c-3 Was Ahaziah 42 Years Old or 22 Years
Old When He Began to Reign in Judah?
In 2 Chronicles 22:2 there is a passage commenting on the age of evil king Ahaziah of Judah. He is said to be 42 years old when he began his reign in Judah at the death of his father. Scholars speak of a contradiction in scripture since in the parallel passage in 2 Kings 8:26, Ahaziah is said to be 22 years old when he begins his reign. Doubtless he was literally 22 years old at the start of his reign since, in 2 Chronicles 21:20 and 2 Kings 8:17, Ahaziah's father Jehoram (can also be called Joram, an equivalent variant) is said to be thirty‑two at the start of his reign and is said to reign 8 years before his death so that his age at death was 40. Clearly, Ahaziah's age from birth can’t be 42 years at the start of his reign at the death of his father since that would make him 2 years older than his father.
But even those who don’t accept inerrancy can’t conclude that the 42 year age figure in Chronicles is scribal error This figure is given in 2 Chron.22:2 in just the second verse after the 40 year age of Ahaziah's father at death is revealed in 2 Chron.21:20. Thus neither the original writer, nor a later copyist, could possibly misunderstand the literal inaccuracy of the 42 year age figure due to the so recent notation on his father's age that would make any such error very obvious. Miscopying the age in Chronicles is very unlikely since even short-form Hebrew numerals for 20 & 40 are too different in form to make miscopying at all likely, and the later long-form type are much too different.
What then is the meaning of the 42‑year figure in 2 Chronicles 22:2? We'll find that Chronicles presents another example of the amplification it often exhibits. We suspect that the 42 years is not intended as a literal age, but as a figurative age representing some period of time associated with Ahaziah. We ask why a figurative age would be substituted here, and the answer is seen as we study the close association of Ahaziah, king of Judah, with Joram king of Israel.
this case the age of Ahaziah's father at death noted just a few verses
earlier in the text of 2 Chronicles is actually meant to show readers
that it's not Ahaziah's age from birth that is being referenced. The 42 years of 2 Chron.22:2 is noted by the usual
Hebrew terminology for age, a son of 42 years, or a product of 42 years of life, but an alternate definition of the term applies here. The term son here refers to a member of a group, in this case a
son or product of a group of vile kings who helped perpetuate a 42‑year influence of the
evil spirit of idolatrous Ahab in Israel & Judah. Since Ahaziah fully embraces extreme idolatry promoted by this group, he identifies with its 42-year history, and is assigned this time period as a figurative age. This is one of the various subtleties characteristic of the Hebrew text.
Ahaziah's father is generally called Jehoram, which serves to distinguish him from the king of Israel who is generally called Joram, though these are just two different forms of the same name. Close association was forbidden by the Lord since Israel in the north followed the path of idolatry, and Judah in the south needed to remain separate from compromised brethren to preserve its loyalty to the Lord. But Ahaziah invoked what seems to have been the closest ecumenical tie of Judah to Israel in their history. Joram of Israel and Ahaziah's father Jehoram were very closely allied since the latter had in disobedience married Athaliah, a daughter of former king Omri of Israel whose son Ahab was the most idolatrous king in Israel's history. It seems to be no accident that Joram of Israel and Ahaziah's father had the same name, being so alike in spiritual character. It's also interesting that Ahaziah of Judah had the same name as the brother of Joram of Israel who ruled Israel before Joram. We discover here a total inter- relationship of character reflected in the name relationships. In fact scripture even seems to abruptly interchange the names of kings Joram & Jehoram at times, possibly to show us that the two are so closely linked that one can be seen as if he were the other (2 Kings 8:21, 24 & 2 Chron.22:5,7 ‑ though this tendency is not unique to these passages).
In 2 Kings 8:27‑29 we learn that Ahaziah had followed his father's bad example in marrying into the house of Ahab, and had freely cooperated with the king of Israel in military campaigns. Ahaziah's complete acceptance of the ways of Ahab is seen as amplification in 2 Chronicles 22:3,4 shows us his mother and others of the house of Omri/Ahab (likely including his wife) were his counselors in evil endeavor. We also learn in 2 Kings that when Joram of Israel was wounded in battle by Syrians, Ahaziah visited him as he recovered in Jezreel. In the 2 Chronicles 22:6‑7 parallel passage, amplification tells us Ahaziah's visit to Joram at Jezreel is a matter of God's will that will result in Ahaziah's death at the hand of Jehu who is about to kill Joram and rule Israel. Thus, through amplification, we see the logical end of a life totally given over to disobedience to God and misleading of the people of Judah.
