Did Solomon’s Sea hold 2,000 baths or over 3,000 baths?
Did Solomon build a facility containing 2,000 baths (I Kings 7:26), or over 3,000 baths (II Chronicles 4:5)?
"Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference. Under its brim gourds went around encircling it ten to a cubit, completely surrounding the sea; the gourds were in two rows, cast with the rest. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; and the sea was set on top of them, and all their rear parts turned inward. It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, as a lily blossom; it could hold two thousand baths" (I Kings 7:23-26).
"Also he made the cast metal sea, ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits and its circumference thirty cubits. Now figures like oxen were under it and all around it, ten cubits, entirely encircling the sea. The oxen were in two rows, cast in one piece. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing the north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east; and the sea was set on top of them and all their hindquarters turned inwards. It was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like a lily blossom; it could hold 3,000 baths" (II Chronicles 4:2-5).
First, we must note that "baths" here refers to a measurement of volume. One bath was approximately equal to 5.8 gallons. So the question is whether the Sea held 11,600 gallons or 17,400 gallons.
- II Chronicles could be referring to the Sea's capacity and I Kings could be referring to how much water was typically kept in the Sea
- There is an indication that a dry volume bath was smaller than the liquid volume bath used in ancient Israel. In the Targum, it says, "It received three thousand baths of dry measure, and held two thousand of liquid measure." Some suspect that during the Babylonian captivity, the smaller volume bath became commonly used and II Chronicles was written at the end of the Babylonian captivity while I Kings was written before the captivity.