2 Kings 18:13—How can this verse say that Sennacherib invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah?

Problem: 2 Kings 18:13 claims that “in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.” Since archaeological evidence has established Sennacherib’s invasion at 701 b.c., this would mean that Hezekiah became co-regent with his father Ahaz in 719 b.c., and sole ruler of Judah in 715 b.c. However, according to 2 Kings 18:1, Hezekiah became co-regent in 729 b.c., and he became sole ruler of Judah when his father died in 725 b.c. This is a discrepancy of ten years. Which account is correct?

Solution: The claim that Sennacherib invaded Judah in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah is clearly a copyist error. Sennacherib actually invaded Judah in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of Hezekiah of Judah. The error is easy to explain since the difference between the two numbers is a single Hebrew letter. The Hebrew consonants for “fourteen” are rb srh, while the Hebrew consonants for “twenty-four” are rb srm (the ancient manuscripts did not write the vowels, see Appendix 2). The final letters are the only difference in the written text. In fact, the words are the same, only the word “twenty” is simply the plural form of the word “ten.” We might express the way the Hebrew is written as “four ten,” or “four twenty.” It is simply a case where a copyist miscopied the form from “four twenty” to “four ten.”

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.