) Earlier, in 2 Kings 8:17-18, the author mentions that
Ahaziah’s father (Jehoram) was 32 when he became king, and died eight years later at the age
of 40 (2 Chronicles 21:5, 20). Obviously, Ahaziah could not have been 42 at the time of his
father’s death at age 40, since that would make the son (Ahaziah) two years older than his
father (Jehoram). Thus, the correct reading of Ahaziah’s age is “twenty-two,” not
“forty-two.” There also is little doubt that Jehoiachin began his reign at eighteen, not
eight years of age. This conclusion is established by Ezekiel 19:5-9, where Jehoiachin appears as
going up and down among the lions, catching the prey, devouring men, and knowing the widows of the
men he devoured and the cities he wasted. As Keil and Delitzsch observed when commenting on this
passage: “The knowing of widows cannot apply to a boy of eight, but might well be said of a
young man of eighteen” (1996). Furthermore, it is doubtful that an eight-year-old child would
be described as one having done “evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 24:9).
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. Are
these legitimate mistakes? Are we to conclude, based upon these two verses in 2 Chronicles, that
the Bible is not from God? What shall we say to such questions?
The simple answer to these queries is that a copyist, not an inspired writer, made these
mistakes. In the case of Ahaziah, a copyist simply wrote twenty instead of forty, and in
Jehoiachin’s situation (2 Chronicles 36:9), the scribe just omitted a ten, which made
Jehoiachin eight instead of eighteen. This does not mean the Bible had errors in the original
manuscripts, but it does indicate that minor scribal errors have slipped into some copies of the
Bible. [If you have ever seen the Hebrew alphabet, you will notice that the Hebrew letters (which
were used for numbers) could be confused quite easily.] Supporting this answer to the “number
problems” in Chronicles are various ancient manuscripts such as the Syriac, the Arabic, at
least one Hebrew manuscript, and a few of the Septuagint manuscripts—all of which contain the
correct ages for these kings in 2 Chronicles (22 and 18 rather than 42 and 8). Based upon this
evidence, and from the fact that the ages of Ahaziah and Jehoiachin given in the Massoretic text
of Chronicles are incorrect, the translators of the NIV decided to translate 2 Chronicles 22:2 and 36:9 as “twenty-two” and “eighteen”
rather than the way most other English versions of the Bible read (“forty-two” and
Although history records that copyists were meticulously honest in handling the text of the
Bible, they, like all humans, made mistakes from time to time. Yet, even though technical mistakes
in copying the text were made by these scribes of old, three important facts remain: (1) accurate
communication still is possible; (2) many times one can find the correct reading by investigating
ancient manuscripts such as those listed above; and (3) errors in copies of the Bible do not mean that those errors were in the original manuscripts written by inspired men.
*For a general background of this article, see our foundational essay on
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old
Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft), new updated edition.
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