The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles Part II -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 136:543 (Jul 1979)
Article: The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles Part II
Author: J. Barton Payne


The Validity of the Numbers in Chronicles
Part II

J. Barton Payne

[J. Barton Payne, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.]

In the previous article in this two-part series attention was given to numbered items in Chronicles that are paralleled in other Old Testament passages. This second article discusses the 57.8 percent of the numbers cited in Chronicles that are not paralleled elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is these items which Pfeiffer and others have most sweepingly characterized as “fabricated.”1

Numbers from One to One Thousand

Men find it difficult to fault the Scriptures (and Chronicles) for exaggeration in respect to their small numbers, from one to ten. Likewise, among the medium-sized numbers, from eleven through one thousand, only a few numerals (in the category of “Measures”) have led to questions.

One passage (2 Chron 3:4) concerns dimensions, in cubits, where the Masoretic text states that the porch of Solomon’s Temple was as long as the width of the house, i.e., twenty cubits, “and the height was 120.” The corresponding verse in 1 Kings (6:3) gives the porch’s width rather than its height, whose figure thus remains unique to Chronicles. Such a disproportionate amount, equalling 180 feet, is criticized by Myers as “certainly exaggerated.” He adds,

however, that the “original may have read 20 cubits”2 ; and Curtis and Madsen say that the present, larger number is “universally regarded as a textual corruption.”3 The Masoretic text for the words quoted above is this: וְהַגֹּבַץ אָה וְעֶשְׂרִים. For the last two words a note in Kittel reads אַמּוֹת עֶשְׂרִים, as supported by a number of Greek and Syriac manuscripts.4 The New International Version is thus to be commended for its restored rendering, “twenty cubits high.”

The remaining passages concern weights, figured in shekels or talents. Second Chronicles 3:9 contains a unique observation that within the Temple’s gold-plated holy of holies (its inner shrine) “the weight of the nails was fifty shekels [twenty ounces] of gold.” The critics’ objection, for once, is not of exaggeration, i.e., of too great a weight, but of too little, for the holding in ...

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