Problem: Jotham reigned for 16 or 20 years
Verses: 2 Kings 15:30; 15:32-33; Status: Weak

During the divided monarchy, Judah and Israel were separate kingdoms. The Bible tracks the history of both. This is 2 Kings 15:32-33, telling us about Jotham's reign in Judah:

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. (ESV)

However, this is 2 Kings 15:30, telling us about events in Israel:

Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah. (ESV)

Now, one might immediately suggest that "the twentieth year" refers to the twentieth year of Jotham's life, rather than his reign. However, 2 Kings contains many verses of this form, and it's clear that they always refer to the time since the man's reign began, rather than the man's age.

This is not just my view. The NIV Study Bible places Jotham's reign at 750-735 B.C. and the death of Pekah at 732 B.C. But it also says:

Jotham's reign was in some sense terminated in 735, and his son Ahaz took over. However, Jotham continued to live until at least 732.

One can certainly imagine the sort of intrigues that would make such events possible, and without more information, I don't see how a compelling case for this being an error can be made.

Updated: 2009-02-16

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