The Judean Kings

After the civil war Israel had two thrones. The throne of the southern kingdom was located at Jerusalem, the historical capital. This throne outlives the northern throne of Samaria and establishes the chronology across this period in history.

Background

Abraham’s descendants started few. The generation after Abraham that matters to us here was Isaac. He had only two children, Jacob and Esau, and only Jacob would be used to restore Adam’s fallen race. Then, when Jacob starts having sons, the number of sons starts to explode. At Jacob’s son’s generation there are twelve. By the time this tribe goes down to Egypt, there are about 72. 430 years later, when they come out of Egypt, there are over 600,000 men able to serve in the army, in their 20th year or better. If the population is evenly spread between the ages of 1 and 60, and for every male head of household there is a wife, the total population out of Egypt is at least 1.8 million people.

God takes this now growing band and says that he will not let them take over Canaan all at once, that they are not numerous enough , but that as they grow, they will be able to conquer it, with God’s help.

360 years after finally moving into Canaan, the Israelites are given their first king (9907 - 9547 = 360). Saul turns out badly so God chooses another, and David becomes king over the Israelites.

David’s son Solomon is the last king (so far) to rule over all of the Israelites, because after the death of Solomon, civil war erupted in Israel. When things settled down, David’s house was left ruling over just a part of Israel, the southern kingdom, known as Judah.

The story of the civil war in Israel goes like this: The country had gone to Shechem to make Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king. Jeroboam, the man who had rebelled against Solomon, returned from Egypt, to agitate for his position. The story picks up in 1 Kings.

1And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel came to Shechem to make him king.

2And when Jeroboam the son of Nebat who was yet in Egypt heard of it (for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon, and Jeroboam lived in Egypt), 3then they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the people of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam saying, 4Your father made our yoke harsh. Now lighten some of the grievous service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us and we will serve you. 5And he said to them, Depart yet for 3 days then come to me again. So all the people departed. First Kings 12:1-5

The king goes off and thinks about the situation for three days, first consulting his father’s advisors, then consulting the young men he grew up with. Rejecting the sound advice of his father’s advisors, he proceeds to place a heavy yoke on Israel fostering a revolt.

16So when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them the people answered the king saying, We have no portion in David nor do we have any inheritance in the son of Jesse; to your tents Israel; now see to your own house David. So Israel departed to their tents.

17And the sons of Israel lived in their cities, but Judah made Rehoboam the son of Solomon king over them.

18Then King Rehoboam sent Adoniram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam made haste to ride in his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.

19So Israel has rebelled against the house of David to this day.

20And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel; only the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.

21And when Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin; 180,000 chosen men of war to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22But the word of Yahvah came to Shemaiah the prophet of god saying, 23Speak to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people saying, 24Yahvah says, You will not go up, nor fight against your brothers the sons of Israel; return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They listened therefore to the word of Yahvah, and returned according to the word of Yahvah. First Kings 12:16-24

Pay attention to a couple important points. Verse 19 indicates that this is so "to this day", probably originally indicating after the fall of Jerusalem when these scrolls are believed to have been organized into the Bible. But, this separation remains in place even to modern times and will remain so for several more years. Verse 24 indicates that this is God’s doing, that Judah and Israel are now two countries.

The northern kingdom, who retained the name Israel, established a new capital at Tirzah, and would later purchase land for construction of a new capital at Samaria. At this point, the northern Kingdom, Israel, consists of 10 of the original tribes, the southern Kingdom, Judah, consists of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah.

A record of the kings of both kingdoms is given in the Bible. This record turns out to have problems, ones which we must overcome before we can get to the bottom of our quest for an overarching time line.

Problems

It would seem that tracking the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel should not be particularly difficult. The problems become apparent as soon as we start to read the text. The two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, each have a throne. When there is a change in rulership on one throne, the Bible usually records the year of the other throne.

So far, so good, but there turns out to be absurdities in the data. The following is one example:

  • Asa reigns over Judah for 41 years.First Kings 15:19 First Chronicles 16:13
  • In Asa’s 3rd year, Baasha becomes king of Israel.First Kings 15:33
  • Baasha reigns over Israel 24 years.First Kings 15:22
  • Israel attacks Judah in the 36th year of Asa’s reign. Second Chronicles 16:1
  • To stop the attack, Asa negotiates a peace deal with Baasha in that 36th year.Second Chronicles 16:2

The thing to notice about this is that Baasha’s reign over Israel is only 24 years long, so he could not have made peace with Asa in Asa’s 36th year if Baasha’s reign started in Asa’s 3rd year.

Given a start in the 3rd year he could have only lived through Asa’s 27th year. Given that there may be different ways of putting ends on this sort of thing, we could have a couple years of slop, but that would get us to Asa’s 29 or 30th year, but not to his 36th year. We have 6 years or more that appear simply wrong.

This is just one example of many such problems through the record.

To get through this passage we’ll need to notice some things. First, Chronicles provides dates for only the kings of Judah. It does not attempt to provide the spans of kings reigns for the kings of Israel.

Kings agrees with Chronicles on all the Judean kings, and then attempts to add the kings of Israel. This leaves all the Judean kings with two references asserting their individual time in office.

Since one of our Bible study strategies is to look for duplication and second references, we can start with the position that the Judean king sequence is the one to be trusted. The kings of Israel, recorded in Kings along with the kings of Judah, are the ones without seconds and thus cannot be trusted.

To this point in the chronology, only the time from Noah to Abraham did not have seconds, and so far we’ve "trusted" it without a second, so why should we change the rule here? The difference is that in that period there were no contradictory parallel passages pushing us to strange results. Also, as we’ll see once we start looking at the overall chronology, there are plenty of overarching "seconds" which suggest that the time from Noah to Abraham was correct. As we look further here we will find similar parallels which supports that the Judean king sequence is the correct, and trustworthy one.

Kings With 2 Names

There are three places in the biblical record where there are two names recorded for specific kings. The following is a list.

Uzziah/Azariah

The first king, Uzziah, entered the temple when he should not and leprosy broke out on his forehead.Second Chronicles 26:16 Because of this he could neither enter the temple, nor be approached by his subjects, and so he lived in a separate house until he died.

There are two important parallel names for Uzziah’s reign. The first is that of Azariah, the head priest, who is named explicitly in Kings as the leader for Uzziah’s reign, and that Uzziah’s son Jotham is specifically mentioned as taking over responsibility for the palace and governed the land until Uzziah’s death.

Azariah was able to approach the king, even though he was leprous, because he was a priest. The law allows the priest to approach a leprous person to inspect the leprosy. Since he would retain this ability he became in effect a prime minister. Kings emphasizes this role by using Azariah’s name for a substitute in its chronology.Second Kings 15:1

Eliakim/Jehoiakim

Eliakim reigned over Judah 11 years. He was placed on the throne by Pharaoh Neco, and as a sign of Pharaoh’s power over Eliakim, his name was changed to Jehoiakim.

The name change is significant, because it is indicating the the control Pharaoh has over the throne of Judah, indication that the country at this time is now a servant state of Egypt.

Mattaniah/Zedekiah

Mattaniah, who was Eliakim’s brother and uncle of the previous king Jehoiachin, was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar after Jehoiachin surrendered to the Babylonians after only 100 days on the throne.

Like Pharaoh Neco with Eliakim, Nebuchadnezzar changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah, indicating the Babylonian control of Judah and her kings.

Summary Chronology of Judah’s Ancient Kings

Recall that Solomon’s reign ended with the year 10016 from Adam, or 516 from the Exodus. The following table picks up and charts all the Judean kings, the kings of the southern kingdom.

Recall also, the priest of the northern kingdom supported Rehoboam through his 3rd year in office, or through the year 10019 from Adam, or 519 from the Exodus. The first year of the split kingdom, 10020 AA or 520 FE is 4000 years from Noah’s flood.

King’s Name Age at Reign Time in Office First Year Last Year
Rehoboam 41Second Chronicles 12:13 17First Kings 14:21 Second Chronicles 12:13 10017 AA
517 FE
10033 AA
533 FE
Abijah Not given 3First Kings 15:1 Second Chronicles 13:1 10034 AA 10036 AA
Asa Not given 41First Kings 15:10 Second Chronicles 16:13 10037 AA 10077 AA
Jehoshephat 35First Kings 22:24 25First Kings 22:24 Second Chronicles 20:34 10078 AA 10102 AA
Jehoram 32Second Kings 8:17 Second Chronicles 21:5 8Second Kings 8:17 Second Chronicles 21:5 10103 AA 10110 AA
Ahaziah 22Second Kings 8:25 Second Chronicles 27:2 1Second Kings 8:26 Second Chronicles 22:2 10111 AA 10111 AA
Queen Athaliah Not given 6Second Kings 11:6 Second Chronicles 22:12 10112 AA 10117 AA
Joash 7Second Kings 11:21 Second Chronicles 24:1 40Second Kings 12:1 Second Chronicles 24:1 10118 AA 10157 AA
Amaziah 25Second Kings 14:2 Second Chronicles 25:1 29Second Kings 14:2 Second Chronicles 25:1 10158 AA 10186 AA
Uzziah/Azariah 16Second Kings 15:2 Second Chronicles 26:3 52Second Kings 15:2 Second Chronicles 26:3 10187 AA 10238 AA
Jotham 25Second Kings 15:32 Second Chronicles 27:1 16Second Kings 15:32 Second Chronicles 27:1 10239 AA 10254 AA
Ahaz 20Second Kings 16:2 Second Chronicles 28:1 16Second Kings 16:2 Second Chronicles 28:1 10255 AA 10270 AA
Hezekiah 25Second Kings 18:2 Second Chronicles 29:1 29Second Kings 18:2 Second Chronicles 29:1 10271 AA 10299 AA
Manasseh 12Second Kings 21:1 Second Chronicles 33:1 55Second Kings 21:1 Second Chronicles 33:1 10300 AA 10354 AA
Amon 22Second Kings 21:9 Second Chronicles 33:21 2Second Kings 21:9 Second Chronicles 33:21 10355 AA 10356 AA
Josiah 8Second Kings 22:1 Second Chronicles 34:1 31Second Kings 21:9 Second Chronicles 33:21 10357 AA 10387 AA

