Archive for the ‘Biblical Contradiction’ Category

The Cursing(s) of the Fig Tree(s) or the Cleansing(s) of the Temple?

April 6, 2011

Dean Dough has provided a kind and thoughtful response to my on-going series discussing the multiple-event phenomenon and similar issues in 1 Samuel that should illuminate our discussion of alleged Biblical contradictions.

Mr. Dough specifically pointed out that not all of the alleged contradictions in the gospels can be addressed through the possibility of multiple events. Mr. Dough pointed to the issue of two passages in the gospels in which Jesus curses a fig tree and it dies.

Here are the two passages.

Account 1

Mark 11:11-26

And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, “No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.” And his disciples heard it.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.” And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city.
And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, “Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.”
And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Account 2

Matthew 21:12-22

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.
And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David;” they were sore displeased,
And said unto him, “Hearest thou what these say?”
And Jesus saith unto them, “Yea; have ye never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise’?”
And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” And presently the fig tree withered away.
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How soon is the fig tree withered away!”
Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”

There are some undeniable similarities between the accounts. In both cases, Jesus is coming out of Bethany, he curses a fig tree and it dies. The disciples notice the dead fig tree and marvel. Jesus uses the occasion to teach them a lesson that includes reference to the idea that whatever you pray for in faith you will receive.

How about the alleged contradictions?
Mr. Dough kindly provides us with a table of alleged contradictions or, as he expresses it, “salient differences.” The following is based on his table:

Matthew Mark
(1) Chronological Order

1. Temple cleansing
2. Overnight in Bethany
3. Cursing of fig tree
4. Disciples comment on the withered fig tree

1. Overnight in Bethany
2. Cursing of fig tree
3. Temple cleansing
4. Overnight in outside of Jerusalem
5. Disciples comment on the withered fig tree
(2) Time the tree withered Immediately after Jesus cursed it Unspecified but within a day
(3) When the disciples heard the cursing On the morning after the temple cleansing On the morning before the temple cleansing
(4) Who commented on the withering disciples Peter
(5) When the disciples saw the withered tree for the first time By implication of their comment, immediately after Jesus cursed it. About a day after Jesus cursed it.
(6) Comment on disciples’ frame of mind They were amazed Peter remembered
(7) What they said about it “How did the fig tree wither immediately?” “Look, the fig tree you cursed has withered.”

There are really two categories of differences between the events: those unrelated to the timing of the event and those related to the timing of the event. Those unrelated to the timing (4, 6, and 7) are relatively easily resolved. Peter can remember and say one thing while the other disciples are amazed and say something similar. In fact, Peter (speaking for the rest) could say both things. These are differences, yes, but relatively trivial and easily resolved.

The remaining items relate to the timing of events. In dealing with that, perhaps it makes sense to point out here that the area “outside Jerusalem” mentioned in Mark’s account could be Bethany. Bethany is an area outside but near Jerusalem, about “fifteen furlongs” from the city (John 11:18), home to Simon the Leper (Matthew 26:6; Mark 14:3) as well as Lazarus (John 11:1; 12:1).

With that in mind, the following harmony is one possibility:

Matthew Mark
1. Temple cleansing
2. Overnight in Bethany 1. Overnight in Bethany
3. Cursing of fig tree 2. Cursing of fig tree
3. Temple cleansing
4. Overnight in outside of Jerusalem
4. Disciples comment on the withered fig tree 5. Disciples comment on the withered fig tree

If we follow this resolution, there is a single cursing of a single fig tree and a single time that the disciples comment on it. There are two overnight stays near Jerusalem (as explicitly indicated in Mark). The only thing not explicitly stated in the texts that would be necessary for this harmonization to work would be that Jesus would have to cast the money changers out of the temple twice. Of course, it is entirely possible that Jesus twice (or more – see Luke 19:45-46 and John 2:13-15) cleansed the temple of the money changers. After all, are the money changers going to leave and never come back because someone drove them out one day?

And moreover while it did not make it into Mr. Dough’s chronology, Mark does indicate that Jesus was in the temple on the previous day:

Mark 11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

That passage mentions him observing what was happening there, but (we must admit) it does not mention him disrupting the moneychangers. Still, there is certainly nothing in the text that would render it impossible that Matthew’s account refers to a first day, particularly since the Mark 11:11 mention of Jesus in the temple appears to come right after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (as also does Matthew’s account).

There are still two or three remaining objections to this harmony. The first objection (item 2 in Mr. Dough’s list of seven) is that Mark says that the fig tree withered immediately. Of course, the fig tree withering by the next day is “immediately” in horticultural terms. Is the Greek word “παραχρῆμα” capable of such a meaning? It seems to be.

The second objection (item 3 in Mr. Dough’s list of seven) is the relation between the temple cleansing and when the disciples heard the cursing. However, this objection is resolved if there are two temple cleansings.

The third objection (item 5 in Mr. Dough’s list of seven) is the relation of the cursing and the disciples hearing it. Mr. Dough alleges that it is implied in Matthew’s account that they saw it immediately. However, Matthew merely says “And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” without specifying whether the disciples saw it immediately or the next day.

Hopefully this illustrates how a relatively simple explanation (namely that Christ twice – at least – cleansed the temple of moneychangers) can resolve the apparent contradiction with respect to the chronological order.

As Mr. Dough pointed out there are other ways in which the two accounts can be harmonized. For example, these could be entirely separate events a year apart or Jesus could have cursed the fig tree once and then again, with the fig tree withering immediately the second time. The two years solution is easy, but Jesus’ triumphal entry seems like a one-time event. It’s not intuitively pleasing to us to think it happened twice. Likewise, two cursings would make Peter’s reaction of “remembering” an odd result, as also it would make Jesus’ seeking fruit on the already-cursed tree an odd action.

Incidentally, for what it’s worth, while I carefully examined the Scripture to come to the conclusions I present above, after doing so I sought out the counsel of one of the greatest Scriptural commentators, John Gill (died 1771). Had I done so in the first place I would have arrived at the same conclusion (see Gill’s commentary on these passages). It is remarkable that Gill’s 200 year old solution to the problem was unknown to Mr. Dough, but I blame the modern skeptics who are promoting these alleged contradictions, not my friend Mr. Dough (who could expect him to exhaustively survey all the Reformed scholarship on the subject?).

-TurretinFan

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Biblical "Contradictions" – Does God Repent?

March 30, 2011

Skeptics love to allege that there are contradictions between the gospels when the gospels say different things. If one gospel describes God one way, and another gospel describe him another way, this is sometimes alleged to illustrate a contradiction.

One way to handle these claims is, of course, to address the particular alleged contradiction. Another approach – the approach that I have been adopting in this series – is to point out that the methodology of refusing to let the text speak harmoniously is the problem.

In the example I have selected for this post, there is a question of whether God repents or not. There are three verses found in the course of a single passage in 1 Samuel that relate to the issue. The first is at verse 11, then at 29, and finally at 35.

1 Samuel 15:9-35

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.”

And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night. And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.”

And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, “Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

And Samuel said, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

Then Samuel said unto Saul, “Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night.”

And he said unto him, “Say on.”

And Samuel said, “When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel? And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed.’ Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?”

And Saul said unto Samuel, “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.”

And Samuel said, “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

And Saul said unto Samuel, “I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.”

And Samuel said unto Saul, “I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.” And as Samuel turned about to go away, he laid hold upon the skirt of his mantle, and it rent. And Samuel said unto him, “The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.

Then he said, “I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God.”

So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD. Then said Samuel, “Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites.”
And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

And Samuel said, “As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal.

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

Notice that at the beginning and end of the passage it is written that the Lord repented. In the middle it says that the Lord will not repent. If the first and last descriptions of God were in two gospels, and the middle description was in a third, it would doubtless be alleged that the two gospels represent one position and the third gospel represents a different, conflicting, opinion.

In this case, though, the two “Lord repented” verses sandwich the “Lord will not repent” verse. Thus, it is natural to look for a harmonious explanation. And harmonious explanations are readily available.

For example, the expression “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent” may be viewed as contrasting the permanence of the removal of Saul with the transience of Saul’s appointment as king. In addition, or alternatively, the expression, “the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent,” can be seen as referring to the fact that God speaks the truth, even about the future. The expression “the Lord repented,” by contrast refers to a change in God’s attitude toward Saul. Prior to this, God’s attitude toward Saul was favorable, but after this it was favorable. Nevertheless, throughout the events, God kept His word. We can trust God, even though He cannot trust us.

-TurretinFan

David’s Two Visits to Achish

March 22, 2011

Skeptics love to try to find fault with the gospels because there are sometimes accounts that seem to be similar in some ways, but have differences. They are fond of suggesting that these differences are contradictions. In this post, I examine two accounts that have some similarities, but enough differences that if they were in two different gospels, the skeptics would tell us that they are contradictory accounts.

The two accounts I have in mind are of David’s visits to Achish. The two accounts are very different. In the first account, David comes to Achish and pretends to be insane. In the second account, David comes to Achish and pretends to be a traitor to Saul. In both cases, Achish is taken in by the act, and in both cases the song that the women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” comes up in the discussion.

1. Madman Encounter

1 Samuel 21:10-15
And David arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. And the servants of Achish said unto him, “Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, ‘Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”
And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.
Then said Achish unto his servants, “Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?”

2. Traitor Encounter

1 Samuel 27:1-12 (Whole Chapter); 28:1-2; and 29:1-11 (Whole Chapter)
And David said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul shall despair of me, to seek me any more in any coast of Israel: so shall I escape out of his hand.” And David arose, and he passed over with the six hundred men that were with him unto Achish, the son of Maoch, king of Gath. And David dwelt with Achish at Gath, he and his men, every man with his household, even David with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the Carmelitess, Nabal’s wife. And it was told Saul that David was fled to Gath: and he sought no more again for him.
And David said unto Achish, “If I have now found grace in thine eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there: for why should thy servant dwell in the royal city with thee?”
Then Achish gave him Ziklag that day: wherefore Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day. And the time that David dwelt in the country of the Philistines was a full year and four months.
And David and his men went up, and invaded the Geshurites, and the Gezrites, and the Amalekites: for those nations were of old the inhabitants of the land, as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt. And David smote the land, and left neither man nor woman alive, and took away the sheep, and the oxen, and the asses, and the camels, and the apparel, and returned, and came to Achish.
And Achish said, “Whither have ye made a road to day?”
And David said, “Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites.”
And David saved neither man nor woman alive, to bring tidings to Gath, saying, “Lest they should tell on us, saying, ‘So did David, and so will be his manner all the while he dwelleth in the country of the Philistines.'”
And Achish believed David, saying, “He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant for ever.”
And it came to pass in those days, that the Philistines gathered their armies together for warfare, to fight with Israel. And Achish said unto David, “Know thou assuredly, that thou shalt go out with me to battle, thou and thy men.”
And David said to Achish, “Surely thou shalt know what thy servant can do.”
And Achish said to David, “Therefore will I make thee keeper of mine head for ever.”

Now the Philistines gathered together all their armies to Aphek: and the Israelites pitched by a fountain which is in Jezreel. And the lords of the Philistines passed on by hundreds, and by thousands: but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish. Then said the princes of the Philistines, “What do these Hebrews here?”
And Achish said unto the princes of the Philistines, “Is not this David, the servant of Saul the king of Israel, which hath been with me these days, or these years, and I have found no fault in him since he fell unto me unto this day?”
And the princes of the Philistines were wroth with him; and the princes of the Philistines said unto him, “Make this fellow return, that he may go again to his place which thou hast appointed him, and let him not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us: for wherewith should he reconcile himself unto his master? should it not be with the heads of these men? Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, ‘Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”
Then Achish called David, and said unto him, “Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day: nevertheless the lords favour thee not. Wherefore now return, and go in peace, that thou displease not the lords of the Philistines.”
And David said unto Achish, “But what have I done? and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my lord the king?”
And Achish answered and said to David, “I know that thou art good in my sight, as an angel of God: notwithstanding the princes of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’ Wherefore now rise up early in the morning with thy master’s servants that are come with thee: and as soon as ye be up early in the morning, and have light, depart.”
So David and his men rose up early to depart in the morning, to return into the land of the Philistines. And the Philistines went up to Jezreel.

– TurretinFan

David’s Two Escapes from Saul

March 21, 2011

Skeptics who wish to allege contradictions between the gospels love to claim that if there are differences between two similar accounts, this means that the two accounts contradict each other. In this post, I’ll examine a pair of accounts that are similar enough that one might think they were contradictory accounts of the same event, if they were not in the same book inside a larger narrative.

The two accounts I mention here are the two accounts of David’s close calls with Saul. In both cases, Saul is hunting David, someone tells Saul where to find David, David has the chance to kill Saul, but David passes (and commands his men to do the same) and then convicts Saul with respectful and self-deprecating words in which he calls himself a “flea.” In both cases, Saul is convicted and lets David go, while Saul himself goes back to his own place.

1. Cave Account

1 Samuel 24:1-22 (whole chapter)
And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.”
Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.
And the men of David said unto him, “Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, ‘Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand,’ that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.”
Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily. And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. And he said unto his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.”
So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way. David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, “My lord the king.” And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. And David said to Saul, “Wherefore hearest thou men’s words, saying, ‘Behold, David seeketh thy hurt’? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, ‘I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.’ Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, ‘Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked:’ but mine hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea. The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand.”
And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
And he said to David, “Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand. Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.”
And David sware unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.

2. Two Hills Account

1 Samuel 26:1-25 (whole chapter)
And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, “Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?”
Then Saul arose, and went down to the wilderness of Ziph, having three thousand chosen men of Israel with him, to seek David in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul pitched in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon, by the way. But David abode in the wilderness, and he saw that Saul came after him into the wilderness. David therefore sent out spies, and understood that Saul was come in very deed. And David arose, and came to the place where Saul had pitched: and David beheld the place where Saul lay, and Abner the son of Ner, the captain of his host: and Saul lay in the trench, and the people pitched round about him.
Then answered David and said to Ahimelech the Hittite, and to Abishai the son of Zeruiah, brother to Joab, saying, “Who will go down with me to Saul to the camp?”
And Abishai said, “I will go down with thee.”
So David and Abishai came to the people by night: and, behold, Saul lay sleeping within the trench, and his spear stuck in the ground at his bolster: but Abner and the people lay round about him. Then said Abishai to David, “God hath delivered thine enemy into thine hand this day: now therefore let me smite him, I pray thee, with the spear even to the earth at once, and I will not smite him the second time.”
And David said to Abishai, “Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” David said furthermore, “As the LORD liveth, the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall descend into battle, and perish. The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed: but, I pray thee, take thou now the spear that is at his bolster, and the cruse of water, and let us go.”
So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul’s bolster; and they gat them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither awaked: for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them.
Then David went over to the other side, and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space being between them: and David cried to the people, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, “Answerest thou not, Abner?”
Then Abner answered and said, “Who art thou that criest to the king?”
And David said to Abner, “Art not thou a valiant man? and who is like to thee in Israel? wherefore then hast thou not kept thy lord the king? for there came one of the people in to destroy the king thy lord. This thing is not good that thou hast done. As the LORD liveth, ye are worthy to die, because ye have not kept your master, the LORD’S anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster.”
And Saul knew David’s voice, and said, “Is this thy voice, my son David?”
And David said, “It is my voice, my lord, O king.”
And he said, “Wherefore doth my lord thus pursue after his servant? for what have I done? or what evil is in mine hand? Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the LORD have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the LORD; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the LORD, saying, Go, serve other gods. Now therefore, let not my blood fall to the earth before the face of the LORD: for the king of Israel is come out to seek a flea, as when one doth hunt a partridge in the mountains.”
Then said Saul, “I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.”
And David answered and said, “Behold the king’s spear! and let one of the young men come over and fetch it. The LORD render to every man his righteousness and his faithfulness: for the LORD delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against the LORD’S anointed. And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let him deliver me out of all tribulation.”
Then Saul said to David, “Blessed be thou, my son David: thou shalt both do great things, and also shalt still prevail.”
So David went on his way, and Saul returned to his place.

Biblical "Contradictions" – Saul, David, and the Javelin

March 10, 2011

Skeptics love to find inconsistencies among the accounts in the synoptic gospels. If two accounts look similar, but have different details, it is alleged that they are inconsistent and that this is proof that they are contradictory – at least one of them being in error.

In this post, I’ll examine a particular situation that — if one found the accounts in different books — might easily mistaken for a single situation that has been reported inconsistently. However, since all the accounts are in the same book, we can be sure that it is not simply a difference of opinion amongst competing evangelists.

The situation I have in mind is the account of Saul trying to skewer David with a javelin.

