Bible Contradiction? Who was Samuel’s firstborn son?

July 18, 2019 by SLIMJIM

For today’s post we will tackle the question the Skeptic Annotated Bible asked: Who was Samuel’s firstborn son?

Here are the two answers which the skeptic believes indicate a Bible contradiction:


Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba.” (1 Samuel 8:2)


The sons of Samuel were Joel the firstborn, and Abijah the second.” (1 Chronicles 6:28)

(All Scriptural quotation comes from the New American Standard Bible)

Here’s a closer look at whether or not there is a contradiction:


  1. When dealing with skeptics’ claim of Bible contradictions it seems one can never be reminded enough of what exactly is a contradiction.  A contradiction occurs when two or more claims conflict with one another so that they cannot simultaneously be true in the same sense and at the same time.  To put it another way, a Bible contradiction exists when there are claims within the Bible that are mutually exclusive in the same sense and at the same time.
  2. One should be skeptical of whether this is a Bible contradiction given the Skeptic Annotated Bible’s track record of inaccurately handling the Bible.  See the many examples of it’s error which we have responded to in this post:   Of course that does not take away the need to respond to this claim of a contradiction, which is what the remainder of this post will do.  But this observation should caution us to slow down and look more closely at the passages cited by the Skeptic Annotated Bible to see if they interpreted the passages properly to support their conclusion that it is a Bible contradiction.
  3. A bit of background of each verse in its context might be helpful for readers.
    1. 1 Samuel 8 is a chapter that gives description of the transition of Israel being ruled by Judges to being ruled by Kings.  1 Samuel 8:1 mentioned that Samuel appointed his sons as judges then in verses 2-3 give more information about the sons.
    2. 1 Chronicles 6 present the priestly line’s genealogy and it also mentioned about Samuel’s family history.
  4. Sometimes the skeptic cite alleged Bible contradictions that actually are referring to different individuals.  Here however the skeptic is right that both 1 Samuel 8:2 and 1 Chronicles 6:28 are referring to the same individuals.
    1. In both passages and the context the father is Samuel.
    2. In both passages the second son is “Abijah.
    3. Also in both passages Samuel’s family is a priestly family.
  5. The skeptic cited 1 Samuel 8:2 as teaching Joel was Samuel’s firstborn son. I believe the skeptic interpreted this verse correctly and Joel was Samuel’s firstborn son.
    1. 1 Samuel 8:2 states it directly: “the name of his firstborn was Joel.
    2. Joel being the firstborn of Samuel is affirmed in other passages:
      1. These are those who served with their sons: From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel” (1 Chronicles 6:33).
        1. Here it Joel is “the son of Samuel.
        2. Notice Joel’s son is Heman since the verse says Heman was “the son of Joel.
        3. Heman is described here as a “singer,” an important for below.
      2. These are those who served with their sons: From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel” (1 Chronicles 5:17).
        1. Here this verse mentioned Joel is “the son of Samuel.
        2. This apparently is the same Joel as in 1 Chronicles 6:33 since in both verses Samuel has a son name Heman who was a singer.
    3. Thus it is clear that Samuel’s firstborn was name Joel.
  6. The skeptic cited 1 Chronicles 6:28 as teaching Vashni was Samuel’s firstborn son.  I believe this is not the case.
    1. Notice how the verse in the New American Standard Bible does not say Vashni.  It says Joel instead.
    2. The author of Skeptic Annotated Bible got “Vashni” from reading the King James Bible which stated that name.  However I think it is problematic of the King James to state the name is Vashni.
      1. From our post “” I mentioned that the manuscripts of the Old Testament contain minor error at times with the manuscripts; yet we can still establish what the Words of the Old Testament are with reasonable accuracy.  Here with this alleged Bible contradiction we do have touch on the issue of textual Criticism.  For more on textual criticism make sure to also check out our “.”
      2. I think the King James Bible’s translation of “Vashni” is a misreading of the Hebrew.  “Vashni” in the Hebrew is וַשְׁנִ֖י in 1 Chronicles 6:28 (note: 1 Chronicles 6:28 is 1 Chronicles 6:13 in the Hebrew Bible).  וַשְׁנִ֖י can be seen as the combination of the Hebrew word meaning “and”(וַ) plus the word meaning “two” (שֵׁנִי).  In other words “Vashni” is in the pronunciation of the word “and two/second…”  I think what happened here is an error of thinking this is a name when its just means “and second…”  The verse also is missing the name of the first born.  Literally the verse translated is “And the sons of Samuel the first the second Abijah.”  Notice there’s a missing name for the firstborn.  Joel probably fell out accidentally due to a common scribal error called homoeoteleuton, in which words that look similar in sharing the same or similar endings can accidentally get dropped.  Both Samuel and Joel have similar ending in Hebrew and it is easy for a scribe to think he’s written Joel already when one sees the ending of the word “Samuel.”
      3. While the Hebrew medieval manuscripts is missing the name “Joel” in 1 Chronicles 6:28, consulting the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartenesia‘s Textual Critical Apparatus for this verse we see that there are witnesses of earlier translations of the passage that does have “Joel” in this verse, specifically the Syriac Peshitta, Luciani’s Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate.
      4. Ultimately the word “Joel” is very compelling to be in the verse as what best explains the passage.
    3. Also there are no additional collaborating Bible verses that Samuel’s firstborn was named Vashni.
      1. This is a contrast with the passages that collaborate to state Samuel’s firstborn was name Joel.
      2. Furthermore one of the verses affirming that Samuel’s firstborn was named Joel is 1 Chronicles 6:33.  It comes from the same chapter as our verse 1 Chronicles 6:28.  This is a compelling point since this is within the very chapter that supposedly teaches the firstborn was Vashni.
  7. There is no Bible contradiction.  Its just that the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible is not familiar with Hebrew and the field and skill of textual criticism.
  8. We shouldn’t miss that worldviews are at play even with the skeptic’s objection to Christianity.  The worldview of the author of the Skeptic Annotated Bible actually doesn’t even allow for such a thing as the law of non-contradiction to be meaningful and intelligible.  In other words for him to try to disprove the Bible by pointing out that there’s a Bible contradiction doesn’t even make sense within his own worldview.  Check out our post “Skeptic Annotated Bible Author’s Self-Defeating Worldview.”


No, Ours Is Not a Star Wars God

May 5, 2019 By Bill Muehlenberg

Today is May the Fourth [Posted here a day late, but still relevant) – and may it be with you! This date has now gone down in history as a commemoration of a film – indeed, a whole series of films. The first of the Star Wars films came out in 1977, and they are still going strong. The George Lucas creation is one of the most popular and enduring film series of all times.

Ten major films have so far appeared, with another one due in December. Anyone associated with the films has already become immortalised in popular culture. Just a few days ago for example English actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca the Wookiee in the original trilogy, died at age 74.

I mention all this not just because almost everyone can relate to Star Wars in one way or another, but because it is worth using as a vehicle – or a foil – for sharing biblical truth. The series, now 42 years old, has always been good for some brainless entertainment and some swashbuckling action and heroics.

To that extent I and my family have always enjoyed the films, and have seen all of them quite often. But as a Christian it was clear even back in 1977 that the metaphysics of the film was decidedly non-Christian. I refer of course to “the Force”. This was an impersonal energy or power that was everywhere to be found.

It reflects many aspects of Eastern thought, but not biblical Christianity. Yet so many people continue to be drawn to it. I continue to deal with folks who still have this sort of view of God. The scary thing is how many of these folks who think this way claim to be Christians. Not long ago I had to interact with another person pushing this concept. This is how I replied to him:

Thanks ****. But not quite. God is not ‘pure energy’. He is a personal, spiritual being. And no, the spirit of God is not ‘in every mountain’ etc. That is pantheism, or at least panentheism, but not biblical Christianity. And no, Moses was not nuked, nor did he glow in the dark. Yes, God created all things, upholds all things, and sustains all things, by divine providence. Because of him all things exist. But he is not some impersonal force found in everything. That is the stuff of Sci-Fi, or Star Wars ideology, but not biblical theology.

It might be worth looking at all this a bit further. As many folks have already pointed out over the years, the Star Wars notion of the Force, which has a good or light side, and a bad or dark side, has much more in common with things like Taoism and its notion of yin and yang, good and bad, being two sides of the same coin.

Zoroastrianism is another ancient (Persian) religion which has this notion of good and evil being co-equal and co-eternal forces. This too would fit in rather well with the Star Wars idea. But those who claim to be biblical Christians know that this is nothing like what they believe, or Jews believe – or even Muslims for that matter.

The Judeo-Christian worldview is monotheistic, and it posits one God who is not on a par with evil. Yes, there are evil forces in the world – Satan and the fallen angels, demons, etc – but they are created beings who will have a limited duration.

They are not co-equal and co-eternal with God. Thus Christians reject any notions of dualism here. God is unique, and God alone is supreme and eternal. Everything else has been created by God. Even the angels – some of whom have fallen – are not beings that have existed forever. They are created and have a beginning in time.

And the God of the Bible is of course a personal God. Eastern religions usually promote pantheism (God is everything) or panentheism (God is in everything). That has never been how Jews and Christians look at God. Everything that began to exist is a creation of God, and is not a part of God or an extension of God.

Thus Eastern thought sees god as an impersonal force, whereas the Judeo-Christian teaching is that God is a personal being. And Christianity of course teaches that God is one being, in three persons. The personal nature of God is taught throughout Scripture. Just a few brief passages can be cited here:

-God chooses: “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

-God thinks: “’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18).

