The English word “chronology” comes from the Greek khro·no·lo·giʹa (from khroʹnos, time, and leʹgein, to say or tell), that is, “the computation of time.” Chronology makes possible the placing of events in their orderly sequence or association and the assigning of proper dates to particular events.
Jehovah is the “Ancient of Days” and the God of Eternity. (Dan. 7:9; Ps. 90:2; 93:2) That he is an accurate Timekeeper is evident, not only from the superb precision manifest in the movements of the stellar bodies, but also from the divine record of his acts. In fulfillment of his promises or prophecies, he caused events to occur at the exact time foretold, whether the intervening time was of only a day (Ex. 9:5, 6), a year (Gen. 17:21; 18:14; 21:1, 2; 2 Ki. 4:16, 17), decades (Num. 14:34; 2 Chron. 36:20-23; Dan. 9:2), centuries (Gen. 12:4, 7; 15:13-16; Ex. 12:40, 41; Gal. 3:17), or millenniums (Luke 21:24; see APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS). We are assured that his purposes for the future are certain of execution at the predetermined time, right down to the day and hour designated.—Hab. 2:3; Matt. 24:36.
God purposed that man, made in his Creator’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), should measure the flow of time. The Bible early states that the “luminaries in the expanse of the heavens” were to serve in making “a division between the day and the night; and . . . as signs and for seasons and for days and years.” (Gen. 1:14, 15; Ps. 104:19) (A discussion of the way in which these divisions have been observed since the beginning of man’s history may be found under the headings CALENDAR; DAY; MOON; WEEK; YEAR.) Human reckoning and recording of time periods has continued from Adam’s day till the present hour.—Gen. 5:1, 3-5.
Accurate chronology requires that some point in the stream of time be set as the marker from which to count either forward or backward in time units (such as hours, days, months, years). That starting point could be simply the sunrise (for measuring the hours of a day), or a new moon (for measuring the days of a month), or the start of the spring season (for measuring the span of a year). For counting longer periods, men have resorted to the establishing of a particular “era,” using some outstanding event as their starting point from which to measure periods of many years. Thus, in nations of Christendom, when a person says that ‘today is October 1, 1969 C.E. (Common Era),’ he means that ‘today is the first day of the tenth month of the one thousand nine hundred and sixty-ninth year counting from what was believed by some to be the time of the birth of Jesus.’
Such use of an era in secular history is of rather late inception. The Greek era, supposedly the earliest secular case of such chronological reckoning, apparently was not put into practice until about the fourth century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). The Greeks figured time by means of four-year periods called “Olympiads,” starting from the first Olympiad, calculated as beginning in 776 B.C.E. Additionally, they often identified specific years by referring to the term of office of some particular official. The Romans eventually established an era, reckoning the years from the traditional date of the founding of the city of Rome (753 B.C.E.). They also designated specific years by reference to the names of two consuls holding office in that year. It was not until the sixth century C.E. that a monk named Dionysius Exiguus calculated what is now popularly known as the “Christian Era,” or, more correctly, “Common Era.” Among the Mohammedan (Islamic) peoples the years are dated from the Hegira (Mohammed’s flight from Mecca in 622 C.E.). The early Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians, however, give no evidence of having used such an era system consistently over any considerable period of time.
As to the Biblical record, no one era arrangement is expressly set forth as the starting point by which all events are thereafter dated. This of itself does not mean that no “timetable” existed for assigning to past events their specific and correct location in the stream of time. The fact that the Bible writers, when relating particular events, could cite precise figures involving periods of several centuries demonstrates that chronological interest was not lacking among the people of Israel or their ancestors. Thus, Moses could write that “it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years [counting here from the time of Abraham’s entry into the land of Canaan and God’s establishment of his covenant with him], it even came about on this very day that all the armies of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12:41; see EXODUS; compare Galatians 3:16, 17.) Again, at 1 Kings 6:1, the record states that it was “in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out from the land of Egypt” that King Solomon began to construct the temple at Jerusalem. Still, neither the establishing of the Abrahamic covenant nor the Exodus came to be commonly used as the start of an era in recording other events.
Chronological factors in the Bible, therefore, should not be expected to conform exactly to modern systems whereby all events are mathematically dated in relation to one fixed point in the past, such as the start of the Common Era. More often, events were located in the stream of time in much the same way as people do naturally in everyday life. Just as today one might fix an event by saying it took place “the year after the drought,” or “five years after World War II,” so the Bible writers related the events they recorded to relatively current time markers.
A definite conclusion cannot be reached for some chronological points, since we do not always know precisely the starting point or time marker used by the Bible writer. Then, too, a writer might use more than one such starting point to date events during the course of treating a certain historical period. (See the section on the period “From the division of the kingdom to the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah.”) This variation in starting points does not imply vagueness or confusion on the part of the writer; we cannot properly judge his methods simply on the basis of our own opinion as to the proper way of recording events based on present-day procedures. And while copyists’ errors could be involved in some of the more difficult points, to assume these where no sound evidence exists in the form of variant readings in ancient manuscript copies of the Scriptures is not wise. The evidence already at hand convincingly demonstrates the remarkable accuracy and care that distinguished the copying of the Bible books, resulting in the preservation of their internal integrity.—See MANUSCRIPTS OF THE BIBLE; SCRIBE.
BIBLE CHRONOLOGY AND SECULAR HISTORY
Concern is often expressed over the need to “harmonize” or “reconcile” the Biblical account with the chronology found in ancient secular records. Since truth is that which conforms to fact or reality, such coordinating would indeed be vital—if the ancient secular records could be demonstrated to be unequivocally exact and consistently reliable, hence a standard of accuracy by which to judge. Since the Biblical chronology has so often been represented by critics as inferior to that of the pagan nations, it is worth while to examine some of the ancient records of nations and peoples whose activities and life touch on and connect with the people and events recorded in the Bible.
The Bible is a historical book, preeminently so among ancient writings. The histories of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians and others are, in the main, fragmentary, their earlier periods either obscure or, as presented by them, obviously mythical. Thus, the ancient document known as “The Sumerian King List” begins: “When kingship was lowered from heaven, kingship was (first) in Eridu. (In) Eridu, A-lulim (became) king and ruled 28,800 years. Alalgar ruled 36,000 years. Two kings (thus) ruled it for 64,800 years. . . . (In) Bad-tibira, En-men-lu-Anna ruled 43,200 years; Enmen-gal-Anna ruled 28,800 years; the god Dumu-zi, a shepherd, ruled 36,000 years. Three kings (thus) ruled it for 108,000 years.”
What is known from secular sources of these ancient nations has been laboriously pieced together from bits of information obtained from monuments and tablets or from the later writings of the so-called “classical” historiographers of the Greek and Roman period. While archaeologists have recovered tens of thousands of clay tablets bearing Assyro-Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions, as well as large numbers of papyrus scrolls from Egypt, the vast majority of these are religious texts or business documents consisting of contracts, bills of sale, deeds, and similar matter. The considerably smaller number of historical writings of the pagan nations, preserved either in the form of tablets, cylinders, stelae or monumental inscriptions, consist chiefly of material glorifying their emperors and recounting their military campaigns in grandiose terms.
The Bible, by contrast, gives an unusually coherent and detailed history stretching through some four thousand years, for it not only records events with remarkable continuity from man’s beginning down to the time of Nehemiah’s governorship in the fifth century B.C.E., but it may also be considered as providing a basic coverage of the period between Nehemiah and the time of Jesus and his apostles by means of Daniel’s prophecy (history written in advance) at Daniel chapter 11. The Bible presents a graphic and true-to-life account of the nation of Israel from its birth onward, portraying with candor its strength and its weaknesses, its successes and its failures, its right worship and its false worship, its blessings and its adverse judgments and calamities. While this honesty alone does not ensure accurate chronology, it does give sound basis for confidence in the integrity of the Biblical writers and their sincere concern for recording truth.
Detailed records were manifestly available to Bible chroniclers, such as the writers of First and Second Kings and of First and Second Chronicles. This is seen by the lengthy genealogies they were able to compile, amounting to many hundreds of names; also the connected and factual presentation of the reigns of each of the kings of Judah and Israel, including their relations with other nations and with one another. Modern historians still express uncertainty as to the correct positioning of certain Assyrian and Babylonian kings, even some in the later dynasties. But there is no such uncertainty regarding the sequence of the kings of Judah and Israel.
There are references to the “book of the Wars of Jehovah” (Num. 21:14, 15), the “book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Israel” (1 Ki. 14:19; 2 Ki. 15:31), the “book of the affairs of the days of the kings of Judah” (1 Ki. 15:23; 2 Ki. 24:5), the “book of the affairs of Solomon” (1 Ki. 11:41), as well as the fourteen or more references to similar annals or official records cited by Ezra and Nehemiah. These show that the data set down was not based upon mere remembrance or oral tradition but was carefully researched and fully documented. Governmental records of other nations are also cited by the Biblical historians, even as some portions of the Bible were written in lands outside of Palestine, including Egypt, Babylon and Persia.—See BOOK; ESTHER, BOOR OF; EZRA, BOOK OF.
A factor that doubtless contributed toward an accurate count of the passage of years, at least to the extent that the Israelites faithfully kept the Mosaic law, was their observance of sabbatical years and Jubilee years, thereby dividing the time up into seven-year and fifty-year periods.—Lev. 25:2-5, 8-16, 25-31.
Particularly distinguishing the Biblical record from the contemporaneous writings of the pagan nations is the sense, not only of the past and the present, but also of the future, that runs through its pages. (Dan. 2:28; 7:22; 8:18, 19; Mark 1:15; Rev. 22:10) The unique prophetic element made chronological accuracy a matter of far greater importance to the Israelites than to any of the pagan nations, because the prophecies often involved specific time periods. As God’s Book, the Bible stresses his punctuality in carrying out his word (Ezek. 12:27, 28; Gal. 4:4) and shows that accurate prophecies were proof of his Godship.—Isa. 41:21-26; 48:3-7.
True, some of the non-Biblical documents are several centuries older than the oldest manuscript copies of the Bible thus far discovered. Engraved in stone or inscribed in clay, the ancient pagan documents may seem very impressive, but this does not ensure their correctness and freedom from falsehood. Not the material but the writer, his purpose, his respect for truth, his devotion to righteous principles—these are the important factors that give sound basis for confidence, in chronological as well as other matters. The great age of the secular documents is certainly outweighed by the vastly inferior quality of their contents when compared with the Bible. Because the Bible records were evidently made on perishable materials, such as papyrus and vellum, their continued use and the deteriorating effect of weather conditions in much of Palestine (different from the extraordinarily dry climate of Egypt) may well explain the absence of extant original copies today. Yet, because it is Jehovah’s inspired Book, the Bible has been carefully copied and preserved in full form until today. (1 Pet. 1:24, 25; see WRITING.) Divine inspiration, by which the Bible historians were able to set down their records, assures the reliability of Bible chronology.—2 Pet. 1:19-21.
Well illustrating why secular histories do not qualify as the standard of accuracy by which to judge Bible chronology is this statement by archaeological writer C. W. Ceram, commenting on the modern science of historical dating: “Anyone approaching the study of ancient history for the first time must be impressed by the positive way modern historians date events which took place thousands of years ago. In the course of further study this wonder will, if anything, increase. For as we examine the sources of ancient history we see how scanty, inaccurate, or downright false, the records were even at the time they were first written. And poor as they originally were, they are poorer still as they have come down to us: half destroyed by the tooth of time or by the carelessness and rough usage of men.” He further describes the framework of chronological history as a “purely hypothetical structure, and one which threatens to come apart at every joint.”—The Secret of the Hittites, 1955, pp. 133, 134.
This evaluation may seem extreme, but, as regards the secular records, it is not without basis. The information that follows will make clear why there is no reason to feel doubt about the accuracy of the Biblical chronology simply because certain secular records are at variance with it. To the contrary, it is only when the secular chronology harmonizes with the Biblical record that one may rightly feel a measure of confidence in such ancient secular dating. When considering the records of these pagan nations that had relations with the nation of Israel, it should be kept in mind that some of the apparent discrepancies in their records may simply be due to the inability of modern historians to interpret correctly the methods anciently used, similar to their inability to interpret correctly the methods used by the Biblical historians. There is, however, considerable evidence of definite carelessness and inaccuracy or even of deliberate falsification on the part of the pagan historians and chronologers.