Account 1 – Shortly After the Defeat of Goliath

1 Samuel 18:6-11

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?”
And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house: and David played with his hand, as at other times: and there was a javelin in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

As an aside, I think it is very interesting that the evil spirit from the Lord gave Saul the gift of prophecy. Nevertheless, in this case, David played for Saul on the harp to drive away the evil spirit. However, Saul threw a javelin at David, twice!

Account 2 – After Reconciliation with Saul

1 Samuel 19:8-10

And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul’s presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

Notice the similarities. The context is fairly similar (David comes back from fighting the Philistines), and even many of the details are similar (there is an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul, and David is playing to relieve him). And again, Saul tries to spear him with the javelin.

There are also differences. There is only one javelin thrown this time, and there is a detail that the javelin stuck into the wall. If these were in two different books, and the two books didn’t give both accounts, we might be tempted by the skeptics argument that there is an inconsistency over when Saul attempted to skewer David.

Account 3 – Jonathan as the Target

1 Samuel 20:27-34

And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, “Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?”
And Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem: and he said, ‘Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren.’ Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.”
Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, “Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.”
And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, “Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?”
And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.

In this third account, we have Saul yet again hurling his javelin – this time at his own son! This is not very similar to the first two accounts, but it involves Saul engaged in a domestic dispute in which he throws a javelin at someone. We would probably be confident in telling the skeptic that this account is separate from the first two, but surely a radical skeptic would say that the three accounts should be seen as progression of anti-Saul or pro-David prejudice (placing them in the order of Account 2, Account 1, and finally Account 3).

In fact, however, these are just three different, yet similar (in some details), situations. Saul had a propensity to hurl a javelin. Even so, Jesus had a propensity to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead. We should be careful when reading the synoptic gospels not to assume that two accounts are the same, simply because there is some similarities in the details.

-TurretinFan

Biblical "Contradictions" – Saul-Prophet Parable Origin

March 10, 2011

Skeptics love to identify similar passages in the synoptic gospels and point out the differences in them. They then try to allege that these differences amount to contradictions. The problem for the skeptics is that these alleged contradictions are often easily harmonized.

However, in this case, I want to focus on a specific example of a situation that (if it appeared in the gospels) would be identified by skeptics as a contradiction. In this case, however, it is presented in the same book, in quite close succession.

What I am referring to is the question of the origin of the expression, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” When we open 1 Samuel we find two accounts, separated by only a few chapters.

Account 1 – Saul Upon Being Anointed

1 Samuel 10:1-13

Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, “Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, ‘The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?”‘ Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: and they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.”
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” And one of the same place answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place.

Account 2 – Saul On Attempting to Capture David

1 Samuel 19:18-24

So David fled, and escaped, and came to Samuel to Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth. And it was told Saul, saying, “Behold, David is at Naioth in Ramah.”
And Saul sent messengers to take David: and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as appointed over them, the Spirit of God was upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
And when it was told Saul, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. And Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also.
Then went he also to Ramah, and came to a great well that is in Sechu: and he asked and said, “Where are Samuel and David?”
And one said, “Behold, they be at Naioth in Ramah.”
And he went thither to Naioth in Ramah: and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on, and prophesied, until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

Notice that there are some similarities between the events. Both events involve Saul unexpectedly prophesying. Both events lead to someone saying “Is Saul also among the prophets.” Yet both accounts are in the same book. They are less than 10 chapters apart.

This isn’t a case of two contradictory reports of a single historical event – it is two different surprising prophesyings that each lead to Saul and his prophetic gift being proverbial. If these were in two different gospels, we might be falsely accused of unfairly harmonizing the text. However, hopefully here it can be seen that such a harmonization is completely proper, indeed perfectly acceptable.

-TurretinFan

Biblical "Contradictions" – The Three Crownings of Saul

March 8, 2011

In the gospels, skeptics try to allege that the differences in the accounts are contradictions. The problem for them is that the differences in the accounts are easily (often trivially) resolved. The only reason that one might even think that they are contradictions are that they are presented in different books of the Bible.

That’s why I think it is illuminating to examine certain accounts for which there are more than discussion in the same book. This makes it clear that there is no contradiction between authors (unless one goes a step further and starts trying to tear the book apart into multiple authors).

In this case, my example is the three crownings (there is not actually a literal crown involved in any of them, but that’s beside the point) of Saul. The first crowning takes place in 1 Samuel 9:1-27 (the whole chapter) and 1 Samuel 10:1-16.

