Numbers 25. 9 "And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand."

Corinthians 10.8 "...and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.

The question may be asked - does Paul contradict or correct Moses, or was Paul mistaken, and if one of these statements is incorrect, how can it be said that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God?" A more detailed examination of the two passages will show that there is in reality no disagreement.

Numbers 25.18 refers to "the day of the plague", and verse 9 states that "those that died in the plague were 24,000". Among the Israelites the day began in the evening, and included the following morning and afternoon. It must have been during the daylight hours that "one of the children of Israel brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel" (verse 6). The precise time when Phinehas slew the offenders is not stated, but thereafter "the plague was stayed from the children of Israel" (verse 8). Some of those smitten by the plague evidently died the following day.

Moses gives the total number of "those that died in the plague", while Paul gives the number that "fell in one day". There is no disagreement. It should also be remembered that in any account of such a disaster precise figures are rarely given, and if the actual number was between 23,000 and 24,000, both accounts preserve a

faithful record of the event, as if Moses had said, "about 24,000", and Paul, "upwards of 23,000".

Some commentators have assumed that the number given by Moses includes "the heads of the people" hanged by the judges in accordance with the commandment given to Moses in verse 4, and that the "plague" included those executed and those who died in some kind of pestilence, the whole number suffering death by the just judgment of God upon the Israelites, who had forsaken God and worshipped Baal-Peor.

Neither passage is affected by any variations in the manuscripts or ancient versions. All agree in reading 24,000 in Numbers and 23,000 in 1 Corinthians. Alford expresses the view that Paul probably quoted from memory, but this would be inconsistent with Paul's explicit claim to Divine inspiration in 1 Corinthians 2.13 "which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth".

It is often the case that two true statements referring to the same event appear to disagree, but a fuller knowledge of the facts shows both to be accurate. At a committee meeting I might say, "We are sending 24,000 Bibles to Nigeria", and at a meeting that same evening I might say, "We sent 23,000 Bibles to Nigeria today". A person who heard both statements might ask if the latter was a slip of memory, and I would reply, "No -- we are sending the other 1,000 tomorrow". Both statements are seen to be true when all the details are known. The same can be said of apparent discrepancies in the Bible. We may not know all the details, but we trust the Author, and have good grounds to believe that both statements are correct.


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