Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother was Hephzibah. (2 Kings 21:1)
Relate: This verse I am using today is what I consider one of the saddest verses in the Bible. My first reaction was to explain why it is so sad, but I have already done so in the past. If you are curious as to what I am talking about, feel free to click on Dumb Prayers for the explanation. What I am going to do today instead is a little bit of math. For those who aren’t too fond of the subject, bear with me. I am not a big fan of math either, but it does help me to get to my point.
The year Israel and Judah divided into two separate kingdoms is somewhere between 926-922 BCE and is usually placed towards the end of that. For simplicity’s sake instead of using 922 AD, I am going to say that it happened in year 1. Now, let us count the years of the reigns of the kings in both kingdoms and see how many years we can add up:
Jereboam II 147-188
This is when Israel falls to Assyria and ceases to be a nation. We know that this happened in 722 BCE. That would be between 200-204 years after the kingdom divided. But somehow the lengths of the kings of Israel counts up to 229 years. Perhaps we can get better accuracy following the reigns of Judah’s kings.
Actually, Hezekiah reigns much more than six years. I just stopped there because Israel’s fall to Assyria happened about six years into Hezekiah’s reign which began in the third year of Hoshea’s reign in Israel. So these events took about 200 calendar years, 229 “Israel” years and 260 “Judah” years. What is more, all throughout scripture is saying that King “a” of Israel’s reign began in year “x” of King “b” of Judah and vise-versa, but these dates almost never seem to line up and they throw our muddled math into even murkier waters. Clearly, we have a problem here.
React: There are three things we simply do not know that could help line these dates and reigns up: 1) Interregnums (the time that passed between the death of one king and the crowning of the next) 2) Dual reigns (One king and the next might have ruled jointly for a period of time) and 3) Partial years. An example of that last can be found with Jesus. He was not in the grave for three days as we understand it. He was in the grave a day and a half. But since He rose again on the third day, one can look at it as though He had been in the grave for three days: Friday (PM), Saturday, Sunday (AM). In the same light, Menahem reigned 10 years, but it could have truly been 8.3 years which happened span 10 calendar years.
Whatever the case, there is no need to try and do mental gymnastics trying to figure all this out. It is much simpler to understand that these books of History are not history as we understand it. Yes, they do cover actual historical events. But they aren’t meant to be read, understood, or interpreted as technical, specific and precise books of history like those we would find on the shelves of our local Barnes and Noble. They have a much more important purpose than that. God’s Word is authoritative and infallible. That means that is to be the authority for how I live my life and that, when I do so, it will never fail me. When we try to bend, twist, and shove it into a narrow-minded twenty-first century limited understanding of “inerrancy” we do the Bible injustice and completely miss the bigger picture.
Help me to conform my will, my thoughts, and my life to Your Word. It is my authority. Your Word is truth. I surrender my limited, fallible notions of who You should be and what Your Word should be and instead ask that You would show me more of Yourself and what You would have me be. Help me to hide Your word deep in my heart. Even more, help me to use it to direct my every step as I walk out my life following You.