Problem: Saul dies in two different ways
Verses: 1 Samuel 31:4, 2 Samuel 1:8-10; Status: Weak

This is a very easy one for an inerrantist to deal with. There are conflicting accounts of (Old Testament) Saul's death in battle. First 1 Samuel 31:4:

Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me." But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it. (ESV)

There's a similar account at 1 Chronicles 10:4. However, this is 2 Samuel 1:8-10:

"And he said to me, 'Who are you?' I answered him, 'I am an Amalekite.' And he said to me 'Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.' So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord." (ESV)

Now, the most simple and obvious explanation for the contradiction is that the Amalekite is lying about it. He may have thought that by claiming to have killed Saul out of mercy, he would be rewarded.

One more thing: another list of contradictions claims that these verses contradict 1 Chronicles 10:14, where it's stated that God killed Saul. However, it's fairly obvious that this means that Saul dying in the battle was God's will.

A different line of thought

As you probably know, I'm not an inerrantist. Although the explanation I give above is a possible one, this does not necessarily mean I favour it. It is entirely possible that the two accounts of Saul's death (suicide vs. mercy killing) originated in the chaos of battle.

Updated: Summer 2008

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