When did Absalom Rebel Against David?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #10

absolamdeathAnswer: Absalom rebelled against his father David four years after he began administering justice at the city gate in Jerusalem.

Problem: Most English versions (ESV, NIV, NET, HCSB) translate Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15:7 as happening “four years” after his return to Jerusalem, though some versions (KJV, NASB, NKJV) say it took place after “forty years.”

Explanation: While the traditional Hebrew text does say “forty years”, the better reading is most likely “four years” in agreement with the ancient Greek (LXX), Syriac and Latin (Vulgate) texts. Context suggests it highly unlikely it took Absalom forty years to prepare his rebellion. David began his reign at thirty years old (2 Sam. 5:4) and reigned a total of forty years, seven and a half of those were over Judah in Hebron (2 Sam. 5:5) and the latter thirty-three from Jerusalem. “Forty years” could not therefore refer to the time of David’s reign.

We conclude then that four years after Joab brought David’s son to Jerusalem, Absalom began his rebellion against his father David. Context and manuscript evidence makes this a logical conclusion. The new atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins love spelunking for errors in Scripture to debunk a God they do not believe exists. Is this the best they can do?

How Old Was Abram When Ishmael Was Born?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #8

Answer: Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.

Problem: If Abraham’s father Terah was 70 at Abraham birth (Gen. 11:26) and Abraham was 75 when he left Haran (Gen. 12:4), his father must have been 145. But Genesis 11:32 says that his father Terah was actually 205 years old when Abraham left Haran (Gen. 11:32; Acts 7:4).

Explanation: There is a contradiction here only if one assumes that Abraham was Terah’s first born. Scripture does list Abraham’s name first of the three sons (11:26) but this is most likely to show that he was the most prominent. Terah started having sons at 70, not but not necessary his son Abraham. A more likely scenario is that Terah had Nahor at 70 years of age and Abraham at 130 years of age. Seventy-five years later (as Gen. 12:4 tells us), Abraham left Haran upon his father’s death at age 205.

I have not been able to discern, however, how this apparent contradiction relates to Abram’s age at Ishmael’s birth.

How Long Was the Ark of the Covenant at Abinadab’s House?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #7 & 9

Answer: The ark had been in Abinadab’s house for twenty years when Israel repented and over forty years when King David came to retrieve it.

Problem: 1 Samuel 7:1-2 says that after the ark of the Lord was brought to Kirjath Jearim and into the house of Abinadab, “a long time passed, some twenty years.” King David finally comes to Kirjath Jearim to retrieve it (2 Sam. 6:2-3). But Abinadab first received the ark before Saul even became king (1 Sam. 10:24), his reign alone lasting forty years (Acts 13:21), which was then followed by David’s rise to power and subsequent retrieval of the ark. This time frame cannot possibly fit into the aforementioned twenty-year window.

Explanation: Knowing the context of this amazing story is imperative. Israel loses four thousand men in battle to their archrival the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:2). In the next battle Israel parades the Ark of the Covenant for good luck (v. 3), but lose another thirty thousand men and the ark is captured (vvs. 10-11). Eli and his pregnant daughter-in-law die after hearing the news (vvs. 18-19).

The great missionary John Paton once told how wicked sailors would purposely off load a native with measles in order to infect the entire island. The ark was even worse for Israel’s enemies. It destroyed their god Dagon (5:1-5) and afflicted the towns of Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron with fatal tumors as they played hot potato with the ark.

Things get humorous. After seven months of horror and death, the wise men and sorcerers put their heads together and decide: it’s about time to get rid of this thing. In 1 Samuel 6:2-9 we find the longest recorded speech by the Philistines in the Old Testament because the author wants to highlight the spiritual darkness and sheer stupidity of the Philistine leaders. Thus begins a comedy of errors. Continue reading

How Were Abijam and Asa Related?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #6

Answer: Asa is the son of Abijam and the grandson of Maacah.

