#90. Does Pharaoh choose not to let the Hebrews go OR does Yahweh harden his heart? (Ex 3:19, 7:13-14, 8:11-15, 9:35 vs Ex 4:22, 7:3, 9:12)

This is not necessarily a contradiction between sources, but rather a theological tension inherent in the Hebrew Bible itself. The question of agency with respect to a wrongdoing or sin is often presented in a dual manner. The present case is merely one example of that. Here, the plague narrative presents both Pharaoh as choosing not to let the Hebrews go and Yahweh as pulling his strings, so to speak, andRead More

#89. Does Moses demand a leave of three days from Pharaoh’s service in order to sacrifice to Yahweh OR an unconditional release? (Ex 3:18, 5:3, 8:23 vs Ex 6:6-8)

“And you will come, you and Israel’s elders, to the king of Egypt, and say to him: ‘Yahweh, god of the Hebrews happened upon us. And now, let us go on a trip of three days in the wilderness so we may sacrifice to Yahweh, our god’” (Ex 3:18). The theme of a petition to leave the king’s service for three days in order to sacrifice to Yahweh in the wilderness—anRead More

#88. Does Yahweh command Moses to perform the signs before the elders of Israel OR before Pharaoh? (Ex 3:16, 4:1, 4:8 vs Ex 4:21)

The opening chapters of Exodus display narrative inconsistencies, doublets, differing styles and vocabulary, and indeed contradictions that have continuously led scholars to reaffirm the text’s composite nature. Having said that, it is difficult to assign with certainty some of these passages to the Elohist or Yahwist source. P remains clear; but since the Elohist now starts to use the divine name Yahweh, seeing that it has now been revealed, this featureRead More

#87. Does the god of the Hebrews reveal himself to Moses in Midian OR in Egypt? (Ex 3:1-15 vs Ex 6:2-3, 6:28-29; Ezek 20:5)

Did you know that the Bible recounts two different revelation scenes in the book of Exodus? That there are two different stories recounting the revelation of Yahweh, his person and his name, to Moses? Are you also aware that these two revelation scenes occur in two different geographical locations: in Midian and in Egypt? By now, you’re probably not surprised to hear that these two different accounts have been identified asRead More

#86. Is the mount of revelation Horeb OR Sinai? (Ex 3:1, 17:6; Deut 1:6, 4:10, etc. vs Ex 19:11, 19:18, etc.; Lev 7:38, 26:46, etc.)

Variant textual traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible reference two different places or place-names where Yahweh revealed himself and his commandments to Moses—neither of which has been archeologically identified.1 Both the Elohist and the later Deuteronomist consistently refer to the place of revelation as Horeb or “the mountain of the god.” Contrary to the Elohist however, the Deuteronomist does not present the giving of the laws as happening at Horeb,Read More

#85. Is Moses’ father-in-law Reuel OR Jethro OR Hobab? (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29 vs Ex 3:1 vs Judg 4:11)

There seems to be some confusion in the traditions preserving—or creating as the case may be—the name of Moses’ father-in-law, Zipporah’s father. The textual tradition identified as the Yahwist consistently refers to him as Reuel (Ex 2:18; Num 10:29), while the Elohist tradition uses the name Jethro (Ex 3:1, 3:18, 18:1-27). To further complicate issues, another source names Hobab as the father-in-law of Moses (Judg 4:11), and Num 10:29 refers toRead More

#83. Does Egypt’s king command the Hebrew midwives to kill all male infants OR does Pharaoh command his people to drown them?
#84. Are all the male infants spared OR is only Moses? (Ex 1:15-21 vs Ex 1:22-2:10)

Exodus 1:15–2:10, the story of Pharaoh’s decree to put to death all male-born Hebrews, presents itself in its current form as: first, a failed attempt by Egypt’s king since the Hebrew midwives refuse to comply to the king’s demand, and thus all the newborn babes are spared (1:18); and second, a supposed reissue of the ordinance by Pharaoh to his people, this time specifying to drown the male infants, wherein weRead More

#82. How long were the Hebrews enslaved: 400 years OR a mere generation? (Gen 15:13 vs Ex1:6-12)

As I was typing up yesterday’s contradiction (#81), it dawned on me that the imposition of the later Priestly writer’s chronology onto the older JE sources was not the only visible discrepancy in the narrative’s chronology. It was also there in the older sources themselves. So we’ll backtrack a bit here and note one more Genesis-Exodus contradiction. In Genesis 15:13, Yahweh is presented as claiming/prophesying to Abraham that the Hebrews willRead More

#81. When did the Exodus allegedly happen: during the reign of Rameses II (1279-1213 BC) OR in 1447 BC? (Ex 1:11 vs 1 Kgs 6:1)

In its present form, the book of Exodus is a composite of the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly sources. These biblical traditions, which record the story of the Israelites’ enslavement in and exodus from Egypt, maintain that the Israelites were oppressed by an unnamed Pharaoh, used as forced laborers in the Pharaoh’s building projects, and were subsequently liberated by Moses, under Yahweh’s guidance, with signs and wonders. Yet despite these traditions, historical specificsRead More

