because if that were the case he would have most certainly changed the town to Gergesa (it's right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee), which does not lie across the same path from Gerasa to the Sea of Galilee, as most of the later manuscripts of all three Gospels do. We should also note that Gadara had a harbor on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, thus the region can quite rightfully be described as being in the vicinity of Gadara.

Therefore, Mark's location certainly cannot warrant an error since the author is merely using a broader reference, whether due to poor (but not incorrect!) geographical knowledge of either he or his tradition, or for whatever other reason (such as perhaps Gerasa's superior prominence). It would be like one person describing the Netherlands as "near France", and another giving the more precise location as "next to Belgium" - neither is wrong, simply one is more detailed.

Mark 5:23, 35

Was Jairus' daughter dead or dying?

See Matthew 9:18 above.

Mark 5:35

Did one or many people come to inform Jairus of his daughter's death?

Mark 5:35 says that numerous people came from Jairus' house to tell Jairus the sad news of his daughter's death, whereas Luke 8:49 says "someone" came and told him the news. This however is easily resolved by the fact that Luke is focusing only on the person who informed Jairus, and does not mention the arrival of the others, whereas Mark mentions that many people came. Obviously, unless they were all talking in unison or like a chorus, only one person was speaking when the crowd delivered the news to Jairus, and that's the person Luke narrated as coming, not saying that others came with him.

Mark 6

Mark 6:8-9

Were the disciples allowed to carry a staff and sandals or not (Matthew 10:10, Luke 9:3)?

See Matthew 10:10.

Mark 6:14-29

When and how did John the Baptist die?

See Matthew 14:1-12 above.

Mark 7

Mark 7:26

Was the woman Greek or Canaanite?

See Matthew 15:22 above.

Mark 7:31

Is this an error in geography?

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis." (NIV).

The problem is that Sidon is north of Tyre whereas the Sea of Galilee is south-east. The parallel in Matthew (Luke has none) does not say this and says that Jesus left there (Matt. 15:29), which refers to Tyre and Sidon (15:21).

Some say that Jesus first went north to Sidon, perhaps to preach, and then went south to the Sea of Galilee. This is possible, but it seems to me that Mark 7:31 is nothing more than a case of a slightly obscure Markan phrasing. Mark simply meant to say that Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through the region of Sidon, which is this same region he is leaving, to go to the Sea of Galilee. Due to their common Phoenician origin, Tyre and Sidon were synonyms for one another to such an extent that they were always named together despite being two different cities. The general area was called "Tyre and Sidon" (Matthew 15:21; Josephus, Ant. 12.8.1 - "And as these epistles were reading, there came other messengers out of Galilee, who informed him that the inhabitants of Ptolemais, and of Tyre and Sidon, and strangers of Galilee, were gotten together"). In this case, is it really impossible for someone to express themselves a little peculiarly by saying, "And he went from the vicinity of Tyre and went through (the region of) Sidon." It is no surprise that Matthew corrects such a strangely phrased statement.

On the other hand, I have an example from history can support the idea of a brief journey to Sidon or its vicinity. Besides the aforementioned possibility of Jesus preaching to a nearby region (I know the city is not that close, but the region is adjacent), it may have been a matter of more convenient travel. This could have been due to a better road, perhaps the one taken to reach Tyre without being told by the Gospels, or something else such as safety. Similar routes out of convenience have been taken in history. For example, on their way back from the Yucatan to Havana, Cuba, the 1517 expedition of Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba (discoverer of the Yucatan) took a route toward Florida, under the direction of the expert navigator, Alaminos, who had been with Columbus in 1492. He decided to go to Florida rather than head directly to Cuba, having explored Florida earlier with Juan Ponce de León, and believing this to be the safest route. So we see that there are many factors that might make an indirect route the first choice.

In the end, I don't think we should jump to the conclusion that there is an error in Mark's geography here.

Mark 8

Mark 8:27-30

When did Peter confess Jesus as Christ? And when was Peter named Cephas?

See John 1:42.

Mark 8:35

How could Jesus have referred to "losing one's life for the gospel", when the Gospels/Resurrection did not occur until after Jesus' death?

The Greek word euaggelion refers to "good news", which was the good news of the Messiah having come (see Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2). The Greek word used as good news predated Jesus' life (Isaiah 61:1 Septuagint, Priene Inscription).

Mark 9

Mark 9:2

Did the Transfiguration take place 6 (Mark 9:2) or 8 days (Luke 9:28) after the journey to Caesarea Philippi?

See Matthew 17:1.

Mark 9:12-13

Was John the Baptist Elijah or not (John 1:21)?

See Matthew 11:14.

Mark 9:13

When did "they" (the unbelieving Jews) do everything they wished to John the Baptist (i.e. mistreated/oppressed him)?

John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded by Herod, though nothing is really mentioned of a problem with the Pharisees (and other Jewish teachers). However, the Jewish authorities were probably not on very good terms with him either, seeing for example Matthew 3:7-10, where John the Baptist condemns them. Therefore, Jesus is probably referring to the overall unbelief of these Jews in addition to Herod's murder of John the Baptist when he refers to their having done whatever they wished via Herod's beheading of him. This is mirrored in the persecution of Elijah by the queen Jezebel and the rest of the unbelieving populace in his time.

Mark 9:25-26

How can a deaf and mute person hear Jesus' commands and cry out?

The text says that it was the demon that shrieked and not the boy (Mark 9:26), and so we can assume it was also the impure spirit that heard the command.

Mark 10

Mark 10:1

Is this a geographical error?

The verse says: "Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them." (NIV).

The place that Jesus left is Galilee (Mark 9). The problem here is that Judea did not extend to the other (eastern) side of the Jordan, which was Perea. This however is easily solved by looking at the travel route of Jesus prior to his arrival in Jerusalem at the last Passover of his ministry. In John 10:22 Jesus comes to Jerusalem during Hannukah. This, and all other appearances at Jerusalem prior to the last Passover of Jesus' ministry, are omitted by Mark. We see in John 10:40 that after another attempt by a hostile crowd to get a hold of Jesus, he retreats across the Jordan where John had been baptizing. It is from here that Mark resumes by saying that Jesus left Galilee, omitting all that happened in between (and it is obvious that in Mark 10:1 the Evangelist has epitomized his tradition for whatever reason), and mentioning how Jesus went across the Jordan into Judea (from Perea, where he was staying originally according to John 10:40). Proof of this is the fact that Mark has Jesus go to Jericho after this (which is on the western side) and Jesus continues on to Jerusalem (without crossing the Jordan). Had the Evangelist thought in 10:1 that Judea and Jericho were on the eastern side of the Jordan, he would have had another crossing of the river after the healing of the blind man at Jericho. Not only do we have no contradiction here, but we see a very good example of consistency between John and the other three Gospels, at least insofar as the route Jesus took to his final visit to Jerusalem.

Mark 10:12

Is divorce allowed or not?

See Matthew 19:9.

Mark 10:17-18

Do these verses mean that Jesus did not consider himself sinless/good?

See Matthew 19:16-17.

Mark 10:34

Three days in the tomb, or on the third day Jesus will rise?

See Matthew 12:40.

Mark 10:40

Can Jesus grant anything (Matthew 28:18)?

See Matthew 20:23 above.

Mark 11

Mark 11:1

Is this an error in geography?

In Mark 10, Jesus goes from Jericho towards Jerusalem, but first goes to Bethphage and Bethany (Mark 11:1). However, going west from Jericho towards Jerusalem will get one to reach Bethany first and then Bethphage. This, however, does not take into account Mark's omission of what is stated in John 11-12. We see that Jesus went from Jericho to Bethany and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1, 44). After this, Jesus withdrew to Ephraim, which is to the north (John 11:54). He then comes again to Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). Since Bethphage is north-west of Bethany, it is entirely possible for Jesus to have first gone to Bethphage, while on the way to Bethany when he was anointed (John 12:1-11, Mark 14:1-11). This may have been an incomplete tradition Mark had which said of "going to Bethphage and Bethany", that didn't include the episodes with Lazarus, or perhaps Mark omitted it altogether (though I'd argue for the former). This is all, of course, assuming that Mark didn't mention Bethphage and Bethany together without implying chronological order of visitation, similarly to the statement, "I visited France and Germany", without necessitating that you visited France first and Germany later.

Mark 11:1-6

Did Jesus steal the donkey and the colt?

See Matthew 21:1-6.

Mark 11:7

Did Jesus ride two donkeys or one?

See Matthew 21:7.

Mark 11:10

Would Jews have ever referred to David as their father?

David was from the tribe of Judah. Not every Jew was of the tribe of Judah, and not every Jew of the tribe of Judah was a descendant of David. This verse is not paralleled in Matthew, so did Mark include an erroneous statement incorrectly?

Not at all. A metaphorical reference to someone who had a significant impact on an individual, whether directly or like here, indirectly, is completely possible. Gregory of Nyssa refers to his brother, Basil the Great, who supervised his siblings' education as "our father and master." Similarly, Philo alludes to the Israelites as "genuine children of Moses" (A Treatise on the Life of Moses, that is to say, On the Theology and Prophetic Office of Moses, Book I, LX.328 - Yonge):
So they, bearing this rebuke with moderation, as being genuine sons of a very kindly disposed father (for they knew that Moses was not a man to behave insolently because of his power and authority, but one who cared for all of them, and honoured justice and equality, and who hated wickedness, not so as to reproach or insult the wicked, but so as to be constantly endeavouring by admonition and correction to improve those who were susceptible of improvement), said to him...

There is also a similar statement in Josephus who refers to the Jews entreating Samuel like a father to intercede on their behalf to God - "...besought the prophet, as one that was a tender and gentle father to them, to render God so merciful as to forgive this their sin, which they had added to those other offenses whereby they had affronted him and transgressed against him" (Ant. 6.5.6). Finally, in Jeremiah 31:15, in reference to either the deportation of the ten tribes of Israel by Assyria in 722-721 BC, or the Babylonian Exile (586 BC), the prophet Jeremiah refers to the Hebrews' mother figuratively as Rachel, even though Leah gave birth to six of the twelve tribes.

The kingdom of the Messiah was always expressed as the coming kingdom of David, and so under such circumstances, it is not entirely impossible some in the crowd referred to David (in this case a representation of the Messiah) as their spiritual father.

Mark 11:12-14

Was Jesus being unnecessarily angry at a fig tree for not having fruit when it wasn't its season?

See Matthew 21:18-22 above.

Mark 12

Mark 12:1-12

Did the rules of Jesus' day recognize who he was?

See Matthew 21:33-41

Mark 13

Mark 13:32

Shouldn't Jesus as well as the Holy Spirit know the time of Judgment?

See Matthew 24:36 above.

Mark 14

Mark 14:12

Lamb was slain on Preparation Day (Nisan 14), not Passover (Nisan 15)

Since the Jewish day began at sunset and the lamb was slain only a few hours before that, Mark could've justifiably referred to it as the same day, especially with his mostly Gentile audience. This is abundantly clear from verses like Mark 4:35, "On that day, when evening had come..." so unsurprisingly he wasn't using Jewish time reckoning. Thursday night was Passover for him, so he could refer to Passover as "the day they slay the lamb" because for him it was technically the truth.

It does mean that the author of Mark, however, was not the John Mark follower of Peter mentioned in Acts, because as Bultmann observes, no Jew could've made the statement of MK 14:12, not even for his Gentile audience (that would if anything, only confuse them). He wasn't trying to keep any detailed chronology, which otherwise might be understandable to not make it seem like the lamb being slain on Preparation Day and eaten on Passover wasn't a whole day behind, but only a few hours. Therefore the old traditions about Mark being an interpreter of Peter are probably a later Christian legend.

Jesus crucified on Passover or Preparation Day?

See John 19:14.

Mark 14:30

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

Matthew 26:34,74-75, Luke 22:34,60-61, and John 13:38,18:27 have the rooster crow (but not specified as "once"). Mark has the rooster crow twice. We don't really have a contradiction here since the other three Evangelist could easily be using (and probably are since all three agree) a narrative or tradition that epitomized the rooster's crowing from "twice" to the general "crowing." After all, if a rooster crows 5 times, one can still describe it as having "crowed" without needing to say "it crowed 5 times". Roosters frequently crow twice.

If the phrase, "and the rooster crowed" at the end of Mark 14:68 is not original, is it a contradiction that Mark 14:72 says the rooster crowed a second time when no first time is recorded? This however assumes that the Evangelist is trying to give a time-table of when the rooster crowed both times, whereas we should simply assume he was only interested in presenting the time of the second crowing. Nor did Mark forget that in his Gospel Jesus prophesies that the rooster will crow twice, since 1) he notes the rooster crowed a second time, and 2) he repeats the prophecy in the very same verse. Thus the Evangelist simply was not interested (or perhaps did not know) when the first crow occurred.