In considering the figurative 42‑year age of Ahaziah in 2 Chronicles 22:2, this is an amplification for edification on ecumenism. Ahaziah lives in total disobedience to God, fraternizing with compromising idolaters, and so closely allied with them that his life blends with theirs in all matters personal and business. He even has his life ended at the same time, in the same place, by the same people and, as we’ll see a little later, even by the same method, in poetic justice. Ahaziah is inseparably linked with Joram of Israel and the idolatrous house of Ahab, and he perpetrates the spirit of Ahab on Judah and completely identifies Judah with Israel. Thus the reign of Ahaziah is an extension of the reign of Jehoram of Judah and his cohort Joram of Israel, who both together and separately, helped perpetrate the spirit of Ahab in Judah. Thus two of the worst possible leaders, who were allied in evil endeavor and even had the same name, influenced Judah several years before Ahaziah came to the throne, and Ahaziah's reign will be an extension of this bad leadership. In assigning a figurative age to Ahaziah at the start of his reign, Chronicles is stressing that Ahaziah's reign will be business as usual of a very bad nature. When Ahaziah comes to the throne, he is already quite old figuratively, representing continuance of the spirit of Ahab that has badly influenced Israel and Judah for 41 years and will do so for one more year until Ahaziah dies, so he’s assigned a figurative 42‑year age. The 42-year figurative age actually prophesies Ahaziah's death in one year. It sums up, at the time of his death, the total time of the reign in Israel of the spirit of Ahab, the most idolatrous king in Israel's history, and the time of this influence on Judah. The prophecy tells us that, as far as God is concerned, Ahaziah's reign is already over when it begins so the 42-year age really applies at the start of Ahaziah's reign.
This line of reasoning is likely, as we’ll see by examining Ahaziah’s identification with Israel in Chronicles that begins with Omri king of Israel, who was responsible for an unusual evil spiritual influence later totally associated with his son Ahab. And Omri's daughter Athaliah was Ahaziah's mother and his counselor in evil. After the house of Jeroboam was obliterated for bringing rampant idolatry to Israel, others not in that line replaced it. Eventually, Omri was elected by the army to be the king of Israel, in response to an attempted coup by Zimri at Tirzah. Omri beseiged Tirzah and ousted Zimri but couldn’t secure his reign at Tirzah, which had broken into two camps, one of which was under Tibni. After a 4-year struggle with Tibni’s forces (compare 1 Kings 16:15 and 16:23), Omri began his rule there. After a total of 6 years of rule at Tirzah, Omri prevailed, and began 6 more years of uncontested rule, now at Samaria. This latter 6‑year period was evidently a time of respite from war in which Omri began to commit idolatry far worse than that of Jeroboam. Thus there were 6 years in which an unusual spirit of accelerated rebellion against God was practiced, and this spirit came to be totally identified with Omri's son Ahab, Israel’s most idolatrous ruler, who ruled for 22 years. This spirit continued under Ahab's son Ahaziah who ruled Israel 2 years. Ahaziah died without a son and was succeeded by his brother Joram (or Jehoram ‑ 2 Kings 1:17). The latter had ruled Israel for 11 years at the time of the death of king Jehoram of Judah, and a total of 12 years at his own death (2 Kings 3:1). Thus when the reign of Ahaziah of Judah began at the death of king Jehoram of Judah, one year before the death of Joram of Israel, the spirit of Ahab had reigned in Israel since halfway through the reign of Omri 41 years ago (6 + 22 + 2 + 11). This spirit had influenced Judah in varying degree for 41 years, controlling Ahaziah's father Jehoram for 8 years. Earlier it had even substantially influenced Jehoram's father, good king Jehoshaphat, who during his 25‑year rule of Judah (2 Chron.19:2), helped idolatrous Ahab in military matters, contrary to God’s will (1 Kings 22). He also cooperated with Israel's evil king Ahaziah in trade operations (2 Chron.20:35‑37 amplifies 1 Kings 22: 48‑49, the Kings passage showing only that Jehoshaphat balked at cooperation, but Chronicles shows he first cooperated before balking). It also appears that before Jehoshaphat, the spirit of Ahab influenced Jehoshaphat's father, good king Asa, who ruled Judah for 41 years prior to Jehoshaphat, and in the latter part of his reign had a problem of imitating Israel's tendency to trust in man rather than God (2 Chron.16: 2‑13 & 1 Kings 15:17‑20). Thus there was a progressively worsening evil influence on Judah by the house of Ahab, ending finally in Ahaziah who likely would have outdone even his father in becoming the worst ecumenist in Judah's history.
