Was Ahaziah 22 or 42 When He Became King?

Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Athaliah, the daughter of Omri king of Israel.” – II Kings 8:26

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.” – II Chronicles 22:2

First, it must be stated that this is not a KJV issue, it is a Hebrew text issue.  The Hebrew Masoretic text in II Kings 8:26 says twenty-two years and in II Chronicles 22:2 says forty-two years. To deny the forty-two years in I Chronicles is to deny the text and imagine a mistake was made.

There are other ancient translations that appear to have “corrected” the 42 to 22, including the Septuagint.  I do not think this is evidence for an error, but rather that many before were like the critics of today and sought to “correct” perceived errors. 

Second, it is frankly improbable that this is a copyist’s mistake.  Below is an illustration of the mistake that is imagined having been made by a uncareful scribe. [1]  The top word is “twenty” and the bottom is “forty”.  This would not have been a simple mistake, like making an “O” a “Q”.

Third, there are many misrepresentations of the facts by those who claim there is a copyist mistake here.  For instance, it is often stated that these numbers are reckoned using numerical letter values.  Thus כ (kaf ­= 20) and  מ (mem = 40) are mistaken for each other.  But the text is not using this system and instead spells out the words as seen above.

Another instance is an insistence that Ahaziah’s father Jehoram died at the age of 40, those making it impossible for Ahaziah to ascend the throne at age 42.  However, the text never explicitly states how old Jehoram was when he died.  It states that Jehoram was 32 when began to reign and reigned for 8 years “in Jerusalem” (II Kings 8:17, II Chronicles 21:5&20).  It is therefore assumed that those 8 years begin when he is 32, but that does not have to be the case if there was a coregency between Jehoram and Jehoshaphat before an 8-year solo rule.

Fourth, while I cannot find one conclusive solution to this conundrum, there are multiple theories that are quite plausible.

Matthew Poole notes two possible solutions based on the idiomatic language found in II Chronicles 22:2, these being either the 42 years as the age of Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah or the age of Omri’s dynasty:

“In the Hebrew it is, a son of forty-two years, &c., which is an ambiguous phrase; and though it doth for the most part, yet it doth not always, signify the age of the person, as is manifest from 1 Samuel 13:1, See Poole ‘1 Samuel 13:1’. And therefore it is not necessary that this should note his age (as it is generally presumed to do, and that is the only ground of the difficulty); but it may note either,
“1. The age of his mother Athaliah; who being so great, and infamous, and mischievous a person to the kingdom and royal family of Judah, it is not strange if her age be here described, especially seeing she herself did for a season sway this sceptre. Or rather,
“2. Of the reign of that royal race and family from which by his mother he was descended, to wit, of the house of Omri, who reigned six years, 1 Kings 16:23; Ahab his son reigned twenty-two years, 1 Kings 16:29; Ahaziah his son two years, 1 Kings 22:51; Joram his son twelve years, 2 Kings 3:1; all which, put together, make up exactly these forty-two years; for Ahaziah began his reign in Joram’s twelfth year, 2 Kings 8:25. And such a kind of computation of the years, not of the king’s person, but of his reign or kingdom, we had before, 2 Chronicles 16:1, See Poole ‘2 Chronicles 16:1’. And so we have an account of the person’s age in 2 Kings 8:26, and here of the kingdom to which he belonged.”[2]

The Trinitarian Bible Society has published a solution involving coregencies:

“Again, a number of scholars attribute the apparent discrepancy to a copyist’s error. We are unwilling to do this, particularly as this discrepancy can be reconciled. The Hebrew Masoretic Text has ‘forty-two’ in 2 Chronicles 22.2; and while only the original manuscript was ‘inspired’, God has, in His special providence, preserved the Holy Scriptures so that we do now possess faithful and authoritative copies.
“We must admit, of course, that there is a problem in reconciling these two Scriptures. In 2 Kings 8.17, we are told that Jehoram (Ahaziah’s father) was thirty-two when he became king, and that he died eight years later, apparently at the age of forty. Now if Jehoram was eighteen years old when he became a father, this would mean that Ahaziah would have been twenty-two years old when he succeeded his father on the throne of Judah. And that is what the inspired historian says in 2 Kings 8.26. But 2 Chronicles 22.2 states that Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he became king. If Jehoram died at forty and Ahaziah became king at forty-two, then Ahaziah appears to have been two years older than his father!
“There have been various explanations, but we will confine ourselves to just one of these. According to 2 Kings 8.17, Jehoram (the father) was thirty-two when he began to reign. This appears to have been as co-regent with Jehoshaphat, for note the wording of 8.16, ‘Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign’. If Jehoram, at thirty-two, was co-regent with Jehoshaphat for twenty years, and then sole monarch for another eight years – and Scripture says that ‘he reigned eight years in Jerusalem’ (8.17) – this would mean that he died at the age of sixty (and not forty).
“Now this brings us to Ahaziah. Let us suppose that he was admitted to co-regency when he was twenty-two years old (as in 2 Kings 8.26) and that he continued in his office as co-regent for twenty years, he would then have begun to reign alone in his father’s sixtieth year, when he himself was forty-two years old – exactly as we have it stated in 2 Chronicles 22.2.
“Co-regency was a common practice in Israel ever since the time of David, who used it to ensure the succession of Solomon (1 Kings 1.29ff). If we take it into account here, we are able satisfactorily to harmonize 2 Kings 8.26 and 2 Chronicles 22.2.
“The explanation given above upholds the Masoretic Text and is perfectly reasonable. The believer in verbal inspiration always takes the position of faith: that is, he always tries to find an answer to a problem posed by the text of Holy Scripture. The believer does not immediately – or indeed after study – jump to the conclusion that there is an error in the text. Instead, he believes there is an answer to all these problems, even if he does not know the answer at that particular time. ‘The scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10.35).”[3]

There is another, to me, less plausible theory that Ahaziah was not the actual son of Jehoram, but his stepson.  This theory involves Athaliah being the daughter of Omri and not Ahab, and that Ahaziah was born to another husband before her marriage to Jehoram.  This would account for the idea that he is older than his father, if Jehoram did indeed die at 40 and Ahaziah became king at 42.  I do not think this is the best interpretation of all the Scriptural evidence.

Fifth, there are deep and convoluted ties between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms at this time that may not be possible to completely unravel.  Evidence for this includes:

  • In II Chronicles 18:1, it is noted that Jehoshaphat (Judah) enters an “affinity” with Ahab (Israel).  This involves a marriage between Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram and Ahab’s daughter Athaliah.  This does not unite the kingdoms, but it does intertwine the ruling houses.
  • In II Chronicles 20:35, Jehoshaphat is said to “join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel” (Ahab’s son).  The nature of this arrangement is not clear except for a trading venture at Ezeiongeber.
  • In II Chronicles 21:2, Jehoshaphat is said to be “king of Israel”.  This is often taken as another “copyist’s error” but could use Israel generically for the Jewish people[4] or could be used literally of the Northern Kingdom. That latter option could reflect the alliance between the kingdoms.
  • In II Kings 8:27, Ahaziah is said to be the “the son in law of the house of Ahab”.  Poole comments: “He was the proper son of Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and the grandson-in-law of Ahab, because his father was Ahab’s son-in-law”.[5]  Most do not believe that he married someone of Ahab’s house, but that his relation was the son of his son-in-law.  The one wife we are aware of is Zibiah (II Chronicles 24:1) but it is possible there could be more, perhaps even a daughter of Ahab.
  • In I Kings 22:6, a “king’s son” named Joash is mentioned that some a few[6] is the same as Joash, king of Judah.  The chronology does not seem to support this and most commentators state this is a different Joash.[7]  This is a possible link, but I very doubtful.

These deep ties could make chronology difficult if, for instance, a prince was raised over a different kingdom for a time until they became king of another kingdom.


I believe that both of Ahaziah’s ages are correct but refer to different occasions of becoming a prince or king.  He became a prince or co-ruler at 22 and then sole king at 42.

This theory depends on coregencies going back to at least into the reigns of Asa or Jehoshaphat.  Let us look at the evidence from the reigns of the kings of Judah dating back to Rehoboam.  Note the ages of when the heirs became king and lengths of their reigns.

  • Rehoboam was 41 years old when he became king and reigned 17 years (I Kings 14:21, II Chronicles 12:13).
  • Abijah/Abijam was 34 years old[8] when he became king and reigned 3 years (I Kings 15:1-2, II Chronicles 13:1-2).
  • Asa was 18 years old[9] when he became king and reigned 41 years (I Kings 15:9-11, II Chronicles 16:13-14)
  • Jehoshaphat was 35 years old[10] when he became king and reigned 25 years (I Kings 22:41-42, II Chronicles 20:21)
  • Jehoram was 32 years old[11] when he became king and reigned eight years (I Kings 22:17,20; II Chronicles 21:5).
    • There is definitely a coregency between Jehoshaphat and Jehoram (II Kings 8:16).  Reese says this is for 5 years on top of the 8 years, making 13 years total.

The coregency of Jehoram is key.  It is unclear if the 8-year reign includes the coregency or not.  This falls into the vagaries of chronological studies.  I have found differing opinions on the matter. My theory is that it does not and those 8 years are the length of his reign as king.

So, is there a gap between Jehoram becoming coregent with his father and his solo reign of eight years?  I believe there is.  Gill quotes Lightfoot saying that there are possibly three ways to calculate the beginning of his reign:

“…according to Dr. Lightfoot, there were three beginnings of his reign; ‘first’, when his father went with Ahab to Ramothgilead, when he was left viceroy, and afterwards his father reassumed the kingdom; the ‘second’ time was, when Jehoshaphat went with the kings of Israel and Edom against Moab; and this is the time here respected, which was in the fifth of Joram king of Israel; and the ‘third’ time was, at the death of his father; but knew his father was living.”[12]

Interestingly, according to Reese’s chronology, this is roughly the same time (~898 B.C.) the Ahab entering a coregency with his son Ahaziah.[13]  This all seems to involve the combined campaign of Jehoshaphat and Ahab against Syria.  There is a likelihood that these coregencies were safeguards in case the coming military campaign went bad.

