2 Samuel 8:4 -- 700 horsemen
1 Chronicles 18:4 -- 7000 horsemen?
This apparent contradiction is frequently brought up by atheists and Bible doubters.
I will present five possible explanations. Sadly, one of the frequently offered explanations by "Christians" is the first one mentioned wherein they believe there was a scribal error in the Hebrew manuscripts. This "defence" is offered by a group calling itself The Christian Think Tank.
First the written objection and then the "answer". This particular Christian group is following the NASB reading. All the Christian sites I visited which are new version proponents agree there is a scribal error.
2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4: Samuel says that David captured 1,700 horsemen and Chronicles says he captured 7,000 in the exact same battle. 1,700 does not equal 7,000 no matter what you do so one or the other must be in error. Again, you can claim copyist error but it is yet another error in our current version of scripture.
The "Christian" answer:
"Yes, it is an 'error' in ONE of the MSS families--the Masoretic Text...Other families such as 2 Samuel in the LXX and (most probably) in the Dead Sea Scroll version of this reflect identical wording in the two passages...it is simply a text-critical decision that someone made that created a conflict (in this case). Again, we have mss. data that resolves the issue plausibly."
This, my friends, is the typical "Christian" answer. "The Hebrew text is wrong, but it is all straightened out in the LXX." Well, not even the NASB, ESV or Holman Standard got it right according to this guy, did they? This 'Think Tank' merely tanked; there was not much thinking involved.
First of all, the Greek Septuagint (LXX) reads differently than do the NASB, RSV, Holman Standard and the ESV. In 2 Samuel 8:4 the Greek Septuagint reads: "And David took A THOUSAND of his chariots, and 7000 HORSEMEN, and 20,000 footmen." This is similar to the reading found in the NIV, but not in the NASB, ESV, or Holman Standard. The NIV says: a THOUSAND of his chariots, 7000 CHARIOTEERS (not "horsemen"), and 20,000 footmen". The NIV reads the same in both 2 Samuel 8:4 and in 1 Chronicles 18:4.
On the other hand, the NASB, RSV, ESV and Holman Standard all read: "1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers" in 2 Samuel 8:4 but they have "1000 CHARIOTS and 7000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers" in 1 Chronicles 18:4, thus creating an apparent contradiction, and differing from the NIV.
Lamsa's 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta version is different still. In 2 Samuel 8:4 it says David took from him ONE THOUSAND AND SEVEN HUNDRED (1,700) CHARIOTS and 20,000 footmen." BUT in 1 Chronicles 18:4 it says David took from him A THOUSAND (1,000) chariots, and 7,000 horsemen", AND omits all reference to the 20,000 footmen. The Syriac differs in the two accounts in both the number of chariots and the number of horsemen, and whether there were 20,000 footmen or not.
What we see then is that the NIV chose to basically follow the Greek Septuagint, while the NASB, RSV, ESV and Holman Standard chose to follow ONE OF the Syriac readings.
The King James Bible reads in 2 Samuel 8:4 "And David took from him a thousand chariots, and 700 horsemen, and 20,000 footmen."
Other Bible versions that agree with the KJB are the NKJV 1982, The Thompson Bible 1808 - "a thousand of his chariots, and seven thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand infantry", Webster's 1833 translation, The Longman Version 1841, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 - "and David took from him a THOUSAND CHARIOTS, AND SEVEN HUNDRED HORSEMEN, AND TWENTY THOUSAND FOOTMEN.", The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Revised Webster's Bible 1995, the Third Millennium Bible of 1998, The Bond Slave Version 2012 - "And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, the BRG Bible 2012, and the Natural Israelite Bible 2012 - “David took from him ONE THOUSAND chariots, SEVEN HUNDRED HORSEMEN, and twenty thousand foot soldiers."
The Common English Bible 2011 - “ David captured ONE THOUSAND chariots, SEVEN HUNDRED charioteers, and twenty thousand foot soldiers.”
