Chronology Of The Old Testament

From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Chronology Of The Old Testament . The importance of a fixed era by which to date events was not discovered by the Hebrews until after their national existence came to an end. All the endeavours to fix such an era which we find in our OT like the dating of the building of Solomon’s Temple 480 years from the Exodus (  1 Kings 6:1 ) belong to the post-exilic period. During the existence of the monarchy all that was thought necessary was to date by the years of the reigning king. If we had a complete series of public documents for all the reigns, this would answer very well for historical purposes. But what has actually come down to us is at best only a fragmentary series of notices based in part on official records.

Numerical statements there are in plenty in the Bible, and among them all those in the Books of Kings most deserve attention as the basis for a scientific chronology. At first sight their accuracy seems to be guaranteed, because they check each other for the time covered by the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Not only does the author give us the length of the reigns in the two lines, but he has taken pains to work out a series of synchronisms, that is, he dates the accession of each king by the regnal year of his contemporary monarch in the other kingdom. But comparison of these figures with each other shows that they cannot all be accurate. For example, we learn that Jehoshaphat of Judah came to the throne in the fourth year of Ahab of Israel; also that Ahab reigned 22 years. Yet we are told that Ahaziah, who followed Ahab after his death, came to the throne in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat, and in addition that Ahaziah’s brother Jehoram, who could be crowned only after the two years’ reign assigned to the latter, succeeded in the eighteenth of Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:41;   1 Kings 22:51 ,   2 Kings 3:1 ).

This example makes us give up the synchronisms and turn our attention to the length of reigns, where we have reason to suppose that the figures are drawn from earlier documents. The history gives a convenient point of division at the accession of Jehu in Israel and of Athaliah in Judah, for these two came to the throne in the same year. The two series of lengths of reigns ought to give the same sum for the period. But they do not. In one line we find 95 years and in the other 98.

It is possible that the discrepancy here is due to the mode of reckoning. The reigns are given as so many years without regard to fractions, yet it will be manifest that few if any reigns are an exact number of years with no months or days. Where the method of dating by regnal years is in vogue, the fractions may be treated in two ways. If a king dies in the tenth year of his reign, for example, the calendar year may continue to be called his tenth; and the next calendar year will be the first of his successor. But it will also be possible to begin at once to date by the first year of the new king, making the next calendar year his second. In this latter case the public records will show more years (judging by the dates) than there actually are, by one in each reign. According to this method, the number of years from Rehoboam to Athaliah would be 90, which cannot be far from correct. The next period, however, from Athaliah to Hezekiah, and from Jehu to the fall of Samaria, gives us greater difficulty. Here we find the sum of years in one line to be greater than in the other by more than twenty. The various hypotheses which have been advanced to overcome this discrepancy do not concern us in the present article. All that we need to note is that the figures of the Hebrew text do not give us a sure basis for a chronology.

If this is true in what we have reason to suppose is the most reliable of the OT dates, the case is even worse when we examine the earlier period of the history. No doubt the authors of the Pentateuchal narratives thought themselves able to give the length of time which had elapsed from the creation of the world. There is no other way to interpret their language. In the genealogy of the sons of Adam, for example ( Genesis 5:1-32 ), we read how Adam was 130 years old when he begat Seth, Seth 105 years old when he begat Enosh, and so on down to the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in which the Flood came. The summing up of the figures gives us 1656 years from the Creation to the Flood.

The unhistorical character of the numbers in this table is now generally conceded. The conclusions of natural science concerning the duration of man upon the earth are enough to invalidate the calculation. But this gives additional interest to the inquiry as to what the authors had in mind. It has been pointed out that if to the sum we have just obtained we add the years from the Flood to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, we get 2666, that is, two-thirds of 4000. Now the interest that the writer had in this calculation was probably due to the theory which he had formed or which had come down to him by tradition, that the length of time from the Creation to the coming of the Messiah would be 4000 years.

Four thousand is 100 generations of 40 years each. Any one who is familiar with the OT figures will recall how common it is to find 40 years as a round number. The 40 years of the wilderness wandering, 40 years of peace in the time of several of the Judges, 40 years each for David and Solomon, are sufficiently marked. Then we recall the 480 years from the Exodus to the building of the Temple 12 generations of 40 years each. It is probable also that a similar term was counted from the building of the Temple to its rebuilding under Darius or to the end of the Exile, while it is not without significance that the duration of the Northern Kingdom was calculated to be 240 years.

All this shows that these late Biblical writers were dominated by a theory. It must be noticed also that more than one theory had an influence. The Greek translators, working in the second century before Christ, had a Hebrew text which differed considerably from ours in this matter of numbers. They reckoned nearly 600 years more from the Creation to the Flood than the sum in our Bible, while from the Flood to the Call of Abraham they make nearly 800 more. The copy of the Pentateuch which circulated among the Samaritans has a still different system. The question which of these systems is the earliest is still unsettled. It may be said to have only an academic interest, since we know that no one of them gives us authentic data for the antiquity of the world.

Fortunately our appreciation of the Bible does not depend upon the accuracy of its dates. In general the picture it gives of the sequence of events from the time of the Judges down to the Fall of Jerusalem is correct. Of late years we have received welcome light on the dates of certain Biblical events from the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions. These empires had made great advances in astronomy, and consequently in the regulation of the calendar. While they did not date from a fixed era, they had a reckoning of time which secured accuracy for their historical records. Each calendar year was named for an official whom we call an eponym , and records were kept showing the series of eponyms with brief notes of the events in each one’s year. These lists have come down to us in fragmentary form, but we are able by them to correct some of the dates of our Hebrew history. The accuracy of the Babylonian system has been tested by its records of eclipses as far back as the year b.c. 763.

More than a hundred systems of Biblical Chronology have been invented or reckoned out another testimony to the uncertain nature of the Biblical data. The received system, which has found a place in the margin of our reference Bibles, is well known to be that of the learned Archbishop Ussher. By the Babylonian canon we are now able to correct its figures. These are for the early period too high. Thus for David, Ussher gives us the date 1056. But reckoning back from the earliest Assyrian allusion to Israel, this should be about 1010. The amount of error is less as we come down to later times, and disappears at the Fall of Samaria. From David down to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, therefore, we are able to give approximately correct dates for our history. Before the time of David there must be some uncertainty, which up to the present time has not been much mitigated by the Egyptian inscriptions. From the time of the rebuilding of the Temple under Darius we are also in uncertainty, though this period does not bulk largely in the received OT.