Egyptian history meshes with that of Israel at various points. In this volume we show the date 1728 B.C.E. for Israel’s entry into Egypt, and for the Exodus, 215 years later, 1513 B.C.E. Pharaoh Shishak’s attack on Jerusalem came during Rehoboam’s fifth year in 993/992; King So of Egypt was contemporary with Hoshea’s reign (c. 758-740); and Pharaoh Necho’s battle resulting in Josiah’s death came c. 629. (1 Ki. 14:25; 2 Ki. 17:4; 2 Chron. 35:20-24) The difference between the above dates and those generally assigned by modern historians amounts to as much as a century or more for the Exodus and then narrows down to about twenty years by Pharaoh Necho’s time. The following information shows why we prefer to hold to the chronology based on the Biblical reckoning.
Sources of Egyptian chronology
Modern historians rely principally on certain documents in the form of Egyptian king lists or annals. Among these are: the fragmentary Palermo Stone, presenting what are considered to be the first five “dynasties” of Egyptian history; the Turin Papyrus, very fragmentary and giving a list of kings and their reigns from the “Old Kingdom” into the “New Kingdom”; and additional inscriptions in stone, likewise fragmentary. These separate lists and other independent inscriptions have been coordinated in chronological order by means of the writings of Manetho, an Egyptian priest of the third century B.C.E. His works, dealing with Egyptian history and religion, arrange the reigns of the Egyptian monarchs into thirty-one dynasties, an arrangement still used by modern Egyptologists.
These sources, together with astronomical calculations, based on Egyptian texts dealing with lunar phases and the rising of the Dog Star (Sothis), have been used to produce a chronological table. It begins with the “Predynastic Cultures” (placed by modern historians at about 3000 B.C.E. to 2850 B.C.E.), and assigns Dynasties I to VI to the period of c. 2850-2200 B.C.E., Dynasties VII to XII c. 2200-1786 B.C.E.; Dynasties XIII to XX c. 1786-1085 B.C.E., and Dynasties XXI to XXXI c. 1085-332 B.C.E.
Problems and weaknesses of Egyptian chronology
These are multiple. The works of Manetho, used to give order to the fragmentary lists and other inscriptions, are preserved only in the writings of later historians, such as Josephus (first century C.E.), Sextus Julius Africanus (third century C.E., hence over five hundred years from Manetho’s time), Eusebius (fourth century C.E.), and Syncellus (late eighth or early ninth century C.E.). As stated by Professor W. G. Waddell, their quotations of Manetho’s writings are fragmentary and often distorted and hence “it is extremely difficult to reach certainty in regard to what is authentic Manetho and what is spurious or corrupt.” After showing that Manetho’s source material included some unhistorical traditions and legends which “introduced kings as their heroes, without regard to chronological order,” he says: “. . . there were many errors in Manetho’s work from the very beginning: all are not due to the perversions of scribes and revisers. Many of the lengths of reigns have been found impossible: in some cases the names and the sequence of kings as given by Manetho have proved untenable in the light of monumental evidence.”—Manetho, 1940, pp. vii, xvii, xx, xxi, xxv.
The probability that concurrent reigns rather than successive reigns are responsible for many of Manetho’s excessively long periods is shown in the book Studies in Egyptian Chronology (T. Nicklin, 1928-29, p. 39): “The Manethonian Dynasties are not lists of rulers over all Egypt, but lists partly of more or less independent princes, partly of princely lines from which later sprang rulers over all Egypt.” Professor Waddell (pp. 1-9) observes that “perhaps several Egyptian kings ruled at one and the same time; . . . thus it was not a succession of kings occupying the throne one after the other, but several kings reigning at the same time in different regions. Hence arose the great total number of years.”
Since the Bible points to the year 2370 B.C.E. as the date of the global Flood, Egyptian history must have begun after that date. The problems in Egyptian chronology shown above are doubtless responsible for the figures advanced by modern historians who would run Egyptian history all the way back to the year 3000 B.C.E.
Illustrating the unreliability of the quotations from Manetho made by ancient writers is this example: For a certain Egyptian period, Syncellus quotes figures from Africanus (who, in turn, quoted from Manetho) which figures Syncellus says total 253 years. By actual count they total 263 years. Syncellus then gives figures from Eusebius (based on Manetho), that he says total 252 years; but the figures actually total 258 years. Then, the Armenian version of Eusebius gives figures for the same period with the “Total for the dynasty, 252 years,” but the actual figures add up to only 228 years. These discrepancies led Egyptologist T. E. Peet to say: “The astonishing variations between their figures are an eloquent testimony to what may happen to numbers in a few centuries through textual corruption.”—Egypt and the Old Testament, 1922, p. 25f.
Greater confidence is placed by Egyptologists in the ancient inscriptions themselves. Yet, the carefulness, truthfulness and moral integrity of the Egyptian scribes are by no means above suspicion. As Professor J. A. Wilson states (The World History of the Jewish People, 1964, Vol. One, “At the Dawn of Civilization,” pp. 280, 281): “A warning should be issued about the precise historical value of Egyptian inscriptions. That was a world of . . . divine myths and miracles.” Then after suggesting that the scribes were not above juggling the chronology of events to add praise to the particular monarch in power, he says: “The historian will accept his data at face value, unless there is a clear reason for distrust; but he must be ready to modify his acceptance as soon as new materials put the previous interpretation in a new light.”
Absence of information concerning Israel in Egyptian records
This is not surprising since the Egyptians not only refused to record matters uncomplimentary to themselves, but were also not above effacing records of a previous monarch if the information in such records proved distasteful to the then reigning pharaoh. Thus, after the death of Queen Hatshepsut, Thutmose III had her name and representations chiseled out of the monumental reliefs. This practice doubtless explains why there is no known Egyptian record of the 215 years of Israelite residence in Egypt or of their Exodus.
The pharaoh ruling at the time of the Exodus is not named in the Bible; hence, efforts to identify him are based on conjecture. This partly explains why modern historians’ calculations of the date of the Exodus vary from 1441 B.C.E. to 1225 B.C.E., a difference of over 200 years. Similarly, Egyptologists differ greatly on the date for the supposed unification of Egypt by King Menes, the following dates having been advanced by the authorities listed: Champollion, 5867 B.C.E.; Mariette, 5004; Lauth, 4157; Lepsius, 3892; Breasted, 3400; Meyer, 3180; Wilkinson, 2320; Palmer, 2224. The date presently popular among historians is about 2900 B.C.E. It is apparent that Egyptian chronology is still in a state of flux.—See EGYPT, EGYPTIAN; EXODUS.
From the time of Shalmaneser III (early part of first millennium B.C.E.), Assyrian inscriptions mention contacts with the Israelites, at times naming certain kings of Judah and Israel. The Assyrian inscriptions include “display” inscriptions, such as are found on the walls of palaces; royal annals; “king lists,” such as that from Khorsabad; and the limmu or eponym lists, described later. While acknowledging considerable uncertainty for Assyrian chronology during the second millennium B.C.E., historians claim they can make chronological calculations to the very year for the period from 911 to 649 B.C.E., primarily on the basis of the eponym lists. They endeavor to make the Biblical chronology conform to their interpretation of the Assyrian records for that period. Their confidence gives the impression that the Assyrians produced the chronologers par excellence of the ancient world. Logically, one might expect to find a consistent concern for accuracy by the Assyrian scribes in their treatment of all historical events, and not alone in matter of dates. Such accuracy would be essential for a correct synchronization of the reigns of the Assyrian kings with those of Judah and Israel or of other nations. But, as will be seen, this is hardly the case.
Evaluation of Assyrian “display” inscriptions and annals
Professor A. T. E. Olmstead, until his death in 1945 one of the foremost authorities on the ancient Near East, showed the dubious nature of Assyrian historical writings in general. In his Assyrian Historiography (University of Missouri Studies, Social Science Series, Vol. III, pp. 5, 6) he described the Assyrian “display” inscriptions as follows: “We may . . . use the Display inscription to fill gaps in the Annals [royal chronicles listing events annually], but it has not the slightest authority when it disagrees with its original.” After showing that the main purpose of these display inscriptions was not the giving of a connected history of the reign, he adds: “Equally serious is it that they rarely have a chronological order. . . . That they are to be used with caution is obvious.”
Of the annals, he says: “We have here a regular chronology, and if errors, intentional or otherwise, can sometimes be found, the relative chronology at least is generally correct. . . . But it would be a great mistake to assume that the annals are always trustworthy. Earlier historians have too generally accepted their statements unless they had definite proof of inaccuracy. In the past few years, there has been discovered a mass of new material which we may use for the criticism of the Sargonide documents. . . . Add to this the references in foreign sources such as Hebrew or Babylonian, and we hardly need internal study to convince us that the annals are far from reliable.”
To this may be added the testimony of Professor D. D. Luckenbill (Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Vol. I, p. 7): “One soon discovers that the accurate portrayal of events as they took place, year by year during the king’s reign, was not the guiding motive of the royal scribes. At times the different campaigns seem to have been shifted about without any apparent reason, but more often it is clear that royal vanity demanded playing fast and loose with historical accuracy.”
The royal annals usually went through a series of editions as the king’s reign progressed. Later editions presented new events, but they also seem to have juggled the facts and figures of the previous years to suit the king’s fancy. Professor Olmstead makes reference to the “cool taking by [Ashurbanipal] of bit after bit of the last two Egyptian campaigns of his father until in the final edition there is nothing that he has not claimed for himself.”—Assyrian Historiography, pp. 7, 8.
Examples of such evident unreliability, deliberate or otherwise, could be multiplied many times over. The compilers of “tribute lists” were not above listing a vassal king as paying tribute even though other records showed him to be dead at the time. George Smith, in the Assyrian Eponym Canon (p. 179), after citing an instance where the same tribute list of Esar-haddon is credited to his son Ashurbanipal thirteen years later, says that this later list is “most probably a literal copy of the earlier document, without any attempt to ascertain if these kings were still reigning, and if they really paid tribute.”
It seems evident that either the Assyrian records and dating methods are misunderstood by modern historians or else there is strong evidence of carelessness, dishonesty and simple confusion in the display inscriptions, annals and other records.
Eponym (limmu) lists
Despite the above evidence, modern chronologers generally hold that the eponym or limmu lists somehow escaped any such corruption so as to be virtually impeccable in their freedom from error. These eponym lists are simply lists of officials’ names and ranks or lists of such names accompanied by some brief mention of a warring campaign or other noteworthy event. For example, one section of the eponym list reads:
Bel-harran-bel-usur (governor) of against Damascus
Shalmaneser took his seat
on the throne
Marduk-bel-usur (governor) of in the land
Mahde (governor) of against [Samaria]
Assur-ishmeani (governor) of against [Samaria]
Shalmaneser king of Assyria against [Samaria]
From this it can be seen that no actual dates are given, but it is considered that each name represents a year, thereby apparently allowing for a year-by-year count. Since the names of Assyrian kings appear in these eponym lists, historians count the names from one king to the next to determine the length of a king’s reign, comparing this count with whatever figures are obtainable from Assyrian “king lists.”
Modern historians endeavor to synchronize Assyrian and Biblical history by means of these eponym lists, particularly for the period from 911 to 649 B.C.E., to which they assign the names or eponyms on the lists. For a pivotal point, they rely on the reference to an eclipse of the sun mentioned in an entry opposite the name of a certain Pur-Sagale, governor of Gozan. The eclipse was in the month of Sivan (May-June) and historians generally fix it as taking place on June 15, 763 B.C.E. The reliability of this date, and the synchronization of Assyrian history with that of Judah and Israel they base on it, will be discussed later under the heading “Astronomical Calculations.”
We here discuss the reliability of the chronology based on the eponym lists themselves, however, since difficulties result in attempting to harmonize it with the Bible’s account of contacts between the Assyrian Empire and the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Thus, in this volume we show King Menahem of Israel as ruling from c. 791 to c. 780 B.C.E. and Judean King Ahaz’ reign as counting from 761 to 745 B.C.E. Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) exacted tribute from Menahem and was bribed by Ahaz. (2 Ki. 15:19, 20; 16:7, 8) But Assyriologists today, using the eponym lists, generally place Tiglath-pileser’s reign at 744-727 B.C.E. Similarly, their dates for the fall of Samaria and Sennacherib’s attack on Judah in Hezekiah’s fourteenth year differ from our dates by twenty to thirty years.—2 Ki. 17:3-6; 18:9-13.
