Article: Jehoiachin 8 or 18?; 3 or 7 years famine? by Will Kinney

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How Old Was Jehoiachin, 8 or 18?


2 Chronicles 36:9


"Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days."


2 Kings 24:8


"Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months."


This particular "contradiction" is frequently brought up and thrown in the face of the Christian as proof that the Holy Bible is not the inspired word of God. Unfortunately, many Christian websites tell the curious and the skeptics that indeed there are several scribal errors in their bibles.


Apologetics Press -"Even though it is possible to know the ages of Ahaziah and Jehoiachin when they began their respective reigns in Judah, the ages of these two kings in Chronicles are incorrect.


In Gleason Archer's "Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties," the author writes, "obviously there has been a textual error committed by the copyist. Another book, "When Critics Ask," also deals with such problems. Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, the authors, give the same answer to the dilemma. They write, "This is probably a copyist error.


A man who writes for Insight Magazine who calls himself Pastor Steve has this to say to a skeptic who writes to him. " But I’m guessing that the “contradiction” you’re pointing out is Jehoiachin’s age when he became king. The King James Version says “eight years” in 2 Chronicles 36:9 and “eighteen years” in 2 Kings 24:8, 9. I usually prefer the New International Version, though, which takes into account ancient manuscripts found since the King James Version was written. The NIV includes with 2 Chronicles 36:9 a footnote explaining that most Hebrew manuscripts record the word “eight,” but one Hebrew manuscript and some Septuagint and Syriac manuscripts record “eighteen.” The Bible isn’t a manuscript free of all typos. Since God’s chosen to communicate His Word through mistake-making humans, there are “errors” or “contradictions.” What’s amazing to me is how much consistency there really is."


Well, what is amazing to me, Pastor Steve, is that this muddled-headed response by a modern version proponent would probably be considered quite sound and charitable by most Christians today.


Notice pastor Steve has no final authority. He "usually prefers" the NIV. Of course, he doesn't believe the NIV or any other Bible on this earth is the infallible words of God, but he does have his "personal preferences". His information is also wrong about the ancient manuscripts. The King James translators knew all about the Septuagint and the Syriac versions. "One" Hebrew manuscript, (unidentified by the way), can say almost anything.


Does Pastor Steve know that the NIV unnecessarily departs from the Hebrew masoretic text over 80 times in the Old Testament alone? Pastor Steve says: "The Bible isn't free of typos" ?!? Has it ever occurred to Steve that if we can't trust the numbers in the Bible, then how can we be sure about the words that are written between the numbers? When does God start telling the truth?


As for Pastor Steve’s logic in coming to the conclusion there must be errors because God is using mistake making men, did it ever occur to Steve that God also used fallible, sinful men like Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul and John to give us His words in the first place?


I firmly believe the King James Bible is God's preserved, pure, perfect and inspired words in the English language and there are no scribal errors in it at all.


Israel's scribes are legendary when it comes to the precision by which they wrote and kept the scriptures. Bernard Ramm speaks of the accuracy of the Biblical manuscripts, "Jews preserved them as no other manuscripts have been preserved. They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word, paragraph." They never copied from memory but always looked at each word before writing. If there were one mistake on a page, they started over with a new copy. God has promised to preserve every word. Not one jot nor tittle will pass from the law till all be fulfilled.


We in modern times need to give more credit to the intelligence and editing skills of the Hebrew scribes. There are many other "problems" like this one throughout the histories of Israel's kings. To suggest all of them are copyist errors is almost non-sensical in light of the Hebrew scribal techniques, yet that is exactly what the majority of biblical scholars in our day do.


It is clear that the Hebrew Masoretic text says "8 years old" in 2 Chronicles 36:9. The following versions read 8 and not 18. The Hebrew translations of 1917, 1936, and the 1998 Complete Jewish Bible translation, the Hebrew Names Version, Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, Bishop's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, KJB, NKJV, Revised Version 1881, the American Standard Version 1901, NASB 1963-1995, RSV 1973, NRSV 1989, the 2001 ESV, NEB 1970, Latin Vulgate, Spanish Reina Valera, Italian Diodati, French Louis Segond, Douay, Webster's 1833, and Third Millenium Bible.


The recent Judaica Press Tanach follows the Hebrew texts in 2 Chronicles 36:9 saying: " Jehoiachin was EIGHT YEARS OLD when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem, and he did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord."


The versions that have rejected the Hebrew text and followed SOME Septuagint versions (some of them say 8 while others have 18), and the Syriac are the NIV, Darby's, New Century Version, Bible in Basic English 1961, the brand new Holman Standard 2003, The Message, and the Living Translation.


The NIV has rejected the Hebrew text over 80 times, while the NASB has done the same, but not always in the same places, over 40 times. The NKJV departs at least 10 times that I have found so far. The King James Bible is the only major, popular English translation that is based solely on the Hebrew Masoretic text.


So, how do we reconcile the apparent contradiction between 8 and 18? Here are the three best possible explanations I have come across without changing the Hebrew texts nor the King James Bible.


Number 1


The Geneva Bible notes: "36:9 Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.That is, he began his reign at eight years old, and reigned ten years when his father was alive, and after his father's death, which was in his eighteenth year, he reigned alone three months and ten days."


During a monarchy a king would make a son co-regent with him while he was still alive. This practice would assure the king's favored son, (usually the first-born of the favored wife), as being the next king. Some of the kings had more than one wife, and thus several sons from these wives. To prevent civil war and fighting among the family, he would appoint the selected son as co-regent, so when he died, the co-regent son would be in place to take over completely. An example of this is seen in the life of David. In 1 Kings 1 and 2, David in his dying days, called Solomon before him and had the high priest and the prophet Nathan anoint him before the people. David, though he was still king, made his son Solomon co-regent. In 2 Kings 24:8, the biblical record is giving the age of Jehoiachin as 18. The cross reference of "8 years old" in 2 Chronicles 36:9 could be his age when he was made the co-regent with his father.


Number 2


Another way of looking at this passage is to view the pronoun "he" in the phrase "Jehoiachin was eight years old when 'he' began to reign", as referring to his father Jehoiakim spoken of in verses 4 - 8. Only in the 2 Chronicles passage is there an antecedent in the previous verse referring to his father.


"Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. Jehoiachin was eight years old when he ( Jehoiakim - his father ) began to reign, and he ( Jehoiachin- his son) reigned three months and ten days." The passage in 2 Kings 24:8 where it says Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he began to reign has no such antecedent


The very next verse here in Chronicles contains a similar pronoun "his" that can be misleading. In fact the NKJV, NIV and NASB have all changed or added to the Hebrew text in some way, though they all differ from each other.


The Hebrew text and the KJB say in verse 10: "And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah, HIS brother king over Judah and Jerusalem."


Do the words "HIS brother" refer back to Nebuchadnezzar, so it would be Nebuchadnezzar's brother, or do they refer to the unnamed Jehoichin? They refer to Jehoichin, and so his brother (blood relative) Zedekiah was made king. The Hebrew word here is # 251 awkh, brother as found also in verse 4 twice.


The NKJV adds to the Hebrew text by saying; "made Zedekiah, JEHOIAKIM'S brother, king over Judah and Jerusalem." Then it has a footnote telling us the Hebrew literally reads "his".


The NIV changed it to : "and he made JEHOIACHIN'S UNCLE, Zedekiah king..."


While the NASB has "he made HIS KINSMAN Zedekiah king..."


Here the word "his" does not refer to Nebuchadnezzar but rather to Jehoiachin. We thus need to look at the context and the rest of the Bible to determine whom the "he" or "his" refers to.


Jehoiachin's father Jehoiakim reigned 11 years in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36: 5 "Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God."


