Did Jacob Worship at the Head of the Bed or Leaning on a Staff? Gen 47:31

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether Jacob worshipped at the head of the bed or leaning on a staff before he died in Genesis 47:31. Learn how to answer this objection against the Bible.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick answer

Both statements are true at the same time. At the head of the bed, Jacob leaned on his staff and worshipped. There is simply no contradiction here.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether Jacob worshipped at the head of the bed or leaning on a staff before he died. Here are the relevant passages:

Jacob worshipped at the head of the bed

Genesis 47:31 - And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.

Jacob worshipped leaning on a staff

Hebrews 11:21 - By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.

The answer

There is simply no contradiction at all here. It is entirely reasonable that both passages are true. Before he died, Jacob had a staff with him, and he bowed himself over the head of his bed and his staff at the same time. The two passages simply record different details of what happened.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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