II Samuel 8:4 compared with I Chronicles 18:4, and II Samuel 10:18 compared with I Chronicles 19:18
Why is there a discrepancy between the number of “horsemen” in II Samuel 8:4 compared with I Chronicles 18:4, and then also between the number of men slain in II Samuel 10:18 compared with I Chronicles 19:18?
II Samuel 8:4 and I Chronicles 18:4
4 And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David hocked all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots. (II Samuel 8:4)
18 And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven thousand horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: David also hocked all the chariot horses, but reserved of them an hundred chariots. (I Chronicles 18:4)
The difference between the 700 horsemen and the 7000 horsemen is attributed to the fact that the Chronicles account is taking into account the total number of horsemen that David took from Hadadezer after David had dealt with Hadadezer’s complete exploits at the Euphrates river. And the reason why I say Hadadezer’s complete exploits is because there is a notable difference between what II Samuel 8:3 says that Hadadezer was doing “at the river Euphrates” and what I Chronicles 18:3 says that he was doing there.
As II Samuel says, he “went to recover his border at the river Euphrates.” But in I Chronicles it says that he “went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates.” The difference may not seem that great, but militarily-speaking it can be descriptive of two aspects of a campaign, with the I Chronicles account being the total result after David dealt with the two aspects of Hadadezer’s campaign.
The first aspect of Hadadezer’s campaign was to attempt “to recover his border at the river Euphrates,” which is what II Samuel specifically records. This naturally would have been the major aspect of his campaign, which would have been brought to a halt, so to speak, when David “smote” him and took from him “a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen.”
But that would not have been all of Hadadezer’s army. For militarily-speaking he would have had troops in reserve for various purposes, including mounting another offensive if things went bad. And things did go bad for him.
Wherefore based upon what I Chronicles 18:3 says about him attempting to “stablish his dominion,” his campaign included mounting another offensive. This additional offensive involved sending in a great number of “horsemen” by which he hoped to “stablish his dominion” after having lost it to David in the first offensive. But this attempt also failed, with an additional 6300 “horsemen” being taken by David, seeing that I Chronicles now says that “seven thousand horsemen” were taken by David.
Therefore it only looks like there is a discrepancy between II Samuel 8:4 and I Chronicles 18:4. And it only looks like there is a discrepancy because we have the tendency to assume that the two accounts are just duplicate accounts and that therefore they should say the exact same thing. But this is not the case. Instead the Samuel/Kings account and the Chronicles account are two distinct accounts, which look at and describe things from two separate perspectives.
Now as has been pointed out in previous ETB Quarterly articles, this issue of looking at and describing things from two different perspectives, (or in two different ways), is what we need to take into account when we deal with the information in the Samuel/Kings and Chronicles accounts.
Accordingly we need to pay close attention to exactly what is recorded in the immediate, near, and remote contexts of each account. For the contexts in each account supply pertinent information that has a direct bearing upon why one account will say one thing and the other something else, even when they are dealing with the same subject.
Very simply put what we need to understand first and foremost is that the Samuel/Kings account and the Chronicles account are two separate and different accounts; and God has designed them to be so. As such the Samuel/Kings account comes first, with it being more or less purely historical in its rendering and reckoning, as it follows the arrival of, and development of, the contracted Courses of Punishment of the Law in Israel’s history. However the Chronicles account views the history and its events from the Divine viewpoint, and as such provides a particular type of commentary to the history that is significant in a number of ways.
In view of this it makes sense for the Chronicles account to differ in some of its details, seeing that God can reckon time, generations, royal lines, and the like, differently than man does; especially if man is either ignoring or unable to reckon things as God does, and so is handicapped when it comes to perceiving things properly from God’s perspective.
Needless to say, therefore, it can require a patient and careful detailed examination of all of the recorded details in each account to begin to come to grips with all that was going on at a particular time in Israel’s history and to realize the effects of it all. Add to this the reasons that God has for having two separate and distinct accounts of the ‘kingdom-time’ in His nation’s history, and it should be clear that differences in the accounts are going to exist.
But the differences do not exist because of careless record-keeping, scribal errors, or anything like that. Instead differences exist because the two accounts serve two distinct purposes in God’s testimony, which requires at times differing, (not contradictory at all, but actually complimentary), information to be presented, and differing systems of reckoning being used.
The ‘supposed problems’ only exist, (1) if we assume that the two accounts are supposed to be identical; (2) if we ignore the fact that some times the situations in Samaria and Judah demand the need to talk, for example, about a certain king’s reign with respect to two different ages or periods of duration; and (3) if we ignore the fact that God has a significant reason for having two distinct accounts of the ‘kingdom-time’ in Israel’s program, which makes it so that He wants the reign of certain rulers, and other such matters, to be looked at from two different perspectives.
When we do not do these kind of things then we can dismiss the idea of contradictions or mistakes in the two accounts, and we can replace it with solid understanding.
Let’s now look at the other apparent discrepancy.
II Samuel 10:18 and I Chronicles 19:18
18 And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shobach the captain of their host, who died there. (II Samuel 10:18)
18 But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shophach the captain of the host. (I Chronicles 19:18)
Complimentary information is also involved in explaining the reason why these two verses differ in their reckoning. However there is also the issue of a common false assumption that causes people to think that there is an error here.
First note the common false assumption. In II Samuel it says “David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians,” while in I Chronicles it says “David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots.” The assumption is that there was only one man per chariot, therefore there should only be seven hundred men slain.
But this is a false assumption, which is not only borne out by the testimony of the Scriptures in other places, but by secular history itself. For the militaries of many nations using chariots typically had several men per chariot, including 10 men per chariot, and some times even more. In fact later on we are told that Solomon’s armies had ten horses assigned to each of the chariots, which indicates that he used the 10 men per chariot system.
So with the false assumption of one man per chariot dismissed, it is easy to see that when II Samuel says “David slew the men of seven hundred chariots” this does not tell us exactly how many men were slain. It just says that all the men who were associated with those 700 chariots were slain.
However the Chronicles account does relate the number of the chariot men who were slain. For it says that “David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots.” So as was commonly the case, the Syrians had several men assigned to each chariot. And since David slew 7000 of the men who fought in chariots, and there were 700 chariots, then there were 10 men per chariot. With this, once again, the Chronicles account compliments the Samuel/Kings account.
The same is true with respect to the “forty thousand horsemen” in II Samuel, and the “forty thousand footmen” in I Chronicles. This too is designed to be taken as complimentary, as the surrounding context to each verse shows.
For example, as II Samuel 10:6 relates, the children of Ammon “hired” certain Syrian “footmen” and other men for the battle. But as I Chronicles 19:6–7 also relate, the children of Ammon also sent and hired “chariots and horsemen” from Syria, as well as from other places.
So then when it comes to tallying up the full account of the battle, there is the need between the two accounts to deal with both the “horsemen” and the “footmen.” And this is what both accounts do when they are allowed to compliment each other and thereby supply the full reckoning.
– K.R. Blades