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According to my reading of the following passage from Chronicles, an Israelite king who had been dead for a decade (according to Kings) attacked Judah:

2 Chronicles 16:1 (NKJV)
In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

1 Kings 16:8 (NKJV)
In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha became king over Israel, and reigned two years in Tirzah.

Please help me reconcile these two passages.

  • Most commentaries attribute the year counts to different events, so while one count is that of the reigning king, the other might be from his first battle or the split of the kingdom. They manage to find accurate, textually-based summations, and even some other textual hints that the counts are different, although changing the scales like that is only out of pure necessity since there clearly is a contradiction. – bjorne Oct 23 '13 at 20:14
  • How is this question coming? Do you have an acceptable answer yet? – user2027 Feb 4 '14 at 12:39
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There is no way possible that the 36th year was during the reign of Asa, since Baasha only reigned 24 yrs (1 Ki 15:33), and that reign had only begun when Asa was already sitting as king in Judah for about 4-5 years. In other words, "in the 36th year" refers to the time when the person was king since the kingdom divided, which is the preference of the writer(s) of Chronicles. On the other hand, the writer(s) of Kings preferred to reference the time since the king had actually begun reigning. Please see the graph for clarification, below, which is drawn to scale. So while Baasha and Asa were at odds from the get-go, the actual building up of the ramparts in Ramah did not get into full-swing until roughly the mid-points of their respective reigns. enter image description here

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Maybe I’m not following your question correctly, but what I see in 2 Chr 16:1 is regarding the 36th year of the reign of Asa, while 1 Ki 16:8 is about the 26th year of his life. Otherwise, I see a lot of match in the words of your 2 Chr 16:1 with my 1 Ki 15:17’s “Baasha, king of Israel, attacked Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent communication with Asa.”

  • Just to be clear: are you saying that the 36th year of Asa's reign coincided with the 26th year of his life? – Niobius Nov 22 '13 at 22:36
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    No. I'm just saying the years of reign are one thing and "the 26th year of Asa" is regarding his life...about his age. – John Martin Nov 22 '13 at 22:50
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B.S.J. Isserlin gives a concise, if boring answer to this contradiction in The Israelites, page 66. He explains that Chronicles is not highly rated for reliability. Whenever there is a contradiction between Kings and Chronicles, with no extra-biblical source as a guide, then Kings should be preferred.

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The answer to this question is simpler than changing the understanding of the event by aligning the date with the start of the overall kingdom. To change the comprehension of "in the 36th year of Asa's reign" to be "in the 36th year of the kingdom of Judah" is too broad a change and forces us to actually delete the Hebrew text. This explanation also denies the same usage of the text string found in other places ie. 2 Ch 15:10,19, 1 Ch 26:31, etc. The context of these statements on the monarch's reign is as the length relates to the king, not the kingdom.

If the overall kingdom length is to be used to explain the "36th year", this would place the event in the 16th year of Asa, which is one year following the national religious reforms. This immediately should make us question that probability. Why? Asa's turning to Ben-Hadad caused the prophetic rebuke from Hanani the Seer leading to Hanani's imprisonment. To suggest Asa was turning from the Lord for the next 25 years runs counter to the spirit of the text. These events must have taken place toward the end of Asa's reign, after his 35th year and prior to his diseased feet in this 39th year.

Furthermore, Asa's reign enjoyed 10 years of peace (which was from the Lord: 2 Ch 14:6-7) which began at the death of Baasha and the start of the Northern kingdom's civil war and ended in Asa's 35th year (2 Ch 15:19). This was during Omri's rise to power in the Northern Kingdom.

The modern bible translations are known in places to record details that are clearly wrong in the context. We should not fear these errors as they are inevitably due to transcription issues down through the ages and these errors do not compromise God's word as being inerrant and inspired.

It was the transcribing of the text that got it wrong, somewhere down the centuries, which makes this simply a human copyist error. Sceptics like to attack the faith based on transcription mistakes. But these can always be defended.

My research concludes that rendering the Northern Kingdom's king in 2 Chronicles 16:1-6 to be Omri, instead of Baasha, makes sense to the passage: doesn't contradict the chronology of the narrative and fits what we know about Omri. Omri was a builder (1 Kings 16:24) whereas Baasha was no builder. Add to this that Ben-Hadad was at war with Ahab, Omri's son. It therefore makes sense that the war commenced during Omri's time and flowed into that of Ahab. Omri came up to Judah to cut Asa off. Asa bought the alliance with Ben-Hadad who attacked Omri and continued to do so even during Ahab's time.

David Watkins Sydney Australia

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    This answer seems less probable than what @Joseph has provided. That the Chronicler would err in every instance of the word "Baasha" in 2 Chronicles 16 seems very unlikely. Also, the same event is narrated at 1 Kings 15 where the historian states unambiguously that it was Baasha. – Jonah Elbert Jul 9 '17 at 14:37
  • 1 Kings 15 has no time ref yet 2 Chron 16:1 does. If "36th year of his reign" is wrong, when was it? Asa's 26th year? If so, the chain of events would be; Ben-Hadad is paid off by Asa/attacks Israel/Baasha withdraws then dies/Elah reigns 2 years (no Aram war)/Zimri kills him & kills himself/Omri & Tibni fight it out/Omri prevails. For reasons unknown Ben-Hadad opts out til Ahab's time & attacks Ahab 3x. Question… why Ben-Hadad withdraws? Doesn't fit. Nor does Asa being out of sync with the Lord for 15 years, of which 10 were peace years given by the Lord. There must be contextual integrity. – David Watkins Jul 10 '17 at 9:28
  • There is further reason to render it Omri. Asa relies on Ben-Hadad and is rebuked by Hanani who says "...from now on you will have wars" (2Chron 16:9). This then places the situation definitely after the 10 years of rest. Therefore, join that to 2Chron 15:19 and the 36th year is the year of this event as stated in 2Chron 16:1. Baasha's dead by then, Omri is reigning. Chronicler and Kings authors didn't make mistakes. The original inspired text was "Omri" until it was changed later by negligent, foolish or deliberate transcription. – David Watkins Jul 12 '17 at 13:56

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