Jewish Virtual Library The Tanakh [Full Text] 1998
And David took from him a thousand and SEVEN HUNDRED HORSEMEN, and twenty thousand footmen; and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for a hundred chariots.
Also reading "a thousand of his chariots" is The Complete Apostles' Bible 2003, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003 The Easy-to-Read Version 2006, The New Brenton Translation 2012, The New English Septuagint Version 2014, The New International Reader's Version 2014 and the International Standard Version 2014.
The Spanish Reina Valera Gomez Bible of 2004 also agrees with the KJB reading -
"Y les tomó David mil carros y setecientos hombres de a caballo y veinte mil hombres de a pie; y desjarretó David los caballos de todos los carros, excepto los de cien carros que dejó." = "ONE THOUSAND chariots and SEVEN HUNDRED horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen"
Also agreeing with the numbers found in the King James Bible is the Portugues Almeida Corrigida E Fiel Version of 1681 and the Portuguese A Biblia Sagrada: They read: "E tomou-lhe Davi mil carros e setecentos cavaleiros e vinte mil homens de pé; e Davi jarretou a todos os cavalos dos carros, e reservou deles cem carros." = "1000 chariots and 700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers"
The Dutch Staten Vertaling Bible reads just like the KJB, with: “En David nam hem duizend wagens af, en zevenhonderd ruiteren, en twintig duizend man te voet” = “And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen”
The Czech BKR Bible also reads like the KJB - “A pobral mu David tisíc vozů a sedm set jezdců, a dvadceti tisíc mužů pěších” = “And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen”
The Romanian Fidela Bible 2014 reads like the KJB - “Şi David a luat de la el o mie de care şi şapte sute de călăreţi şi douăzeci de mii de pedeştri”
Even the modern paraphrase called The Message (2002) agrees with the KJB saying: "He captured from him a thousand chariots, seven thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand infantry. He hamstrung all the chariot horses, but saved back a hundred. "
One of the latest critical text editions, called the Common English Bible of 2011, has the same numbers as the King James Bible, in 2 Samuel 8:4 but it changes "700 horsemen" to "700 charioteers." It reads: "David captured one thousand chariots, seven hundred charioteers, and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He cut the hamstrings of all but one hundred of the chariot horses."
1 Chronicles 18:4 says: "And David took from him a thousand chariots, and 7,000 horsemen, and 20,000 footmen."
The NIV and NASB don't even agree with each other and both disagree with the King James Bible. In 2 Samuel 8:4 the KJB says 1,000 chariots and 700 horsemen and 20,000 footmen; the NASB, ESV, and Holman say David captured from him 1,700 horsemen and 20,000 footmen, while the NIV says David took 1,000 of his chariots, 7,000 charioteers and 20,000 foot soldiers.
The NASB, ESV, Holman, while omitting any reference to the chariots here in 2 Samuel 8:4, are in conflict with themselves when the parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 18:4 is compared. There the NASB, ESV, Holman also read as does the KJB with 1,000 chariots, 7,000 horsemen and 20,000 footmen.
So we have a similar contradiction in versions like the NASB, ESV. Here in Chronicles they tell us there were 7,000 horsemen taken, but in the 2 Samuel 8:4 passage they tell us there were "1,700 horsemen and 20,000 footmen"
The NIV reading in 2 Samuel 8:4 of 1,000 chariots, 7,000 (not 700) horsemen comes from the Greek Septuagint. They tell you this in the NIV footnote.
Here are some different explanations given by men who did not try to change the KJB reading.
Adam Clarke makes no attempt to change the King James reading but merely states: "A thousand chariots - It is strange that there were a thousand chariots, and only seven hundred horsemen taken, and twenty thousand foot. But as the discomfiture appears complete, we may suppose that the chariots, being less manageable, might be more easily taken, while the horsemen might, in general, make their escape. The infantry also seem to have been surrounded, when twenty thousand of them were taken prisoners."