Numbers are often rounded and any part of a year may be counted or not depending on the intent of the writer. An example in this is found in the two passages we are considering. In Chronicles we are told Jehoiachin reigned 3 months and ten days , but in Kings that he reigned three months.


There is no real discrepancy. If you tell me you are 35 years old, and you tell another you are 35 years and 6 months old, we will not accuse you of being a liar.


Another example of a period of 6 months making a change of a full year is recorded in 2 Kings 15: 8 and 13. In the 38th year of king Azariah, Zachariah began to reign in Israel. He reigned only 6 months and was killed. Then in the 39th year of Azariah (Uzziah - same king, different name) Shallum began to reign for one month. Only 6 months had passed but the numbering changed from the 38th to the 39th year of Azariah, king of Judah.


In this same chapter of 2 Kings 15 comparing verses 17 and 23 we see a period of ten years being counted as eleven years when the next king started to reign.


2 Kings 15:17 and 23


"In the 39th year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned 10 years in Samaria."


Verses 22, 23 "And Menahem slept with his fathers; and Pekahiah his son reigned in his stead. In the 50th year of Azariah king of Judah Pekahiah began to reign."


Menahem begins to reign in the 39th year of Azariah, reigns 10 years, then Pekahiah begins to reign 10 years later but it is counted as Azariah's 50th year.


This second view suggests that Jehoiachin was eight years old when his father Jehoiakim began to reign, and that he was 18 years old when he himself began to reign for only about three months.


If Jehoiachin were 8 years and a month old when his father Jehoiakim began to reign and he reigned for something like 10 years and 9 months, this would be counted as 11 years, yet when his son Jehoiakim began to reign, he would still be physically only 18 years old. He would be 2 months shy of his 19 birthday.


This explanation may be wrong or it may be correct. I offer it as a possible explanation of what happened. This explanation is quite possible and it keeps the Hebrew reading and the King James Bible reading intact with no contradiction.


Number 3 - This explanation has a lot to recommend it. It is provided by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones.


6. JEHOIACHIN (JECONIAH) - EIGHT OR EIGHTEEN


Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother's name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem (II Ki.24:8).


Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD (II Chr.36:9).


The solution offered, and that preferred by this author in light of that which follows, is that Josiah must have anointed Jehoiachin, his grandson, to succeed him just prior to his encounter with Pharaoh Neco.


Realizing that his sons were wicked, godly Josiah must have hoped that his grandson Jehoiachin (Jeconiah), though only eight years old at the time, would turn out better. As Josiah himself was but eight when he began to reign, he would have few qualms in placing so young a child upon the throne of Judah. Josiah fully realized that he might not return from this conflict with the Egyptians.


In the first place, he was going up against a much larger contingency. Secondly, it had been prophesied that he would die young and also prior to the judgment that God would send upon the Kingdom of Judah (2 Ki.22, 2 Chr.34). Having already reigned thirty-one years, Josiah was now about 39 years of age. Thus he knew that his time was very possibly at hand.


The only Biblical and legal way that a grandson etc., could be made to inherit the throne while his father and uncles were still alive was that of adoption to the status of a full son. (See Gen.48 where Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are placed as sons, adopted by Jacob [vs.5, cp. vv.12 and 16 for the ritual] so that they could become equal heirs with his other sons.) It is the contention of this writer that Josiah did adopt and name as his successor young Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) just prior to departing for his fatal encounter with Neco at Megiddo. Moreover, this scenario enjoys Scriptural corroboration:


"And Josiah begat Jeconiah and his brethern, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:" (Mat.1:11).


This Scripture occurs in Matthew's roll of Christ Jesus' ancestors. Beginning with David and Solomon at the sixth verse, it continues through the eleventh listing the kings of Judah in His lineage. Verse eleven asserts that Josiah begat Jeconiah (Jehoiachin being his "throne" name) though he was not his son. Although in a larger Biblical sense, it is permissible to speak of "begetting" descendants beyond the generation of one's own offspring, the context of this "begetting" would have occurred at the time of the adoption. The truth of this is clearly seen in that which follows: "and his brothers".