Problem: 1 Kings 15:8 says that Maacah is the mother of Abijam (father of Asa; 1 Kings 15:2), while 1 Kings 15:13 says Maacah is the mother of Asa.

Explanation: The previous post already answered this supposed quandary by observing that “mother” does not necessarily refer to first-generation descendants. This isn’t difficult to comprehend, as though we’re dealing with some bizarre cultural practices like widow burning or foot binding. Westerners recognize that William Osler is the “Father of Modern Medicine” and the father of Edward without the least bit of controversy. Asa ended pagan practices to such an extent that he even deposed his “mother” (actually Grandma Maacah) from her position as queen mother.

Nit picking at Old Testament uses of “mother” and straw grasping at Abijam’s lineage by Sam Harris and other anti-theists proves all the more that Christians are not the only ones with presuppositions. Atheists already know the person they want to hire—they’re just following the Rooney rule for protocol sake. The only difference is that Christians admit their presuppositions about the Bible (Scripture is infallible) while atheists do not (Scripture is fallible).

Who Was Abijam’s Mother?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #5

Answer: Abijam’s mother’s name was Maacah, sometimes spelled Micaiah, who was the female offspring of Abishalom and Gibeah.

Problem: First Kings 15:1-2 says that Abijam’s mother is Maacah daughter of Abishalom. Second Chronicles 13:1-2 says his mother is Micaiah daughter of Gibeah.

Explanation: Being a missionary in Africa makes this easy to answer. Almost weekly someone from our church has a mother, brother, sister, or father die. It took me some time to learn that these familial terms in the African mind are very broad. Kojo’s “brother” could refer to one of his uncle’s eight children that he has never even met before. Westerners would call him a cousin.

Hebrew terms like “daughter” (15:2) and “mother” (15:10) do not necessarily refer to first-generation descents and can mean “granddaughter” or “grandmother” respectively. So there is no contradiction. Abiham’s mom was Maacah. She was the female offspring of Abishalom (as in 1 Kings) and Gibeah (as in 2 Chronicles).

Was Abiathar the Father or the Son of Ahimelech?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #4

Answer: Ahimelech Sr. was the son of Abiathar, who was the father of Ahimelech Jr.

Problem: In 1 Samuel 22:20 and 23:6, Abiathar is the son of Ahimelech. In 2 Samuel 8:17 and 1 Chronicles 18:16, it’s switched. Ahimelech is the son and Abiathar is the father.

Explanation: Before we track down this answer, let us begin with a question. Was John the name of Joseph Kennedy’s son or grandson? Both. They shared more in common than a name. Both died tragically. This is a sad but easy lesson: families share names and experiences.

The same is probably true for Abiathar. It has always been common for an infant son to receive the name of his grandfather (Lk. 1:61). Ahimelech Sr, son of Ahitub, had a son name Abiathar. In 1 Samuel 22:20 we’re told that Abiathar was the one priest that escaped the Nob massacre where Saul commanded Doeg to kill the priests, including Ahimelech Sr.

The sword slaughtered eighty-five priests that day but Abiathar’s dad was brave until the end. As he fled that night in search of King David, Abiathar may have thought: when I have a son one day, I’ll name him after my father, in hopes he’ll be as brave as him.

So when atheists arrive at 2 Samuel 8:17 (“Ahimelech the son of Abiathar”), they see an obvious contradiction. When Christians arrive there, they see an obvious feel-good story. Ahimelech Jr., son of Abiathar, is carrying on the family business.

How Many Sons Did Abraham Have?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #3

Answer: Abraham had many physical sons but only one unique child of promise.

Problem: Hebrews 11:17 and Genesis 22:2 speak of Abraham sacrificing his “only” son Isaac, while several passages in Genesis make it clear that he had other sons such as Ishmael.

Explanation: The Greek word behind “only” in Hebrews 11:17 is monogenes, meaning unique (as does the Heb. yachid in Gen. 22:2) in the sense that it is the only one of its kind. When a husband puffs his chest and says he loves only one woman, his mother and daughters don’t get offended. They smile actually, and so does his wife, for she is the one being honored as the sole recipient of his distinctive love.

