2 Samuel 24

[9]And Joab gave the number of the registration of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

1 Chronicles 21

[5]Joab gave the number of the census of all the people to David. And all Israel were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword; and Judah was 470,000 men who drew the sword.

This is the same census carried out by king David but the figures don't tally.

How can we reconcile the above texts?

1 Answer 1


The description in Samuel is of 'the inspection of the people . . .800,000 men of valour, drawing sword.' [Young's Literal] or 'the mustering of the people . . . 800,000 mighty men, drawing sword.' [Green's Hebrew Interlinear].

In Chronicles it is 'all Israel - 1,100,000' [Young's Literal] and 'all Israel - 1,100,000'[Green].

In Samuel the word is chayil - 'valiants' [Young]. In Chronicles it is am - 'people' [Young].

It is clear that, with regard to Judah, the figure of 470,000 - quoted in Chronicles - is just those who drew sword, whereas the Samuel number is all of Judah, 500,000.

And it is clear that, with regard to Israel, also, a different thing is being measured, either all the people, in Chronicles, or merely the fighting force, in Samuel.

This difference, regarding Israel, is to be expected by Young's and Green's selective choice of wording 'mustering' and 'inspection', in Samuel, which have a military connotation suitable to the gathering of troops, rather than, in Chronicles, the gathering of the whole populace.

In Switzerland every man has a rifle at home, in a locked cupboard, and in time of war - if that ever happened in Switzerland - the whole male populace would turn out and fight. But as to the proficient, the proven valiant, the actually capable fighting force - well, that would be considerably less.

Thus it was in Israel.

The reason for the different focus is the reason for there being two accounts in the first place - one looking at historical matters from the Israelite perspective; and one from the Judaistic perspective.

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