Yet another comment we can add is the permissibility of roosters in Jerusalem. Bultmann writes,

W. Brandt's argument (Die evang. Geschichte, 1893, pp. 32-35) is in my opinion untenable. He holds that the cock is unhistorical on the grounds of Rabbinic statements that the keeping of hens was forbidden in Jerusalem...Strack-B. I, 992f. shows that the rearing of hens in Jerusalem was forbidden in Jerusalem in Jesus' lifetime, though it was usual elsewhere in Palestine. But 'the Sadducees and the people were hardly concerned about such regulations', Dalman, Orte u. Wege Jesu3, 1924, p. 299.9. (Rudolf Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition, 2nd ed., 1931, tr. Blackwell 1971, p.269, n.2)

Furthermore, at Glenn Miller's Christian Think Tank here, he points out three Mishnah passages that may indicate that roosters were not absent from Jerusalem (M. Sukk. 5:4, M. Tamid 1:2, and M. Yoma 1:8). These however all refer to the time "at cock crow" which may not refer to an actual rooster being present, but simply a euphemism for 6 AM. Thus in my opinion those verses do not necessarily prove that roosters existed in Jerusalem. Glenn Miller notes that in the Tosepha B.K. 8:10,361 it " says that chicken keeping was permitted if there was a garden or dungheap in which the chickens could scratch". Was this also the case at the time of Jesus? Scholarly opinion seems to weigh in favor of the existence of roosters in Jerusalem in Jesus' time despite regulations, and that was probably the case since the restriction was unlikely to have been followed (and the Tosepha indicates that this was so in later times by outright permitting roosters, should the allowance not date to the time of Jesus).

Mark 14:68

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

Mark 14:72

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

Mark 15

Mark 15:17

Was the robe put on Jesus by the soldiers scarlet or purple?

From The Apologetics Press, we see the following points:

1. An old, worn-down scarlet robe would probably look closer to purple, and so can easily be described as purple.

2. The ancients had varying shades of purple and scarlet in the first century.

3. The Romans used the term purple for various shades of red.

Mark 15:23

Did Jesus drink myrrh, gall, or hyssop? And did he accept or reject the bitter drink offered?

See Matthew 27:34 above.

Mark 15:25

At what hour was Jesus crucified - the third or sixth?

Both Matthew and Mark say that Jesus was crucified at the third hour. John however says "about the sixth hour" (John 19:14). Is there a contradiction here?

Many have supposed that John is perhaps using midnight to midnight reckoning, which would make his time around 6 AM, not too far from the 9 AM that Mark and Matthew say. But in reality, 6 AM is just as far from 9 AM as is noon, and it is very unlikely John would be using a midnight to midnight day when everyone else started the first hour from roughly 6-7 AM.

So with this notice, we can point out that John is approximating as John 19:14 shows. We can be sure that Mark is also approximating though does not say it. If we give a 30 or so minute deviation for both the third and sixth hour, we go from 8-9 AM (the third hour), and 11 AM - 12 PM (the sixth hour), becoming 7:30-9:30 AM and 10:30-12:30. Furthermore, one should remember that John is approximating to a degree where he can easily be implying ("it was about the 6th or 5th hour or so") without fully stating it. With this we can easily extend John's time from roughly 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM. Not to mention that Mark could be talking about roughly when Jesus was sentenced to be crucified and John could be talking about when the actual crucifixion began. The time it took for Jesus to be scourged as well as to bring the cross to Golgotha could easily have taken 30 minutes to an hour. True, Mark's "third hour" appears in a verse which is in the middle of Jesus' crucifixion, but that doesn't mean the Evangelist didn't simply place it there despite talking about when Jesus was sentenced, the way he places many things in such a fashion (most notably Jesus' entire ministry with only one visit to Jerusalem or Judea in Mark's Gospel, whereas see John and Luke 4:44). So with these considerations, we can make the following chart:

3rd hour (Mark/Matthew) 6th hour (John) Markan approximation Johannine approximation (5th-6th-7th hour)
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM 7:30 AM - 9:30 AM 9:30 AM - 1:30 PM

The 5th and 7th hour are both proximate to "around the 6th hour". However, all four Gospels narrate a very short crucifixion. Thus, it is unlikely that John's approximation runs towards the 7th hour, instead of the 5th. Therefore, acknowledging that the memory of even a witness can use an approximation of up to an hour or two for an event that occurred 40-50 if not more years prior to the writing of the Gospels, we can certainly consider neither Mark nor John to be in error, but both to be approximating (as John 19:14 notes), for a time around 9:30-10:00 AM, or the 4th hour, when Jesus was crucified.

Mark 15:26

What did the sign read?

The four Gospels all give four different wordings of what was written on the cross where Jesus was crucified. Here is what the four Evangelists have (NIV):

Matthew 27:37 - "This is Jesus the King of the Jews"
Mark 15:26 - "The King of the Jews"
Luke 23:38 - "This is the King of the Jews"
John 19:19 - "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews"
But is this really four different versions? Or is it just four different wordings of the same inscription? Here we have an excellent analogy by the Apologetics Press in What was the Inscription on the Cross?:
Question: Did Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John disagree on what was written on the cross, or did these four independent writers record trustworthy statements?

Before answering the above question, consider the following illustration. Tonight after getting home from work, I inform my wife (Jana) about an accusation I read on a billboard on the way home regarding one of our friends who is running for city council. I proceed to tell her that the accusation read: "John Doe is a thief." The following day, our niece (Shanon) comes by the house and mentions to Jana that she just saw a billboard (the same one that I had mentioned a day earlier) that read: "City council candidate John Doe is a thief." Finally, the next day, a friend (Rhonda) visits Jana and informs her about the same sign, saying it reads: "Montgomery City Council candidate John Doe is a thief." Question: Would anyone have justification for saying that Shanon, Rhonda, and I disagreed regarding what the billboard said? Certainly not! We all three reported the very same accusation ("John Doe is a thief "), except that Shanon mentioned the fact that he was a "city council candidate," and Rhonda added that he was a candidate from "Montgomery." All three of us reported truthfully the allegation we saw on the billboard. Similarly, the accusation above Jesus on the cross is the same in all four narratives - "the King of the Jews."
It has also been noted that the sign was written in three different language - Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic (John 19:20). This is not necessary to suppose due to the different wordage of the Gospels, since there are four Evangelist and one would still be epitomizing. It is also unlikely that more than one description of the sign has entered the tradition which the Gospel authors used. It is certain that the Gospel of Mark has epitomized the fuller statement of the sign, since both Matthew and Luke agree over Mark, something that is rare and means Mark probably has shortened the inscription. Furthermore, it's unlikely that there would be no name on the inscription because the whole point of the crucifixion was to point out who the person was, since there is an inscription in the first place. This means Matthew is probably closer to the original than Luke. And since "Jesus" was a common name at the time, it is most likely John who is the closest of the four in terms of the closest wordage of the actual inscription.

The only question that remains is, did the sign say, "This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews", or did it simply say "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews". In my opinion, the former is more likely. Although the Theodotus Inscription (found in Jerusalem, dated to the mid-1st century AD) says, "Theodotus, son of Vettanos, a priest and an synagogue leader...", this does not imply in my opinion that there was no, "This is..." in the beginning of the sign. The sign was not a prestigious acknowledgement the way the Theodotus Inscription is, nor was the Theodotus Inscription written to stand next to the living Theodotus so as to point him out, but to his memory. Therefore, the sign most likely read in my opinion - "This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews".

As for the legitimacy of John 19:20 where it says that the sign was written in three languages - Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, we can point to the parallel in Josephus regarding the warning to Gentiles not to enter the inner court of the Temple being written in Hebrew, Greek, as well as Latin (Josephus, War 5.5.2, 6.2.4). Josephus refers to the inscription warning foreigners as being written in Greek, Roman , and Judea's "own letters". Whether that's Hebrew or Aramaic is the question. Hebrew is most certainly the case as most written things would have been (such as the Dead Sea Scrolls - the highest percentage of which was written in Hebrew). That Greek was widespread enough to warrant something other than Hebrew for many who couldn't read it is seen by the fact that the Theodotus Inscription, written by a synagogue ruler is in Greek. And from Josephus we see that Latin certainly may have been included. Jesus was after all famous throughout all Israel.

Mark 15:38

When was the Temple curtain torn?

See Matthew 27:51 above.


Luke 1

Luke 1:34

Is Mary's answer question here?

In Luke 1:30-33, the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and bear a son called Jesus. Mary asks how this could happen since she is a virgin. Commentators such as Bultmann have noted that this is an illogical question for a newly-wed bride to ask. However, the text implies that either the angel stated or Mary knew it was implied that this would happen some time soon, before her return back to Nazareth with Joseph. The text simply gives us the abbreviated version of the events, not a full transcript of the conversation. There is a similar case in Jonah 1:7-10, the famous story of Jonah fleeing and being tossed overboard from the ship:
7 And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, "Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" 9 And he said to them, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, "What is this that you have done!" For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.
Notice that in verses 8-9 the questions the men ask and the answers Jonah gives have nothing to do with whether he is the one responsible for the storm or not. In verse 10, however, they already know he's guilty, and as the verse says, because he had told them. We can see that the same is quite possible in the Annunciation recorded in Luke 1:26-38.

In that case, Mary would certainly have been genuinely surprised; the only way for her to become pregnant any time soon would be if she committed infidelity/fornication (as she was only betrothed up to that point - Luke 1:27). This, however, apparently didn't even cross her mind, and the favorable angelic visit certainly must have hinted that this wasn't why she would become pregnant.

Luke 2

Luke 2:2

When was the census of Quirinius

Much has been made over the census mentioned in Luke 2:1-2. This is because in Luke 2:2, as most translations have it, the verse states that the census taken at the time of Jesus' birth was under the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius. The problem is, Quirinius did not become governor until 6 AD - at least 10 or so years after Jesus was born!

While it is not at all impossible for Quirinius to have been governor a previous time prior to his 6 AD post, I think too much has been made of a verse that probably should have been translated differently. The Greek of Luke 2:2 allows the verse to be translated as something along the lines of, "This census being previous to Quirinius ruling Syria", and this variant translation is rightfully noted in the NIV. Luke places the birth of John the Baptist at the time of King Herod (Luke 1:5), and since Jesus was born about five and a half months later, his birth as well. Most likely Luke would have known that Herod died in 4 BC. This is also reflected by Luke 3:1, 23. Furthermore, Acts 5:37 shows that Luke probably knew about the time of the more famous census of Quirinius. Overall, with this evidence the burden of proof shifts heavily to those trying to claim Luke is in error. With these considerations, Luke 2:1-2 should be seen as referring to either a census before the one taken under Quirinius, or that perhaps Quirinius or someone else had been governor previously (but in my opinion most likely the former).

Luke 3

Luke 3:36

Extra Cainan error?

This extra Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah is found only in Luke. Neither Genesis nor 1 Chron. 1 (which follows Genesis) have it. Some Septuagint copies do have the extra Cainan, but these are later and likely added it based on Luke's Gospel. This repeated name is most certainly an accidental addition, which happened often with ancient writers especially with lists of names, numbers, or items. The question is, was this Luke's error, or a scribe copying Luke.

The early manuscript P75 (c.225 AD), which includes copies of Luke and John, doesn't support the idea that Luke's Gospel originally didn't have the second Cainan. P75 omits all verses from Luke 3:22-4:4. [The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts - P75: has images and details of what verses it has] The one early manuscript that does contain Luke 3:36, P4, has the second Cainan. [The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts - P4: one is able to zoom in on the image "Luke 3:20" (verses 3:20-38, 4:1-2), and see at the biggest hole in the middle of the right side that in between "TOY SALA[THIEL]...Y KA...TOY ARPHAXAD - the second Cainan (Y KA = TOY KAINAN)]

Another argument is that Julius Africanus writing in the early 3rd century omits the other Cainan in his Letter to Aristides ch.3. He doesn't even discuss specific names before Abraham, so I have no idea how the conclusion that his copy of Luke didn't have Cainan because of this arose; if anything, his copy was mutilated in many other ways, because he had a "Melchi" in places of "Matthat".

But all of this is to be expected if the copyist error came from early on (late 1st/early 2nd century?); if it was a copyist error. We return to the original question: was it more likely that Luke or a scribe copying his gospel made this mistake? If we look at Luke's sources: 1 Chronicles 1 and Genesis 5-10, we can immediately see that Luke cannot be blamed for this additional name. The proof of this is that, for example, in 1 Chronicles 1, the genealogy is disjointed: it isn't a straight list of names from Adam to Abraham via only one lineage, but many of the sons of Noah are listed, and then we see Arphaxad and his progeny's lines. Luke would've had to sift through this, instead of automatically copying a genealogy (unlike a scribe copying Luke's gospel), so it's much more likely it was the scribe copying Luke who made this mistake.

