Friday, September 7, 2018

Is There A Bible Contradiction In Numbers 25:9 And 1 Corinthians 10:8?

         One way that critics attempt to discredit the historical reliability of the Bible is by pointing to both Moses and the Apostle Paul giving seemingly different numbers as to the death toll in a plague. It was a result of God's wrath on Israel for rampant sexual immorality with the Moabite women and offering sacrifices to their idols. This took place when the Jews sojourned at Shittim. The two passages being discussed are quoted as follows:

        "Those who died by the plague were 24,000." (Numbers 25:9)

        "Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day." (1 Corinthians 10:8)

        Paul mentioned four separate occasions in which Israel provoked God to anger through the sins of licentiousness and idolatry. The people put Him to the test. The consequence of actions done by such individuals was death. Thus, we see that the apostle was bringing into mind occasions recorded in the Old Testament showing how God detests sin with the intention of exhorting the Church of Corinth to depart from sinful lifestyles.

        The lessons being taught here are of much greater importance than knowing the precise number of Jews who died in the Baal Peor incident. Moreover, it is not true that the two statements on the number of deaths that differ by one thousand are irreconcilable. The Apostle Paul was emphasizing the solemn nature of God and His intolerance of sin. Notice especially the words which follow after he says 23,000 fell in one day:

        "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:11-14)

        According to John Gill's Exposition of the Bible:

        " ( Numbers 25:9 ) the number said to be "twenty and four thousand": and so say all the three Targums on the place F23, and both the Talmuds F24 and others {y}; on the other hand, all the Greek copies of this epistle, and the Oriental versions, agree in the number of twenty and three thousand; so that it does not appear to be any mistake of copies, in either Testament."

        According to Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible:

        "Three and twenty thousand - The Hebrew text in Numbers 25:9, is twenty-four thousand. In order to reconcile these statements, it may be observed that perhaps 23,000 fell directly by the plague, and 1,000 were slain by Phinehas and his companions (Grotius); or it may be that the number was between 23,000 and 24,000, and it might be expressed in round numbers by either - Macknight. At all events, Paul has not exceeded the truth."

        According to the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

        "[three and twenty thousand] In Numbers 25:9 we find 24,000. The actual number would no doubt be between the two, so that both here and in the book of Numbers only round numbers are given. “Our Apostle saith not definitely three and twenty thousand perished, but three and twenty thousand at the least.” Lightfoot."

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