How many overseers did Solomon have 3,600 or 3,300?
Not only in the King James Bible but in all Hebrew texts we have an apparent numerical contradiction when we compare 1 Kings 5:16 with 2 Chronicles 2:18.
In I Kings 5:16 in the King James Bible we read: “Beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, three thousand THREE HUNDRED (3,300), which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.”
Yet in 2 Chronicles 2:18 we read: “And he set threescore and ten thousand of them to be bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand to be hewers in the mountain, and three thousand and SIX HUNDRED (3,600) overseers to set the people a work.”
Also entering into this equation we have 1 Kings 9:23 and 2 Chronicles 8:10.
In 1 Kings 9:23 we read: “These were the CHIEF officers that were over Solomon’s work, FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY (550), which bare rule over the people that wrought in the work.”
And in 2 Chronicles 8:10 we read: “And these were THE CHIEF of king Solomon’s officers, even TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY (250), that bare rule over the people.”
And in 2 Chronicles 2:2 we read: “And Solomon told out threescore and ten thousand men (70,000) to bear burdens, and fourscore thousand (80,000) to hew in the mountain, and three thousand six hundred (3,600) to oversee them.”
Bible critics, scoffers and atheist have had a field day pointing to such examples in the Bible as being flat out contradictions and some Christians have been caused to stumble in their faith regarding the inerrancy of the Bible. What is worse, many “scholars” and seminary professors have agreed with the Bible mockers and also affirmed that these are “scribal errors” in God’s Book and that there really is not such thing as a complete and inerrant Bible even in “the original languages”.
The so called Greek Septuagint
To make matters worse, the so called Greek Septuagint changes and adds to the numbers in this section of 1 Kings 5:17 to 1 Kings 6:1, but nobody follows these readings here. In 1 Kings 5:16-17 and 1 Kings 6:1 we have three examples in just four verses where the so called Greek Septuagint completely changes wording and numbers and even adds to the numbers found in the Hebrew texts. Yet not even the liberal RSV or the NIV, ESV or NET versions follow it. The number of the overseers Solomon set up over the work has often criticized as an error, but it isn't.
The Hebrew text in 1 Kings 5:16 says that Solomon set up 3,300 overseers, but the LXX has 3,600 in an attempt to try to reconcile the apparent contradiction found in 2 Chronicles 2:18. But the LXX also ADDS a number to verse 18 that is not found in any Hebrew text and OMITS all of verse 17. Thankfully, the LXX is not followed by any Bible version, no matter how liberal it may be.
The Hebrew text says in 1 Kings 5:17-18 "And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house. V.18 - And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house."
But the LXX omits ALL of verse 17 and for verse 18 says: "And THEY prepared the stones and the timber DURING THREE YEARS." But nobody followed the LXX reading here.
Then in the very next verse - 1 Kings 6:1 the Hebrew text says: "And it cam to pass in the 480th year, after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt..." BUT the so called LXX says instead - "And it came to pass in the 440th year after the departure of the children of Israel out of Egypt..." Again, nobody followed this reading.
See more examples of the Septuagint's corruptions to the Hebrew texts in "Scatterbrained Septuagint Silliness" here - http://brandplucked.webs.com/scatterbrainseptuagint.htm
Is there a way to solve this apparent contradiction about the number of overseers Solomon set up over the work, 3,300 or 3,600? I and many others who believe in the inerrancy of the King James Bible believe there is.
When we add the total numbers from all accounts, we come up with the same number 3,850.
In 1 Kings 5:16 we have 3,300, BESIDE (KJB - "in addition to") the chief of Solomon’s officers, and in 1 Kings 9:23 we have listed “These were the chief officers over Solomon’s work, 550, which bare rule over the people.” For a total of 3,850.
And when we look at the numbers recorded in 2 Chronicles we have 3,600 OVERSEERS listed in 2 Chronicles 2:2 and in 2 Chronicles 8:10 we have listed “these were THE CHIEF OF KING SOLOMON’S OFFICERS, EVEN TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY, that bare rule over the people.” Again, 3,600 + 250 = 3,850.
