KINGS-OF-ISRAEL-AND-JUDAH-CHARTThe Reliability of Kings and Chronicles

Dr. Michael Gleghorn

Over the past year and a half my wife has been working on what might be called a “visual Bible.” By training and profession my wife, Hannah, is a graphic designer. She tends to understand things best when she can visualize them in some way. Hence, when she began team-teaching a women’s Bible study that covers the entire Bible in just two years, she felt the need to create visuals of what she was studying in order to help her grasp some of the key points in a single glance. Thus, week-by-week, as she readied herself for class, she also prepared a wide array of graphically-designed visuals of the written contents of Scripture.

Everything was going fairly well until she came to the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles. Since these books give us a great deal of information about the kings of Israel and Judah, including the order in which they reigned, the lengths of their reigns, and so on, she decided to create some charts that would present all of this information visually. She had no idea that she was about to enter one of the most baffling and perplexing issues of biblical chronology!

To put it bluntly, the chronology of Kings and Chronicles initially appears to be a hopelessly muddled, and even downright contradictory, mess! Examining this material as an intelligent layperson, Hannah could make no sense of it at all. It also meant that she could not represent the material in a visually coherent way.

Feeling increasingly frustrated, she asked if I knew of any books that dealt with these problems. Although this is an area I know little about, I remembered a book which (I had heard) handled these issues quite well. That book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, by Edwin Thiele, offered her some much-needed help in making sense of the apparently confused and contradictory information in the books of Kings and Chronicles.{2} Although this book did not solve all the difficulties she was facing, it did bring a great deal of order to the apparent chaos of this section of Scripture.

In the remainder of this article we’ll first consider the problems posed by “the mysterious numbers of the Hebrew kings.” Afterward, we’ll briefly look at how all these problems have been solved by contemporary scholars, so that what was previously thought of as a hopeless muddle is instead a testimony to the accuracy of the historical parts of the Old Testament…


The Reliability of Kings and Chronicles