#80. Were the children of Jacob given the land of Rameses to inhabit OR did they build it generations later? (Gen 47:11 vs Ex 1:11)

This is our last contradiction for the book of Genesis and it should be held in tandem with tomorrow’s #81, our first Exodus contradiction. The various textual traditions that we have been examining in Genesis—the Yahwist, Elohist, and Priestly—continue into the book of Exodus. The Yahwist source makes minor appearances in Exodus and when it does it often presents duplicate traditions to those narrated by the Elohist. The Elohist has aRead More

#78. Before giving his blessing does Jacob know OR not know who Manasseh and Ephraim are? (Gen 48:5 vs Gen 48:8)
#79. Does Jacob adopt Joseph’s two sons OR merely bless them? (Gen 48:5-6 vs Gen 48:9-20)

As we’ve already seen in previous entries, the Priestly writer had a vested interest in rewriting  earlier Yahwist and Elohist covenant or blessing passages and in the case of the latter even converting them into covenantal ceremonies. This was so in the case of the Abrahamic covenant (#28), the transference of that covenant to Isaac (#40), then Jacob (#46-47), and finally Joseph’s two sons here in Genesis 48. We also saw thatRead More

#77. Benjamin had 10 sons OR 5? (Gen 46:21 vs Num 26:38-41)

The genealogy in Genesis 46:8-27, which we concerned ourselves with in contradiction #76, interrupts the narrative, as many close readers have noticed. In fact, if we took this material out, which has been unanimously identified as part of the Priestly source (Gen 46:6-27), what’s left is a narrative that precedes as a coherent and whole unity. Here is Genesis 46:5 + 46:28 5And the children of Israel carried Jacob their father and theirRead More

#76. Was it 66 OR 70 OR 75 males from Jacob’s loins who came to Egypt? (Gen 46:26 vs Gen 46:27, Ex 1:5, Deut 10:22 vs Acts 7:14)

The passage in question is Genesis 46:8-27 which breaks from the narrative to offer yet another genealogy: “And these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt…” We have seen elsewhere that such interest in genealogies, dates, and ages were evidence of the Priestly writer’s hand. Yet this passage also evidences editorial reworking, possibly even done by a scribal hand during the recopying of the manuscript. InRead More

#75. Who vouches for Benjamin’s security: Reuben OR Judah? (Gen 42:37 vs Gen 43:8-9)

Reuben and Judah each make one last appearance in the Joseph story, err… stories. As in the previous case (#71), where Reuben denounces his brothers’ plan to kill Joseph in the Elohist version, so too Reuben acts as surety for Benjamin’s safe return. “And Reuben said to his father: ‘Kill my two sons if I don’t bring him [Benjamin] back to you’” (42:37). The Yahwist version of the story, however, keepingRead More

#74. On their first trip back to Canaan from Egypt, the brothers open their bags and find their silver at a lodging place en route OR home in front of Jacob? (Gen 42:27-28 vs Gen 42:35)

Continuing our examination of the two Joseph stories (#69, #71, #72-73), which a later editorial endeavor had woven together in Genesis 37-48, this contradiction picks up where we left off. Genesis 42 displays a variety of doublets that reenforce our hypothesis that the Joseph story is in fact a compilation of two once separate Joseph stories. These duplicate renditions of the same narrative details once belonged to each of the two originally separate sources.Read More

#72. Who sells Joseph to the Ishmaelites: his brothers OR the Midianites? (Gen 37:27 vs Gen 37:28)
#73. Who sells Joseph to Potiphar: the Midianites OR the Ishmaelites? (Gen 37:36 vs Gen 39:1)

These two contradictions, like those of the flood narrative (#14-18), are also used as a classic example to demonstrate the Documentary Hypothesis. Genesis 37:28 provides us with our first clue. And Midianite merchants passed, and they pulled and lifted Joseph from the pit. And they sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty weights of silver and they brought Joseph to Egypt. As the grammar of the sentence now stands, verse 28 claimsRead More

#71. Is it Reuben OR Judah who saves Joseph’s life? (Gen 37:21-22 vs Gen 37:26-27)

There are a number of textual inconsistencies in Genesis chapter 37 that have consistently led commentators to the same conclusion: the Joseph narrative is a composite text of two, once separate, Joseph stories each with their own particular vocabulary, themes, and plot devices. The editor of these two textual traditions carefully attempted to safeguard both by stitching them together in an almost seamless and unperceivable manner. The first doublet in theRead More

#70. Is Rachel dead OR alive when Joseph has his dream? (Gen 35:19 vs Gen 37:11)

And Joseph had a dream… and told it to his brothers. And he said… “here were the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowing down to me.” And he told it to his father and brothers. And his father was annoyed at him and said to him: “What is this dream that you’ve had? Shall we come, I and your mother and your brothers, to bow to you to the ground?” (GenRead More

#69. Is the conflict between Joseph and his brothers, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah only OR all his brothers? (Gen 37:2 vs Gen 37:4)

We are almost through the book of Genesis. What remains is a discussion of the Joseph story or stories as we shall see. A close reading of Genesis 37-50 would reveal that the Joseph story is a composite of two once separate versions of this story. When these two versions were later edited together minor narrative inconsistencies and contradictions were created. Since Joseph is a hero of the north, it is notRead More

#68. Do Esau and his descendants live with the Horites in Mount Seir OR did they dispossess them and destroy them? (Gen 36:6-8, 20-21 vs Deut 2:12)

The Bible employs 2 different land-settlement models when speaking about the conquest of the promised land and its environs: a co-habitation or displacement model and a butcher’em and burn’em up model, man, woman, children, and livestock! You’ll be happy to know that both are narrative constructs, each one composed by different authors. Both Genesis 36:1-30 and Deuteronomy 2:12 preserve 2 settlement stories about the land of Edom or Seir as it is often referred to. The PriestlyRead More

#67. Who were Esau’s wives: Judith and Basemath OR Adah, Aholibamah, and Basemath? (Gen 26:34 vs Gen 36:2-3)

Back to looking at some of the discrepancies in the book of Genesis’ genealogical lists (see also #7, #8-9, #20-21, #23). Genesis 26:34 states that Esau’s wives were: 1) Judith daughter of the Hittite Beeri, and 2) Basemath, daughter of the Hittite Elon. Genesis 36:2-3 lists: 1) Adah, daughter of the Hittite Elon, 2) Aholibamah, daughter of the Hivite Zibeon, and 3) Basemath, but here daughter of Ishmael. Both of these passages areRead More

#66. Where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem OR Paddan Aram? (Gen 35:16-19 vs Gen 35:23-26)

The book of Genesis gives 2 contradictory responses to the question where was Benjamin born: Bethlehem and Paddan Aram. And they traveled from Bethel, and there was still a span of land to come to Ephrath; and Rachel gave birth and she had a hard labor… And it came to pass as her soul was departing—for she died—that she called his name Ben-oni [i.e., son of my sorrow], but his father called him BenjaminRead More

#64. Does Jacob name Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR on his return? (Gen 28: 11-19 vs Gen 35:11-15)
#65. Does Jacob erect a stone-pillar altar to the god at Bethel before he leaves Canaan OR when he returns? (Gen 28:18 vs Gen 35:7, 35:14)

The book of Genesis gives 2 different stories about how and when Bethel was named, which was an important cultic center in northern Israel, until its destruction in 722 BC by the Assyrians. Stories about its founding were no doubt important and most likely played a prominent role in cultic festivals at Bethel. These stories were told from generation to generation with variations in narrative details and emphases until they were finally writtenRead More

#63. Can a mortal see God face-to-face and live OR not? (Gen 16:13, 32:30; Ex 24:9-11, 33:11; Num 14:14; Deut 5:21, 34:10 vs Ex 33:20; John 1:18, 5:37; 1 Tim 6:16)

This is an oldie but a goodie as they say, and can be found on numerous other sites and throughout the literature. I will keep to my procedure of stressing that such contradictions are the result of an editorial process that brought together different textual traditions written over a period of 1,000 years, each expressing divergent and contradictory beliefs, worldviews, and theologies. In fact, contradictory traditions now preserved side-by-side in the Bible yieldRead More

#62. Is it at Penuel OR Bethel that El (Shaddai) changes Jacob’s name to Israel? (Gen 32:29 vs Gen 35:10)

The biblical stories of the patriarch Jacob preserve two accounts of his name change to Israel: Genesis 32:23-33 and Genesis 35:9-15. Unfortunately these two traditions do not agree on when and where this name change occurred, at Penuel before Jacob enters Canaan or at Bethel after he has entered Canaan. Both Penuel and Bethel were important northern towns and each one perhaps sought to traditionally align itself with stories about its founding patriarch Jacob.Read More

#61. Is Shechem purchased by Jacob OR taken by the guile and violence of Simeon and Levi? (Gen 33:19 vs Gen 34:25-29)

There are two accounts in the book of Genesis detailing how the Israelites came to possess Shechem, which became the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Butchered or Bought? might have made for a more dramatic title to today’s contradiction. The southern Yahwist account is telling. It reveals how the southern storytellers viewed their northern brethren. For according to this version, the founding of Shechem was achieved through a deceptive, brutal, andRead More

#60. Does Esau settle in Seir before or after Jacob’s return? (Gen 32:4, 33:14, 33:16 vs Gen 36:6-8)

This is yet another example of a contradiction that occurs within the narrative chronology of the combined JEP storyline (the text as we now have it) when the later Priestly text, with its own narrative and theological details and agendas, was cut and pasted into the JE narrative (see also #32, #42, #45). All of the Pentateuch’s textual traditions (J, E, P, D) connect the eponymous father of Edom, that is Esau, with the region of Seir. GenesisRead More