Example Bible Contradictions
This page is a growing collection of Bible contradictions. Together they show it is unreasonable to affirm that everything in the Bible is inspired. The examples are taken from a widely used, modern, translation of the Bible, the New International Version.
Contradictions to Study
For now this page lists contradictions in their order of appearance. More contradictions will be added.
- Esau's Wives
- Selecting Officials
- Spying Out the Land
- Cities of Refuge
- Choosing a King
- Saul and David
- Goliath's Head
- Goliath's Sword
- Opposing Moses
Question: Who were Esau's wives?
Esau married 1) Judith and 2) Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite when he was 40 years old and living in Canaan.
34When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. (Genesis 26:34 NIV)
Later, while still living in Canaan, Esau also married 3) Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael.
6Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, "Do not marry a Canaanite woman," 7and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. (Genesis 28:6-9 NIV)
Later in Genesis Esau's wives are different. Esau's wives are said to be 1) Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, 2) Oholibamah, and 3) Basemath the daughter of Ishmael.
2Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite -- 3also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth. (Genesis 36:2-3 NIV)
None of these are the same wives he married earlier. This is confusing, especially since this list of wives is said to be the same wives he took while living in Canaan and not a list of wives taken later, say, after moving to Seir.
Who were Esau's wives? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Question: Who selected the officials set over the people?
Moses selected officials to be set over the 1000s, 100s, 50s, and 10s of people.
13The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?"
15Moses answered him, "Because the people come to me to seek God's will. 16Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws."
17Moses' father-in-law replied, "What you are doing is not good. 18You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. 21But select capable men from all the people -- men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain -- and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."
24Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. (Exodus 18:13-26 NIV)
The people selected officials to be set over the 1000s, 100s, 50s and 10s and Moses merely approved their selection.
9At that time I said to you, "You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. 10The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as many as the stars in the sky. 11May the LORD, the God of your fathers, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! 12But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? 13Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you."
14You answered me, "What you propose to do is good."
15So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you -- as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. 16And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. 17Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it. 18And at that time I told you everything you were to do. (Deuteronomy 1:9-18 NIV)
Who selected the officials set over the people? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Spying Out the Land
Question: Whose idea was it to spy out the land?
The LORD told Moses to send a spy from each of the 12 tribes into Canaan to spy out the land.
1The LORD said to Moses, 2"Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders." (Numbers 13:1-2 NIV)
The idea to spy out the land was the people's and the idea to send a man from each of the 12 tribes was Moses'.
22Then all of you came to me and said, "Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to."
23The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. (Deuteronomy 1:22-23 NIV)
Whose idea was it to spy out the land? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Cities of Refuge
Question: Who set up cities of refuge east of the Jordan?
The LORD told Moses to tell the Israelites that when they crossed the Jordan river into the land of Canaan they were to set up cities of refuge. Moses, of course, was not around by the time they crossed the river (see Deuteronomy 31:2), which is why he passed this task onto the Israelites. They were to set up 3 cities east of the Jordan and 3 west of the Jordan.
9Then the LORD said to Moses: 10"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 11select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly. 13These six towns you give will be your cities of refuge. 14Give three on this side of the Jordan and three in Canaan as cities of refuge. 15These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there. (Numbers 35:9-15 NIV)
Moses set up the 3 cities of refuge east of the Jordan after that area had been conquered, but well before anyone crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan. This contradicts Moses telling others to do this at a later date.
41Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan, 42to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if he had unintentionally killed his neighbor without malice aforethought. He could flee into one of these cities and save his life. 43The cities were these: Bezer in the desert plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites. (Deuteronomy 4:41-43 NIV)
After conquering Canaan Joshua son of Nun set up the 6 cities of refuge as per the instructions from Moses. He set up the 3 cities on the west side first and then also set up the 3 cities on the east side.
7So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8On the east side of the Jordan of Jericho they designated Bezer in the desert on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh. (Joshua 20:7-8 NIV)
Who set up cities of refuge east of the Jordan? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Choosing a King
Question: Did the LORD want the people to have a king?
