Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning how many baths could be held. The argument is that 1 Kings 7:26 says that 2,000 baths could be held, but 2 Chronicles 4:5 says that 3,000 baths could be held. However, there are reasonable explanations that would solve this alleged contradiction in the Bible.
Its thickness was a handbreadth, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths.1 Kings 7:26
Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths.2 Chronicles 4:5
Below are three reasonable explanations that would resolve this alleged contradiction:
It is very possible that 1 Kings 7:26 is saying how many baths could be comfortably held in the laver for normal use, while 2 Chronicles 4:5 is saying how many baths could be held in the laver if it was completely filled. This is the view of Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown.
There was the molten sea, a very large brass pan, in which they put water for the priests to wash in, v. 2, 6. It was put just at the entrance into the court of the priests, like the font at the church door. If it were filled to the brim, it would hold 3000 baths (as here, v. 5), but ordinarily there were only 2000 baths in it, 1 Ki. 7:26.Matthew Henry (emphasis added)
There is a difference in the accounts given of the capacity of this basin, for while in 1 Kings 7:26 it is said that two thousand baths of water could be contained in it, in this passage no less than three thousand are stated. It may be remarked that different words are employed: the one in 1 Kings 7:26 rendered contained; the two here rendered, received and held. There was a difference between receiving and holding. It received and held three thousand baths.Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (emphasis added)
Roy Reinhold suggests here that if a space was inserted into the world “shloshet” in 2 Chronicles 4:5, making the word “Shlo shat” instead, then both passages would say that the laver could hold 2,000 baths.
It is also possible that a copyist mistakenly wrote one number instead of the other, since the Hebrew characters for 2,000 and 3,000 are very similar.
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: