1 Samuel 13:1—What is the correct number in this verse?

Problem: Among the several translations of the OT, 1 Samuel 13:1 is rendered as “one year” in the nkjv, by “forty” in the nasb, by “thirty” for the first number and “[forty-]two” for the second number in the ___. Which of these is the right number or numbers for this verse?

Solution: The problem arises from the fact that the number is missing in the manuscripts of the Masoretic text. The verse simply reads, “Saul was the son of ... years when he became king, and he reigned two years over Israel.” The verse does not include the word “reigned” in the first part. It literally says that “Saul was the son of ... years.” Consequently, the renderings of the various translations are simply the attempts of translators to fill in the missing information based on other data.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.