Answering The Atheist
May 22, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 21
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Who was Amasa's father? 2 Samuel 17:25 identifies him as "Ithra the Israelite", while 1 Chronicles 2:17 says it was "Jether the Ishmaelite". Is there a contradiction?
Both references speak of the same man, though a surface reading of the texts may lead one to believe that the record of 2 Samuel 17:25 and 1 Chronicles 2:17 are contradictory. The only difference between the names in the Hebrew language is that Ithra consists of one additional letter. This may be a copyist error, or perhaps he was known by both names. It was not uncommon for a person's name to be shortened, and for the individual to be known by either or both names. For instance, we read of Aquila and his wife Priscilla in Acts 18:2, 18, 26; Romans 16:3 and 1 Corinthians 16:9. In 2 Timothy 4:19, Paul refers to this woman as Prisca, obviously a shortened form of her name. Perhaps Jether is to Ithra what Prisca is to Priscilla.
What shall we make of the fact that "Ithra" is referred to as an Israelite, while "Jether" is referred to as an "Ishmaelite"? Recall that Ishmael was the son born to Abraham by the slave woman, Hagar. It is possible that Amasa's father dwelt in the land of the Ishmaelites, and he was so designated for that reason, or perhaps he was an Ishmaelite by birth. If it is the former, then the reference to his being an Israelite is a statement of his nationality, if it is the latter, then it is the opposite, namely that he was a man of Ishmael who dwelt in the land of Israel. Either way, there are options whereby the texts need not be contradictory.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible