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Answering The Atheist
June 16, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 24

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How many horsemen did David take, 7,000 (1 Chronicles 18:4) or 1,700 (2 Samuel 8:4)?

RESPONSE:
Let us look at the two passages in question:

2 Samuel 8:4 (YLT)
and David captureth from him a thousand and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen, and David destroyeth utterly the whole of the charioteers, only he leaveth of them a hundred charioteers.

1 Chronicles 18:4 (YLT)
and David captureth from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen, and David destroyeth utterly all the chariots, and leaveth of them a hundred chariots only.

As has been stated previously, I fully acknowledge the possibility of copying errors by scribes. It would seem that such would be a fit explanation for the discrepancy between these two texts. It is interesting to note that in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew text), 1 Chronicles 18:4 and 2 Samuel 8:4 agree. Translated to English, from the Septuagint, we find, "...a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen..."

How many horsemen? Was it 700, or 1,700, or 7,000? I cannot say. However, the discrepancy is minor and easily attributed to the copying process, not the inspired text. When a 'contradiction' deals with numbers, and is clearly the error of a scribe, the overall integrity of the inspired text surely remains intact. The very nature of the discrepancy renders it useless as a means to discount the Bible.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible