How Old Was Jehoiachin When He Became King? 2 Chr 36, 2 Kg 24

Was Jehoiachin eight or eighteen when he became king? Are 2 Chronicles 36:9, 2 Kings 24:8 contradictory? Learn the solution to this problem.
Bible "contradictions"
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Quick Answer

Here are two possible solutions:

  1. There was a copyist error.
  2. 2 Chronicles 36:9 refers to when Jehoiachin was appointed co-regent with his father, and 2 Kings 24:8 refers to when Jehoiachin actually became king.

The argument

Some argue that the Bible is contradictory about how long Jehoiachin reigned. 2 Kings 24:8 says that he reigned eighteen years, but most Hebrew manuscripts of 2 Chronicles 36:9 says that he reigned eight years. Here are the relevant verses. For 2 Chronicles 36:9, both the NKJV and ESV translations are quoted.

Jehoiachin reigned eighteen years

2 Kings 24:8 - Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.

Jehoiachin reigned eight years

2 Chronicles 36:9 (NKJV) - Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 36:9 (ESV) - Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

The solution

There are at least two possible solutions to this alleged contradiction:

  1. There was a copyist error.
  2. 2 Chronicles 36:9 refers to when Jehoiachin was appointed co-regent with his father, and 2 Kings 24:8 refers to when Jehoiachin actually became king.

1. There was a copyist error

Since Old Testament manuscripts were copied by hand, fatigued copyists could make mistakes in copying the manuscript they were working on. The Hebrew characters for eight and eighteen are extremely similar—only one small mark differentiates them, so it is understandable that a scribe may have made a mistake here.

This is not a problem for biblical inerrancy because the doctrine states that the Bible is without error or contradiction in the original manuscripts. It does not state that no errors could be introduced in the transmission of these manuscripts. Fortunately, the possible copyist errors in the Bible do not affect the core teachings of the Bible, so they are not ultimately significant.

2. Jehoiachin was appoint co-regent with his father when he was eight

The second possible explanation is that Jehoiachin was appointed co-regent with his father when he was eight years old, which would explain 2 Chronicles 36:9, and he actually became king when he was eighteen years old, which would explain 2 Kings 24:8.

There is precedence for kings of Israel appointing kings while they were still alive. For example, 1 Kings 1:33-40 tells us that David appointed Solomon king while David was still alive, and 2 Chronicles 26:21 tells us that Jotham was appointed co-regent with Uzziah when Uzziah was afflicted with Leprosy.

1 Kings 1:33-35

33 The king also said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon.[a] 34 There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, and he shall be king in my place. For I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.”

36 Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king and said, “Amen! May the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. 37 As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the Cherethites, and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and took him to Gihon. 39 Then Zadok the priest took a horn of oil from the tabernacle and anointed Solomon. And they blew the horn, and all the people said, [c]“Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound.

2 Chronicles 26:21 - King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.

Conclusion

These two potential solutions demonstrate that there is no necessary contradiction between the passages in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

"I don't buy that explanation"

Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:

I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.

Fact vs Opinion

The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.

However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.

When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.

Additional Resources

To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.

Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.

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