How Many Years of Famine Were Threatened to David, Seven or Three?

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Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning how many years of famine were threatened to David. The argument is that 2 Samuel 24:13 says that David was threatened with seven years of famine, but 1 Chronicles 21:11-12 says that David was threatened with three years of famine. However, there are at least two possible explanations for this alleged contradiction ion the Bible.

Scriptures – How Many Years of Famine Were Threatened to David, Seven or Three?

David Was Threatened With Seven Years of Famine – 2 Samuel 24:13

So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”

2 Samuel 24:13

David Was Threatened With Three Years of Famine – 1 Chronicles 21:11-12

11 So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will: 12 either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”

1 Chronicles 21:11-12

The Answer – How Many Years of Famine Were Threatened to David, Seven or Three?

Here are two possible explanations for the supposed discrepancy between 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:11-12:

  1. David could have prayed for mercy, which led to a shortening of the number of years
  2. There could have been a copyist error

1. The Number of Years Could Have Shortened

In 2 Samuel 24:13, David is ”’asked”’ concerning which option he will choose. In 1 Chronicles 21:11-12, David is ”’told to choose” which option he will take.

Although Scripture does not say this explicitly, it is possible that after David is asked concerning which option he will choose, he prays for mercy, after which a new offer was made, which was three years of famine instead of seven years.

2. There Could Have Been a Copyist Error

Another option is that there could have been a copyist error. The better-preserved text is 1 Chronicles 21:11-12, so if the discrepancy is the result of a copyist error, the correct reading is more likely to be three years.1

Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties

There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.

More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible

To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.

These books are also excellent resources:

  1. Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, ”The Bible Knowledge Commentary”, Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press Publications, 1985. []

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