Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Self-Harmony of the Bible - 3 (Part Sixteen)

How Many Vessels of Gold and Silver Were There?
            Can Ezra add up numbers? This is the question the skeptic would like us to ask, for he notes that Ezra 1:9-11 just does not add up. There it (NIV) says: “Now this was their [the articles of the house of Jehovah] number: 30 gold dishes, 1,000 silver dishes, 29 duplicates; 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls of a second kind and 1,000 other articles. All the articles of gold and silver numbered 5,400.” Thus we are told that there were 2,499 such vessels by adding the numbers up, or 5,400 by explicit statement. Which is it?
            The skeptic, of course, would not like an answer where the uninspired, though painstakingly copied, manuscripts that we have today are corrupt in these small things. This, however, is the most likely answer. Perhaps the number at the end was garbled, or a small section of text dropped out. There is no contradiction in the biblical text proper, so there is no biblical self-contradiction.

How Many Sacrifices Did Solomon Offer?
            1 Kings 8:5 (NWT) reports: “King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel, who had been summoned to meet with him, were before the Ark. So many sheep and cattle were being sacrificed that they could not be counted or numbered.” So, if this number is indefinite, why does 1 Kings 8:63 (NWT) say: “Solomon offered communion sacrifices to Jehovah: He offered 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the Israelites inaugurate the house of Jehovah?”
            I find that the most likely explanation is that the expression ‘could not be numbered’ is hyperbole.[1] Though, it could be supposed that since verse 5 mentions what Solomon and Israel offered up, the total exceeded what Solomon alone contributed, that is, the 22,000 cattle and the 120,000 sheep. In a similar cases large donors of sacrifices were singled out and their contributions recorded. (2 Chronicles 30:24; 35:7-9). Regardless, there is no contradiction.

[1] Psalm 50:11 (NWT), for example, records God as saying: “I know every bird of the mountains,” but then saying, “The countless animals of the field are mine.” Is he unable to number the animals of the field, but able to count the birds? No, but he just using a common mode of human speech.

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