The easiest way to explain this is that there was a hierarchy that existed among the overseers. There were 250 CHIEF officers over another group of 300 lesser officers who in turn made up a total of 550 who ruled over the other 3,300 overseers of the people. An additional possibility is that the 250 chief officers were Jews, while the lesser 300 may have been Gentiles.
The government of Israel was set up in a similar manner under the leadership of Moses who “chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” Exodus 18:25.
Keil and Delitzch, in their Old Testament commentary, offer this solution. They point out that 1 Kings 9:23 mentions 550 CHIEF officers of Solomon, thus giving the total number of overseers in 1 Kings 5:16 and 1 Kings 9:23 as 3,850. Also mentioned is the fact that 2 Chronicles 8:10 mentions 250 CHIEF OF KING SOLOMON’S OFFICERS (the top 250 over the whole group) bringing the total number of officers in 2 Chronicles 2:18 and 2 Chronicles 8:10 to exactly the same total of 3,850 - the same total found in the book of 1 Kings. The difference does not lie in the numbers of the text, but rather the two authors simply classified the officers according to different standards or classifications.
Barne’s Notes on the Whole Bible commenting on 1 Kings 5:16 - “Comparing this verse and 1 Kings 9:23 with 2 Chronicles 2:18; 2 Chronicles 8:10, the entire number of the overseers will be seen to be stated by both writers at 3,850; but in the one case nationality, in the other degree of authority, is made the principle of the division.”
Gaebelein’s Annotated Bible comments - “Two classes were employed. First there were 30,000 men out of Israel raised by a levy; 10,000 worked by relays of 10,000 a month. The second class was composed of strangers (1 Kings 5:15; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18), 150,000 in number; 70,000 were burden bearers and 80,000 hewers in stone. Over all were 3300 officers (verse 16) with 550 chiefs (1 Kings 9:23), of whom 250 were native Israelites (2 Chronicles 8:10).”
Matthew Poole comments: “The 300 added in 2 Chron. 2 might be a reserve, to supply the places of the other 3300; as any of them should be taken off from the work by death, or sickness, or weakness, or necessary occasions; which was a prudent provision, and not unusual in such-like cases. And so there were 3600 commissioned for the work, but only 3300 employed at one time; and therefore both computations may fairly stand together. Some learned men add, that those 3600 were strangers, which indeed is manifest from 2 Chronicles 2:17; and that those 3330 were a distinct number of men, and Israelites, which were set over all the rest, both strangers and Israelites; who therefore are here called the chief of Solomon’s officers, and are said to rule over the workmen; whereas all that is said of those 3600, 2 Chronicles 2:18, is, that they were overseers to set the people a work.”
The Pulpit Commentaries - “Beside [without counting] the chief of Solomon's officers, the princes who acted as overseers, which were over the work three thousand and three hundred Were all the 3,300 superior officers, there must have been quite an army of subalterns. In 1 Kings 9:23, an additional number of 550 “chief of the officers” is mentioned, making a total of 3,850 superintendents, which agrees with the total stated in the Book of Chronicles. It is noteworthy, however, that the details differ from those of the Kings. In 2 Chronicles 2:17 we read of a body of 3,600 "overseers to set the people a work," whilst in 1 Kings 8:10 mention is made of 250 "princes of the overseers." These differences result, no doubt, from difference of classification and arrangement. In Chronicles the arrangement is one of race, i.e; 3,600 aliens . 2 Chronicles 2:18) and 250 Israelites, whilst in Kings it is one of status, i.e; 3,300 inferior and 550 superior officers. It follows consequently that all the inferior and 300 of the superior overseers were Canaanites which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.”
The Hebrew texts have not been corrupted but rather God has deliberately placed things like this in His precious words to sift out the mockers and to strengthen the faith of those who believe His words and ask for wisdom to understand them.
The King James Bible is always right.
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