Due to the extremely reduced amount of information involved in the eponym lists (as compared with the annals and other inscriptions), it is obvious that the means for discovering error is considerably diminished. When apparent contradictions are found between the eponym lists and the annals, such as the placing of a certain campaign in a different year of a king’s reign or during a different eponymy, the modern historians usually charge the error to the annals rather than to the eponym lists. Yet, even with regard to the so-called Assyrian “synchronistic history,” a famous tablet containing a terse account of the relations between Assyria and Babylonia during a period of centuries, no such claim for positive accuracy is made. Professor Olmstead, after presenting evidence to show that this document is only a copy of an earlier “display inscription,” says: “So we can consider our document not even a history in the true sense of the word, merely an inscription erected to the glory of Ashur [Assyria’s chief god] and of his people, . . . When we take this view, we are no longer troubled by the numerous mistakes, even to the order of the kings, which so greatly reduce the value of the document where its testimony is most needed.”—Assyrian Historiography, p. 32.
Claim is made for great regularity in the eponym arrangement as a whole, with a set order being used in listing the eponyms (officials), starting with the king and, in succeeding years, listing such officials as the “field marshal,” “chief cupbearer,” “high chamberlain,” respectively as succeeding eponyms. Investigation, however, shows that this order is not consistently followed and that in later periods, from the rule of Sargon onward, the high officials no longer appear in the lists by these titles, and, after the rule of Sennacherib, even the names of new kings are not listed.
Not only this, but the modern historians do not hold consistently to the view that the length of a king’s reign can be determined by counting the number of eponyms from his name to that of the following king. They say that Shalmaneser V ruled only five years. Yet the number of eponyms counting from the record of his ‘taking his seat on the throne’ to the name of his successor (Sargon) is eight. This they explain by saying that Sargon departed from the regular arrangement and had himself declared eponym in his third regnal year instead of his first. Likewise, historians today credit Sargon with a rule of seventeen years, yet the number of eponyms listed counting from Sargon’s name to that of his successor (Sennacherib) is thirty-two. So, in addition to the exception already made in Sargon’s case, the historians say that Sennacherib departed even farther from the general rule and waited until his eighteenth year of rule to declare himself eponym!
It should be clear that such variable arrangement as is apparent in the eponym lists would make it extremely difficult for modern scholars to arrive at an exact chronology, especially when the compilation of data covering several centuries was done by scribes to whom care and historical accuracy apparently meant so little. It is also evident that the modern historians feel justified in ‘adjusting’ or overruling the count of the Assyrian eponym lists when other factors or evidence make such action advisable.
The above information points to the conclusion that Assyrian historiography either is not correctly understood by modern historians or is of very low caliber. In either case, we do not feel compelled to attempt to ‘coordinate’ the Biblical chronology with history as presented in the Assyrian records. Therefore, in our chart we show only the more definite synchronisms between Assyria and Israel and Judah as indicated in the Bible account.
Babylon enters the Biblical picture principally from the time of Nebuchadnezzar onward. The reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s father Nabopolassar marked the start of what is called the Neo-Babylonian Empire; it ended with the reigns of Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar and the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. This period is of great interest to Bible scholars since it embraces the time of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the greater part of the seventy-year period of Jewish exile.
Jeremiah 52:28 says that in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar) the first group of Jewish exiles was taken to Babylon. In harmony with this, a cuneiform inscription of the Babylonian Chronicle (B.M. 21946) states: “In the seventh year, the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king [Jehoiachin]. He appointed there a king of his own choice [Zedekiah], received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon.” (Compare 2 Kings 24:1-17; 2 Chronicles 36:5-10.) However, for the final thirty-three years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign no historical records have been found, aside from a fragmentary inscription of a campaign against Egypt in Nebuchadnezzar’s thirty-seventh year. Thus, there is no Babylonian account of the destruction of Jerusalem in Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year (Jer. 52:29; his nineteenth year if counting from his “accession year,” the year of his father’s death; compare 2 Kings 25:8-10). The Bible is the sole source of definite information on this event.
For Nebuchadnezzar’s son Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach, 2 Ki. 25:27, 28), tablets dated up to his second year of rule have been found but do not contain other information about him or his reign; so they give no indication as to how or when his reign actually ended. Similarly, for Neriglissar, considered to be the successor of Evil-merodach, only one strictly historical tablet of his reign; has been found, dated to his third year, although contract tablets are known dated to his fourth year.
What is thought to be a memorial written either for the mother or the grandmother of Nabonidus, gives some chronological information for this period, but many portions of the text are damaged. In the following translation of one section (taken from Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 311, 312), the words and figures in brackets represent the historian’s attempts at restoring the damaged parts of the text. To appreciate how truly fragmentary the text is, read it passing over these bracketed words and figures.
“[During the time from Ashurbanipal], the king of Assyria, [in] whose [rule] I was born—(to wit): [21 years] under Ashurbanipal, [4 years under Ashur]etillu-ilani, his son, [21 years under Nabupola]ssar, 43 years under Nebuchadnezzar, [2 years under Ewli-Merodach], 4 years under Neriglissar, [in summa 95 yea]rs, [the god was away] till Sin, the king of the gods, [remembered the temple] . . . of his [great] godhead, his clouded face [shone up], [and he listened] to my prayers, [forgot] the angry command [which he had given, and decided to return t]o the temple é·hul·hul, the temple, [the mansion,] his heart’s delight. [With regard to his impending return to] the [temp]le, Sin, the king of [the gods, said (to me)]: ‘Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, the son [of thy womb] [shall] make [me] en[ter/sit down (again)] in (to) the temple é·hul·hul!’ I care[fully]obeyed the orders which [Sin], the king of the gods, had pronounced (and therefore) I did see myself (how) Nabonidus, the king of Babylon, the offspring of my womb, reinstalled completely the forgotten rites of Sin.” Farther along in the text Nabonidus’ mother (or grandmother) is represented as crediting Sin with granting her long life “from the time of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, to the 6th year of Nabonidus, king of Babylon, the son of my womb, (that is) for 104 happy years.”
It can be seen that the only figures actually stated in the first part are the 43 years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and 4 years of Neriglissar’s reign. The text does not actually say that Neriglissar’s reign ended at 4 years. It could indicate merely that it was at this point in his reign that the alleged promise from the god Sin was given. At any rate, there is no definite way of knowing from this damaged text how far within the reign of Ashurbanipal the birth of Nabonidus’ mother (or grandmother) is supposed to have taken place, nor the length of the reigns of Ashur-etillu-ilani, Nabopolassar or Evil-merodach. So, this fragmentary text does little toward providing definite information for the chronology of this period. It does not mention Labashi-Marduk, who is acknowledged to have ruled between Neriglissar and Nabonidus. And, interestingly, the conjectured total of 95 years, supplied by the historian on the basis of Ptolemy’s canon, when added to the “6th year of Nabonidus” gives a total of 100 or at most 101 years instead of 104 years as stated in the text.
Due to the lack of information from Babylonian sources, modern historians base their chronology for the Neo-Babylonian Empire largely upon what is known as the canon of Ptolemy. Claudius Ptolemy lived in Egypt during the second century C.E., or over 600 years after the close of the Neo-Babylonian period. His canon assigns 21 years to the rule of Nabopolassar, 43 years to Nebuchadnezzar, 2 years to Evil-merodach, 4 years to Neriglissar, and 17 years to Nabonidus, or a total of 87 years. Counting back from Nisan of 538 B.C.E., historians therefore date Nabopolassar’s first year as beginning in 625 B.C.E, Nebuchadnezzar’s first year in 604, and the destruction of Jerusalem is placed by some in 586, by others in 587. These dates are some 20 years later than those presented in the chart accompanying this article (that is, 624 for Nebuchadnezzar’s first regnal year and 607 for the destruction of Jerusalem). This is because we accept the Biblical information, particularly as regards the seventy-year desolation of Judah (running from 607 to 537 B.C.E.), as accurate and as superior in reliability to the ancient secular records. In addition to the evidence already presented on the weaknesses manifest in the non-Biblical records, the following may be noted:
Ptolemy was not a historian and is known primarily for his works on astronomy and geography. As E. R. Thiele states. “Ptolemy’s canon was prepared primarily for astronomical, not historical, purposes. It did not pretend to give a complete list of all the rulers of either Babylon or Persia, nor the exact month or day of the beginning of their reigns, but it was a device which made possible the correct allocation into a broad chronological scheme of certain astronomical data which were then available.”—The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 1951, p. 293, ftn.
Even though Ptolemy’s geocentric theory (that is, that the earth is the center point around which the stars and planets revolve) was proved false by Copernicus’ time, modern historians generally credit Ptolemy with accuracy in his astronomical computations relating to certain historical dates.
Even though this be so and even though the reigns of the kings of Babylon and Persia as set forth in Ptolemy’s canon may be basically correct, there seems to be no reason for holding that the canon is necessarily accurate in every respect or for all periods. As has already been shown, Babylonian historical records that could either substantiate or undermine Ptolemy’s figures for the lengths of the reigns of certain kings are largely lacking. So, while it may be held that the date 607 B.C.E. used in this publication for Jerusalem’s destruction leaves a “gap” in the Babylonian chronology, it may be noted that secular historians who hold to a strict Ptolemaic reckoning also are obliged to try to explain a sizable gap of their own. This develops when they attempt to synchronize Assyrian and Babylonian history so as to arrive at the year 625 B.C.E. for the start of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Consider these points:
The Babylonian Chronicle (B.M. 21901) states that Nineveh, Assyria’s capital, fell to Babylonian forces in Nabopolassar’s fourteenth year. Following Ptolemy, the secular historians date Nineveh’s fall as in 612 B CE. However, on the basis of astronomical calculations, they also hold to the year 763 B.C.E. as an absolute date representing the ninth year of Assyrian King Assur-dan III. So, they should be able to count forward from that year and show that Assyrian rule at Nineveh did indeed extend down to 612 B.C.E. On the basis of eponym and king lists, as well as other tablets, they are able without great difficulty to reach as far as 668 B.C.E. (the year they assign for the start of the reign of King Ashurbanipal). But thereafter their efforts to make the chronological data (for Ashurbanipal and his successors) stretch sufficiently to reach 612 B.C.E. result in considerable confusion.
This can be seen from the fact that the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1959 edition, Vol. 2, p. 569) gives the reign of Ashurbanipal as from 668 to 625 B.C.E., then on page 851 of the same volume it gives the years of his reign as 669-630 B.C.E., and in Volume 5 of the same edition (p. 655) it lists them as “668-638 (?).” The 1965 edition of the same work says “669-630 or 626.” (Vol. 2, p. 573) Other suggested dates for the end of Ashurbanipal’s reign are: 633 (Bright), 631 (Roux), 629 (Oppenheim), c. 631-627 (Wiseman), 626 (Luckenbill; Davis-Gehman). (These dates are from the following works: A History of Israel, by John Bright, 1964, p. 293; Ancient Iraq, by Georges Roux, 1964, p. 273; The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1962, Vol. 1, p. 256; The New Bible Dictionary, 1962, p. 104; D. D. Luckenbill’s Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 1926, Vol. II, p. 442; The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, 1944, p. 48.)
Similarly, for the reign of Ashurbanipal’s successor Ashur-etillu-ilani the figures suggested by the above sources include: 633-629; 632-628; 631-630; 627-612; and 626-612. (Cuneiform tablets dated to this king’s fourth year have been found.) And for the reign of Sin-shar-ishkun, apparently the king at the time of Nineveh’s fall, the estimates in the same publications include: 629-612, 628-612, 627-612, 620-612. Thus, some historians would give Sin-shar-ishkun a rule of as much as eighteen years, whereas dated tablets have been found only up to his seventh year.
The above shows that modern historians are willing to exhibit much flexibility in order to hold to both the Ptolemaic chronology and their pivotal date of 763 B.C.E., even to the point of filling the existing gap by conjecturing a longer reign for these final rulers of the Assyrian Empire than the evidence at hand actually shows. As will be shown later, the Bible gives far stronger reason for holding to the year 607 B.C.E. as the date of the fall of Jerusalem.
In preparing his canon Ptolemy is thought to have used the writings of Berossus, believed to have been a Babylonian priest of the god Bel. In the third century B.C.E. he wrote a history of Babylon in the Greek language, evidently based on cuneiform records. Of his writings, Professor Olmstead said: “. . . only the merest fragments, abstracts, or traces, have come down to us. And the most important of these fragments have come down through a tradition almost without parallel. Today we must consult a modern Latin translation of an Armenian translation of the lost Greek original of the Chronicle of Eusebius, who borrowed in part from Alexander Polyhistor who borrowed from Berossus direct, in part from Abydenus who apparently borrowed from Juba who borrowed from Alexander Polyhistor and so from Berossus. To make a worse confusion, Eusebius has in some cases not recognized the fact that Abydenus is only a feeble echo of Polyhistor, and has quoted the accounts of each side by side! And this is not the worst. Although his Polyhistor account is in general to be preferred, Eusebius seems to have used a poor manuscript of that author.” (Assyrian Historiography, pp. 62, 63) Josephus, Jewish historian of the first century C.E., also claims that he quotes from Berossus. But it seems evident that chronological data supposedly from Berossus could hardly be considered conclusive. The Encyclopœdia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. 3, p. 100) says: “. . . his 8 postdiluvian dynasties are difficult to reconcile with the monuments, and the numbers attached to them are probably corrupt.”