Now this is indeed very strange, for the allusion is clearly to Josiah's sons and as such, are Jehoiachin's uncles and father -- unless he had been adopted. Then and only then could it be said that Josiah's sons are Jehoiachin's brothers! Lest there remain any reservations, consider:


"And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him (Jehoiachin, see vs.9) to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem" (II Chr.36:10). Again, how can Zedekiah be Jehoiachin's brother? Only by his being adopted to full sonship.


However the people of the land did not abide by Josiah's decision, placing instead Josiah's twenty three year old son Jehoahaz (not his eldest, 2 Ki.23:36) on the throne (2 Ki.23:30). After reigning but three months, Jehoahaz was removed by Pharaoh Neco and carried prisoner to Egypt where he died. Placing the land under tribute, Neco installed Jehoahaz's older brother Jehoiakim (father of Jehoiachin) as his vassal on the throne of Judah (2 Ki.23:33-37) where he reigned eleven years.


Of course, this does not demand that he reigned eleven years to the very day. For example, if he reigned ten years and three months, that would qualify as being "in his eleventh year". Thus, whereby Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) was anointed to be King when but a child (II Chr.36:9), he did not actually occupy the throne until he was eighteen years of age (2 Ki.24:8-12) ˆ a span of eleven years when numbered inclusively.


Moreover, Chronicles is stating the situation as viewed from the priest's/Temple's/God's perspective whereas the Book of Kings is presenting it from the historical political/throne view.


The "discrepancy" or "scribal error" between 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 is thus resolved. The verses are seen to signify that Jehoiachin's first year upon the throne would have been his "year of accession"; hence he would have been eight during his first official year of reign (Judaic method ofreckoning). Thus II Kings 24:8, II Chronicles 36:9, and Matthew 1:11. Scriptures long held by liberals, agnostics, infidels, and most scholars to be in error, when placed together, actually explain, confirm and sustain one another.


Thus, like his "father" David, Jehoiachin was anointed to reign but many years passed before he actually ascended to the head of the Monarchy. The first time "he came unto his own" and presented himself as their anointed King "his own received him not" (Joh.1:11) saying "we will not have this man to reign over us" (Luk.19:14). The second time, he was welcomed as King, for no one is said to have installed him. Both thereby become types of another and far greater in this same dynasty, even the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Jesus was anointed to rule by the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist. The Father confirmed the same at that occasion by audibly speaking from heaven (Mat.3:13-17; 11:7-15); yet the Lord Jesus has not yet occupied "the throne of His father, David" (Luk.1:31-32).


Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones


7 years or 3 years of famine?


2 Samuel 24:13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land?


1 Chronicles 21:11-12 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee either THREE years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee;or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land...


There are many atheistic, Islamic and Bible Debunker sites on the internet which contain longs lists of supposed contradictions in the Bible.


On one Islamic site listing "101 Clear Contradictions in the Bible" this is number four.


Contradiction #4


God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine?


(a) Seven (2 Samuel 24:13).


(b) Three (1 Chronicles 21:12).


Those Christians who continue to use the modern versions like the NASB, NIV, and NKJV will typically answer these objections in this way which is taken directly from the Apologetics Index.


"It is probably a copyist error and the better preserved text renders the famine as three years -- Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985."


Another modern version site by the name of Tecktonic.org Apologetics Ministries has this to say: "Were there seven years of famine offered, or three (per 1 Chronicles 21:11)? Three is the more likely reading, favored by the LXX and by symmetry with the other punishments offered (three months of flight from enemies, three days of plague). Samuel was hit by a copyist error. See our foundational essay on copyist errors for general background. "


So, Samuel was hit by a copyist error, was he? Where was God during this whole process?


