Did Nathan HaNavi exaggerate the numbers of captains invited?

In 1 Kings 1:19, Bath-Sheba (under the coaching of Nathan HaNavi) reported to King David that Adonijah invited, among others, "the captain of the host" (Hebrew, Sar HaTzava; in the singular, שַׂר הַצָּבָא); whereas, a few moments later, Nathan HaNavi reported to King David, in 1 Kings 1:25, that Adonijahu invited, among others, "the captains of the host" (Hebrew, Sarey HaTzava, in the plural, שָׂרֵי הַצָּבָא).

Did Nathan HaNavi exaggerate the numbers of captains invited? Was it a lie? Is there an alternative explanation?


Every army has many generals, but there is usually one supreme commander. In David's army, this was Yoav. Batsheva says that Adoniyahu invited "Joab commander of the army", meaning the highest ranking officer. Nathan adds that Adoniyahu invited all of the military officers, which would include Yoav but also lower-ranking generals. So there is no contradiction at all.

EDIT: I was asked to show that the word "sar" could also refer to lower-ranking generals. Here is one source:

וַֽיִּקְרְבוּ֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה הַפְּקֻדִ֕ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר לְאַלְפֵ֣י הַצָּבָ֑א שָׂרֵ֥י הָאֲלָפִ֖ים וְשָׂרֵ֥י הַמֵּאֽוֹת׃
The commanders of the troop divisions, the officers of thousands and the officers of hundreds, approached Moses.

  • @n-t it sounds like a good answer, and it could therefore be better if you could show that the plural word "sarey" שָׂרֵי refers also to "lower-ranking generals".
    – ninamag
    Nov 14 '20 at 16:23
  • Aside from your question, what other explanation could there be for having multiple שרים? The only way to have multiple generals is to have a chain of authority; otherwise, they will just contradict each other. This is how every army works.
    – N.T.
    Nov 15 '20 at 16:41

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