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Not Jewish but I've never come across a Christian defense of the reign length 1 Samuel 13:1 attributes Saul. This is probably because of Acts 13:21 and the messiness of the former verse(Saul's missing his age, for example). It's only in Jewish sources that I've seen this verse's reign length taken as fact, so I'm interested in knowing if apparent issues that arise out of assigning Saul such a short reign have been noticed and addressed by Jewish writers. Here are the issues I've noticed:

  1. Saul, a young man? 1 Samuel 9:2 presents Saul as a "a young man" but if Ishbosheth was truly forty at his reign's start and Saul's reign only two years long, then he was anything but. Let me explain: Making the end of David's seven years at Hebron concurrent with Ishbosheth's death puts the ill-fated ruler around 35 at his father's accession, and Saul himself in his late 50's.

This is main problem but there are some less pressing issues:

  1. A Saul in his late 50's puts Jonathan around 40 at his dad's accession, meaning Jonathan was in his late 30's when he fathered his firstborn.

  2. I'm pretty sure David's said to live with in the land of the philistines for a year and four months. The preceding events couldn't possibly have taken place in less than 6 months.

  3. As I mentioned earlier, this verse is messy. It's missing Saul's age at accession. Why trust the problem causing reign length if the accession age has fallen out?

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    The Hebrew word "Na'ar" does not always mean young man. It could mean a serving person, as with Joshua. Similar to "lad" or "boy" in English.
    – N.T.
    Jul 5 at 9:58
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    This is the kind of thing that Jewish commentaries totally address.
    – Shalom
    Jul 5 at 10:31

1 Answer 1

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You are correct that Seder Olam (the earliest work of Jewish chronology, presumed to date from the second century CE) does assign only two years to Saul's reign, and a number of later bible commentaries (e.g. Rashi, Radak) align with this view, either totally or fairly closely.

However, there are plenty of medieval bible commentaries (e.g. Gersonides, Abravanel) who were bothered by some of the same questions you ask here, and offer different interpretation of I Samuel 13:1.

For instance, two suggestions of Abravanel:

  1. The two years mentioned in the verse are from the start of Saul's reign until the incidents described here at the beginning of chapter 13, but Saul's reign continued for many years afterwards.

  2. The two years mentioned in the verse are from the start of Saul's reign until Samuel annoints David as king, but Saul's reign continued for many years afterwards.

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