Archive for April, 2013

12. Who Was Achan’s father?

Posted: April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

jos 7:1 ≠ jos 7:24, 22:20

Joshua 7:1 But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the LORD’S anger burned against Israel.

Joshua 7:24 Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.

Joshua 22:20 When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devoted things, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”

Really? How many of these are we going to have? Everyone, repeat after me, “In Hebrew ‘son’ (bēn נֵן) can mean any male descendant.”

Joshua 7:1 says that Achan was the son of Carmi and the great-grandson of Zerah. For Joshua 7:24 & 22:20 to call Achan the son of Zerah is not a contradiction, it’s just the plain, straightforward, normal way you talk about a male descendant.

The level of ignorance on the part of The Reason Project is stunning. If the New Atheists spent less time congratulating each other on how clever they are, and more time actually attempting to understand what they’re talking about, they might come across as less ignorant.

But I’m not holding my breath.


gen 1:25-27 ≠ gen 2:18-22

Genesis 1:25-27 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:18-22     The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19     Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.  20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found.  21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh.  22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

There are lots of interesting things to think about in terms of the relationship between Genesis 1 & 2. They’re certainly not straightforward accounts of creation and their relationship is complex, and raises questions about how the author intended us to read them.

I presume that the perceived difficulty is that God makes humans in Genesis 1 and then makes them again in Genesis 2. But that requires us to assume that the author/editor of Genesis is a complete moron, incapable of recognising that he’s just included a major contradiction within the space of half a chapter at the very start of his book. And whatever you might think of the author of Genesis, he’s clearly not an idiot.

Far from showing the author of Genesis 1 & 2 to be incompetent, the claim that these verses contradict shows a rather breathtaking lack of basic reading skill on the part of The Reason Project. It requires us to assume that Genesis 1 & 2 are intended to be strictly chronological, when in fact it seems pretty obvious that Genesis 1:25-27 is a summary (“God made humanity male and female”) that Genesis 2:18-22 fleshes out (“This is how God made man and woman.”)

2sam 15:7 ≠ 2sam 5:4

2 Samuel 15:7 At the end of four [KJV: forty] years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.

2 Samuel 5:4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.

2 Samuel 15 records Absalom’s rebellion against his father, king David. The King James Version (KJV) reflects the Masoretic Text of 2 Samuel 15:7 in saying that this happened after forty years, but this obviously can’t be right if the total length of David’s reign was forty years as 2 Samuel 5:4 says.

So is this a contradiction? Not really. It’s just another case of a copying error entering the Hebrew where a scribe has mistakenly written “forty” instead of “four”, as Josephus, the Syriac manuscripts, and many Septuagint manuscripts show. Many of these manuscripts have been discovered in the 400 years since the KJV was published.

The Reason Project says it decided to base their claims on the KJV because of “its popularity, perceived authenticity, lack of copyright restrictions and the fact that it has not been subjected to cosmetic editing, as have some of the more modern versions of the Bible.” The discovery of hundreds of manuscripts since the KJV was published showing that many of these alleged contradictions are just trivial copying errors wouldn’t have played a part would it? Surely not.

1sam 7:1-2, 10:24 ≠ 2sam 6:2-3, acts 13:21

Yep, you read that right. Alleged contradiction #9 is exactly the same as alleged contradiction #7. Seems a bit sloppy, doesn’t it?

gen 16:16 ≠ acts 7:2-4, gen 11:26, 11:32

Genesis 16:16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Acts 7:2-4  To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’  “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.

Genesis 11:26  After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.

Genesis 11:32  Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.

There’s a whole range of related timing problems in these passages that lead to an apparent contradiction. Let’s try and lay them out:

  • If Terah had Abram when he was 70 and lived to 205, Abram must have been 135 when Terah died
  • We’re told that Terah died in Genesis 11:32, yet five chapters later in Genesis 16:16 we’re told that Abram is only 86 years old, which according to Genesis 11:32 would still be 49 years before Terah’s death

If this was all there was to it, we might assume that Genesis 11:32 is just a summary verse, reporting that Terah lived to a total of 205 years but not implying that he died before Abraham left Haran.