The situation with the genealogies in Genesis is even more improbable: the real Cainan appears in Genesis 5 and Arphaxad and his descendants don't appear until Genesis 9. So if Luke used this source, it's even less likely he was the one who made the error. Luke was a careful historian: his accuracy of specific details in Acts where he had to research are unquestionably accurate. He preserved his sources faithfully, as scholars often admit when comparing him with Matthew and their mutual sources (Mark and Q). He perfectly gave us the descendants from Adam to Abraham (save the extra Cainan, if it's his), so it's unlikely he was the Cainanite duplicator here.

Therefore, the evidence points to a very early scribe, copying Luke's gospel, accidentally adding another Cainan between Arphaxad and Shelah; and there are many other examples of duplications or errors in such straightforward lists, such as names or items (e.g. 1 Esdras vs Ezra-Nehemiah).

Luke 4

Luke 4:3-12

Does the order of Satan's temptations here in Luke contradict Matthew's?

It has been noted by some apologists that the order of the temptations in Luke and Matthew is because Luke is not being chronological, using the connective and (kai) between the temptations, whereas Matthew is presenting a chronological framework, using the word then (tote).

This is fairly possible in my opinion, especially considering the general tendency of Luke to copy down his sources without changing much, whereas Matthew adds (faithfully) and explains various things such as prophecies, customs, and in this and other cases - connectives. In all likelihood Matthew rearranged the order and changed the connective to tote (then). But even without this explanation it is doubtful that the ancient authors considered something like the order of which temptation came next with any importance, and never intended a chronology to such a strict and minute degree as can be seen from the picture painted of a one year ministry in Mark, versus for example something of a bigger magnitude like an important event which would precede another event (and even then chronology could be replaced with arranging the subject matter in topics of importance). Thus we have no contradiction here because neither Evangelist would have seen the order of the temptations they recorded with any relevance or importance chronologically.

Luke 4:8

Is Deuteronomy 6:13 misquoted here?

See Matthew 4:10 above.

Luke 4:18-19

Did Jesus misread Isaiah here?

Occasionally one might see an alleged error here in that the quotations of Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19 that Jesus is said to be reading are from two different chapters. This, however, is no error, as Jewish prophecies relating the same thing were not always connected, or different aspects of the same major event (e.g. the Day of the Lord) could be found in many different places, and one could connect two different verses to read them as the description of a single event.

Luke 4:29

There is no cliff in/near present-day (the location of the ancient) Nazareth

J.P. Holding writes here,
Some allege geographical error here, in that they read this as implying that Nazareth is not built on a hill with a brow. The commentaries of Geldenhuys and Plummer offer an answer. Nazareth was and still is situated in a hollow "high up against the slopes of a mountain" so that it is enclosed on three sides by portions of the mountain. The "brow" refers rather to a 30-40 foot limestone cliff at the southwest corner of city, and our verse is read incorrectly as implying that the city was built ON the brow of the hill, when it is actually saying that it was built on the hill, and the brow is part of the hill also.
The Greek seems to me to support either interpretation - the city being built on the brow of the hill, or on the hill which also had a brow, but the second option seems much more likely.

Luke 4:33-34

Does the impure spirit's acknowledging of Jesus as God's Holy One mean it is a spirit of God (1 John 4:2)?

See Mark 1:23-24 above.

Luke 5

Luke 5:19

Is Luke in error about the roof of a Judean house having tiles, when they were made out of straw?

Greek and Roman houses had roofs with tiles but those in Judea had straw roofs. Luke uses a word that is loosely translated as "tiling" for roof. Is this a mistake?

We can begin by pointing out that Luke was probably only using a word common for roofs, and did not imply that the roof was actually made out of tiles. Similar examples would be very hard woods being described as "ironwood" - nobody is suggesting they are literally made out of iron, or have such components, but the association is with the hardness of a metal (traditionally the metaphor for that metal being iron). Also, from the clubs that are used in golf, there are "woods" and "irons" (types of clubs). But the woods are no longer made out of wood: 'Modern club heads are usually hollow steel, titanium or composite materials, and are sometimes called "metalwoods" or more recently "fairway metals".' (Source: Wikipedia). So is the shaft since around the 1920's (sometimes) made out of steel. The "wood" clubs were originally made of wood, and the name has stuck. Is anybody going to say the golfing industry that describes "woods" with that name is in error?

There is another parallel from my native language (Bulgarian). In my language, the word jeweller can be roughly translated as the literal of the English "goldsmith". But having worked with a friend who is a jeweller, we never made anything gold (about 15% silver, 85% brass), and he had worked for years (it's his father's company), and has only worked with gold a handful number of times. In fact, an online dictionary like www.eurodict.com translated silversmith for me as this common translation of "goldsmith", since obviously in older days, those that worked with precious metal, primarily worked with (or were known for) gold.

In the same way, no one can blame Luke, most likely being a Gentile, for using a common description for a roof.

Luke 5:22

Is this a scientific error?

See Matthew 9:4 above.

Luke 8

Luke 8:42, 49

Was Jairus' daughter dead or dying?

See Matthew 9:18 above.

Was there numerous people or one person who came to tell Jairus of the news?

See Mark 5:35 above.

Luke 9

Luke 9:3

Were the disciples allowed to carry a staff and sandals (Mark 6:8-9) or not (Matthew 10:10)?

See Matthew 10:10.

Luke 9:18-20

When did Peter confess Jesus as Christ? And when was Peter named Cephas?

See John 1:42.

Luke 9:28

Did the Transfiguration take place 6 (Mark 9:2) or 8 days (Luke 9:28) after the journey to Caesarea Philippi?

See Matthew 17:1 above.

Luke 9:30-31

Was Jesus the first to be resurrected in a glorified body or not?

Verse 31 describes Moses and Elijah as having "appeared in glory," which is usually associated with the glorified body at the general resurrection (1 Cor. 15). But this doesn't have to be interpreted so narrowly - Jesus himself appears glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration there (vv.28-29), and this is probably what the author meant. It's not relevant that Jesus is technically alive and has a body (unlike Moses and perhaps also Elijah). Moses' face glows in a similarly brilliant fashion in Deuteronomy 34:35, as does the clothing of the angels in Luke 24:4.

Luke 10

Luke 10:13

If Tyre and Sidon (and Sodom) would have repented had the miracles Jesus performed in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum been performed there, why weren't the miracles done so that they would repent?

See Matthew 11:21-24 above.

Luke 11

Luke 11:31

Is Jesus wiser than Solomon or not (1 Kings 3:12)?

See 1 Kings 3:12 above.

Luke 14

Luke 14:26

Is Jesus teaching hate here?

This verse does not have Jesus teach hate. Jesus is using a hyperbole in order to state that love of God comes before love of family, which can be a powerful force in an individual's life and the choices he or she makes. It is like saying, "Compared to this pamphlet, this book weighs a ton!" This is all connected with the fact that people will have family problems because of their new Christian faith and that this will divide them, which is why Jesus, as the Messiah who was expected by the Jews of his day to bring peace to the world, says that he hasn't come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34) - the Jewish rejection of Jesus will cause Christians to have bitter disagreements with their families who remain non-Christian.

Luke 15

Luke 15:7

If none are righteous, how can there be 99 righteous who do not need to repent?

This verse, which says, "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." is either a metaphoric expression to prove a point, thus not stating there are any who do not need to repent, or the 99 righteous have already repented.

Luke 16

Luke 16:18

Is divorce allowed or not.

See Matthew 19:9 above.

Luke 17

Is Luke wrong about the geography in this verse?

This verse says, "Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee." The problem, some scholars say, is that Samaria and Galilee are portrayed as if they are parallel right next to each other (west-east) with respect to Jerusalem, for Jesus to walk towards Jerusalem along their border. The reality is, however, that Galilee is north of Samaria, which itself is north of Judea and Jerusalem, so Jesus would be walking from Galilee through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem, and not along the border of Galilee and Samaria.

This, however, is not an error, because Jesus did not head straight to Jerusalem on his final visit to the city, but first went to Jericho, and only then headed straight to Jerusalem, as all three synoptic Gospels narrate (Matt. , Mark , Luke 19:1), as well as John implying the same (Jn. 10:40). Walking from Galilee toward Jericho, and then to Jerusalem (certainly the meaning of Luke 17:11 seeing 19:1), will certainly get one to more or less walk between Galilee and Samaria along their border.

Luke 18

Luke 18:18-19

Do these verses mean that Jesus did not consider himself sinless/good?

See Matthew 19:16-17 above.

Luke 19

Luke 19:28-34

Did Jesus steal the donkey and its colt?

See Matthew 21:1-6 above.

Luke 19:35

Did Jesus ride one or two donkeys?

See Matthew 21:7 above.

Luke 20

Luke 20:9-19

Did the rules of Jesus' day recognize who he was?

See Matthew 21:33-41 above.

Luke 22

Luke 22:31-33

Was Jesus' prayer for Peter's faith not to fail, a failure?

This isn't referring to Peter's temptation when Jesus was arrested, but for his faith overall, after his falling away, to triumph, as verse 32 notes that he will indeed fall away.

Luke 22:34

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

Luke 22:41-44

How did the disciples know what Jesus prayed if they were asleep and a stone's throw away?

It is not impossible to imagine that Jesus told his disciples what he prayed for. On the other hand, it's also possible that the three disciples that went with Jesus heard his prayer before falling asleep due to exhaustion out of sorrow. After all, the prayer and events recorded (only an angel's appearance) are rather brief. The only objection one could really bring is that a stone's throw away (Luke 22:41) is too far for one to hear. But in antiquity a stone's throw has always meant and still does, a fairly short distance. The parallel in Thucydides (The Peloponnesian War V 65.2) does not prove one way or another as to whether someone's voice could be heard. But more importantly, if Jesus already selected three disciples to go with him, he would not have gone farther than 20-30 feet away from them, which is not too far for someone to be heard, especially in the silent dead of night.

Another question could be raised how the disciples saw the angel when Jesus didn't know they were asleep until he returned to them. But this ignores the fact that Jesus was not focused on his disciples at all, and the angel very probably was accompanied by light. Finally, how did the disciples see that Jesus was sweating blood (Luke 22:44)? This is, again, not impossible for 20-30 feet, especially if dawn was near, or illumination by the moon's light (there would be a full moon since the Passover starts at the first full moon after the spring equinox, and that night was a Passover (Mark 14:12) and would have had a full moon since Jesus was crucified the next day). Also, the disciples may have seen Jesus' face when he returned and deduced what must have happened - sweating blood due to the strenous praying.

Luke 22:60-61

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

Luke 23

Luke 23:38

What was written on the inscription at Jesus' crucifixion?

See Mark 15:26 above.

Luke 23:45

When did the Temple curtain tear?

See Matthew 27:51 above.


John 1

John 1:21

Was John the Baptist Elijah or not?

See Matthew 11:14.

John 1:42

When was Peter's acknowledgement of Jesus as the Messiah: soon after Jesus' baptism, or later on the road to Caesarea Philippi?

It is important to note that in John 1:35-42 it isn't Peter who has confessed or openly acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, but his brother Andrew (and later Nathanael). When Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus, perhaps knowing of the importance Peter was to have later on, Jesus gives him the name Cephas. The reason why John 1:35-42 is sometimes seen as the same event as Peter's confession in Matthew 16:13-20 (and Mark 8:27-30, Luke 9:18-20) is that in Matthew it seems that Jesus has named Simon (Peter) as Cephas who in both narratives is called Simon son of Jonah/John, whereas the naming of Simon as Peter is clearly done shortly after Jesus' baptism (John 1:35-42). However, in Matthew 16:18 Jesus is not giving Peter's name (Greek: Peter, Aramaic: Cephas) for the first time but seems to be applying it and that Simon Peter already had his other name - Peter. Also, the similarity in that in both John 1:42 and Matthew 16:17 Peter is at first addressed as Simon son of Jonah does not need to imply that the two episodes are the same but that this full name is being used for the second time by Jesus (as well as the fact that in John 1:42 Jesus isn't giving a blessing, whereas Matthew 16:17 he is - of course this doesn't mean much by itself, but it supports the other observations made).

John 3

John 3:35

Is this verse contradicted by Matthew 20:23?

See Matthew 20:23 above.

John 5

John 5:22

Does Jesus judge or not?

See John 12:47.

John 7

John 7:1

Is Jesus contradicting his advice?

In the infamous verse Luke 12:4 Jesus says not to fear those who can kill only the body, but He who can kill both body and soul. So why is Jesus afraid of the Jews here and elsewhere? One could answer that Jesus was only cautious with respect to his greater mission, as it wasn't his time to die yet. But there's clear instances of Jesus being afraid and worried, such as when he prayed at Gethsemane shortly before his arrest.

But it's quite obvious that Luke 12:4 isn't meant to be a Stoic command against fear - a natural human reaction and emotion. The advice is not to commit sins such as rejecting the faith out of fear of men whose only power extends to the temporal and not spiritual (cf. Heb. 13:6; 1 Pet. 3:6, 14; Rev. 21:8).

