1 Samuel 13:5—How could the Philistines have an army of 30,000 chariots?

Problem: According to this passage, the Philistines gathered together 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen. However, an army of 30,000 chariots has never been recorded in all of ancient history, even among the most powerful empires. How could the Philistines have amassed such a large group of chariots?

Solution: It is probably an error that has crept into the manuscripts during transmission. It is very unlikely that there would be such a ratio of chariots to horsemen. It is much more likely that the original manuscripts recorded the number of chariots at 3,000. This would give a better ratio of chariots to horsemen. Because the Hebrew numbers are very similar, it is quite probable that some copyist simply miscopied the 3,000 as 30,000. The accurate recording of numerical designations is very difficult, leading to this kind of problem.

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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.