H. P. Smith.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [2]

krō̇ - nol´ō̇ - ji  :

I. Introductory

1. Difficulties of the Subject

2. Plan of Treatment

3. Bible to be Regarded as Highest Authority

II. The Ages Between the Testaments

III. Persian Period

IV. Babylonian Period

V. Assyrian Period and Judah After Fall of Samaria

VI. Period of Divided Kingdom

1. Causes of Variation in Systems

2. Some Important and Pivotal Dates

3. Difficulties to Be Removed

4. Overlappings

VII. From the Disruption to the Exodus

Indications of Overlapping

VIII. From the Exodus to Birth of Abraham

Main Points At Issue

IX. From Abraham to the Creation

A Suggested Interpretation


I. Introductory

1. Difficulties of the Subject

For evident reasons the student of Biblical chronology must meet many difficulties, and must always be severely handicapped. First of all, the Old Testament is not purely nor intentionally a book of history. Nor does it present a formulated system of chronology, its many numbers and dates being used principally with a view to the spiritual facts and truths with which the authors were concerned. We are not, therefore, to expect to find a perfectly arranged order of periods and dates, though happily for us in our investigation we shall indeed find many accurately dated events, frequent consecutions of events, and orderly success ions of officials; as, for example, the numerous genealogical tables, the succession of judges and the lists of kings.

Furthermore, there is not to be found in the Old Testament one particular and definitely fixed era, from which all of its events are dated, as is the case in Christian history. The points of departure, or reckoning, are found to vary in different periods of the advancing history; being at one stage the Creation, at another the migration of Abraham, or the Exodus, or again the disruption of the kingdom. Ordinarily dates and all time-allusions are comparative, i.e. they are related to the reign of some contemporary monarch, as the vision of Isaiah "in the year that king Uzziah died" ( Isaiah 6:1 ), or to some unusual occurrence, historical or natural, as the great earthquake ( Amos 1:1;  Zechariah 14:5 ). Only occasional reference is found to some event, which marks an era-beginning; such as the Exodus ( Judges 11:16 ,  Judges 11:26;  1 Kings 6:1 ).

The general lack of uniformity among writers on Biblical chronology contributes further toward increase of the already perplexing confusion. It is almost possible to say that no two writers agree; and proposed harmonies are with each other most inharmonious. The two articles on Old Testament chronology in a recent work (Murray, Illus. Bible Dictionary , 1908), for example, are several hundred years apart at certain points. Wide diversity of opinion exists about the most prominent events, such as the call of Abraham and the age of his famous contemporary H̬ammurabi , the year of the Exodus, and the beginning of Solomon's temple. Naturally there is less variance of opinion about later dates, some of which, e.g. the fall of Samaria and the destruction of Jerusalem, may be considered as fixed. A like wide range of opinion prevails among archaeologists with regard to events in contemporaneous history, the difference between Goodspeed and Hommel in the dates of early Babylonian history being five hundred years, and the beginning and extent of the Hyksos period in Egypt varying in different "authorities" by hundreds of years. Nor should the difference in the various and total numbers of the Hebrew, Samaritan and Septuagint texts of the pre-Abrahamic ages be left out of sight in any statement of the difficulties attending the discussion of this subject.

2. Plan of Treatment

These difficulties, and others as serious, have determined the plan of this article. The usual method of development has been to begin with the sources of Old Testament history, and to follow its course downward. While such a system may have its advantages, there is, however, this serious disadvantage connected with it: that the least certain dates are confessedly those at the beginning of the records, and the use of them at the foundation renders the whole structure of the discussion more or less uncertain. Archaeology and comparative history have done much to fix dates from the Exodus downward, bringing these later centuries by discovery and translation almost into the position of attested history. But the ages before the Exodus, and particularly before Abraham, still lie from the very nature of the ease in great obscurity. And Thus any system beginning with the indistinct early past, with its compacted numbers and their uncertain interpretation, is much like a chain hung on thin air. The writer purposes, therefore, beginning with certain familiar, important and pivotal dates, to gather around and relate to these the events and persons of the Old Testament. Such accepted dates are: the completion of the Second Temple in 516, the fall of Jerusalem in 586, the fall of Samaria in 721, tribute to Shalmaneser II from Jehu in 842, and from a member of Omri's dynasty in 854. Such Old Testament events as mark the beginning of eras are the Disruption, Solomon's temple, the Exodus and Abraham's Call. The material and the plan, then, almost necessarily require that we begin at the end of the history and work logically backward to the earlier stages, at which we may hope to arrive with firm ground under our feet for the disposition of the more uncertain problems. It is hoped that on this plan the system of chronology will not be mere speculation, nor a personal theory, but of some certainty and affording some assurance in days of wild assertion and free manipulation.

3. Bible to Be Regarded as Highest Authority

It should be remembered that this is a study of Bible chronology, and therefore full value will be given to the explicit and positive statements of the Bible. Surely the time has come, when all fair-minded men should recognize that a clear and straightforward declaration of the Sacred Scriptures is not to be summarily rejected because of its apparent contradiction by some unknown and irresponsible person, who could stamp clay or chisel stone. It has been all too common that archaeological and critical adventurers have doubted and required accurate proof of every Bible statement, but have been ready enough to give credence to any statement from ancient pagan sources. We assume, as we have every reason to do, the trustworthiness of the Bible records, which have been corroborated in countless instances; and we shall follow their guidance in preference to any other. The help of contemporaneous history and the witness of archaeology can be used to advantage, but should not be substituted for the plain facts of the Scriptures, which are full worthy of our trust and regard. The province of a chronology of the Bible is properly to present in system the dates therein given, with an honest effort to harmonize the difficulties, using the external helps, but ever regardful of Scripture authority and rights.

II. The Ages Between the Testaments

Between the coming of Christ and the end of Old Testament history there lie in round numbers four hundred years. But while these were extra-Biblical ages, they were neither barren nor uneventful years; for in them will be found much of the highest value in the development of Jewish life, and in the preparation for the Messiah. And Thus they have their proper place in Bible chronology (see Between The Testaments ). The birth of Jesus could not have been later than 4 bc, since Herod the Great died in April of that year. Herod became king of Judea in 37 bc. Palestine had been conquered and Jerusalem entered by the Romans under Pompey in 56 bc, the Jews coming in this way under the power of Rome. The Roman age was preceded by the government of priest-kings, with which the Idumean Antipater became identified by marriage, so that Herod, whom Rome made king, was both Jew and alien.

The period of the Maccabees, which ended in 39 bc with the removal of Antigonus by the Romans in favor of Herod, began 168 bc with Judas. Antipater, who had been appointed procurator of Judea in 47, was assassinated in 43 bc. The period of the Seleucids stretches from its close with the regency of Antiochus VII in 128 back to its founder, Seleucus, 312 bc. The most notable of these monarchs from the Jewish point of view was Antiochus Epiphanes, who reigned from 175 to 164, and in 168 gave occasion to the rise of the Maccabees by his many acts of impiety and oppression, particularly the desecration of the Jerusalem temple. In 203 bc Antiochus the Great, who had become king of Syria in 223, took Jerusalem, and later, in 198, annexed Judea to Syria. Previous to this Judea had been an Egyptian dependency, as after the death of Alexander the Great, 323 bc, and the division of his empire, it had been annexed by Ptolemy Soter to Egypt. Ptolemy Philadelphus, becoming king 280 bc, encouraged the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the result being the Septuagint version, and all it meant by way of preparation for the spread of Christianity. Alexander's defeat of Darius III, or Codomannus, at Arbela in 331 brought the Persian empire to an end, fulfilling the long-cherished ambition of the Greeks for mastery of Asia. The long reign of the Biblical king of Persia, Artaxerxes Longimanus, extended from 465 to 424 bc, and in reaching his reign we find ourselves in the region of the Old Testament history. Reversing the order of this brief review and setting out from Old Testament point of view, we have the following table for the centuries between the Testaments:

Death of Artaxerxes I, and succession of Darius II


Accession of Darius III, last of Pers. Monarchs


Alexander succeeds Philip as king of Macedonia


Alexander visits Jerusalem


Battle of Arbela and overthrow of Persia


Death of Alexander and division of his empire


Ptolemy Soter attaches Judaea to Egypt


Seleucid era begins with accession of Seleucus I


Ptolemy Philadelphus reigns in Egypt


Traditional date of beginning of Septuagint version

cir 250

Antiochus the Great, king of Syria


He annexes Judaea to Syria


Antiochus Epiphanes ascends the throne


He makes Jason high priest, removing Onias


Desecration of Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes


Resistance of Mattathias and rise of Maccabees


Judas Maccabaeus victorious


Judas dies, succeeded by Jonathan


Jonathan slain, succeeded by Simon


Simon becomes high priest


Succeeded by John Hyrcanus


Aristobulus I becomes high priest


Alexander Jannaeus


Jerusalem taken by Pompey


Antipater appointed procurator of Judaea


Antipater murdered


Antigonus, last Maccabean, put on throne


Slain by Herod, who becomes king of Judaea


Augustus made Roman emperor


Restoration of Temple begun


Birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem

cir 5

Death of Herod the Great


III. Persian Period

Entering now the last period of Old Testament history, which may be called the Persian period, we find that the activities of Ezra, Nehemiah and other Jewish leaders are dated by the regnal years of the kings of Persia (e.g.  Haggai 1:1;  Zechariah 1:1;  Ezra 1:1;  Nehemiah 2:1 ); and consequently the difficulties in the chronology of this period are not great. Recently a fanciful effort has been made to place the events narrated in Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah in the time of the Babylonian Captivity, claiming Scripture warrant from the occurrence of these names, with Mordecai, in  Ezra 2:2 and   Nehemiah 7:7; but altogether without success (see Prince of Judah , or Days of Nehemiah Redated ). These names were doubtless of common occurrence, and their appearance among those returning with Zerubbabel is not sufficient to affect the historical evidence for the accepted dates of Ezra and Nehemiah. The attempt to move back these dates into the 6th century, to associate Nehemiah with Daniel and Mordecai and to place his work before Zerubbabel may be dismissed as pure fancy and impossible of reconciliation with the Old Testament narrative.

Artaxerxes I began his reign, which gives date to Ezra and Nehemiah, in 465 bc. In his 7th year, 458, Ezra went from Babylon to Jerusalem by the king's decree ( Ezra 7:7 ), taking back with him the vessels of the Temple and much besides for the worship at Jerusalem, accompanied also by a great company of returning Jews. Nehemiah followed from Shushan in the 20th year of the king ( Nehemiah 1:1 ), having heard of and being distressed by the partial failure of Ezra's efforts. Under his wise and courageous leadershi p, the city walls were speedily restored, and many reforms accomplished. He returned after twelve years (433) to the service of the king in Shushan ( Nehemiah 13:6 ), but in a short time, hearing evil tidings from Jerusalem, went back to complete his reforms, and apparently spent the rest of his life in that work. Although the Bible is silent, such is the testimony of Josephus. The Book of Mal, reflecting the difficulties and evils of this time, is evidently to be placed here, but not with exactness, as it might hav e been written as early as 460 or as late as 420.

The period from the return under Ezra (458) back to the completion of the Temple in the reign of Darius I (516) is, with the exception of incidental references and the assignment of undated books and incidents, practically a blank. Here belong, we believe, the Book of Esther, possibly Mal, some of the Psalms, and those social and religious tendencies among the returned exiles, which made the vigorous reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah so necessary. But the Old Testament does not draw the curtain from the mystery of that half-century, that we may know the happenings and watch the development. Beyond this blank we come again to explicit dates. The second temple, begun with the Return under Zerubbabel, was completed in the 6th year of Darius, i.e. 516. The building of it, which had been early abandoned for selfish reasons, was resumed in the 2nd year of Darius under the exhortation of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah ( Haggai 1:1;  Zechariah 1:1 ). Darius the Great began his reign in 521. Cambyses succeeded Cyrus in 527. Babyl on was taken by the Persians in 538, and shortly after the Jews, under the edict of Cyrus, began their return to Jerusalem, reaching their destination by 536 at the latest. Cyrus overthrew Lydia in 545, the Medes five years earlier, and must have come to the Persian throne not later than 555. His conquest of Asia Minor opened the contest between Persia and Greece for supremacy, to be continued by Darius and. Xerxes, resulting finally at Arbela (331) in Greek triumph under Alexander, and the inauguration of a new age.

