King Ahab and his sons.
I received an email from someone who wanted my assistance in understanding the Bible's chronological references in relation to the Prophets Elijah and Elisha, and King Ahab of Israel / Samaria and his sons Ahaziah and Jehoram, as well as King Jehoshaphat of Judah.
This was the email:
Ahab and Jehosophat were contemporaries.
Ahab died and "In the seventeenth year of King Jehoshaphat's reign over Judah, Ahab's son Ahaziah became king over Israel in Samaria. He ruled for two years over Israel. (I Kings 22:51)
Were Jehoshaphat and Jehoram co-regents?
Then II Kings 2:1-18 details Elijah's translation to heaven, followed by II Kings 3:4-27 which outlines Israel's battle with Moab when Jehoram of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah allied and were advised by Elisha who "used to be Elijah's servant" (verse 11) That would appear Elijah has already been translated.
But, according to II Chronicles 21:12-17 Elijah wrote a letter to Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat.
I am feeling very stupid that I can't figure this out.
The introduction to my reply went like this:
"Welcome to the world of understanding Biblical Chronology. Firstly you are not stupid - the fact that you can see the problems means that you have achieved far more than most people can even begin to appreciate."
The Bible contains many difficulties. For this period of history alone, there are numerous, for example:
1 Kings 22:42 Jehoshaphat reigned Twenty-Two years.
2 Kings 3:1 Jehoram of Israel succeeds Ahaziah in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat of Judah.
2 Kings 1:17 Jehoram of Israel commenced to reign in the second year of Jehoram of Judah.
2 Kings 8:16 Jehoram of Judah commenced to reign in the 5th year of Jehoram of Israel
2 Kings 8:17 Jehoram of Judah reigns Eight years
2 Kings 8:25 Ahaziah of Judah commenced in the 12th year of Jehoram of Israel
2 Kings 9:29 Ahaziah of Judah commenced in the 11th year of Jehoram of Israel
2 Kings 3:1 Jehoram of Judah of Israel reigns Twelve years.
As much as many fundamentalists believe that there can be no physical error in the Bible, the fact is that there are a number. Sometimes what appears to be an error is not, but sometimes the errors are real. Sometimes those errors are transcription errors and sometimes the errors arise because the redactors in the 5th to 3rd Century BCE were dealing with documents that they did not fully understand.
In the case of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, Ahab reigned 22 years, and during his 4th year, Jehoshaphat of Judah commenced his first year of reign. So Ahab died in the 19th year of Jehoshaphat, who reigned a total of 25 years.
The Bible makes it clear that Ahab's son Ahaziah commenced to reign in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat and died in the 18th year, and that in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram son of Ahab took Ahaziah's place. But since Ahab didn't die until Jehoshaphat's 19th year, both Ahaziah and Jehoram of Judah were co-ruling.
This is not at all strange to consider when we discover that Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram of Judah commenced to reign in the 5th year of Jehoram of Israel, and that Jehoram of Israel commenced to reign in the 2nd year of Jehoram of Judah. It looks like a contradiction but it isn't.
For those unfamiliar with the 'King's Calendar' please read What is the King's Calendar? before quoting dates supplied in this article. The Kingscalendar is a mathematical computer generated artificial calendar that synchronises the Biblical Synchronisms for the Divided Kingdom period, using 336 days as the value of each biblical year.
Jehoshaphat and Ahab had made a pact that appears to have been cemented by two things. One being the marriage of Ahab's daughter Athaliah to Jehoram of Judah (Jehoshaphat's son), and the other, by making Jehoram of Judah and Ahaziah of Israel co-regents with their fathers. Hence Jehoram of Israel did commence in the second year of Jehoram of Judah's co-regency, and that same Jehoram of Judah did commence in the 5th year of Jehoram of Israel's independent reign.
Not a problem!
What of Elijah and Elisha the prophets.
We read in 2 Kings Chapter 1 the story of Elijah the prophet castigating Ahaziah of Israel and prophesying his death. II Chronicles 21:12-17 has Elijah writing a letter to Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, at some point during the first 6 years of his reign, ie: sometime around the time of the Battle of Qarqar or 853 BCE. By this time, Ahaziah of Israel has been dead 10 years.
Between these two chronologically recorded events, we are given the story of Elijah's translation into the heavens. This occurs in 2 Kings Chapter Two. Second Kings Chapters 1 and 3 are chronologically consecutive, and so we assume that Elijah's translation into heaven takes place around the time of the death of King Ahaziah of Israel. This however is not an absolute!
The positioning of the chapters should not necessarily be seen as chronologically placed. In any ordinary reading of almost any chapter of Kings and Chronicles you will notice how the narrative jumps back and forth in time. The problem however is that Elisha appears on the scene as a prophet in 2 Kings 3:4-27 by which time we have already assumed that Elijah has already been translated.
Perhaps Elijah had been translated by this time, and the redactors mixed up the names of Elijah and Elisha. Perhaps we also ought not to assume that Elisha did not operate as a prophet prior to Elijah's translation into heaven. From that perspective, Elisha in 2 Kings Chapter is just doing what the almighty has instructed him to do, and as such, no inference should be drawn in relation to the upcoming translation of Elijah.
The Bethlehem Seal Discovery - Judah 2700 years ago by R.P. BenDedek
According to recent news reports, archaeologists in Jerusalem have unearthed a 2700 years old, 1.5cm diameter Seal inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the name of the town Bethlehem. The Israel Antiquities director of excavations, Eli Shukron, has said that this is the first time that the city's name has turned up in artifacts from this period of Israelite History. 2700 years ago - 700 BCE, King Hezekiah was ruling in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, and had just survived an invasion (701BCE) by Sennacherib of Assyria. Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had 22 years previous fallen to the Assyrians, and the population was sent into exile. - May 27, 2012
Assyrian, Babylonian and Israelite History 8th Century by R.P. BenDedek
The 'King's Calendar' reconstruction of Biblical chronology for this time period, has as it's firm foundation, the established 'academic' fact that King Hezekiah of Judah had his 14th regnal year in 701 BCE. Working back through history, the 'King's Calendar' finds little fault with the Biblical chronological references, however, it becomes obvious that some of the king's have been misidentified. Part of academic confusion over this particular period of Israelite history, results directly from reliance upon the biblical narratives which clearly state that it was King Ahaz of Judah who appealed to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria for assistance, during the Syro-Ephraimitic War against Rezin of Damascus, and Pekah of Israel.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.