Some Facts in the Bible Bother Me - Example: 2 Chronicles 7:5

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by Ed Walsh, Jan 30, 2019.

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  1. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior


    I am a civil construction estimator by trade, so these lines of reasoning often come to mind. I have to admit that I am occasionally baffled by numbers in the Bible, and 2 Chronicles 7:5 was on my reading schedule this morning. How are we to take facts as I present this one below? I am not saying I disbelieve the information as much as I don't know how to understand this and like accounts. Can I get some help here?

    Consider and please fact-check my numbers.

    2 Chronicles 7:4 [ESV] sais, "King Solomon offered a sacrifice of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. Thus the king and all the people dedicated the house of God."

    Verse 8 says, "for the dedication of the altar they observed seven days"

    In my calculations below I will assume 7 x 24 hour days, although I doubt that the sacrifices were performed 'round the clock.

    The number of sacrifices was 142,000
    Assuming an average weight for oxen at 1,000 pounds and a sheep 200 pounds.
    That's 11,000 tons of oxen and 12,000 tons of sheep or 23,000 tons of sacrifices, which equals 46,000,000 lbs.

    Notes of interest: It would also take about 100± football fields to contain the living animals. Solomon's Temple was only a little over 1/3 of an acre. If each animal had a seat in Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia Eagles), they would fill the stadium twice with a few left standing.

    I am aware that there must have been many priests working and probably many simultaneous sacrifices, but...
    Consider also how fast each animal was sacrificed. Remember I am using 24 hour days.

    That's 142,000 animals ÷ 7 days ÷ 24 hours ÷ 60 minutes =14.1 sacrifices per minute, which is one sacrifice every 4.3 seconds. (or, every 2.15 seconds each if a 12 hour day is assumed)

    Consider also the sheer volume of blood.
    46 million lbs with approximately 8% of body weight being blood yields 3,680,000 pounds of blood, or 441,200± gallons of blood. I have a 26' above ground pool which holds about 1,220 gallons. The sacrifices would fill about 362 pools like mine.

    2 Chronicles 7:7 does say that they were overloaded with sacrifices, "Then Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, for there he offered the burnt offerings and the fat of the peace offerings because the bronze altar which Solomon had made was not able to contain the burnt offering, the grain offering and the fat."

    There is a possible solution in verse one which says, "Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house."
  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Maybe Lane can weigh in. @greenbaggins I'm not sure if this approach makes me happy but some have suggested numbers like this are hyperbolic. David M. Fouts, “A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament,” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 377–388.
  3. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I don't think the reading of the passage necessitates the actual sacrificial offerings of all of those animals within the span of one week. It can very well mean that all those animals were devoted for the use of sacrificial offerings, and in that sense were "offered" as "a sacrifice."
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    As Pastor King said. Devoted and cherem can simply mean set apart to be destroyed later.

    And I also believe the bible uses hyperbolic speech.
  5. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Maybe for a bunch of years to come? Right?
  6. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    That's pretty much like what David said. It makes sense to me since the 7 day interpretation doesn't.

    You and Chris are on the same page here. It just sounded like I read it.

    Last edited: Jan 30, 2019
  7. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I concur with the interpretation that "dedication" and "offering" do not necessarily refer to exactly the same time-slot. Furthermore, it appears that the gathering lasted for two weeks, and not just one (see verse 9).

    As to hyperbolic numbers, there are examples in Scripture. For instance, no master in his right mind would EVER lend ten thousand talents to a servant in Jesus' parable. The point is that the amount is completely and utterly unpayable, and this fact is absolutely central to the parable. However, great caution must be exercised with regard to the theory of hyperbolic numbers, since all too often, this solution is resorted to in order to relieve a tension that is only felt because of capitulation to anti-supernaturalism. The numbers of the census during the Exodus constitute a prime example of this. I, for one, do NOT believe those numbers are hyperbolic, contrary to what most scholars, even evangelicals scholars, say.
  8. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Lane, What do you think of the troop numbers like in 2 Chronicles 17:12–19?
  9. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I see no reason to think of them as hyperbolic. A much better case can be made that they are rounded numbers.
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Lane, Do you know or direct me to a source that interacts with the Fouts take on such numbers?
  11. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    I'm pretty sure you are right about the two weeks. I limited it to seven days because of verse 9
    "...for the dedication of the altar they observed seven days and the feast seven days." [NASB]
    Thanks for you comments.
  12. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Chris, I'm not seeing anything in ATLA that responds directly to it. None of the books on hermeneutics published after that article on my bookshelf mention him either. As it turns out, Fouts wrote his doctoral dissertation at DTS on the subject, a thesis I can get at Proquest. I haven't seen any other dissertations that address the issue, either.
  13. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I don't want to believe the bible contains hyperbolic numbers except in cases where it is clearly symbolic. But truthfully, the cattle on 1,000 hills really ain't that many compared to all the cows in the world today.
  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    One source posits

