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The Number Of Fighting Men In Israel And Judah: 2 Samuel 24:9 Vs 1 Chronicles 21:5 Differences Explained

Is there a contradiction between 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5?

The Bible contains a wealth of historical accounts, and sometimes, apparent discrepancies arise when comparing different passages. One such example is the difference in the number of fighting men reported in 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5. Some might interpret this difference as a contradiction or an error in the Bible. However, a closer examination reveals that there are valid reasons for the disparity. In this article, we will explore these reasons and shed light on why this difference does not undermine the Bible’s integrity.

The Reported Numbers

In 2 Samuel 24:9, it is stated, “Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel, there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.” However, in 1 Chronicles 21:5, the report differs slightly: “Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel, there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.”

Reasons for the Difference

  1. Joab’s Differing Reports: One significant reason for the difference in the reported numbers is that Joab provided two separate reports on different occasions. The Bible does not explicitly mention the underlying motives for this inconsistency. However, it is plausible that Joab might have deliberately altered the numbers to deceive a particular individual or group, or he may have been correcting an earlier mistake. Regardless of the exact reasons, Joab reported the figures differently on two separate occasions.
  2. Different Authors, Different Perspectives: Another important point to consider is that the reports given by Joab were recorded by different authors. The Book of 2 Samuel was written by one author, while the Book of 1 Chronicles was written by another. Each author had access to different sources of information, and therefore, their accounts reflect the information made available to them by Joab.

No Contradiction, No Error:

It is essential to emphasize that the difference in the number of fighting men reported by Joab does not indicate a contradiction or error within the Bible. The reasons for the disparity have been discussed above, and they demonstrate that the variations stem from human factors rather than divine inspiration.

The Incident and Divine Disapproval

It is crucial to note that the entire exercise of conducting a census and reporting the number of fighting men was not authorized or endorsed by God. In fact, God condemned this action and brought judgment upon the individuals involved. Their actions were driven by their own will, not by divine command. The Bible clearly states that the census and the subsequent reporting of the numbers were Joab’s responsibility, not God’s.


When examining apparent differences in biblical passages, it is essential to consider the context, the individuals involved, and the possible reasons for the variations. In the case of the difference in the number of fighting men reported in 2 Samuel 24:9 and 1 Chronicles 21:5, it becomes evident that Joab’s differing reports and the different authors recording them explain the discrepancy. This occurrence should not be used as a basis for attacking the Bible’s inerrancy or infallibility since it was not divinely authorized and even incurred divine disapproval. Understanding these factors helps us maintain a consistent understanding of the Bible’s teachings and its historical accounts.


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