By J.P. Thackway
2 Kings 24:8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. And his mother’s name was Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 36:9 says, “Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
How do we reconcile Jehoiachin being “eighteen years old” when he became king, with the second Scripture which says he was “eight years old”? The comments of Matthew Poole and others (adapted) are the most satisfactory solution this apparent discrepancy:
Answer 1. Both ages are true – in his eighth year Jehoiachin began to reign with his father, who made him king with him, as other kings of Israel and Judah had done in the like times of trouble; and in his eighteenth year he reigned alone.
“At the age of eight his father took him into partnership in the government (2 Chronicles 36:9). He began to reign alone at eighteen” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary).
Answer 2. In 2 Chronicles 36:9 he is called “a son of eight years” (this literal rendering is preferred by Young’s Literal Translation) when he began to reign, because this was the eighth year, not of his age, but of the Babylonish captivity, or bondage; under which both he and his father had been just so long; for it began in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, as it is affirmed Jeremiah 25:1, and continued all his reign, which lasted eleven years, 2 Kings 23:36; and so the first year of Jehoiachin was precisely the eighth year of that captivity.
The years of kings mentioned in Scripture are not always accounted from the beginning of their age, but from some other remarkable time or thing: thus Saul, when at man’s estate, is called “the son of one year,” (margin of 1 Samuel 13:1, and Ahaziah (whose father lived only forty years, 2 Chronicles 21:20), is called “a son of forty and two years” when he began to reign, 2 Chronicles 22:2, because that was the forty and second year of the reign of Omri’s family, as most think.
Therefore it cannot seem strange if the years of this king are computed, not from his birth but from the beginning of so great and famous a change of the Jewish affairs as this captivity made. This was the usual way the Romans, Greeks, and other ancient nations, computed the times: from the great changes and revolutions happening among them. And this was also the practice of the Jews because of the use of it in the Prophecy of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 1:2, “which was the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity;” and Ezekiel 33:21, “in the twelfth year of our captivity;” and Ezekiel 40:1, “in the five and twentieth year of our captivity.”
This second solution is summarised by Dr. John Lightfoot: “properly speaking he was eighteen years old when he began to reign, but, in an improper sense, the son of eight years, or the eighth year, as the Hebrew phrase is; that is, he fell in the lot of the eighth year of the captivity of Judah, which was in the latter end of the third, or the beginning of the fourth of his father’s reign, and the first of Nebuchadnezzar’s, and it was now in the eighth of Nebuchadnezzar that he was king, see 2 Kings 24:12.”
It is never a satisfactory solution to simply put discrepancies down to a copyist’s error, since the Masoretic scribes, in God’s providential preservation, were most meticulous in their work. Our high view of Holy Scripture leads us to say, with John Newton, “I will put down all apparent inconsistencies in the Bible to my own ignorance.”