Numbers 25:9—Why does this verse say that 24,000 died when 1 Corinthians 10:8 offers a different number?
Problem: The incident at Baal-Peor resulted in God’s judgment upon Israel, and, according to Numbers 25:9, 24,000 died in the plague of judgment. However, according to 1 Corinthians 10:8, only 23,000 died. Which is the correct number?
Solution: There are two possible explanations here. First, some have suggested that the difference is due to the fact that 1 Corinthians 10:8 is speaking only about those who died “in one day” (23,000), whereas Numbers 25:9 is referring to the complete number (24,000) that died in the plague.
Others believe two different events are in view here. They note that 1 Corinthians 10:7 is a quote of Exodus 32:6 and indicates that the 1 Corinthians passage is actually referring to the judgment of God after the idolatrous worship of the golden calf (Ex. 32). The Exodus passage does not state the number of people that died as a result of the judgment of God, and the actual number is not revealed until 1 Corinthians 10:8. According to 1 Corinthians 10:8, 23,000 died as a result of the judgment of God for their worship of the golden calf. According to Numbers 25:9, 24,000 died as a result of the judgment of God for Israel’s worship of Baal at Baal-Peor.
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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.