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In 2 Chronicles we read:

... Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen ...- 2 Chronicles 9:25

... but in 1 Kings:

Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. - 1 Kings 4:26

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Anyone know of any differences between the Masoretic and Septuagint in these verses? –  curiousdannii Jan 10 at 5:25
    
Logic says that if there were 12 000 horsemen and the trend of three men per chariot prevailed, there would be 4 000 chariots. This figure seems right considering that Solomon used a mobile defensive system based around fortifications and importantly the terrain and road network available for chariot operations. The figure of 40 000 is highly implausible as a fighting force on Israeli soil but highly plausible as breeding and recovery stock in Egypt. (Breeding horses on Israeli soil was against the law.) –  gideon marx Jan 11 at 11:20

2 Answers 2

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Answering how many there actually were isn't going to be possible here because there is a definite conflict between the verses, and the honest answer is "nobody's sure". And opinion answers don't count here. Since your question is a valid one asked quite often, I hope you'll indulge me and let me answer something slightly different that still gets at the heart of your question.

A fair and on-topic question would be "How do Apologists address/resolve this discrepancy?" I'd like to answer that, since it is answerable. If that's not what you're looking for, and you really want an answer to how many horses there are, the answer is "we're not sure" and you can stop reading there. If you want to know how we can read those verses and not scream "The Bible isn't inerrant!!!" read on.

As covered in Rules behind resolving alleged Biblical discrepancies the field of Apologetics hinges on avoidance of logical fallacies in explanations, and sticks to standard Christian doctrines including Biblical inerrancy, infallibility, and inspiration.

Most Apologetics experts that I'm aware of subscribe to the definition of inerrancy covered at From a Fundamentalist standpoint, what does the phrase “Inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God” mean? This is important to define, in order to avoid straw-man arguments. Short version: The original manuscripts are believed to be inerrant, not the translations. Many translations have had known errors. copyist errors are well-documented and expected. Yet, for doctrinal purposes, we have enough manuscripts to know that there aren't any critical doctrinal issues affected by such errors.

With that out of the way, one answer is already obvious. This could easily be a copyist error. That's acceptable within the bounds outlined above. The number of horses certainly doesn't affect central doctrines.

The second possibility is that these are two different counts. Solomon certainly gained enormous wealth during his reign. The number of horses and horsemen certainly grew, so it it possible that one cont is from early in his reign and another is later in his reign.

Personally, I subscribe to the copyist error, but either way, this discrepancy doesn't pose a problem, either for the doctrine of inerrancy, nor does it have any other theological importance.

I did some searching, and a very similar error can be found at CARM:

Excerpt:

There are two possible explanations for this discrepancy. 1) A copyist error. 2) The difference is due to time; that is, one account is at the beginning of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 4:26), and the other at the end (2 Chron. 9:25). I believe the most probable is a copyist error since we can see that Chronicles does have copyist errors in other areas. Therefore, it is probable that the same thing occurred here.

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Difference in Time

One number was taken at the beginning of his reign, the other at the end. This is at least plausible, even if it is not a very satisfying explanation.

Counting Different Things

These two accounts were not written by the same person. It is possible that what the respective authors considered a "stall" was functionally different ("stalls for horses" vs. "stalls for horses and chariots"). (Reference)

Another variation of this argument focuses on 2 Chr 9:25b, "whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem." (The translation is important to this point.) The thesis is that these are two different types of counting, one being a more inclusive total than the other.

Copyist Error

This is very unpopular in certain circles, but some theorize that this minor discrepancy is an error made by someone copying the text. These people (here's one example) do not necessarily discredit the Bible or say that it is unreliable.

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Good answer! I'd forgotten the "counting different things" angle. –  David Stratton Jan 10 at 5:16
    
Thank you for your response. I must disagree that the Difference in Time theory is plausible. Both passages were written after Solomon's lifetime (2 Chr 9:20 & 1 Kings 4:25). It also seems vastly implausible that the number of stalls could increase (or decrease) ten-fold while the number of horsemen remained exactly the same. –  kaques Jan 10 at 15:15
    
The Counting Different Things explanation seems to be an irrational attempt at forcing scripture to harmonize. This theory would be a stretch even if we took the verses out of context but considering that the intent of the passage in Chronicles is to communicate the vast splendour of Solomon's wealth and power, I find it hard to believe that the author would have chosen to record the number of stalls that is an order of magnitude fewer than the total number of stalls Solomon actually had. –  kaques Jan 10 at 15:16
    
Despite the Copyist Error being very unpopular, it seems to be the only reasonable explanation proposed thus far. –  kaques Jan 10 at 15:17
    
I wasn't attempting to endorse any one in particular, even though I have on opinion. These are the arguments I found when I went looking. –  mojo Jan 10 at 19:23

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