Another King James Bible Believer



7 years or 3 years of famine? Is there a contradiction in the Hebrew text that the NIV, ESV and modern Catholic versions need to correct?

2 Samuel 24:13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land?


1 Chronicles 21:11-12 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee either THREE years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land...


There are many atheistic, Islamic and Bible Debunker sites on the internet which contain longs lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible.  


On one Islamic site listing "101 Clear Contradictions in the Bible" this is number four.

 Contradiction #4

 God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?


(a) Seven (2 Samuel 24:13).


(b) Three (1 Chronicles 21:12).


Those Christians who continue to use the modern versions like the NASB, NIV, and NKJV will typically answer these objections in this way which is taken directly from the Apologetics Index.


 "It is probably a copyist error and the better preserved text renders the famine as three years -- Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985."


Another modern version site by the name of Apologetics Ministries has this to say: "Were there seven years of famine offered, or three (per 1 Chronicles 21:11)? Three is the more likely reading, favored by the LXX and by symmetry with the other punishments offered (three months of flight from enemies, three days of plague). Samuel was hit by a copyist error. See our foundational essay on  copyist errors for general background. "


So, Samuel was hit by a copyist error, was he?  Where was God during this whole process?


Another site that calls itself Rational Christianity - Christian Apologetics, which uses the NKJV has this to say: "This is a copyist error.  Presumably the correct number is three, since the other choices are threes.


Bible corrector Adam Clark confidently (and mistakenly) affirms:  “Shall seven years of famine - In 1 Chronicles 21:12, the number is three, not seven; and here the Septuagint has three, the same as in Chronicles: this is no doubt the true reading.”

John Gill at least offers a reasonable explanation.  He writes: “in (1 Chronicles 21:12) , only "three years" are mentioned, and so the Septuagint version here; but Josephus , the Targum, the Syriac and Arabic versions, have the number "seven"... for the reconciling of which let it be observed, that there had been three years of famine already on account of the sin of Saul, (2 Samuel 21:1) ; and in the current year, through the rains not falling in the proper time, the land was barren and unfruitful.. and the sense is, shall there be a continuance of seven years of famine, that is, three more added to what had been?”

Jamieson, Fausset and Brown likewise see the simple truth when they comment: “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee--that is, in addition to the three that had been already, with the current year included (see on 1Ch 21:11).”


Bible commentator Matthew Poole (1624-1679 English Annotations on the Holy Bible) rightly says: "Seven years of famine. Objection. In 1 Chron. xxi. 12, it is only three years of famine.  Some conceive that here was an error in the transcriber, and that the true reading is three years, as the LXX. read it in this place, being supposed to have found it so in their copies, and that otherwise they durst never have presumed to make so great a change in the text.  In Chron. he speaks exactly of those years of famine only which came for David's sin; but here he speaks more comprehensively, including those three years of famine sent for Saul's sin, chap. xxi. And this sin of David's was committed in the year next after them, which was in a manner a year of famine; either because it was the sabbatical year, wherein they might not sow nor reap; or rather, because not being able to sow in the third year, because of the excessive drought, they were not capable of reaping this fourth year. And three years more being added to these four, make up the seven here mentioned. So the meaning of the words is this, As thou hast already had four years of famine, shall three years more come ? And that it is said of these seven years, that they shall come, it is a synecdochical expression frequent in Scripture, because part of the years were yet to come; even as it is said of the Israelites, that they should wander in the wilderness forty years, Numb. xiv. 33, when part of that time was already spent."


In 2 Samuel 24: 13 the prophet Gad comes to David and says: "Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land?"

SEVEN years is the reading of the Hebrew text here as the NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV and the Catholic New Jerusalem bible footnotes tell us. The reading of THREE YEARS comes from the Greek Septuagint version, but not the Hebrew.

The false reading in 2 Samuel 24:13 of THREE years is found in the NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NEB, Bible in Basic English, the New Living Translation, the Holman Standard 2003, Common English Bible 2011 and the Message of 2002.  

