|Problems with the Old Testament|
Two Different Creation stories (Back to Contents)
A close examination of Genesis chapters 1 and will show that there are in fact two different Creation myths recorded. The first, which begins at Genesis 1:1 and ends at Genesis 2:3, has Creation partitioned into six days, with various classes of beings and objects created on each day. The second story, which begins at Genesis 2:4, does not mention the six days at all, and seems to reverse the order of creation for some species.
In Genesis 1, Man and Woman are created together on the sixth day (1:26-27), following the creation of the animals. In the second story, however, a single man, Adam, is created after the plants and placed in the Garden to dress it. (2:4-8). However, the man was lonely. In order to provide companions for him, the animals are created and brought to Adam (2:18-19). After naming all the animals, a companion is still not found for Adam, so God creates a woman (Eve) out of one of Adam's ribs (2:20-23).
The order of creation, according to Genesis 1, is therefore plants (1:12), Sun, Moon and stars (1:16), sea and air creatures (1:21), land animals (1:25) and humans (1:27). In Genesis 2, the order of creation is plants (2:5), the man Adam (2:7), animals (2:19) and finally the female Eve (2:22).
Another feature that distinguishes the two stories may provide a clue to their origin. In the first story, the Deity is always called by the Hebrew Elohim (usually translated God), while the second story uses the name Yahweh Elohim (translated Lord God in the King James Version). It appears that the first story was written by someone who used only the generic term for God, while the second was written by someone who used God's personal name (Yahweh). This feature is actually repeated a number of times in the Old Testament.
How many animals did Noah take into the Ark? (Back to Contents)
In Genesis 6, Noah is instructed to take two each (male and female) of all animals onto the ark:
In the next chapter, however, the instructions are different:
How many languages were there after the Flood? (Back to Contents)
In Genesis 10, the Bible describes how the lands were divided up among Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth after the Flood. Note that they were divided by their language:
However, when the next chapter begins with the story of the tower of Babel, we find that the entire earth actually speaks one language only:
Were Abraham and Lot related? (Back to Contents)
In Genesis 14, Lot is referred to as Abraham's nephew:
Just two verses later, however, Lot becomes Abraham's brother.
How many sons did Abraham have? (Back to Contents)
According to the Old Testament, Isaac, Abraham's son, had an older brother called Ishmael.
In several places in the Old Testament, however, Isaac is referred to as Abraham's only son:
What happened to Ishmael? According to the Bible, he was still part of Abraham's family until the day that Abraham died:
One possible answer to the problem concerns the meaning of the word translated "only" in the King James Version. This is the Hebrew word yachiyd. Although derived from a root word that means "one", the word has a secondary meaning of "beloved", or "favored".
The Septuagint appears to support this view, using the Greek word agapatos ("beloved") to translate yachiyd in Genesis 22.
On the other hand, when the word is used in conjunction with "son" or "daughter", it generally means "only child".
Supporting this view, and in contrast to the Septuagint, the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews used the Greek word monogenes ("only-born") to translate yachiyd.
Who sold Joseph to Potiphar? (Back to Contents)
In Genesis 37, Joseph is sold as a slave to the Egyptian Potiphar by a group of Midianites.
Just two chapters later, however, the Bible seems a little confused about the identity of Joseph's captors.
Did Abraham know God's Name? (Back to Contents)
When God appeared to Moses in Egypt, he gave him some information about his personal name, Jehovah.
However, there can be no doubt that Abraham and Jacob, at least, did address God by his personal name:
How long were the Israelites in Egypt? (Back to Contents)
At the beginning of the Exodus story, the Israelites were said to have been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years.
The sixth chapter of Exodus gives a genealogy of Moses which seems to contradict this statement.
Levi, of course, was one of Jacob's sons, who relocated to Egypt with his father.
This marks the beginning of the Egyptian sojourn. Since Kohath had already been born before Jacob moved to Egypt (Genesis 46:11), we can start the count from his birth, if we assume that he was an infant when he arrived in Rameses.
According to the book of Exodus, Moses was eighty years old when the Exodus began.
The maximum amount of time that the Israelites spent in Egypt, according to Exodus chapter six, would therefore have been one hundred and thirty-seven years for the life of Kohath, one hundred and thirty-three years for the life of Amram, and another eighty years to the point of Moses' calling, for a total of three hundred and fifty years. This is almost eighty years short of the total given in Exodus 12:40.
