Question: How long was the ark of the covenant at Abinadab's house? Was it twenty years or more than forty years?
1 Sam. 7:1-2 says the ark was at Abinadab's house for twenty years.
1 Sam. 10:24 says that Saul became king. And this was after the ark was moved to Abinadab's house, right?
Acts 13:21 says that Saul was king for forty years.
2 Sam. 6:2-3 says that David, who became king after Saul, moved the ark from Abinadab's house. So, how can this be? 1 Sam. 7:1-2 says the ark was at Abinadab's house for twenty years. But, the other verses show that the ark was at Abinadab's house for at least forty years. And that's a contradiction, right?
Response: The key is in understanding the reference to the "twenty years" in 1 Samuel 7:2. If the ark was moved from Abinadab's house after the 20 years, then yes it would seem that we have a contradiction. But, if the ark was not moved after that 20 years, then we have no contradiction.
So, what does the "twenty years" refer to? Does it refer to the ark being moved? Or does it simply mean that at that particular point in time the ark already had been at Abinadab's house for a total of 20 years?
To answer that, take a look at 1 Samuel 7:1-3 (NIV):
1 Samuel 7:1 - So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab's house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD.
1 Samuel 7:2 - It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.
1 Samuel 7:3 - And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the
Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."
In first verse, the ark is taken to Abinadab's house. In the third verse, Samuel convenes representatives from the house of Israel and tells them to turn back to the Lord and to turn away from pagan worship. So what does the "twenty years" in the second verse refer to? It refers to the span of time between the events described in the first and third verses. Nothing more, nothing less. It refers to the span of time that begins with the ark being moved to Abinadab's house and it ends with Samuel convening the house of Israel.
The fact is, there is no mention in 1 Samuel 7:1-3 of the ark being moved. In fact, nowhere in all of 1 Samuel 7 does it ever say that the ark was moved at that point in time. Nowhere in all of 1 Samuel 7 does it ever say where the ark was supposedly moved to. And nowhere in all of 1 Samuel 7 does it ever say who supposedly moved the ark. Why? Because - the ark was not moved at that point in time. It had been at Abinadab's house for 20 years at that point in time. And, as we learn from other Bible passages, the ark remained at Abinadab's house for at least another 20 years. There is no contradiction.