Other factors allowing for differences
Casual students of ancient history often labor under the misconception that the cuneiform tablets (such as may have been used by Berossus) were always written at the same time or shortly after the events recorded on them. But, aside from the many cuneiform business documents that were truly contemporary, the Babylonian historical texts and even many astronomical texts often give evidence of being of a much later period. Thus, according to Assyriologist D. J. Wiseman, one portion of the so-called Babylonian Chronicle, covering the period from the rule of Nabunasir to Shamash-shum-ukin (a period dated by secular historians as from 747-648 B.C.E.), is “a copy made in the twenty-second year of Darius [footnote says: ‘I.e. 500-499 B.C. if Darius I’] from an older and damaged text.” (Chronicles of Chaldean Kings, p. 1) So this writing not only was separated from the events recorded on it by anywhere from 150 to 250 years, but it was also a copy of a defective earlier document, perhaps an original, perhaps not. Of the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle texts, covering the period from Nabopolassar to Nabonidus, the same author states: “The Neo-Babylonian Chronicle texts are written in a small script of a type which does not of itself allow any precise dating but which can mean that they were written from any time almost contemporary with the events themselves to the end of the Achaemenid rule.” This allows for the possibility that they were written as late as the close of the Persian Empire, which occurred in 331 B.C.E. some 200 years after the fall of Babylon. We have already seen that data, including numbers, can easily suffer change and even perversion at the hands of pagan scribes in the course of a few centuries.
In view of all these factors it is certainly not wise to insist that the traditional figures for the reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings be received as definite, nor that Ptolemy necessarily had access to reliable and accurate sources for all his dates. As against 2 years for Evil-merodach (in Ptolemy’s canon), Polyhistor gives him 12 years, and Josephus says 18 years. Syncellus, who is, however, far removed from the time, would give Nabonidus a rule of 34 years instead of 17.
Both the lack of contemporary historical records and the ease with which data could be altered definitely allow for the possibility that one or more of the Neo-Babylonian rulers had a longer reign than the Ptolemaic reckoning shows. The fact that no tablets have been discovered that would cover the later years of such reign cannot consistently be used as a strong argument against this possibility. There are cases of kings whose reigns come much farther along in the stream of time and for whom no such confirming tablets have been found. For example, for both Artaxerxes III (who, historians say, ruled for 21 years [358 to 338 B.C.E.]) and Arses (credited with a 2-year rule [338/37 to 336/35]) there is no known contemporary cuneiform evidence to help establish the length of their reigns.
In reality, historians do not know where to place certain Babylonian kings for whom records do exist. Professor A. W. Ahl (Outline of Persian History, 1922, p. 84) states: “On the Contract Tablets, found in Borsippa, appear the names of Babylonian kings which do not occur elsewhere. In all probability they belong to the last days of Darius I, extending into the first days of Xerxes I, as Ungnad conjectures.” Still, this remains only conjecture.
A number of important Biblical events took place during the Persian period: the fall of Babylon, followed by Cyrus’ release of the Jews and the end of the 70-year desolation of Judah; the reconstruction of the temple at Jerusalem, completed “in the sixth year of the reign of Darius [I, Persian]”; and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls by Nehemiah according to the decree given in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year.—2 Chron. 36:20-23; Ezra 3:8-10; 4:23, 24; 6:14, 15; Neh. 2:1, 7, 8.
As with much of the Neo-Babylonian period, chronology for the reigns of the kings of the Persian Empire is dependent largely on the Ptolemaic canon and also other “classical” sources. With some exceptions, it harmonizes well with the Biblical chronology. The date of 539 B.C.E. for the fall of Babylon can be arrived at not only by Ptolemy’s canon but by other sources as well. Historians such as Diodorus, Africanus and Eusebius show that Cyrus’ first year as king of Persia corresponded to Olympiad 55, year 1 (560/59 B.C.E.) while Cyrus’ last year is placed at Olympiad 62, year 2 (531/30 B.C.E.). Cuneiform tablets give Cyrus a rule of 9 years over Babylon, which would therefore substantiate the year 539 as the date of his conquest of Babylon.—Handbook of Biblical Chronology, by Jack Finegan, pp. 112, 168-170; Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.—A.D. 75, by Parker and Dubberstein, p. 14.
End of Xerxes’ rule and beginning of Artaxerxes’ reign
On this point there is a major difference between the generally accepted chronology and that which is presented in this publication. Following Ptolemy, historians credit Xerxes with a 21-year rule, from 486 to 465 B.C.E. His son Artaxerxes’ twentieth year (in which Nehemiah received the commission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its wall) is therefore placed at 445/444 B.C.E. (Neh. 2:1-11) On the basis of the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 and its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, as well as the testimony of several ancient historians, we hold to the date of 455 B.C.E. as the time of Nehemiah’s being commissioned. This would place the start of Artaxerxes’ rule at about 474 B.C.E. (See ARTAXERXES No. 3.) As to why the popular date of 465 B.C.E. for the end of Xerxes’ rule need not be considered as absolute, consider the following factors:
Dated commercial tablets or papyrus scrolls of the Persian period are relied upon to confirm the figures given by Ptolemy, since Persian inscriptions themselves do not give the length of the rules of the various kings. These tablets are “dated” in the sense that they refer to the year, month and day of a particular king’s rule, for example: “On the 18th of Paophi [the name of an Egyptian month], in the 4th year of Artaxerxes the king.” They are not dated in relation to an era covering several centuries.
A number of uncertainties, moreover, are involved in such dating method. In some cases the same name was used by more than one king. The example quoted in the previous paragraph is from a papyrus scroll found in Egypt and, along with the translation of this scroll, A. Cowley assigns it to the fourth year of Artaxerxes I. But in a footnote he says: “Probably Artaxerxes I. If it is Artaxerxes II the date will be 400 B.C. [that is, more than half a century later than the date first suggested].”—Jewish Documents of the Time of Ezra, 1919, p. 34.
The numeral sign is not very clear at times, due to the extreme age of the documents. This requires the historian to conjecture what number it represents. In the above-mentioned publication (p. 27) another papyrus scroll is presented as beginning with the phrase “On the 2nd day of the month Epiphi of the 27th year of King Darius,” and Cowley’s footnote says: “Darius I, since Darius II did not reign so long. Year 27 is more probable than 17.”
Dating methods could differ from one scribe to another, particularly so from country to country or city to city. This is strikingly illustrated in the case of Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the Persian Empire. Parker and Dubberstein’s Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.—A.D. 75 (p. 19) says on this: “Alexander was recognized [as king] in Egypt probably shortly after his invasion, late in 332 [B.C.E.]. He was recognized in Babylon after [the battle of] Gaugamela in October, 331. Cuneiform evidence for the period of Alexander is confused, since two systems of dating were used. One system reckoned year 1 of Alexander as beginning April 3, 330; the other counted from his Macedonian accession, with year 1 as 336, since Macedonian usage did not have an ‘accession year.’ The few dated business tablets are not decisive in determining contemporary practice.” This means that, under this system, a tablet dated to ‘year seven’ of Alexander’s reign and another dated to ‘year one’ of his reign could actually refer to the same year.
Another example of a double system of dating is found in Egypt (where Ptolemy lived), following its conquest by Persian King Cambyses. Similar to the case of Alexander, one system dated Cambyses’ first year from the time of the conquest of Egypt; the other dated it from the start of his Persian rule. Showing the result, Professor Parker says: “It can be seen, then, that any date falling in years 1-5 of Cambyses might be off three years, and other data must be used to determine it accurately.”—The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. LVIII, January-October, 1941, p. 301.
Coregencies also might affect dating methods. This is the usual explanation offered for the chronological problems involving records of Cyrus and his son Cambyses. Available history indicates that, shortly before the campaign that resulted in his death, Cyrus appointed Cambyses as official “king of Babylon,” while Cyrus himself continued as king over the entire Persian Empire (“king of lands”). Commenting on the apparent effect on such coregency, Waldo H. Dubberstein says that some scribes evidently now began to date documents to “year one of the combined reign begun officially on the first day of the year.” Then, when Cyrus died, documents began to be dated as to the “accession year of Cambyses, king of Babylon, king of Lands. Yet the confusion inaugurated by the unusual dual kingship continued, and some documents were still dated to the two rulers, or at Babylon still to Cambyses as king of Babylon.”—The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. LV, January-October, 1938, pp. 417-419.
This explanation of the apparently contradictory documents found for that period is, of course, only the author’s interpretation in attempting to harmonize matters; it may simply be a case of the dating methods not being understood today. Nevertheless, it shows the possibility that the regnal years of a king given on a certain tablet could actually date back to the time of his becoming coregent, rather than just to the time of his becoming sole ruler.
An artificially longer rule might be involved. That is, the king might want his rule to be dated as though having begun at an earlier date than was actually the case. Doctor Kraeling suggests that Amyrtaeus, who ruled Egypt after that country temporarily freed itself from Persian domination in the reign of Artaxerxes II, had his reign dated as though beginning two years earlier than it actually did (to correspond with the end of the reign of Darius II). (The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. XV, 1952, 3d quarter, p. 62) In a reverse direction, tablets were sometimes evidently dated to a king after his reign had ended. Of the reign of Kandalanu, who preceded Nabopolassar as king of Babylon, some tablets are dated as to the 21st or the 22d year “after” Kandalanu, and it is suggested by some that Kandalanu’s reign “was carried artificially on to fill the interregnum up to the accession of Nabopolassar.” (Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.—A.D. 75, p. 11) Also, in explaining the fact that some documents are dated to the ninth and tenth years of the reign of Alexander IV, whereas Greek sources indicate a rule of only about six years (from 316 to 310/9 B.C.E.), the suggestion is given: “Apparently the fiction of kingship was carried on after the death of the young Alexander.”—Ibid., p. 20.
Again it may be said that the above explanations are the modern historians’ attempts to accommodate apparent discrepancies so as to fit the accepted chronology (based primarily on Ptolemy). It may be that the “accepted” chronology is inaccurate or that the ancient methods are being misunderstood. Where such explanations fail, the historians do not hesitate to suggest a scribal error, perhaps due to the scribe’s having “his attention diverted for a moment,” or by an error in copying so that a “3” became a “12” (numbers that are quite similar in cuneiform writing), or that the scribe “continued to date tablets in the old reign, forgetting for the moment the advent of the new reign.”
Returning, then, to the case of Xerxes, we find that the confirmation for Ptolemy’s figure of a 21-year reign for Xerxes rests upon only a few tablets. Though these appear to substantiate that figure, a review of the information already presented illustrates the many possibilities that exist for the meaning of such tablets to be other than that understood by historians, who are, of course, desirous of establishing a “fixed chronology.” One of the documents sometimes referred to is a papyrus text from Assuan, Egypt, carrying the date “year 21, the accession year of Artaxerxes.” Xerxes’ name, however, is not mentioned. Even though the “year 21” were to be accepted as applying to Xerxes in this case (and in others), the possibility remains that the date used by the scribe could have as its starting point some time other than the first year of Xerxes’ sole rule. Since we have already seen that a coregency could affect the scribal dating, consider the following information:
Xerxes’ father, Darius the Great, took great pains to make known which of his sons was to be his successor. Hence, in one relief (at Persepolis) Xerxes is represented as standing behind his father’s throne, dressed in clothing identical to that of Darius, and with his head on the same level as Darius’ head. This is very unusual, since the rule in royal pictures was that the king’s head should always be shown higher than that of all others. The historical evidence is that Darius selected Xerxes to be crown prince and viceroy of Babylon by about 498 B.C.E. or shortly thereafter, and that a palace was completed for him in that city by about 496 B.C.E. (Medes and Persians by William Culican, pp. 80, 100; History of the Persian Empire by A. T. Olmstead, pp. 215, 216) Counting from this latter date to the year 474 B.C.E. (the year we accept for the start of the reign of Artaxerxes I) would give a total of up to 22 years during which Xerxes ruled part of the time as viceroy and part of the time (from 486 B.C.E. onward) as sole ruler of the empire. This could have some bearing on the reference to his twenty-first year as is claimed for certain tablets.
