1 Kings 9:22—How can this verse claim that Solomon did not make forced laborers of the Israelites when 1 Kings 5:13 says he did?

Problem: According to 1 Kings 9:22, Solomon did not make forced laborers of the children of Israel in his building campaigns. However, 1 Kings 5:13 says Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel. Which one of these reports is correct?

Solution: Both reports are correct. The reconciliation of these statements is found in the fact that there are different Hebrew words used of two different types of laborers in the building projects of Solomon. According to 1 Kings 5:13 (5:27 in the Hebrew text), Solomon raised up a “labor force” (mas or hammas) from all Israel. In this context, labor force was a group conscripted from the population to participate in the building project. It was apparently composed of both Israelites and non-Israelites. However, in 1 Kings 9:21 the author delineates those people from whom Solomon drafted “slave labor.” The word used here is mas-obed which indicates forced slave labor. Then, in 9:22 the author points out that Solomon did not employ any Israelites as “slaves” (abed). There is no contradiction here, because, although Solomon did draft young men of Israel to labor in the construction of the temple, a practice which brought him great trouble later in his reign, he did not force any Israelite to become a slave laborer.

See All Problems

This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.