Article: How old was Ahaziah, 22 or 42? by Will Kinney

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Ahaziah of Judah
Ahaziah of Judah

How old was Ahaziah, 22 or 42?

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.


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, Bishop's Bible 1568, Geneva Bible 1599, Jerome's Vulgate 382 A.D., Clementine Vulgate, the Revised Version 1881, the American Standard Version 1901, Douay-Rheims Bible Douay 1950, Las Sagradas Escrituras 1569, the Spanish Reina Valera 1909, 1960, 1995, Italian Diodati 1602, French Louis Segond, Portuguese Almeida, the NKJV 1982, RSV 1952, NRSV 1989, the Jewish translations of 1917 and 1936, the 1998 Complete Jewish Bible, the new Judaica Press Complete Tanach, the Hebrew Names Bible, Rotherham's Emphasized Bible 1902, Webster's 1833 translation, the New English Bible 1970, the New Jerusalem Bible 1985, the Amplified Bible 1987, KJV 21st Century, and the Third Millenium Bible all say Ahaziah was 42 years old when he began to reign.

Departure from the Hebrew

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, RSV, ESV, Holman Standard, NRSV, 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.

The NASB, ESV, Holman Standard, Wallace's NET version, and NIV 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".

The Septuagint version I have says 20 years old, not 22 nor 42.

Not only do the NASB and NIV 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 2001 English Standard Version, the Living Bible, the Holman CSB, and the New Living translation.

The Solution

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. Surprisingly, the only one I found that actually offers a reasonable explanation of the two passages without calling into question the Hebrew texts is Dr. Lightfoot. He says: " Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign--(Compare 2Ki 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 [LIGHTFOOT]."

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 "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.

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.

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.

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.

22 + 12 + 8 = 42. This is the age of Ahaziah as a member of the extended reign of the house of Ahab.

Ahab's other son, Ahaziah, who reigned for 2 years before Jehoram and died childless is excluded from this equation because he was not related in a father to son relationship with either Jehoram of Israel or Ahaziah of Judah. He had no children.

Furthermore, the two years of Ahaziah, Ahab's son, are overlapped on one side by both 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 coregent. 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. However this Ahaziah soon falls down through a lattice in his upper chamber and was sick with a disease that finally killed him.

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 Aahaziah 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 coregent to his father Ahab for one year and Jehoram, his brother, was coregent 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 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 father's and sons who have offspring which 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, Ahazhiah.

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" of the house of Ahab ceased with the death of Jehoram and Ahaziah.

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.

Will Kinney

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:

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