The Chronology Of Saul And David -- By: Leslie McFall

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 53:3 (Sep 2010)
Article: The Chronology Of Saul And David
Author: Leslie McFall


The Chronology Of Saul And David

Leslie Mcfall

Leslie McFall resides at 25 Hillfield Road, Cumberton, Cambridgeshire, England CB23 7DB.

I. Introduction

The lives of David and Saul hold a fascination for human beings of all ages. The story of David and Goliath and of Saul’s spear embedded in the wall as David ducked to avoid it on two occasions has inspired painters, musicians, and artists of all kinds down through the centuries and is part of our childhood memories. But just how old was David when he slew Goliath? Sometimes he is presented as a lad of 15 or 16 years of age, sometimes even younger (Josephus says he was “still a boy in age”), to give greater glory to God. Is it possible to draw up a chronology of Saul and David, so that we can get a clearer, historical perspective on the lives of these two influential men? I think we can, and surprisingly, the pivotal clue is contained in the enigmatic statement in 1 Sam 13:1, the only chronological statement relating to Saul’s life in the OT.

1. The enigma of 1 Samuel 13:1. The New Revised Standard Version (1995) reads: “Saul was . . . b years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for . . . and two c years over Israel.” The footnote b reads: “The number is lacking in the Heb text (the verse is lacking in the Septuagint).” Footnote c reads: “Two is not the entire number; something has dropped out.”1 The English Standard Version (2001) reads much the same. Some put the entire verse (with lacunae dots) in square brackets, such as The New American Bible (1970) and The Moffatt Translation of the Bible (1964). Some leave out the verse altogether, by replacing it with lacunae dots, such as The Jerusalem Bible (1968). Others try to make sense of the verse, such as the RV (1884), “Saul was [thirty] years old when he began to reign; and he reigned two years over Israel.” The footnote reads: “The Hebrew text has Saul was a year old. The whole verse is omitted in the unrevised Sept., but in a later recension the number thirty is inserted.”2 The New International Version (1979) reads: “Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over

Israel for forty-two years.” The NIV’s first footnote supports this reading with the justification: “A few late manuscripts of the Septuagint; Hebrew does not have thirty.”

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