But God is about finished with tolerating ecumenism. Chronicles use of the 42‑year figurative age of Ahaziah represents the total time that God will tolerate Judah's kings corrupting the nation in the spirit of Ahab. This is amplification in which God's Word is tolling and proclaiming the sum of the years of His patience with ecumenical influence on His people. With this amplification we see that this type of leadership in Judah is coming to an end. The 2 Chronicles 22 passage indicates that Ahaziah will reign only one year in Judah, when he will die along with Joram of Israel, and this indicates the approaching end of this line of foul leadership representing the spirit of Ahab. In 2 Chron. 22:10‑11, we see at Ahaziah's death an immediate end of his house by the hand of his own evil mother Athaliah who killed all heirs except one that she overlooked, one who was needed to keep the biological line alive. We also see in 2 Kings 10 the total end of the male kingly line of the house of Omri/Ahab at the hand of Jehu. With the end of Ahaziah's reign, God ends the rule of Judah's kings temporarily and sees fit to permit a 6‑year period of rule by Athaliah, the daughter of Omri and daughter of Israel's idolatry, one who is not in any sense a king and is not part of the lawful (though idolatrous) 42-year male kingly line. Athaliah’s rule is likely meant to give Judah a final unmitigated dose of the spirit of Ahab it tolerated for so long since her 6 years parallel the 6 years of Omri that began the period of extreme idolatry.
Thus Chronicles amplification emphasizes how corrupt ecumenism is. It eventually caused an inseparable identity of God's people with His enemies in extreme cases, and in the end, total destruction alongside the enemies of God. This contrasts with the opposite effect in 1 Chron. 18:12 where amplification showed how those who side with God's chosen leaders (Abishai & David) are inseparably identified with them in victory. Perhaps the use of the figurative 42‑year age in the Chronicles passage is more far‑reaching than the purposes of the passage itself. Perhaps here Providence inserted a warning on God's great displeasure over ecumenical associations among all His people in all eras of time. That’s what the New Testament teaches (2 Cor.6:14‑18).
A few further details in the life of Ahaziah complete the extent of amplification here. Ahaziah's death is described differently in 2 Kings 9:27 and in the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 22:9, and the two passages must be combined to understand fully how the king died. When Ahaziah sees Joram killed by an arrow while fleeing in his chariot, he flees in his chariot, but Jehu intends to mete out to him the same fate that he imposed on Joram.
9:27 But when Ahaziah the king of Judah saw this, he fled by the way of the garden house. And Jehu followed after him, and said, Smite him also in the chariot. And they did so at the going up to Gur, which is by Ibleam. And he fled to Megiddo, and died there.
9:28 And his servants carried him in a chariot to Jerusalem, and
22:9 And he
sought Ahaziah: and they caught him, (for he was hid in Samaria),
and brought him to Jehu: and when they had slain him, they buried him.
In the Kings account Ahaziah flees, and Jehu's men follow, and he's mortally wounded near Ibleam located in a southwesterly direction from Jezreel where he and Joram had met. He eventually reaches Megiddo many miles away to the northwest of Ibleam, and he dies there. Thus Ahaziah died from an arrow delivered while in his chariot, just as Joram died, for a sword or spear wound would be at close range, and Ahaziah would not then have been able to stay ahead of his pursuers on to Megiddo still many miles away. Thus Ahaziah's death fully paralleled that of Joram, as his life did, showing that poetic justice was served.
Now from the Chronicles account, we learn that during his flight Ahaziah eluded his pursuers for a considerable time, continuing on in a southwesterly direction from Ibleam for some time, and on to Samaria where he hid himself for a time before being discovered by his pursuers. It was after this that he turned in a northwesterly direction in his flight and finally reached Megiddo before dying of his earlier arrow wound. This shows us he sought refuge in the main capital city of the nation whose idolatrous leadership he had cooperated with in exalting the spirit of Ahab (Jezreel was another city of the king's dwelling). But he found no refuge, and was left to his unavoidable fate. He obviously had much time to consider the error of his ecumenical ways as he desperately fled from his unrelenting pursuers, and his life slowly ebbed away.
As we continue with the events of Chronicles, we see Ahaziah being brought back to Jehu (dead). Here the events in Chronicles are not in chronological order, mention of the slaying and burial following after mention of the return of Ahaziah (dead) to Jehu. This kind of expression is common in scripture, a later event sometimes being offered first for emphasis before there is a final summary of events. Here Jehu's verification of Ahaziah's capture (dead) is emphasized, and is followed by a parenthetical phrase that briefly summarizes the overall event.
The Chronicles passage concludes with mention of Jehu's soldiers burying Ahaziah. Returning to the Kings passage, we see that the way that they "buried" him was just to allow Ahaziah's servants to do the honors. This is like the expression in English, "We bury the dead out of respect for human dignity." It’s not necessarily true that we personally bury the dead, but we encourage the practice. This is what happened here since Chronicles says Jehu's party "buried" Ahaziah (allowed his burial) in recognition of the fact he was a descendant of good king Jehoshaphat. This contrasts with Jehu's subsequent treatment of Jezebel whose body was trampled in the street of Jezreel and eaten of dogs. Her fate is different, probably because as king Ahab's wife and the daughter of an idol‑worshipping king, she was instrumental in turning Ahab to idol- worship, and also slew God's prophets (1 Kings 16:30‑33 & 18:13), and slew innocent Naboth for property rights (1 Kings 21).