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Answering The Atheist
May 13, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 19

How much gold, silver and clothing did the people give? Ezra 2:69 speaks of 61,000 drams of gold, 5,000 pounds of silver, and 100 priests' garments. But Nehemiah 7:72 tells of 20,000 drams of gold, 2,000 pounds of silver, and 67 priests' garments. Is there a contradiction?

The numbers presented by the questioner are not entirely correct. The Ezra numbers are fine, but the Nehemiah numbers are incomplete. Ezra reports the sum of that which was offered, whereas Nehemiah breaks the offering down into 3 groupings. The governor gave 1,000 gold drachmas, 50 basins, and 530 priestly garments. The heads of houses gave 20,000 gold drachmas and 2,200 silver minas. The rest of the people gave 20,000 gold drachmas, 2,000 silver minas and 67 priestly garments.Ezra's numbers:
61,000 gold drachmas
5,000 silver minas
100 priests' garments

Nehemiah's numbers:
41,000 gold drachmas
4,200 silver minas
50 basins
597 priests' garments

It is evident that the numbers still do not match. In Nehemiah's account, we are short 20,000 gold drachmas and 800 silver minas, but have an excess of 50 basins and 497 priestly garments. Rather than immediately conclude that the two inventories are irreconcilably different, let us consider something about the details given, and a plausible explanation.

Nehemiah's attention to detail shouldn't go unnoticed. Rather than give a total of all that was given, he gave specifics of who gave what (ie. the governor, the heads of houses, and the rest of the people). In these details, we are made aware of some gifts that Ezra's account does not mention, namely, 50 basins and an additional 497 priestly garments. Where are these 50 basins and extra priestly garments in Ezra's account?

It is possible that the 50 basins and the 497 additional priestly garments were not needed, and thus were sold; the proceeds being 20,000 gold drachmas and 800 silver minas. Certainly, I understand that neither text suggests a sale of some of the goods which had been received. And yet, as we consider a surplus of gold and silver in the one account, coupled with a deficit of the same in the other, and an excess of other goods in the second list, it is plausible that these extra goods were sold and made up the difference in the amount of gold and silver listed.

With a plausible solution, we may conclude that there is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible