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Answering The Atheist
October 7, 2001 / Volume 1, Issue 31

How many years of famine were threatened? In 2 Samuel 24:13, we read, "So God came to David and told him, and said unto him, shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or will thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee?..." However, 1 Chronicles 21:11 reads, "So God came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, choose thee, either three years of famine or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee..."

Is there a contradiction?

Certainly, with a hurried look, 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:11 seem to be contradictory. However, I would suggest that the questioner slow down and read the Scriptures more carefully (and in context), for these texts are in full agreement.

David's choices of punishment for his sin before the Lord were:
- 1 - three years of famine;
- 2 - three months to be destroyed before his enemies;
- 3 - three days of pestilence in the land.

In the 1 Chronicles 21 account, these three choices are given to David. Notice, that the latter two choices are parallel in the 2 Samuel 24 account, but the first choice is different, both in the number of years mentioned and in the way the punishment is worded. The Lord there does not invite David to chose 3 years of famine, but rather asks, "...shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land?"

In 2 Samuel 21:1, it is written, "...there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites." Three years of famine had already occurred. Add to this the current year (the time which passed from 2 Samuel 21:1 to 2 Samuel 24:13), and then the three years of famine as recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:11, and you have seven years of famine.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible