1 Samuel 13:1 is a difficult verse to translate. Some experts think that there may be errors in our most ancient copies of that verse.
One idea is that some words may be missing from the verse. We believe that, as the word of God, the Bible is perfect (Psalm 19:7). God does not make mistakes, but of course, people do make mistakes. It has only been possible to print books for the last 600 years. Before that, it was necessary to copy books by hand. The people who copied our Bibles were very careful; but of course, they sometimes made mistakes.
Those mistakes hardly ever matter to the person who reads the Bible. The whole Bible teaches the same message; a minor error does not change that message. Such errors do not affect anything that we believe.
Here, the questions are Saulís age, and the number of years that he ruled. One Bible translation, called the New International Version, tries to guess the missing words. It says that Saul was 30 years old at the start of his rule. And it says that he ruled for 42 years. Another translation, called the Revised Standard Version, contains blank spaces.
However, it is not even clear that there is an error in the verse. It may simply contain an unfamiliar expression. So, the King James Bible says that Saul ruled for two years before the battle in 1 Samuel chapters 13 and 14.
That explanation also appears in a note in the New International Version. However, then Saul would probably not be just 30 years old when he became king. Saulís son, Jonathan, was already an adult when that battle began (13:2). As we have seen, Saulís age does not actually appear in the most ancient copies of 1 Samuel 13:1.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.