Also not to be overlooked is that, while historians would extend Xerxes’ sole rule to 21 years (down to 465 B.C.E.), their information from ancient sources regarding the events of his reign runs out soon after the year 479 B.C.E., his eighth year.
Length of Artaxerxes’ reign
If Xerxes’ reign ended about 474 B.C.E. (thus limiting it to some 12 years), then that of his successor Artaxerxes I would apparently run 51 years (to 424/23 B.C.E.) or 10 years beyond the 41 years assigned him by Ptolemy’s canon and by modern historians. It is of interest, then, to note that one cuneiform text (reproduced in The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts, edited by H. V. Hilprecht, Vol. VIII, Part I, by Albert T. Clay, 1908, published by Department of Archaeology, University of Pennsylvania) is dated “51st year, accession year, 12th month [of] Darius, king of lands.” (Darius II followed Artaxerxes I to the throne.) Historians, however, reject the figure 51 as a ‘scribal error’ and favor instead two other tablets which, they say, refer to Artaxerxes’ “41st year, [and] accession year” of his successor, Darius II.
Similarly, the accession date of Darius II is reckoned by historians as February 13 (Shebat 4), 423. But when they find a tablet dated to February 26 (Shebat 17) of the forty-first year of Artaxerxes (or thirteen days after Artaxerxes’ rule supposedly ended) they then say: “The scribe made a mistake. Either the tablet belongs to the fortieth year, . . . or having been accustomed, for so many years, to date tablets in the reign of Artaxerxes, in writing this tablet [the scribe] failed to remember that a new king had begun to reign.” (Business Documents of Murashû Sons of Nippur, by A. T. Clay, 1904, published in The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Vol. X, p. 2; see also Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.—A.D. 75, p. 18.) Thus, evidence not harmonizing with the chronological structure founded principally on Ptolemy’s canon is generally rejected by the historians as erroneous, even though it may accord more accurately with the Biblical indications.
The claim is made that “astronomical confirmations can convert a relative chronology [one that merely establishes the sequence of events] into an absolute chronology, specifically, a system of dates related to our calendar.” (The Old Testament World by Martin Noth, p. 272) While the celestial bodies are the means provided by man’s Creator for human measurement of time, nevertheless the correlation of astronomical data with human events in the past is subject to various factors and human interpretation allowing for error.
Many of the so-called synchronizations of astronomical data with events or dates of ancient history are based on solar or lunar eclipses. However, any “particular town or city would on the average experience about 40 lunar eclipses and 20 partial solar eclipses in 50 years, [although] only one total solar eclipse in 400 years.” (The Encyclopœdia Britannica, 1965 ed., Vol. 7, p. 907) So, only in the case of a definitely stated total solar eclipse visible in a specific area would there be little reason for doubt in the fixing of a particular historical date by such means. In many cases the data from the ancient cuneiform texts (or other sources) concerning eclipses does not provide such specific information.
An example is the solar eclipse relied upon by historians to correlate Assyrian chronology with Biblical chronology. It is mentioned in the Assyrian eponym lists as taking place in the third month (counting from the spring) of the ninth year of King Assur-dan III. Modern chronologists calculate it to be the eclipse occurring on June 15, 763 B.C.E. Counting back 90 years (or 90 names on the eponym lists) from this date, they arrive at 853 B.C.E. as the date for the battle of Qarqar in Shalmaneser III’s sixth year. They claim that Shalmaneser lists King Ahab of Israel as in the enemy coalition facing Assyria in that battle, and that twelve years afterward (Shalmaneser’s eighteenth year) the Assyrian king refers to King Jehu of Israel as paying tribute. They then deduce that the year 853 B.C.E. marked the date of Ahab’s last year and 841 the start of Jehu’s reign. How sound are these calculations?
First, though it is assumed that the solar eclipse was total, the eponym list does not state this. And, whereas most historians today would apply this reference to the eclipse of 763 B.C.E., not all scholars have done so, some preferring the year 809 B.C.E., during which year an eclipse occurred that would have been at least partially visible in Assyria (as was also the case in 817, 857, etc.). (Oppolzer’s Canon of Eclipses, Charts 17, 19, 21, in 1962 ed.) Though modern historians object to any change from the solar eclipse of 763 on the grounds that it would ‘introduce confusion into Assyrian history,’ we have already seen that the Assyrians themselves introduced considerable confusion into their own history.
Moreover, the presence of King Ahab at the battle of Qarqar is very unlikely. Thus, even if the reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram (which intervened between Ahab and Jehu) could be reduced to just twelve years (compare 1 Kings 22:40, 51; 2 Kings 1:2, 17; 3:1), the evidence is against any precise synchronization of the battle of Qarqar with Ahab. Shalmaneser’s mention of Jehu, therefore, may very well not relate to Jehu’s first year of rule. The accusation that the Assyrians juggled the years of their campaigns and credited kings with receiving tribute from persons no longer living might reduce even more the supposed value of the synchronization. The chart accompanying this article shows Ahab’s death as occurring c. 919 B.C.E. with the start of Jehu’s reign coming about 905 B.C.E.
These have been used to try to substantiate the dates given for particular years of the Neo-Babylonian kings on the basis of Ptolemy’s canon and data in the cuneiform records. But even though Ptolemy may have calculated accurately or recorded the dates of certain eclipses in the past (a modern astronomer found three-fifths of Ptolemy’s dates correct), this does not prove that his transmission of historical data is correct, that is, that his correlation of eclipses with the reigns of certain kings is consistently based on true historical fact. Additionally, the frequency of lunar eclipses certainly does not add great strength to such type of confirmation.
For example, while a lunar eclipse in 621 B.C.E. (on April 22) is used as proof of the correctness of the Ptolemaic date for Nabopolassar’s fifth year, another eclipse could be cited twenty years earlier, in 641 B.C.E. (on June 1), to correspond with the date our chart would indicate as Nabopolassar’s fifth year. This earlier eclipse was total (i.e., 12 digits or more) as compared to the very minor one of only 1.6 digits in 621 B.C.E.—Oppolzer’s Canon of Eclipses, pp. 333, 334.
Perhaps the date of Herod the Great’s death provides the best illustration of the uncertainty involved in dating by lunar eclipses. Josephus’ writings (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVII, chap. VI, par. 4, and chap. VIII, par. 1, to chap. IX, par. 3) show Herod’s death occurring shortly after a lunar eclipse and not long before the start of the Passover season. Many authorities date Herod’s death as in 4 B.C.E. and cite as proof the lunar eclipse of the night of March 12/13 in that year. Due to this reckoning, many modern chronologers place the birth of Jesus as early as 5 B.C.E. However, W. E. Filmer, writing in The Journal of Theological Studies (October 1966, Vol, XVII, Part 2, pp. 283, 284), shows the weakness of this reckoning, pointing out that eclipses also took place on both January 9 and December 29 of the year 1 B.C.E. and that either of these could fit the requirements of an eclipse not long before the Passover. He gives further evidence to show that the eclipse of January 9, 1 B.C.E. (a total eclipse, as compared to only four digits for that of 4 B.C.E.), would fit the circumstances considerably better than the one popularly accepted. Summing up the matter, he says: “Thus, so far as the evidence of lunar eclipses goes, Herod may have died in either of the years 4 or 1 B.C., or even in A.D. 1.” Either of the latter two dates would harmonize with the date of Jesus’ birth in the year 2 B.C.E., shown later in this article.
Not all the texts historians use to date events and periods of ancient history are based on eclipses, however. Astronomical “diaries” have been found that give the position (in relation to certain stars or constellations) of the moon at its first and last visibility on a specific day in Babylon (for example, “the moon was one cubit in front of the rear foot of the lion”), along with the positions of certain of the planets at these same times. Modern chronologers point out that such a combination of astronomical positions would not be duplicated again in thousands of years. These astronomical diaries contain references to the reigns of certain kings and appear to coincide with the figures given in Ptolemy’s Canon. While to some this might seem like incontrovertible evidence, there are factors greatly reducing its strength.
The first is that the observations made in Babylon may have contained errors. The Babylonian astronomers showed greatest concern for celestial events or phenomena occurring close to the horizon, at the rising or setting of the moon or of the sun. However, the horizon as viewed from Babylon is frequently obscured by sandstorms. Commenting on these factors, Professor Neugebauer (The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, p. 98) states that Ptolemy complained about “the lack of reliable planetary observations [from ancient Babylon]. He [Ptolemy] remarks that the old observations were made with little competence, because they were concerned with appearances and disappearances and with stationary points, phenomena which by their very nature are very difficult to observe.”
Secondly, the fact is that the great majority of the astronomical diaries found were written, not in the time of the Neo-Babylonian or Persian Empires, but in the Seleucid period (312-64 B.C.E.), although they contain data relating to those earlier periods. Historians assume that they are copies of earlier documents. Actually contemporaneous astronomical texts are lacking by which to establish the full chronology of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods (late seventh to late fourth centuries).
Finally as in the case of Ptolemy, even though the astronomical data (as now interpreted and understood) on the texts discovered is basically accurate, this does not prove that the historical data accompanying it is accurate. Even as Ptolemy used the reigns of ancient kings (as he understood them) simply as a framework in which to place his astronomical data, so, too, the writers (or copyists) of the astronomical texts of the Seleucid period may have simply inserted in their astronomical texts what was then the accepted or “popular” chronology of that time. That accepted or popular chronology may well have contained errors at the critical points dealt with earlier in this article. To illustrate, an ancient astronomer (or a scribe) might state that a certain celestial event took place in the year that, according to our calendar, would be 465 B.C.E. and his statement may prove correct when accurate computations are made to verify it. But he may also state that the year in which the celestial event took place (465 B.C.E.) was the twenty-first year of King Xerxes and be entirely wrong. Simply stated, accuracy in astronomy does not prove accuracy in history.
Dating methods based on artifacts found in excavations are discussed under the heading ARCHAEOLOGY. Briefly, it may be said that, in the absence of actually dated inscriptions, dating by artifacts, such as pottery sherds, can never be more than comparative. That is, the archaeologist can only say that ‘this particular stratum and its contents in this mound evidently belong to the same general period as a certain stratum in that mound (or before it or after it).’ Thus a general chronological sequence is built up, but always subject to correction and change, the changes sometimes amounting to hundreds of years. For example, in 1937 archaeologist Barton assigned “Early Bronze Age” pottery to the period 2500-2000 B.C.E., whereas the following year Professor Albright listed the same period as 3200-2200 B.C.E.
Hence, as G. Ernest Wright stated: “In this area we can seldom work with certainties. Instead, it is necessary to construct hypotheses which always possess greater or lesser degrees of probability. The truth in them rests upon [the archaeologist’s] ability to interpret and hold together a variety of disparate data, but new information at any moment may make it necessary to change a given hypothesis, or cause a scholar to express it somewhat differently.”—Shechem, The Biography of a Biblical City, Foreword pp. xv, xvi.
Further illustrating this is a statement in Chronologies in Old World Archaeology by Robert Ehrich, printed in 1965 to supersede an earlier work of 1954, and containing a compendium of views on “the floating network of relative chronologies” as expressed by prominent archaeologists. The Foreword (p. vii) says: “The purpose of this book is to present, in series, the chronologies of various contiguous areas as they appear in 1964 to the eyes of regional specialists. Despite the new information, the overall situation is still fluid, and forthcoming data will render some conclusions obsolete, possibly even before this volume appears in print.” This may be kept in mind when evaluating the dates archaeologists give for the age of certain cities, such as Jericho, or the period to which they assign the conquest of Palestine by Israel.
HISTORIANS OF THE CLASSICAL PERIOD
The term “classical” here applies to the period and culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Besides being a source of Greek and Roman history, the writings of certain classical historians are relied on by modern historians to fill in gaps or to confirm certain data in the record of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Syria and Palestine. Included among ancient Greek historians are: Herodotus (c. 484-425 B.C.E.); Thucydides (c. 471-?); Xenophon (c. 434-355 B.C.E); Ctesias (fifth century B.C.E.); and, later, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Alexander Polyhistor of the first century B.C.E., and Plutarch of the first and second centuries C.E. Roman historians include Titus Livius or Livy (59 B.C.E.–17 C.E.); Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus, a contemporary of Livy; Pliny the Elder (c. 23-79 C.E.); and Sextus Julius Africanus (third century C.E.), probably born in Libya. Aside from these, major sources of information are Manetho and Berossus (already discussed), Josephus, a Jewish historian whose writings (though at times contradictory in their present form) are quite helpful for the first century C.E., and Eusebius, ecclesiastical historian and bishop of Caesarea (c. 260-c. 340 C.E.).