The table for the Persian period of Old Testament history, following the stream upward, is therefore as follows:

Death of Nehemiah

cir 400

Death of Artaxerxes I


Nehemiah comes second time to Jerusalem


Nehemiah returns to Persia ( Nehemiah 13:6 )


First coming of Nehemiah and repairing of walls


Book of Malachi, possibly

cir 450

Return of Ezra and his company


Accession of Artaxerxes I


Events of Book of Esther

cir 480

Accession of Xerxes (Ahasuerus)


Defeat of Darius at Marathon


Completion of the Temple


Ministry of Haggai and Zechariah


Darius Hystaspis becomes king


Death of Cyrus and accession of Cambyses


Arrival of Jews in Jerusalem under edict of Cyrus


Capture of Babylon by Persians


Croesus of Lydia defeated by Cyrus


Persia and Media united

cir 550

Supremacy of Cyrus over Elam and Persia

cir 556

Birth of Cyrus, supposed to be in


IV. Babylonian Period

Just preceding the Persian is the Babylonian period of Old Testament chronology, overlapping, of course, the former, and finally superseded by it in Cyrus' conquest of Babylonia. This period may properly be said to begin with the death in 626 bc of Ashurbanipal, the last great ruler of Assyria. At this time Nabopolassar had been made governor of Babylonia, subject to the supremacy of Assyria. With Ashurbanipal's death Nabopolassar became independent sovereign of Babylonia , and shortly entered into league with the Medes to overthrow the rule of Assyria, and then to divide its empire between them. This was accomplished in the fall of Nineveh (606) which brought the end of the mighty Assyrian empire, the last king being Sinsharishkun (the historic Saracus), a son of Ashurbanipal. Some years before his death in 604 Nabopolassar associated with him on the throne of Babylonia his son Nebuchadnezzar, most illustrious ruler of the new Babylonian empire, and intimately connected with the history of Judah in the last years of that kingdom. His long reign came to an end in 562.

While the conflict, which brought Assyria to its end, and the attendant confusion, were absorbing the attention of Mesopotamian countries, Egypt under a new and virile dynasty was reviving her ambitions and intrigues for dominion in Asia. Pharaoh-necoh II taking advantage of the confusion and helplessness of Assyria invaded Palestine in 609, intending to march on through Palestine to attack Mesopotamia. King Josiah in loyalty to his Assyrian overlord opposed him, but was defeated and slain at the battle of Megiddo, after a reign of 31 years; apparently an unnecessary and foolish opposition on Josiah's part, as the plan of Necoh's march shows that Judah was not directly affected. After the victory at Megiddo, Necoh continued his march north-eastward, subduing Syria and hoping to have a hand in Mesopotamian affairs. But in 606 or 607 bc he was defeated at Carchemish and driven back to Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, fresh from victory over Nineveh. In the same year Nebuchadnezzar marched against Egypt, receiving the submission of Jerusalem as he passed through Palestine, and sending noble hostages back to Babylon, among whom were Daniel and his three friends. The death of his father and his endangered succession recalled Nebuchadnezzar suddenly to Babylon, where he became sole ruler in 604. It appears that Necoh must have returned to Egypt after Megiddo and before the battle of Carchemish, as he made Jehoiakim, king in place of Jehoahaz, whom he carried captive to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar's victory at Carchemish and his march southward brought Judah in close relations with Babylon, and opened up the dramatic chapter of Jerusalem's fall and exile. These historic events fix the dates of the last kings and the closing incidents of the kingdom of Judah, as shown in the following table:

Fall of Babylon and death of Belshazzar


Co-regency of Belshazzar with his father ( Daniel 8:1 )


Accession of Nabonidus, father of Belshazzar


Death of Nebuchadnezzar, and succession of Evil-Merodach


Jehoiachin released from prison ( Jeremiah 52:31 )


Last dated prophecy of Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 40:1 )


Murder of Gedaliah and flight of Jews to Egypt


Fall of Jerusalem and Third Deportation


Beginning of Ezekiel's prophetic activity ( Ezekiel 1:1 )


Accession of Zedekiah, last king of Judah


Brief reign of Jehoiachin, his removal to Babylon; Second Deportation of captives including Ezekiel


