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First, the verses:

1 Samuel 1:1 (ESV)

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite.

1 Chronicles 6:22-28

22 The sons of Kohath: Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son,

23 Elkanah his son, Ebiasaph his son, Assir his son,

24 Tahath his son, Uriel his son, Uzziah his son, and Shaul his son.

25 The sons of Elkanah: Amasai and Ahimoth,

26 Elkanah his son, Zophai his son, Nahath his son,

27 Eliab his son, Jeroham his son, Elkanah his son.

28 The sons of Samuel: Joel his firstborn, the second Abijah.

1 Chronicles 6:33-35

33 These are the men who served and their sons. Of the sons of the Kohathites: Heman the singer the son of Joel, son of Samuel,

34 son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah,

35 son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai,

There are several inconsistencies.

  1. Zuph is missing in one, and why is he an Ephrathite (usual Judahites), or is he Zophai?
  2. Eliab, Elihu, or Eliel?
  3. Toah vs Tohu?
  4. Nahath in only one. (There is a Mahath)?
  5. Even if the above names are the same people, I don't think they are always in the same order of generation?

Is there a reason for this?

Are they just different transliterations? Why would the same translation make them different then?

Can all these and any other possible confusions of Samuel's lineage be cleared up in one comprehensive answer, for posterity's sake?

  • 1 Chronicles 6:19-28 isn't a genealogy. According to 1 Chronicles 6:19, it is a list of "families of the Levites according to their fathers’ households." who presumably were serving at the Tabernacle in David's time. "his son" simply designates descent, i.e of the house of. – enegue Feb 18 '16 at 23:09
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    @enegue And yet it gets four consecutive generations right, the same four the other passages agree on. It only differs at the same point the others start to differ. Sorry, but even if you're right that only accounts for one or two off the discrepancies. It still hold information that is intended to be true regardless if it is an official genealogy. – Joshua Feb 18 '16 at 23:21
  • v. 18 says: And the sons of Kohath were Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel. while v. 22 says: The sons of Kohath; Amminadab his son, Korah his son, Assir his son. Surely this must indicate to you that "his son" is designating something different to the way a genealogy is listed. – enegue Feb 18 '16 at 23:48
  • @enegue Actually this is clearly how 1 Chronicles formats it's genealogies in chapters 3-9. It is a bit different than say, Genesis, but it was also written later. Read 1 Chronicles 3 and tell me it's not a genealogy. – Joshua Feb 19 '16 at 0:48
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    @enegue Have you no comment about how it still gives four consecutive generations correctly? There's a solution to v18 and 22, but that's not this question. You may give a complete answer if you like, or ask your own question, but this line of comments is not helpful. – Joshua Feb 19 '16 at 1:17
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TL:DR - Hebrew genealogies are sometimes exact, but sometimes they are a less exact line of succession with a theological purpose. Differences in purpose can account for the differences in similar genealogies.

The Purpose of Hebrew Genealogies

In order to understand the answer first here are some some general insights into Hebrew Genealogies. Hebrew genealogies are a literary form with a purpose, so the question that needs to be asked is "What is the purpose of including this genealogy?".

In Tremper Longman III's book How to Read Genesis (page 104) he explains that whilst some Biblical genealogies may aim to be exact records others simply aim to show a line of descent. In that case skipping generations was not an issue for the authors or recipients. The features of which can be compared similarly to other Ancient Near East genealogies (see again How to Read Genesis).

The Chronicler is recording the genealogies with a theological and political purpose in mind. In this case the Chroniclers larger purpose is concerned with establishing that Israel is still made up of the twelve families of Jacob (John Sailhamer - First and Second Chronicles, p27).

The exact reasons for those specific differences may not be clear. But it does makes sense for there to be differences if the purpose of the genealogy is grander than providing an exact family tree.

A Resolution to the differences?

Purpose of Samuel 1:1

To show that Samuel was born into a Levite family (from Levitcal area of Ephraim).

The General Purpose of the Genealogies in Chronicles

To show that the 12 tribes of Israel were still intact.

1 Chronicles 6:20-29 vs 33-38

The Reference work on this information is James T. Sparks - The Chronicler's Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-9 - the relevant section is available as a preview on Google Books

His conclusions on this section:

  1. Both lists used a common source but were produced for different purposes
  2. The purpose of the first list is to establish Joel and Abijah as levites. Levite lists are structured to place a particular clan (group of families)
  3. The purpose of the second list is to establish Heman, not as a levite but as head of the singers. Singer lists are structured to place a particular family.
  4. The differences in purpose and form (ascending vs descending) probably account for the differences in names
  5. The identical or similar names are in the same order in the two lists
  6. The differences in the spellings of some names can be attributed to scribal errors (see page 102 for the discussion, it requires some knowledge of the Hebrew language)

The purpose of these Genealogies is to establish the legitimacy of those in office within the tribe of Levi. For the Hebrews, the important thing was that they could accurately and reliably show the purposes of these genealogies to be true.

The differences are likely due spelling mistakes, difficult to translate Hebrew and the omission/inclusion of names in order to stay true to the sub-purpose of the specific genealogy (Levite list vs Singer list).

  • I think you have some very good information here. Understanding that would help equip one to arrive at the answer to my question. But this is not an answer to the question itself. That is, you have not applied this general information to this specific case and arrived at relevant conclusions. If you can lay out how this affects our understanding of Samuel's genealogies you'd have an answer. – Joshua Sep 14 '16 at 13:49
  • @Joshua - I did some further reading and have amended my answer. Hopefully that is more satisfying. – L0ckz0r Sep 15 '16 at 1:31
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For some reason, a completely different text appears in the Jewish Publishing Society Tanakh:

1 Chronicles 6:18–20 (Tanakh) Those were the appointed men; and their sons were: the Kohathites: Heman the singer, son of Joel son of Samuel son of Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Eliel son of Toah son of Zuph son of Elkanah son of Mahath son of Amasai


1 Chronicles 6:18–20 (ESV) The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites according to their fathers. Of Gershom: Libni his son, Jahath his son, Zimmah his son

The Jewish Study Bible makes no comment on any kind of discrepancy between the different versions, although the editors tend to be quite studious about that sort of thing. I thought that they might have been appealing to the Septuagint, but this does not seem to be the case:

1 Chronicles 6:18–20 (Brenton LXX)

The sons of Caath; Ambram, and Issaar, Chebron, and Oziel. The sons of Merari; Mooli and Musi: and these are the families of Levi, according to their families. To Gedson—to Lobeni his son—were born Jeth his son, Zammath his son,

Perhaps I am being dense and missing something, but it seems the most reasonable explanation is that certain versions (or at least one version) of the Masoretic Text does not contain the discrepancy.

  • NIV notes have more detail: In Hebrew texts 6:1-15 is numbered 5:27-41, and 6:16-81 is numbered 6:1-66. So what your looking at is actually two different passages that are numbered differently. As you can see the LXX matches the modern translations numbering. – L0ckz0r Sep 15 '16 at 8:12
  • The SBL Handbook has the full list of versification differences on page 173 – L0ckz0r Sep 15 '16 at 8:18

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