In 1 Samuel 13:1 (BPT09)

Saul era de meia-idade, quando se tornou rei de Israel e reinou cerca de vinte anos.

which translates to

Saul was middle-aged when he became king of Israel and reigned for about twenty years.

Clearly this conflicts with Acts 13:21 (BPT09)

Então o povo pediu um rei e Deus deu-lhes Saul, filho de Quis, da tribo de Benjamim, que reinou quarenta anos.

which translates to

Then the people asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned forty years.

I've checked some English translations and they all have the same in Acts 13:21. Yet in 1 Samuel 13:1, some don't have that exact verse, others say 42 years and NASB 1977 has 32 years.

Wikipedia quoting from Israel Finkelstein (2006) The Last Labayu: King Saul and the Expansion of the First North Israelite Territorial Entity

According to the Hebrew text of the Bible Saul reigned for two years, but scholars generally agree that the text is faulty and that a reign of twenty or twenty-two years is more probable.

  • 1
    Wow- Why do English translations say 42 = שְׁתֵּ֣י Shtei ? [1 Shmuel 13:1] says: "Saul was a year in his reign, and he reigned two years over Israel. ( בֶּן־שָׁנָ֖ה שָׁא֣וּל בְּמָלְכ֑וֹ וּשְׁתֵּ֣י שָׁנִ֔ים מָלַ֖ךְ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל ) Mar 26 at 19:24

1 Sam 13:1 is problematic because the Hebrew text is clearly missing something. Indeed, my ESV has this:

Saul was ... years old when he began to reign, and when he had reigned ... and two years over Israel

Both the Grammar and the text suggest that there are two gaps as shown above. The NIV has the following

Saul was [thirty] years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel [forty-] two years. - with footnote that the supplied words are not in the MT

The BSB has:

Saul was thirty years old(a) when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.(b) - with footnotes (a) A few late LXX manuscripts; MT Saul was a son of a year (b) Or over Israel forty years  (see Acts 13:21); MT over Israel two years

The NRSV has:

Saul was ... years old when he began to reign, and when he had reigned ... and two years over Israel - with footnote, "two" is not the entire number, something > has dropped out

The LXX does not have this verse at all!

Thus, the best we can doo is to attempt reconstruct the text based on the obviously round number reported in Acts 13:21 where Saul is said to have reigned for 40 years. The Cambridge commentary summaries the problem thus:

  1. Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel] The Hebrew cannot be thus translated. It is the common formula for denoting the age of a king at his accession, and the length of his reign. See 2 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 14:21, &c. We must render, “Saul was [ ] years old when he began to reign, and reigned [ ] and two years over Israel.” Either the numbers were wanting in the original document, or they have been accidentally lost. 30 is supplied in the first place by some MSS. of the Sept., and is a plausible conjecture.

New American Standard Bible 1 Samuel 13:1

Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty-two years over Israel.

The words "thirty" and "forty" are not in the original Hebrew.

Berean Literal Bible Acts 13:21

Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

King James Bible is not as definite about the 40 years:

And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.

Gills explains them this way:

The Jews are very much divided about the years of Saul's reign, some allow him but two years (x), and others three, one year that he reigned with Samuel, and two by himself (y), which they conclude from 1 Samuel 13:1 but others (z) think this too short a time for the things done by him, the wars he fought with many nations, and his persecution of David from place to place; wherefore others (a) allow him, some seventeen, and others twenty years; but our apostle ascribes forty years to him, which must be understood both of him and Samuel; with which Josephus (b) agrees, who says that he reigned eighteen years, during Samuel's life, and twenty two years after his death, ...

That explains the 40 years in Acts.

from the beginning of Saul's kingdom, or from the time that he was anointed by Samuel the prophet, until the kingdom was renewed to him by all Israel, was one year, and then Saul chose three thousand men out of Israel after that he reigned two years by the consent of all Israel, until he sinned in the business of the Amalekites, and then he was accounted as a dead man, and the years of his reign were not numbered; at which time David was anointed

That explains the 2 years in 1 Samuel 13:1.

(x) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 13. p. 37. Juchasin, fol. 11. 1. Kabbala, R. Abraham, &c.
(y) T. Bab. Temura, fol. 15. 1.
(z) R. Levi ben Gersom & R. Isaiah in 1 Samuel 13.1.
(a) Shalsheleth Hakabala, fol. 8. 1.
(b) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 14. sect. 9.

How long did Saul reign for?

This is a messy one depending on how one interprets "reign". By our modern standard, a reign of twenty to twenty-two years is reasonable.

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