There the anointing of Saul is essentially a private event, one that is confirmed by the sign of prophetic gifts in Saul.

The second crowning of Saul is found at 1 Samuel 10:17-27. In this case, the crowning is a public event. The confirmation of his selection is the casting of lots.

The third crowning of Saul is found at 1 Samuel 11:1-15 (the whole chapter), 12:1-25 (the whole chapter). In this case, again, the crowning is public. Here the people themselves push for Saul to be King and Samuel calls them to repentance for their sin of desiring a King.

If we had these three accounts in three synoptic books, we would be told that the accounts are inconsistent and contradictory. But, of course, the accounts are fully consistent and in harmony. They are not three accounts of the same event, but accounts of three different but similar events.

Account 1

1 Samuel 9:1 – 10:16

Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.
And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, “Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses.”
And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not.
And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, “Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us.”
And he said unto him, “Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go.”
Then said Saul to his servant, “But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we?”
And the servant answered Saul again, and said, “Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way.” (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)
Then said Saul to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was.”
And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, “Is the seer here?”
And they answered them, and said, “He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place: as soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him.”
And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place. Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.”
And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, “Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people.”
Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, “Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is.”
And Samuel answered Saul, and said, “I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?”
And Saul answered and said, “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel? and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? wherefore then speakest thou so to me?”
And Samuel took Saul and his servant, and brought them into the parlour, and made them sit in the chiefest place among them that were bidden, which were about thirty persons. And Samuel said unto the cook, “Bring the portion which I gave thee, of which I said unto thee, ‘Set it by thee’.”
And the cook took up the shoulder, and that which was upon it, and set it before Saul. And Samuel said, “Behold that which is left! set it before thee, and eat: for unto this time hath it been kept for thee since I said, I have invited the people.”
So Saul did eat with Samuel that day. And when they were come down from the high place into the city, Samuel communed with Saul upon the top of the house.
And they arose early: and it came to pass about the spring of the day, that Samuel called Saul to the top of the house, saying, “Up, that I may send thee away.”
And Saul arose, and they went out both of them, he and Samuel, abroad. And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, “Bid the servant pass on before us, (and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.”
Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, “Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, ‘The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, “What shall I do for my son?”‘ Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: and they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: and the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do.”
And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. And when they came thither to the hill, behold, a company of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it came to pass, when all that knew him beforetime saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, “What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?” And one of the same place answered and said, “But who is their father?” Therefore it became a proverb, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”
And when he had made an end of prophesying, he came to the high place. And Saul’s uncle said unto him and to his servant, “Whither went ye?”
And he said, “To seek the asses: and when we saw that they were no where, we came to Samuel.”
And Saul’s uncle said, “Tell me, I pray thee, what Samuel said unto you.”
And Saul said unto his uncle, “He told us plainly that the asses were found.” But of the matter of the kingdom, whereof Samuel spake, he told him not.

Account 2

1 Samuel 10:17-27

And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; and said unto the children of Israel, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: and ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.”
And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, “Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.” And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.
And Samuel said to all the people, “See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?”
And all the people shouted, and said, “God save the king.”
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.
And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. But the children of Belial said, “How shall this man save us?” And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace.