John Gill comments: "And David took from him a thousand [chariots], and seven hundred horsemen…"Chariots" are not in the text here... but it is supplied from (1 Chronicles 18:4) where the word is expressly mentioned...which may be reconciled by observing, with Kimchi and Abarbinel, that here the chief officers are meant, there all the chariots and horsemen that were under their command are mentioned, which together made up that large number; or else here are meant the ranks and companies of horses David took, which were seven hundred; and these having ten in a company or rank, made seven thousand; and there the complement of soldiers in those companies and ranks are intended."
David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible agrees with the King James reading and makes no attempt to change it, saying: "David took from him one thousand chariots, seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand foot soldiers. Also David hamstrung all the chariot horses, except that he spared enough of them for one hundred chariots."
Matthew Henry likewise agrees with the King James reading and comments: "The horsemen are here said to be 700, but 1 Chronicles 18:4 they are said to be 7000. If they divided their horse by ten in a company, as it is probable they did, the captains and companies were 700, but the horsemen were 7000."
John Wesley also agrees with the KJB reading - "Seven hundred - Or, seven hundred companies of horsemen, that is, in all seven thousand; as it is 1 Chronicles 18:4, there being ten in each company, and each ten having a ruler or captain."
Matthew Poole’s Commentary - Chariots, which word is fitly supplied out of 1 Chronicles 18:4, such substantives being oft understood in the Hebrew language, as Genesis 26:30, 2 Samuel 21:16. Seven hundred horsemen - Or these seven hundred were the chief and the rulers of the rest, and the remaining six thousand three hundred were the common horsemen, subject to their commanders.”
Dr. Peter Ruckman says on page 178 of his book Problem Texts that most of today's "scholars" say the number of 700 in I Samuel 8:4 is a scribal error. Then he asks if it never occurred to these men that professional soldiers might not be as stupid as Bible scholars.
He continues: "Why wouldn't a war chariot have spare horses? What if both of them (or four to six in a harness) were killed? What do you do, silly, leave the chariot lying there in the mud? Obviously, the Syrians have ten horsemen per chariot. Observe exactly the same thing comparing 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chron. 19:18; ten men per chariot.
2 Samuel 10:18 says "the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the MEN OF 700 chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen." Then in 1 Chronicles 19:18 we read: "But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians 7000 men WHICH FOUGHT IN chariots, and forty thousand footmen."
An explanation offered by Gerardus D. Bouw in The Book of Bible Problems. He says on page 84: "Apparently the 6,300 were captured as a group while the remaining 700 were captured at a different time. In support of this theory he notes the differences in the language used in the two sections.
In 2 Samuel 8:3 it says David smote Hadadezer as he went TO RECOVER his border at the river Euphrates, while in 1 Chronicles 18:3 it says David smote Hadarezer as he went TO STABLISH his dominion by the river Euphrates.
So, in effect he is suggesting that Hadarezar initially went to stabilize his control over the Euphrates and David took his troops of 700 horsemen. Then Hadarezar sent another 6300 to recover his previous dominion and then these too were taken by David, thus making a total of 7,000.
Here is another possible explanation for the apparent contradiction. It seems more likely there was only one battle that took place between king David and Hadadezer the king of Zobah. In one account we are told David took 700 horsemen while in the other the number is 7000 horsemen.
I believe an important part of the equation is that some footmen were also horsemen; they could either fight on horse or on foot since they were specifically trained for both methods of combat. Those footmen who were also horsemen could then replace the number of fallen horsemen in the midst of battle. We see this double role in another passage. In 2 Samuel 10:18 we are told of 40,000 HORSEMEN of the Syrian army who were slain by king David and his men; but in 1 Chronicles 19:18 this same number is listed as 40,000 FOOTMEN. These particular soldiers could fight either on foot or on horseback.
When we compare 2 Samuel 8:4 - the 700 horsemen taken with the number of 7000 horsemen taken in battle in 1 Chronicles 18:4, the difference can be attributed to how each writer is considering the men in question. The additional 6, 300 men were trained as both horsemen and footsoldiers. As "horsemen" reserves they could be included with the 700 and so would be combined as a total of 7000, but as footsoldiers they would be counted among the 20,000.
