Problem: David pays 50 or 600 shekels of something for some land
Verses: 2 Samuel 24:24, 1 Chronicles 21:24-25; Status: Minor

At one point David buys some land to build an altar. The owner offers to give the land up for nothing, but David insists on paying. Here is 2 Samuel 24:24:

But the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (ESV)

The story is also recounted in Chronicles. This is 1 Chronicles 21:24-25:

But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. (ESV)

The overall story in the surrounding verses is nearly identical, so these are definitely the same incident, despite the slight difference in names. (Which sound the same if you say them quickly enough...) So, did David pay 50 shekels of silver, or 600 shekels of gold? (A shekel is about 11 grams.)

The ESV Study Bible notes that in the first case, David pays 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen, while in the second case he pays 600 shekels of gold for "the site". It's possible that there were two separate transactions, and thus both accounts are correct.

However, the Oxford Bible Commentary says:

Certain passages [in 1 Chr 21] resemble the Qumran [Dead Sea Scrolls] version of 2 Sam 24 ... more closely than the canonized Hebrew text. Thus the Chronicler must have had a different source from the version of 2 Sam 24 printed in Hebrew Bibles today; one which would explain the numerous discrepancies between ch. 21 and 2 Sam 24.

This reminder that the Chronicler was relying on possibly dubious texts does not sit well with inerrancy.

Thanks to for drawing my attention to this one.

Updated: 2009-08-24

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