Tag Archives: Bible Chronology

The Bible’s 4000 years from Creation to the New Israel

A 4000 year year span which terminates at the re-dedication of the Temple in 164 bce has been worked into the chronology of Old Testament literature. 4000 years had significance beyond the biblical texts, too. I will give the ancient sources for that at the end. This data has significance for when the Bible’s books were still subject to editing, or even creation, before settling into the canonical versions we use today.

Event

Year (from creation)

Historical year

Span

Adam 1
Birth of Abraham 1946 1945
Call of Abraham 2021 75
Entrance into Egypt 2236 215
Exodus from Egypt 2666  (two thirds of total span)
430
Solomon’s Temple 3146 480
Jerusalem besieged / Exile to Babylon 3576 588 bce 430
Edict of Cyrus 3626 538 bce 50
Rededication of Temple 4000 164 bce 374

This covers a neat 10 generations from Adam to the Flood

  1. Adam
  2. Seth
  3. Enosh
  4. Kenan
  5. Mahalalel
  6. Jared
  7. Enoch
  8. Methuselah
  9. Lamech
  10. Noah

and another 10 generations from the Flood to the father of Abraham

  1. Shem
  2. Arpachshad
  3. Kenan
  4. Shelah
  5. Eber
  6. Peleg
  7. Reu
  8. Serug
  9. Nahor
  10. Terah

Abraham was called by God when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:4)

Call of Abraham to the entry of Israel into Egypt was 215 years

From Abraham’s call to the birth of Isaac was 25 years, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, and Jacob 130 years old when he entered Egypt (25 + 60 + 130 = 215 years)

Entry into Egypt to the Exodus and birth of Israel was 430 years

(Exodus 12:40).

Exodus to the beginning of the building of Solomon’s temple was 480 years

(1 Kings 6:1).

Abraham’s birth to the foundation of the Temple was 1200 years

Or 12 generations of the round 100 years each. (There are several remnants throughout the Bible of the idea of a post-Flood generation being a round 100 years, such as Genesis 15:13-16 where 4 generations are given 400 years.)

Foundation of the Temple to the destruction of Jerusalem was 430 years

(Ezekiel 4:5-6)

Destruction of the Temple to the (legendary) edict of Cyrus to return of Israel was 50 years.

(Jeremiah speaks of a 70 year captivity, but the chronology was constructed at a time when there was no canonical bible and Jeremiah’s book did not figure in the calculation.)

Return of Israel to the rededication of the Temple was 374 years

The odd-number out to complete the “Great Year” of 4000 years.

And the point of all this is?

read more »

The Pattern of Years of Judah’s Kings

From Memories of Ancient Israel: An Introduction to Biblical History — Ancient and Modern, by Philip R. Davies. . . . . .

1 and 2 Kings detail corresponding years of ascensions and deaths between kings of the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, and the lengths of reigns of each. The refrain goes like this:

In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 15:1-2)

It’s all very precise. So we can be confident that the authors were not speaking in rough generalizations when they said David ruled for 40 years as did his son Solomon. Their interest in detailed matching informs us that they were interested in precision. So we can accept that when they said 40 years they meant literally 40, not some vague “generation”.

But the scribes who authored and edited these books never expected a generation would come when every Tom, Dick and Harriette would have a cheap copy and spare pen and paper and the ability to take time to work out the details of how the reigns looked in a nice chart or table.

Probably most bible-buffs have tried it and found there are problems. When one plots on paper the years each king came to power in relation to his neighbouring dynasty, and the length of each reign, there are gaps. The figures don’t add up.

Take the king Amaziah and his successor Azariah (also called Uzziah for some reason left unexplained):

In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 14:1-2)

Joash of Israel happened to reign for 16 years (2 Kings 13:10) and was succeeded by Jeroboam II. Jeroboam’s 27th year is said to be the starting year of Azariah (see the 2 Kings 15 citation above). But if Azariah’s father reigned 29 years from the second year of Joash’s 16 year reign, then Azariah should have begun his reign around Jeroboam’s 15th year. But no, we are told in 2 Kings 15:1-2 that it began in Jeroboam’s 27th year.

There is a gap of twelve years here. No king seems to have ruled Judah in the twelve years between Amaziah’s death and Azariah’s ascension.

So an easy solution is commonly applied to explain such discrepancies. Co-regencies. If we can juggle the figures so that certain reigns overlap, and certain ascension years are really the years a prince began ruling with his father before assuming sole authority. That can be done to make the figures work out. But the trouble with this as a solution is that there is no evidence that Israel and Judah had any custom of co-regency. It is simply a made up ad hoc guess. (The precise numerical details applied by the authors would, moreover, suggest that they were conveying precise times and years, and were not likely to be so slapdash as to omit vital details like co-regency data if it did exist. Further, texts such as 2 Kings 8:16 and 15:5 are shown on close examination not to point to co-regency as is sometimes casually — wishfully? — assumed.)

There is another very strange detail in the chronology of the kings:

Saul was a year old when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over Israel. (1 Sam.13:1)

“This is what the canonical (Masoretic) Hebrew text says.” (p.22)  Other manuscript evidence either omits it or attempts to re-write it into something more intelligible.

But when we add the total years of the kings of Judah as given in the sometimes seemingly gap-ridden narrative, we come a step towards understanding what the authors/redactors of these figures were thinking.

When totalled, the period from the building to the destruction of the first temple is 430 years.

By keeping Saul’s reign short as writ, the period from the Exodus to the first temple is 480 years.

Most readers of the Bible are familiar with these numbers. But what is their significance in the larger scheme of things?

Counting back from the Exodus to the birth of Abraham we total 720 years, hence 1200 years from the birth of Abraham to the First Temple.

But to cut to the chase (with an acknowledged debt to Thompson):

Creation to the Flood: 1656 years

Creation to the birth of Abraham: 1946 years

Creation to the Exodus: 2666 years (= two thirds of 4000)

Creation to the First Temple: 3146 years

Creation to the destruction of temple: 3576 years

Creation to the edict of Cyrus (538 b.c.e.) to build second temple: 3626 years

and finally finally, by adding a “remaining” 375 years . . .

Creation to the rededication of the temple (163 b.c.e.) by Judas Maccabee: 4000 years

(The Book of Jeremiah contains a different chronology from this one, since it assigns 70 years of exile instead of 50. There is evidence that different schools of redactors have attempted to introduce varying chronologies.)

The artificial design of the numbers of kings and their reigns in the biblical history is further underscored by the fact that

The books of Kings list twenty kings after Solomon in each of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Now, the kingdom of Judah lasted over a century longer than Israel, which makes this equivalence very curious, not to say suspicious. (p.26)

(Davies also observes that in each dynasty it was “coincidentally” the 7th reign that introduces an evil woman.)

The Meaning of Biblical Chronology

From Genesis through to 2 Kings and the prophet Ezekiel are many nice round numbers tying together the world’s and Israel’s major events. And when they are added up they point to the rededication of the Temple under Judas Maccabeus.

They therefore imply a prophecy that this event, from which the Jewish nation could be said to be reborn, was ordained from the beginning of time. Creation itself could be inferred to have had its fulfilment in this rebirth of Israel.

The figures also mean that the editing (if not composition) of some of the biblical books happened as late as 164 b.c.e. read more »