A SCRIBAL ERROR IN 2
CHRONICLES 22:2? NO!
Texts in Question
2 Kings 8:26—“Two and twenty years old
was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.
And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.”
2 Chronicles 22:2—“Forty and two years
old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in
Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.”
Is there a
discrepancy between 2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2? To the casual
reader, there indeed appears to be a contradiction between two parallel
accounts of the accession of King Ahaziah over Judah. Was Ahaziah 22 or 42
when he ascended the Judean throne?
The “Scholarly” Solution
There is an easy
solution to the problem—if you are a Bible corrector! Obviously this
just has to be an error! The “scholarly” statement of this “explanation”
is: “The number ‘forty and two’ in 2 Chron 22:2 is evidently the mistake of
a copyist.” In other words, since Ahaziah’s father Jehoram died at age 40
(2 Chron 21:20), it would have been impossible for Ahaziah to succeed him
at an age of 42! Therefore, somewhere in the history of the transmission of
the Hebrew text, a careless scribe committed a transcriptional error.
The problem with
this easy solution is: if there is one error in the Bible (albeit an
innocent slip of the pen), who is to say there are not other errors in the
Bible? How could we be absolutely certain that the precious verses God used
to speak to our heart and save our soul are not among those containing
errors? Can we really trust our Bible?
For a number of
compelling reasons, we believe the Bible is the Perfect Word (Ps
119:140) of a Perfect God (Tit 1:2) and given to man in a Perfect
Manner (2 Pet 1:21, 2 Tim 3:16) and preserved in a Perfect Form
(Ps 12:6-7). Our Bible is not only infallible in all its teachings but
inerrant in all its content. That is why we can say with full assurance: “I
know whom I have believed;” that is why we can say with absolute
confidence: “there hath not failed one word of all his good
Statements of Fact
How, then, can
we understand this apparent contradiction concerning the age of King
Ahaziah when he began to reign? Before we come to untie what one writer
calls “the Gordian Knot of the Chronology of the Kings of Israel and
Judah,” several statements of fact need to be made.
||Some parts of God’s Word
are likened to milk (1 Pet 2:2), while other parts are called strong
meat (Heb 5:12-14). This conundrum most definitely falls into the
strong meat category.
||Every Christian is
commanded to study the Bible (2 Tim 2:15). This particular question is
one which requires much careful and diligent study.
||Whenever we encounter a
difficult-to-understand Bible passage, it does not mean the Bible is
somehow in error. We have to consider two realities:
||that we may not be of sufficient
spiritual maturity to grasp the deep treasure God has put there in His
Word (1 Cor 3:1-2, Luke 24:25), and must therefore keep growing and
keep studying; or
||that God never intended for us to
know everything there is to know (John 21:25), and must therefore be
content with the knowledge that He has given us all we need to know
until we enter into His glorious presence in heaven (1 Cor 13:12).
||The two passages in
question are accurate English translations of the Masoretic Hebrew
text—all the extant Hebrew manuscripts say the same thing! This is not
some supposed “poor translation” by the translators of the Authorised,
King James Version. Why, those men would run rings around 20th
century scholarship—and do you not think they would have had enough
sense to “patch up” such a glaring inconsistency if they really
believed it was an error? (This perplexing question is actually a
wonderful demonstration of the honesty of the translators of the
Authorised, King James Version.)
||When interpreting the
Bible chronologically (which is part of the solution to these problem
texts), it is absolutely necessary to keep in mind some important
||Scripture deals only with whole years
when it comes to the reign of the kings. A part of a year is counted as
a whole year, and when applied to the kings of Israel, that part of one
year may actually be counted twice—once for the outgoing king, once for
the incoming king. As a matter of fact, at time of the events mentioned
in our problem text, the Northern kingdom of Israel had three kings
reigning in the same year—Ahab (absent in battle, then killed), his son
Ahaziah (co-Rex, then dies of a fall), and his grandson Jehoram.
||Sometimes the reign of a king is dated
from the beginning of a dynasty instead of the beginning of his own
succession to the throne. The classic example of this is found in 2
Chronicles 16:1 where the reign of Asa at the time of Baasha’s invasion
has been counted from the division of the united monarchy under
Rehoboam. (This explains the apparent contradiction with 1 Kgs 16:8.)
Chronicles records the length of the kingdom; Kings records the length
of the term of office. We may find this a strange way of reckoning, but
that is the way it is sometimes counted in the Biblical record.
||Sometimes the beginning of the reign
of a king may be given from his anointing or from his accession, or
both! The Lord Jesus Christ was born King of the Jews (Matt 2:2), but
His reign will not begin until He sits upon David’s throne in the
Millennium. Following the deportation of his father, Jehoiachin legally
became king of Judah when he was eight years old (2 Chron 36:9), but
his mother ruled for him as queen (Jer 13:18) until he was 18 (2 Kgs
24:8). Three months later both king and queen mother were deported (2
||It was not uncommon for there to be
more than one king reigning at a given time in either Israel or Judah.
Some ruled as pro-Rex (in place of the king), others as co-Rex
(together with the king).
||The term “son,” as it is
used in the Bible, does not always mean the contiguous male offspring
of a father. A father may actually be a grandfather (Dan 5:2—Belshazzar
was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson), or step-father, or a distant forebear
||This particular question
is somewhat complicated by the similarity of names of the kings of
Israel and Judah during the period of time. There were in fact two
Ahaziahs, one in the Northern kingdom of Israel and one in the Southern
kingdom of Judah. One way to keep them straight in your mind is to
remember the following formula: ISRAEL = A-A-J (Ahab-Ahaziah-Jehoram);
JUDAH = J-J-A (Jehoshaphat-Jehoram-Ahaziah). Lastly, Ahaziah has three
names in the records: Ahaziah (2 Chron 22:1), Jehoahaz (2 Chron 21:17),
and Azariah (2 Chron 22:6).
The Biblical Solution
The “key” which
unlocks the door to our understanding this matter is found in the New
Testament. The royal genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ is recorded in the
Gospel according to Matthew. Matthew 1:8 lists the kings in the Davidic
line at the time of our particular concern—and there are some notable
chart compares the kings of Judah as given in the Old Testament record to
the same kings listed in Matthew 1:8:
OLD TESTAMENT RECORD
Three kings of
Judah are not counted in the lineage of Jesus Christ! Why? The answer to
that is found in Exodus 20:5, Numbers 14:18 and Psalm 109:13-15 and is seen
in the character of this reign (2 Chron 22:2-4). The fact is, Ahaziah is
not counted as a seed of David—his ancestry is traced to the house of Omri.
The Bible accentuates both the bloodline and the influence of his mother (Athaliah),
who is the daughter of Omri—either literally, or in the sense that she is
the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Kgs 8:18), i.e., she is Omri’s
Two Possible Explanations
This being the
case, there are now two possible explanations:
literally 22 years old (2 Kgs 8:26) when he ascended to the throne of
Judah. He was the actual son of Jehoram and Athaliah.
co-Rex with his ailing father Jehoram (2 Chron 21:18) for one year (2 Kgs
9:29—the 11th year of Jehoram of Israel) and sole king for one year (the
12th year of Jehoram of Israel—2 Kgs 8:25).
to the throne in 894 BC [Ed: 842/1 BC]. If we count backwards 42 years (to
936 BC) we come to the first year of Omri [Ed: 885/4 BC]. In other words,
Ahaziah was indeed 22 years old (as stated in Kings), but his reign is
counted (in Chronicles) from the beginning of the evil dynasty of Omri.
This is the Holy Spirit’s way of highlighting the wicked aberration in the
royal Davidic line.
“Forty and two years” may then be taken as a Hebrew idiom “A son of forty
two years”—meaning that it was 42 years from the beginning of the dynasty
founded by Omri.
literally 42 years old (2 Chron 22:2) when he ascended to the throne of
Judah. He therefore was not the literal son of Jehoram (who died at age
40), but a son in the sense of being a step-son. His mother was his
If we count back
20 years (to when Ahaziah was 22 years old—2 Kings 8:26) we come to the
year 914 BC [Ed: 862/1 BC] which is the eighth year of Jehoshaphat. This
was about the time that Jehoshaphat “joined affinity with Ahab” (2 Chron
18:1), since we know that in the third year of Jehoshaphat’s reign he
instituted a revival in Judah (2 Chron 17:7-9), following which his kingdom
prospered (2 Chron 17:12).
