How Old Was Ahaziah, 22 or 42?
King James Bible - 2 Chronicles 22:2 "FORTY AND TWO years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem..."
2 Kings 8:26 - "TWO AND TWENTY years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem..."
ESV, NIV, NASB, NET - 2 Chronicles 22:2 "Ahaziah was TWENTY-TWO years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem."
The simple solution to this apparent contradiction is that Ahaziah was physically 22 years old when he began to reign, but since God has appointed Jehu to cut off the house of Ahab, as a son of Ahab through marriage, he was 42 years old. The information is all there in the texts, and we will look at it in a moment. We just have to put it together. But it is not an error in the Hebrew texts.
This is an apparent contradiction that frequently is thrown in the face of Christians who believe we have an inspired Bible. Many Atheist, Islam and Bible debunker sites bring up this example. Sad to say, most of the “Christian” apologetic sites which promote the new bible versions cave in here and say the number 42 is a copyist error.
Here is a typical response by those Christians who use and promote the modern versions. This one comes from Techtonics Apologetics. This “defender of the faith” answers: “ Was Ahaziah forty-two or twenty-two (per 2 Kings 8:26) when he ascended the throne? More likely 22, and 2 Chronicles has been hit by a copyist error. See our foundational essay on copyist errors for general background. In favor of the "22" reading in 2 Chronicles: The 2 Kings reading; some LXX and Syriac manuscripts.
This typical Christian response is not limited to this one example, but in many objections brought up by the infidels or the curious, this same rote answer is given - "There is a copyist error". There is a typo in God’s book. The skeptics laugh and the modern version proponent looks like a fool.
2 Chronicles 22:2 tells us that Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign. The Hebrew texts, plus Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible (John Rogers) 1549, the Bishop's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, Jerome's Vulgate 382 A.D., Clementine Vulgate, the Revised Version 1885, the American Standard Version 1901, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907, the Jewish Publication Society bible 1917, the Hebrew Publishing Company bible 1936, Douay 1950, the RSV 1952, the New Berkeley Version 1969, the New English Bible 1970, the Amplified Version 1987, the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, The New Jewish Version 1985, the NRSV 1989, The Complete Jewish Bible 1998, the Koster Scriptures 1998, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, The Yah Sacred Scriptures 2001, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003, The Judaica Press Tanach 2004, the Catholic Public Domain Version 2009, The Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, The New European Version 2010, The Work of God's Children Bible 2011, The Bond Slave Version 2012, The World English Bible 2012, The Katapi New Standard Bible 2012, The Biblos Bible 2013, The Hebrew Names Bible 2014, The Far Above All Translation 2014, and The Modern English Version 2014.
This online Hebrew Interlinear Bible - "Forty and two years Ahaziah"
The Jewish Virtual Library Complete Tanach 1994 - "FORTY AND TWO years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign"
Foreign Language Bibles
Luther's German Bible 1545, the German Schlachter Bible 2000, Las Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano de Valera Bible 1602, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, and the Reina Valera Contemporánea of 2011 "Ocozías tenía cuarenta y dos años de edad cuando comenzó a reinar", the NIV Spanish translation of 1994 and 1999 !!! -"Tenía cuarenta y dos años cuando ascendió al trono". You can see the NIV Spanish edition of 1999 here and confirm it for yourself.
the Traducción en lenguage actual 2000, the Italian Diodati 1649, the Riveduta 1927 and the Nuovo Diodati 1991, and the Nuova Riveduta of 2008 - "Achaziah aveva quarantadue anni quando iniziò a regnare", the French Martin 1744, Louis Segond 1910 and the French Ostervald 1996 - "Achazia avait quarante-deux ans lorsqu'il devint roi", Portuguese Almeida Corrigida Bible 2009 "Tinha quarenta e dois anos quando começou a ruiner ", the Romanian Fidela Bible 2014 all say Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign.