Revolt and death of Jehoiakim; invasion of Nebuchadnezzar


Death of Nabopolassar and accession of Nebuchadnezzar


Nebuchadnezzar invades Palestine; First Deportation, including Daniel


Battle of Carchemish and route of Necoh


Fall of Nineveh


Jehoiakim made king by Necho


Death of Josiah and brief rein of Jehoahaz


Accession of Pharaoh Necho


Nabopolassar, king of Babylon on death of Asshurbanipal


V. Assyrian Period and Judah After Fall of Samaria

This section, which may for convenience be treated as a division, is the chronology of Judah under Assyria after the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 721. As the Scripture time-references are frequent and explicit, and the contemporaneous Assyrian records are full, and explicit also, the problems of this period are neither many nor insoluble. One difficulty is found in the fact that the aggregate years of the reigns of Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon and Josiah fall one or two years short of the period between Hezekiah's accession in 726 and Josiah's death in 609. But there is evidence of anarchical conditions at the close of Amon's reign ( 2 Kings 21:23 ,  2 Kings 21:14 ), and it is probable that at least a year should be counted for the interregnum. The chief difficulty is with the invasions of Sennacherib in Hezekiah's reign. The confusion is caused by the apparent dating of Sennacherib's famous and disastrous invasion of 701 in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign (  2 Kings 18:13 ). Various attempts reconciliation have been made; one attempt has been to place the beginning of Hezekiah's reign in 715, which is out of the question entirely, as it disregards the exact terms in which the beginning of his reign is placed before the fall of Samaria ( 2 Kings 18:10 ). Another suggestion has been that "24th" be read instead of "14th"; but this is pure conjecture. There is a simple and satisfactory solution: in the chapters which contain the record (2 Ki 18 and Isa 36) it is evident that two invasions are described. Frequently in the Scriptures records are topical rather than chronological, and just so in this instance the topic is Sennacherib's menace of Judah, and the ultimate deliverance by Yahweh. The story includes two invasions: the first in the 14th year of Hezekiah (713) when Sennacherib led the armies of his father Sargon, the end of which, so far as Jerusalem was concerned, was the payment of tribute by Hezekiah, as is accurately stated in   2 Kings 18:16 . The second invasion, the description of which begins with the following verse (  2 Kings 18:17 ), was the more serious, and is probably identified as that of 701, when Sennacherib had become king. The necessary insertion of a paragraph indicator between  2 Kings 18:16 and   2 Kings 18:17 satisfies every demand for harmony.

From 609 bc, the year of Josiah's death, we count back 31 years to the beginning Of his reign in 639; he attained his majority in the 8th year (632;  2 Chronicles 34:3 ); the reformation in his 12th year, at the time of the Scythian irruption, would fall in 628 ( 2 Chronicles 34:3 ); in the following year Jeremiah began to prophecy; and in Josiah's 18th year (621) the temple was cleansed and the Book of the Law found ( 2 Chronicles 34:8 ). Allowing a year of confusion, Amon began his short reign in 642, and Manasseh his long reign of 55 years in 697, Hezekiah's reign of 29 years dating back to 726. Some fixed important dates of contemporaneous history are: death of Ashurbanipal, Assyria's last great king, in 626, with the consequent independence of Babylon and beginning of the 2nd Babylonian empire. Ashurbanipal's long reign began in 668 on the death of his father Esarhaddon; who succeeded his father Sennacherib in 681. Sargon usurped the Assyrian throne in 722, and died in 705. Shalmaneser IV, successor of Tiglath-pileser III, r eigned for the brief space between 727 and 722. In Egypt the 25th, or Ethiopian Dynasty, was in power from circa 720 to 667, two of its kings, So and Tirhakah, having mention in the Old Testament ( 2 Kings 17:4;  2 Kings 19:9;  Isaiah 37:9 ), and after this the 26th (a native) Dynasty appeared, Pharaoh-necoh being one of its kings. The dates of this period we may summarize in the following table:

Death of Josiah after reign of 31 years


Pharaoh-necho begins to reign


Josiah purifies Temple; Book of the Law found


Death of Asshurbanipal, and revival of Babylon


Jeremiah enters upon his ministry


Reformation in 12th year of Josiah


Scythian invasion of Western Asia

cir 630

Majority of Josiah; good beginning of actual reign


Josiah proclaimed king at 8 years of age


Assassination of Amon; ensuing confusion


Death of Manasseh


Manasseh carried to Babylon

cir 650

Asshurbanipal succeeds Esarhaddon


Esarhaddon invades Egypt


Probable settlement of foreigners in Samaria


Assassination of Sennacherib


Death of Isaiah, probably about


Death of Hezekiah and accession of Mannaseh


Sennacherib's campaign against Egypt, siege of Jerusalem, and his disastrous rout


Sargon dies and Sennacherib succeeds


Embassy of Merodach-baladan to Hezekiah


Sickness of Hezekiah


First invasion of Palestine by Sennacherib

cir 713

Sabako, or So, is king of Egypt


Palestine invaded by Sargon; Ashdod taken ( Isaiah 20:1 )


Fall of Samaria; end of Northern Kingdom


Sargon takes Assyrian throne


Revolt of Hoshea, and siege of Samaria begun


Hezekiah's reign begins


Shalmanezer IV succeeds Tiglath-pileser III


VI. Period of Divided Kingdom

The most complex, but most interesting, problems of Old Testament chronology are found in the period of the Divided Kingdom. In the literature of this period are found larger number of dates and historical references than in that of any other. We have the assistance of several important sources and factors in arranging these dates: (1) The parallel records of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah serve as checks to each other, since the accession and death of the kings in each nation are fixed by reference to reigns of those of the other. Many other events are similarly related. (2) The history of the two kingdoms, or parts of it, at least, is given in three parallel authorities: the Books of Kings, of Chronicles, and of the Prophets. (3) The Assyrian records are fullest and are practically continuous in this period, the limu lists extending unbroken from 893 to 650 bc.

1. Causes of Variation in Systems

But while this apparently should be the most satisfactory field for the chronologist, it has been found impossible to arrive at anything approaching certainty, and consequently there is considerable divergence among individuals and schools. One cause of variation is the difference between the Assyrian royal lists and the total of the Old Testament numbers for this period, the Old Testament aggregate being 51 years greater then the Assyrian lists. Two common methods of harmonizing this difference have been adopted: (1) to accept the Old Testament aggregate as correct and to assume that the 51 years have been omitted from the Assyrian lists (see W. J. Beecher, Dated Events of Old Testament , 18, 19); (2) to harmonize the Old Testament numbers with the Assyrian lists by taking into account the overlapping of reigns of kings who were, for brief periods, associated on the throne. Instances of such overlapping are the co-regency of Uzziah and Jotham in Judah ( 2 Kings 15:5 ), and possibly the reign of Pekah contemporaneously with Menahem and Pekahiah in Israel (2 Ki 23-28). The latter method yields the most satisfactory results, and will be adopted in this article. The chief point of difference will be the age of Solomon and the foundation-laying of the Temple. This may be found according to the former method by adding 51 years to the dates as given below. That the method of following the aggregate of the Old Testament numbers must assume arbitrarily that there have been omissions from the Assyrian lists, and that it also must resort to some overlapping and justment of the numbers as they are given in the text, are sufficient reasons against its adoption. And in meeting the difficulties of this period it should always be borne in mind that the Old Testament is not a book of annals merely, and that dates are given not for any special interest in them, but to correlate and emphasize events. Ordinarily dates are given with reference to local situations and contemporary persons, and not as fixed by some great epoch-marking event; e.g. Uzziah's reign is fixed not with reference to the Disrupti on nor the Temple building, but by relation to his Israelite contemporary, Jeroboam II.