Special Cases

At the end of the monarchy in Jerusalem, the world starts to unravel. Over a period of 20 years the Lord causes Judah to be carried away in pieces. Establishing the chronology over this period can’t be done from the king’s reigns since there are two kings who don’t reign for whole numbers of years. There are other references which pick up the details we need to piece the kings reigns together as shown above. The following table summarizes these references.

Name Year
Name Year Ref
Josiah’s 13 is Jeremiah’s 1 Jer. 25:3
Jeremiah’s 23 is Nebuchadnezzar’s 1 Jer. 25:1-3
Jeremiah’s 23 is Jehoiakim’s 4 Jer. 25:1-3
Nebuchadnezzar’s 18 is Zedekiah’s 10 Jer. 32:1
Nebuchadnezzar’s 8 is Jehoiachin’s time 2 Ki 24:12

The references in this table allow us to construct the chronology across this difficult time in Judah’s history. Jeremiah’s first year is Josiah’s 13th. Since we already know Josiah’s first year is 10357, we can compute Jeremiah’s first as 10369. Jeremiah’s 23rd year is thus computed as 10391, which is also Nebuchadnezzar’s first. Jehoiakim’s 4th is also 10391, so Jehoiakim’s first year is 10388.

Josiah’s last year was his 31st and that year was 10387.

King Jehoahaz has no year assigned to him at all. Since these are probably assigned at Passover, we can assume that Jehoahaz must have reigned in what was Josiah’s last, 31st, year.

A similar issue arises with Jehoiachin’s reign, but we are told it is within Nebuchadnezzar’s 8th year, which sets it to be 10398, which is also the last year of Jehoiakim’s reign, provided confirmation that we handled Jehoahaz correctly. These dates are reflected in the following table.

King’s Name Age at Reign Time in Office First Year Last Year
Jehoahaz 23Second Kings 23:31 Second Chronicles 36:5 3 monthsSecond Kings 23:31 Second Chronicles 36:5 10387 AA 10387 AA
Eliakim/Jehoiakim 25Second Kings 23:36 Second Chronicles 35:5 11 yearsSecond Kings 23:36 Second Chronicles 35:5 10388 AA 10398 AA
Jehoiachin 18Second Kings 24:8 Second Chronicles 36:9 3 months, 10 daysSecond Kings 24:8 Second Chronicles 36:9 10398 AA 10398 AA
Mattaniah/Zedekiah 21Second Kings 24:18 Second Chronicles 36:11 11 yearsSecond Kings 24:18 Second Chronicles 36:11 10399 AA 10409 AA

Note some curious features from the above data. Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king starts his reign over Judah, using Judean kings as vassals, in the year 10391. This is 390 years after the year 10000, which was the date of Solomon’s temple. Note that this is the same number of years as there are days in a Sabbath or Jubilee year.

Note also that the last year that there is a Judean king in Jerusalem is the 390th year after the priests from the northern kingdom of Israel broke their support for Rehoboam, the first king of the divided kingdom.Second Chronicles 1:17 This is again the same number of years as there are days in a Sabbath or Jubilee year.

The inference here is that the people of the kingdom of Judah were given a "Sabbath’s rest" as they were allowed to live in their own land for the number of years as there are days in a Sabbath year.

Note also that Nebuchadnezzar initially attacked in Jehoiakim’s 3rd yearDaniel 1:1, which was 10390, and that his last attack was in the year 10409, the last year of Zedekiah’s reign and the last year of a 20 year interval. The same interval, that had marked the time from Solomon’s temple in 10000 to the last year David’s house was supported by the priests of the northern kingdom in 10019.Second Chronicles 1:17

Phil Stone, Updated 2016-11-04