The Catholic Connection
In typical "Bible Agnostic" fashion, the "infallible" Catholic church has come out with several different versions which contain several different numbers. The older Douay-Rheims Bible of 1610 and the Douay Version 1950 say in 2 Chronicles 22:2 that Ahaziah was 42 years old.
But in 1968 the Catholic Jerusalem bible was published and it says Ahaziah was TWENTY YEARS OLD! Then in 1970 the St. Joseph New American Bible came out and it says that he was TWENTY-TWO years old like the modern NASB, NIV, ESVs.
But then again in 1985 and again in 2009 the New Jerusalem Bible and the Catholic Public Domain versions have now gone back to the Hebrew reading that Ahaziah was FORTY-TWO years old when he began to reign.
The inspired Hebrew text clearly says Ahaziah was 42 years old. The Masoretic scribes were very scrupulous in copying their sacred trust. No word or number was written from memory but each word was carefully checked before he recopied it. The copies were checked and checked again and if there were a single error, the whole was discarded and new one begun.
God promised to preserve His words. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Matthew 5:18. When our Lord mentions the jots and tittles He is speaking of the Hebrew language.
The King James Bible Old Testament is solely based on the Hebrew text. All modern versions depart from the Hebrew text in numerous places. Versions like the NIV, ESV, Holman Standard and Daniel Wallace's NET version even tell you this in their footnotes. The NASB rejects the Hebrew text in at least 40 places too, but it doesn't let you know this. You have to consult other versions and compare them to find this out. Here are many examples of where modern versions like the NASB, NIV, ESV, NET and Holman often reject the Hebrew readings and follow something else or just plain make them up out of thin air.
The NASB, ESV, Holman Standard, Wallace's NET version the Message 2002 and the NIVs English versions change the number 42 to 22 on the basis of the Syriac and some LXX copies. The NIV, NET, and Holman Standard footnote says: "Some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac read 22; the Hebrew says 42". Yet the NIV Spanish translation (Nueva Versión Internacional) of 1994 clearly reads 42 years old - cuarenta y dos años.
The Septuagint version I have says 20 years old, not 22 nor 42.
Not only do the NASB and NIV English edition, ESV, NET and Message change the Hebrew text here and say 22 rather than 42, but so also do Young's, Darby's, the Bible in Basic English, the Living Bible, the Holman Standard 2003, and the New Living translation.
There is a solution to this apparent contradiction.
Sad to say, almost every Bible commentator I consulted caves in at this point and tells the reader that a scribal error has been made in all the hundreds of Hebrew copies. This is why I do not trust any Bible commentary as my final authority. What one commentator affirms another one just as adamantly denies.
The Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible offers a very basic and simple solution to this apparent contradiction. It may well be the answer. Here it is - Comparing 2 Kings 8:25 "In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign. (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.
The Geneva Bible Notes simply says: "Which is to be understood, that he was made king when his father reigned, but after his father's death he was confirmed king when he was forty two years old, as in 2 Chronicles 22:2"
A couple of Bible commentators I found offer a reasonable explanation of the two passages without calling into question the Hebrew texts. One is Dr. Lightfoot and the other is Matthew Poole . Dr. Lightfoot says: " Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign - Compare 2 Kings 8:26. According to that passage, the commencement of his reign is dated in the twenty-second year of his age, and, according to this, IN THE FORTY-SECOND YEAR OF THE KINGDOM OF HIS MOTHER'S FAMILY."
Matthew Poole, Bible commentator, says: - "Of the reign of that royal race and family from which by his mother he was descended, to wit, of the house of Omri,...all which, put together, make up exactly these forty-two years; for Ahaziah began his reign in Joram's-twelfth year, 2 Kings viii. 25. And such a kind of computation of the years, not of the king's person, but of his reign or kingdom, we had before, chap, xvi. 1, where see the notes. And so we have an account of the person's age in 2 Kings viii. 26, AND HERE OF THE KINGDOM TO WHICH HE BELONGED."
