|King David's Census
Joseph Francis Alward
May 8, 1998
|King David ordered his captains to take a
census, but the biblical accounts of the results are controversial,
differing by hundreds of thousands from one Old Testament book to the
other. This brief essay will describe this problems in more detail.
"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people." (2 Samuel 24:1-2)
"And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword ; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men." (2 Samuel 24:9)
Samuel qualifies "men who drew
sword" with the word "valiant", which some
inerrantists claim doesn't mean "brave" at all; it means "professional".
Thus, Israel numbered 800,000 professional swordsmen, plus 300,000
ordinary men with swords, which Chronicles includes within the group of
all swordsmen. Samuel, the inerrantists claim, simply chose not
to tell us about the extra 300,000 swordsmen because they were in a
separate category of swordsmen. All of this, of course, just exists in
the imagination of the biblical apologist; there is zero evidence to
support such a conjecture, unless one counts as evidence the
inerrantists' faith that an explanation exists for every conceivable
allegation of biblical contradiction.
The serious discrepancies between the two different stories of the census taken by King David makes one suspect that the authors of the two different Old Testament books were not using the same sources when they wrote their stories. Thus, at least one of the accounts was not inspired, perhaps both.