Account 3

1 Samuel 11:1 – 12:25

Then Nahash the Ammonite came up, and encamped against Jabeshgilead: and all the men of Jabesh said unto Nahash, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve thee.”
And Nahash the Ammonite answered them, “On this condition will I make a covenant with you, that I may thrust out all your right eyes, and lay it for a reproach upon all Israel.”
And the elders of Jabesh said unto him, “Give us seven days’ respite, that we may send messengers unto all the coasts of Israel: and then, if there be no man to save us, we will come out to thee.”
Then came the messengers to Gibeah of Saul, and told the tidings in the ears of the people: and all the people lifted up their voices, and wept. And, behold, Saul came after the herd out of the field; and Saul said, “What aileth the people that they weep?” And they told him the tidings of the men of Jabesh.
And the Spirit of God came upon Saul when he heard those tidings, and his anger was kindled greatly. And he took a yoke of oxen, and hewed them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the coasts of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen.” And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.
And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. And they said unto the messengers that came, “Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabeshgilead, ‘To morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help’.” And the messengers came and shewed it to the men of Jabesh; and they were glad.
Therefore the men of Jabesh said, “To morrow we will come out unto you, and ye shall do with us all that seemeth good unto you.”
And it was so on the morrow, that Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the host in the morning watch, and slew the Ammonites until the heat of the day: and it came to pass, that they which remained were scattered, so that two of them were not left together.
And the people said unto Samuel, “Who is he that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ bring the men, that we may put them to death.”
And Saul said, “There shall not a man be put to death this day: for to day the LORD hath wrought salvation in Israel.”
Then said Samuel to the people, “Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there.” And all the people went to Gilgal; and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal; and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
And Samuel said unto all Israel, “Behold, I have hearkened unto your voice in all that ye said unto me, and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walketh before you: and I am old and grayheaded; and, behold, my sons are with you: and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you.”
And they said, “Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand.”
And he said unto them, “The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand.”
And they answered, “He is witness.”
And Samuel said unto the people, “It is the LORD that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt. Now therefore stand still, that I may reason with you before the LORD of all the righteous acts of the LORD, which he did to you and to your fathers. When Jacob was come into Egypt, and your fathers cried unto the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron, which brought forth your fathers out of Egypt, and made them dwell in this place. And when they forgat the LORD their God, he sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the host of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. And they cried unto the LORD, and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.’ And the LORD sent Jerubbaal, and Bedan, and Jephthah, and Samuel, and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and ye dwelled safe. And when ye saw that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, ‘Nay; but a king shall reign over us:’ when the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore behold the king whom ye have chosen, and whom ye have desired! and, behold, the LORD hath set a king over you. If ye will fear the LORD, and serve him, and obey his voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall both ye and also the king that reigneth over you continue following the LORD your God: but if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers. Now therefore stand and see this great thing, which the LORD will do before your eyes. Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king.”
So Samuel called unto the LORD; and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day: and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel. And all the people said unto Samuel, “Pray for thy servants unto the LORD thy God, that we die not: for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king.”
And Samuel said unto the people, “Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; and turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain. For the LORD will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the LORD to make you his people. Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.”

Conflicting Gospel Narratives!

January 12, 2011

Steve Hays recently posted a similar item to his blog, and so I thought I would post something to my blog in a similar vein. What we have here is two accounts of Israel getting a king.

The first account is the judgment account, in this account having a king a judgment brought down upon the people as a curse for their rejection of God.

1 Samuel 8:4-22

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.”
And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. And the LORD said unto Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.”
And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”
Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.”
And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD.
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.”
And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, “Go ye every man unto his city.”

The second account is what I would call the mercy account. In this account, God is giving the king as mercy upon Israel:

1 Samuel 9:15-16

Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me.”

In this second account, the king appears to be a great blessing for the people of Israel, whereas in the first account, the king appears to be a curse. I guarantee you that if these two accounts were in two different books, we would be told that this was a Biblical contradiction. But the fact of the matter is that both aspects are true. The king was a blessing and a curse. The king brought judgment and mercy.

There is a third account as well, one that is almost neutral, although it tends toward the critical side:

1 Samuel 10:17-25

And Samuel called the people together unto the LORD to Mizpeh; and said unto the children of Israel, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: and ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us.”
Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands. And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was taken, and Saul the son of Kish was taken: and when they sought him, he could not be found.
Therefore they enquired of the LORD further, if the man should yet come thither. And the LORD answered, “Behold, he hath hid himself among the stuff.”
And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward.
And Samuel said to all the people, “See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people?”
And all the people shouted, and said, “God save the king.”
Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house.

And if this third account were in a third book, we’d probably be told that this third account was a later account that smoothed some of the harshness of the first account. But, of course, it’s all one book.

There is actually a reference to this event in another book. That book is Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 17:14-20

When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, “I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;” thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, “Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”
Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

Isn’t it remarkable that this book, written long before Samuel (notwithstanding the notions of the higher critics who deny Mosaic authorship) predicted that the people would demand a king and set regulations for that king, even without approving their rejection of God! This is a great example of one of the prophecies fulfilled in Scripture, even before the New Testament era.

And how was that King to be educated? He was assigned the prefect of the congregation of the doctrine of the faith and two bishops. Haha! No, that’s not it. He was given the Torah – the Scriptures. He was supposed read from them, and learn to fear God from them. That’s because the Scriptures are powerful and instructive. Simply by reading them, one can learn the fear of the Lord. They are true and convey the Truth to the reader.