John 7:1-10

Did Jesus lie here?

In verse 8 Jesus says that he is not going up to this feast, but in verse 10 John tells us that he went. How can these two verse be understood without Jesus having lied?

The first answer that usually comes to mind is that verse 8 says, "Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come." (KJV). In this case, one can successfully argue that Jesus' time to go to the feast had not come yet, but did arrive in the days after the feast had started. However, textual critics have determined that the "yet" in this verse is a later addition, without a doubt supplied to explain this very problem as in the case of Matthew 5:22. I would like to note that, just as in Matthew 5:22, the "yet" in John 7:8 easily could have been implied by Jesus. So I am not discounting this explanation.

We can also turn to a cultural explanation. In verse 10 we are told that Jesus didn't go to the feast publicly but secretly. In this way it is not impossible to suppose that when Jesus said he wasn't going up to the feast because his time hadn't come, he meant publicly to show his works and gain disciples (John 7:3-4). This, however, is unconvincing.

But is it really so difficult to suppose that Jesus changed his mind between the time he told his brothers he wouldn't go and the time they left? Someone will say, but Jesus is supposed to be God and why would he change his mind if he knew everything? To this I reply the numerous times God changed His decisions in the Old Testament with respect to people based on their actions that He nevertheless foreknew (i.e. Jonah and Nineveh). He was set on His course with their given situation and behavior, and with respect to them He was going to destroy them, but later He changes His decision due to the people's repentance. We do not know what happened between the time Jesus' brothers spoke with him and when they left. Perhaps Jesus spoke with his mother or someone else and based on their actions or comments, his initial purpose of not going, which he foreknew, was changed, for the edification of those people he interacted with.

A fourth possibility is that later on a revelation could have appeared that told him to go, one that he could have even known would arrive, but known that he couldn't go until it did so. In that sense it's possible to say that "I'm not going to the feast [as of right now], my time has not yet fully come".

In my opinion, suggestion number one is the best understanding of the text. We see similar implied clauses in Jesus (as in Matthew 5:22), and it makes the most sense due to the lack of information that otherwise John would have loved to supply. Moreover, this was how the ancient scribes understood it, given the textual addition of "yet" in verse 8. Solution number 4 is not implied in the text, and is just a more complicated version of suggestion number 1, thus it is highly unlikely, especially due to the lack of details on a very focused episode by John. Possibility number 3, where Jesus changes his mind is also strong, but seems less likely because the text is entirely silent on the issue and probably wouldn't have been had that not been the case.

John 7:33-34

Will Jesus always be with the Disciples/believers or not?

See Matthew 28:20 above.

John 7:38

Where is this quote in the Old Testament?

In Jesus' day it was typical to quote an author without citing his name or book, much less where the quote could be found. This can be seen in Marcus Aurelius (Meditations 11.31-36; compare with 11.37 which says, "Epictetus also says..." whereas Epictetus' name was nowhere mentioned in the previous sections). What is more is that the Jews combined several quotes from the Bible that had the same point into one single citation, and sometimes this was a paraphrase of the main point of these verses. This is a completely acceptable practice: it would be the same if a Christian says, "As the Bible says, Jesus was crucified for our sins and rose on the third day," and is then charged with an error because there's no such verse in the Bible.

Besides this, there are verses that certainly have the same thought and expression that Jesus gives in John 7:38, such as Isaiah 12:3 - "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." Jeremiah 2:13 - "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.", and many more.

John 7:39

If the Holy Spirit wasn't given until after Jesus was glorified, how were others such as John the Baptist and Simeon filled with it?

The meaning of this verse is not that the Holy Spirit was never given unto believers prior to Jesus being glorified, but that the power of the Holy Spirit hadn't become the ruling force in the Church yet, the way it did at Pentecost (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit hadn't been given to all believers prior to this, but afterwards this was the One who was sent after Jesus' departure (Acts 1:8), and this is all the verse intends to say.

John 7:52

The Pharisees say that out of Galilee no prophet arose, yet there were many such as Elijah and Jonah.

At this point the Pharisees are livid that the Temple guards didn't arrest Jesus and after commenting that none of their own number had become a follower, Nicodemus comes with an implicit defense of Jesus. Even though these were men who certainly knew the Scriptures, they may have been temporarily blinded by their hatred and as a result say that no prophet arose from Galilee.

However, the context seems to me to be saying that there is no prophet predicted to arise from Galilee, and the only prophet's origin predicted at all in Scripture is that of the Messiah - Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It is this that the Pharisees most likely meant - that the Prophet (or the Messiah for which this was a euphemism at the time) does not come from Galilee. This was a constant source of confusion for the common populace (John 7:41-42) and was without a doubt the Pharisees' oft-repeated argument against Jesus.

John 7:53-8:11

Is this passage (Adultery Pericope) authentic?

Most scholars reject these 12 verses as original to John's Gospel because it's not found in most early manuscripts and when it is, it's scattered in different locations. There might be other reasons to suppose that the story isn't very original, such as the authority Jesus is presumed to have over elders and so on, though this isn't a completely convincing argument.

Even if the episode reflects a genuine situation from Jesus' life, it probably doesn't belong in John. The authorship is probably an anonymous writer from the late 2nd/early 3rd century, because it becomes referred to more authoritatively in the 3rd century. That most Bibles until relatively recently included this unquestioningly in no way detracts from the inspiration of the Bible.

John 8

John 8:15

Does Jesus judge or not?

See John 12:47.

John 8:48

Was Jesus a Samaritan?

The insult isn't to be taken literally. The Samaritans were known for their heretical version of Judaism and this is what Jesus and his message are being compared to. But an imaginative interpretation could always suppose this is a polemic that preserves and reflects some authentic, early information about Jesus actually being of some kind of Samaritan origin. But had this been the case, the New Testament would have been replete with such charges and answers to them, as is the case with the constant defense of his miracles, validity as Messiah, and Resurrection. Whereas in John 8:49, Jesus doesn't even bother addressing the Samaritan insult.

Epithets like this are always common in history, especially from ignorance. The Arabs referred to the Byzantines as the Empire of "Al-Rumi," the Romans, whereas they were more Greek than anything . The Europeans throughout all nine Crusades referred to all Muslims as Saracens, and all Crusaders were called Franks, regardless of whether they were French or not. This is why the Arabic word for Europe is Farang.

John 8:59

Did Jesus allow himself to be publicly arrested or not?

See Matthew 26:55.

John 9

John 9:2

Does this verse teach reincarnation?

The verse says, "And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"" (ESV). The implication is that the man couldn't have sinned because he was blind from birth. It's possible some Jews believed one could sin in the womb (compare Psalm 51:5; Luke 1:15 - both possibly expressions). But the fact is that the disciples did not know the blind man was blind from birth when they asked Jesus their question. This is why his parents might have been the offenders - their sin resulting in his blindness (from birth or not).

John 9:5

Is Jesus the light of the world or believers (Matthew 5:14)?

See Matthew 5:14 above.

John 9:22

Are believers or Jesus the light of the world?

This verse can be contrasted with verses like Matt. 5:14. But it's clear that Jesus is using the metaphor, which cannot be used so mathematically here or anywhere in literature, to refer to his salvation, whereas the believers are the righteous people on Earth whose works shine. And since both Christians and Christ represent the same thing - righteousness - there's really no contradiction, especially since believers are the body of Christ for this very reason; it would be like receiving a letter from the mailman and asking, "Is this letter from the mailman or from the sender?"

John 9:39

Does Jesus judge or not?

See John 12:47.

John 10

John 10:28-29

Did Jesus lose any followers?

These verses talk about the elect (Matt. 24:24), whereas other verses alternatively talk about the disciples falling away but ultimately going to return except Judas. It's possible that in vv. 17:12 and 18:9 Jesus is alternatively speaking about the salvation of all believers, or the disciples, or the physical life of the disciples except Judas. This is typical metaphorical language mixed with the literal (cf. the apocalypses and their timing conflated with the Fall of Jerusalem). Especially since Judas wasn't dead yet in v.17:12. So the disciples temporarily denying Jesus isn't a part of this duality of election vs physical life.

It's possible that John 18:9 means to say that Jesus did everything to keep the disciples' faith (but what they themselves did after that point was up to them). The verse is certainly theological since its fulfillment is spoken of as having happened, while their safety was by no means assured at this point: neither physically nor spiritually. Therefore, since verse 17:12 is theological regarding the loss of Judas (and it's doubtful we can determine the disciple ever had true faith or not judging from the language, as it could be more metaphorical than literal on anything but the present salvation of that individual), 18:9 has to also be ragarded as either Jesus' fulfillment of his part (cf. 1 Cor. 8:7-13), or some other kind of fulfillment such as keeping them away from too much temptation for them (1 Cor. 10:13) should they have been arrested and possibly convicted along with Jesus the way all politically influential people of this era were.

John 10:30

If Jesus and God are one, who is he talking to when he prays to God?

This little comical objection does not understand the theological point Jesus makes here, and ignores the difference between a person of the Trinity and being God.

John 12

John 12:21

Isn't Bethsaida in Gaulonitis and not Galilee?

After 84 AD, Bethsaida became part of Galilee. Ptolemy lists it there in Geographia Book 5, 16.4. John was probably written around 90-100, so this is not an error. Not that any of John's audience would've known where Gaulonitis was, the two regions being so close that the more popular one, Galilee, could be a synonym for the other; which is why Josephus calls Judas the seditioner of 6 AD, both a Gaulonite (Ant. 18.1.1) and a Galilean (Ant. 18.1.6; War 2.17.8), and probably why much of Gaulonitis was subsumed by Galilee. John could've used the name "Bethsaida in Galilee" not to differentiate it from another Bethsaida, but to be more thorough for an unfamiliar audience, much like someone could talk about something that's familiar such as "Paris' Eiffel Tower".

John 12:24

Do seeds die?

Although I was completely surprised to hear in a biology class at my university about seeds dying, I think Jesus is stretching the analogy a bit by equating the disintegration of the seed toward the better result of the plant. His audience would have understood this, and possibly used similar terminology (cf. 1 Cor. 15:36-37). If this is supposed to be a scientific or factual error, then we should make sure to always correct someone who expresses himself by saying something like, "I'll rise early from bed to work at the same time the Sun rises," because technically the Sun doesn't rise/revolve around the Earth.

John 12:32

Did Jesus "draw all men" to him?

This verse refers to Jesus' death (vv.33f). He's talking to (mostly) believers (vv.35f) and he's clearly referring to drawing all believers to him after his death and Resurrection - atonement and proof. In another sense, it could be something similar to the Parable of the Banquet where all humans are called to repent. John certainly didn't think Jesus was saying all would believe in him.

John 12:47

Does Jesus judge or not?

Verses like John 5:22 and 9:39 say Jesus came for judgment, whereas others like this one and John 8:15 say he refrains from it. Yet from the context it's clear that one is the judgment reserved for the reception of penalties (i.e. Judgment Day), and the other is the kind of punishment meted out physically on Earth such as death, the way much of the Old Testament threatens for disobedience. It's clear from other places in Scripture that in the second case, Jesus isn't here from that (Luke 9:54-55; Matt. 26:52-54). And Jesus' purpose on Earth wasn't to condemn people for sin but to save as Jn 12:47 and numerous other verses on the plight of human nature relate. Even so, it's obvious that Jesus can pass judgment on moral issues as Jn 8:15, 9:39 say (cf. Rom. 14:1ff).

John 13

John 13:34

How is love a new commandment?

Jesus means this as the focal point and emphasis of the moral backbone of his disciples, unlike the numerous legalistic precepts of the Law. It's the same language John uses in 1 John 2:7-8: a euphemism for what's truly important versus what others, even the observant Pharisees, considered important.

John 13:38

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

John 14

John 14:2-3

Were the places for Jesus' followers prepared or did Jesus go to prepare them?

See Matthew 25:34 above.

John 14:7

Can God be seen or not?

Jesus is using a metaphor.

John 14:12-14

Are the prayers of believers always answered?

These verses and others can be contrasted with various Christians whose well-meaning, genuine prayers were never answered. One doesn't even need to appeal to anecdotal evidence for this, but can look at the numerous Old Testament prophets who pleaded for Jerusalem's deliverance (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), only to have to acknowledge that it would inevitably be destroyed by the Babylonians.

But one should never confuse God's "open ears" to the call of the righteous for unwavering obedience to man's limited knowledge and point of view. Even if we assume that a believer used unwavering faith in his prayer (Matt. 17:20; James 1:6-8) and prayed for something useful (Luke 4:12), there is still a big assumption that it's in his and everyone's best interest for his goal to be achieved. When Jesus was condemned to death, none of the Apostles expected it, and no amount of prayer would or should have saved Jesus from the cross, even though Jesus himself prayed for this if it would have been possible (Luke 22:42-44).