All of these lived after the Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian period and only the first four mentioned lived during the period of the Persian Empire. For the Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods, then, none of these writers present information based on personal knowledge but record, rather, the traditional views they heard, or, in some cases, may have read and copied. The accuracy of their data obviously depends on the accuracy of the sources used.
Not only this, but what we know of their writings is today dependent upon copies of copies, the oldest copy often dating no farther back than the medieval period of the Common Era. We have already seen how the chronologies of Manetho and Berossus were mutilated by copyists. As to the qualifications and reliability of the other ancient historians of the classical period, we find statements such as these:
Reference is made to Herodotus’ “credulity, his love of effect and his loose and inaccurate habits of thought”; it is said “he has no claim to rank as a critical historian,” belonging “distinctly to the romantic school,” so was as much a storyteller as a historian. (The Encyclopœdia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 13, p. 383) Moreover, “a large number of inaccuracies are found in his reports, especially in those relating to Thebes and upper Egypt.” (Outline of Persian History, Professor A. W. Ahl, p. 15) As to Xenophon, his Cyropaedia is called “a political and philosophical romance.” “A distinct moral purpose, to which literal truth is sacrificed, runs through the work. For instance, Cyrus is represented as dying peacefully in his bed, whereas, according to Herodotus he fell in a campaign against the Massagetae.” (The Encyclopœdia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 28, p. 886) Rawlinson (The Seven Great Monarchies, Vol. II, p. 85) accuses Ctesias of deliberately extending the period of the Median monarchy “by the conscious use of a system of duplication.” “Each king, or period, in Herodotus occurs in the list of Ctesias twice—a transparent device, clumsily cloaked by the cheap expedient of a liberal invention of names.”
Concerning Roman history of the kingly period (preceding the establishment of the Republic) we read that it “stretches back into the regions of pure mythology. It is little more than a collection of fables told with scarcely any attempt at criticism, and with no more regard to chronological sequence than was necessary to make the tale run smoothly or to fill up such gaps as that between the flight of Aeneas from Troy and the supposed year of the foundation of Rome.” Even in the period after the establishment of the Republic (c. 509 B.C.E.), historians were still ready to set down popular tradition alongside historical fact without particularly distinguishing between them. “Pedigrees were invented, imaginary consulships [Roman dating was often done by consulships] and fictitious triumphs inserted, and family traditions . . . were formally incorporated with the history of the state.” Of the Roman annalists, we are told: “What they found written they copied; the gaps they supplied, where personal experience failed, by imagination.”—The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 16, pp. 820-822.
Under ARTAXERXES No. 3, we refer to Thucydides in determining the date for the start of Artaxerxes’ reign. It is therefore of interest to note that Thucydides is widely regarded as an exception to the general rule of inaccuracy and carelessness with which the classical historians are so often charged. Thucydides is noted for his meticulous research. Of him, The Encyclopœdia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. 26, p. 894) says: “Thucydides stands alone among the men of his own days [fifth century B.C.E.], . . . in the width of mental grasp which could seize the general significance of particular events. . . . The vice of the ‘chroniclers,’ in his view, is that they cared only for popularity, and took no pains to make their narrative trustworthy. . . . In contrast with these predecessors Thucydides has subjected his materials to the most searching scrutiny. The ruling principle of his work has been strict adherence to carefully verified facts. ‘As to the deeds done in the war, I have not thought myself at liberty to record them on hearsay from the first informant or on arbitrary conjecture. My account rests either on personal knowledge or on the closest possible scrutiny of each statement made by others. The process or research was laborious, because conflicting accounts were given by those who had witnessed the several events, as partiality swayed or memory served them.’”
The classical historians must be resorted to at times for necessary information, particularly for the Persian period (as dealt with in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther) and on down to apostolic times. Their writings also are an aid in determining the time and events in fulfillment of parts of Daniel’s prophetic visions (chaps. 7-9, 11), which extend even beyond the apostolic period. However, the information presented earlier shows there is no reason for placing their histories and chronologies on a par with the Bible itself. Where differences appear, one can confidently rely on the Biblical record, set down either by eyewitnesses or by those who, like Luke, “traced all things from the start with accuracy.” (Luke 1:1-4) The accurate chronological information in the accounts of Luke and others makes possible the fixing of the dates for principal events of Jesus’ life and of the apostolic period.—Matt. 2:1, 19-22; Luke 3:1-3, 21-23; and many others.
THE BIBLICAL COUNT OF TIME
The ancient secular records obviously must all be used with due caution. They are known to have inaccuracies in many matters and it is most unlikely that their chronologies should somehow have escaped such inaccuracies. By contrast, the Bible has proved true in all fields dealt with, giving by far the most accurate picture of the ancient times it treats. Its chronology is also reliable.—See BIBLE.
When measuring Biblical periods in harmony with modern dating methods it should be remembered that cardinal and ordinal numbers differ. Cardinal numbers, such as 1, 2, 3, 10, 100, and so forth, have full value. But with ordinal numbers, such as third, fifth, twenty-second, it is necessary to subtract one to obtain the full number. Thus, in the reference to the “thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin the king of Judah,” the term “thirty-seventh” is an ordinal number and represents thirty-six full years plus some days, weeks or months (whatever time had elapsed from the end of the thirty-sixth year).—Jer. 52:31.
When counting a number of years from a calendar date in the “B.C.E.” period to one in the “C.E.” period, it should be kept in mind that from a date such as October 1 of the year 1 B.C.E. to October 1 of the year 1 C.E. is only one year, not two, as can be seen in this diagram:
B.C.E. | C.E
2, 1 | 1, 2
Oct.1 |———| Oct.1
This is because the year dates are ordinal numbers. Thus, from about October 1 of the year 2 B.C.E. (the approximate time of Jesus’ birth) to October 1 of 29 C.E. (the approximate date of Jesus’ baptism) is a total of thirty years, that is, one full year plus three months in the B.C.E. period and 28 full years plus 9 months in the C.E. period.—Luke 3:21-23.
COUNTING FROM THE TIME OF HUMAN CREATION TO THE PRESENT
Modern historians are unable to determine any certain date for the beginning of the “historical period” of mankind. Whether they turn to the history of Assyria, Babylon or Egypt, the chronology becomes increasingly uncertain and unstable as they work their way back through the second millennium B.C.E., and in the third millennium B.C.E. they are faced with confusion and obscurity. By contrast, the Bible provides a connected history that allows for a methodical count back to the beginning of human history, a count that is facilitated by Biblical references to certain eras or large periods of time, such as the 479 full-year period from the Exodus to the start of the temple construction during Solomon’s reign.—1 Ki. 6:1.
To make the count in terms of modern calendar dating we must use some fixed point or pivotal date with which to commence, that is, a date in history that has sound basis for acceptance and that corresponds with a particular event recorded in the Bible. From this date as a pivotal point we can figure backward or forward and assign calendar dates to many of the events referred to in the Bible.
One such date, harmonizing with both Biblical and secular history, is the year 29 C.E., representing the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, whose rule began after the death of Augustus on August 17, 14 C.E. (Gregorian calendar). It was in the year 29 C.E. that John the Baptist began his preaching and also when, six months later, he baptized Jesus.—Luke 3:1-3, 21, 23; 1:36.
Another date that can be used as a pivotal point is the year 539 B.C.E., supported by various historical sources as the year for the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. (As has been shown, secular sources for Cyrus’ reign include Diodorus, Africanus, Eusebius and Ptolemy, as well as the Babylonian tablets.) During Cyrus’ first year his decree releasing the Jews from exile was given. And, as considered in the article on CYRUS, it is very probable that the decree was made by the winter of 538 or toward the spring of 537 B.C.E. This would permit the Jews time to make necessary preparations, effect the four-month journey to Jerusalem, and still arrive there by the seventh month (Tishri, or about October 1) of 537 B.C.E.—Ezra 1:1-11; 2:64-70; 3:1.
Using such pivotal dates, we can then relate a very large number of the Bible events to specific calendar dates. The basic framework into which such chronology fits is as follows:
EVENT CALENDAR DATE TIME PERIOD
From the creation
of Adam 4026 B.C.E.
To the start of
the Flood 2370 B.C.E. 1,656 years
To the establishing of
the Abrahamic covenant 1943 B.C.E. 427 years
To the exodus from
Egypt 1513 B.C.E. 430 years
To the start of the
temple construction 1034 B.C.E. 479 years
To the division of the
kingdom 997 B.C.E. 37 years
To the desolation of
Judah 607 B.C.E. 390 years
To the return of the
Jews from exile 537 B.C.E. 70 years
To the rebuilding of
Jerusalem’s walls 455 B.C.E. 82 years
To the baptism of Jesus 29 C.E. 483 years
To the present 1969 C.E. 1,940 years
Total time period
from Adam’s creation
to the present year, ___________
1969 C.E. 5,994 years
What, then, is the Biblical basis and, in some cases, the secular history supporting such chronology? We here give further details showing how each of the time periods listed is determined.
From Adam’s creation to the Flood
From Adam’s creation
to the birth of Seth 130 years
Then to the birth of Enosh 105 years
To the birth of Kenan 90 years
To the birth of Mahalalel 70 years
To the birth of Jared 65 years
To the birth of Enoch 162 years
To the birth of Methuselah 65 years
To the birth of Lamech 187 years
To the birth of Noah 182 years
To the Flood 600 years
Total 1,656 years
The figures shown for the pre-Flood period are those found in the Masoretic text, on which modern translations of the Hebrew Scriptures are based. The figures found in the book of Genesis in the known copies of the Septuagint Version, however, differ from those of the Masoretic text. In giving the fathers’ ages at the time of the birth of their sons, the Septuagint increases the ages by 100 years for all those from Adam to Enoch, with the exception of Jared. However, it then decreases by 100 the number of years each lived after becoming father to the stated son, so that the total ages of these men come out equal in both the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. This difference, nevertheless (plus a difference in the ages of Methuselah and Lamech at the time of their sons’ births), would make the time from Adam’s creation to the Flood equal 2,242 years, according to the Septuagint. A similar addition of years appears in the Septuagint for the chronology after the Flood from Arpachshad to Nahor.—Gen. 11:14-22.
The evidence for accuracy of transmission in this matter clearly favors the Hebrew Masoretic text. For, as M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopœdia (Vol. II, p. 299) states: “There is every reason to think that the Rabbins have been scrupulous in the extreme in making alterations; the Sept[uagint], on the other hand, shows signs of a carelessness that would almost permit change.” The Critical Doctrinal and Homiletical Commentary by Schaff-Lange, comments (Genesis, p. 272, ftn.): “The internal evidence is shown to be decidedly in favor of the Hebrew from its proportional consistency. The numbers in the LXX evidently follow a plan to which they have been conformed. This does not appear in the Hebrew, and it is greatly in favor of its being an authentic genealogical record. . . . On physiological grounds, too, the Hebrew is to be preferred; since the length of the life does not at all require so late a manhood as those numbers [in the Septuagint] would seem to intimate. . . . the added 100 years, in each case, by the Septuagint, shows a design to bring them to some nearer proportional standard, grounded on some supposed physiological notion, . . . . To all this must be added the fact that the Hebrew has the best claim to be regarded as the original text, from the well-known scrupulous, and even superstitious, care with which it has been textually preserved.”
There is evidence that the Israelites originally counted the year as beginning in the fall, and Jewish tradition holds that Adam’s creation took place in the fall. At any rate, if counting from the fall of the year, the ‘second month and the seventeenth day of the month,’ on which the Flood began, would correspond more or less to the first part of November.—Gen. 7:11.
It may be noted that Genesis 7:6 refers to Noah as “six hundred years old” (a cardinal or whole number), while verse 11 speaks of the “six hundredth year” (an ordinal number) of Noah’s life. It has been suggested that this could mean that Noah entered the ark while yet in his six hundredth year and then completed it shortly thereafter, perhaps during the forty-day period “when the deluge of waters occurred on the earth.”—Vs. 6.
The duration of the floodwaters upon the earth until their drying up and the subsequent departure of Noah and his family from the ark was a period of 1 year and 10 days. (Gen. 7:11; 8:13, 14) For the length of the year as measured by Noah, see YEAR.
While modern historians would extend the period of human habitation on the earth much farther back than 4026 B.C.E., the facts are decidedly against the position they maintain. The thousands of years of “prehistory” they argue for are dependent on speculation, as can be seen from this statement by prominent scientist Dr. P. E. Klopsteg, who stated: “Come, now, if you will, on a speculative excursion into prehistory. Assume the era in which the species sapiens emerged from the genus Homo . . . hasten across the millenniums for which present information depends for the most part on conjecture and interpretation to the era of the first inscribed records, from which some facts may be gleaned.” [Italics ours.]—Science, December 30, 1960, p. 1914.
