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excitementDid you know that the names of 23 of the 40 kings of Israel’s divided monarchy (north and south) begin with A or J (English spelling)?

9 kings begin with A (including queen Athaliah of the northern kingdom) and 14 with J.

This is bad enough if your life’s goal is not to be confused when reading 1-2 Kings. But it gets worse.

  1. 2 are named Ahaziah (1 northern and 1 southern), and the southern king has two alternate names, Azariah and Jehoahaz. What really splits your gut is that Jehoahaz is also the name of 2 other kings (1 northern and 2 southern), and the southern one has the alternate name Shallum, which at least doesn’t begin with an A or J but it’s still annoying.
  2. The northern and southern kingdoms each have (1) a king named Jehoash with the same alternate name Joash, and (2) a king Jehoram with (wait for it) the same alternate name Joram. Perhaps those names were trending. Today it would be King Cody and King Tyler.
  3. The northern kingdom has two kings named Jeroboam (1st and 13th).
  4. And just for the fun of it, the two successors of Jehoahaz (the southern one, see 1 above) are named Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. And even funner is the fact that Jehoiakim is also known as Eliakim and Jehoiachin as Coniah and Jeconiah.
  5. And I haven’t even mentioned how Abijah=Abijam (2nd southern king), Uzziah=Azariah (10th southern king), and Zedekiah=Mattaniah (last southern king).
  6. And I might as well mention that Solomon, the 3rd and last king of the united monarchy, was also known as Jedediah,

I think I speak for all of us when I say, C’mon people, pick a name and stick with it. On the plus side, Romans seems a lot less confusing by comparison.

A final somewhat related comment: I’ve never done a statistical analysis, mainly because it would take a while, I would need to binge eat Oreos afterwards, and I don’t really care that much anyway—but my guess is that A, J, and perhaps M and S are the most common first letters of biblical names.

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.