So how many "horsemen" were slain? Seven hundred - but also an additional 6,300 who were trained both as horsemen and footmen. The two different writers are giving two different views of the same events.
The following is an excellent defense and likely explanation of this apparent contradiction. It was sent to me by brother Meng Kwang Han who lives in Singapore and is a King James Bible believer there.
There is an apparent contradiction between 2 Samuel 8:4 where it is stated that “seven hundred horsemen” were captured and 1 Chronicles 18:4 where “seven thousand horsemen” were captured.
Brother Meng Kwang Han writes: "Here I categorically reject any attempts to reconcile this by saying that there are copying errors in the Masoretic text. Admitting that would be tantamount to saying we have no preserved Word of God left in whatever languages, particularly Hebrew, none whatsoever. When met with such numerically problematic passages, we ought not to be dogmatic and insist that there are errors in the copied manuscripts. Rather we should plead our incompetence in understanding the words of the most High. The Word of God, every jot & every tittle of it has been preserved intact. Hence we can safely trust that God has indeed perfectly preserved His Word, according to His promises. There is no problem with the manuscript nor is there any copying error, nor is there any translation error. We emphasized again that the problem lies with incompetent men handling the Word of God.
The solution to this apparent contradiction lies in 2 very insignificant words “unto Hamath” in 1 Chronicles 18:4. (In this presentation, no attempt will be made to explain where Hamath is, as it is not deemed necessary) In short, the account in 2 Samuel was probably a distinctly important battle while the account in 1 Chronicles was a summary of the long-drawn battle that took place between David and Hadadezer (Hadarezer). Note also the difference in the words used to describe the 2 accounts. In 2 Samuel, the battle that took place between David and Hadadezer (Hadarezer) was “as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates” and that in 1 Chronicles was “as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates.”
The battle in 2 Samuel was significant as it meant a strategic victory for David in capturing 700 horsemen from Hadadezer (Hadarezer). The place of the battle is not mentioned. However, we know from military conquests that there will always be pockets of resistance left that needs military mopping up. As horsemen are more mobile, it might have taken a longer period of time to quell all the resistance in the border of the Euphrates. However in the subsequent battles that ensued, the remaining 6300 horsemen were captured, bringing the total amount to 7000 only when David’s forces have reached unto Hamath. Or perhaps Hadadezer (Hadarezer) might have sent another reinforcement of 6300 horsemen which were also subsequently subdued. We do not know but any of the above are possible scenarios that God has chosen not to reveal.
Is there any basis for what I am proposing. I believe there is. In the recent US campaign in Afghanistan, US troops literally bombed the hill areas for weeks before sending in ground troops. However it took the US many days before the Taliban & the Al-Queda pockets of resistance could be completely quelled. With modern day sophisticated weaponry, the US campaign took months to complete. It is no wonder that in David’s day, it was similar, if not an even longer drawn out battle.
Is there is a Biblical basis to support this theory? I believe there is, right here in the 2 passages of the Word of God. In 2 Samuel 8:1, it is said that “David took Methegammah out of the hand of the Philistines”. But did David only take Methegammah from the Philistines? No. We know from 1 Chronicles 18 that “David smote the Philistines, and subdued them, and took Gath and her towns out of the hand of the Philistines.” On top of Methegammah, he took Gath and other towns. In other words, it is most probable that in 2 Samuel 8:1, the account was for a specific battle where an important town Methegammah was taken and the strength of the Philistines was significantly reduced, while the account in 1 Chronicles was more of a summary where in the “other towns” taken Methegammah is also included." - Brother Meng Kwang Han
Any one of the last five explanations could be the correct one or perhaps there is another God has not yet been pleased to reveal to us. But there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the King James Bible. We can have all confidence that it is indeed the true and perfect word of the living God.