Many goals aren't as complicated and intertwined with other scenarios as Jesus' death. For example, a miraculous healing or revelation. It's about these that John 14:12-14 and related verses talk about, with the assumption that the reader understands that anything of this sort would be given by God at his discretion.

John 14:27

Did the disciples and Christians have peace or were they persecuted?

The verse specifically notes it's the spiritual peace that is given and not "as the world gives it". It would be absurd for Jesus or anyone to think they would never encounter difficulties in a sinful world for being a Christian. It's the theological nature of the community that is frequently emphasized by Jesus' metaphors (cf. 1 Cor. 3:19; 5:9-10). This dichotomy is clearly expressed in John 16:33.

John 17

John 17:12

Did Jesus lose any of his sheep?

See John 10:28-29.

John 18

John 18:3, 12

Historical error of Roman military?

In John 18:3 and 12, the word speira is used to describe some of the soldiers used in capturing Jesus at Gethsemane. These were either 1/10 of a legion (600 men) or an auxillary unit of 500 or 1000 men. Five infantry cohors of these and one ala (cavalry) was stationed in Judea at the time. Each of their overall commander was a "chiliarch". Carl H. Kraeling writes,

It is, of course, the Fourth Gospel which introduces the Romans into the account of Jesus' capture, whereas the Synoptic Gospels mention only the servants of the High Priest...The legendary character of the account in John 18 is revealed not only by the fact that it mobilizes an entire cohort (speira) with its tribune (chiliarchos), but also by the improbability that even a detachment of the Roman auxilaries would have delivered its prisoner to the High Priest instead of to the Roman procurator. [Kraeling, Carl H. "The Episode of the Roman Standards at Jerusalem" The Harvard Theological Review 35, no.4 (1942): 266-7 n.5]

It's ludicrous to think Jesus was apprehended by hundreds of Roman soldiers. But, I'm not sure if that's more ludicrous than Kraeling thinking that John tried to say that he was. The word speira can mean any group of soldiers as the Greek of 2 Maccabees 8:23 shows when talking about some Jewish soldiers. 2 Maccabees was written in the second century BC - before there was any Roman presence in Judea. The same goes for "chiliarch" which Mark 6:21 uses for Herod's captains - clearly not the commanders of the Roman cohorts intended to be present at his birthday party. John uses different words (opsarion for "fish" instead of the Synoptic ichthys) and refers to the Temple police in 7:32 with yet another word, "hypretes". Ancient Greek writers like Arrian stressed variability:

In the second century A.D. one of the most frequent literary devices was variation, the deliberate avoidance of repetition in close proximity of the same words and constructions. Industrious writers would compile lists of synonyms to improve the elegance of their prose style. [Bosworth, A. B. “The Government of Syria under Alexander the Great.” The Classical Quarterly 24, no. 1 (1974): 57]
Arrian uses numerous synonyms for "governor" in his narrative of Alexander's conquests. John may have wanted a general word for soldiers. Like the author of 2 Maccabees, he shows himself to be a Hellenized Jew.

John 18:9

Did Jesus lose any of his sheep?

See John 10:28-29.

John 18:13

Does John think there was a different high priest every year?

It's hardly likely for a knowledgeable author of Jewish things (e.g. the Pool of Siloam) to have thought that there was a new high priest every year. The statement that Jesus was led to Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest "that year" is obviously an emphasis on the important year of Jesus' death and Resurrection. Joshua 5:12 does the same thing with respect to the Israelite switch from manna to food grown in Canaan.

John 18:20

Did Jesus teach openly or in secret (Matthew 13:10-11)?

See Matthew 13:10-11 above.

John 18:27

Did the rooster crow once or twice?

See Mark 14:30 above.

John 18:28

Crucified on Passover or Preparation Day?

See John 19:14 below.

John 18:37

Why does Jesus respond to a question as if it was a statement?

In this verse Pilate asks, "So you are a king?" and Jesus responds with, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

This isn't a presumption that Pilate made a statement, which no one on trial could've assumed was the case. How would Pilate, a Roman official, acknowledge Jesus, an ancient Mediterranean peasant who may or may not be killed (at Pilate's discretion), as a king? The answer Jesus gives is one of authority, brevity, and confirmative correction. It's like responding with the modern version, "I am a king." This doesn't presume an acknowledgement (or denial if one were as literal here too) anymore than Jesus' typical answer that turns the authority back on the questioner/accuser, often with some metaphorical statement or method of expression as in this case.

John 19

John 19:14

Crucified on Passover or Preparation Day?

I won't appeal to complex schemes of different calendars and such. This mainly doesn't work because the time of day would've been the same Nisan day for both a Sadducean and other Jewish calendar.

This old thorn of an issue is very easily understood if one figures out John's purpose and how he portrays it. It seems to me John wants to present his theology as clearly and directly as possible. He opens his gospels essentially saying "Jesus is Lord, and at the center of the most important thing in world history." This is also why he gives so many extensive, but direct speeches (Jesus and Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, not to mention the last half of the Gospel is essentially the Last Supper's speeches).

For this reason, instead of any attempt at subtlety, perhaps because others miss or misinterpret it, he flat out identifies Judas as the greedy naysayer in JN 12:4-6, and also as the traitor in chapter 13. Thus in Chs. 18-19 John tries to portray Jesus as the Passover lamb which was slain on Preparation Day (Ex. 12:5-6). His statement that the next day was Passover is simply the next day of the seven days of Unleavened bread during all of which there was food to be eaten (Ex. 12:15), but John purposely for this reason refers to it as the Passover, not specifying which of the Passover days. In the Synoptics it's Preparation Day for the Sabbath. From John 18:39 it's clear that he considered Jesus' death to be on Passover (proper).

Some give April 3, 33 AD as Nisan 14, but there's no way to know exactly, and that calculation comes from whether the person assumes Jesus was killed on Passover or not. In 33 AD, the New Moon in March was on March 19, but Nisan 1 would begin at the first crescent, meaning the Passover/crucifixion would be April 4 (still Friday, because we don't know what day of the week other than interpreting the sources, in this case the Gospels). It could even be a day later if it wasn't observable (cloudy weather, etc), but to know this one would need sources from the time (e.g. Babylonian tablets for when the Mesopotamian new year began - in 444 BC this was 2 days after the new moon, not 1 at the first crescent).

John 19:19-20

What was written on the inscription at Jesus' crucifixion?

See Mark 15:26 above.

John 19:29-30

Did Jesus drink myrrh, gall, or hyssop? And did he accept or reject the bitter drink offered?

See Matthew 27:34 above.

John 20

John 20:22

When was the Holy Spirit given?

See Acts 1:4-8.


Acts 1

Acts 1:4-8

When was the Holy Spirit given?

The Holy Spirit was not an absent force prior to Pentecost. That's how the prophets spoke in Old Testament times (Zech. 7:12, Ez. 11:5, 2 Pet. 1:21)! This is also how Scripture was written (Mark 12:36, John 10:35, Jer. 36:2, 28). Many were "filled with the Holy Spirit" before this too as Luke himself acknowledges (Luke 1:15, 35, 41; 2:25 etc), so he most likely meant the power and authority of the Church via the Holy Spirit was to be ushered (Acts 1:8; John 14:15-31) in the physical absence of Jesus who until then was the one to perform this function (Acts 1:5; Luke 3:16; Mark 1:8). In that sense, Jesus could certainly give the Holy Spirit and some authority to the disciples while he was there (Matt. 10:1), some with hindsight prior to his departure and proleptically for later (John 20:22-23). But it was after his absence that full authority was imparted (Matt. 16:18-19, 18:15-20, Acts 8:14-17; compare Acts 5:1-11 with Luke 9:51-56).

Baptism in the Holy Spirit simply means the fire of true religious zeal that every believer has (1 Cor. 12:13). It is true that in some places, baptism of the Holy Spirit directly is differentiated (Acts 11:15-17), but that is the point - sometimes, like God's way of doing things including the Old Testament and its ritualistic laws (foreshadowing the New Covenant), this had a physical manifestation of an otherwise symbolic metaphor for the truth, just like Pentecost and speaking of tongues (which Paul also mentions, but says not every believer has this, or prophecy, the gift of teaching). Pentecost is simply a large event that basically established the majority of the early Church's congregation, at least in Jerusalem.

Acts 1:12

Is Bethany's location an error here?

Luke here mentions the disciples returning to Jerusalem after walking a Sabbath day's walk. A Sabbath's day walk is less than a mile, about 7 and a half furlongs. The distance between Jerusalem and Bethany, however, is 15 furlongs! And Josephus says the distance between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives is 5 furlongs (Ant. XX: 8.6). This, however, is not an error since the five furlongs of Josephus are from Jerusalem to the western edge of the Mount of Olives, and the distance between Bethany and that edge is another 10 furlongs (logically), and the disciples were within that area. They were in the vicinity of Bethany (Luke 24:50), which went very far into the Mount of Olives.

Acts 1:15

How many believers - 120 or more than 500?

Some say that here Acts contradicts Paul when he says that among the disciples Jesus appeared to, at one time there were over 500 witnesses (1 Cor. 15:6). However, Acts nowhere states or implies that these 120 were all or most of the followers of Christ at that time - Luke merely relates the number of disciples (in Jerusalem) amongst whom Peter spoke.

Acts 1:18-19

Did Judas die by a hanging (Matthew 27:1-10) or a fall?

The death of Judas

Acts 1:20

Why was the field called Akeldama?

See Matthew 27:8 above.

Acts 2

Acts 2:4

When was the Holy Spirit given?

See See Acts 1:4-8 above.

Acts 2:21

Will all who call on the name of the Lord be saved or not (Matthew 7:21)?

See Joel 2:32.

Acts 2:31

How could Jesus have been in hell?

The word here, hades, denotes more or less the Hebrew equivalent of Sheol, or the grave, not hell, nor the Greek (imaginary) netherworld, despite the (possibly allegorical) reference to Abraham's bosom in Luke 16:23.

Acts 3

Acts 3:8, 11

Location error regarding Solomon's Colonnade?

Acts 3:8-10, "He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (NIV)

Acts 3:11, "While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade." (NIV)

Some see Acts 3:11 as an error regarding the location of Solomon's Colonnade, which was on the outside, whereas according to Acts 3:8, Peter, John and the (formerly) lame man were in the temple courts. This however assumes that the obvious gap between Acts 3:10 and 3:11 does not have the disciples and the healed man walking around the temple courts and eventually making their way back to the outside. It is obvious that Luke here has one of his typical omissions of detail because there is a repetition of the amazement of the people in verse 3:11, which is interrupted by the note of the healed man being with Peter and John. Had Luke presupposed that it was the same people who recognized the formerly lame man and were amazed who came up to the disciples at Solomon's Colonnade, the text would not really have read,
they recognized him...and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade.
The redundancy highlighted in bold shows that Luke probably has a gap (in the tradition he was using) and in no way should one suppose he claimed it was the same people who were amazed that came in astonishment at Solomon's Colonnade about whom Luke is talking about in verse 11.

One can also note that Codex D fills in this gap by explaining that the disciples and the healed lame man went outside when the people went to them at Solomon's Colonnade. Haenchen comments on that by saying that the redactor knew his Temple better than the author of Acts, but it is much more likely that the redactor was explaining something he probably saw implied by the text in Acts already. After all, if a redactor hundreds of years after Luke would know such details, so much more Luke himself who is accurate in numerous minute details everywhere else.

Acts 4

Acts 4:36

Is the meaning of Barnabas' name given here an error?

Barnabas literally means son of a prophet, but Acts 4:36 translates it as son of encouragement - is this an error on Luke's part? The answer is without a doubt, "No". The Jews, at least those of the early church, apparently associated a prophet with comfort, strengthening and encouragement as is obvious from Paul (1 Corinthians 14:3). Thus, Luke here has faithfully preserved his source which exegetically referred to Barnabas as son of encouragement and not the literal son of a prophet. This is similar to a person who makes the money needed for a family's living to be described as "the breadwinner" - he hasn't brought any literal bread, but the money that buys the necessities.

Acts 5

Acts 5:30

Was Jesus hung on a tree or a cross?

The word xylon denoted both a tree and a cross figuratively (being made out of wood). This is clear from Paul who in Galatians 3:13 refers to the cross as a xylon, yet in other places obviously acknowledges a belief that Jesus was crucified on a cross (stauros) and not a physical tree (e.g. Galatians 5:11, 6:12, Philippians 2:8, 3:18, etc.)

Acts 5:36

Wrong Theudas?

The list of failed rebels/prophets given here in Gamaliel's speech (Acts 5:35-39) lists a couple of failed movements - Judas of the census and a Theudas. The Judas of Quirinius' census is well known from Josephus. However, the Theudas mentioned in Josephus occurs in the mid-40's AD, by which time Gamaliel had died. How could Gamaliel be referring to someone that was active after his death?

