Towards a solution for the so-called errors of calculations in the lists of Ezra and Nehemiah


Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 are utilizing source(s) of Zerubabel counting the totals of those returning to Israel in 538 under Cyrus the King of Persia.

Firstly, the tables would have been submitted to Cyrus for his archives and written in probable Babylonian script of that period. Akkadian counting systems would have been used. This Akkadian source would have been translated into Aramaic by the Jewish actors of this time for their own records as well. Zerubabel in all likelihood submitted two countings, a beginning one at departure and an end one at arrival. Ezra may have used the departure list and Nehemiah the arrival list.

Both Ezra and Nehemiah is clear that the final total is 42, 360.

However, counting Ezra separately is short of the total of 42, 360. Counting Nehemiah separately is also short of the total, albeit slightly shorter than Ezra but still not 42, 360.

Comparing the lists of Ezra and Nehemiah reveals that 21 numbers are identical between the two lists.

The rest are not. Nehemiah is slightly higher or lower than Ezra.

Furthermore, in three cases, three numbers are omitted in the list of Nehemiah.

If one adds up and subtracts the “variation” numbers of Nehemiah, the total is finally 1556 for these variation numbers.

Take one example: Ezra mentioned that 666 (left?). Nehemiah mentioned that 667 (arrived?). How is that possible? KLM flew from Amsterdam to JFK. They left with 253 passengers on board but arrived with 254. What happened? A baby was born.

Why is a list with Nehemiah suddenly smaller than Ezra? The family went back and changed their mind?

Then there is the possibility that the Aramaic scribe reading the numbers from an Akkadian text to the translator in Aramaic writing, saw the Akkadian letters but copied it slightly different because of slips of the eye, similar endings, similar beginnings.


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The hundred in Akkadian was misread for a 300 instead of a 200. The beginning nail stood next to the 2 and gave the impression that it is 3 instead of only 2. At least two cases this could have happened: 1222 and 223.

The 8 in 148 could have been the cause for the 138 in the next number.

The pop-up of a 9 in 3930 could have been from a 9 in 973 in the next number. The 6 in 666 could have been the origin of the 6 in Nehemiah list of 2066.

But despite these possible innocent human weakness slips of the eye, one can still not explain why the lists fall short of 42, 360.

Except if one adds the following way:

  1. Add up only all the highest numbers in the two lists, whether Ezra or Nehemiah. Total 38974

  2. Minus this with the Gross total: 42, 360 – 38, 974 = 3386.

  3. Minus now the total of Variations of numbers in the list of Nehemiah, which is 1556. Thus 3386 – 1556 = 1830.

  4. Now take this 1830 and minus the second entry for Elam as 1254, left out of the calculations supra of the highest numbers, thus not included in the total of the 38, 974. Thus, 1830 – 1254 [second entry of Elam] = 576.

  5. Now subtract the three omission totals in Nehemiah’s list: -323, -56, -156. Final total unaccounted for 41.

  6. Thus, this calculation brings us 41 short of the 42, 360.