SEVEN YEARS OR THREE YEARS OF FAMINE
2 Samuel 24:13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land?
1 Chronicles 21:11-12 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee either THREE years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land…
There are many atheistic, Islamic and Bible Debunker sites on the internet which contain longs lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible.
On one Islamic site listing “101 Clear Contradictions in the Bible” this is number four.
God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?
(a) Seven (2 Samuel 24:13).
(b) Three (1 Chronicles 21:12).
Those Christians who continue to use the modern versions like the NASB, NIV, and NKJV will typically answer these objections in this way which is taken directly from the Apologetics Index.
“It is probably a copyist error and the better preserved text renders the famine as three years — Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.”
Another modern version site by the name of Tecktonic.org Apologetics Ministries has this to say: “Were there seven years of famine offered, or three (per 1 Chronicles 21:11)? Three is the more likely reading, favored by the LXX and by symmetry with the other punishments offered (three months of flight from enemies, three days of plague). Samuel was hit by a copyist error. See our foundational essay on copyist errors for general background. “
So, Samuel was hit by a copyist error, was he? Where was God during this whole process?
Another site that calls itself Rational Christianity – Christian Apologetics, which uses the NKJV has this to say: “This is a copyist error Presumably the correct number is three, since the other choices are threes.
Bible corrector Adam Clark confidently (and mistakenly) affirms: “Shall seven years of famine – In 1 Chronicles 21:12, the number is three, not seven; and here the Septuagint has three, the same as in Chronicles: this is no doubt the true reading.”
John Gill at least offers a reasonable explanation. He writes: “in (1 Chronicles 21:12) , only “three years” are mentioned, and so the Septuagint version here; but Josephus , the Targum, the Syriac and Arabic versions, have the number “seven”… for the reconciling of which let it be observed, that there had been three years of famine already on account of the sin of Saul, (2 Samuel 21:1) ; and in the current year, through the rains not falling in the proper time, the land was barren and unfruitful.. and the sense is, shall there be a continuance of seven years of famine, that is, three more added to what had been?”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown likewise see the simple truth when they comment: “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee–that is, in addition to the three that had been already, with the current year included (see on 1Ch 21:11).”
In 2 Samuel 24: 13 the prophet Gad comes to David and says: “Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land?”
SEVEN years is the reading of the Hebrew text here as the NIV, RSV, NRSV, and ESV footnotes tell us. The reading of THREE YEARS comes from the Greek Septuagint version, but not the Hebrew.
The false reading in 2 Samuel 24:13 of THREE years is found in the NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NEB, Bible in Basic English, The Message, the Holman Standard, and the New Living Translation.
Those versions that agree with the KJB and the Hebrew reading of SEVEN years are: Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Revised Version of 1881, the 1901 ASV, the Jewish translations of 1917, 1936, the Complete Jewish Bible, the Hebrew Names Version, even Daniel Wallace’s NET version, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, the Italian Diodati 1649, Riveduta 1927, the New Diodati 1991, the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910, Ostervald 1996, the Portuguese Almeida, and O Livro 2000, Martin Luther’s German Bible 1545, Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac, the Modern Greek version (not to be confused with the so called LXX), the NASB, Douay, Young’s, NKJV, the New Life Bible, and even the Living Bible and the Amplified bible.
This is really a very simple “contradiction” to solve if one just believes God’s word as found in the King James Bible and takes the time to read it carefully.
Only in the book of 2 Samuel are we told in chapter 21:1 “Then there was a famine in the days of David THREE years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” David then, as requested by the Gibeonites, had seven men of the sons of Saul put to death by hanging in “the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of the barley harvest.” This couldn’t have been much of a harvest because the famine was still in the land. They would then have to wait till next year for a good crop.
Next we read of king David telling Joab to go and number the people of Israel. This census taking seems to have been a vain attempt by David to boast in the power of the flesh. See how stong I am and how many people I command. This was the sin that brought about the threatened judgment of more famine by God.
It is important to see that this numbering of the people took a period of 9 months and 20 days as is noted in 2 Samuel 24:8. “So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.”
So, what we have here is four years of famine that had already preceeded the time when Gad comes to David and says in 2 Samuel 24:13 “Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in the land?”
But when we look at 1 Chronicles, there is no mention of the famine that had already been going on before David numbered the people. There in 1 Chronicles we read: “Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee either THREE years’ famine: or three months to be destroyed before thy foes…or else three days the sword of LORD, even the pestilence…”
So to answer the question: “Were there seven years of famine or only three?”, the correct answer is BOTH. There were seven years of famine altogether; four had already occurred and three more years were threatened as a further judgment.
The King James Bible is right as always.
Not only these two verses are in dispute concerning this event, the price David paid to the man was also a subject of controversy as well.
1 Chronicles 21
24: And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.
25: So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
2 Samuel 24
23: All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.
24: And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
It is obvious the reporting was slightly different and they cover different aspect. One price was for the whole place while the other is for the threshing floor and the oxen. Two different reporters need not report exactly the same way and both are not wrong either.
Bible critics can never learn anything from the Holy Scriptures as they major in criticizing the Scriptures with their fallen mind.