Biblical kings and boxplots

When you read through the biblical books of Kings, you may have been struck by a phrase that repeats itself for every monarch:

In the Xth year of (king of kingdom B), (name of king) became king of (kingdom A). He reigned N years, and did (evil|good) in the sight of the Lord.

If you’ve read through these books several times, you will probably have noticed that the shorter reigns tend to belong to kings deemed to have done evil, with a record-breaking 3 months for Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin. Let’s see if there’s any relationship between reign duration and “goodness” of the king. First we prepare the data in a form suitable for analysis:

``````kings.data <- c("Name Deeds Reign
David Good 40
Solomon Good 40
Rehoboam Evil 17
Abijah Evil 3
Asa Good 41
Jehoshaphat Good 25
Jehoram Evil 8
Ahaziah Evil 1
Joash Good 40
Amaziah Good 29
Azariah Good 52
Jotham Good 16
Ahaz Evil 16
Hezekiah Good 29
Manasseh Evil 55
Amon Evil 2
Josiah Good 31
Jehoahaz Evil 0.25
Jehoiakim Evil 11
Jehoiachin Evil 0.25
Zedekiah Evil 11")

kings <- read.table(textConnection(kings.data),
header = TRUE,
row.names = 1)
``````

The `kings` data frame holds one row for each king. The row names are the names of the kings; the column `Deeds` is a two-level factor telling if their reign was deemed good or evil. (We assume here that Solomon was a good guy in spite of what happened towards the end of his life.) The `Reign` column records the length of the reign as given in the Bible in years, with fractional values for reigns shorter than one year.

We have 11 evil kings and 10 good kings:

``````> table(kings\$Deeds)

Evil Good
11   10
``````

Here we compute the median reign duration depending on the rating of the deeds:

``````> with(kings, tapply(Reign, Deeds, median))
Evil Good
8.0 35.5
``````

There’s already a good indication that the length of the reign depends on the deeds. We can now plot the length of the reigns:

``````library(car)
Boxplot(Reign ~ Deeds,
kings)
``````

This plot confirms our impression: “evil” kings tend to have shorter reigns that “good” kings, with the obvious exception of Manasseh, the same one of whom it was said

I’ve arranged for four kinds of punishment: death in battle, the
corpses dropped off by killer dogs, the rest picked clean by vultures,
the bones gnawed by hyenas. They’ll be a sight to see, a sight to
shock the whole world—and all because of Manasseh son of Hezekiah and
all he did in Jerusalem. (Jer 15:3-4)

So what does this all prove? Probably nothing. Plotting data is its own reward. :-)

Author: David Lindelöf

David is currently Chief Technology Officer at Neurobat AG where he leads the development of smart, embedded systems for the energy-efficient control of indoor climate. He lives infinitesimally close to Geneva in Switzerland with his family.

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