The ages of Jehoshphat and Jehoram at the beginnings of their reigns suggest that that their presumptive heirs were born around the time of their ascensions. Then when the heirs were of a respectable age, they were given some authority, perhaps as a secondary ruler or even coruler.  Such a thing is not unknown in history.  Diocletian would do something similar with the Roman Empire with the establishment of the Tetrarchy in the late third century.

If these assumptions are true, then it is likely that Jehoram is older than Reese’s calculations.  He would have been born when Jehoshaphat was perhaps 18-20 years old.  He would have been given some authority or title (up to coregency) when he was also around 18-20 years old.  This shows he could very well have been elevated to a prince or coregent for most around 20 years of Jehoshaphat’s reign before being the primary ruler for eight years.  This scenario allows Jehoram to have a son very early in his father’s reign.  This son, Ahaziah, would then follow a similar track, being elevated in his late teens (or perhaps even as an infant or child) to be a prince or coregent.  This could feasibly even date back into his grandfather’s reign.

So, it is both possible that Ahaziah became a ruler (prince/coregent) at the age of 22 but the primary ruler (king) at 42.  He had twenty years of ruling experience of some lesser type before his ascension to the throne.

Why then does II Chronicles, written after the Babylonian Captivity, give a different age?  There are numerous examples where Chronicles has a different approach to numbers than Samuel/Kings.  It is commonly theorized that Chronicles was written with access to different sources of information than Samuel/Kings, perhaps even different official records.  I think there is also a perspective shift on how some things were calculated that comes from Babylonian and Persian influences.  In many cases, I believe the changes where Chronicles varies information in Samuel/Kings are to clarify something that now was confusing with this perspective shift in place.

The answer to why the writer of Chronicles chose to record the age differently is because of the Ahaziah’s ties to the Northern Kingdom and the house of Omri and Ahab.  Chronicles focuses on the Southern Kingdom, not the Northern.  Ahaziah is technically a prince of both Kingdoms. Note his genealogy:

Therefore, in Ahaziah we find an opportunity for the Kingdoms to be united again.  The problem with this would be that idolatrous influence of the counterfeit religion of Jeroboam and the corrupted religion of Jezebel that seems to have had a great influence on Ahaziah.  It is noted that Ahaziah “walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.” (II Chronicles 22:3).  God intervenes and ends these evil influences with Jehu’s rise in the Northern Kingdom, followed by the execution of Athaliah and the ascension of Joash in the Southern Kingdom.  It likely speaks to the wickedness of Ahaziah that he is cut down by Jehu in his purge of Ahab’s house.

On this it is worth noting how Matthew’s genealogy of Christ handles this series of kings: “And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias [a.k.a., Uzziah or Azariah];” (Matthew 1:8).  Matthew skips Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah.  Gill comments: “either because of the curse denounced on Ahab’s family, into which Joram married, whose idolatry was punished to the third or fourth generation; or because these were princes of no good character; or because their names were not in the Jewish registers.”[14]  It is plausible to assume that the writer of Chronicles and Matthew have a similar approach to approaching the influence of Ahab, that is, ignoring it.

To summarize my theory:  Ahaziah was 22 years old when he became a prince/coregent, possibly with connections to the Northern Kingdom.  Ahaziah was 42 years old when he became king of Judah.  The writer of II Kings chose to include the time as prince/coregent, and the writer of II Chronicles did not.

In my opinion, the burden of proof should lie on those that claim there is an error in the text.  They can prove others believed there was an error and that attempts were made to correct this perceived error, but not that there is an actual error.  It is merely theorized that there is an error in the text to account for something that does not seem to make sense.  The danger here is that because something does not make sense to someone, it is assumed that it is because there is an error.  This makes man the final arbiter between what is God-breathed Scripture and what is not.  To casually dismiss something as an error when there are multiple plausible scenarios for it to be correct is careless as best.

[1] Made with screenshots from E-sword module “Hebrew Old Testament (Tanach) w/ Strong’s Numbers”.

[2] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/poole/2_chronicles/22.htm – accessed 10-13-23

[3] “Brief notes on 2 Samuel 15.7, 2 Kings 8.26 and 2 Chronicles 22.2” by the Rev. M. H. Watts from the Trinitarian Bible Society’s April-June 2004 Quarterly Record. Found at: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.tbsbibles.org/resource/collection/156A9AA2-2086-4C4E-BE0A-08A4508415DA/Brief-Notes-2-Samuel-2-Kings-2-Chronicles.pdf – accessed 10-13-23

[4] So says Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on this passage.

[5] Matthew Poole’s Commentary, E-Sword module.

[6] Ruckman, for example.

[7] Reese, Gill, and Barnes are examples.

[8] Reese estimates that Rehoboam was 24 at his son’s birth.

[9] Reese estimate that Abijam was 19 at his son’s birth.

[10] Reese estimates that Asa was 24 at his son’s birth.

[11] Reese estimates that Jehoshaphat was 25 at his son’s birth.

[12] Gill’s Commentary on II Kings 8:16 – E-sword module.

[13] Reese’s Chronological Study Bible, p. 624.

[14] Gill’s Commentary, E-Sword Module