The Bible’s Use of Round Numbers.

Another mistake sometimes made by Bible critics is claiming that round numbers are false. This is not so. Round numbers are EXACTLY that—round numbers!

Like most ordinary speech, the Bible uses round numbers. Take 1 Chronicles 19:18 for example, “Then the Syrians fled before Israel; and David killed SEVEN THOUSAND charioteers and FORTY THOUSAND foot soldiers of the Syrians, and killed Shophach the commander of the army.

Of course, 7000 charioteers and 40,000 foot soldiers here are an ESTIMATION of those killed (a round figure), not necessarily an exact number. Just like today, we say “about 2000 people were present at the conference.” That’s a round figure.

1 Chronicles 21:5 also serves to illustrate this point. It says, “Then Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to David. All Israel had one million (literally “a thousand thousand” in the Hebrew) one hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and Judah had four hundred and seventy thousand men who drew the sword.

This again counts only the men. It is not a complete number. This doesn’t make it false. It only means that the census was streamlined to the numbering of war-ready men.

Furthermore, we find that the Bible refers to the diameter as being about one third of the circumference of something.

1 Kings 7:23 (NKJV)

23 And he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of THIRTY CUBITS measured its CIRCUMFERENCE.

Now, it may not be precise today to speak of 3.14159265… as the number three, because we have advanced in mathematics and science. But it is not incorrect for an ancient, non-technological people to do so. Three and fourteen hundredths can be rounded off to three. This is exactly what was done, in 1 Kings 7:23.

One should not expect scientific PRECISION in a pre-scientific age. That would be like someone wearing a wrist watch in a Shakespearian play. Wrist watches did not exist at that time!

So the Bible would oftentimes use round numbers, because the mathematics of that day was primitive. This does not make it incorrect.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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