“Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen” (1 Kings 4:26).
“Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen” (2 Chronicles 9:25).
Some translations of the Bible, such as the NIV, actually change the text of I Kings 4:26 to read “four thousand” so as to avoid an apparent contradiction with 2 Chronicles 9:25, presuming the Book of Kings to have introduced a scribal error by writing “forty thousand” instead of “four thousand.” But this is an unnecessary supposition, and there need be no contradiction between the two accounts. The two scriptural passages may simply describe different kind of stalls:
– In Kings the forty thousand stalls are for chariot horses (nothing is said about the chariots themselves).
– In Chronicles, four thousand stalls are mentioned that were for horses and chariots.
It would be natural for there to be fewer stalls for chariots, and the large “chariot stalls” may have been stables with individual stalls for each of the horses in the chariot’s team as well as a holding area for the chariot itself. In other words, the four thousand stalls may have contained many more smaller stalls for the horses.
Another verse sheds additional light on this. In 2 Chronicles 1:14 we see that Solomon had “fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses,” so all accounts agree on the number of horses/horsemen, but Kings and Chronicles probably look at different types of stalls.
Why would there be more chariot stalls (four thousand) than there were chariots (fourteen hundred)? Historically we must realize that Solomon’s standing army was probably garrisoned in specific areas, but stables may well have been built in other fortified areas and outposts to house chariots and horses for units that might need to be moved to them temporarily, depending on defensive needs.
So there is not necessarily any contradiction between the Books of Kings and Chronicles and, fortunately, most recent English Bible translations such as the ESV and HCSB preserve the text of these different verses as they were written.