Bullinger's Companion Bible also agrees that the Hebrew text reading of 42 years old in 2 Chronicles 22:2 is correct and his interpretation is similar to the one I offer. He says in his notes: "Forty and two years old = A SON OF FORTY-TWO YEARS: i.e. OF THE HOUSE OF OMRI, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS CONNECTION WITH IT THROUGH HIS MOTHER. In 2 Kings 8:26 Ahaziah's actual age (twenty-two years) is given when he began to reign during the two years of his father's disease."
Jehu was appointed by God to cut off the house of Ahab. Ahab was the king of Israel, not of Judah. But Ahaziah was related to Ahab by marriage because his father Jehoram who "walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: FOR HE HAD THE DAUGHTER OF AHAB TO WIFE: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD" 2 Chronicles 21:6.
Likewise in 2 Kings 8:16-18 we read of Jehoram, the father of Ahaziah, that "he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, AS DID THE HOUSE OF AHAB: FOR THE DAUGHTER OF AHAB WAS HIS WIFE: and he did evil in the sight of the LORD."
And of his son Ahaziah, just a few verses later in 2 Kings 8:26-27 we read: "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 (father of Ahab) king of Israel. And HE WALKED IN THE WAY OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, AS DID THE HOUSE OF AHAB; FOR HE WAS SON IN LAW OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB." Here we clearly see that Ahaziah is considered by God to be related to the house of Ahab and he walked in the way of the house of Ahab.
In 2 Chronicles 22:7 we read: "And the destruction of Ahaziah was of God by coming to Joram: for when he was come, he went out with Jehoram against JEHU the son of Nimshi, WHOM THE LORD HAD ANOINTED TO CUT OFF THE HOUSE OF AHAB."
To repeat, Ahaziah was son-in-law of the house of Ahab. 2 Kings 8:26 -27 "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 (grand-daughter) OF OMRI KING OF ISRAEL. And HE WALKED IN THE WAY OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB, and did evil in the sight of the LORD, as did the house of Ahab: FOR HE WAS THE SON IN LAW OF THE HOUSE OF AHAB." Ahaziah is counted as a son-in-law to Ahab, even though it was his father who had married into the house of Ahab, and not Ahaziah himself.
Ahaziah was thus related by marriage to the house of Ahab through the marriage of his father with Athaliah the daughter of Ahab.
When it says in 2 Chronicles 22:2 that Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign, this refers to his age as the last member of the reigning dynasty of the house of Ahab. Ahaziah could not have been 42 years old biologically, because his father was only 40 years old when Ahaziah became king (See 2 Chron. 21:20 - 2 Chron. 22:2 ). "Jehoram (the father of Ahaziah) was thirty and two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired...and the inhabitants of Jerusalem made Ahaziah his youngest son king in his stead...Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign". For a man to become a father at the age of 18 is very likely, but for a son to be born two years earlier than his father is not.
The house of Ahab began, of course, with Ahab who reigned for 22 years and his son Jehoram was in his twelfth and final year at the time Ahaziah began to reign. 22 + 12 = 34. This would be the house of Ahab on the king's of Israel side.
When we look at the house of Ahab on the king's of Judah side and we come up with an additional 8 years reign as king on the part of Jehoram, Ahaziah's father. Jehoram "walked in the way of the kings of Israel, LIKE AS DID THE HOUSE OF AHAB: FOR HE HAD THE DAUGHTER OF AHAB TO WIFE: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD" 2 Chronicles 21:6.
22 + 12 + 8 = 42. This is the age of Ahaziah as a the youngest and most recent member of the extended reign of the house of Ahab over both Israel and Judah.
