Tuesday, 30 July 2019

70 or 50070 men struck dead?

There is a textual and translational debate concerning the number of men slain in 1 Samuel 6:19 after the ark of the covenant was returned from the Philistines.

The Philistines and Israel battled between Aphek and Ebenezer. The Philistines killed 4000 Israelites. So the elders requested that the Ark be brought to the camp. The Israelites were still defeated, this time losing 30000 men, and the Philistines took the ark to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of Dagon. Dagon fell before the ark twice, the second time losing his head and hands. There was a plague in the land causing swelling in the body and killing many people. So the Ark was taken from Ashdod to Gath where the plague continued, then from Gath to Ekron and the plague continued there. The men of Ekron asked for the ark to be taken away because of the plague.

After 7 months the ark was returned to Israel on a cart pulled by two milk cows, previously unyoked. This was to provide evidence that Yahweh had sent the plague. Alongside the ark were 5 golden figurines of mice and 5 of swellings (tumours). When the ark arrived in Israel the men of Beth-shemesh broke up the cart for wood and offered the cows as a sacrifice to Yahweh. Then the men placed the ark on a rock and took down the box with the golden figurines.

The Greek of the passage differs in places.

The 5 golden swellings are for the 5 cities, though they probably represent the rulers of the cities (1 Samuel 6:4-5); the Greek has golden seats. The 5 golden mice are for the 5 cities. The swellings were probably outbreaks on the body due to the plague. Some commentators suggest haemorrhoids, others tumours in the groin. Mice (or rats) clearly infested the region,
So you must make images of your tumors and images of your mice that ravage the land, and give glory to the God of Israel. (1 Samuel 6:5)
Though it is not clear whether the rodents carried the plague or that they destroyed the crops.

Which brings us to verse 19.
And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of the LORD. He struck 70 men of them, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great blow. (1 Samuel 6:19 ESV).
And the descendants of Jechoniah were not pleased with the men of Beth-shemesh because they saw the ark of the Lord, and he struck among them 70 men and 50000 men, and the people mourned because the Lord struck with an exceedingly great plague among the people. (1 Samuel (1 Kingdoms) 6:19 Greek).
The Hebrew has 50070 men, though some Hebrew manuscripts have 70 men. Josephus has 70 (Antiquities 6.1.4). Yet the Greek shows that the larger number has an ancient pedigree. Syriac and Arab versions have 5070. The Vulgate has 70 men and 50000 common people.

The large number is also more likely because the term "great blow" is used here and the same term in 1 Samuel 4:10 for the death of 30000 men.

Translators note that the town of Beth-shemesh could not have contained 50000 people and many think this is a textual error, numerical variants being quite common in biblical manuscripts. There are various other explanations including,

  1. 70 men, 50 of a thousand (implying 1 in 20 from a total of 1400)
  2. 70 elders: having the importance of 50000 common men (Rabbinical tradition)
Others have noted that the Hebrew has an unusual construction. Numbers in Hebrew, like in English, usually have the larger units first: thousands before hundreds before tens before units. However there are exceptions. As Ashby notes, exceptions repeat the item the number is qualifying and include the word "and" between the items.

At the end of thirty years and four hundred years (Exodus 12:41).

Except that the number in 1 Samuel 6:19 does not have the word "and". A literal translation is,
he struck some of the people, 70 men, 50000 men.
A very literal translation of the Hebrew, maintaining word order,
And he struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh, because they looked upon the ark of Yahweh, and he struck some of the people (nation): 70 men; 50000 men. And mourned the people (nation) because had struck, Yahweh, the people (nation) a blow great.
God's judgment had killed the Philistines; that same plague then killed 70 men of Beth-shemesh, then killed 50000 people in Israel.

Monday quote

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

Dorothy Neville.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Monday quote

If your income is dependent on you not understanding something, it is very easy not to understand something.

Otis Brawley.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Monday quote

A weak conscience is an over-scrupulous conscience. And although, even when mistaken, it is not to be violated, it does need to be educated.

Stott, Between Two Worlds.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Monday quote

She is always married too soon who gets a bad husband, and she is never married too late who gets a good one.

Daniel Defoe (1660–1731), Moll Flanders.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Monday quote

But the price of self-deception is eternal vigilance, because there are so many things he must not allow himself to think about.

J Budziszewski (1952–).

Monday, 24 June 2019

Monday quote

The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today's most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one's conquests in advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without a Waterloo, the other without the clap).

David B. Hart

Monday, 17 June 2019

Monday quote

Evil talks about tolerance only when it's weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.

Charles Chaput

Monday, 10 June 2019

Monday, 3 June 2019

Monday quote

God’s foreknowledge of his own acts does not render them necessary, and destroy his free agency, how can it be consistently argued that God’s foreknowledge of the acts of men renders them necessary, and destroys their free agency?

Thomas Ralston

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Are Genesis chapters 1 and 2 separate creation accounts?

Some people raise issues with the supposed incongruence of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 saying that the chapters represent different creation accounts. There are several reasons that show that Genesis 2 is complimentary not contradictory to Genesis 1.

The two chapters do show some stylistic differences. The first chapter is highly structured, uses repetitive motifs, and functions as introduction to the book of Genesis. But stylistic differences need not mean differences in content.

There are several reasons to note the continuity of chapter 2, and the rest of Genesis, to chapter 1. The first and most obvious is that we have received Genesis as a unit. If the author (or compiler) of Genesis wrote Genesis 2 after Genesis 1, which he did, then he knew what was contained in both. It would seem strange that moderns can identify significant differences that he supposedly did not notice.

Secondly, Genesis 1 describes creation repeatedly as good, and after the completion of all of creation as very good. This motif of "good" throughout Genesis 1 is then contrasted with the man's lack of companion which is not good.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18)
To propose a different creation account in Genesis 2 disregards the author's obvious contrast.

Next, Genesis 5 gives the chronology of the antediluvian patriarchs. It begins,
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. (Gen 5:1-3)
This directly quotes Genesis 1
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Gen 1:26-27)
Thus the command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28) describes the beginnings of its fulfillment in chapter 5 and the author repeats the earlier text when naming the descendants of Adam. Genesis 5 has obvious continuity with Genesis 2, yet the phraseology also borrows from Genesis 1.

Further, Jesus reads Genesis 1 and 2 together. He does this when refuting the Pharisees on divorce.
Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, [Gen 1:27] and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh [Gen 2:24]’?" 
The unity of Genesis as a book, the contrast of good with not good, the connection between genealogy and creation, and the unifying approach of Jesus to both chapters, show that it is preferable to read Genesis 2 as an expansion of the Genesis 1 creation account rather than as a different, contrasting creation account.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Monday quote

I have observed over the years that the unanticipated consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences.

Irving Kristol (1920–2009).

Monday, 20 May 2019

Monday quote

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

Euripides (c. 480 BC)

Monday, 13 May 2019

Monday quote

If [the agnostic] says that it is impossible to know anything about God, he contradicts himself, for to know God's unknowability would be to know something about God.

J. Budziszewski (1952–)

Monday, 6 May 2019

Monday quote

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears this is true.


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