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In the book of 2 Kings, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel were separate.

In Amaziah's (Judah) 15th year, Jeroboam (Israel) began to reign. In Jeroboam's (Israel) 27th year, Azariah (Judah) began to reign. That is, Azariah (Judah) began to reign 15+27=42 years after Amaziah (Judah) began to reign. However, Amaziah (Judah) only reigned 29 years. I've tried to illustrate this below:

ISRAEL:           Jeroboam (reigned from the 15th year of Amaziah)
JUDAH: Amaziah (reigned 29y)  -->   Azariah (reigned from the 27th year of Jeroboam)

(see Melachim 2 / 2 Kings 14:2, 14:23, 15:1)


Similarly, Ahaz began to reign in Pekah's 17th year. Hoshea began to reign in Ahaz' 12th year. But Pekah only reigned 20 years (leaving a gap of 9 years).

ISRAEL: Pekah (reigned 20y)  -->  Hoshea (began to reign in Ahaz' 12th year)
JUDAH:            Ahaz (began to reign in Pekah's 17th year)

(see Melachim 2 / 2Kings 15:17, 16:1, 17:1)

I know that many have tried to make the chronologies fit by including co-regencies (two kings reigning at the same time). But the word מָלַךְ is the same for all of these kings - wouldn't all of the מָלַךְs either refer to the beginning of a co-regency, or the beginning of a reign alone? And if not: how do we differentiate the beginning of a co-regency from the beginning of a reign alone, based on the words used or the context?

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    I'm perusing my history/archaeology books now..trying to find the ones that have the synchronization problems addressed..They managed to make sense out of the numbers through three methods-First, as you have mentioned, co-regencies, ie:Uzziah/Jotam. Second - there was supposedly a different way of reckoning reigns' lengths in the two kingdoms, including or not including accession years, I think. Third, occasional scribal error, as is possible with the Ahaz/Pekah/Hoshea example--if Ahaz started in the 7th instead of the 17th, the numbers add up better. Looking now for the definite references...
    – Gary
    Nov 13, 2013 at 14:34
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    @Gary , thanks for the comment with your three explanations. As I've explained, I don't see a convincing reason to accept explanation #1 (unless you have a good reason to take "malach" differently when used the same way). Explanation #2 may be help with inconsistencies <3 years (I'd be interested if you have sources/reasons), but these two inconsistencies are >3 years. Explanation #3, though it is possible (the MT does contain a few well documented scribal errors), should only be used as a last resort.
    – Niobius
    Nov 15, 2013 at 16:14
  • I WISH I could find that book!!! It might be lent out... if you look around on the Web there's a bunch of different rationalizations, nobody has one consistent one, though.. I would make it an answer if I had the ref..
    – Gary
    Nov 15, 2013 at 17:36
  • There are a BUNCH of inconsistencies in the numbers, Ahaz having Hezekiah @11 yrs old(36 when he died w/Hezekiah reigning @ 25), Ahaziah being the youngest @ 42 in II Chronicles 22:2 and only 22 in II Kings 8:26... I wonder if the Talmud or later literature has comments on any of those...hmm food for more questions...
    – Gary
    Nov 15, 2013 at 17:44
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    For Pekach things are harder to explain, but Seder Olam tries (same source as above, just page 63). Basically his explanation is that Hoshea ruled for a total of 9+9=18 years, but Melachim only counts the years he was independent of Assyria (i.e "when he started to rebel"), thus pushing is kingship date down by 9 years and giving him less time on the throne.
    – Nic
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:38

3 Answers 3

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It is important to remember that Melochim was not written as a history book, which is why it actually constantly says "and the rest of King So-and-so's matters are written in the histories of the Kings of Yehuda/Yisrael". Instead, it is extracting the parts of history needed to show that the kings who were righteous were successful, and the kings who were not righteous were not successful.

So the word Malach can be used to mean ruled in different capacities, because the people with the histories would know what the author meant.

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But the word מָלַךְ is the same for all of these kings - wouldn't all of the מָלַךְs either refer to the beginning of a co-regency, or the beginning of a reign alone? And if not: how do we differentiate the beginning of a co-regency from the beginning of a reign alone, based on the words used or the context?

I am not sure it is really possible to understand the nature of the reign of each king merely from the context in close vicinity to the verse(s) referring to the start and end of the reign. One of the major issues in studying Tanach is trying to understand things from the POV of the writers and their original audience (we, later readers, are a secondary audience). In other words, since the writers (typically prophets) lived in a certain time period and were directing their words at certain people, there were naturally things left unsaid, or at least, not clearly emphasized, because all of these people already knew all of these things. There are things that were accepted as social conventions, and therefore there was no need to state them.

For example, there is a thesis in Hebrew that I have read part of, called "Reconstruction of the Chronicle Used by the Author of the Book of Kings in Light of the Mesopotamian Chronicles", by Dr. Yosi Baruchi. The thesis attempts to reconstruct some of the bibliography that the author of Sefer Melachim may have based himself on. Post-reconstruction of the sources, Dr. Baruchi attempted to reconstruct the chronology of the list of kings. As he himself stated, the differences between the MT (Masoretic Text) and the LXX point to (somewhat) bad attempts by the LXX translator(s) to correct the perceived chronological issues in the book (p. 151 and n. 1). However, in order to properly understand the MT's chronology, there are a few assumptions that must be accepted:

  1. The years of the kings, both of Yisrael and of Yehudah were not counted from the start of the reign but from Rosh Hashanah [La'melachim] (the New Year [of the Kings])1.
  2. Rosh Hashanah in the two kingdoms was not at the same time: For the kings of Yehudah it was in the spring while for the kings of Yisrael it was in the fall.
  3. Another key difference between the two kingdoms: The time that passed between the crowning of a king of Yehudah until the first Rosh Hashanah was counted as part of the reign of the previous king, while in the kingdom of Yisrael it was counted as part of the reign of the new king. (pp. 151-152 and related notes)

These are rules that have been concluded from analyzing the lists in their entirety, as well as perhaps other portions of this book (consider, for example, Melachim 1:12:32-33 which shows that Yerov'am changed the calendar of the kingdom of Yisrael).

Even if these rules are incorrect or not entirely correct, I believe they give us the understanding that there were rules, and very likely there were different rules in each kingdom, and whoever lived at the time likely knew these rules and did not need to have them included in the book. We find, therefore, that behind the term "מָלַךְ" were all of these different factors that defined the length of the reign, but since it was obvious that were differences between reigns depending on various factors, there was no need to write anything other than "מָלַךְ".

I hope that clarifies things.

As a side-note, I found today in the library an edition of פירוש רבנו מיוחס ב"ר אליהו on Chronicles and there he states (at least once; I haven't gone through the entire commentary yet, short as it may be) on Chronicles 2:16:1 (emphasis mine):

"שלשים ושש למלכות אסא. אי אפשר לומר כן שהרי בעשא מת בשנת עשרים ושש לאסא כמו שמפורש במלכים ולא נכתב אלא לדורשה. וכן דרשו רבותינו כנגד שלושים ושש שנה שנתחתן שלמה לבת פרעה כנגדן נגזרה גזירה על מלכות בית דוד לבטל ועוד תחזור להם וכנגדן שלשים ושש שנה שנגזרה על מלכות ארם שתמשול בישראל ועוד תפול ביד בית דוד."

In other words, in his view, whenever there is a chronological discrepancy, that means that the number was not intended to be understood simply but as something symbolic. Perhaps other commentators state this as well. I have yet to check.


1 He only refers to it as Rosh Hashanah, but I added "La'melachim" to differentiate between it and the "regular" Rosh Hashanah.

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  • Re your last part, about symbolism in the numbers: can 10/20, ESR/ESRim be read as AShR/AShiRim, properous - 5 ChaMeSh as ChaMuSh, armed, 7 SheBA as SoBA - plenty/satisfaction, 6 SheSh as SaS, happy etc. ? Mar 9 at 13:17
  • Something similar? in Ex. 13:18, וחמשים עלו בני ישראל מארץ מצרים , And the Yisraelites left the land of Misrayim armed (Chamushim, Rashi). But T. Yonatan has ,עִם חַמְשָׁא טַפְלִין, "with five children." Mar 9 at 13:29
  • @NissimNanach I myself can only answer 'maybe' to that, but I gather that Rabbeinu Meyuchas only meant that the number is correct, just that it's not actually referring to the actual year of the king, but to something else.
    – Harel13
    Mar 9 at 13:32
  • @NissimNanach I don't think that's a good example because none of the option feature a different vowelization of the word. Just different meanings for the same word.
    – Harel13
    Mar 9 at 14:34
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If necessary I would respond to all issues about the Kings' chronology. Otherwise I will refer below to sources on the topic.

Seder HaDoros

Malbim

See Seder Olam with Hagahos of Yaavetz and Vilna Gaon.

Aderes Eliyahu (Vilna Gaon) with table of Judges and Kings. http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=26873&st=&pgnum=136

Keep in mind: All king lists of all histories assume some overlap due to different kings beginning and ending reigns on different dates as well as some kings having a different reckoning for when they officially assumed the throne as opposed to practically, actually doing so...

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    Thanks for the answer. Consider more directly addressing the issue of coregency, (if the answer is that the text indeed does not differentiate between regency, so be it, but specifying this would improve the post). Consider also clarifying where in the Malbim. (Simply adding in: commentary to verses of beginning of reigns, would be a useful addition.) Consider also summarising the SH, Malbim, SO, Gra, etc. Not how they solve each problem, but their methodologies in brief. || optimally questions world be more specific, but given the general nature of the question, that's probably your best bet.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 9, 2017 at 15:29
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    מה שהלב חושק- הזמן עושק... אך מראה מקום אני לך, ובעזרת נותן התורה ב"ה עוד חזון למועד... Aug 10, 2017 at 0:19

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