In all likelihood the speech by Gamaliel was remembered in brief outlines, and the Theudas who was active after Gamaliel was lumped in generically. If I had to remember a speech from decades ago, I'd probably get a few details off like this.

This isn't an error as far as Acts is concerned. If someone asks me how my trip to the Bahamas from 25 years ago was, I'd probably remember it was a typical trip and say, "Oh the usual: beach games, swimming, etc." If someone with photographic memory who was there with me says, "oh you actually didn't want to get sunburnt and didn't swim," sure, that detail is technically incorrect, but the gist of what I said certainly wasn't. It's like when people insist it's incorrect to call Jesus by the name "Jesus" because it's a English transliteration of a Latin version of a the Greek Iesous which is not what Jesus' actual Hebrew/Aramaic name Yehoshuah/Yeshua would've been - never mind that the originally Greek New Testament uses the Greek form. Similarly, a disaster like the destruction of a city can be described by generic terms.

Strangely, Gamaliel's speech has this Theudas before Judas of the Census (6 AD), so perhaps he's someone else Josephus didn't mention. Josephus omits quite a few big incidents. Glenn Miller, in on two historical issues in Acts: Theudas and the Sanhedrin, writes,

1. Although 'Theudas' was not a common name itself, it does show up in Jerusalem ossuaries close in time, e.g. Inscription 1255).

2. 'Theudas' shows up in the Papyrii as hypocoristic forms (i.e. "pet" names, 'nicknames') for many Greek theophoric names (e.g. Theodotus, Theodorus, Theodotion, etc.) [New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, vol 4.183-185], so it could refer to any number of people at the time.

3. At the time there was a prevalence for having both a Greek AND a Hebrew name, with the Greek name having the same or very similar meaning as the Hebrew. This pattern shows up in the Jerusalem ossuaries and the 'Goliath' family in Jericho [e.g. 'Theodorus' (gk) for 'Nathanel' (hb)]. With this in mind, 'Theudas' could be Greek for a wide range of Hebrew names: Jonathan, Nathanael, Mattathias, Hananias, Jehohanan, etc. In one case, the synagogue ruler in Ophel was listed under his alternate Greek name "Theodotus".

4. We do know that there were many smaller tumults in Judea after the death of Herod the Great (Josephus uses the phrase "ten thousand" in Antiquities,!), and that we do not have data on many of them. The data seems to indicate that that the two that we know of led by a 'Theudas' are NOT the same event.

Therefore, the reference by Gamaliel to the minor exploits of a Theudas was not necessarily historically illegitimate or confused.
As he also notes, it's very suspicious that the 400 followers of this Theudas mentioned in Acts would correspond to the "great part of the people" mentioned by Josephus as having been led astray (Ant. XX: 5.1), where Josephus narrates the death of 20,000 as "a great number" (Ant. XX: 5.3). Such a small number could've easily escaped Josephus' radar, but why would it bring itself up to Gamaliel or the later traditions? So maybe it was 400 soldiers with whom he did something big, which led many astray. Or maybe Josephus (or copies of him) has his numbers wrong again, like the number of Sicarii (off by tens of thousands).

Thaddaeus is a variant of Judas in the Gospels for the Judas who wasn't the one that betrayed Christ (Matt. 10:3, Mark 3:18 vs. Luke 6:16 - in Matthew and Mark it is Thaddaeus, and in Luke it is Judas, clearly the variant was adopted in Matt. and Mark whereas Luke has preserved the original; cf. Matt. 13:55 (with Jude 1 [James 1:1]) and John 14:22). In that case, the Judas son of Ezekias in Josephus (Ant. XVII: 10.5) is a possible candidate for this Theudas.

If the fact that both in Josephus and Acts we have a "Theudas" is still considered too coincidental, one should remember there were two insurrectionists named Judas around the same time - Judas of the census (6 AD - Ant. XVIII: 1.1-6), and Judas son of Ezekias/Hezekiah before him (4 BC - Ant. XVII: 10.5). Most likely it's this second Judas who is meant in Acts 5:36, but the name was later changed to Theudas by some traditions, maybe in the aftermath of the other Theudas (of the 40's), ironically to not confuse him with the Judas of the census.

If there can be two Judases within 10 years of each other (Judas of Galilee - c.6 AD, Judas son of Ezekias - c. 4 BC), then there can certainly be two Theudases within 40 years of each other (Josephus' Theudas - c.44-46 AD, Acts 5:36 - before 6 AD). In my opinion it was either Judas son of Ezekias or Josephus' Theudas meant by Acts.

Acts 7

Acts 7:4

Error in Abraham's age by Stephen?

Genesis 11:32 says that Abraham's father, Terah, died in Harran when he was 205 years old. Acts 7:4 says that Abraham left Harran after the death of his father. Genesis 12:4 tells us that Abraham left Harran when he was 75 years old. The problem raised by some is that Genesis 11:26 says that, "After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran." This would make Terah 145 not 205 years old!

The three sons of Terah were not all born at the same time (triplets) when Terah was 70, but the firstborn was, and the other two after him. The same can be seen in Genesis 5:32 which says, "After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth", yet we know there was an age difference between the three, Ham being the youngest (Gen. 9:24). Secondly, Abraham is mentioned first not because he was the firstborn, but because he was the most important to be mentioned. Again, Genesis 5:32 mentions Ham, the youngest, second. Also, in 1 Chr. 6:3 gives the children of Amram as "Aaron, Moses, and Miriam," whereas we know Miriam was the eldest. Therefore, Abraham was born when Terah was around 130 years old.

Acts 7:6

How many years was the Egyptian captivity?

See Exodus 12:40-41.

Acts 7:14

How many were in Jacob's family - 70 or 75?

See Exodus 1:5 above.

Acts 7:15-16

Is Stephen in error regarding the location of Jacob's burial?

Genesis 49:29-30 tells us that Jacob was buried in Machpelah (in Hebron), whereas Acts 7:15-16 says, "Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money." What is going on here?

There is an ancient Semitic way of expression which groups the objects talked about into the main point of the story. For example, if Jacob was buried in Hebron, and his twelve sons (the fathers mentioned in Acts 7:15) were buried in Shechem, an ancient author could easily epitomize the whole narrative into the simple statement that "Jacob and the fathers were buried in Shechem". The same practice can be seen for example in inscriptions of Xerxes I who continued building the palace at Susa that his father, Darius I, started, and variously describes himself as both continuing and being a co-builder of what his father had pretty much built, as well as having built the palace himself. Another example is (ironically) the description of how many went down to Egypt with Jacob: Genesis 46:26 tells us 66 of Jacob's direct descendants went with him to Egypt, and Gen. 46:27 brings it up to 70 by counting Jacob and Joseph and his two sons by saying, "With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob's family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all." However, Joseph's sons never went down to Egypt in the first place - they were born there! Thus we can see that the Semitic description can indeed be flexible. In this way, one can easily omit unnecessarily sophisticated details that only take up time, to emphasize a point.

Another explanation by the ApologeticsPress (Who is Right--Stephen or Moses?) is:
In his commentary on the New Testament book of Acts, McGarvey provided an excursion into the Greek text that helps immensely in explaining the "contradiction" posed by Stephen's statement.
As the two clauses stand in our version, "he died, himself, and our fathers; and they were carried over into Shecham," there can be no doubt that "himself " and "fathers" are common subjects of one verb "died," and that the pronoun "they" before "were carried" refers to both alike. But it is not so in the original. The construction is different. The verb rendered died is in the singular number, eteleutasen, and it agrees only with autos, himself. The plural substantive "fathers" is not the subject of that verb, but of the plural eteleutasan understood. The construction having been changed with the introduction of the plural subject, it follows that the plural verb metetéthasan, "were carried," belongs to fathers, and not to Jacob. The two clauses, properly punctuated, and with the ellipsis supplied, read thus: "and he died; and our fathers died, and were carried over into Shechem." With this rendering and punctuation, which are certainly admissible, the contradiction totally disappears; and if the passage had been thus rendered at first into English, a contradiction would not have been thought of (1892, p. 121, emp. added, italics in orig.).
McGarvey's point was this. If Jacob was buried at Machpelah in Hebron (and of that there is no doubt, since Genesis 49:29-30 so states), then Stephen must have been saying that it was the fathers alone who were buried in Shechem, not Jacob. This is quite possible. We know that at least one of the fathers-Joseph-was buried in Shechem (Joshua 24:32).
In fact, since Joseph was buried in Shechem, it seems very possible that the rest of his brothers were buried with him, Joseph having become more or less the brother they all looked up to due to his success with both God and man. So since the Old Testament nowhere tells us that Joseph's brothers were not buried in Shechem, we cannot charge Stephen with a mistake for having said so.

Acts 7:16

Is Stephen in error about who bought the burial plot in Shechem?

Abraham bought a cave in Machpelah in Hebron, which is where his wife and he were buried, as well as Jacob. Jacob purchased a field (Gen. 33:19, undoubtedly with a sepulcher as Acts writes, seeing Joshua 24:32), but Acts 7:16 says that Abraham had purchased it.

We have three possibilities here:
  1. Copyist error - Jacob's name was incorrectly written down as Abraham. This however is not very likely as the manuscripts of Acts undoubtedly have Abraham and not Jacob.
  2. Jacob rebought the field in Shechem - It is not entirely impossible that some kind of mistake or purposeful theft occurred with the land and Jacob merely rebought it.
  3. Figurative description/Pesher - It is also not impossible that Stephen is employing a bit of an allegory here, a pesher in describing Abraham as the one who bought it, whereas it was Jacob. Something similar to Hebrews 7:4, 9-10,
    Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder!...One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
Overall, we do not know that Abraham never bought the land in Shechem, nor exactly what Stephen may have meant by saying that. Abraham was indeed by Shechem at one point (Gen. 12:6-7), building an altar there, much like Jacob (Gen. 33:20).

Acts 7:48-50

Does God dwell in Heaven or on Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple (Joel 3:17)?

See Joel 3:17 above.

Acts 7:55-60

Stoning of Stephen historical?

The issue brought here is that the Sanhedrin had no power to kill anyone, even if they were incurably hated, as we see in the case of Jesus when they still had to get Pilate's approval for death (John 19:31). This happened on occasion by procurators, even with Roman soldiers (War 2.12.1-2). This much Josephus understands by his comment upon the arrival of the procurator Coponius that Caesar had put the power of life and death in his hands (War 2.8.1). But the type of stoning that even the Gemarists presume is one where the Sanhedrin approves of but distances itself from essentially a mob lynching. That enough angry individuals could gather and stone someone is seen numerous times in Josephus who notes how they threw stones at Archelaus (War 2.1.3) and killed some of his soldiers as well. The same happened to Agrippa II when he tried to dissuade them from war, though he was well-liked and only a few were thrown at him (War 2.17.1). Even Roman soldiers weren't spared (War 2.12.1).

The crime for stoning was essentially blasphemy against Moses' Law (persecutions Paul endured) or God - viz. leading someone to apostasy; and also sorcery. So the charges the Pharisees frequently laid upon Jesus was that he used the power of the devil, and when they asked him questions they tried to show he wasn't following the established Jewish (=Pharisaic for the priests) authoritative teaching. However, Jesus was frequently surrounded by numerous supporters (Luke 22:6), so the Pharisees couldn't do much (Luke 22:1; Matt. 21:26). Not even Temple guards would dare (John ), as an angry crowd could easily start throwing rocks and kill (War 2.1.3). At other times they try to turn the crowd against him by asking him about taxes, whereas if he denied taxes, this was tantamount to becoming an insurrectionist as far as the Romans, or any king who was denied tribute, were concerned. [War 2.16.5] Even ending the sacrifice for Caesar was enough for Josephus to call it a point of no return. [War 2.17.3-5] The earliest charges brought legally against Christians were that they had another king (John 19:12), but their personal basis was blasphemy (John 19:7). In Stephen's case, the Sanhedrin quickly antagonized enough people in the crowd that he was teaching apostacy - to follow the deceiver Jesus.

Typically, a condemned was led far outside the city to be stoned (see Luke 4:28-9). Hence Agrippa was quickly kicked out of Jerusalem when his anti-war pleas were rejected (War 2.17.1). And the irony in Acts is that the accused was stripped naked, or in undergarments, but here Luke notes how the persecutors took off their cloaks to not have to carry and dirty on the distance: a natural situation that would have easily happened (compare the soldiers who greet Vespasian with only their "silken clothes" - War 7.5.4). Stephen's speech begins from past examples as does Agrippa's (War 2.16.4) and Clement of Rome's letter (1 Clement). The disobedience of the Jews is also noted by an advocate of Archelaus', who responded to Jewish objections to Archelaus' kingship by noting that Jews were always disobedient to kings. [War 2.6.2] Stephen was clearly a prominent member of the early Church and if one Galilean's death stirred all of Judea to fight the Samaritans (War 2.6.3-5) which Josephus knows of years later, then Stephen would've been remembered for some time.

