Did Solomon have 40,000 stalls for his horses (I Kings 4:26), or 4,000 stalls (II Chronicles 9:25)?
"Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen" (I Kings 4:26).
"And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem" (I Kings 10:26).
"And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem" (II Chronicles 1:14)
"Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem" (II Chronicles 9:25).
Notice that regardless of the number, we have more stalls than chariots. Often chariots were pulled by more than one horse and we also have the chariots and those driving, riders without chariots, and those caring for the horses stationed in different cities. Many of the stalls would remain empty depending on where various chariots were sent at a given moment.
There are various possibilities for the difference in the number of stalls:
- The Hebrew word could refer to either a single stall or a stable that contains several stalls. I Kings 4:26 uses 'urwoth, but II Chronicles uses a variation of the word: 'uryoth. Thus, it is possible that II Chronicles is counting the number of buildings scattered around the kingdom and I Kings is counting the number of individual stalls.
- It is possible that there was a scribal error in the copying of either I Kings 4:26 or II Chronicles 9:25. In I Kings 4:26, it says, אלף ארבּצים ('arbaim eleph). In II Chronicles 9:25, it says אלפים ארבּצת ('arba'ath 'alaphim). It would require exchanging the final mem and yod from one word to the other, but such a mistake is in the realm of possibility.
- I Kings 4:26 says 'urwoth susim lemerkavo (stalls for horses for his chariots), while II Chronicles 9:25 says 'uryoth susim umarkavoth (stalls for horses and chariots). While the words are different, they have been translated the same in most versions. But it should be noted that II Chronicles 9:25 could be translated as "stalls for chariot horses" [The Complete Biblical Library]. If so, then we are counting two different things: 4,000 stalls for chariot horses and 40,000 stalls for horses and chariots. Not all horses were restricted to only pulling chariots.
Most biblical scholars lean toward a copyist mistake, but there is enough here to say the two passages, while worded similarly are counting different things.