Why was God angry with Balaam? (Back to Contents)
Numbers 22 records the story of Balaam, the Canaanite prophet, who was called by Balak, the Moabite king, to curse the Israelites. It appears that something has gone wrong with the retelling of this story, however, because as it stands it makes very little sense.
Throughout the story, Balaam appears as a God-fearing man, and does only as he is told.
Balak sends one delegation to Balaam, to ask him to curse the Israelites.
Balaam decides to seek God's counsel, and is told not to go with the men.
Balaam obeys, and sends the Moabites away the next morning. Balak refuses to give up, however, and sends a second delegation to Balaam.
Again Balaam seeks God's advice. This time he is told to go with the men, and await further instructions.
Again, Balaam obeys. But the next morning, a very strange thing happens.
Incredibly, God is now angry with Balaam. It is very difficult to see why, because all this time, Balaam has simply followed God's orders. Note that the text specifically states that God was angry because Balaam had gone with the Moabites, and yet this was precisely what he commanded.
How long was the ark in Kiriath-Jearim? (Back to Contents)
After the ark of the covenant was recovered from the Philistines, it was placed in a town called Kiriath-Jearim for safekeeping. According to the book of first Samuel, the ark spent twenty years in this town.
The ark was recovered from Kiriath-Jearim by David, and brought to Jerusalem. This event is recorded in the book of second Samuel.
(Baalah was another name for Kiriath-Jearim, according to Joshua 15:9, and the parallel account in I Chronicles 13:5-7.)
The problem with this chronology is that David only became king more than forty years after the ark was taken to Kiriath-Jearim. The ark was captured by the Philistines before Saul became king of Judah (I Samuel 10:24). According to Acts 13:21, Saul reigned for forty years, when he was succeeded by David. It was only some time after his succession to the throne that David retrieved the ark. Thus, the ark had to have been in Kiriath-Jearim for forty years at the very least, and probably longer. Why does the Bible then say that the ark spent only twenty years in the town?
How many sons did Jesse have? (Back to Contents)
In first Samuel 16, David is said to be Jesse's eighth and youngest son.
In first Chronicles, however, David is listed as Jesse's seventh son.
When did Saul meet David? (Back to Contents)
The book of first Samuel, chapter 16, records that David was brought to Saul to soothe his depression through his music. Saul was impressed with the young David, and gave him a position of high honor:
Curiously, in the very next chapter, Saul appears to have no idea who David is.
It has been argued that Saul was simply asking who David's father was, presumably in order to honor him in some manner. However, in the previous chapter, the Bible claims that Saul had personal correspondence with Jesse, David's father.
Who killed Goliath? (Back to Contents)
The story of David and Goliath is one of the most famous in the Bible. The first book of Samuel records how David killed the giant, Goliath of Gath.
Curiously, however, the Old Testament records another battle, in which Goliath the Gittite was slain yet again:
(The words 'the brother of' were added by the King James Translators in a very transparent attempt to get around the problem).
Who tempted David? (Back to Contents)
In second Samuel, the Bible relates that David was incited to conduct a census of the Israelites.
In the parallel account of first Chronicles, the story is a little different.
The discrepancy is significant - second Samuel dates from a time before the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, and then to Persia. First Chronicles dates from some time after the Jews returned from Persia. The concept of Satan as a powerful adversary of God did not exist in Judaism prior to the Exile. There was a similar being in the Persian religion, however. The high God, Ahura-Mazda was opposed by a powerful, evil being known as Ahriman, or Angra-Mainyu. It appears that this concept was assimilated into the Jewish religion, where it grew into the Satan of the New Testament.
When did Baasha die? (Back to Contents)
In first Kings, Baasha, king of Israel, dies in the twenty-sixth year of Asa, king of Judah, and is succeeded by his son Elah.
Strangely enough, in the book of second Chronicles, we find Baasha conducting a campaign against Judah ten years after his death.
Did Asa remove the high places? (Back to Contents)
While recounting the reign of good king Asa, the first book of Chronicles lists the removal of the "high places" as one of his accomplishments.
The "high places" are thought to be shrines to the ancient Canaanite gods, Baal, El or Asherah. In the parallel account of Asa's deeds in first Kings, the situation is a little different.
Did Asa remove the ancient shrines or not?
Jehoram and Jehoram (Back to Contents)
At one time during the chronology of the kings of Judah and Israel, there were two kings with the same name (Jehoram) who reigned at roughly the same time. (Some modern translations use Joram for one of the kings to aid clarity). It seems that this situation caused no end of confusion for the Old Testament chronologers, because a close examination of the text will reveal that it is basically impossible to determine when either of them began to reign, or even who preceded whom.
The first text seems straightforward enough. We are told that Jehoshaphat died, and his son Jehoram succeeded him:
While Jehoram, son of Jehosphaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram (or Joram) son of Ahab was king of Israel (i.e. the Northern Kingdom):
The Bible states that Joram became king in the eighteenth year of Jehoshapahat, the father of Jehoram. Since Jehoshaphat reigned for twenty-five years (I Kings 22:42), this seems to indicate that Joram preceded Jehoram by about seven or eight years. However, the Bible seems to indicate a different situation:
This is curious. According to this verse, Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat was already king of Judah when Joram, son of Ahab, began his reign. This is in apparent conflict with II Kings 3:1, which states that Joram became king when Jehoshaphat was still alive.
The usual solution to the problem is to propose a co-regency between Jehoshaphat and his son, Jehoram. This theory states that Jehoram shared the kingdom with his father, and thus there were two kings reigning in Judah at the same time.
To make this theory work, then, we will assume that the year that Joram ascended to the throne was at the same time the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat (II Kings 3:1) and the second year of Jehoram (II Kings 1:17). This would then mean that Jehoram started his coregency in the seventeenth year, at the latest, of his father, Jehoshaphat's, reign.
There are two problems with this approach, however. First, the Bible states that Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, reigned for eight years:
If Jehoram indeed started his reign in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat, and since Jehoshaphat reigned twenty-five years (I Kings 22:42), this would mean that Jehoram's reign ended at about the same time, or earlier than did his father's. It is therefore improbable that Jehoram could have succeeded his father, as claimed by both I Kings 22:50 and II Chronicles 21:1.
The second problem is even more intractable. The Bible indicates in yet another place that Joram, son of Ahab, was already king when Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, began to reign:
It should be obvious by now that there is no way to reconcile the various statements made about the reigns of Jehoram and Joram, and we are left with an unbridgeable gap in the chronology of the kings.
How old was Ahaziah? (Back to Contents)
Ahaziah, son of Jehoram, king of Judah, was forty-two years old when he began his reign.
Azahiah's father, Jehoram, reigned for eight years, beginning at the age of thirty-two.
This means that Jehoram was forty years old when he died, and was succeeded by his son Ahaziah, who was forty-two at the time. Thus, Ahaziah was two years older than his father.
The parallel account in II Kings makes more sense.
Did Jehu do right in God's eyes? (Back to Contents)
Soon after being anointed king of Israel, Jehu engaged in a killing spree in Jezreel, directed against the descendants of king Ahab.
According to the Bible, this act of mass murder was commanded by God himself.
Although Jehu was not a good king by God's standards (II Kings 10:31), it appears that Yahweh still approved of his obedience.
However, it appears that God changed his mind, because we find this curious statement in another book of the Old Testament.
Why was God going to avenge Jezreel by punishing the house of Jehu, if Jehu only did that which God commanded him? Is it not more likely that what we see here is simply a case of God being invoked to support partisan politics?
Where did Josiah die? (Back to Contents)
According to the book of Second Kings, Josiah was killed in battle with the king of Egypt at Megiddo. His body was carried to Jerusalem, where he was buried.
In the parallel account in II Chronicles, however, we find that Josiah was still alive when he left the battlefield at Megiddo.
The Greatest King? (Back to Contents)
King Hezekiah earned a place in Biblical history as the most righteous of all the Kings of Judah. In fact, the Bible specifically states that there was no king before or after Hezekiah who equaled him in following God's commandments.
Unfortunately, Hezekiah was not the only king to earn this distinction.
Note that Josiah is also said to be unequalled in his obedience to God. It should be fairly obvious that II Kings 18:6 and II Kings 23:25 are mutually exclusive.
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