Jashobeam—David’s Mighty Man
Encountering differences between two parallel texts in the Old Testament is not such a rare occurrence. Inevitably, when these differences arise a red flag marking a possible contradiction pops up in the mind of the reader. However, once any plausible solution presents itself that can reconcile the difference, then the red flag is dropped. For a case in point, consider 2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:11.
2 Samuel 23:8: “These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb- basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite, against eight hundred slain at one time.”
1 Chronicles 11:11: “And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had: Jashobeam, the son of a Hachmonite, the chief of the thirty; he lifted up his spear against three hundred and slew them at one time.”
These two verses have striking similarities, as well as obvious differences. They both talk about David’s primary mighty man, but his name is Josheb-basshebeth in 2 Samuel and Jashobeam in 1 Chronicles. This difference amounts to little more than a slight name variation. For instance, if you were to say that Robert Butt wrote this article and another person said that Kyle Butt wrote this article, both of you would be correct since the author’s name is Robert Kyle Butt. Often parallel passages in the Old Testament offer different spellings of a name or different names altogether when discussing the same individual.
The real difference between these verses resides in the number of men Jashobeam killed at one time. It seems that the verse in 2 Samuel tells us he killed 800 men at one time, while the verse in 1 Chronicles mentions only 300.
Upon further contemplation and study, several possible solutions to this “difference” become evident. One of the most obvious is that of a copyist’s error. Even in the English language, only a small portion missing from the front of the numeral 8 would make it look like a 3. In similar fashion, the Bible Knowledge Commentary states: “The difference may be due to a scribal error in copying Chronicles for the Hebrew numerical symbols 300 and 800 look much alike” (see Walvoord and Zuck, 1985, 1 Chronicles 11:11). [For a general background on copyists’ errors, please see our foundational essay on that subject, Lyons, 2007.]
However, even though a copyist’s error poses a quality explanation for the differences, others exist. One of those deals with the possibility that the verses could be discussing two separate occasions where Jashobeam defeated a multitude each time—on one occasion 300, and on another 800. This does not seem the most likely explanation, but it is a possible explanation. Along these lines, a spear is mentioned in the verse in 1 Chronicles, but no weapon is mentioned in 2 Samuel. It could be that different weapons were used in his attacks.
After studying these two parallel verses, and contemplating their obvious differences, it becomes apparent that no contradictions exist. And the two verses easily can be reconciled.
Lyons, Eric (2007), “Inspired Writers and Competent Copyists,” Reason and Revelation, 27:17-23.
Walvoord, John F. and Roy B. Zuck (1985), The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press).