Acts 9

Acts 9:3-9

Contradiction between the three accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts?

In three different places in Acts we have an account of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus - Acts 9:3-9, 22:6-11, and 26:12-18. Below is a table with each element from each account so we can see the alleged contradictions occasionally claimed:

# Event Acts 9:3-9 Acts 22:6-11 Acts 26:12-18
1 Location/Journey to Damascus near Damascus (9:3) near Damascus (22:6) on the road to Damascus (26:12-13)
2 Time Unspecified Noon (22:6) Noon (26:13)
3 The Light a light from heaven flashed around him (9:3) a bright light from heaven flashed around him and his companions (22:6,9) a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around Paul and his companions (26:13)
4 Who falls to the ground? Paul (9:4) Paul (22:7) Paul and his companions (26:14)
5 Jesus speaks "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?" "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads." (in Aramaic)
6 Paul answers "Who are you, Lord?" (9:5) "Who are you, Lord?" (22:8) "Who are you, Lord?" (26:15)
7 Jesus answers "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." (9:5-6) "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting". Paul asks, "What shall I do, Lord?" to which Jesus responds with, "Get up, and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do." (22:8-10) "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." (26:15-18)
8 Who heard the voice? Paul as well as his companions (9:7) Paul as well as his companions, though they didn't understand it (22:9) Paul, and no mention of his companions, though it might seem only Paul heard it (26:14)
9 Led to Damascus Blinded, by the hand of his companions (9:8) Blinded, by the hand of his companions (22:11) Nothing noted
10 Ananias comes and heals Paul Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. (9:17-19) He stood beside me and said, "Brother Saul, receive your sight!" And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: 'The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." (22:13-16) Nothing noted

We can already see that the differences are few and in general claims of contradiction are never really pressed much in this case exactly because of this. Let's examine them:
  • #1, #2, #6, and #9 are all identical/non-contradictory.
  • #3: Basically the same. Only Paul is the object of the description in the Acts 9 and 22, omitting mention of his companions, thus nothing contradictory.
  • #4: The same as #3 with respect to Acts 9:4 and 22:7 vs. 26:14.
  • #5: This has the extra statement of "It is hard for you to kick against the goads" in Acts 26. Luke merely epitomized in his earlier descriptions just like #3 and #4. Furthermore, since it was Luke himself who narrates the accounts; he certainly knew of this extra saying and thus chose not to mention it earlier, and Paul didn't mention it for similar reasons (of brevity) in chapter 22.
All these differences/omissions (by the same author) are good examples of and parallels to the Christian answers to alleged contradictions in the Gospels and maybe various other stylistic arguments against authenticity. Maybe this also relates to the JEDP hypothesis which lays so much emphasis on doublets, let alone triplets, as indicators of multiple authors and agendas. At any rate, we are left to deal with only #7, #8, and #10.

  • #7: We should again note that the author of Acts certainly knew of all three narratives, so he obviously consciously chose not to include Acts 26:16b-18 in 9:5-6. Paul also may have chosen not to describe this for whatever reason (brevity, different purpose of his recounting, etc), and omitted it, thus giving a fuller account during his trial described in chapter 26. On the other hand, Paul might be combining what was spoken to him on the road and what Ananias told him had been revealed to him by Christ into one message - something acceptable in similar situations even today. Here Paul had a better situation to recount more details (Acts 26:3). It should be certain that the instruction to go to Damascus after telling Paul to get up (recorded in all 3 versions) was given as well, especially since Paul wouldn't know what to do otherwise. Thus Paul has probably epitomized here, especially since a lot of the story such as Ananias is omitted and Paul's main point seems to be his proof of his divine calling and mission (perhaps similarly in his account in Galatians 1).

  • #8: This is the main place that's alleged to contradict: whether Paul's companions heard the voice or not (Acts 9:7 vs. 22:9). This, however, is easily resolved by seeing that the word akouo in Acts 9:7 is in the genitive case, which means physical hearing, in other words they heard the voice, whereas in Acts 22:9 it is in the accusative case, which renders the word with the meaning understand - they didn't understand the voice, though they heard it. If one objects to this usage of akouo, then the obvious meaning of it as understand in 1 Corinthians 14:2 can easily be cited. As the excellent article in the Apologetics Press notes (They Heard Him--They Heard Him Not?):
    Consider also the words of Greek expert Ray Summers:
    Some verbs take their object in a case other than the accusative. There is a variety of usage at this point. Akouo may take its object in the genitive or the accusative. Usually akouo with the genitive means "to hear without understanding." This probably explains the difficulty involved in Acts 9:7 and 22:9. The incident is the experience of Paul in seeing the light and hearing the voice on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:7 states that Paul's companions heard the voice (akouo with the genitive); Acts 22:9 says they did not hear the voice (akouo with the accusative). Thus both constructions say the same thing; the companions of Paul did not understand what the voice said to Paul; to them it was unintelligible sound (1950, p. 51).
    Numerous other Greek scholars have expressed the same viewpoint (see, for example: Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, pp. 31-33; Blackwelder, 1958, p. 139; Kittel, 1993, p. 216; Thayer; 1979, pp. 22-23; Vincent, 1975, p. 571; and Vine, 1985, p. 296). The word "hear" in Acts 22:9 can be used to indicate that it was a sound-not a voice-that the men heard on the road to Damascus.
    If it be objected that Paul's companions would have understood Aramaic and thus would have had no reason to not understand the voice which was in that language (Acts 26:14), it should be noted that it is certainly not outside the power of God for one man to hear Aramaic and the rest around him to not understand the voice, much like the gift of speaking in tongues is unintelligible to everyone except the person speaking in them (1 Cor. 14:2, 5).

  • #10: Luke has shortened much of the fuller account given by Paul in 22:13-16. This is evident, for example, by things like Ananias' instruction for Paul to get baptized which is only narrated as Paul having been baptized in chapter 9. The two accounts are similar in thought and do not need to be anything different from the stories given by two different individuals regarding the same event - one will summarize it a certain way and another will emphasize different things, both being equally true.
And so, even with a cursory view of the three accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts, one can easily see that they don't really contradict each other at all.

Acts 9:5

Why does Paul call Jesus by the title "Lord" if he doesn't know who he is yet?

Paul could have easily known this was someone powerful and majestic, like the Lord, but have been confused as to His identity due to the statement, "why do you persecute me?" More likely, however, as J.P. Holding notes (Index: Luke and Acts) Paul meant it as the common title of "Sir" - the Greek, kurios, which does not necessitate a divine or Messianic or religious title (e.g. Matt. 13:27).

Acts 10

The Italian Regiment

This was the sharpest point of disagreement on Acts being historical. The Italian regiment was said to not have been stationed in Caesarea or Judea, let alone during Agrippa I's reign. Nor could they have been under the command of "mere equestrian governors" or Agrippa I, being composed of Italian citizens.

Yet, although the name remained "Italica", the cohort had been filled with local replacements - Syrians - as an inscription (69-70 AD) of a Proculus from the unit with an Arabian name for his father shows. The unit was stationed in "Syria" which was the Roman name for the whole of Palestine after Agrippa I's death. If locals were being recruited then a procurator or Agrippa I could've had some authority. And Cornelius' house could've been in Caesarea, not the unit (or it was perhaps there only briefly). We don't know that all five infantry cohorts had the name cohors Sebastenorum - only one of them and the ala (cavalry) are known both with numeral I. So the other could've been Italica II. Josephus' statement that there were only Sebastenorum units is not unusual since locals would fill a cohor regardless of its point of origin. Moreover, the situation could've changed after Herod's death in 4 BC. [Speidel, Michael P. "The Roman Army in Judaea under the Procurators: The Italian and the Augustan Cohort in the Acts of the Apostles" Ancient Society 13/14 (1982): 233-7]

See Acts 27:1 - the Augustan Cohort

Acts 11

Acts 11:28

What famine "all over the world" under Claudius?

The famine that occurred in Judea under Claudius is well-known and recorded in Josephus. The fact that our verse says "over all the world," doesn't have to mean the entire world or Roman Empire (oikomenos), but is how authors, especially Jews, described Israel. And here a Jewish prophet is speaking in Acts' possibly Semitic source.

The answer that there was quite a bit of food shortages and price-rises, especially in the large towns in Claudius' reign doesn't satisfy and Haenchen rightfully retorts by saying that this "reduces the universal famine to a run of bad harvests." [Ernst Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles (1971), p.376] The natural interpretation even from a secular standpoint is that Luke refers to a famine in Israel/Palestine only. Haenchen calls this a "mere apologetic artifice" [ibid., p.62, n.4] and insists that it's an error by Luke. One can easily answer this just as Aquinas does regarding the darkness at Jesus' crucifixion occurring "all over the world":

But the sun is said to withdraw its rays in so far as the Divine power caused the sun's rays not to reach the earth. On the other hand, Origen says this was caused by clouds coming between (the earth and the sun). Hence on Mat. 27:45 he says: "We must therefore suppose that many large and very dense clouds were massed together over Jerusalem and the land of Judea; so that it was exceedingly dark from the sixth to the ninth hour. Hence I am of opinion that, just as the other signs which occurred at the time of the Passion"---namely, "the rending of the veil, the quaking of the earth," etc.---"took place in Jerusalem only, so this also: . . . or if anyone prefer, it may be extended to the whole of Judea," since it is said that "'there was darkness over the whole earth,' which expression refers to the land of Judea, as may be gathered from 3 Kings 18:10, where Abdias says to Elias: 'As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee': which shows that they sought him among the nations in the neighborhood of Judea." [Summa Theologica Part III, 44.2, Reply to Objection 2]
Since in Acts 11:27-30 the Jerusalem prophets ask for help from Antioch (Syria), Luke knew and intended a famine confined to Judea and its relevant surroundings only.

Acts 13

Acts 13:20

How many years was the Egyptian captivity?

See Exodus 12:40-41.

Acts 16

Acts 16:16-18

Did this impure spirit acknowledge Jesus meaning it was from God?

See Mark 1:23-24 above.

Acts 17

Acts 17:24

Does God dwell in Heaven or on Zion/Jerusalem/the Temple (Joel 3:17)?

See Joel 3:17 above.

Acts 27

Acts 27:1

The Augustan Cohort

This unit some ascribe to the imagination of Luke. The suggestion that one of the five infantry cohorts was honored with the name of Augustus is supposed by Kraeling, who considers amongst its more important functions to have possibly been the unit that brought the standards to Jerusalem in the infamous episode with Pilate. Or since the units were already called cohors Sebastenorum (Sebaste is Greek for Augustus), that it was simply given that name. But there is a much simpler explanation. An inscription to Agrippa II's 28th year (84/9 AD) mentions the cohors Augusta and Speidel considers Acts 27 to have a ceremonial function where Agrippa II brought his own soldiers; these were not part of the Roman procurator's stationed units. There must've been other units at various times such as 4 BC after Herod's death or when Judea became a Roman province in 6 AD, so this would be nothing impossible.


Romans 7

Romans 7:2-3

Is divorce allowed or not?

See Matthew 19:9 above.

Romans 10

Romans 10:13

Will all who call on the name of the Lord be saved or not (Matthew 7:21)?

See Joel 2:32 above.

Romans 14

Romans 14:9

Does God rule over both the living and the dead or not (Matthew 22:32)?

See Matthew 22:32 above.

1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1

1 Corinthians 1:14-16

Did Paul baptize any Corinthians besides Crispus and Gaius?

In an almost comical example of a possible error, Paul says he's thankful he didn't baptize any of the Corinthian church except two. And then in verse 16 says, "(Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.)" (NIV). So which is it, Paul? And if he doesn't remember how could he assume it?

There's four charges, essentially:

  1. He contradicts verse 14 by mentioning additional people in verse 16
  2. He seems to have forgotten the people of verse 16 while writing verse 14
  3. If he doesn't know everything, how could he claim he baptized no one
  4. How could this be reconciled with inspiration?

1. This is not really a problem if we consider the fact that the church had enough members (at least a few dozen?) for him to group pretty much everyone into the "I baptized none of you" category with the emphasis because of his main point (needless division over who baptized whom). Similar language can be found throughout the Bible and ancient writings, and even today we can use the expression, "Oh I do this all the time."

Of course, Paul is making an important point and it's not just some everyday expression. But when you're talking about a few versus a large group, it's not necessary to be absolutely exhaustive as if it's a math class: his point doesn't demand it, or he wouldn't have admitted he didn't remember who else he baptized (v.16). If one army completely routs another, such as the Carthaginians against the Romans at Cannae, they can easily say, "they've been totally annihilated," even if there were a few escaped soldiers: they're disorganized and the army group is done for anyway.