    "...the astronomical size of Jehoshaphat’s military (1,160,000) represents the combined forces of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. This exponential growth conveys a clear message; a sense of sweeping continuity between these kings as Judah’s military power soars and Judah reaches its heyday."​
  15. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm sympathetic to Fouts in this case particularly. An army of more than a million men (more than double the size of the entire current US army), all posted in a single ancient "city" (the population of ancient Nineveh was only around 120,000 at its height), without modern high rise buildings or indoor plumbing seems hard to take a face value. You would expect some trace to remain, and for Jehoshaphat to have dominated the ancient Near East of his day.

    It is striking that the numbers in Chronicles are often larger than Kings, and that Chronicles is written in a context of assumed familiarity with Assyrian Royal annals, where hyperbolic claims are routine. In that context, where hyperbole is the norm, is it possible that in that context, "accurate" numbers would have been automatically rounded down into the equivalent of an army made up of one man and a blind dog? I'm certainly not averse to the Bible recording supernatural events, but we do have to factor in literary genres appropriately. It's worth noting that the impact of extremely large numbers and hyperbole on the reader is exactly the same: "Wow! God blessed Jehoshaphat with an enormous army". Which is the point you are supposed to take away from 2 Chronicles 17...
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  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Are you familiar with any interaction with Fouts case in the evangelical journals? Reinforcing or any case made against it?
  17. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    It's plausible, certainly. However, there is no need to posit that they were all in Jerusalem together at the same time (unless they were summoned for a particular attack). Even though verse 19 makes it clear that these numbers did not include those garrisoned in the rest of Judah, that does not imply that the entire fighting army of verses 14-18 was always in Jerusalem. It could just be that these were the numbers of those available to fight in Jerusalem on short notice. It is also possible that the "lihudah" in verse 14 makes the numbers refer to all Jewish fighters (with some from Benjamin, as verse 17 notes). I am somewhat reminded of the scene in The Return of the King, where the people of Gondor are welcoming in the fiefish warriors to defend Gondor in its hour of need.
  18. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I can't remember if someone suggested Fouts to me or not, but I was dealing with this comment in David Dickson's first sermon on Jeremiah's Lamentations. "That Jerusalem, that fair city where God dwelt, where there were lodgings for ten hundred thousands of men in one night...." There is no reference but in linking the number to 2 Chronicles 17 I must have found the Fouts.
  19. Timotheos

    Timotheos Puritan Board Freshman

    Are we assuming that only the priests participated in the sacrifice. Could this have been an occasion for heads of houses to DIY? It does say that the king and the people dedicated the temple. Just a hypothesis.
  20. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    Perhaps, your question needs further nuance. Lots of folk participated in the sacrifice by their very presence if nothing else. Now, then, if one were to posit that heads of houses indiscriminately engaged in making offerings in the same way that members of the priesthood did, would that not likewise be an assumption apart from an explicit statement or implicit inference to that end? I can recall at least one instance when King Uzziah decided in favor of DIY. That didn't go very well for him.
  21. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    This thread brings to mind two specific instances where the numbers gave me pause. In 2 Kings 19:35 we are informed that in one night the Angel of the Lord slew 185,000 of Sennacherib's army in answer to Hezekiah's prayer. I have no doubt that the Angel of the Lord could accomplish such a task, and more, but the volume intrigues me. We, the USA, lost 58,000 troops in Viet Nam over an eight year period. Was it common for nations to amass such numbers in going to war in ancient times. So googled Sennacherib and found that historically Assyria had the largest standing army of any nation in ancient times, and the numbers were consistent with the account in 2 Kings.

    Another instance comes from my M'Cheyne reading a few nights ago. In the Book of Esther, 9:15-16, the Hebrews in Susa kill 300 of those who would've killed them, and in verse 16 the Hebrews in the remaining provinces kill 75,000. That is twice the population of Lake Worth, FL, the city I live in. Are these numbers hyperbolic, or do we consider them accurate ? Here again google reveals that the population of the area was sufficient to back up the Scriptural account. I suppose some might criticize my investigating these histories on a secular level, but it always encourages me when archaeology and secular history confirm Biblical accounts that seem fantastic on their face.
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  22. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The population of Jerusalem as a modern city today is a 850,000. So that I think is why the 1 million soldiers and lodgings in the city gives pause, in addition to whatever population. Is there evidence the city in its prime day could house that many?
  23. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    I'm sure that the city could fit them if they were only defending. The likelihood of all of them being used at the same time is quite low, and I am not sure that the text requires us to understand it that way.
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