The Father speaks of Jesus as his “only” (monogenes) Son (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9). Abraham almost had to slay his only son, but the Father actually did (Is. 53:10). The price of our salvation is incalculable, for it cost God his Son.

It is true that Abraham had other sons, such as Ishmael from Hagar and later on more sons from Keturah, but he had only one son of promise. Isaac was unique because he was the child God had promised to Abraham and Sarah in their old age as the living sign of faithfulness to His people.

Was Abraham Justified by Faith or by Works?

Answering 439 Bible Contradictions: #2

Answer: Abraham was justified by faith before God and by works before men.

Problem: Paul and James seem to contradict each other when speaking of justification. Paul says, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he would have something to boast about, but not before God” (Rom 4:2), and later: “therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). James, however, asks “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the alter” (James 2:21; cf. v.24)? So which is it?

Explanation: Paul and James use three key words differently: justification, faith, and works. These men differ in terminology not theology. Everyone understands that the same word may have a different meaning depending on the context, as when the lumberjack says the trunk on the mountain was full of termites and the mother says the trunk in the attic was full of dresses.

If the lumberjack responds that this just cannot be true—“I’ve never once found a dress in my thirty years of chopping”—then we must sit down and teach him some rules of interpretation.

When Paul uses “justification” or “justify”, it means to declare righteous. “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly…” (Rom. 4:5). For Paul, justification is “before God” (Gal. 3:11) and “in His sight” (Rom. 3:20). But justification can be used in another way, such as to demonstrate or show righteousness. For example, Jesus tells the Pharisees in Luke 16:15 “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” They were trying to demonstrate their righteousness to others. In Luke 10:29, after the lawyer had heard the demands of Jesus, Scripture tells us that “he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor’.” He wanted to show Jesus just how good of a person he was. This is the way James uses the word. Justification is before men. He says, “You got faith? Show me.” “You see then that a man is justified (i.e. he demonstrates his righteousness to others) by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

If grace is water in the well and faith is the bucket that brings it to us, Paul’s bucket is in good condition—it alone can do the job—while James’ bucket may have holes. Both agree that sturdy (saving) buckets alone can bring grace to the sinner and both agree that leaky buckets are worthless. It’s just that Paul speaks of the former and James of the latter. Continue reading

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.

Contradiction #359: “Is All Scripture Inspired by God?”

Well-known atheist Sam Harris, a man Douglas Wilson calls an “indignation impresario”, is the author of Letter to a Christian Nation and founder of Project Reason, an organization seeking to “encourage critical thinking and erode the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world.” Or, just cross out those last seven words and write “Christianity”.

Project Reason has assembled 439 contradictions in Scripture, complete with a colorful red grid to keep the reader entertained. Actually, there are only 437, as a couple contradictions are listed twice—but we all know that 439 looks much more insurmountable than 437.

Many of these apparent flaws deal with numbers and statistics in the Old Testament or questions about the nature of God that do not take into account context, genre, and imagery. That is, Harris is the kind that would accuse sportscaster Marv Alberts of lying when he shouts “Lebron James is on fire”, refusing to believe that Marvelous was speaking more of Lebron’s three-point prowess and less of his proclivity to smolder.

Nonetheless, there are a number of legitimate questions that do cause some Christians to squirm. “Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” “Who tempted David to tempt Israel?” “Is it OK to take oaths?”

The Reason Project should at least be commended for providing ample Scripture references with their objections. Paul said the Bereans were noble for eagerly “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). In this series of blog posts, we’ll endeavor to be like the Bereans by searching the Scriptures in order to answer a handful of “contradictions” that carry the most weight.

#359 | Is all Scripture inspired by God?

The Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Apparently contradicts:

To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. (1 Cor. 7:12)

Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. (1 Cor. 7:25)  Continue reading