700 or 7,000 Charioteers Killed? 2 Sam. 10:18, 1 Chron. 19:18

Are 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18 contradictory concerning how many charioteers were killed (700 or 7,000)? Here are some plausible solutions.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick answer

This discrepancy is likely the result of a copyist error, where 1 Chronicles 19:8 (7,000) is probably the correct number. The doctrine of the Bible's inerrancy states that the original manuscripts are without error and we can have great confidence that the Bible that we have today is essentially a copy of the original writings, not that everything has been copied perfectly, so this apparent contradiction is not a problem for biblical inerrancy.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning how many charioteers were killed, whether it was 700 or 7,000 charioteers. Here are the relevant passages:

700 charioteers

2 Samuel 10:18 - And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there.

7,000 charioteers

1 Chronicles 19:18 - And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death also Shophach the commander of their army.

The answer

Probably a copyist error

This discrepancy is likely the result of a copyist error. The correct number is probably 7,000, from 1 Chronicles 19:18.

In our numeral system, 700 and 7,000 differ by only one zero, and it would be very easy to accidentally write one number when we meant the other.

Similarly, the difference between 700 and 7,000 in the Hebrew language is extremely small, and so it should not be surprising that a copyist could have made an error like this.

This is not a problem for biblical infallibility and inerrancy

The doctrine of the Bible's inerrancy states that the original manuscripts are without error and we can have great confidence that the Bible that we have today is essentially a copy of the original writings, not that everything has been copied perfectly, so this apparent contradiction is not a problem for biblical inerrancy.

"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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