  • Acts 7:4 says God sent Abram to Canaan only after the death of his father
  • But Genesis 12:4 says Abram left Haran for Canaan when he was 75…
  • So that would make Terah 145 when God sent Abram to Canaan, 60 years before his death

So it seems like a pretty strong case that Acts 7:4 contradicts Genesis, even if Genesis doesn’t contradict itself. Are there any possible solutions? There are quite a few suggestions, most of which strike me as a bit desperate. But there are two that I think might hold water:

  1. Perhaps a copying error has entered the Hebrew text, mistakenly altering Terah’s age at his death to 205. The Samaritan Pentateuch and Philo record Terah’s age at his death as being 145, not 205. Both those sources are pre-Christian, so they can’t be fiddling the figures to fit with Acts 7:4. That would resolve the problem, but I’m not wild about it. It would be a big call to go against both the Masoretic text and the Septuagint, which are normally very reliable (although clearly some copying errors have entered both at different points).
  2. When Genesis 11:26 says, “After Terah had lived 70 years he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran” it probably doesn’t mean he had triplets at 70, but rather that he began to have children at 70, and Abram is listed first not because he is oldest, but because he is the most important. [A similar thing occurs in Genesis 5:32, “After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth,” but Genesis 9:22-24 identifies Ham as the youngest son of Noah, not the second youngest.]

If the second possibility is right then Abram was born when Terah was 130 (or more) and God sent him to Canaan 75 years later, after the death of his father as Acts 7 says. The main objection to this proposal is that if Terah had Abram when he was 130, God’s promise that Abram would have a child at 100 doesn’t seem that amazing, but the Bible always treats it as amazing (eg. Romans 4:19). However, in Genesis 11, given their ages, it doesn’t seem that having children at 100 or even older would be that unusual, although unlike Terah most seem to have their first child around 30. The issue with Abram is not simply that 100 is old to have a child, it’s that 100 is old to have a child when you’ve been trying for decades without any luck and your wife is post-menopausal (Genesis 18:11).

In summary, these verses are possibly contradictory, but not necessarily. The big problem is that Genesis just doesn’t give us enough information to work it all out. Specifically, it doesn’t tell us exactly how old Terah was when Abram was born.

Oh, and how old was Abram when Ishmael was born? 86, just like Genesis 16:16 says.

1sam 7:1-2, 10:24 ≠ 2sam 6:2-3,
acts 13:21

1 Samuel 7:1-2 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.

1 Samuel 10:24 Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” ¶ Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!”

2 Samuel 6:2-3 He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart

Acts 13:21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.

1 Samuel 7:2, recording events before Saul becomes king, says that the ark of the covenant remained in Abinadab’s house in Kiriath Jearim for 20 years. But 2 Samuel 6:2-3 says the ark was taken from Abinadab’s house by David after the death of Saul over 40 years later. So how long was it in Abinadab’s house? 20 years or over 40 years?

The Reason Project has assumed that the writer intends the 20 years mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:2 covers all the time from 1 Samuel 7:3 to 2 Samuel 6:2. But are they right to make that assumption? If you read 1 & 2 Samuel carefully it becomes clear that the writer doesn’t mean the ark remained in Abinadab’s house for 20 years until David removed it, but rather the ark remained in Abinadab’s house for 20 years before the next thing the writer mentions. That is, the ark remained in Abinadab’s house for 20 years between 1 Samuel 7:3 and 1 Samuel 7:4, and a further 20 or so years from 1 Samuel 7:4 until David brought it to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6:2. More than 40 years in total.

In other words, 1 Samuel 7:3 is like a play where someone walks out holding a piece of card that says, “And the ark remained in Abinadab’s house for 20 years.” And then the next scene begins 20 years later in 1 Samuel 7:4. There is no contradiction.

1 ki 15:8 ≠ 1ki 15:1-2, 15:9-10

1Kings 15:8 And Abijah rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king.

1Kings 15:1-2 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Abijah became king of Judah and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.

1Kings 15:9-10 In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s [Hebrew, KJV mother’s] name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.

Maacah is described variously as Abijah’s mother and then as Asa’s mother, but Asa is Abijah’s son.

This is basically the same misunderstanding as yesterday, with exactly the same answer. In ancient Hebrew “mother” (אמ) is used for any female ancestor—mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc. You need to look at the context to work out the exact biological relationship.

In 1 Kings 15:10 the KJV translates אמ literally as “mother”. Most modern translations recognise that in this context, where Maacah is clearly shown to be Asa’s grandmother, it’s better to translate it as “grandmother”, because that’s what the original author meant—he just didn’t have a separate word for it.