Ahab's other son, Ahaziah, who reigned for 2 years before Jehoram, does not come into consideration because his two year reign was overlapped on both sides by that of his father and of his brother. So the actual number of years the house of Ahab is in power is not affected or changed by his two year reign - his first year as co-regent to his father Ahab, and the second by his brother Jehoram, kings of Israel. The actual number of years the house of Ahab is in power is 42 years when we finally get to Ahaziah king of Judah, who himself was son in law of the house of Ahab and walked in the evil ways of the house of Ahab.
The two years of Ahaziah, Ahab's son, are overlapped on one side by Ahab his father and on the other by Jehoram his brother. 1 Kings 22:41 tells us that "Jehosaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel." Ahab reigned for 22 years, so at the time Jehosaphat begins to reign, Ahab has 18 more years to go as king of Israel.
When Ahab goes out to battle the Syrians, his son Ahaziah is made co-regent and remains in Samaria while his father goes to battle. 1 Kings 22:51 tells us "Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel."
The 17th year of Jehoshaphat would overlap Ahab's 22nd and final year. Ahab dies in battle. So Ahaziah, his son, continues to reign in Samaria. However this same Ahaziah soon falls down through a lattice in his upper chamber and was sick with a disease that finally killed him.(See 2 Kings 1:2)
2 Kings 3:1 tells us: "Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years." Notice that Ahaziah (Ahab's son) began to reign in Jehoshaphat's 17th year, reigns 2 years, and Jehoram begins to reign in Jehoshaphat's 18th year.
We see that Ahaziah was co-regent to his father Ahab for one year and Jehoram, his brother, was co-regent to Ahaziah for one year during his sickness. Looked at in this way, his two year reign is overlapped by both that of his father and of his brother. We are left then with the 22 years of Ahab, 12 years of Jehoram of Ahab and the additional 8 years of Jehoram of Judah which again totals 42 years of reign till the time of Ahaziah of Judah.
Ahab's reign of 22 years does not overlap the 12 years of his son Jehoram. Likewise the one year of Ahaziah, king of Judah, does not overlap the reign of his father Jehoram. 2 Chronicles tells us that the band of men that came with the Arabians had slain all the eldest sons, so the only one left to sit on the throne was the youngest son, Ahaziah.
The house of Ahab was then cut off by Jehu when he killed both Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah. Athaliah, that wicked queen, destroyed the rest of the seed royal of the house of Judah, except the baby Joash who was stolen away and hid for six years while Athaliah reigned. The continuous reign of successive "sons" (including son in law) of the house of Ahab ceased with the death of Jehoram and Ahaziah.
The central issue in all this is simply - How long was the combined reign of "the house of Ahab" over the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah? The answer is 42 years when Ahaziah began to reign. There is no error in either the Hebrew texts nor in all the Reformation bibles and many others even in modern times that tell us that Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign.
Ahaziah was 42 years old as the final member of the house of Ahab, but only 22 years old physically as a son of Jehoram.
The new version editors like Gleason Archer, and many Christian apologetic web sites say, “This is a scribal error.” They are clearly wrong and are guilty of unbelief and using human reasoning when dealing with the infallible words of the living God. I believe God has preserved his words without error, and we have those inspired words today in the King James Bible.
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Floyd Nolan Jones in his Chronology of the Old Testament also writes about the age of Ahaziah and defends the Hebrew text. His explanation is very much like the one I have offered in this article. You can see it here.
Since writing this article defending the Hebrew Masoretic text and the King James Bible, another Bible believer sent me a link to a very good article dealing with this apparent contradiction, and I have contacted the man who wrote it. He does a very good job of defending the Book and gives a good explanation of how to put it all together. You can see his article at this site:
Some atheists, Muslims and other Bible critics have also brought up what they think is a contradiction in the Bible regarding the manner in which king Ahaziah died. Another Bible believer has written an article that addresses this point. It is called "Did Ahaziah die in two places?" It can be seen here:
Did Ahaziah Die In Two Places?