Moses wrote clear instructions on how to set a king over the people and never denigrates the act, suggesting this was right or at least acceptable behavior. The rules for the king included choosing the king the LORD chooses, not allowing a foreigner to be king, not allowing the king to become materially rich and requiring the king to make himself a copy of the scriptures and read them every day (enforced by who by the way?).
14When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. 16The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, "You are not to go back that way again." 17He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
18When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20 NIV)
About 400 years later, when the Israelites asked the prophet Samuel to set a king over them, he thought this was fundamentally wrong and prayed about it rather than just cite the instructions supposedly provided beforehand by Moses for this very scenario. The LORD agreed with Samuel, not Moses, explaining the people wanting a man to be king was evidence they had rejected him as their king. He also explained one reason this was so bad was all kings, as a natural effect of what a king is, would steal from the populace to support their kingdom. So it was wrong to set a king over the people and Samuel tried to dissuade them. The people did not listen to Samuel, because they were not listening to God, and in the end God told Samuel to give the people what they deserved and set a king over them.
4So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have."
6But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do."
10Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, "This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day."
19But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. 20Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles."
21When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22The LORD answered, "Listen to them and give them a king."
Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Everyone go back to his town." (First Samuel 8:4-22 NIV)
Did the LORD want the people to have a king? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Saul and David
Question: When did Saul and David meet?
According to the following story in 1st Samuel chapter 16 David was hired by King Saul to play the harp to soothe him with music because he was being tormented with an evil spirit. In time David also became his armor bearer. At the time David was hired he already had a reputation for being a brave man and a warrior. Saul sent personally to his father Jesse in Bethlehem to hire David and sent to him a second time to say that he wanted to keep David.
14Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.
15Saul's attendants said to him, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better."
17So Saul said to his attendants, "Find someone who plays well and bring him to me."
18One of the servants answered, "I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him."
19Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep." 20So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.
21David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, "Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him."
23Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him. (First Samuel 16:14-23 NIV)
Later, when David was preparing to go out against Goliath, Saul did not know who he was, or, at least, who his father was.
55As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, "Abner, whose son is that young man?"
Abner replied, "As surely as you live, O king, I don't know."
56The king said, "Find out whose son this young man is."
57As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine's head.
58"Whose son are you, young man?" Saul asked him.
David said, "I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem." (First Samuel 17:55-58 NIV)
When did Saul and David meet? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Question: Where did David take the giant's head?
David took the severed head of the giant to Jerusalem.
54David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine's weapons in his own tent. (First Samuel 17:54 NIV)
David presented the severed head of the giant to Saul after the battle.
57As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine's head. (First Samuel 17:57 NIV)
Where did David take the giant's head? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Question: Where did David put the giant's sword?
David put the weapons of the giant in his own tent.
54David took the Philistine's head and brought it to Jerusalem, and he put the Philistine's weapons in his own tent. (First Samuel 17:54 NIV)
David acquired the sword of the giant later on from a priest in the town of Nob (see 1st Samuel 21:1).
8David asked Ahimelech, "Don't you have a spear or a sword here? I haven't brought my sword or any other weapon, because the king's business was urgent."
9The priest replied, "The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one."
David said, "There is none like it; give it to me." (First Samuel 21:8-9 NIV)
Where did David put the giant's sword? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.
Question: Who stood up against Moses?
Many times in the stories of Moses crowds of people complained to him or otherwise quarreled with him. Save one occassion Moses always left the identity of these people anonymous.
Three individuals lead an open rebellion against Moses. They threatened to fork the entire assembly, but met their fate before getting too far. Moses wrote about the ordeal and included their names. The three who opposed him were 1) Korah, 2) Dathan and 3) Abiram.
1Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites -- Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth -- became insolent (Numbers 16:1 NIV)
Much later, in the New Testament period, Jude referred to the rebellion of Korah which Moses had written about.
11Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 1:11 NIV)
The apostle Paul, writing his disciple Timothy, also spoke of the individuals who opposed Moses, but said they were 1) Jannes and 2) Jambres.
8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth -- men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. (Second Timothy 3:8 NIV)
Who stood up against Moses? The answer is unknowable, technically, because inspiration does not allow picking sides on a contradiction.