Another site that calls itself Rational Christianity - Christian Apologetics, which uses the NKJV has this to say: "This is a copyist error Presumably the correct number is three, since the other choices are threes.


In 2 Samuel 24: 13 the prophet Gad comes to David and says: "Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in thy land?"


SEVEN years is the reading of the Hebrew text here as the NIV, RSV, NRSV, and ESV footnotes tell us. The reading of THREE YEARS comes from the Greek Septuagint version, but not the Hebrew.


The false reading in 2 Samuel 24:13 of THREE years is found in the NIV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NEB, Bible in Basic English, and the New Living Translation.


Those versions that agree with the KJB reading of SEVEN years are the Geneva Bible, the Revised Version, ASV, the Jewish translations of 1917, 1936, the Spanish Reina Valera, the Italian Diodati, NASB, Douay, Young's, NKJV, the Living Bible and even the Syriac versions.


This is really a very simple "contradiction" to solve if one just believes God's word as found in the King James Bible and takes the time to read it carefully.


Only in the book of 2 Samuel are we told in chapter 21:1 "Then there was a famine in the days of David THREE years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.


David then, as requested by the Gibeonites, had seven men of the sons of Saul put to death by hanging in "the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of the barley harvest." This couldn't have been much of a harvest because the famine was still in the land. They would then have to wait till next year for a good crop.


Next we read of king David telling Joab to go and number the people of Israel. This census taking seems to have been a vain attempt by David to boast in the power of the flesh. See how stong I am and how many people I command. This was the sin that brought about the threatened judgment of more famine by God.


It is important to see that this numbering of the people took a period of 9 months and 20 days as is noted in 2 Samuel 24:8. "So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days."


So, what we have here is four years of famine that had already preceeded the time when Gad comes to David and says in 2 Samuel 24:13 "Shall SEVEN years of famine come unto thee in the land?"


But when we look at 1 Chronicles, there is no mention of the famine that had already been going on before David numbered the people. There in 1 Chronicles we read: "Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee either THREE years' famine: or three months to be destroyed before thy foes...or else three days the sword of LORD, even the pestilence..."


So to answer the question: "Were there seven years of famine or only three?", the correct answer is BOTH. There were seven years of famine altogether; four had already occurred and three more years were threatened as a further judgment. As brother Masao Morinaga, another King James Bible believer, pointed out: "The account in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12 gives the verbatim quote of what GOD spoke. It says, “So Gad came to David, and said unto him, THUS SAITH THE LORD, Choose thee either THREE years' famine...” (emphasis added). Thus, it is God who says “three years” in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12. On the other hand, the number, “seven years,” in 2 Samuel 24:13 are the personal words of GAD, and NOT of GOD. It says, “So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come…." It we read 2 Samuel 24:13 carefully, we see that Gad first “told him” (the verbatim words of God as recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:11-12) and then “said unto him, Shall seven years….”


The King James Bible is right as always.


Brother Herb Evans, another strong King James Bible believer, summed up the answer to this alleged contradiction with these words: " Another argument, objection, and correction of both the English and the Hebrew regarding these same passages by the more intellectual Bible Correctors, who know how to use a concordance, is, "Was David offered 'three' or 'seven' years of famine?" The simple answers are both! For since David and Israel had just undergone three years of famine (2 Sam. 21:1) and since David and Israel were still experiencing that famine "year after year" (when he ordered the numbering of Israel - 2 Sam. 24:1) and since it took nine months and twenty days to number Israel (2 Sam. 24:8), we need only account for two months and ten days from 2 Sam. 21:1 to 2 Sam. 24:8, which would bring the total to four years. Four years of past famine plus three years of future famine equals seven years total famine, if chosen by David. Samuel, a contemporary of David and the famine, wrote from the perspective that David was offered a total of seven years of famine, which included the four years of famine that they had just gone through. The historical record (First Chronicles) records David's offer of "three" more years of famine from a historical perspective.


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