A helpful concept to remember when one is dealing with alleged discrepancies is the idea that a
simple difference is not necessarily a contradiction. Just because two texts differ in the way
they relate the facts does not necessarily mean that there exists no possible reconciliation of
the texts. Lets look at one example of texts that differ, yet do not contradict each other.
1 Kings 5:16: Besides Solomons chief officers that were over the work,
three thousand and three hundred, who bare rule over the people that wrought in the work.
2 Chronicles 2:18: And he set threescore and ten thousand of them to bear burdens, and
fourscore thousand that were hewers in the mountains, and three thousand and six hundred overseers
to set the people at work.
These two verses frequently have been accused of contradicting one another because 1 Kings
mentions 3,300 supervisors over the people, while 2 Chronicles mentions 3,600 overseers. To label
these passages as contradictory represents a misunderstanding that could be based on several
factors. One possible solution to this alleged contradiction is that the author of 2 Chronicles
could be including a number of reserves who were standing ready to work should any of the
regular supervisors get sick or accidentally be killed. In their essay on alleged Bible
contradictions, Jay Smith, Alex Chowdhry, et. al. wrote:
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.).
The profoundly respected Old Testament commentators, Keil and Delitzsch, offered another
solution. They pointed out the fact that 1 Kings 9:23 mentions 550 chief officers of Solomon, thus
giving the total number of supervisors in 1 Kings 5:16 and 9:23 as 3,850. Also mentioned is the
fact that 2 Chronicles 8:10 mentions 250 chief officers of Solomon, bringing the total number of
officers in 2 Chronicles 2:18 and 8:10 to exactly 3,850the same total as in 1 Kings. The
difference does not lie within the numbers of the text; rather, the two authors simply classified
the officers according to different standards. Whereas the chronicler might have been dividing the
supervisors according to their nationality, the author of 1 Kings seems to have been dividing them
by their authority (1982, 3:63-64).
So we see that any hint of contradiction can be cleared away quite easily, and it is once again
evident that a simple difference is not necessarily a contradiction.
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1982 reprint), Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Smith, Jay, Alex Chowdhry, Toby Jepson, and James Schaeffer (no date), 101 Cleared-Up
Contradictions in the Bible, [On-line], URL:
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