Saturday, 31 December 2022
“After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. Acts 13:20
The previous verse referred to the subduing of the land where the seven nations were destroyed and then the division of the land by allotment. Paul’s next words say, “After that.” There is a rather large difficulty in reckoning the number four hundred and fifty found in this verse. For now, an evaluation will be made based on the text of the NKJV.
As for the meaning of the words “After that,” it would have to mean, “After the time of warfare to remove the inhabitants and division of the land.” It is after that time that, “He gave them judges.”
Although Joshua is not called a judge, his role certainly fits that position. Regardless of that, the period of the judges is carefully recorded in the book of Judges, beginning with Othniel and ending in the book of 1 Samuel with Samuel the prophet being the final judge of Israel before the time of the kings. From there, Paul’s words continue with, “for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.”
This counting causes difficulty because of what it says in 1 Kings 6:1 –
“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.”
The two numbers, that of Paul and that of the record in 1 Kings 6:1, do not seem to match. From the exodus until entry into Canaan was forty years. It took about another seven years to subdue the land. It was at this time the divisions of the land were made.
If it was four hundred and fifty years from the land division to the time of Samuel, and then you add on the forty years in the wilderness, the seven years until the land division, the time of Saul’s reign (forty years – Acts 13:21) and the time of David’s reign (forty years – 1 Kings 2:11), and then the building of the temple commencing in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, it is about five hundred and ninety years from the exodus until the time of the building of the temple.
Because of the difficulty, some translations make the period inclusive of what Paul has said since verse 17 where it spoke of Abraham. As such, the translations read –
“All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.” BSB
In other words, the period is not speaking of the time from the division of the land until the time of Samuel, but of the time from Abraham to the time of the judges, which then went from Othniel to Samuel. The problem with that is that Paul does not mention the making of the covenant, just that the fathers were chosen. Also, the time interval would have to begin with Isaac, not Abraham. However, Isaac was never even mentioned by Paul.
A seemingly reasonable explanation, which includes the extrabiblical note of the time of Joshua’s rule, comes from Jamieson-Faucet-Brown –
“But taking the sense to be as in our version, that it was the period of the judges itself which lasted about four hundred fifty years, this statement also will appear historically correct, if we include in it the interval of subjection to foreign powers which occurred during the period of the judges, and understand it to describe the whole period from the settlement of the tribes in Canaan to the establishment of royalty. Thus, from the Exodus to the building of the temple were five hundred ninety-two years [Josephus, Antiquities, 8.3.1]; deduct forty years in the wilderness; twenty-five years of Joshua's rule [Josephus, Antiquities, 5.1.29]; forty years of Saul's reign (Ac 13:2); forty of David's and the first four years of Solomon's reign (1Ki 6:1), and there remain, just four hundred forty-three years; or, in round numbers, ‘about four hundred fifty years.’”
This would align with Paul’s statement, made in a general manner to his audience. However, it still bears a conflict with the dating of 1 Kings 6:1, unless that date is only speaking of the time when Israel was not under foreign rule. And more, it should be unnecessary to include the writings of Josephus to conclude what Paul is referring to because his words are now included in the Bible.
The resolution to the problem comes by taking the timeframe in relation to the expressly stated years of servitude and peace as is recorded in the book of Judges. When this is done, the period is exacting. Those timeframes are listed in verses such as that found in Judges 3:14, which says, “So the children of Israel served Eglon king of Moab eighteen years.”
In a paper published by Floyd Nolen Jones in 2007, he adds up all such periods and they come out to four hundred and fifty years.
Life application: Study the Bible enough and you can bet a resolution to difficulties in the Bible will eventually be realized.
This is the paper as submitted by Dr. Jones:
450 or 480 years – Acts 13:20 and 1 Kings 6:1
The most bothersome “contradiction” in Scripture is that of the presumed conflict between the 450 years of Acts 13:20 with the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1. However, such is a mirage – the two actually have nothing to do with one another. Acts 13:20 concerning the length of the period from the judges until Samuel the prophet is no more than Paul’s affirming of the Hebrew Scriptures. He is merely giving a summary total, without any regard to overlap, of all the years of servitude and peace as recorded in the Book of Judges (as well as Eli’s judgeship, for it says “until Samuel the prophet”), thus:
8+40+18+80+20+40+7+40+3+23+22+18+6+7+10+8+40+20 + 40 for Eli in 1 Sam. 4:18 = exactly 450
As already explained (Chronology, pp. 72-76), each period of oppression was overlapped by the time of peace that followed Israel’s deliverance by a judge. The relevant passages in Acts 13 reads:
Acts 13:17 The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it.
18 And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.
19 And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he divided their land to them by lot.
20 And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred & fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.
21 And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years.
22 And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.
Although these verses are given in the historic chronological order, verse 19 gives neither the length for the span of the war with the Canaanites nor the time required for the distribution of the land among the 12 tribes. Thus, when taken alone, it is of no actual chronological value. Even verse 21, which gives the span of Saul’s reign as 40 years, does not tell us the length of time covering from when Samuel actually became established as a prophet until the people desired a king. Indeed, verse 22 does not give the number of years for the reign of David.
From these observations, as well as the context of Acts 13:14-43, it becomes obvious that the main purpose of Acts 13:17-22 is not that of furnishing chronological data. Moreover, the giving of Saul’s reign as being 40 years is probably because it is not recorded in the Old Testament (although it can be determined: see footnote 2, page xiii in my Chronology).
This straightforward solution to the conundrum reveals that the 450 years have no chronological significance and has no bearing whatsoever on 1 Kings 6:1. The problem between the two passages never actually existed and was always only a matter of perception – or the lack thereof.
Floyd Nolen Jones, Th.D., Ph.D. – 2007
This information was obtained from:
When facing difficulties in the Bible, study the Bible more. It is a self-validating treasure of marvel and wonder.
Lord God, we can know Your word is true through a careful study of it. Although there are things we may not understand, we can still have faith that those things that are difficult do have a suitable resolution, even if we have not yet found it. Thank You for Your precious word. Help us to contemplate it all our days and to grow in our knowledge of You through it. Amen.