2 Kings 15:30 and Pekah
2 Kings 15:27 In the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria, and reigned twenty years.

The Biblical scholar Dewey Beegle indicates that this verse contains what would be indisputably an error in the original manuscripts of the Bible. I would call that into question alone on the grounds that the "original" for this part of 2 Kings may have been at an earlier stage than the present book (say, in the original annals of Judah or Israel). But taking this at value, how can this be said?

The issue is that history does not allow room for Pekah to have room for a reign of 20 years; otherwise, it runs hard into the Assyrian invasion in 722, and Pekah runs out of time. So how is this addressed?

"It's one of those copyist errors."

One answer has been to say that the 20 was once a 2, which leaves plenty of room for Pekah to reign (and would also fit well with the tumultuous political climate). Beegle rejected this on the grounds, he claimed, that two other passages read as taking the "20" reading for granted:

15:32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel began Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah to reign.
16:1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah Ahaz the son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign.

But the conundrum is a false one. 15:32 says "second" year, which fits just fine with a reign that would be reckoned as two years (rounded or reckoned with a part as a whole, as much as two and a half, or as little as one and a month) and Beegle, though he briefly argues that this is not compatible with the correspondences in Kings with the reigns of other rulers, does not provide a detailed accounting (on the level of Edwin Thiele's) explaining why this is so.

The second verse would be more problematic, on the surface; but it is not: It suggests rather than 16:1 was the first passage corrupted, and that an even later scribe would have changed 15:27 to adjust (reasoning that a king with a 17th year could hardly have reigned for only two years).

Those that doubt that this could happen may be reminded that numbers, again, are regular victims of textual corruption. Those that ask where the textual evidence is, need to be reminded that for many ancient documents, deduction is all we have for a hypothesized textual error. Textual error cannot be proven, but it also cannot be simply handily dismissed.

One other idea is offered:

"Pekah did reign 20 years; he was head of a rebel faction for a good part of that."

This solution, offered by Thiele, and elaborated upon by Cook in the 1964 edition of Vetus Testamentum (of which, Beegle seems unaware, though it was written before he wrote). Offering details of the political situation of the period, Cook notes an interesting designation -- though it "may be fortuitious" -- in Assyrian records which, though they refer to Menahem as "Menahem of Samaria," also refer to Pekah as being of "Bit Humria," the House of Omri. Cook sees in this potential evidence of Pekah ruling his own district independently for a period.

Further support he supposes may be found in the indication that Menahem sent tribute to "confirm his hold of royal power" (15:19) -- perhaps indicating merely insecurity, but also perhaps indicating the presence of a rival. Cook also finds hints on Hosea of "two centres of royal power", as in 5:1:

Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

These however are not definitive, merely suggestive. More clear perhaps is Hosea 10 with its references to "two furrows" (10:10); Cook also develops his case further with the thesis that "Ephraim" is not synonymous with "Israel", so that as used references in Hosea suggest a split kingdom.

Beegle, aware of Thiele's less-developed proposition of this thesis, rejects it on the grounds that 15:27 "states quite unambiguously that Pekah reigned in Samaria". However, Beegle overpresses what is obviously a stereotyped phrase used repeatedly by the Kings author ("over Israel in Samaria", used nine time). Beyond this, the stereotyped nature of the author's presentation may obscure the more detailed point that, "in the two and fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah the son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria," and, "reigned twenty years" relate two separate ideas as opposed to connected ideas. ("Reigned" is added to the text as a clarity addition; it is not in the original.) Whether the math works out beyond this would be up to a Thiele to decide.

As an aside, Cook notes a Greek manuscript variant in the Hebrew text of 15:27 which places Pekah's accession in the 40th year of Azariah as opposed to the 52nd; here also the 2nd year of 15:32 is changed to the 13th, which by itself makes it clear that it is far from unlikely that a dual corruption of the sort noted above could not have happened. However, he rejects the idea of a textual corruption on the grounds of unlikelihood (even as he cites this example).

Thus it is that it is irresponsible to suppose that in 2 Kings 15:27 we have an indisputable "original" error. The vagaries of the situation -- even for the likes of Cook, who had no use for inerrancy -- leave the question open.