2. Some Important and Pivotal Dates

However, there are some fixed dates, which are so by reason of their international significance, and upon these we may rest with reasonable assurance. Such are the fall of Samaria (721 bc); the accession of Tiglath-pileser III (745); tribute paid to Shalmaneser II by Jehu in 842, and by Ahab, or one of his dynasty, in 854; and the invasion of Judah by Pharaoh-shishak in the fifth year of Rehoboam ( 1 Kings 14:25 ). There are also certain coincident dates, fixed with fair accuracy, in the parallel history of the two kingdoms, which serve both as starting-points and as checks upon each other. The most prominent of these are: the beginning of Hezekiah's reign, 5 years before the fall of Samaria ( 2 Kings 18:10 ); the synchronism of the reigns of Jeroboam II and Jotham ( 1 Chronicles 5:17 ), Jotham's accession being used as a basis of calculation for the reigns of Israelite kings ( 2 Kings 15:30 ); the coincidence of the end of the Omri Dynasty and the death of Ahaziah, king of Judah (2 Ki 9), Jehu and Athaliah therefore beginning their reigns at the same time; and, primarily, the division of the kingdom and the synchronous beginning of the reigns of Jeroboam I and Rehoboam. Using these fixed dates and coincidences, we must find the summaries of the reigns of Israelite and Jewish kings between 721, the 9th year of Hoshea and the 6th of Hezekiah, and 843, the beginning of the reigns of Jehu add Athaliah, to be 122 years each; and likewise the summaries from 843 back to the Disruption to be the same.

3. Difficulties to Be Removed

The most serious difficulties are found near the end of the period, when conditions in the Northern Kingdom were becoming anarchical, and, also evident co-regencies, the extent of which is not evident, occurred in the Southern Kingdom. Pekah is said to have reigned 20 years ( 2 Kings 15:27 ); and yet Menahem paid tribute to Assyria in 738, and he was succeeded for two years by his son Pekahiah, from whom Pekah seized the kingdom. This would allow Pekah only 6 years of sovereignty. The explanation lies in the context: in the confusion which followed the death of Jeroboam, Pekah established his authority over the section east of the Jordan, and to that year the numbers in  2 Kings 15:27 ,  2 Kings 15:32;  2 Kings 16:1 refer. Uzziah was leprous the last 16 years of his life, and Jotham his son was over the kingdom (  2 Kings 15:5 ). The length of Jotham's reign was just 16 years, not additional to the 16 of the co-regency, as this would result in the absurdity of making him co-regent at the age of 9 years ( 2 Kings 15:33 ). Therefore nearly his whole reign is included in the 52 years of his father. For some reason Ahaz was associated with his father Jotham before the death of the latter, since the 16 years of his reign plus the 5 of Hezekiah before the fall of Samaria bring his accession before the death of Uzziah and Jotham, i.e. in 741. So that for approximately 6 years the three reigns were contemporaneous. That these 6 years may not be accounted for by a co-regency with Hezekiah at the other end of Ahaz' reign is evident from the age of Hezekiah at his accession ( 2 Kings 18:2 ), and from the radical difference in the policy of the two kings.  2 Kings 7:1 may suggest that Uzziah and Jotham died about the same time, and that Ahaz was regarded as succeeding both directly.

Another difficulty is found at the beginning of Uzziah's reign, where he is said to have succeeded his father Amaziah at the age of 16, but is also said to have accomplished certain notable things after his father's death ( 2 Kings 14:21 ,  2 Kings 14:22 ). Evidently, then, he became king before the death of Amaziah. When did this co-regency begin? No better time is suggested than Amaziah's ignominious defeat by Jehoash of Israel in the 15th year of his reign, after which the people arose and put Uzziah in his place, Amaziah living on for 15 years ( 2 Kings 14:17 ), so that 15 of Amaziah's 29 years were contemporaneous with Uzziah. Further, in the last years of Joash of Judah there may have been a co-regency, since he was "very sick" in those years ( 2 Chronicles 24:25 ). Thus the totals of 146 years for the reigns of the kings of Israel and of 165 for the reigns of the kings of Judah between 721 and 842 are reduced to the actual 121 by the overlappings, which are suggested in the narrative itself.

4. Overlappings

For the first division of this period, from the rise of Jehu, circa 843, to the division of the kingdom, the totals of the reigns of the kings of Israel is 98 years, and of the kings of Judah is 95. But there must be some overlappings. The interval between Ahab and Jehu, as shown by mention of them in the Assyrian records, is 12 years; but the two sons of Ahab reigned 14 years, Ahaziah 2 and Jehoram 12. Evidently the last year of Ahab, in which came the defeat at Karkar, was the 1st of Ahaziah, and the 2nd of Ahaziah, who suffered in that year serious accident ( 2 Kings 1:2 ), was the first of Jehoram. It is probable that the long reign of Asa closed with Jehoshaphat as co-regent ( 1 Kings 15:23 ), so the above totals of both kingdoms must be reduced to some extent, probably to 90 years, and the disruption of the kingdom placed about 933 bc. Shishak, founder of the 22nd Dynasty, invaded Palestine in the 5th year of Rehoboam ( 1 Kings 14:25 ), and in, or shortly before, the 21st year of his own reign, so that he must have bec ome sovereign of Egypt about 950 bc. Jeroboam fled to Egypt after Solomon had reigned more than 20 years, as is shown by the connection of Jeroboam with the building of Millo; and so Jeroboam's flight must have been about the beginning of Shishak's reign. This is in accord with the Old Testament records, since the hostile Shishak Dynasty must have arisen in the reign of Solomon, the dynasty which was ruling at the beginning of his reign having been in alliance with him. So we place the accession of Shishak about 950, his invasion of Judah in 929, and the Disruption in 933 bc.

