|Were Solomon's sacrifices excessive?|
Our subject for this article is objections to overlarge numbers in the OT, this time concerning animals and sacrifices.
Here's an example, 2 Chr. 7:5: And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand head of cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats.
I have seen many Skeptics raise a spectre of incredulity on this one, with all sorts of mathematical calculations showing how impossible this all was. One said that it would have required continual sacrificing of 5 oxen and 24 sheep per minute for a week. Another said it broke it down to one animal killed every 4.3 seconds and a pile of dead animals 5 feet high covering 18 acres -- all, he said, done in a week.
All in a week? First of all, there's not a word in the text that says that all of it was done in one week; all that is said is that the observance of the festival lasted one week. If you really want to read it overliterally, you can take it to mean that Solomon sacrificed all 142,000 animals at once. Did he pile all of them up in one vertical column and use a very long knife?
No, what we have here is Solomon's entire offering to supply the Temple cultus for an extended period of time, well beyond the festival. Thus, if we object to the numbers, or even to the "economic impact" this would have had on Israel, this matter is resolved: If they were not all killed at once, and kept reproducing, this amounts to an economic boon for the average Israeli as Solomon redistributes his own wealth.
The next issue is 1 Chr. 22;14: "Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto."
On critic has a mental picture of priests cramming all this into the Temple and having to crawl over mounds of gold, but all this says on the surface is what was prepared and available; it does not say all of it was used and not specifically for construction purposes.
Beyond that, where did the rest go? 1 Kings 7:1-2, "But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house. He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars." And let's not forget that gold and silver and other metals were the closest things to legal tender in those days; who paid to feed all those workers and how? See also here.
Then there is an appeal made to the number of workers in the Temple (1 Chr. 23:4-5) being excessive. The implication made is that so many workers must have had little to do. That is indeed correct -- it was one of those sort of jobs where you worked once a year, just like the priestly rotation in NT times. But that's only working in the Temple -- beyond that the Levites had to minister to the needs to the people and tend the herds donors like Solomon were giving them.