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It is written:
1 Kings 4:26-Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
2 Chronicles 9:25-Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem.
Why does one account say that Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses, and another state that he only had four thousand?
There are at least two possibilities that can account for this apparent discrepancy.
First, it is possible that this is simply a scribal error. There are many of these “mistakes” in the various Bible manuscripts.
Archer tells us:
“Now that the inerrancy of the original manuscripts of Scripture has been established as essential to its inerrant authority, we must deal with the very real problem of the complete disappearance of the autographa themselves. Even the earliest and best manuscripts that we possess are not totally free of transmissional errors. Numbers are occasionally miscopied, the spelling of proper names is occasionally garbled, and there are examples of the same types of scribal error that appear in other ancient documents as well. In that sense—and only to that degree—can it be said that even the finest extant manuscripts of the Hebrew-Aramaic Old Testament and the Greek New Testament are not wholly without error. It is not that they contain actual mistakes or misinformation that cannot be rectified by the proper exercise of the science of textual criticism; but, in the sense that scribal mistakes do occur even in the best of them, it is technically true that there are no extant inerrant originals.” (Gleason Leonard Archer, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 38 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan)
With this in mind, Geisler and Howe explain how this discrepancy can easily be the result of a scribal error:
“This is undoubtedly a copyist error. The ratio of 4,000 horses to 1,400 chariots, as found in the 2 Chronicles passage, is much more reasonable than a ratio of 40,000 to 1,400 found in the 1 Kings text. In the Hebrew language, the visual difference between the two numbers is very slight. The consonants for the number 40 are rbym ,i while the consonants for the number 4 are rbh (the vowels were not written in the text). The manuscripts from which the scribe worked may have been smudged or damaged and have given the appearance of being forty thousand rather than four thousand.” (Norman Geisler, Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties, 2818-2820 (Kindle Edition); USA; Canada; England; Victor Books A Division Of Scripture Press Publications Inc.)
These scribal errors occur at times in the manuscripts, and are usually the result of accidental oversight or well-intentioned grammatical corrections. Even taking all of the textual variants into account, the sheer purity of the Bible’s transmission over the centuries is astonishing!
“4. How significant are the variants? It is easy to leave the wrong impression by speaking of 200,000 “errors” that have crept into the text due to scribal mistakes and intended corrections. There are only 10,000 places where these 200,000 variants occur. The next question is, How significant are those 10,000 places? Textual critics have attempted to answer that question by offering percentages and comparisons. a. Scholars Westcott and Hort estimated that only about one-eighth of all the variants had any weight, as most of them merely involve mechanical matters such as spelling or style. Of the whole, then, only about one-sixtieth rise above “trivialities,” or can in any sense be called substantial variations. Mathematically that would compute to a text that is 98.33 percent pure whether the critic adopts the Textus Receptus, Majority Nestle-Aland Text, or some eclectic text of the New Testament. b. Ezra Abbott gave similar figures, saying about 19/ 20 (95 percent) of the readings are various rather than rival readings, and about 19/ 20 (95 percent) of the remainder are of so little importance that their addition or rejection makes no appreciable difference in the sense of the passage. Thus the degree of substantial purity would be 99.75 percent. c. Philip Schaff (p. 177) surmised that of the 150,000 variations known in his day, only 400 affected the sense; and of those, only 50 were of real significance; and of this total, not one affected “an article of faith or a precept of duty which is not abundantly sustained by other undoubted passages, or by the whole tenor of Scripture teaching.” d. A.T. Robertson (p. 22) suggested that the real concern of textual criticism is of a “thousandth part of the entire text That would make the reconstructed text of the New Testament 99.9 percent free from real concern for the textual critic.” (Ergun Caner, Ed Hindson, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics: Surveying the Evidence for the Truth of Christianity, 98-100 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, OR; Harvest House Publishers)
Second, there is also the possibility that these two passages of Scripture are both accurate.
“47. How many stalls did Solomon have? First Kings 4: 26 says 40,000. However, 2 Chronicles 9: 25 says 4,000. Fallacy of equivocation. Note that Chronicles uses a slightly different Hebrew word for “stalls” than does Kings, and so we might expect that one refers to the entire stable, while the other refers to the number of individual compartments. Solomon had 4,000 stalls or “stables” (2 Chronicles 9: 25), each of which apparently had ten partitions, such that the total number of stalls is 40,000 (1 Kings 4: 26).” (Dr Jason Lisle, Keeping Faith in an Age of Reason: Refuting Alleged Bible Contradictions, 41-42 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books)
It is here that the words and illustration of Kyle Butt are helpful to remember.
“When dealing with so called contradictions, sometimes many different solutions will present themselves. In order to “fix” the contradiction, we do not necessarily have to nail down the exact solution. All that the biblical defender must do is offer a possible solution. For instance, in Acts 7: 16 the Bible says that Abraham bought a tomb in Shechem where the patriarchs were buried. However, in Joshua 24: 32 the Bible plainly says that Jacob was the one who bought the plot of ground in Shechem where Joseph eventually was buried. At first glance then, it looks like a contradiction exists; but upon closer inspection, several possible solutions present themselves. First, both men could have purchased the field. Jacob was in the area more than 150 years after Abraham. Abraham could have bought the field, sold it back, and Jacob could have bought the field many years later. The United States has been in existence only a little over 200 years. Imagine your great grandfather buying a field before the Civil War. In order for you to gain possession of the field today, you might have to buy it. Second, it is possible that Abraham bought a tomb in Shechem, but that Jacob bought a field. The Bible does not say that Jacob bought a tomb, but only a field (Genesis 33: 19; Joshua 24: 32). The bottom line is that no one knows for sure exactly what happened with the field, the tomb, Abraham, or Jacob. But in order to avoid a contradiction, we simply must show that there is a possibility that the two statements could be true—which is exactly what we have done. Just Answer the Questions, Please Generally, most alleged contradictions can be solved by answering three simple questions: (1) Is the same person or thing under consideration?, (2) Is the same time period being discussed?, and (3) Is the same sense under consideration? Think with me. Suppose that someone says, “Leroy Jones is rich,” and “Leroy Jones is poor.” Do those two statements automatically contradict each other? Not necessarily. Many people are named Leroy Jones (O.K., maybe not all that many, but at least two). It could be that Leroy Jones in Florida is rich, but Leroy Jones in New York is poor. The same person or thing must be under consideration. Further, the same time period must be under consideration. Leroy Jones could have made a fortune in his early twenties as an oil tycoon and become very rich, but after a terrible stock market crash could have lost everything he owned. At one time, then, he was rich, but now, he is poor. The two statements could have been describing his life quite accurately at the time each was made. Also, the statements must be talking about the same sense. Leroy Jones could have more money than anyone else in the entire world, but if he is not following God, then he is poor. On the other hand, he could have absolutely no money, but be rich in spiritual blessings. After all, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith” (James 2: 5)? Answering these three questions helps tremendously in resolving the contradiction controversy.” (Kyle Butt, Out With Doubt: A Look at the Evidence for Christianity, 58-60 (Kindle Edition); Montgomery, AL; Apologetics Press)
The supernatural unity of the Bible continues to be one of the evidences that demonstrates to every generation that the Bible is the Word of God.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.