Of 2 Chronicles, 1 Kings, Stalls, and Horses

Donald O'Brien

A major assertion of Christianity is that the Bible is inerrant — it has no errors. Second Chronicles 9:25 states that Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots and twelve thousand horses (NIV). First Kings 4:26 documents the same timeframe, and matches 2 Corinthians in the NIV, but the King James says forty thousand stalls. Such a small discrepancy is used by many, particularly Muslims, to "prove" the Bible is not trustworthy. But there's a different option.

When we consider that the words that make up the Bible came from the mind of Almighty God Himself, it has to be considered the greatest treasure on earth. It alone reveals the way to eternal life, and the more I read it the more I continue to be amazed at just how awesome my God is.

Nonetheless, please understand that there are a number of copying errors in this Holy Book. (I found about fifteen just doing brief research for this answer.) And the verse in question here — 1 Kings 4:26 — may very well contain a copying error. (Incidentally, I researched 17 translations and thirteen of them have "40,000" as the number of stalls owned by King Solomon.) And the common understanding among most scholars is that the "40,000" is likely a copying error and should actually be the "4,000" that is stated in 2 Chronicles 9:25.

However...when you read Webster's Dictionary, the 1828 edition (which is available online), here is what you read when you look up the word "stall":
STALL, noun [G., to set, that is, to throw down, to thrust down. See Still.]

1. Primarily, a stand; a station; a fixed spot; hence, the stand or place where a horse or an ox is kept and fed; the division of a stable, or the apartment for one horse or ox. The stable contains eight or ten stalls.

2. A stable; a place for cattle.

At last he found a stall where oxen stood.

3. In 1 Kings 4:26 stall is used for horse. Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots. In 2 Chronicles 9:25, stall means stable. Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots. These passages are reconciled by the definition given above; Solomon had four thousand stables, each containing ten stalls; forty thousand stalls. (Emphasis mine)
Now this would sure seem to simplify things a bit, wouldn't you agree? Yet if this is true, how is it that the scholars and commentators seemingly missed it? I have several excellent commentaries, and none of them, apparently, found what the Webster's researchers did. But either way, I certainly would not let this transcription error shake my confidence one iota in God's inerrant Word. Remember, God is perfect, we humans are not. He doesn't make mistakes, but we sure do. We need to understand that many ancient Hebrew letters strongly resembled one another, and, moreover, many of these same letters were also used to represent numbers as well. Given this, it is completely understandable that some copying errors would be inevitable. And considering the Bible has more than three-quarters of a million words, (and, thus, how many millions of single letters and numbers) a mere handful of copying errors is pretty remarkable. In fact it is outright mind-boggling when we consider how many times these manuscripts were copied one character at a time for fifteen hundred years! Yet, as author John Haley in his book Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible clearly indicates "these mistakes...touch no vital point of Scripture. No precept, promise, or doctrine is in the least degree impaired by them; nor do they militate against any well-balanced theory of inspiration."

In praying to His Father, Jesus made it clear that God's Word is truth (John 17:17). God cannot lie or speak falsely. The Bible is indeed the infallible and inerrant Word of God and those who are wise and who have been reconciled to God through His Son know this. To read the Bible, study the Bible, believe the Bible and, finally, to obey the Bible are the wisest things anyone can ever do. Sadly, those who doubt the Bible have been blinded to the truth (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Got Questions has an excellent article on Bible contradictions I would highly recommend you read. The article is titled: "Does the Bible contain errors, contradictions, or discrepancies?" Also, GotQuestions.org has many, many articles on the Bible. At the bottom of the homepage simply click on the category "Bible."

May God bless you richly as you continue in His Word.

Image Credit: tpsdave; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | History-Apologetics

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Published 6-15-15