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What age was Jehoiachin when he began his reign?

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Question: "What age was Jehoiachin when he began his reign?"

Second Kings 24:8 declares, “Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he began to reign,” while 2 Chronicles 36:9 says, “Jehoiachin was 8 years old when he began to reign.” Skeptics and critics are quick to use this apparent contradiction as clear evidence of an error in the Bible. Those who hold to the inerrancy of the Bible vehemently disagree with the conclusion that the Bible is in error. So, why do these two verses have different numbers for Jehoiachin’s age, and which verse is correct?

There are two primary explanations for the apparent contradiction between 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 in regards to Jehoiachin’s age. The first explanation is that this represents a copyist’s error. As the Old Testament manuscripts were copied by hand, from century to century, small and inconsequential errors found their way into the biblical text. In ancient Hebrew, the numbers 8 and 18 would have been differentiated by a very small mark. No matter how meticulous the scribes were, it would be understandable if one misread the number and recorded the wrong number on the new manuscript.

It is important to remember that the inerrancy of the Bible only applies to the original manuscripts. The Bible is the best-preserved work from ancient times. With literally thousands of ancient manuscripts in existence, the reliability of the biblical text is not in question. No textual variant has any impact whatsoever on any important biblical doctrine. Virtually all of the variations involve numbers, spelling, or the presence of a preposition. Further, due to the sheer number of biblical manuscripts, it is usually easy to determine which reading is correct in the instances of apparent copyist’s errors. Rest assured, the Bible is completely trustworthy.

The second explanation in regards to Jehoiachin’s age in 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9 is that 2 Chronicles records Jehoiachin’s age when he was appointed co-regent with his father, and 2 Kings records Jehoiachin’s age when, after his father’s death, he became king in his own right. Other kings also used co-regents. David appointed Solomon king while David was still alive (1 Kings 1:33-40), and, when Uzziah was afflicted with leprosy, his son Jotham became co-regent (2 Chronicles 26:21). While there is no specific mention of a co-regency in regards to Jehoiachin, this is a plausible explanation for the difference between 2 Kings 24:8 and 2 Chronicles 36:9.

There are other explanations in addition to these two, but they are quite a bit more complicated. Whatever the case, there are biblically plausible explanations for this apparent contradiction. Even if this is indeed a copyist’s error, the presence of such an error does not invalidate the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. God’s Word is infallible even when well-intentioned but flawed scribes make mistakes.

Recommended Resource: Inspiration and Authority of the Bible by Benjamin Warfield

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