How Many Men Did David’s Captain Kill?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #1

How many men did the chief of David’s captains kill? 2 Samuel 23:8 contradicts 1 Chron. 11:11

  • Answer: The captain Jashobeam killed 800 men with a spear on at least one occasion.
  • Problem: 2 Samuel 23:8-12 describes the leading Three Amigos of David’s mighty men, the chief named Jashobeam (or, Josheb-basshebeth). This warrior killed 800 men in one battle. But 1 Chronicles 11:11 also tells the story, and Jashobeam is said to have killed not 800 but 300 men with a spear. So which is it?
  • Explanation: There are at least two valid possibilities. (1) These passages could be describing two different events. This man was the captain of the most elite soldiers of his day, the ancient Jewish version of today’s Navy Seals. If he could kill 800 men in one battle, why couldn’t he have killed 300 in another? Further, if he only killed 300 total, statistically he would not be a greater warrior than Abishai, who killed that many men himself (2 Sam. 23:18). (2) This is an example of a copyist’s error. Many scholars argue for this, including The John MacArthur Study Bible. There would not be a contradiction then in the Scriptures themselves, but in the transmission. This is where lower text criticism is of benefit, as it seeks to produce the original text from the plethora of manuscripts. Even if this is an example of a textual variant, it is irrelevant to the proper understanding of the text as a whole and does not negate biblical inerrancy.
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