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Answering The Atheist
December 30, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 52

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
How many sons did Jesse have, eight (1 Samuel 16:10-11) or seven (1 Chronicles 2:13-15)? Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
The questioner is right, the number reported in 1 Samuel 16:10-11 and 1 Chronicles 2:13-15 do not match. But rather than immediately conclude that it is a contradiction, let us consider the texts.

1 Samuel 16:10-11 reads, "Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, 'The LORD has not chosen these. And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Are all the young men here?' Then he said, 'There remains yet the youngest and there he is keeping the sheep.' And Samuel said to Jesse, 'Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.'"

1 Chronicles 2:13-15 reads, "Jesse begot Eliab his firstborn, Abinadab the second, Shimea the third, Nethanel the fourth, Raddai the fifth, Ozem the sixth, and David the seventh."

Indeed, in 1 Samuel 16, seven sons had already been seen by Samuel, and David, the youngest, would be the eighth. And yet, in 1 Chronicles 2, David is listed as the seventh. How can this be?

It is likely that one of Jesse's sons had died prematurely. He would have been alive at the time Samuel came to anoint a son of Jesse as king, but deceased thereafter. The absence of this one from the list may indicate that he had no offspring to perpetuate his name.

My wife, when asked about her family will often say that she has one sister. She in fact had 2 sisters, but one is deceased. Depending on the nature of the conversation, she may or may not mention the deceased sibling. The same would be true, even of this record in the Bible. There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible