How Many Overseers Did Solomon Have, 3,300 or 3,600?

Are 1 Kings 5:16 and 2 Chronicles 2:2 contradictory concerning how many supervisors Solomon had, 3,300 or 3,600. Learn why there is no contradiction here.
Bible "contradictions"
...

Read this article at its new location here: https://reformedwiki.com/did-solomon-have-3300-or-3600-overseers

Quick Answer

There are at least three solutions:

  1. 2 Chronicles 2:2 includes 300 reserves who were ready to work if any of the regular supervisors became unable to work.
  2. When the number of chief officers are added to the number of overseers, the number in both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles is 3,850. Perhaps the authors were classifying the supervisors differently.
  3. The discrepancy is a copyist error.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning how many supervisors Solomon had, whether he had 3,300 or 3,600. Here are the relevant verses.

Solomon had 3,300 overseers

1 Kings 5:16 - besides Solomon's 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.

Solomon had 3,600 overseers

2 Chronicles 2:2 - And Solomon assigned 70,000 men to bear burdens and 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 to oversee them.

The solution

There are at least three solutions to this alleged contradiction.

1. 2 Chronicles 2:2 includes 300 reserves

One possible solution is the 2 Chronicles 2:2 includes 300 reserves who would be ready to work if any of the regular overseers became sick or died. Here is what Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, et. all. wrote in their essay on alleged Bible contradictions:

This is not too great a problem. The most likely solution is that the author of 2 Chronicles included the 300 men who were selected as reservists to take the place of any supervisors who would become ill or who had died, while the author of the 1 Kings 5:16 passage includes only the supervisory force. With the group as large as the 3,300, sickness and death certainly did occur, requiring reserves who would be called up as the need arose (n.d.).[1]

2. 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles are classifying overseers in different ways

1 Kings 9:23 says that Solomon had 550 chief officers, and 2 Chronicles 8:10 says that Solomon had 250 chief officers.

1 Kings 9:23 - These were the chief officers who were over Solomon's work: 550 who had charge of the people who carried on the work.
2 Chronicles 8:10 - And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.

For 1 Kings, if we add up the number of overseers and chief officers, we get 3,300 + 550 = 3,850.

For 2 Chronicles, if we add up the number of overseers and chief officers, we get 3,600 + 250 = 3,850.

Now the numbers of supervisors would be the same. It is possible that 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles are dividing the overseers differently. Perhaps 1 Kings is dividing these two groups of officers by their authority, whereas 2 Chronicles is dividing the two groups of officers by their nationality.

This solution is the view of Old Testament commentators Keil and Delitzsch.

3. The discrepancy is a copyist error

It is also possible that a copyist simply made a mistake in copying the manuscript.

References

  1. Smith, Jay, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, and James Schaeffer (no date), 101 Cleared-Up Contradictions in the Bible, [On-line], URL: http://debate.org.uk/topics/apolog/contrads.htm.
  2. Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1982 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

Read More

Is the Bible Wrong About the Diameter of a Bowl? 2 Chron 4:2
2 Chronicles 4:2
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
How Long Did Jehoiachin Rule Over Jerusalem? 2 Kg 24, 2 Chr 36
2 Kings 24:8, 2 Chronicles 36:9
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
Why Were 42 Lads/boys Killed by Bears? 2 Kings 2:23-24
2 Kings 2:23-24
Bible "contradictions"
Is God good?
Updated: 7 days ago
Why Did God Send a Lying Spirit? (1 Kings 22:22 Vs. Titus 1:2)
1 Kings 22:22, Titus 1:2
Bible "contradictions"
Is God good?
Updated: 7 days ago
How Many Baths: 2,000 or 3,000? 1 Kings 7:26, 2 Chronicles 4:5
1 Kings 7:26, 2 Chronicles 4:5
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
How Many Stalls of Horses Did Solomon Have, 4,000 or 40,000?
1 Kings 4:26, 2 Chronicles 9:25
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
1,700 or 7,000 Horsemen Captured by David? 2 Sam, 1 Chron 18:4
2 Samuel 8:4, 1 Chronicles 18:4
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
Did Michal Have Any Children? 2 Samuel 6:23, 21:8
2 Samuel 6:23, 2 Samuel 21:8
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
Did Saul or the Amalekite Kill Saul? 1 Sam 31:4, 2 Sam 1:8-10
1 Samuel 31:4, 2 Samuel 1:8-10
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago
Were the Chariots of Iron Too Powerful for God? Josh 17, Jdg 1
Joshua 17:18, Matthew 19:26, Judges 1:19
Bible "contradictions"
Updated: 7 days ago