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Allow me to explain (19, 20 of 439)

April 29, 2011

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19. When did Ahaziah begin to reign? 2 Kings 8:25 vs. 2 Kings 9:29

Woe to anyone who stands before Jesus someday and says, “I rejected Your gospel because Hebrew numbers are hard to translate.”

2 Kings 8:25
In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah the son of Jehoram, king of Judah, began to reign.

2 Kings 9:29
In the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab, Ahaziah had become king over Judah.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I need to point out again the proximity here. These verses are one chapter apart. To read this and assume it’s an irreconcilable contradiction is to say that translators and scholars have been over this verse countless times over 2000+ years, and no one noticed. Come on, now.

That said, there doesn’t seem to be one, glaring answer. Instead, there are several probables.

First, as we’ve mentioned before, Hebrew numbers are difficult to translate. Could be an issue.

Second, some scholars suggest that the difference refers to Ahaziah’s having effectively reigned for one year, during the end of his father’s life, before technically becoming king. 2 Chronicles 21:18-19 tell us that Ahaziah’s father was ill for two years before his death. It’s a common idea:

“The discrepancy may be best explained from two ways of reckoning the accession of Ahaziah, who is likely to have been regent for his father during at least one year.” (Barnes)

“Then he began to reign as viceroy to his father in his sickness; … But in Joram’s twelfth year he began to reign alone;” (Clarke)

“… he began to reign with his father in the eleventh as here, and in the twelfth as there, when his father was dead.” (Gill)

The other popular idea has to do with the connotations of the numbers used.

“… it is said to be in the twelfth year of his reign; it was at the close of the eleventh, and the beginning of the twelfth;” (Gill)

“That is, eleven whole years: for in 2Ki 8:25 when he said he began to reign in the twelfth year of Joram, he takes a partial year for a whole.” (Geneva Study Bible)

If there’s one clear, solid answer to this one it’s beyond me, but, again, to assume there isn’t one is to assume that you have just noticed a pretty glaring error that no one else saw for thousands of years. I have a harder time believing that, personally.

Update: “Contradiction” #20 is virtually the same thing. “How old was Ahaziah when he began to reign?” Not going to waste a whole blog post on the same question. Title of this post has been updated to represent 19 and 20.

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