-God can be grieved: “And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart” (Genesis 6:6).

-God loves: “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

-God can get angry: “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, Cruel, with fury and burning anger, To make the land a desolation; And He will exterminate its sinners from it” (Isaiah 13:9).

-God is compassionate: “And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’” (Exodus 33:19).

-God expresses joy: “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17).

A necessary theological detour

Before proceeding, let me quickly point out that while God can have emotional states, he is not emotional in the same way that we are. Our emotions can get out of control and be or become sinful. This is not true of God. And while God may have emotions as such, the real question to ask is whether he can be emotionally impacted by us, and change as a result.

This can be a complex discussion, and has to do with at least two key theological issues: the immutability of God and the impassibility of God. Can God change? Is God ‘impassioned”? Can God change or be affected because of outside influences?

As I say, these are rather detailed and complex matters, and they have generated an ocean of ink. Let me just mention one great Christian thinker on all this: D. A. Carson. As he says in his very important 2000 book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, great care is needed here, and various unbiblical extremes need to be avoided:

[B]efore we utterly write off the impassibility of God, we must gratefully recognize what that doctrine is seeking to preserve. It is trying to ward off the kind of sentimentalizing views of the love of God and other emotions (‘passions’) in God that ultimately make him a souped-up human being, but no more….Closer to the mark is the recognition that all of God’s emotions, including his love in all its aspects, cannot be divorced from God’s knowledge, God’s power, God’s will. If God loves, it is because he chooses to love; if he suffers, it is because he chooses to suffer. God is impassible in the sense that he sustains no “passions,” no emotion, that makes him vulnerable from the outside, over which he has no control, or which he has not foreseen.

Equally, however, all of God’s will or choice or plan is never divorced from his love—just as it is never divorced from his justice, his holiness, his omniscience, and all his other perfections…. I am suggesting that we will successfully guard against the evils that impassibility combats if we recognize that God’s “passions,” unlike ours, do not flare up out of control. Our passions change our direction and priorities, domesticating our will, controlling our misery and our happiness, surprising and destroying or establishing our commitments. But God’s “passions,” like everything else in God, are displayed in conjunction with the fullness of all his other perfections….

But at the end of the day, God loves, whomever the object, because God is love. There are thus two critical pots. First, God exercises this love in conjunction with all his other perfections, but his love is no less love for all that. Second, his love emanates from his own character; it is not dependent on the loveliness of the loved, external to himself.

For those who want to look at this particular issue in much more detail, I need to refer you to some other posts of mine on this. Try these three for starters:

Back on track

The representative handful of texts that I offered above make it clear that the God of the Bible is personal. And what is true of God overall is true of each of the three persons of the Trinity. Thus we see Jesus weeping (John 11:35), or the Holy Spirit grieving (Ephesians 4:30), or the Father knowing things (1 John 3:20), etc.

As these verses demonstrate, God is an individual being, with a self-consciousness, a volition, a mind, the ability to feel, and the ability to enter into personal relationships with others. He is not an object or a force or an energy field. Thus we can rightly say that God is personal.

But in saying this we do not mean that God is a human being as such, just like we are. God is a spiritual being (John 4:24). In that sense God is not really a person. But as already mentioned, we can speak of God as one being or essence, but existing eternally in three persons.

Indeed, because God is one, yet in three persons, we see that the emphasis is on social relationships. God has relationships among himself (the three persons of the Trinity). And in the same way we can have a personal relationship with God – and with one another.

Moreover, God has a name. His great personal name is Yahweh for example. And God can say ‘I’ – something non-persons do not do. In Exodus 3:14 we find this: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’.” And in Matthew 6:9 Jesus spoke of the Father this way: “Hallowed be thy name.” Indeed, Jesus often speaks of God as Father (eg., Matthew 11:25).

All this is in marked contrast to the impersonal gods found in most Eastern thought, in pantheism, and so much of the New Age Movement. The biblical God is not the force of Star Wars. God is not an abstraction nor is he mere energy. He is not simply absolute power nor some impersonal life force.

But I look at this matter in more detail here:

As mentioned, God is in a sense tri-personal All three members of the Trinity are persons, and we have personal characteristics and attributes given to all three, as I mentioned above. That is the God with whom we have to do. That is the God we are called to love and serve.

Star Wars is a great action film series, and is good for a bit of entertainment. And as with almost all good films, there are great themes of heroism, sacrifice, and good overcoming evil. But the Force in Star Wars is not at all like what we find in Scripture.

The spiritual and moral conflict we find there is temporary and does not involve any sort of cosmic dualism. One day all evil will be no more, and all sin and selfishness will be done away with. And the God of Scripture is one who we can have a personal relationship with. All that is good news indeed.

May the real force of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) be with you. And not just today, but forever.

As seen here at Culture Watch. Posted here with permission.


Original here