The Catholic Versions are continually changing and are in disagreement with each other. The older Douay-Rheims and the Douay of 1950 both follow the Hebrew reading in 2 Samuel 24:13 and say "SEVEN years", but then the Jerusalem bible 1969, St. Joseph NAB of 1970 and the New Jerusalem bible 1985 went with "THREE years", and then tell us in a footnote that the Hebrew reads "seven years".  But they are not done yet. Now in 2009 the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible has come out and it goes BACK to the Hebrew reading of "SEVEN years" saying: "Either SEVEN years of famine will come to you in your land; or you will flee for three months from your adversaries". You can see this latest Catholic version here -

Those versions that agree with the KJB reading of SEVEN years are the Latin Vulgate 405 A.D., Wycliffe bible 1395, Coverdale's bible 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549, the Bishops's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, Darby 1890, Youngs 1898, the Revised Version 1881, the ASV of 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible of 1902, the Jewish translations of 1917 (JPS), 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company,  the 2004 Judaica Press Tanach, the Complete Jewish Bible 1998, the Hebrew Names Bible, the New Life Bible of 1969, the Amplified Bible 1987,  the Spanish Reina Valera's 1569, 1960, 1995, 2011, the Spanish La Biblia de las Américas 1997, the Italian Diodati 1649 and the New Diodati of 1991, the Italian Nuova Riveduta of 2006 - "sette anni di carestia", the Portuguese Ferreira de Almeida Actualizada, and the Portuguese O Livro of 2000 - "sete anos de fome",  Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, the French Martin 1744, the French Ostervald 1996, La Bible de Semeur 1999, the French Luis Segond 21 of 2007- "Veux-tu 7 années de famine", Luther's German bible 1545 and the German Schlachter Bible 2000 - "Willst du, daß sieben Jahre Teuerung in dein Land komme?", the  NASB 1995, Douay 1950, the NKJV 1982, Contemporary English Version 1995, the Living Bible, Names of God Bible 2011, The Voice 2012  and even Daniel Wallace's NET version!

This is really a very simple "contradiction" to solve if one just believes God's word as found in the King James Bible and takes the time to read it carefully.


Only in the book of 2 Samuel are we told in chapter 21:1 "Then there was a famine in the days of David THREE years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD.  And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.


David then, as requested by the Gibeonites, had seven men of the sons of Saul put to death by hanging in "the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of the barley harvest."  This couldn't have been much of a harvest because the famine was still in the land.  They would then have to wait till next year for a good crop.


Next we read of king David telling Joab to go and number the people of Israel.  This  census taking seems to have been a vain attempt by David to boast in the power of the flesh. See how strong I am and how many people I command.  This was the sin that  brought about the threatened judgment of  more famine by God.


 It is important to see that this numbering of the people took a period of 9 months and 20 days as is noted in 2 Samuel 24:8.  "So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days."


 So, what we have here is four years of famine that had already preceded the time when Gad comes to David and says in 2 Samuel 24:13 "Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in the land?"


But when we look at 1 Chronicles, there is no mention of  the famine that had already been going on before David numbered the people.  There in 1 Chronicles  we read: "Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee either THREE years' famine: or three months to be destroyed before thy foes...or else three days the sword of LORD, even the pestilence..."


The account in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12 gives the verbatim quote of what GOD spoke. It says, “So Gad came to David, and said unto him, THUS SAITH THE LORD, Choose thee either THREE years' famine...” (emphasis added).

Thus, it is God who says “three years” in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12. On the other hand, the number, “seven years,” in 2 Samuel 24:13 are the personal words of GAD, and NOT of GOD. It says, “So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come…." If we read 2 Samuel 24:13 carefully, we see that Gad first “told him” (the verbatim words of God as recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12) and then “said unto him, Shall seven years….”

Brother Herb Evans, another strong King James Bible believer, summed up the answer to this alleged contradiction with these words: "Another argument, objection, and correction of both the English and the Hebrew regarding these same passages by the more intellectual Bible Correctors, who know how to use a concordance, is, "Was David offered 'three' or 'seven' years of famine?" The simple answers are both! For since David and Israel had just undergone three years of famine (2 Sam. 21:1) and since David and Israel were still experiencing that famine "year after year" (when he ordered the numbering of Israel - 2 Sam. 24:1) and since it took nine months and twenty days to number Israel (2 Sam. 24:8), we need only account for two months and ten days from 2 Sam. 21:1 to 2 Sam. 24:8, which would bring the total to four years. Four years of past famine plus three years of future famine equals seven years total famine, if chosen by David. Samuel, a contemporary of David and the famine, wrote from the perspective that David was offered a total of seven years of famine, which included the four years of famine that they had just gone through. The historical record (First Chronicles) records David's offer of "three" more years of famine from a historical perspective.


So to answer the question: "Were there seven years of famine or only three?", the correct answer is BOTH.  There were seven years of famine altogether; four had already occurred and three more years  were threatened as a  further judgment.


The King James Bible is right as always.


 Will Kinney


Return to Articles -