Historical Questions from Sunday

Historical Questions

How old was David when he struck down the giant? When he was anointed?

The only definitive age given for David in the Bible is that he was 30 when he became king and he reigned 40 years. His age at his anointing and when he fought Goliath are not given. However, we have some clues. We know that everyone considered him a “boy” and that he was tending the sheep instead of fighting in the army, and we know that his three oldest brothers were all in the army (meaning they were over 20), but that there were other brothers older than David who were not in the army. David also had sisters who could have been older than him. In other words, if his mom never had twins, David’s age would likely have been 13-15 when he fought Goliath. Here are two articles on the topic: here and here.

How many years was Saul king?

Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years. — 1 Samuel 13:1 NIV

What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?

No one knows. Rumors abound. The last time it is mentioned in the history of Israel is in 2 Chronicles 35:3 when Josiah told the priests to put the ark back into the Temple. Where was it before? We don’t know that either. After that, there is no mention of it again in any historical context. Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 3:16 that there would come a day when people would completely forget about the ark. “…it will not be missed…,” he says.

There are multiple times in history when the ark could have been lost or destroyed because there were multiple times when the Temple holding the ark was destroyed:

  • When Jerusalem was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, he took all the valuable things from the Temple before destroying it. A box covered in gold would certainly have been considered valuable! However, when this is described in 2 Kings 24:13, it says Nebuchadnezzar took “all the gold articles,” but the ark is not mentioned.
  • When the Persian king Cyrus sends Ezra back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, he also sent with him “the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:7). Ezra records a list of those articles, and once again, the ark is not mentioned.
  • Years later, the temple built by Ezra was destroyed by a Greek general named Antiochus.
  • Later, Herod the Great rebuilt the temple.
  • Later still, the Romans destroyed it for the last time.

The ark could have been lost or destroyed at any one of those moments, and a lot of speculation exists out there.

The most popular speculative idea is that the Jews hid the ark before Nebuchadnezzar breached the walls of Jerusalem and before the temple was ransacked, and that it is now either lost or that some secret society has been guarding the ark for all these years ready to bring it back out if/when the temple is rebuilt again. Personally, I don’t buy it. If the Jewish people knew the ark had been spared either by them or by Nebuchadnezzar in some Babylonian storehouse, then 70 years later when they rebuilt the temple, they would certainly have returned the ark to its rightful place. I think the ark was destroyed in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest. Either he left it in the temple when he burned the temple down, or he took it back to Babylon with him and dismantled it there.

Whatever happened, Jeremiah’s prophecy came true. Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest led to the destruction of the ark and the people didn’t miss it. They never mentioned it again either in the time of Ezra when the temple was rebuilt or in the time of Jesus when the curtain in the temple was torn in two.

Who replaced or followed Samuel?

It depends.

Regarding Samuel as the leader of Israel like the judges in the book of Judges, no one. Samuel is the last person who fits that category. After Samuel, the nation transitioned from “judges” to kings.

Regarding Samuel as a prophet/seer who represented God to people, many people came after him. David had encounters with a prophet named Gad and a prophet named Nathan. Many other prophets are also described in the Bible: Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.

Regarding Samuel as a priestly figure, even though Samuel wasn’t actually a priest, he performed some priestly duties like doing sacrifices. That’s probably because Eli wasn’t a good priest and his sons weren’t good either, and God killed them all. It might have taken time for another priest to rise up, but by the time of David, we know there were other priests like Ahimelech, Abiathar and others.

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