Also, there could've been some special reason that falls outside the scope that make the exception (which Paul wouldn't need to mention). For example, the Spartans who died at Thermopylae were all wiped out to the last man. Except two. Because they weren't present at the battle itself, while having been part of the army (one was sent to Thessaly for reinforcements, the other had an eye issue and was sent back). Perhaps the house of Stephanas was a recent arrival and weren't originally Corinthians. Or some other reason.

2. The previous answer, that Paul doesn't need to be exhaustive, shows that Paul wasn't planning to include everyone he baptized at Corinth, so he couldn't have "forgotten" to include anyone in any meaningful sense. It's like not having something at the top of your head while thinking it: a friend can say, "these are pretty much all the things you need for a camping trip," - important things - while you might have a few conveniences you want to bring yourself. But it's different if an engineer says, "this is pretty much all the measurements you need," - you need every last one. Paul does not need to be exhaustive and therefore didn't bother thinking up everybody he didn't baptize.

3. Like #1 and #2, since he doesn't need to be exhaustive, he can have a general idea. I might not remember specific instances, but I can know whether a friend likes or doesn't like a certain kind of food or type of movie.

4. As we saw in #2, since Paul's intent was not to make a baptismal catalogue, it's irrelevant whether he knew everyone's baptismal history or not. In that sense, if Scripture has Paul say, "I helped Pericles build a house, and I used the usual builders' tools: a hammer, a saw, and I don't know what else," he wouldn't be in error there either.

And since Scripture uses the man as a vehicle (e.g. he writes in his languages and the way he writes it), since there's no error given the purpose, it's irrelevant that Paul didn't know. He wrote from what he knew at that point, and since it's a letter, it would be a bit strange for the Holy Spirit to tell him what he didn't need to know. Given his audience, at some point he wouldn't sound like himself. Even though technically it delays the point (and possibly even distracts a little from it), it's better this way. Imagine your favorite talk show host or whoever: maybe he talks in a certain peculiar, almost confusing way. But if he's your favorite speaker, you probably wouldn't want him using some kind of speaking machine (even if it were with his voice) that would be slightly clearer, but would lose his personal touch (as would be in this case). It's similar to the fact that Jesus didn't know when the Second Coming was, although that has a more active reason.

1 Corinthians 1:17

Does this verse contradict Matthew 28:19?

See Matthew 28:19 above.

1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7:10-16

Is divorce allowed or not?

See Matthew 19:9 above.

1 Corinthians 10

1 Corinthians 10:8

Did 23,000 or 24,000 die in the plague?

See Numbers 25:9.

1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians 15:36-37

Do seeds die?

See John 12:24.


Galatians 3

Galatians 3:13

Was Jesus crucified on a tree or a cross?

The word xylon denoted both a tree and a cross figuratively (being made out of wood). This is clearly the case here with Paul, who in Galatians 3:13 refers to the cross as a xylon, yet in other places obviously acknowledges a belief that Jesus was crucified on a cross (stauros) and not a physical tree (e.g. Galatians 5:11, 6:12, Philippians 2:8, 3:18, etc).

Galatians 3:17

How many years was the Egyptian captivity?

See Exodus 12:40-41.


Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4:26

Is it ok to be angry or not?

See Proverbs 22:24 above.

2 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians 2

2 Thessalonians 2:9

Who alone can do great wonders: God (Psalm 136:4) or others as well?

See Psalm 136:4 above.

Does this verse contradict Matthew 28:18 which says all power is given to Jesus?

No, because the power of the lawless one in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 is clearly allowed by God, who obviously holds all power (ultimately). It would be like saying no one (who is an enemy of Christianity) has any power since "all power belongs to Jesus", despite the persecutions from Nero onwards.

1 Timothy

1 Timothy 5

1 Timothy 5:19-20

Should we rebuke brothers and sisters in private or in public in front of others (1 Timothy 5:19-20)?

See Matthew 18:15-17 above.


Hebrews 7

Hebrews 7:1-28

Isn't the description of Melchizedek here similar to that of the Dead Sea Scrolls Community meaning the author of Hebrews is just describing legends of his time?

There is a "Heavenly Prince of Light" described in the Dead Sea Scrolls by Qumran, particularly in the fragment 11Q13. In Geza Vermes', The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (7th ed., 1997), even Vermes somewhat equates Melchizedek in Hebrews with the one mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls (p.500). However, this comparison between Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 and Qumran is not very persuasive:

  1. The only thing that draws a comparison between the two figures mentioned in the two texts is the name - Vermes himself states that Melchizedek is identical with the archangel Michael. Hebrew 7 is clear that the author is talking about the biblical figure mentioned in Genesis 14:18-20. Also, the name Melchizedek is undoubtedly a coincidence only insofar as the meaning of the name - king/prince of righteousness. This title is already found in Genesis 14:18 and Psalm 110:4 which the author of Hebrews interpreted himself, not relying on any Qumranite-like theology, and this name was doubtlessly given to the Prince of Peace of Qumran due to its biblical origin and the role of the Qumran Melchizedek.
  2. The role Melchizedek plays in the Dead Sea Scrolls is that of a leader warrior in an earthly and celestial battle against Satan and his army. In Hebrews, Melchizedek is the priest he is described as in Genesis 14:18 and Psalm 110:4 the second Scripture of which Hebrews 7:17,24. The Qumran Melchizedek has nothing to do with priestly things - this role is left for the Priestly-Messiah of Qumran (along with the royal Messiah who has a role like Melchizedek in getting the Earth rid of the ungodly).
  3. The titles of Melchizedek in Qumran are unknown for Hebrews (and Genesis/Psalm 110). The Qumran Melchizedek is known as "Prince of Light" and other such related characteristics such as bringing peace/salvation through his battle, being a Son of God, Son of the Most High, head of the "sons of Heaven" and "gods of Justice" and is also referred to as elohim and el in the sense of a heavenly prince (as Vermes notes the word can also mean other things besides God such as "judge" and Qumran interpreted Psalm 82 to refer to heavenly beings). None of these titles or roles are ascribed to Melchizedek by Hebrews. The only similarity is the description in 11Q13 that Melchizedek's victory will bring the prophesied peace/salvation and Hebrews 7:2 which talks about Melchizedek as "king of peace". Here Hebrews translates the "king of Salem" in Genesis 14:18 and is not dependent on any Qumran-related view of Melchizedek since 11Q13 quotes Isaiah 52:7 about the coming of salvation (the actual word is missing in the fragment but the quote from Isaiah says salvation and Vermes places Peace/Salvation - p.501).

Thus there are no similarities or dependencies between Hebrews and Qumran nor of any common Jewish apocalyptic tradition. However, what then of the enigmatic statement in Hebrew 7:3 that Melchizedek is, "Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever."? We have the answer in Hebrews 7:5-22: Melchizedek is figuratively without mother/father/genealogy because he was a priest of God without having descended from Levi/Aaron and in the same priestly order, promised in the oath in Psalm 110:4, Jesus became a permanent living high priest. Hebrews is not trying to say that Melchizedek is some sort of heavenly being in the tradition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. What then of the part in Hebrews 7:3, "...resembling the Son of God..."? This talks about Jesus: Melchizedek resembles Jesus in the method of his being high priest without having to descend from Levi/Aaron (Heb. 7:5-6) and of his name meaning king of righteousness (Heb. 7:2), his being king of Salem (Heb. 7:2; Salem is Hebrew for peace, thus king of Salem = king of peace) and his greatness over Abraham (Heb. 7:4-7) and also other such reasons (Heb. 7:8-10).

Hebrews 7:3

If Melchizedek had no father, mother, or genealogy, how is Eve the mother of all living (people)?

Hebrews 7:3 figuratively says Melchizedek had no father, mother, or genealogy in regards to the fact that he was a priest of God without having descended from Aaron or Levi (Heb. 7:5-6, 11-22). For more see Hebrews 7:1-28 above.

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9:4

What was inside the Ark?

1 Kings 8:9 explicitly states that only the stone tablets of Moses' Law were inside the Ark. Hebrews 9:4, however, says that Aaron's rod and a golden jar of manna was in there as well. However, between the time of Moses and the time of Solomon, which 1 Kings 8 talks about, there were about 450 years. Many have noted that the Ark was moved quite a bit and the objects could have easily been taken out and left at the Temple or some other place. Very possibly, the golden jar would have been used as one of the numerous golden articles in the Temple (Exodus 25).

Slightly unrelated, the jar of manna being golden is not found in the Old Testament. Apparently it was a Jewish tradition as Philo also mentions it (On Mating with the Preliminary Studies 100). This doesn't mean that Hebrews is using Jewish traditions as Scripture. The inference that the jar was golden can easily be made from all the golden objects mentioned in Exodus 25:

  • All plates and dishes at the Table for the Bread of the Presence, as well as bowls and pitchers for pouring offerings were to be golden
  • The inside and outside of the Ark, which was in the Tabernacle, had to be golden
  • Even the poles that were to carry the Ark and the Table for the Bread of the Presence were to be overlayed with gold

It'd be pretty odd for some clay jar to be holding the manna alongside a bunch of golden things. Especially when the Old Testament tells us it was always located near the Ark (Exodus 16:33-34; Numbers 17:10 for Aaron's staff), and probably eventually placed in it for convenience.

Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11:27

Was Moses afraid of Pharaoh (Exodus 2:14-15) or not?

See Exodus 2:14-15.

Hebrews 12

Hebrews 12:6

Is Jesus' yoke easy and does he bring love and peace?

The requirements of love might be simple enough in theory, but following them might not always be so easy in practice. This is what Matthew 11:28ff means. And love and peace are there for those who would want them - it doesn't mean that one is immune from one's own mistakes and the corresponding correction from God like from a father.

Hebrews 12:11

Is discipline with force correct?

See Proverbs 13:24.


James 5

James 5:17

How long did the drought of Elijah last?

See 1 Kings 18:1.

1 Peter

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2:12

Are we to show our good works in front of others or not (Matthew 6:1-4, 23:5)?

See Matthew 5:16.

1 John

1 John 4

1 John 4:18

Should we fear God or not?

This verse tells us that our love isn't perfect if we've had fear. Other verses clearly extoll fear as something near necessary (Rom. 3:18, 11:20; 2 Cor. 5:11, 7:1, 11, 15; Eph. 6:5; Heb. 11:7; Jude 1:12, 23; Rev. 19:5).

But just as there are different kinds of love, so also there are different situations requiring fear. One is supposed to be careful not to get in trouble, and this is clearly a healthy fear (Rom. 13:3). But overall, 1 Jn. 4:18 and related verses presume that one has learned the righteous habits of the faith and that now is exercising the law of love (a main theme in John's writings), so one shouldn't really exhibit any kind of fear overall (Rom. 8:15 - which letter speaks of fear in different senses and contexts as good or bad).


Revelation 7

Revelation 7:5-8

What were the 12 Tribes of Israel?

We have 14 names of tribes of Israel in the Bible: Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Dan, Levi, Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Judah, and Benjamin. The Books of Moses clearly tell us that the Tribe of Joseph = Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph's two sons), who are called half-tribes for this reason, but both receive land (whereas Levi doesn't, inheriting cities throughout Israel, to serve as priests, being dedicated to God).

The problem is that here we're missing the name of Dan and in verse 6 we have Manasseh, which should theoretically be represented by Joseph mentioned in verse 8. But if Revelation's highly symbolic and metaphorical nature is supposed to produce a problem from such a technical reading, then I guess we should also point out that there will be no jewels in Heaven either (Rev. 21:11). Like the old joke goes, when a rich man tried to bring his gold and jewels with him to Heaven, St. Peter exclaimed at the entrance, "You brought pavement?!" Revelation isn't giving a list of the historical tribes of Israel, but the point behind it - and it makes sense in a book about...revelations and imagery (similarly Ezekiel 1).

The author was acquainted enough with the Old Testament to know the names of the more obscure tribes (Issachar, Asher, etc), so it's unlikely he decided to just "wing it" on Joseph vs Manasseh. If he knew of Asher, he must've known about Dan, to whom a whole two chapters are devoted in Judges 17-18 (more than any other tribe before 1 Samuel). The book has many connections to Jewish imagery. The author's rough Greek means he was probably a Jewish Christian, which further supports the fact that he would've been acquainted enough with the Old Testament to accidentally omit Dan in his highly allegorical and non-literal book. He is at least a well-known, well-connected presbyter/Christian to be sending prophecies to major churches in Asia Minor. So it doesn't make sense for him to have made a mistake like this without meaning. A mistake has two parts: incongruence of a statement with fact and intent of this statement as that fact in the same sense. So someone can't be accused of an error if he says that he "ate all the food in the world" at a big dinner last night.

Revelation's style is markedly different from the Gospel and Epistles in both language and expression. The author has to identify himself as "John, your brother," twice, so he's perhaps a different John from the Apostle.

Revelation 21

Revelation 21

Will the Earth pass away or not (Ecclesiastes 1:4)?

See Ecclesiastes 1:4 above.