There is another site called King James Version that gives a similar explanation of this apparent contradiction. The article is quite good. You can see it here:
2 Samuel 10:18 says:
"And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there."
"But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host."
The two verses do not contradict. 2 Samuel 10:18 describes the deaths of an unspecified number of men who rode in "seven hundred chariots". 1 Chronicles 19:18 describes the deaths of "seven thousand men" who rode in an unspecified number of chariots. In other words, 2 Samuel 10:18 gives the number of chariots and 1 Chronicles 19:18 gives the number of men. Therefore, putting the two verses together we know that there was an average of 10 men to each chariot.
Recently at another Bible club a fellow Bible believer offered this explanation. I present it for your consideration.
Many feel there to be an apparent contradiction between 2 Sam 8:4 and 1 Chr 18:4.
All bible versions have Chronicles saying 7000 horsemen (horsemen were the crew of a chariot).
However for the book of Samuel the situation is rather different. Some bible versions have Samuel saying 700 horsemen (KJV, NKJV), some 1700 (NET, ESV, NASB) and some 7000 (NIV, The Message). This list is of course not exhaustive.
The KJV (and NKJV) is correct, and the others wrong. Below we show why. The quotes are of course from the KJV.
“And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.” 2 Sam 8:4
“And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them an hundred chariots.” 1 Chr 18:4
The reason the KJV is correct is that both accounts are true at the same time.
For what most miss is that although 1000 chariots and 7000 horsemen were captured, if you’d gone searching for them the next morning to bring them their Cornflakes and orange juice, you’d have had to carry most of the breakfasts back to the kitchen, for you would have only found 100 chariots and 700 horsemen in the barracks!
That is, the answer to the puzzle is staring everyone right in the face:
“David houghed all the chariot horses [(debilitated the horses with regard to any further military use by damaging the hamstrings or tendons at the back of their legs)], but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.”
Yes that’s right…..David discarded all but 1/10th of the chariot take.
Accordingly, the account in Samuel ‘cuts to the chase’ and declares the effect of David’s capture with regard to his military configurations, prospectively: because 9/10ths of the chariot-forces captured were discarded, 7000 horsemen for 1000 chariots is necessarily reduced to 700 horsemen for the 100 chariots retained.
Contrasting, Chronicles is clinical: it is simply interested in the historical event without military ramification: 7000 horsemen and their 1000 chariots were captured.
So the account in 2 Samuel is concerned with the increase in David’s military force resulting from his victory – 20,700 conscripts consisting of 700 horsemen (relating to the 100 chariots David retained) + 20,000 infantry: it is concerned with the end benefit to Israel taking into account David’s particular strategic requirements.
1 Chronicles, by contrast, simply provides the raw data of the victory without any ramification toward the on-going Israelite army, as any good chronicle should. For a chronicle is primarily an event-by-event objective account.
The KJV is therefore correct by way of comprehensiveness: it relates both the (aspectual) Israel-centric account (the "seven hundred horsemen" at 2 Sam 8:4), as well as the a-aspectual chronicle (the 'raw data' "seven thousand horsemen" at 1 Chr 18:4).
Those with the MM bible versions therefore have only half the story (the a-aspectual chronicle), and should therefore demand half their money back, especially if they didn’t get a complementary mouse ears cap when they made their purchase. (End of article)
Another Bible believer posted the following:
So, we have to depend on the Bible for the truth as usual.
Ex 14:9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon. 23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
By comparing these verses;
1 Kings 4:26 And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
2 Chronicles 9:25 And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.
Solomon had 40,000 stalls for horses for his chariots and 4,000 stalls for teams of horse and chariot together. That makes a string of 10 horses per chariot.
Two wheeled fighting chariot, two men, driver and shooter, two horses. Eight horses and riders accompanying each chariot. That's ten men and ten horses per chariot.
The answer to your question is if you slay the men of 700 chariots you've slain 7,000 men.
By the way, Solomon's kingdom was quite a superpower with that many expensive mobile fighting platforms available for combat anywhere he needed them.
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