As I've been reading through 1 and 2 Kings, I was struck by another cultural difference: How the ancient Hebrews counted--or expressed numbers--compared to how we would express them in our culture today.
See if this strikes you.
Let's start with the observation that Jeroboam and Rehoboam began to reign in their respective kingdoms at the same time: Jeroboam over the Kingdom of Israel; Rehoboam over the Kingdom of Judah.
1 Kings 14:21 and 31: "Rehoboam
1 Kings 15:1 and 2: "Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam,
1 Kings 15:9 and 10: "In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, and he reigned forty-one
1 Kings 15:25: "Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years."
1 Kings 15:27 and 28: "Baasha the son of Ahijah
--I could continue the series. (I have done so in my own reading.) The pattern remains consistent. Have you caught what is going on?
- Abijam comes to power in the 18th year of Jeroboam.
- Abijam reigns for 3 years and Asa, his successor, comes to power in the 20th year of Jeroboam and will reign for 41 years.
- Nadab comes to power in the 2nd year of Asa's reign.
- Nadab reigns for 2 years before he is killed in the 3rd year of Asa's reign. . . .
- A three-year reign takes place when a king comes to power in the 18th year of another king's reign and dies in the 20th year of that other king's reign.
- And a two-year reign occurs when a king comes to power in the 2nd year of another king's reign and dies in the 3rd year of that other king's reign.
Normally, the way I look at things, if someone reigns from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the twentieth year, I would say he reigned for two years. Similarly, if someone reigns from the middle of the second year to the middle of the third year, I would say he reigned for one year.
But, according to how the writer of 1 Kings records it, I would be wrong. The correct answers are three years and two years, respectively.
Best I can make out: If you reign in the 18th year, then you have reigned for one year. If you reign in the 19th year, then you have reigned for a second year. And if you reign in the 20th year, then you have reigned for a third year: three years, total.
Similarly, if you reign in the 2nd year, then you have reigned for one year. And if you reign in the 3rd year, then you have reigned for a second year: two years, total.
And so forth.
Check it out!
The pattern continues at 1 Kings 15:33; 16:8, 10, 15, 23, 29; 22:41-42, 51; 2 Kings 3:1; 8:16-17 . . . --And that's as far as I've gotten.