1 Chronicles 19:18
And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians [the men of] seven thousand chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host. (ASV)
II Samuel 10:18 And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the Syrians the men of seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand horsemen..
Opercularis 12:42, 11 Jan 2006 (CST)
PRO notes that we have two verses in the Bible that are similar, but not the same, and Pro makes a critical presumption that they must be describing the same event. From this, Pro then concludes that an error exists. The presumption is not necessarily true. While similar, the verses are uniquely different, enough so for us to assume, contrary to PRO, that they are describing two different events.
Then the Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen of the Syrians, and struck Shobach the commander of their army, who died there. (2 Samuel 10:18)
Then the Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed seven thousand charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians, and killed Shophach the commander of the army. (1 Chronicles 19:18)
The two different accounts tells us thatâ€”
- David killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen of the Syrians (2 Samuel 10)
- David killed seven thousand charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians.â€ (1 Chronicles 19:18)
The accounts differ regarding the number of charioteers killed and one deals with horsemen while the other with foot soldiers. We can conclude that each account is different and each reports different outcomes from the battle. The numbers of charioteers, horsemen, and foot soldiers killed in the battle with Syria and its reinforcements is consistent with the numbers we have with the Ammon/Syrian coalition.
Because neither author provides details about the battle, we have no way of knowing what actually transpired. However, based on the description of the earlier Ammon/Syrian battle, we know it is possible for the Syrians to have split their forces and battled on two fronts. From the results reported, it is not illogical to conclude that the Syrians could have sent their cavalry (horsemen) to attack together with charioteers on one front. This was repulsed by Israel with the loss to the Syrians of â€œseven hundred charioteers and forty thousand horsemen.â€ On a second front, the Syrians could have sent their infantry (foot soldiers) together with charioteers. This also was repulsed by Israel with the loss to the Syrians of â€œseven thousand charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers.â€
There is no reason to presume that both Samuel and Chronicles are recording the same outcome and are, therefore, in conflict. The more natural reading is that the authors of Samuel and Chronicles recorded separate outcomes from the battle between Israel and the Syrians.
Background for understanding the contested passages.
The two passages in which the subject verses appear begin by describing the events leading to a battle between Israel and an Ammon/Syria coalition and later, a battle involving Syria, with Syrian reinforcements. The author of Chronicles deviates from the account in 2 Samuel to add information not recorded in 2 Samuel. For exampleâ€”
When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, the people of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth Rehob and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand foot soldiers; and from the king of Maacah one thousand men, and from Ish-Tob twelve thousand men. (2 Samuel 10:6)
When the people of Ammon saw that they had made themselves repulsive to David, Hanun and the people of Ammon sent a thousand talents of silver to hire for themselves chariots and horsemen from Mesopotamia, from Syrian Maachah, and from Zobah. So they hired for themselves thirty-two thousand chariots, with the king of Maachah and his people, who came and encamped before Medeba. Also the people of Ammon gathered together from their cities, and came to battle. (1 Chronicles 19:6-7)
Where the author of 2 Samuel writes that the people of Ammon hired foot soldiers, the author of 1 Chronicles adds that they also obtained chariots. This is important as PRO points to the number of chariots as a discrepancy. The numbers help to give the reader a sense of the scope of the battle that occurred.
Both accounts agree that Israel was initially attacked from two sides by the Ammon/Syria coalitionâ€”
When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israelâ€™s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, that he might set them in battle array against the people of Ammon. (2 Samuel 10:9-10)
While we know that Israel fought on two fronts, little more is said about the battle. Joab prevails against the Syrians on one front and this leads to retreat by the Ammonites on the second front. We see that the battle against the Ammon/Syrian coalition involved different fronts and the use of different battlefield maneuvers.
Joab returns to Jerusalem after defeating the Ammon/Syrian coalition. The Ammonites retreat and leave the battlefield. The Syrians regroup and call for reinforcements.
On hearing of the threat now posed by the Syrians, David leads Israel back into battle. We are told nothing about this battle. Instead, we are given two accounts of the result of the battle of which PRO claims a contradiction.