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He was 18 years old and he reigned for 3 months.
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Nehushta … .
2 Kings 24:8  NASB
 

He was 8 years old and he reigned for 3 months and 10 days.
9 Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem, and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 36:9  NASB

 

SAB Contradiction 250

 

Too complicated for the critic
For a critic who doesn’t like to study any context, supposing that the word of God is like a vending machine – putting in a coin and the answer rolls out – it seems a contradiction that someone becomes king when he is eight years old and again when he becomes eighteen years old. How is this possible?

 

Copy error?
Of course there have always been a mass of theologians proposing that ‘eight years’ can’t be anything other than a copy error. However, by saying so they are stepping over the golden rule of exegesis: "Praestat difficilior lectio". (The difficult reading is preferable.) Remaining within the rules of exegesis we have to say that the two figures (eight and eighteen) must be explained instead of erasing one of them.

 

Two kings
Jehoiachin wasn’t the first who became king in his childhood under a regency (e.g., Jehoash under the priest Jehoiada; Josiah under his mother Jedida). Remarkable is that Jehoiachin became king so young while his father Jehoiakim was still alive and active as king. After governing a period of 11 years Jehoiakim died at the age of 36 and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin as active king, who was then 18 years (2 Kings 23:36, 24:8). For 10 years Jehoiachin had the title of king during his fathers reign; what could be the reason for that? To understand this we have to go back to king Josiah (grandfather of Jehoiachin) and his sons (uncles of Jehoiachin) as described in 1 Chronicles 3:15-16.

 

Let’s read …
15 The sons of Josiah were Johanan the firstborn, and the second was Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum.
16 The sons of Jehoiakim were Jeconiah [Jehoiachin] his son, Zedekiah his son.

(1 Chronicles 3:15-16)

Before these verses (15-16) a list of kings is given descending from king Solomon up to and including king Josiah (verses 1-14). Apparently verse 15 was written when Josiah was still alive to arrange the succession after him, and it gives four names representing the order of succession of his sons. Here follows the diagram tree of verse 15:
 

                          King Josiah
         ____________(sons)_________________
         |                  |                    |                   |
  Johanan      Jehoiakim     Zedekiah      Jehoahaz
 (firstborn)       (Eliakim)     (Mattaniah)    (Shallum)
 

The suggestion is given that this order was inspired by their ages. The firstborn (Johanan) had the first rights and so on down to the youngest Shallum (also known as Jehoahaz; Jeremiah 22:11) who got the last right to become king if the others died prematurely.
This order of age is appropriate apart from Zedekiah, who was 13 years younger than Jehoahaz (and 15 years younger than Jehoiakim). The question is of course: how is it possible that Zedekiah, who was actually younger than Shallum, got a higher place in the order of succession.

 

What about Zedekiah?
Zedekiah is called: son of Josiah (verse 15), but he is also called: son of Jehoiakim (verse 16). When we take this information seriously – and we do – we have to reckon with an extramarital affair. Diagram tree of verse 15 and 16 with the mothers of the princes:
 

                                King Josiah ♂
              ____________(spouses)________              
              |                        |                       |
Unknown mother ♀    Zebidha ♀        Hamutal ♀ ———→
              |                        |                       |             extramarital son       
      Johanan ♂        Jehoiakim ♂     Jehoahaz ♂              |
      (firstborn)            (Eliakim)           (Shallum)         Zedekiah
                                |            —————————→ (Mattaniah)    
                           (spouse)
                          Nehushta ♀           
                                |
                          Jehoiachin ♂
                           (Jeconia)
 

1 Chronicles 3:15 says: Zedekiah was a son of Hamutal, a wife of Josiah (2 Kings 23:31 and 24:18).
1 Chronicles 3:16 says: Zedekiah was also a son of Jehoiakim.

At the age of about 15 Jehoiakim begot Zedekiah by Hamutal, one of Josiah’s spouses. In fact Josiah became the grandfather of Zedekiah and could be called his father by the rule: the son of a son is a son.
Hamutal named the boy Mattaniah (2 Kings 24:17), meaning: ‘Gift of God’; but Josiah called him Zedekiah, meaning: ‘God is righteous’.

Zedekiah was on the list of succession (1 Chronicles 3:15), immediately after his biological father Jehoiakim. When Jehoiakim would die as king, Zedekiah was his firstborn to succeed and that gave him the unusual position on the list of succession.

 

The queen ruling over the king
When it came to pass that Jehoiakim became king, his legal wife Nehushta wanted her legal son Jehoiachin to succeed, instead of Zedekiah (Jehoiakim’s firstborn). Apparently she didn’t trust her husband very much and she insisted that Jehoiakim granted their son Jehoiachin the title of ‘King’ (without the duties) and her the title of ‘Mother of the King’ (2 Kings 24:15).  Already in the year of Jehoiakim’s enthronisation his son Jehoiachin – a boy of eight years – got the title ‘King of Judah’. After the death of his father he became king with all the duties at the age of eighteen.    
 

No Bible Contradiction