Problem: Josiah died at Megiddo or Jerusalem
Verses: 2 Kings 23:29-30, 2 Chronicles 35:23-24; Status: Serious

Josiah was slain by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. But there is an apparent contradiction as to whether he died at Megiddo where the battle was, or later in Jerusalem. This is 2 Kings 23:29-30:

In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him, and Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo, as soon as he saw him. And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo and brought him to Jerusalem and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's place. (ESV)

Note carefully the wording of 2 Kings. It does not just say that the fatal blow was delivered in Megiddo (leaving open the possibility that he died later). It says that his servants carried Josiah's dead body from Megiddo back to Jerusalem. This is no small distance: about 50 miles. By contrast, this is 2 Chronicles 35:23-24:

And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded." So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. (ESV)

2 Chronicles seems to say that Josiah was still alive when the chariot reached Jerusalem. The only way out of this problem is to claim that actually, he died during the journey. Does the text of 2 Chronicles allow the possibility that Josiah died in transit? This is not the natural reading - one expects a competent author to write in chronological order - but it's just about possible. I should note though that other Bible translations make it more explicit that Josiah died in Jerusalem. For example, here is the NIV's version of 2 Chronicles 35:24:

So they took him out of his chariot, put him in the other chariot he had and brought him to Jerusalem, where he died. He was buried in the tombs of his fathers, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him. (NIV)

The NASB and NRSV translations of 2 Chronicles agree that he died in Jerusalem, in which case 2 Kings is clearly wrong about his dead body being moved from Megiddo. On the other hand, the NASB does suggest in a footnote that the ESV-style reading ("and" instead of "where") is possible (thanks to reader N for pointing this out).

Updated: 2016-06-25

Back to main index