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1 Samuel 13:1 is a parade example for where the Hebrew Masoretic text (MT) must be wrong. It seems to say that Saul became king aged 1, and reigned for 2 years. Seems hard to fit with surrounding narrative. I'll argue that the Masoretes preserved the best text. @UnEvangelico
First a literal translation of MT: 'Son of a year [was] Saul in-his-reigning, and two years he reigned over Israel.'
Various translators assume that one or two numbers have dropped out of MT. NIV 2011 reads 'Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.'
NIV thus supplies two numbers (30 and 40) which it suggests dropped out. One problem is that two numbers drop out leaving perfect Hebrew syntax in place. It's as if the worm (or whatever) attacking the manuscript knows Hebrew.
In this theory, the source of corruption correctly identified the boundaries of Hebrew words and eliminates them.
The Revised English Bible is similar, but has the numbers 30 and 22. The NASB has 40 and 32. This shows the problem of translators inventing numbers. Which ones to use? More soon.
Whereas NASB, NIV, and REB add two numbers the NJB and NRSV use ... twice. NRSV: 'Saul was ... years old when he began to reign; and he reigned ... and two years over Israel.' It still has the problem that the source of corruption has attacked numbers only.
German Luther translation of 1984 just has one gap: 'Saul war ... Jahre alt' but has 2 years in the second clause.
This raises a problem with supplying two numbers or positing two gaps: are we really sure we need both?
But the biggest problem by far is scarcely ever considered and that is the complexity of Hebrew numbers. We'll see that the Hebrew form of the MT problematizes the numbers people supply.
Hebrew numbers come as: masculine or feminine; absolute or construct; and different numbers make different demands about whether the Hebrew word shanah (שנה) 'year' should be singular or plural.
So if one or more numbers have dropped out, what is the probability that a modern guess will be correct?
When we try to calculate that, we see that the numbers 22, 32, and 42, supplied for the second number by REB, NASB, and NIV respectively, are grammatically impossible. The MT's form '2 years' / shtey shanim (שתי שנים) cannot grammatically tolerate the addition of 20, 30, or 40.
Hebrew can say '2 and 20 year' or '20 and 2 year', but either way 'year' must be singular shanah, not plural shanim.

‘2 and 30 year' (Gen 11:20)

'20 and 2 year' (1 Kings 14:20; 16:29)

‘30 and 2 year' (2 Kings 8:17).

So the addition by modern translations in 1 Sam 13:1b is problematic and actually requires replacement of the plural shanim in MT.
Furthermore, MT’s form is perfect for a regnal formula as it occurs (with the minor difference of an absolute for a construct number) in 2 Samuel 2:10: ‘and two years he reigned’.
Some might wonder why ‘two years’ is not represented by the dual form of year, shenathayim. This dual form occurs 11x in the Bible, but is never clause initial. So it doesn’t fit 1 Sam 13:1.
Conclusion so far: it’s not possible to supply an extra number in the second clause, though it is possible to supply various numbers in the first clause.
But the problem with supplying a number in the first clause is that there are too many to choose from. MT has ben shanah ‘son of a year’. Between ‘son’ and ‘year’ we could put 20, 30, or 40 (e.g. 2 Sam 2:10), but equally 25 (2 Kings 14:2) or indeed most numbers under 100.
Granted, it’s likely to be under 50, but that still makes the probability of guessing the right number rather low.
Appeal to the 40 year length of Saul’s reign in Acts 13:21 won’t help with the first number in 1 Sam 13:1, which is about time before Saul reigned, and won’t help with the second which clearly has the number 2.
So it’s grammatically difficult to insert more time into the second number.

If you try and insert more time into the first number, you have a low chance of guessing right.

Therefore any conjectural emendation is improbable.

We now look at the inherent probability of MT.
It’s worth looking at a possible concentrism in 13:1-2:

Saul was 1
Reigned for 2
Had 3 thousand men
2 thousand with Saul
1 thousand with Jonathan

I shouldn’t be pointing this out because I like to see myself as a concentrism/chiasmus sceptic.
However, if you go for this it may increase the probability of MT.

The probability of MT being right does not have to be very high to be above the probability of any particular conjecture.
Though 1 Sam 13:1 resembles a standard regnal formula from Kings, it has two significant differences:

It precedes them all, by many chapters.

It doesn’t come either at the beginning or end of Saul’s reign.
Many reading the narrative of 1 Samuel will get the impression that Saul reigned for longer than 2 years.

The 2 years can be read as placing the events of the narrative 2 years into Saul’s reign, rather than saying he only reigned 2 years.
If we reject this possibility, readers lack something they may want to know: when did the events of ch. 13 take place.

We would also lack an explanation of why the regnal formula occurs right here.
Then on the side of the probability of MT we have this:

1 Sam. 10:6

‘Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.’

Uniquely in Scripture, Saul is said as an adult to have become a different person.
1 Sam 10:8

“Then go down before me to Gilgal. And behold, I am coming down to you to offer burnt offerings and to sacrifice peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, until I come to you and show you what you shall do.”
1 Sam 10:9

When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart. And all these signs came to pass that day.
These texts are closely connected with 13:8-9:

He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Sam. did not come to Gilgal, & the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, & the peace offerings.” & he offered the burnt offering.
I believe that this connection, the concentrism, and the narrative placement (not at beginning or end of Saul narrative), all have the effect of raising the probability of MT.
This is not to say MT is unproblematic, but:

1. It’s more probable than any specific conjecture.
2. It has some merits of connecting with the wider narrative.
3. It should therefore shed its reputation of being a parade example of being corrupt.
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