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1 Samuel 13:1

Context
Saul Fails the Lord

13:1 Saul was [thirty] 1  years old when he began to reign; he ruled over Israel for [forty] 2  years.

1 tc The MT does not have “thirty.” A number appears to have dropped out of the Hebrew text here, since as it stands the MT (literally, “a son of a year”) must mean that Saul was only one year old when he began to reign! The KJV, attempting to resolve this, reads “Saul reigned one year,” but that is not the normal meaning of the Hebrew text represented by the MT. Although most LXX mss lack the entire verse, some Greek mss have “thirty years” here (while others have “one year” like the MT). The Syriac Peshitta has Saul’s age as twenty-one. But this seems impossible to harmonize with the implied age of Saul’s son Jonathan in the following verse. Taking into account the fact that in v. 2 Jonathan was old enough to be a military leader, some scholars prefer to supply in v. 1 the number forty (cf. ASV, NASB). The present translation (“thirty”) is a possible but admittedly uncertain proposal based on a few Greek mss and followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NIV, NCV, NLT). Other English versions simply supply ellipsis marks for the missing number (e.g., NAB, NRSV).

2 tc The MT has “two years” here. If this number is to be accepted as correct, the meaning apparently would be that after a lapse of two years at the beginning of Saul’s reign, he then went about the task of consolidating an army as described in what follows (cf. KJV, ASV, CEV). But if the statement in v. 1 is intended to be a comprehensive report on the length of Saul’s reign, the number is too small. According to Acts 13:21 Saul reigned for forty years. Some English versions (e.g., NIV, NCV, NLT), taking this forty to be a round number, add it to the “two years” of the MT and translate the number in 2 Sam 13:1 as “forty-two years.” While this is an acceptable option, the present translation instead replaces the MT’s “two” with the figure “forty.” Admittedly the textual evidence for this decision is weak, but the same can be said of any attempt to restore sense to this difficult text (note the ellipsis marks at this point in NAB, NRSV). The Syriac Peshitta lacks this part of v. 1.



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