An interesting instance of co-regency in this period is that of Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, for while Ahaziah of Israel began to reign in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:51 ) and died in the 2nd year of Jehoram ( 2 Kings 1:17 ), the year of his death was also the 18th of Jehoshaphat, so that the father and son reigned together about 5 years. It is evident also that Jehoshaphat ruled before his father's death, as the total of his reign is counted from the co-regency's beginning ( 1 Kings 22:41 ), but certain events are dated from his sole reign on the death of Asa ( 1 Kings 22:51;  2 Kings 3:1 ). It is probable that the 6 years of Athaliah were included in the 40 years of the reign of Joash, the legitimate king. The age of his son, Amaziah, at his accession ( 2 Chronicles 25:1 ) does not operate against this probability, since the precocious Jewish sovereigns attained their majority at 15 years of age (compare  2 Chronicles 34:3 ). The co-regency for 2 years of Joash and Amaziah ( 2 Chronicles 24:25 ) brings the aggregate years of the reigns of the kings of both kingdoms down to the accession of Jeroboam II, three years before Uzziah's accession, into exact accord. Finally, the difference of three years in the totals of reigns in the two kingdoms from Jehu' to the Disruption is explained by the fact that in Israel the first year of a king was coincident with the last of his predecessor, whereas in Judah, certainly at the beginning of this period, the first year of a king followed the death of his predecessor; e.g. while Asa began to reign in the 20th year of Jeroboam ( 1 Kings 15:9 ), Jeroboam, who reigned 22 years, died three years later in the second year of Asa (  1 Kings 15:25 ). Observation of this principle in the accessions of the first three kings after Jeroboam removes the difference, the long numbers of the reign of Asa being found to corroborate. The preceding table will illustrate these facts of the records, as harmonizing the dates of the two contemporaneous kingdoms.

VII. From the Disruption to the Exodus

The period now to be considered extends from the disruption of the kingdom back to the Exodus. The reasons for combining the Biblical events within these widely separated dates into one period of such length are evident, namely, (1) The regular sequence of the history; (2) The occurrence of comprehensive numbers for the period as a whole, e.g.  Judges 11:26 and   1 Kings 6:1; the chronological data of the Book of Judges, which lead directly up to the developments in the time of the united kingdom, e.g. the narrative of Ruth preparing the way for the reign of David. Characteristic of this period is the frequent occurrence of the general numbers 80, 40 and 20, which are not necessarily to be taken always as exact, but possibly at times indicating a round, or generation, number. In order to get the time limits of this period, it is necessary to count back 37 years from the end of Solomon's reign in 933 bc, and this brings us to that epoch-marking event, the laying of the foundations of the Temple in 969 or 970, the 4th year of his reign ( 1 Kings 6:1 ); and from this event we are brought by the addition of the comprehensive number 479, given in the same verse, back to the year of the Exodus, approximately 1448 bc, making the total length of the period about 516 years.

Indications of Overlapping

But the addition of the numbers given for the various reigns and administrations of the period yields a total which is much greater than 516, and therefore one must seek in the text indications of overlapping, which will bring the narrative into harmony with itself. The reigns of Solomon ( 1 Kings 11:42 ), David ( 1 Kings 2:11 ) and Saul ( Acts 13:21 ), are given as 40 years each; and here there may be some overlapping, Solomon, e.g. becoming king before David's death ( 1 Kings 1:43-48 ). We are rather surprised to find that there is no statement of the length of Samuel's ministry, such as its important place in the national life would lead us to expect. The probable reason for this is that his life was paralleled largely by the reign of Saul and the administration of Eli. A period of 40 years is assigned to Eli ( 1 Samuel 4:18 ); the aggregate of numbers given for the Judges is 410 years; Joshua ruled for 40 years ( Judges 2:8 ); and finally the wilderness wanderings covered another 40-year period. The sum total of all these numbers is 670 - far beyond the comprehensive reckonings of  Judges 11:26;  1 Kings 6:1 , and  Acts 13:19 . It is evident from  Judges 10:7 ,  Judges 10:8;  Judges 13:1 that the periods of Ammonite and Philistine oppression were either contemporaneous or very near together, and therefore that the comprehensive number, 300 years, of   Judges 11:26 , reaches from the entrance into Canaan under Joshua down to the age of Samson, as well as of Jephthah. The administrations of Ibzan, Elon and Abdon ( Judges 12:8-13 ) should then be regarded as practically synchronous with Jephthah and Samson, and the number of their years should, in part at least, be left out of account. The numbers from Samson and Eli to Solomon are approximately fixed, 20 to Samson, 40 to Eli, 40 to Saul and 40 to David; and their total accords with the 300 before Jephthah, and the 40 of wilderness wanderings in making up the grand total ( 1 Kings 6:1 ) from Solomon to the Exodus. This proportion before and after Jephthah, or Samson, and the Philistine oppression, approximately 330 and 150 yea rs, is in agreement with the genealogies of Rth 4:18-22;  1 Samuel 14:3;  1 Samuel 22:9; 1 Ch 2; 6; 24. The shortening therefore of the excessive aggregate of 670 years must be sought in the records from Samson back to Joshua. Assuming that the oppressions may be synchronous with the administrations of preceding or succeeding judges, that Abimelech's abortive attempt to become king (Jdg 9) should be included in Gideon's 40 years, and that parallelings are possible in the three judges just after Jephthah ( Judges 12:8-13 ) and the two just before ( Judges 10:1-5 ), it is possible to bring the detailed time-references of the Books of Jdg into satisfactory agreement with the comprehensive numbers. That the period of the Judges is shorter than the aggregate of the numbers assigned to each is further indicated by the manner in which the brief narratives at the end of the book - the migration of the Danites, the sin and punishment of Benjamin - and the Book of Ruth, bring the earlier generations into close touch with the later; compare the genealogy of David (Rth 4:18-22).

The preceding table (p. 641) shows the dates of events according to the longer reckoning, and also according to the suggested shortening by taking into account the possible synchronisms. It should be remembered that these figures are not indisputable, but merely tentative and suggestive.