God inspired that great prophet Samuel (who had a house, and sons – sorry ascetics) to write at least the first ten chapters of the book of 1 Samuel (or so it appears from 1 Samuel 10:25). And regardless of who wrote the powerful words of 1 Samuel, it should be clear that there is no contradiction amongst the narratives. The Israelites rejected God and got what they asked for – a king who was a burden to them. Nevertheless, at the same time the king was a savior to them, to save them out of the hand of the Philistines. And both the salvation and the judgment were intended by God in the one act of giving the people the king.

So when we read “conflicting” accounts in the gospels, we should be careful to realize that even seemingly conflicting accounts can sometimes be reconciled. Consequently, we should not be eager to find contradiction, but eager to find the harmony.

-TurretinFan

P.S. I wouldn’t be the least surprised to discover that some higher critic has already tried to suggest that chapter 9 is from a different author than chapters 8 and 10. Of course, criticism of 1 Samuel tends to take a back burner compared with criticism of the Torah itself, but surely some skeptical scholar has taken aim at some of the other books.

The Punishment of Jehu

February 23, 2010

I happened to come across an alleged Biblical contradiction. The alleged contradiction is explained thus:

Let’s set up the problem clearly:

1. Elijah announced a dynastic judgment on Ahab’s line and household. God told Jehu to execute this judgment, which he did. Jehu is commended by YHWH for executing the house of Ahab in 2 Kings 10.30:

The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”

2. But then, a century later, in Hosea 1.4, Jehu is punished for the massacre!

Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. (NIV)


The allegation is that God’s express commendation (earlier) is incompatible with/contradicts God’s (later) ‘negative judgment’ on Jehu for the same events, as expressed in Hosea 1.4.

(source)

The source I’ve linked above provides some possible solutions, but I think the easiest explanation is found by looking at a verse that the problem’s statement overlooks.

In addition to killing the house of Ahab in Jezreel, Jehu also killed a significant part of the royal family of Judah (by God’s providential decree, but not by God’s command to Jehu):

2 Chronicles 22:7-9
And the destruction of Ahaziah was of God by coming to Joram: for when he was come, he went out with Jehoram against Jehu the son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to cut off the house of Ahab. And it came to pass, that, when Jehu was executing judgment upon the house of Ahab, and found the princes of Judah, and the sons of the brethren of Ahaziah, that ministered to Ahaziah, he slew them. And he sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom.

2 Kings 10:12-14

And he arose and departed, and came to Samaria. And as he was at the shearing house in the way, Jehu met with the brethren of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, Who are ye? And they answered, We are the brethren of Ahaziah; and we go down to salute the children of the king and the children of the queen. And he said, Take them alive. And they took them alive, and slew them at the pit of the shearing house, even two and forty men; neither left he any of them.

This murder God did not permit to go unpunished, but brought judgment on Jehu’s line with a Jezreel of their own. Jehu was right to kill Ahab and his family, but not the family of David.

Thus, God commended and blessed Jehu:

2 Kings 10:30 And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

My friend Fred Butler will be happy to notice that “fourth generation” here was taken fairly literally:

2 Kings 15:12 This was the word of the LORD which he spake unto Jehu, saying, Thy sons shall sit on the throne of Israel unto the fourth generation. And so it came to pass.

1) 2 Kings 10:35 And Jehu slept with his fathers: and they buried him in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son reigned in his stead.

2) 2 Kings 13:9 And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers; and they buried him in Samaria: and Joash [aka Jehoash] his son reigned in his stead.

3) 2 Kings 14:16 And Jehoash slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; and Jeroboam his son reigned in his stead.

4) 1 Kings 14:20 And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.

Leading finally to the destruction of the entire family of Jeroboam:

1 Kings 15:25-30
And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.

One final note. Passages like these highlight two things. First, God is punishing the sins of Jehu upon Nadab. Second, God is also punishing the sins of Jeroboam upon Nadab. But, note that Jehu himself is not some innocent God-fearing man who is getting punished for nothing. He walked in the way of his father and did evil in the sight of the LORD. Had he repented, God would have spared him, for God is rich in mercy. So do not use the sins of your fathers as an excuse for your lack of repentance. Don’t follow your fathers’ evil ways, but follow the paths of righteousness that it may be well with you.

-TurretinFan


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