The period of the post-Flood era begins with the year 2369 B.C.E. Whereas some would assign certain pictographic writings to the period 3300 to 2800 B.C.E. (New Discoveries in Babylonia About Genesis, by P. J. Wiseman, 1949, p. 36), these are not actually dated documents and their supposed age is based only on archaeological conjecture. That there are no dated documents prior to the year 2000 B.C.E., and that no archaeological finds contain any datable astronomical phenomena beyond the first millennium B.C.E. (with the possible exception of data on the so-called “Venus tablets of Ammisaduga,” tentatively placed just before the middle of the second millennium B.C.E.), are facts acknowledged by some of the most prominent archaeologists and astronomers.
While appeal is sometimes made to datings based on the radiocarbon (C-14) technique, its unreliability is illustrated in the following statement from Science magazine of December 11, 1959: “What bids to become a classical example of ‘C-14 irresponsibility’ is the 6000-year spread of 11 determinations for Jarmo, a prehistoric village in northeastern Iraq, which, on the basis of all archaeological evidence, was not occupied for more than 500 consecutive years.” There is thus no solid or provable evidence to favor an earlier date than 2369 B.C.E. for the start of the post-Flood human society. In the book The Secret of the Hittites (by C. W. Ceram, p. 150) the author states that the “earliest computed date in history which can be considered ‘very probably correct’” is 2350 B.C.E., the supposed date for the beginning of the reign of Sargon I, and even his historicity is questioned.
From the Flood to the establishing of the covenant with Abraham (2370 to 1943 B.C.E.)
The chronological structure of this period may be summed up as follows:
From the beginning of the Flood
to Arpachshad’s birth 2 years
Then to the birth of Shelah 35 years
To the birth of Eber 30 years
To the birth of Peleg 34 years
To the birth of Reu 30 years
To the birth of Serug 32 years
To the birth of Nahor 30 years
To the birth of Terah 29 years
To the death of Terah, when Abraham
was 75 years old 205 years
Total 427 years
The basis for these figures is Genesis 11:10 to 12:4. The expression “after the deluge” (Gen. 11:10) used in connection with Arpachshad’s birth would logically refer to the actual falling of the waters that marked the start of the Flood, rather than simply to the continuance of the waters upon the earth for a period of time thereafter. The Hebrew term for “deluge” also indicates this.—Compare Genesis 6:17; 7:4-6, 10-12, 17; 9:11.
The date of the attempt at building the Tower of Babel is not stated in the record. Genesis 10:25 indicates that the division resulting from the confusion of the languages there occurred sometime during ‘the days of Peleg.’ It does not necessarily follow that this event occurred at Peleg’s birth. The expression “in his days” would in fact indicate that the division took place, not at or immediately subsequent to Peleg’s birth, but sometime during his life-span, which extended from 2269 B.C.E. to 2030 B.C.E. If each post-Flood male parent at the age of thirty were to begin fathering children at the rate of one child every three years, with an average of one male child every six years, and continued this until the age of ninety, then in a period of about one hundred and eighty years from the end of the Flood (that is, by 2189 B.C.E.) the population could have grown to a total of over 4,000 adult males. This conservative number would be ample to fit the circumstances relating to the tower construction and the dispersal of the peoples.
By compliance with God’s instruction, Abraham, upon crossing the Euphrates on his way to the land of Canaan, became the recipient of God’s promise and was brought into the covenant known as the Abrahamic covenant. As his departure from Haran and his entry into Canaan followed Terah’s death, the date of the establishing of this covenant is set at 1943 B.C.E. (Gen. 11:32; 12:1-7) However, as to another factor that may affect dates prior to this, see ABRAHAM.
From the establishing of the Abrahamic covenant to the Exodus (1943 to 1513 B.C.E.)
Exodus 12:40, 41, states that “the dwelling of the sons of Israel, who had dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, it even came about on this very day that all the armies of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt.” Whereas most translations render verse 40 so as to make the 430 years apply entirely to the dwelling in Egypt, the original Hebrew allows for the above translation. Also, Paul’s statement at Galatians 3:17 shows that the 430-year period applies from the time when the Abrahamic covenant took effect on his entry into Canaan until the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Law covenant in that same year. Evidence that such understanding of the text prevailed from early times is indicated by the Septuagint rendering, which reads: “But the dwelling of the sons of Israel which they dwelt in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan [was] four hundred and thirty years long.”
The period from Abraham’s entry into Canaan until Jacob’s going down into Egypt was 215 years. This figure derives from the fact that 25 years passed from Abraham’s departure from Haran to the birth of Isaac (Gen. 12:4; 21:5); from then to the birth of Jacob was 60 years (25:26); and Jacob was 130 at the time of his entry into Egypt (47:9); thus giving a total of 215 years (from 1943 to 1728 B.C.E.). This means that an equal period of 215 years was thereafter spent by the Israelites in Egypt (from 1728 to 1513 B.C.E.). That the Israelites could have multiplied sufficiently in 215 years to have a population including 600,000 “able-bodied men” is demonstrated under the heading EXODUS.—Ex. 12:37.
Jehovah told Abram (Abraham): “You may know for sure that your seed will become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to serve them, and these will certainly afflict them for four hundred years.” (Gen. 15:13; see also Acts 7:6, 7.) This was stated prior to the birth of the promised heir or “seed,” Isaac. By 1932 B.C.E. Ishmael was born to Abram by the Egyptian servant girl Hagar, and in 1918 B.C.E. Isaac was born. (Gen. 16:16; 21:5) Counting back 400 years from the Exodus, which marked the end of the ‘afflicting’ (Gen. 15:14), would bring us to 1913 B.C.E., and at that time Isaac would be about five years old. It appears that Isaac was weaned then, and, already “an alien resident” in a land not his, he now experienced the start of the foretold affliction in the form of Ishmael’s “poking fun,” Ishmael being about nineteen. (Gen. 21:8, 9) Although in modern times Ishmael’s mocking of Abraham’s heir might be viewed as inconsequential, such was not the case in patriarchal times. This is evidenced by Sarah’s reaction and God’s approval of her insistence that Hagar and her son Ishmael be sent away. (Gen. 21:10-13) The very fact of this incident’s being recorded in detail in the divine record also points to its marking the commencement of the prophesied 400-year period of affliction that would not end until the Exodus.—Gal. 4:29.
From the Exodus to the division of the kingdom (1513 to 997 B.C.E.)
It was in the “four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out from the land of Egypt,” in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, that construction began on the temple at Jerusalem. (1 Ki. 6:1) “Four hundred and eightieth” is an ordinal number representing four hundred and seventy-nine full years plus some additional time, in this case one month. Counting 479 years from the Exodus (Nisan 1513 B.C.E.) brings us to 1034 B.C.E., with the temple construction beginning in the second month, Ziv (corresponding to part of April and part of May). Since this was the fourth year (another ordinal number) of Solomon’s rule, his reign began three full years earlier in 1037 B.C.E. His forty-year rule evidently ran from Nisan 1037 to Nisan 997 B.C.E., with the division of the kingdom taking place in the latter year. The chronological structure for this period would therefore be as follows:
EVENT DATE TIME PERIOD BETWEEN EVENTS
From the Exodus 1513 B.C.E.
to 40 years
the entry of Israel into Canaan 1473 B.C.E.
to 356 years
the close of the period of the 1117 B.C.E.
Judges and the beginning of
to 40 years
the beginning of David’s reign 1077 B.C.E.
to 40 years
the beginning of Solomon’s reign 1037 B.C.E.
to 40 years
the division of the kingdom 997 B.C.E.
Total years from the Exodus to
the division of the kingdom _________
(1513 to 997 B.C.E.) 516 years
These figures find their basis in texts such as Deuteronomy 2:7; 29:5; Acts 13:21; 2 Samuel 5:4; 1 Kings 11:42, 43; 12:1-20. Some critics call attention to the four periods of forty years each, occurring in this period, claiming that this is evidence of a ‘mere seeking after symmetry’ on the part of the Bible writers rather than an accurate chronology. To the contrary, whereas the period of Israelite wandering before their entry into Canaan was almost exactly forty years in fulfillment of the divine judgment recorded at Numbers 14:33, 34 (compare Exodus 12:2, 3, 6, 17; Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:2-4; Joshua 4:19), the other three periods may have all included fractional figures. Thus, David’s reign is shown to have actually lasted for forty and a half years, according to 2 Samuel 5:5. If, as seems to have been the practice, regnal years of these kings were counted on a Nisan-to-Nisan basis, this could mean that King Saul’s reign lasted only thirty-nine and a half years, but with the months remaining until the following Nisan being credited to Saul’s reign and hence not officially included in David’s forty regnal years. Such, at least, was the known practice among Semitic rulers in Mesopotamia, the months intervening between the death of a king and the following Nisan being termed the “accession period” of the succeeding king, but his official first year of rule not beginning to count until the arrival of the month of Nisan.
The length of the period from the entry into Canaan till the end of the period of the Judges is not directly stated, being arrived at only by deduction. That is, by subtracting the 123 years of the known periods (of the wilderness wandering, of Saul and David, and the first three years of Solomon’s reign) from the 479 years intervening between the Exodus and Solomon’s fourth year, 356 years remain.
The manner in which these 356 years (from Israel’s entry into Canaan in 1473 B.C.E. until the start of Saul’s reign in 1117 B.C.E.) are to be apportioned is not shown. Apparently the initial conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership took some six years. This is indicated by Caleb’s statement that he was forty years old when sent out as a spy in the second year of the Exodus (1512 B.C.E.) and was eighty-five (a cardinal number meaning he had completed eighty-five years) when the tribal inheritances were distributed after the principal warring campaigns had ended, which would then be 1467 B.C.E., or six years after the entry into Canaan in 1473 B.C.E. (Num. 9:1; 10:11, 12; 13:1-3, 6; Josh. 14:6, 7, 10) From the distribution of the land to the first oppression, under Syrian Cushan-rishathaim, comes an unstated period in which Joshua and also the other “older men” died and a new generation unacquainted with Jehovah’s miraculous works for Israel grew up. (Judg. 2:7, 10; 3:8) While the record speaks of “many days after Jehovah had given Israel rest from all their enemies,” when Joshua gathered the heads of the people for final counsel and then died at the age of 110, the “many days” need not refer to a very long period. (Josh. 23:1; 24:29-31) This is seen from the following facts:
Since he and Caleb gave a faithful report after the spying trip, Joshua was exempt from the divine judgment sentencing those twenty years old and upward to die in the wilderness. (Num. 14:5-9, 26-30) While some translations (AV, RS) of Exodus 33:11 refer to Joshua as a “young man,” the Hebrew term used (naʹʽar) may also be translated “servant” (AT) or “attendant” (NW). (Compare Isaiah 36:4 and 37:6, the Hebrew naʹʽar being applied to men such as Rabshakeh.) Though it can mean a young child, naʹʽar (“young”) can also apply to a man forty-one years old, as in Rehoboam’s case. (2 Chron. 12:13; 13:7) Hence, Joshua could feasibly have been forty or over at the time of the Exodus. He was then one of the “heads of the sons of Israel” and commander of the army, positions not ordinarily held by one of much less age.—Ex. 16:1; 17:1, 8-13; Num. 13:3-8.
So, Joshua’s death may have occurred within twenty or thirty years after the conquest. It may be noted that, immediately after the summation of the principal warring campaigns, he is described as already “old . . . advanced in years.” (Josh. 13:1) In the chart presented herewith a span of thirty-five years after the conquest is allowed for the death of Joshua and other “older men” and the rising up of a new generation, but this figure is intended to be viewed only as a reasonable suggestion.
Beginning with the oppression by Cushan-rishathaim, the book of Judges lists periods of oppression and periods of judgeships and of peace. Counted in succession, the figures in the different accounts would total 410 years. Evidently some periods were concurrent rather than successive, and this is the view of most commentators. Thus, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (1962, Vol. 1, p. 584) suggests: “It is doubtless necessary to recognize that in many cases the judges were contemporaries of one another, exercising authority over limited tribal areas.”
The circumstances described lend themselves to this explanation. The oppressions involved different areas of the land and affected different tribes. Cushan-rishathaim came down from Syria; the Moabites under Eglon came from the SE; Jabin of Hazor from N of the Sea of Galilee; Midian and the Ammonites likely from the E; and the Philistines from the SW. Thus the expression “and the land had no further disturbance,” used after recounting the Israelites’ victories over their oppressors, may not in every case embrace the entire area occupied by all twelve tribes but may apply to the portion that the particular oppression primarily affected.—Judg. 3:11, 30; 5:31; 8:28; compare Joshua 14:13-15.