VIII. From the Exodus to Birth of Abraham

The period of Old Testament chronology now to receive our attention is that which extends from the Exodus in circa 1448 bc back to the call and migration of Abraham. This may be called the period of the patriarchal wanderings, the formative or infancy period of the nation, and therefore of the highest interest historically and religiously. But it is not possible to fix its dates with indisputable accuracy, since, with rare exceptions, the events of the Old Testament record are not related in their narration to eras or definite persons of the contemporary nations; and since also the chronology of these nations is much in dispute among historians and archaeologists, with variations of hundreds of years.

Main Points at Issue

The chief points at issue here for determination of the chronological problems are the time of the Exodus, the duration of Israel's sojourn in Egypt and the date of H̬ammurabi . Considering these in their order: (1) As to the Exodus, opinions have been divided among the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties as the time of the Oppression and Exodus of Israel, and there are plausible arguments for, and serious objections to, each of these periods. When all things have been considered it seems best to fix upon the 18th Dynasty as the age of the Oppression and Exodus, Thothmes III as the Pharaoh of the Oppression, and the years immediately following his death as the time of the Exodus, for the following reasons: ( a ) This is in harmony with the time-reckoning from the Temple of Solomon back to the Exodus ( 1 Kings 6:1 ), and fully satisfies the Biblical numbers for the intervening period, as shown above; while either later dynastic period would necessitate either unnatural cramping or ruthless rejection of the Biblical numbers. To place the Exodus so late as Ramses III, after 1200 bc, is in the light of the Biblical reckoning an evident absurdity. ( b ) In the 18th Dynasty we can look best for the Pharaoh "that knew not Joseph," as it was the leader of this dynasty, Ahmes I, who conquered and drove out the Hyksos, and left to his followers as a legacy cordial hatred of the Asiatics. ( c ) Thothmes III was a great builder, and the heavy tasks of the Hebrews would fit well into his reign. He was also the champion of Amon, the god of Thebes, having been a priest of that god; therefore the religious significance of the Exodus and the struggle preceding it were most natural in his age. ( d ) An inscription of Menephthah, son of Ramses II, indicates that Israel was in Palestine in his time, therefore he could not have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus, nor his father the oppressor. ( e ) The objection that Pharaohs of the 19th and 20th dynasties invaded and claimed sovereignty over Palestine is of little consequenc e, since these invasions usually involved only the sea-plain, and any city or district might secure immunity and maintain its status quo by payment of tribute. In later centuries many foreign invasions swept through Israel without disturbing the national integrity. As for the objection that the cities Ramses and Pithom indicate the age of Ramses II, it is altogether probable that they were built long before his time, and only restored by him. For these reasons the earlier date is assigned to the Exodus. (2) Whether the duration of the sojourn in Egypt was 430 or 215 years will depend upon the interpretation of the comprehensive 430, or roundly 400, which is of frequent occurrence in the Bible as indicating the extent of the period of the Hebrews' wanderings among, and oppression by, the nations (  Genesis 15:13;  Exodus 12:40;  Acts 7:6;  Galatians 3:17 ). These passages have been, and may properly be, interpreted as indicating the time of the actual sojourn in Egypt, or the time from the entrance of Abraham into Canaan to the Exodus. Modern archaeological discoveries and the logical conclusions from them, our better knowledge of the history and conditions of contemporaneous Egypt, the shortening of the Hyksos period, as by Meyer, Mahler and Breasted, and the acceptance of a later date for H̬ammurabi , all seem to favor the shorter, or 215-year, view of the sojourn. The remaining 215 years cover the period from Jacob's descent into Egypt back to the migration of Abraham. The shorter period is adopted here for the reasons alread y given; but by the addition of 215 the dates from the death of Joseph backward may be conformed to theory of the longer period. (3) Accepting the almost universal and well-grounded judgment that the Amraphel of Gen 14 is the famous H̬ammurabi of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty, we should have assistance in determining the date of his Biblical contemporary Abraham, if the opinions of scholars about the age of H̬ammurabi were not so divergent. Goodspeed ( A History of the Babylonians and Assyria .) places his reign at 2297-2254 bc; Hommel (art. on "Babylonia," HDB ) fixes the probable date at 1772-1717, an astonishing divergence of 500 years, and suggestive of the spend-thrift manner in which chronologists are accustomed to dispose of the past ages of man. The difference in this instance is caused by the disposition of the 2nd Babylonian Dynasty, Goodspeed making its more than 360 years follow the H̬ammurabi Dynasty, and adding the years of the two; Hommel on the other hand regarding the 2nd, or Southern, Dynasty as contemporaneous with the 1st, or Northern. But it is more probable that the truth lies between these extremes, since the 2nd Dynasty must have had some independent standing, and must have ruled alone for a time, in order to secure consideration as a dynasty. This moderate reckoning is now commonly adopted, Breasted placing H̬ammurabi at 1900 bc, Davis (in DB ) about 1975, and Pinches (in Murray's Illus. B. Dict .) later than 2000 bc. It is in accord with the Bible numbers, as the following table shows,

IX. From Abraham to the Creation.

One other general period of Old Testament chronology remains for consideration:

from the age of Abraham back to the creation of the world, about which in the nature of the case there can be no absolute certainty, and in which there is neither reason nor need for inflexible accuracy. The system, or succession, of numbers in the early chapters of Ge (Genesis 5 and Genesis 11:10-26) has given rise, in the effort to explain these numbers, to several theories.

(1) The literal interpretation, the best known advocate of which was Archbishop Ussher (died 1656), whose literal arrangement was introduced into the margin of the King James Version after his death. This theory takes the birth- and death-numbers just as they are, and by addition of the time intervals between the birth of the various patriarchs, together with Adam's age at the birth of Seth, shows that 1,656 years elapsed from the Creation to the Flood, and 290 years from the Flood to Abraham's birth, accor ding to the Massoretic Text. But it must be apparent at the very outset, that, on the most liberal arrangement of the numbers and the most conservative geological and anthropological estimate, this reckoning is not sufficiently long to satisfy the known facts of the age of the earth, of the life of man upon the earth, and of established historic dates. Even the conservative system of Professor Breasted (Ancient Egypt) places the first certain date of Egyptian history, namely, the introduction of the Sothic calendar, as early as