Saturday, February 28, 2015

II Chronicles 22

II Chronicles 22 is about King Ahaziah of Judah.

II Chronicles 22:2 states (in the KJV): “Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Athaliah the daughter of Omri.”

Many scholars identify a problem with this verse.  For one, whereas II Chronicles 22:2 states that Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign, II Kings 8:26 says that he was twenty-two at that time.  Second, saying that Ahaziah was forty-two at the beginning of his reign does not work chronologically.  II Chronicles 21:20 says that Ahaziah’s father, Jehoshaphat, died at age forty, so Ahaziah would be older than his father if Ahaziah’s reign began when Ahaziah was forty-two.
Different solutions have been proposed for this:

1.  One solution is simply to say that a scribe made an error.  Keil-Delitzsch go this route.  One should also note that many Septuagint manuscripts have “twenty” and that the Peshitta has “twenty-two.”  Maybe they were trying to correct the Hebrew text or they possessed an earlier and more accurate reading.

2.  John Gill mentions the solution of coregency, that Ahaziah and his father Jehosphaphat may have reigned at the same time for a span.  This is often a solution that interpreters propose in seeking to deal with certain chronological difficulties, particularly the ones in Kings and Chronicles.  I am not sure if it solves anything in this case, though, for it does not seem to me to solve the problem of Ahaziah being older than his father.

3.  E.W. Bullinger says that the phrase is literally “a son of forty-two years, i.e. of the house of Omri.”  King Ahaziah was the king of Judah, but he was connected with the Northern Kingdom of Israel because his mother, Athaliah, was related to the wicked Northern king Omri, one who started the dynasty that included Ahab.  Bullinger argues that saying that Ahaziah was “a son of forty-two years” highlights Ahaziah’s connection with Omri—-that the forty-two years is not how old Ahaziah was when he began to reign, but rather the time since the kingship of Judah became intertwined with Omri’s dynasty.  I cannot disprove Bullinger’s argument, but I am not convinced by it.  Throughout II Chronicles, the sort of formula that appears in II Chronicles 22:2 is used to say how old a king was when he began to reign.  Why should II Chronicles 22:2 be any different?

4.  Bullinger’s view is similar to one found within Judaism.  According to Rashi, when King Asa of Judah took a daughter of Omri for his son Jehoshaphat, God decreed the destruction of the house of David with the house of Ahab (Omri’s son).  Seder Olam 17 and Tosefta Sotah 12 also have this sort of idea.  For Rashi, the forty-two years in II Chronicles 22:2 refer, not to Ahaziah’s age when he became king, but the time since God’s decree.  That God made a decree about Ahaziah’s death at some point may be in the chapter itself, for v 7 says that God was behind the death of Ahaziah and the cutting off of the house of Ahab.  I have difficulty saying that this relates to the forty-two years in v 2, however, for the reason that I gave in critiquing Bullinger: that the formula in v 2 usually relates to how old a king was when he began to reign.

I guess I go with saying that v 2 has a scribal error.  The other explanations are more interesting and intriguing, though.

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