Posted: Monday, December 01, 2008
by Joel Hendon
Atheists and skeptics study the Bible much more than many self proclaimed Christians in their never ending search for errors or mistakes in the Holy Book. And they delight in finding something which, they feel, is an unmistakable error. But in order to be able to say something is a definite error, one must prove that there is no possibility for it to be correct. Granted, there are many places in the Holy Scriptures where explanations are not obvious and there appears to be a contradiction or error. But as long as there is a solution possible for it to be correct, there is still no proof of errancy in the book. These accusations have been made, over and over, for centuries and none...not one...has been proven to be an error.
Different inspired writers wrote varying details of incidents simply because they were attempting to emphasize a point(s). The four books referred to as the "gospels" are written by 4 different men and their details of incidents are very noticeable. But, on the other hand, not once does either version prove the other wrong. A perfect example is their differing quotes of what was written on the cross where Jesus was crucified.
Matthew 27:37 "And they set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS."
Mark 15:26 "And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS."
Luke 23:38 "And there was also a superscription over him, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS."
John 19:19 "And Pilate wrote a title also, and put it on the cross. And there was written, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS."
It is highly likely, in my opinion, that John's quote was precisely what was written. He even tells who wrote it. Then notice how nearly identical the other three match the last phrase of John's. This example shows the difference people will make when bringing out a point. With this example in mind, let's go to our subject question.
Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, was anointed king in the 2 Kings chapter 9 by a young prophet who informed him of God's message as follows:
"And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish: and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel: And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah:" (2 Kings 9:7-9)
So Jehu killed King Joram, son of Ahab, Jezebel, the wife of Ahab and all seventy of Ahab's sons who were living in Samaria. Now, Ahab's son-in-law, Ahaziah, was king of Judah and was witness to Joram's death and he fled. Here is the account in 2 Kings 9:27 (KJV):
"But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden house. And Jehu followed after him, and said, Smite him also in the chariot. And they did so at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there."
2 Chronicles 22:9 gives this account: "And he sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria,) and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him: Because, said they, he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart. So the house of Ahaziah had no power to keep still the kingdom."
This sounds like two different episodes to the skeptic with only scant similarities. But we have to understand, that two different writers, at two different times, were recording this event under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The difference is that the writer of the account in Kings was only attempting to explain his death, while the writer of the Chronicles wanted to show the events of the capture and arrest. It is highly likely that the episode transpired thusly:
When Ahaziah saw that Jehu had killed Joram, he got himself out of Jezreel as fast as he could go. Jehu had others to take care of after Joram and so probably did not immediately get on his trail. So Ahaziah made it to Samaria and hid there. Jehu's men found him in Samaria and brought him to Jehu still in his own chariot with his driver. Kings rarely drove their own chariot.
When they brought him to Jehu, he ordered them to kill him there in his chariot, his driver must have drove swiftly away. They were successful in shooting him and after he fled to Megiddo, he died. There is no reason to think that this scenario could not have been the case. Many cases in the Holy Bible are extremely brief in their descriptions of events. They are written to show certain points and in many cases they omit many details. Even the first chapter of Genesis, leaves out many details that are later explained.
Other Bible commentators have likewise explained this apparent contradiction about the death of Ahaziah.
Jamieson, Faussett and Brown’s Complete Commentary notes regarding 2 Chronicles 22 - “he sought Ahaziah, and they caught him (for he was hid in Samaria)--(compare 2 Kings 9:27-29) The two accounts are easily reconciled. "Ahaziah fled first to the garden house and escaped to Samaria; but was here, where he had hid himself, taken by Jehu's men who pursued him, brought to Jehu, who was still near or in Jezreel, and at his command slain at the hill Gur, beside Ibleam, in his chariot; that is, mortally wounded with an arrow, so that he, again fleeing, expired at Megiddo" [KEIL]. Jehu left the corpse at the disposal of the king of Judah's attendants, who conveyed it to Jerusalem, and out of respect to his grandfather Jehoshaphat's memory, gave him an honorable interment in the tombs of the kings. “