Ezra/Nehemiah Number Discrepancies
Ezra 2—”Are the numbers of Israelite clans freed from Babylonian captivity correct in Ezra or in Nehemiah 7?”
This reveals not a contradiction in scripture but the ignorance of the critic.
Firstly, whereas Ezra explicitly claims accuracy (“…Now these are the people…” – Ezra 2:1), Nehemiah is merely recording what he found written on a genealogical register (“…I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return. This is what I found written there…” –Nehemiah 7:5). He never vouches for their accuracy; he is just being a good historian by informing the reader what a certain genealogical register contained.
Secondly, the context tells us that whereas Ezra’s register was made up before the migration to Jerusalem while still in Babylon (in the 450s bc), Nehemiah’s register was drawn up some years later after the journey to Judea and rebuilding (around 445bc). Apparently both lists were taken from a working list that was modified and updated over the years as people backed out of the journey, died, or more relatives decided to come along. Some may have initially intended to go but changed their mind; others may have later joined in. This “working list” would have naturally been adapted as people left or joined the migration, to give the leader an accurate understanding of who was in the various groups.
When we look at the names we find that certain names are mentioned in alternate forms. Among the Jews of that time (as well as those living in the East), a person had a name, title, and surname. Thus, the children of Hariph (Nehemiah 7:24) are the children of Jorah (Ezra 2:18), while the children of Sia (Nehemiah 7:47) are also the children of Siaha (Ezra 2:44). Ezra simply records a ‘snapshot’ of these constantly-changing numbers before the journey, and Nehemiah records another snapshot some years later.