– by Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo (True Life Weekly 3rd March 2019) –
A One Year or 30/40/… Years?
Now, let us look at the next text which is 1 Samuel 13:1 which the KJV translates as, “Saul reigned one year.” But the other versions read quite differently. The NASV has, “Saul was forty years old when he began to reign;” the NIV has, “Saul was thirty years old when he became king;” and the RSV has, “Saul was … years old when he began to reign.” Which of the above is correct? The only way whereby we can ascertain the correct reading is to go to the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible since day one reads Ben-shanah Shaoul, literally, “A son of a year (was) Saul,” or idiomatically, “Saul was a year old.”
Now, the difficulty is: How could Saul be only a year old when he began to reign? Scholars and translators who do not believe in the jot-and-tittle preservation of Scripture say that this is an actual discrepancy in the Hebrew Text which they attribute to a “scribal error.” This is why Michael Harding wrote, “[I]n 1 Samuel 13:1–2 the Masoretic Text states that Saul was one year of age (ben-shanah—literally “son of a year”) … Some ancient Greek manuscripts [ie, translations or versions]… read “thirty years” instead of “one year,” … I believe the original Hebrew text also reads “thirty,” even though we do not currently possess a Hebrew manuscript with that reading.” (God’s Word in Our Hands, pp360–361). “Ruckmanism” again!
Harding and those like him who deny that God has preserved every jot and tittle of His inspired words (Matt 5:18) conclude that a word is lost and 1 Samuel 13:1 contains a “scribal error” even when there is no such error to begin with. Instead of attributing error to the translation (NASV, NIV, RSV, ESV), they rather fault the inspired and preserved Hebrew Text and treat it as an actual discrepancy even when there is absolutely none. This has caused many to doubt God’s Word: Do we really have God’s infallible and inerrant Word in our hands? Many are indeed scandalised by such allegations of error in the Bible, and are questioning whether they can really trust the Scriptures at all if there is no such thing as a complete and perfect Word of God today.
It must be categorically stated that there is no error at all in the Hebrew Text and no mistake also in the KJV which translated 1 Samuel 13:1 accurately. So how do we explain 1 Samuel 13:1? A faithful explanation is offered by Matthew Poole who wrote, “[Saul] had now reigned one year, from his first election at Mizpeh, in which time these things were done, which are recorded in chap. xi., xii., to wit, peaceably, or righteously. Compare 2 Sam. ii.10.”
In other words, the year of Saul was calculated not from the time of his birth but from his appointment as king; “Saul was a year old into his reign.” This meaning is supported by the Geneva Bible which reads, “Saul now had beene King one yeere.” Rest assured, there is no mistake in the Hebrew Text and in the KJV here. God has indeed inspired and preserved His OT words perfectly so that we might have an infallible, inerrant OT Bible in our hands today.
Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar?
These two names—Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadrezzar—are found in Jeremiah 29 verse 3 and verse 21 respectively to refer to the same king. Bible and Truth deniers who do not believe in VPI and/or VPP are quick to conclude that the Bible here is in error; they call it a spelling or a scribal error. But we who believe in the present perfection and absolute authority of the Scriptures have always believed in VPI and VPP based on the logic of faith.
So, how do we explain the two spellings, one with an “n” and the other with an “r.” It is really a simple solution requiring childlike faith on God’s pure and perfect words (Matt 4:4, Rom 3:4, Heb 11:3, 6). The Bible being historically true and accurate would have us know that there were two ways of spelling the name of the Babylonian king. He could either be called Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar. Note that the switch from “r” to “n” is “not uncommon” in Semitic languages. “Nebuchadnezzar” then is the Hebrew spelling, and “Nebuchadrezzar” the Aramaic spelling (re: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, sv, “Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadrezzar”). A modern-day example would be Singapore (English) and Singapura (Malay)—both are correct and not scribal errors. There are absolutely no mistakes in the Bible.