ABC:2 Samuel 8

From BibleStrength

Verse 4

RationalWiki lists the following as a contradiction with the headline "How many horsemen did David capture?" and makes the following comments (italicized):[1]

When horses and chariots are involved, this ten-fold distinction appears repeatedly. (cp. 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18; 2 Chronicles 9:25 and 1 Kings 4:26) However, a comparison of 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chronicles 19:18 reveals the key distinction: there are seven thousand men who fight in the chariots, but only seven hundred chariots/chariot drivers; or in other words a 10:1 ratio. Similarly in 2 Chronicles 9:25 and 1 Kings 4:26 there are "four thousand stalls for horses AND chariots" but "forty thousand stalls OF horses for his chariots."

To a degree, the misunderstanding is caused by translating from ancient Hebrew into modern English; in 2 Chronicles 9:25 and 1 Kings 4:26 there are actually two different Hebrew words being translated equally as "chariots" by the KJV, merkab and merkabah. Whereas merkab is elsewhere translated as "saddle" or "covering" the other two times it is translated in the KJV, merkabah is always translated by the KJV as 'chariot' in all 44 cases where it is used in the Old Testament.[2] Thus, 1 Kings 4:26 should mention forty thousand stalls of chariot horse saddles, whereas 2 Chronicles 9:25 should mention there are four thousand stalls of chariots themselves.

Furthermore, the Old Testament Hebrew manuscripts were originally written without punctuation (which ancient Hebrew lacked), which can allow for mistranslations into English; see e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls.[3] In 2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4, there were seven hundred charioteers operating the charioteers, but seven thousand chariot horsemen, many if not all of whom likely rode on the horses pulling on the chariots. As Dr. Peter Ruckman concludes, "Obviously, the Syrians have ten horsemen per chariot. Observe exactly the same thing comparing 2 Samuel 10:18 and 1 Chron. 19:18; ten men per chariot."[4] This is a so-called contradiction whose solution emerges only after carefully comparing all three sets of six passages carefully. In two of the three, the context/wording makes clear what is going on; which allows for resolving the final set (2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4).

Verse 17

The ReasonProject lists the following as a Bible contradiction with the headline "Was Abiathar the father or the son of Ahimelech?"[5]


Reading 1 Samuel 21 and 22 in context clearly shows that Ahimelech the priest, the son of Ahitub, was the father of Abiathar. What happened was that David while fleeing from Saul went to Ahimelech the priest, who had the sword of Goliath who David had earlier killed. David asked for it, was given Goliath's sword, and Ahimelech gave David the priest's holy bread for his journey (as later mentioned by Jesus in Mark 2:25-26). However, Doeg the Edomite, one of Saul's servants, was there and saw the whole thing, and told Saul what happened.

An enraged Saul then had Ahimelech's whole family slaughtered, 85 priests, at the hand of Doeg, with one exception - Abiathar, one of Ahimelech's children, managed to escape. Abiathar fled to David for protection and served David in the role of priest, later carrying the Ark of the Covenant. (2 Samuel 15:29) However, Abiathar fell out of favor with Solomon later on and was removed from office for supporting Solomon's older brother, in an apparent claim to the throne. (1 Kings 2:26-27) Naturally the critic was doubtless aware that the accounts show Abiathar was the son of Ahimelech, they just ask a rhetorical question to imply there is a contradiction.

Ahimelech Returns

As seen from the Interlinear (original Hebrew text overlaying the English), Ahimelech is mentioned first as Abiathar's father in 1 Samuel 21-30, but after 2 Samuel 8 begins getting mentioned as the son of Abiathar. Thus a strong possibility is that Abiathar just named his son Ahimelech after the father who had been murdered by Saul.

Chronologies of David's life show that somewhere from 15-30 years passed between the time Ahimelech, Abiathar's father was killed in 1 Samuel 22, and the period in 2 Samuel 8:17/1 Chronicles 24 where Ahimelech is now mentioned as alive and the son of Abiathar.[6] 2 Samuel 2:11 mentions David reigning 7.5 years over Judah during part of this time. 2 Samuel 5:4 mentions that David was 30 years old when he began reigning and that he reigned 33 years. At any rate, 15-30 years is enough time for Abiathar to have had a son who became a priest like his father and grandfather (in those days, priesthood was restricted to the Levites, one of Israel's tribes, so it was a family profession). The following is the Interlinear for all passages where Ahimelech's name is mentioned in the Bible:

2 Samuel 8:17 Controversial

Furthermore, the 2 Samuel 8:17 passage is controversial since some older manuscripts transpose the names, mentioning Abiathar as the son of Ahimelech rather than the other way around.


Given the extensive time difference between the passages where Abiathar is mentioned as the son of Ahimelech, and the passages where Ahimelech is mentioned as the son of Abiathar, it's quite possible Abiathar just had a son named Ahimelech in honor of his murdered father.


  1. RationalWiki Editors (2019). "Biblical Contradictions." RationalWiki.
  2. Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius (2019). "Merkab." BibleStudyTools.
    Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius (2019). "Merkabah." BibleStudyTools.
  3. Shaw, B. (2011, November 1). "Punctuating the Bible." The Aquila Report.
  4. Kinney, W. (2019). "2 Samuel 8:4 -- 700 Horsemen Or 1 Chronicles 18:4 -- 7,000 Horsemen?" Baalam's Ass.
  5. Marlow, Andy (2009). Contradictions in the Bible. Project Reason.
  6. TimeLine of King David.
  7. The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database (2010). 2 Samuel 8. BibleSoft, inc.