Page 8: summer 1992
SQUEEZING FIFTY YEARS INTO TWENTY
No contradictions in the Bible? That's what bibliolaters say, but the facts
say something else.
A simple example of discrepancy can be found in 1 Samuel 7:1-2, which
says that the Ark of the covenant was taken to the village of Kiriath-jearim
and kept in the house of Abinadab for twenty years. Prior to its being
taken to this place, it was captured in battle by the Philistines, who after-
wards began to suffer all sorts of misfortunes, ranging from the mysterious
destruction of a temple idol of their favorite god Dagon to painful tumors that
the people were afflicted with (1 Sam. 5).
To rid themselves of the ark, which they thought was the source of their
problems, the Philistines accepted the counsel of their priests and diviners
who had advised them to send the ark away on a cart pulled by two undriven
milch cows that had never been harnessed to a yoke (1 Sam. 6:1-9). The
wisdom of the priests and diviners was that if the cows took the route to
Bethshemesh, this would be an omen that the evil in their midst had been
caused by the presence of the ark. The cows did indeed pull the cart to
Bethshemesh, where the townsmen rejoiced when they saw the ark (vv:10-
13). Unfortunately, some of them looked inside the ark--an absolute no
no--and Yahweh, in typical fashion, struck them with a "great slaughter"
that killed 50,000 men (v:19).
Understandably frightened by this disaster, the survivors sent a message
to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim asking them to take custody of the ark.
Men were sent to fetch the ark, and when it arrived in Kiriath-jearim, it was
taken to the house of "Abinadab on the hill" (7:1-2), where it remained for
twenty years. Second Samuel 6:1-11 relates how that king David gathered
30,000 "chosen men of Israel" to go to the house of Abinadab on the hill and
transport the ark to Jerusalem. On the way back, Uzzah, one of the drivers
of the cart, touched the ark to steady it when the oxen stumbled, and
Yahweh struck him dead (vv:6-7). Uzzah was a son of Abinadab, who had
conscientiously cared for the ark for twenty years, but, of course, none of
this mattered to Yahweh. Uzzah touched the ark, and apparently because he
wasn't a Kohathite of the priestly tribe of Levi (Num. 3:27-32,38), Yahweh
instantly dispatched him to the nether world for touching a sacred object.
Good intentions just never seemed to matter to the petulant Yahweh, but that
is another story for another time.
The point of this article is that all this may make for a quaint little tale,
but it is a tale with a serious discrepancy in it. The ark was captured by the
Philistines in 1 Samuel 4, well before Saul was made king of Israel in chapter
10. It stayed at the house of Abinadab for twenty years until it was trans-
ported to Jerusalem by David, who was Saul's successor to the throne. Yet
we are told that Saul reigned as king for 40 years (Acts 13:21).
Just how did this happen? How could 40 years pass throughout Israel in
every place except Abinadab's house on the hill at Kiriath-jearim, where
somehow only 20 years went by? On closer scrutiny, the problem is even
worse. David brought the ark to Jerusalem only after he had captured the
city from the Jebusites, who had maintained control all through Saul's reign.
Thus, David had to reign in Hebron for seven years and six months (2 Sam.
5:5) until Jerusalem was captured; then he transported the ark from Abina-
dab's house to the new capital of Israel. So if, as I have noted, at least
some time passed after the ark was captured before Saul was made king, and
then if Saul reigned for 40 years, and then if David reigned for seven and a
half years before the ark was removed from Abinadab's house and taken to
Jerusalem, we must be talking about a span of time equaling almost fifty
years. How could it possibly be true, then, that the ark "abode in Kiriath-
jearim" for twenty years (1 Sam. 7:2)?
The opportunity to write a response to this article, along with a promise
to publish it simultaneously without editorial comment was offered to three
inerrancy spokesmen. None accepted the offer.
"There are Bible scholars, and there are fundamentalists." Ralph Nielsen,
whose letter to Wayne Jackson appears on page 15, attributes this quotation
to Nick Cardell, a Unitarian minister in Syracuse, New York.
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