How old was Jehoiachin when he began to reign?
Doesn't the Bible have mistakes? Does this affect the inerrancy of Scriptures?

The question of Jehoiachin's age at the beginning of his reign, is one of a few that are commonly sent to us with an underlying motive. Sites skeptical of the reliability of Scriptures also are known to feature the same. Of course, in sending their question, they expect to receive no answer, somehow believing that there isn't one. Do they honestly believe that theologians haven't studied such things for centuries past or that they have found the great question that will bring down Christianity? A brief study, such as the one that follows, will reveal a clear and decisive answer to the true inquirer.1 Since the question usually comes with two verses attached from the King James Version, this too is where we will begin.

2 Chronicles 36:9 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. (KJV)

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. (KJV)

There is the question: eight or eighteen? Such a notable contradiction, they believe, is proof that Biblical inerrancy is a myth. Before specifically answering the Jehoiachin question, consider what we mean when we claim Biblical inerrancy...

    #1. The Bible was written by God using people chosen by Him (i.e. prophets and apostles).

    #2. God sometimes directly spoke or provided (i.e. Ten Commandments) what he wanted written down, but also sovereignly utilized the personalities, learning, and experiences of the writers.

    #3. The result, at the time of the autographs, was a perfect record of God's Word.

We don't have the autographs (the originals), but this is not a problem. God who knows all that will happen and sovereignly acts throughout history also has preserved His word for us. If God had wanted too, He could have made sure that the originals were written on stone and available for all future generations, of course requiring us all to read the original languages. In fact God did something even more amazing, He used his people to transmit and translate His word for future generations. God knew that being people, they would be apt to make mistakes; no matter how carefully they tried not too. And certainly they did. In copying, sometimes a letter was dropped or added, a pair of letters or words were transposed, even a line repeated or inadvertently left out. Even through all of this God's word still stands.

    #4. God repeated Himself continually throughout the Bible, making every doctrine of Scriptures clear. All manuscript variants do not compromise one doctrine of Scriptures.

    #5. Because of the multitudes of copies preserved by those who revere God's word, many copying errors can be readily recognized and corrected by comparison.

God also knew that His word would need to be translated into a multitude of languages over the millennia to follow. This meant that His word would be able to transcend the limitations of language and be understood even with a change of words, even paraphrase.

    #6. Hosts of translations, while changing the letter and phraseology of the text from the original, still express God's word.

    #7. Comparison of the multitudes of translations, especially to the original languages, also enables correction of copying errors and revision of wording that may not sufficiently covey the original.

    #8. Even when the translated wording of one section of Scriptures is weak, the built-in repetition of doctrine (by God), still enables His word to be understood.

Returning to the matter of Jehoiachin, even if the text has the obvious error and contradiction of eight versus eighteen it does not change or compromise a doctrine of Scriptures. But we don't have to leave the issue there. Notice that God repeated this statement in two separate books. This repetition allows us to see which one is an error. Yes, I said "an error"! This most certainly is a copying error that entered into the text following the time it was written.

Like ancient Latin, the Hebrew language uses the letters of the alphabet for numbers. The difference between eight and eighteen is the presence of a "hook" symbol over the letters for eighteen, and if the person who copied the manuscript failed to add the "hook," the error would be recorded and repeated. These occasional scribal errors in no way affect the inspiration of Scripture and do not touch upon any major teaching in the Bible. (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe.)

Internal evidence in the text points to which one is the correct number.

2 Kings 24:8-15 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. 9 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done. 10 At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, 11 and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. 14 He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans - a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. 15 Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. (NIV)

The text clearly ascribes willful evil to this king, something not to be expected if this was merely a boy of eight subject to the whims of many royal advisors. Both Chronicles and Kings note that he reigned only three months after which he was taken captive.2 At the time of this captivity his wives (note the plural) were taken as well. This is clearly indicative of an eighteen year old king and not an eight-year-old who would not even be considered a man under Jewish law. Consider how he became king...

2 Chronicles 36:5-8 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord his God. 6 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against him and bound him with bronze chains to take him to Babylon. 7 Nebuchadnezzar also brought some of the articles of the house of the Lord to Babylon and put them in his temple at Babylon. 8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim and the abominations which he did, and what was found against him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son became king in his place. (NASU)

Nebuchadnezzar was the reason Jehoiachin became king after his father was deposed in 597 B.C. It is highly improbable that Nebuchadnezzar would have placed an eight-year-old into this position as he would not have one individual to hold responsible, as any young king would be subject to a multitude of advisors. In fact, when Nebuchadnezzar subsequently removed Jehoiachin he made his uncle king and not one of Jehoiachin's very young children.3 Also, if Jehoiachin was only eight years old, it's unlikely that he would have been imprisoned in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15, 25:27).

Some translations now legitimately have corrected this error in the text...

2 Chronicles 36:9 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. (NIV)

Most new translations at least footnote it and acknowledge that it has been corrected or that there is other ancient witness that it should be eighteen. The NASU, which leaves the text as eight, merely footnotes it with a reference to 2 Kings.

    NIV Footnote for 2 Chronicles 36:9 "One Hebrew manuscript, some Septuagint manuscripts and Syriac (see also 2 Kings 24:8); most Hebrew manuscripts eight"

    Holman Christian Standard Bible Footnote for 2 Chronicles 36:9 "Some Hebrew manuscripts, LXX [Septuagint]; other Hebrew manuscripts read eight; 2 Kings 24:8"

The NIV is correct in noting that a majority of Hebrew manuscripts read eight, but a majority, especially when newer, don't make it right and are to be expected if diligently copied from an earlier manuscript having the numerical copying error. It's not a surprise that the Septuagint, a Greek translation from the Hebrew made a few centuries before the time of Christ, generally reflects the correct number, as those closer to the original would.

The bottom line is that with confidence we can state that Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign.


1. Lord willing, we intend to post studies on additional "pet" questions we have and continue to receive. While a majority of answers we provide on are to those actually seeking answers, what differs here is that most skeptics sending these confrontational inquiries really don't expect an answer, something that can be seen from the tone of their letters. Even though they perhaps hope that it would tear down our faith and truly don't seek an answer we hope they will read it anyway and perhaps reconsider their antagonism to Scriptures and find the eternal God they are running from.

2. The reign duration of three months as recorded in 2 Kings 24:8 and the three month and ten days of 2 Chronicles 36:9 are not a contradiction either. It was quite common for reigns to be rounded to even years. That one writer recording a specific and the other a rounded value was at the discretion of the writer. In fact Jehoiachin's reign was so short (not even a year) that Jeremiah would prophesy of his father Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 37:1)...

Jeremiah 36:30-31 Therefore, this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.'" (NIV)

3. In Jeremiah's prophecy that Jehoiachin would have no child sit on the throne of David, we find indication that he had children by at least one of his wives. Again, this is impossible if he was only eight years old.

Jeremiah 22:24-30 "As surely as I live," declares the Lord, "even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off. 25 I will hand you over to those who seek your life, those you fear - to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to the Babylonians. 26 I will hurl you and the mother who gave you birth into another country, where neither of you was born, and there you both will die. 27 You will never come back to the land you long to return to." 28 Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, an object no one wants? Why will he and his children be hurled out, cast into a land they do not know? 29 O land, land, land, hear the word of the Lord! 30 This is what the Lord says: "Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah." (NIV)