24,000 or 23,000 – ATA

COMPLAINT:
Did God kill 24,000 (Numbers 25:9) or 23,000 (Numbers 26:61-62) for bowing to the gods of Moab? Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Looking at the texts presented by the questioner, I’m curious, did he actually read the texts, or just see two slightly different numbers and decided there must be a contradiction?

Numbers 25:9 definitely says that 24,000 people died in the plague among the Israelites.

After the plague, God directed Moses and Eleazar to take a census of the people (Numbers 26:1-2). Each of the tribes is listed: Reuben (v 5-11), Simeon (v 12-14), Gad (v 15-18), etc.. A total for the men of war from the twelve tribes is given (v 51), along with a command to divide the land among them (v 52-56). Beginning at verse 57, another census is taken; this was a record of the Levites, for they would not inherit the land as the other tribes would. They numbered 23,000. This has nothing to do with the people killed in chapter 25. It’d been nice if the questioner had read the texts and not just assumed a contradiction here.

I’ll do the questioner a favour. Here’s the text he should have set against Numbers 25:9:

Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell (1 Corinthians 10:8)

Numbers 25:9 says 24,000, Paul says 23,000. A contradiction? It certainly demands investigation and consideration. There are at least 3 possible explanations for the 1,000 difference. We won’t go into the details of each possibility here, but I encourage you to find more info on this in the October 5, 2008 bulletin article on our web site.

  • Possibly 1,000 leaders (v 4) were put to death, included in the 24,000 of Numbers but no Paul’s 23,000.
  • The number may have been between the two figures and was rounded off.
  • Paul says 23,000 in one day. Were the other 1,000 on a separate day?

Numbers 25 & 26 do not contradict, and there are possible explanations for 1 Corinthians 10. There is no contradiction.


A response to 1001 Bible Contradictions.

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