Chronology Challenge

Mysterious #s Heb Kings

Q. I presented a minister with the following chronological problem which I said, if posed by an atheist, could become a challenge to biblical inerrancy:-
• Israel’s Ahaziah’s Yr 1 = Judah’s Jehoshaphat’s Yr 17 (1 Ki 22:51);
• Ahaziah ruled 2 years which could be 1 year and some months;
• Israel’s Joram’s Yr 1 = Judah’s Jehoshaphat’s Yr 18 (2 Ki 3:1) & Joram succeeded Ahaziah. So far so good.
• But, Jehoshaphat ruled for 25 years (1 Kgs 22:42), so mathematically it should be Joram’s Yr 8, adding 7 yrs to the last “equation”.
• After Jehoshaphat died, his son Jehoram succeeded him as king (1 Kgs 22:50), so it would be expected this Judah’s Jehoram’s Yr 1 = Israel’s Joram’s Yr 8 or 9;
• But it was not, it was only Joram’s Yr 5 (2 Kgs 8:16).
• Worse still, it was recorded the other way round that Israel’s Joram’s Yr 1 = Judah’s Jehoram’s Yr 2 (2 Kgs 1:17), upsetting all the equations above.
He admitted that there is a cause for defense, but did not provide a solution. What’s your view?

A. Yes it can be a bit confusing when there are two Jehoram, one of Judah (“JJ”) and the other of Israel (“JI”), especially when Jehoram was also called Joram! But let’s see what the cited texts say. I will quote them in their order in the Bible:

1 Kgs 22:42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem.
• 1 Kgs 22:50 And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of his father David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place.
• 1 Kgs 22:51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel.
• 2 Kgs 1:17 So Ahaziah died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.
• 2 Kgs 3:1 Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.
• 2 Kgs 8:16 Now in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then the king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah became king.

I will try to reconcile the apparent discrepancies by using three principles:
1. That partial years are counted as full years in rounding,
2. That there was a co-regency in Judah at that time, and
3. Judah uses a different dating method from Israel. Based on research done by Edwin Thiele in “The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings“, Judah used the ascension year method, which counts the year the king ascended to the throne as year zero, and the first year starts with the first anniversary, while Israel used the ordinary dating method, which counts a king’s first year as year one.
I demonstrate each item as follows.

First, note the following:
• 1 Kgs 22:51 Ahaziah became king over Israel in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat and he reigned 2 years.
• 2 Kgs 3:1 says JI became king over Israel in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat. But if Ahaziah reigned 2 years, shouldn’t JI start in Jehoshaphat’s 19th year?
• A logical explanation is that Ahaziah’s reign was 2 partial and not full years, which allowed JI’s reign to start in Jehoshaphat’s 18th year.

Second, note that:
• 2 Kgs 1:17 says JI became king in Ahaziah’s place in the 2nd year of JJ.
• But 2 Kgs 3:1 says JI became king in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat.
• So 2nd year of JJ = 18th year of Jehoshaphat, when both Jehoshaphat and Jehoram were king of Judah at the same time. This means Jehoram became co-regent with his father in Jehoshaphat’s 17th year.

Why co-regency? Because in times of war, it is not unusual for a king to appoint his son to co-reign with him, so that one of them could go to war while the other stays behind to keep watch over the kingdom. Now Jehoshaphat’s 17th year was the year Ahab died and Ahab’s son Ahaziah became king over Israel (1 Kgs 22:51), so it was natural for Jehoshaphat to appoint his son Jehoram to be co-regent to safeguard Judah.

How long did this co-regency last? 2 Kgs 8:16 says in the 5th year of Joram (i.e. Jehoram) the son of Ahab i.e. JI, Jehoshaphat being then the king of Judah, JJ became king. But JJ had already been co-regent with his father as king of Judah, so scholars interpret this to mean JJ became sole king of Judah that year. Now JI became king of Israel in Jehoshaphat’s 18th year (2 Kgs 3:1), so JI’s 5th year is Jehoshaphat’s 23rd year.

Third, based on the above, JJ became sole king of Judah in Jehoshaphat’s 23rd year, according to Judah’s ascension year method. Under this method, the year Jehoshaphat became king is year zero. Therefore his 23rd year was his 24th actual or real years. But if partial years are counted as full years, his 24 real years ( 1 of which is 2 partial years) can be rounded up to “he reigned 25 years in Jerusalem” (1 Kgs 22:42), after which JJ took over as sole king of Judah. Hope this helps.

Judah too young to be a great-grandfather at 43?

Jacob's sons 1

Q. Most people would usually accept that Joseph’s age was 39 when he reunited with Jacob, from the sum of the following numbers: He was 30 when he became ruler, then came the 7 years of prosperity and 2 years of futility (Gen 41:46, 53, 45:6). Jacob was 130 at that time (Gen 47:9), so he should have given birth to Joseph when he was (130-39=) 91, substantiated by the biblical account that Jacob bore Joseph when he was old (Gen 37:3). However, my immediate reaction was Joseph appeared to be too young. If he was 39, then Judah would at most be 42 because Judah was the 4th son in a row from Leah while Joseph was the last son (from Rachel) in the second 7 years of Jacob’s servitude, so at most the two would only be 3 years apart. For Judah to be 42, there would be great chronological difficulty, because his son Perez had already been a father of 2 kids at the time of such reunion (Gen 46:12). Though Perez was Judah’ son, age-wise, he could be considered as Judah’s grandson because he was only conceived by Tamar after Judah’s two elder sons Er and Onan became adults, married Tamar and died, so Perez could be considered as the 2nd generation descendant from Judah, and hence his son considered as the 3rd. How could a man aged 42 have a 3rd generation descendant?

A. My first reaction was that Judah as #4, with 6 sons and one daughter (Dinah) in between, got to be more than 3 years older than Joseph’s #11. However, as you rightly pointed out, all 11 sons were born during Jacob’s second 7 years working for Laban. [The first 7 years were for Leah, as Laban cheated Jacob by switching Leah for Rachel; the second 7 years were for Rachel, who was given to Jacob at the beginning of the term; and 6 more years for Jacob’s flock.] Even though there were 4 mothers, with 11 children before Joseph, there needs to be overlapping pregnancies within those 7 years. I worked out one possible version assuming that:

* each pregnancy was full-term at 9 months without any pre-mature births;
* for the same mother, there was a one-month gap between succeeding births due to the ovulation and menstrual cycle;
* for different mothers, there was still a one-month gap as the birth order was clearly identified in Scripture.

This is presented here: Judah’s Age but of course there are many other possibilities if one or more of the assumptions were changed.

Under this scenario Judah was born in the 39th months of the second 7 year term, and Joseph in the 83rd month. So the two are 44 months apart, and Judah is only 3 years and 8 months older than Joseph. At the time of the reunion with Joseph at age 39, Judah would be 42-43 years old. Now, can a 43 year-old man be a great-grand father, since Perez (with 2 sons) was his daughter-in-law Tamar’s son and technically also Judah’s grandson besides being his illegitimate son?

The answer is yes, it’s possible. Under Jewish law a boy becomes a man at age 13 (bar mitzvah), and a girl becomes a woman at age 12 (bat mitzvah). After they become a son or daughter of commandment they are responsible for their own actions and can marry. So technically a male can marry at age 13 and become a father at age 14, a grandfather at age 28, and a great-grandfather at age 42, if his son and grandson all got married and have a child at the same young age as he did. If Perez’s second son was born a year later, Judah would have been 43 then. This is rare but apparently what happened in Judah’s case. Some of these details don’t come out until you do a careful study of the Bible!