What was the capacity of Solomon’s cast sea, 2000 or 3000 baths?

Posted on Jan.02, 2009. Filed in 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles. Average rating: 1.5 / 10 (Rate It).

1 Kings and 2 Chronicles describe the building works of King Solomon, including the materials used and the dimensions to which they were constructed. Among his works was a circular vessel, the “cast sea”. The two different descriptions of the cast sea agree perfectly on most details, but disagree as to its capacity.

In the detailed description in 1 Kings, the capacity of the cast sea is given as 2000 baths:

Then he made the cast sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high. A line of thirty cubits would encircle it completely. Under its brim were panels all round it, each of ten cubits, surrounding the sea; there were two rows of panels, cast when it was cast. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; the sea was set on them. The hindquarters of each were towards the inside. Its thickness was a handbreadth; its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flowers of a lily; it held two thousand baths. [1 Kings 7:23-26 (NRSV)]

2 Chronicles contains an almost identical description (most of it omitted here to avoid repetition), except that the capacity is given as 3000 baths:

Its thickness was a handbreadth; its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flowers of a lily; it held three thousand baths. [2 Chronicles 4:5 (NRSV)]

So was the capacity of the cast sea 2000 or 3000 baths? If it was 2000 baths, then 2 Chronicles 4:5 contains an error. If it was 3000 baths, then 1 Kings 7:26 contains an error.

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    In the KJV the clause in 2CHR 4:5 reads,

    “…received and held 3,000 baths.”

    1 Kings says “contained” 2,000 baths.”

    I think the first implies maximum capacity;

    the second the normal amount maintained.

    There is no need to conclude copyist error.

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