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.