From *The Skeptical Review*, 1991/May-June:
by Farrell Till
Bibliolaters want us to believe that the Bible is a work so harmoniously perfect that only divine inspiration can explain its existence. They never tire of preaching this theme from their pulpits. As we have repeatedly shown, however, this is a false claim. Try as they may, bibliolaters cannot harmonize the Bible without resorting to scenarios so preposterously far-fetched that only the very credulous can believe them.
Let's consider, for example, a statement in 1 Kings 15:5, where it was brazenly asserted that "David did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, and returned [sic] not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." We know, of course, what "the matter of Uriah the Hittite" was, but to say that this was the only offense against God that David committed all the days of his life is flagrantly contradictory to other things that the Bible says about David.
Both 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 clearly depict David as having sinned for taking a census of the Israelites. David himself said on this occasion, "I have sinned greatly in that which I have done" (2 Sam. 24:10; 1 Chron. 21:8). But conducting this census had nothing at all to do with "the matter of Uriah the Hittite."
While fleeing from Saul, David needed food and weapons. To procure them, he lied to Ahimelech the priest and said that he was on a secret mission for king Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-8). Later, when he had gathered around him a band of 600 men and found refuge in Philistia, he became a guerrilla marauder who raided Philistine villages, killed all of the people in the villages so that there would be no witnesses to report his activities, and then returned home and lied to Achish the king about where he had been (1 Sam. 27:8-12). Do these sound like the activities of a man who never strayed from Yahweh's commandments "except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite"? About the only thing the Bible says about David that we can agree with is that he was a "man after Yahweh's own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14).
Genesis 46:8-27 listed "all the souls of the house of Jacob" that went into Egypt. There was a total of "threescore and ten" souls in the group (v:27), even though the martyr Stephen said that there were "threescore and fifteen" (Acts 7:14). At any rate, the listing was done according to the mothers whom the children and grandchildren had descended from. Leah's family was listed first, and after everyone had been named, it was said, "These are the sons of Leah, whom she bare to Jacob in Paddanaram, with his daughter Dinah: all the souls of his sons and his daughters were thirty and three" (v:15). In this, however, we have a problem, because if you will count the names of everyone listed in Leah's family, you will see that there were only thirty-two.
To argue that Leah would have made the thirty-third person will not explain the problem, because verse 26 (in sexist language so typical of the Bible) plainly excluded wives from the count. Besides, there is a clear indication in Genesis 49:31 that Leah had died before the descent into Egypt. To say that Jacob should be included in Leah's family is to ignore the clarity of the statement underlined above. "All the souls of his (Jacob's) sons and his daughters were thirty and three." Besides, if we include Jacob here, why shouldn't we have to include him in the count of Zilpah's or Rachel's or Bilhah's children, where after the counts of sixteen, fourteen, and seven respectively were given, it was said, "These are the sons of Zilpah (Rachel or Bilhah) who were born to Jacob: all the souls were sixteen (fourteen or seven) souls" (vv: 18, 22, 25)?
If the counts given in these breakdowns are added together (33 + 16 + 14 + 7), a total of 70 results (the threescore and ten of verse 27), but if Jacob is then added, we have a total of 71. For that reason, some inerrantists will argue that Jacob should be included in Leah's family, but the language of that verse will not allow for his inclusion any more than it would permit us to add him to any of the other three groups. Clearly, then, there is a major problem in the counting of those who went with Jacob into Egypt.
At the very least, bibliolaters will have to admit that there is a problem of ambiguity in this passage. And why should that be? As we have repeatedly said, don't we have the right to expect omnisciently inspired literature to be unambiguously written?