How old was Ahaziah when he became king of Judah, 22 or 42?

Posted on Jan.24, 2009. Filed in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles. Average rating: 4.0 / 10 (Rate It).

Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles record that Ahaziah reigned as king of Judah for a single year. They disagree, however, as to how old he was when he acceded to the throne.

According to 2 Kings, Ahaziah was aged 22 at his accession:

In the twelfth year of King Joram son of Ahab of Israel, Ahaziah son of King Jehoram of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned for one year in Jerusalem. [2 Kings 8:25-26a (NRSV)]

According to 2 Chronicles, Ahaziah was aged 42 at his accession:

The inhabitants of Jerusalem made his youngest son Ahaziah king as his successor; for the troops who came with the Arabs to the camp had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram reigned as king of Judah. Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned for one year in Jerusalem. [2 Chronicles 22:1-2a (NRSV)]

Some translations remove the contradiction by replacing “forty-two” in this verse with “twenty-two”. The Hebrew manuscripts, however, do say “forty-two”, so if your Bible says 22 then you need to be aware that you can’t always rely on it to accurately reflect the extant biblical manuscripts.

2 Chronicles 22’s claim that Ahaziah was aged 42 at his accession looks even stranger when it is compared with 2 Chronicles 21, which says of Ahaziah’s father:

He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign; he reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. [2 Chronicles 21:20a (NRSV)]

Ahaziah acceded to the throne when his father died, and his father acceded to the throne aged 32 and died 8 years later, aged 40. If Ahaziah were 42 when he took to the throne, then he would have been 2 years older than his father, which can’t be right.

So how old was Ahaziah when he became king of Judah, 22 or 42? If he was 22, then 2 Chronicles 22:2 contains an error. If he was 42, then 2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 21:20 contain errors.

N.B. All posts are written in a style sympathetic to the claim of Biblical error, even in cases where the author ("Errancy") disagrees with the claim. See the About page for the site's philosophy.

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  1. 1

    This is not a “copyist error.” The Hebrew words are not similar enough to be mistaken for one another. There are even a different amount of letters in each word (the scribes even counted the letters to make sure they matched.)

    Is the question “How old was Ahaziah when he became king?” or “How old was Ahaziah when he began to reign? It is possible to begin to reign in multiple different ways. For example, Jehoshaphat started to reign 3 years before he became king.

    Ahaziah was 22 years old when he began to reign with a lesser degree of authority. This would probably coincide with when “affinity” was joined with King Ahab.

    Ahaziah would have been 42 years old when he became king. Yes, he would actually be slightly older than his step-father (this is not a contradiction.) These types of things can happen when people marry for power. They don’t always marry again into their same age group.

    I have a more detailed explanation of this specific question at How Old Was Ahaziah: 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.

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