Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning how many overseers Solomon had, whether he had 3,300 or 3,600 overseers. The argument is that 1 Kings 5:16 says that Solomon had 3,300 overseers, but 2 Chronicles 2:2 says that Solomon had 3,600 overseers. However, there are at least three reasonable explanations that solve this alleged contradiction in the Bible.
Scriptures – Did Solomon Have 3,300 or 3,600 Overseers?
1 Kings 5:16 – 3,300 Overseers
besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.1 Kings 5:16
2 Chronicles 2:2 – 3,600 Overseers
And Solomon assigned 70,000 men to bear burdens and 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 to oversee them.2 Chronicles 2:2
The Answer – Did Solomon Have 3,300 or 3,600 Overseers?
There are at least three reasonable explanations that resolve this alleged contradiction in the Bible:
- 2 Chronicles 2:2 Includes 300 Reserves
- 1 Kings 5:16 and 2 Chronicles 2:2 Are Classifying Overseers Differently
- There Was a Copyist Error
1. 2 Chronicles 2:2 Includes 300 Reserves
It is very possible that 2 Chronicles 2:2 includes 300 reserves who would have been ready to work if the regular overseers became unable to work. Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, et. al. write this:
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.).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. 1 Kings 5:16 and 2 Chronicles 2:2 Are Classifying Overseers Differently
It is also possible that 1 Kings 5:16 and 2 Chronicles 2:2 are classifying overseers differently. It may be significant to note 1 Kings 9:23 and 2 Chronicles 8:10, which say that Solomon had 550 and 250 overseers, respectively—if the pairs of numbers are added up, there would be 3,850 total overseers for both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles.
These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work: 550 who had charge of the people who carried on the work.1 Kings 9:23
And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.2 Chronicles 8:10
Perhaps one book is dividing the groups of overseers based upon authority, and the other is dividing them based upon nationality. In any case, it seems significant that the total numbers of overseers when the two groups are added up are equal between the two books.
3. There Was a Copyist Error
It is also possible that the discrepancy was due to a copyist error, since 3,300 and 3,600 would look like similar numbers on paper.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: