Skeptics Annotated Bible A Response

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#11 - How many of Adonikam's offspring returned from Babylon?

Response by Wendell Leahy

The SAB asks:
How many of Adonikam's offspring returned from Babylon, 666 or 667?
Ezra 2:13 the sons of Adonikam, 666.
Nehemiah 7:18 the sons of Adonikam, 667

The quick answer is 667

From Ezra, we can assume that 1)Adonikam is not included, or 2)this is the accounting, at that time. From Nehemiah we conclude the final accounting for Adonikam's clan. We can assume that one additional clan member is added to the registry, bringing the final total to 667.

Ezra takes the first accounting of the returning Israelites. Nehemiah records the final count. It stands at 49,942. The difference of time is estimated to be at least forty years.

Ezra's count is recorded at 49,897.
Nehemiah's count is recorded at 49,942.
The difference of the total accounting is 45 singers.

Ezra 2:64-65
The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women. 49,897.
Nehemiah 7:4-5, 66-67
7:4: Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded. And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein:
66-67: These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city; The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, Beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women. 49,942
Matthew Henry Commentary
He (Nehemiah) reviewed the old register of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and compared the present accounts with that; and here we have the repetition of that out of Ezra 2. The title is the same here (v. 6, 7) as there (v. 1, 2): These are the children of the province, etc. Two things are here repeated and recorded a second time from thence —the names and numbers of their several families, and their oblations to the service of the temple. The repetition of these accounts may intimate to us the delight which the great God is pleased to take in the persons, families, and services of his spiritual Israel, and the particular notice he takes of them. He knows those that are his, knows them all, knows them by name, has his eye on the register of those children of the captivity, and does all according to the ancient counsel of his will concerning them. (1.) Here is an account of the heads of the several families that first came up, v. 6–69. As to this, [1.] Though it seem of little use to us now, yet then it was of great use, to compare what they had been with what they now were. We may suppose they were much increased by this time; but it would do well for them to remember their small beginnings, that they might acknowledge God in multiplying their families and building them up. By this means likewise their genealogies would be preserved, and the distinction of their families kept up, till the Messiah should come, and then an end be put to all their genealogies, which were preserved for his sake, but afterwards were endless.
Some considerations in which I will address:
#1. There is very little information concerning Adonikam
#2. The critic claims the accounting of the people makes this a contradiction.
#3. Others claim the 666 count is related to the mark of the beast.
#4. The difference of 45 singers.

#1: Adonikam
Mentioned only 3 times in the Bible.
  • Ezra 2:13 the sons of Adonikam, 666.
  • Ezra 8:13 these are the last ones, from Adonikam's descendants, and their names are: Eliphelet, Jeuel, and Shemaiah,and 60 men with them;
  • Nehemiah 7:18 the sons of Adonikam, 667
Adonikam whom the Lord sets up
  • One of those "which came with Zerubbabel" (Ezra 2:13). His "children," or retainers, to the number of 666, came up to Jerusalem (8:13). Easton's Bible Dictionary
  • Also called ADONIJAH, a Jew who returned with Ezra from Babylon Ezra 2:13; Nehemiah 7:18; 10:16. Nave's Topical Bible
  • Adonijah is associated with the 4th son of King David. However, this is not the same person as stated from Ezra and Nehemiah. It may be possible this may be his offspring. More research is needed of this clan to make any reasonable determination.
  • The numbering of the Jews according to their tribes by the head of families, is due to the requirement as given in Numbers 1:2.
Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head.
#2: Contradiction
The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah cannot stand in contradiction simply by the accounting of the returning Jews from Israel. Several reasons will attribute to this. Primarily:
  • Isaiah (chapters 3,25-27,43,47,57-59), Daniel (9:1) and Jeremiah (25,29) prophesied concerning the Babylonian exile, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Jeremiah and Daniel stated they would be held 70 years in captivity.

  • Babylonian Captivity
    Easton's Bible Dictionary - Captivity
  • Cyrus, King of Persia, more than a hundred years before he was born, was to assure Israel of their deliverance. Isaiah names the person by whom it would be:
    Isaiah 44:28 who says to Cyrus: My shepherd, he will fulfill all My pleasure and say to Jerusalem: She will be rebuilt, and of the temple: Its foundation will be laid.
Cyrus was motivated by Isaiah's prophecy concerning him. This may be an interesting example of the workings of providence. Josephus, the Jewish historian, has a fascinating comment on this incident. He states that Cyrus was shown the material from the book of Isaiah containing this prophecy. Upon reading the divine prediction, the king announced:
“Thus says Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty has appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is the God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judah” (Antiquities 11.1.1)
Ezra 1:2-Cyrus the Deliverer
Ezra 5:6-7 This is the text of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the region west of the Euphrates River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials in the region, sent to King Darius. They sent him a report, written as follows:

To King Darius:
Ezra 5:9-13 So we questioned the elders (of Israel) and asked, "Who gave you the order to rebuild this temple and finish this structure?" We also asked them for their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.
This is the reply they gave us:
We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But since our fathers angered the God of heaven, He handed them over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, he issued a decree to rebuild this house of God.
#3: 666 Mark of the Beast
There is not enough information concerning Adonikam, to claim that the 666 count by Ezra represents the mark of the beast. In my opinion, this is a wild assumption, at best. If we had more information it may be possible to ascertain attributing the mark of the beast from this Book. However, it seems highly unlikely. We can know this by several reasons.
  • The mark of the beast is only mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev:13:18).
  • Daniel clearly identifies the 'beast' by naming him as 'the little horn' (Dan:7:8).
  • Nebuchadnezzar (head of gold) would be the only impression of an 'Anti-Christ type', though nothing is mentioned of him in this manner. Most scholars would agree that he came to salvation through the personal teachings of Daniel.
Dr. Henri Rossier states: The Book of Ezra
In the midst of this procession, the sons of Adonikam shine, most of whom had returned with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2: 13). Now the last children (v. 13) go up with Ezra; their names are not forgotten; thus, the entire family is complete and this special blessing is mentioned here in the book of God. May we also see entire families, like the family of Adonikam, among those whom the Lord calls to testify of Him in these final days!
#4: The difference of 45 singers

Matthew Henry writes:
There are many differences in the numbers between this catalogue and that in Ezra. Most of them indeed are exactly the same, and some others within a very few under or over (one or two perhaps); and therefore I cannot think, as some do, that that was the number of these families at their first coming and this as they were now, which was at least forty years after (some make it much more); for we cannot suppose so many families to be not at all, or but little, altered in their numbers in all that time; therefore what differences there are we may suppose to arise either from the mistakes of transcribers, which easily happen in numbers, or from the diversity of the copies from which they were taken. Or perhaps one was the account of them when they set out from Babylon with Zerubbabel, the other when they came to Jerusalem. The sum totals are all just the same there and here, except of the singing-men and singing-women, which there are 200, here 245. These were not of such importance as that they should keep any strict account of them.
The background of these two books tells us clearly that most of the Jews did not return to Israel. This is the sad fact; they forsook the land of their fathers and the land in which God had made them a promise. There is a parallel lesson here to that of the exodus and the first generation dying in the wilderness.

Their religion was in 'word' only, as Isaiah prophesied, as they remained in Babylon, a land full of idols and witchcraft. The Jews were to stand opposed to all paganism and declare the true living God. It is estimated that 5-6 million people lived during the time of the Babylonian captivity, and yet, scarcely 50,000 returned to rebuild what God had made promise to them.
Isaiah 52:1-3 Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean Will no longer come into you. Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For thus says the LORD, "You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money."
Matthew Henry writes:
All the Jews should at length have shaken themselves from their dust, and loosed the bands of their neck, according to that call (Isa. 52:1, 2) I wonder how any of them could read that chapter and yet stay behind. But multitudes did. They loved their ease better than their religion, thought themselves well off where they were, and either believed not that Jerusalem would better their condition or durst not go thither through any difficulties.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: Ezra-Nehemiah Bible Study
Unity The unity of the combined work is shown by the fact that they have the same common object, the same plan, and a similarity of language and style; that they treat, for the most part, of the same period of time; and that Ezra is one of the most prominent persons in both. It is not fair to deny the essential unity on the ground that the list of priests and others found in Ezr 2 is repeated in Ne 7; for there is no doubt that Ezra was the compiler of parts at least of the book called after him, and that Nehemiah also was the original writer of parts of the book that bears his name. Whoever was the final editor of the whole work, he has simply retained the two almost identical lists in their appropriate places in the documents which lay before him. offers an indepth look at the Book of Ezra and Nehemiah

Additional Resources
Notes on Ezra by Thomas L. Constable (pdf required)
Notes on Nehemiah by Thomas L. Constable (pdf required)
Ezra Easton's Bible Dictionary
Ezra the scribe
Book of Ezra
Ezra Early Jewish Writings by Peter Kirby
The Bible and Archaeology The Kingdom of Judah: Exile and Restoration
NECHEMIYAH (Book of Nehemiah) Massoretic, Hebrew, Aramaic, JPS, Kaplan texts of Ezra from the Jewish Publication Society Bible

Re: by Dave Marr: Questions #10 and #11
These questions by the skeptic both pertain to the censuses taken regarding the time at which the Babylonians took Israel captive. In all fairness, these discrepancies should have all been put under one "contradiction", since they pertain to the same two censuses. However, to make it seem like there are more "contradictions" than there really are, the skeptic has randomly spread parts of this census throughout the whole collection.

Wendell gave excellent, well-researched answers to the problems with the Babylonian census, so I would direct inquiries on these questions back to posts #1o and #11. It's probable that he'll add even more to these studies, and I might possibly also at some point in the future.

(Thanks Dave! -W-)