We are told in 2
Chronicles 18 that several years after this alliance was forged, Ahab and
Jehoshaphat engaged in a joint military venture against Syria (2 Chron
18:2). Both kings went into battle (2 Chron 18:28) and Ahab was killed (2
Chron 18:33-34). Prior to the battle the faithful prophet Micaiah was
deported in chains to Amon where (the one-year-old) Joash was residing (1
Kgs 22:26). It is here, in this passage, we have a most revealing
statement: Joash—the biological son of Ahaziah (2 Chron 22:11)—is called
the “king’s son,” indicating that Ahaziah was already a king! How could
this possibly be? If, as part of the affinity Jehoshaphat made with Ahab,
Ahaziah was anointed king at this time, the pieces of the puzzle begin to
In other words,
Ahaziah was anointed king at age 22—he finally sat on the throne of Judah
20 years at age 42.
The Word of God
does not give all the details of the affinity between the two monarchs.
Evidently, it was far-reaching because in 2 Chronicles 21:2 Jehoshaphat was
given the title “king of Israel!” Furthermore, when Jehoshaphat’s son
Jehoram finally gained sole rule over Judah, he not only murdered his
brothers, but “divers also of the princes of Israel” (2 Chron 21:4). Why
would he do that if they were not a threat to the Judean throne?
Not only that,
but Ahaziah obviously felt “right at home” in the Israeli court (2 Chron
22:6). Perhaps both kings were interested in reuniting the monarchy which
had been divided for about 70 years—undoubtedly with different motives.
Ahab (or Jezebel!) conspired to install one of his own on the Judean throne
following the death of Jehoshaphat—a move which would be accomplished by
earmarking Ahaziah (whose mother was Ahab’s own daughter) ahead of time.
When Ahab’s scheme to have Jehoshaphat killed in battle backfired (2 Chron
18:29, 31-33), Ahaziah had to wait 20 years to be enthroned.
In this way,
Ahaziah was both 22 and 42 when he began to reign—22 when he was anointed,
42 when he was seated.
question which remains is: Who was his biological father? The affinity
struck between Ahab and Jehoshaphat appears to be somewhat sordid—a tangled
web in fact! Consider that Ahaziah is said to be:
||The son of Jehoram (2 Chron 22:1).
Since Ahaziah was two years older than his “father” Jehoram, he must
have been his step-son, brought into that relationship with his mother
Athaliah when she married Jehoram.
||The son-in-law of the house of Ahab (2
Kgs 8:27). This relationship would have been established by his
marriage to Zibiah (2 Chron 24:1) who must have been either a daughter
or grand-daughter of Ahab.
||The son of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 22:9).
It seems Ahaziah was given a decent burial only out of respect for the
fact that he was a son of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 22:9). Could it be that
in earlier times, Jehoshaphat followed the custom of cementing royal
ties (1 Kgs 3:1) by going in unto Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter? Perhaps it
is at this point that the Biblical record ceases to give sufficient
details for anyone to know for certain.
The Almighty God
is never pleased with unholy alliances (2 Cor 6:14-17). The Lord never
recognised the reigns of Jehoram and Azariah, who both sought to introduce
Baal worship into Judea—along with Joash, they are omitted from the
genealogy of the Saviour. When Ahaziah died, God Himself cut off the house
of Ahab from the royal line (2 Chron 22:7-9).
Robert J Sargent serves as pastor of
Bible Baptist Church in Oak Harbor, Washington. The above article is taken
from Things Hard to be Understood by David Cloud, Way of Life Literature
(http://wayoflife.org), 2001. Used by permission.
- Published in
The Burning Bush,
Volume 10 Number 2 (July 2004)