As an example, the oppression by King Eglon of Moab seems to have affected mainly the tribes E of the Jordan and only Benjamin and Ephraim to the W of the Jordan. (Judg. 3:12-15, 27-30) On the other hand, the oppression by King Jabin of Hazor appears to have been localized mainly in the northern and central tribes W of the Jordan, particularly Naphtali and Zebulun, with the men of Issachar, Ephraim and Benjamin lending support in Barak’s victory over Jabin’s forces. The other tribes evidently took no part in the fight.—Judg. 4:1-7; 5:14-18.
After Ehud’s victory over Moab, an 80-year period of ‘no disturbance’ followed. The record does not say that Ehud lived to the end of that 80-year period. He could have died within the first part of that peaceful period, even as Jephthah died six years after his victory. (Judg. 3:30; 4:1; 12:7) So, the 20 years of King Jabin’s oppression and the 40-year period of peace that followed it could have run concurrently, either totally or partially, with the ‘80 years of peace’ resulting from Ehud’s defeat of Moab. That there were one or more overlappings somewhere along the line is indicated by Jephthah’s later reference to a ‘300-year’ period in which the Israelites had occupied land now claimed by the Ammonites, for the figures given in the book of Judges up to that point (including the six years of conquest of Canaan) would already total about 325 years, plus whatever time is to be allowed between the conquest and the death of Joshua and the other older men—Judg. 11:26.
Even though the ‘300 years’ mentioned by Jephthah may have been a round number, if it is taken to be reasonably close to the actual time, then there would remain approximately 56 years from the time of his victory over Ammon until the reign of Saul. The chart presented shows how the judgeships of Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson, as well as the Philistine oppression and the priestly activity of Eli and Samuel, might fit into this period. Again it may be stated that this is intended to show only a reasonably harmonious arrangement, since the lack of specific chronological data for many points makes impossible any conclusive presentation. Even as the years between the tribal distribution of Canaan and the initial oppression by Cushan-rishathaim are indeterminate, so too the time elapsing between Samuel’s leading Israel to victory over the Philistines and the beginning of Saul’s kingship is indeterminate, though it may have been relatively short. The evidence presented, however, shows that a 356-year figure for the period from the entry into Canaan to the beginning of Saul’s reign is not inconsistent with the record.
At Acts chapter 13 the apostle Paul reviewed God’s dealings with Israel from the ‘choosing of the forefathers’ on through the period in Egypt, the Exodus, the wilderness wandering, the conquest of Canaan, and the distribution of the land, and then stated: “All that during about four hundred and fifty years. And after these things he gave them judges until Samuel the prophet.” (Acts 13:20) Considerable misunderstanding has resulted from the Authorized Version rendering of this text, which reads: “And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet.” However, the most ancient manuscripts (including the Sinaitic, Vatican MS. No. 1209, and the Alexandrine), as well as most modern translations (such as AS, RS, AT, Kx, JB and others), all favor the previous translation, which shows the period of the judges coming after the 450 years. Since the period of “about 450 years” had its start with God’s ‘choosing the forefathers’ of Israel, it would seem to have begun in the year 1918 B.C.E. with the birth of Isaac, the original “seed” promised to Abraham. It would therefore end about 1467 B.C.E., when the initial conquest of Canaan reached its conclusion, allowing for the distribution to proceed. Inasmuch as the figure is stated to be approximate, a difference of a year or so would not be of consequence.
(The chronological framework for events down to the year 997 B.C.E. is constructed on basically the same line of evidence as is set out in the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” published in 1963.)
From the division of the kingdom to the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah (997 to 607 B.C.E.)
This period of the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel and Judah) is one of the more complex periods when viewed from the standpoint of modern reckoning. It must therefore be recalled that the Biblical chronologers of the kings’ reigns were not viewing time periods in the same way as is generally done today, that is, as fitting into a standardized calendar system of counting years from a certain fixed starting point or beginning of an era. Their starting point could vary according to the point of view adopted by the chronologer when considering a particular reign or certain features of that reign.
Thus, when 2 Chronicles 16:1 states that, “in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha the king of Israel came up against Judah,” the thirty-six years do not count from Asa’s first year of rule. This is made obvious by Biblical statements showing that Baasha began to reign in Asa’s third year and ruled only twenty-four years, hence dying in Asa’s twenty-sixth year. (1 Ki. 15:27, 28, 33; 16:8) It therefore appears that the thirty-six years start counting from the beginning of the divided kingdom in 997 B.C.E., Asa’s reign being viewed by the chronologer as a continuation of the rule of the kingdom of Judah in its reduced state that began in that year.
A king’s reign might also be viewed as if continuing on in that of his successor, as is evidently the case with the reference to the “twentieth year of Jotham,” since Jotham is shown to have actually ruled only sixteen years, his “twentieth year” thus being represented by the fourth year of his son and successor, Ahaz.—2 Ki. 15:30-33; 16:1.
The point in a king’s reign in which he became a tributary or vassal to some foreign monarch might also serve as the starting point used by the chronologer. Thus, Jehoiakim’s “third year” mentioned by Daniel (1:1) is shown to refer to his third year as vassal of the king of Babylon, whereas, counting from the actual start of Jehoiakim’s rule, it was his eleventh year.—2 Ki. 24:1; 2 Chron. 36:5-7.
These methods are not without their approximate counterpart in the chronological records of other ancient nations, and they may, indeed, cast light on some of the apparent difficulties in some of those secular records.
A helpful guide as to the overall length of this period of the kings is found at Ezekiel 4:1-7 in the mimic siege of Jerusalem that the prophet Ezekiel carried out at God’s direction. Ezekiel was to lie on his left side for 390 days to “carry the error of the house of Israel,” and on his right side for forty days to “carry the error of the house of Judah,” and each day was shown to stand for a year. The two periods (of 390 years and of 40 years) thus symbolized evidently stood for the length of Jehovah’s forbearance with the two kingdoms in their idolatrous course. The Jewish understanding of this prophecy, as presented in The Soncino Books of the Bible (Commentary on Ezekiel, pp. 20, 21) is: “The guilt of the Northern Kingdom extended over a period of 390 years ([according to the] Seder Olam [the earliest postexilic chronicle preserved in the Hebrew language], [and Rabbis] Rashi and Ibn Ezra). Abarbanel, quoted by Malbim, reckons the period of Samaria’s guilt from the time when the schism took place under Rehoboam . . . until the fall of Jerusalem. . . . The right [side, on which Ezekiel lay] indicates the south, i.e. the Kingdom of Judah which lay to the south or right. . . . Judah’s corruption lasted forty years beginning soon after Samaria’s fall. According to Malbim, the time is reckoned from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah . . . when Jeremiah began his ministry. (Jer.i.2).”
From the division of the kingdom in 997 B.C.E. to the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. was 390 years. While it is true that Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, had already fallen to Assyria in 740 B.C.E. in Hezekiah’s sixth year (2 Ki. 18:9, 10), it is probable that some of the population fled into the southern kingdom before the Assyrians’ advance. (Note also the situation in Judah following the division of the kingdom as described at 2 Chronicles 10:16, 17.) But, more importantly, the fact that Jehovah God continued to keep the Israelites of the exiled northern kingdom in view, and that the messages of his prophets continued to include them long beyond the fall of Samaria, shows that their interests were still represented in the capital city of Jerusalem and that its fall in 607 B.C.E. was an expression of Jehovah’s judgment, not alone against Judah, but against the nation of Israel as a whole. (Jer. 3:11-22; 11:10-12, 17; Ezek. 9:9, 10) When the city fell, the hopes of the nation as a whole (with the exception of the few who maintained true faith) suffered collapse.—Ezek. 37:11-14, 21, 22.
In the chart that follows, this 390-year period is adhered to as a sound chronological guide. A summation of the years listed for all the reigns of the kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah gives a total of 393 years. Whereas some Biblical chronologers endeavor to synchronize the data concerning the kings by means of numerous coregencies and “interregnums” on the Judean side, it appears necessary to show only one coregency. This is in the case of Jehoram, who is stated (at least in the Masoretic text and some of the oldest MSS. of the Bible) to have become king “while Jehoshaphat was king of Judah,” thus giving some basis for assuming a coregency. (2 Ki. 8:16) In this manner the overall period comes within the 390-year limit.
The reigns of the kings of Judah, as representing the official Davidic line, were allowed to govern in the chart, and the data given concerning the kings of Israel was conformed to this reckoning. In view of the preeminence given to the reigns of the Judean kings in the books of Chronicles, it would appear that such assigning of primary value to them is justified.
The years of reign assigned to the Judean kings in the books of Kings and Chronicles were therefore considered to be full regnal years running from Nisan to Nisan (basically, spring to spring). This means that any particular year of the reign would include approximately nine months of one of our calendar years and three months of the next. Hence in stating the first year of Rehoboam the date would be given as 997/996 B.C.E.
Synchronisms are frequent, that is, statements to the effect that a certain king of Judah became king in a particular year of the reign of a king of Israel. Where these synchronisms required it, the time when an individual “became king” in Judah was viewed as having taken place during the last year of his predecessor (generally due to the death of that predecessor; compare 2 Chronicles 16:13). However, that entire final year was credited in the chart as forming part of the official reign of the predecessor, and the first year of the succeeding king was not counted as beginning officially until the following Nisan. As noted already, David actually ruled forty and a half years, yet is evidently officially credited with just a forty-year reign. (2 Sam. 2:11; 5:3-5; 1 Ki. 2:11) Possibly the extra six months were prior to Nisan of 1077 B.C.E. and so were credited to Saul’s reign, conforming to the arrangement described previously. The Jewish Talmud expresses the tradition that if a king ruled one day beyond the first of Nisan and then died, the entire year was nevertheless credited to him. This may or may not have been the case.
In a few instances it appears that the expression “became king” refers to the anointing or official appointing of a son as the heir to the throne while the reigning king yet lived, as was done in Solomon’s case. (1 Ki. 1:32-48) Secular records show this to have been the practice among Mesopotamian and Persian kings to ensure the desired line of succession. Such anointing could take place several years before the individual assumed sole rulership.
In the chart, the stated figures of the years of rule of the kings of Israel were not viewed as having the same precise value as those of the kings of Judah, since the synchronisms in the record do not allow this. For example, Nadab is said to have become king in Asa’s second year and to have ruled for two years, yet he is shown to have been put to death in Asa’s third year. (1 Ki. 15:25-28) Hence the “two years” evidently mean ‘parts of two years.’ The fact that the northern kingdom did not have Jehovah’s approval and was only tolerated by him could have resulted in the inspired Biblical chroniclers’ treating the reigns of that kingdom on such a general basis. It is also possible that, since the northern kingdom isolated itself from the temple at Jerusalem, the annual festivals were not consistently observed there and the system of reckoning the kings’ reigns was not as well regulated or as systematically chronicled as in Judah.—Compare 1 Kings 12:26-33.
While difficulties exist, it should be kept in mind that we do not know all the circumstances of the times and explicit details are not always given. As an example, Ahaz is shown to have ‘become king’ at the age of twenty and to have ruled for sixteen years. (2 Ki. 16:2) Yet his son Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he succeeded Ahaz. (2 Ki. 18:1, 2) This means that Ahaz must have been under twelve years of age when he fathered Hezekiah. Though this may seem rare, it is by no means impossible. Whereas puberty in males is usually reached between the ages of twelve and fifteen in temperate climates, it may come earlier in warmer climates. Marriage customs also vary. A report on Marriage Conditions in a Palestinian Village published in 1931 by Hilma Granqvist and quoted in the book The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (E. R. Thiele, p. 119, ftn. 17) shows that child marriage is frequent in Palestine even in recent times, one case being cited of two brothers aged eight and twelve who were married, the wife of the older attending school with her husband.
The chart set forth is not intended to be viewed as an “absolute” chronology but, rather, as a suggested presentation of the reigns of the two kingdoms. The ancient inspired writers were dealing with facts and figures well known to them and to the Jewish people then, and the different chronological viewpoints adopted by the writers at certain points presented no problem. Such is not the case today and hence we may be satisfied with simply setting out an arrangement that harmonizes reasonably with the Biblical record. The footnotes at the bottom of each page of the chart show how certain texts are considered as applying.
As shown in the section on “Babylonian Chronology,” the available Babylonian records harmonize with the Bible record of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem, in Jehoiakim’s third year of vassalship to Babylon (618/617 B.C.E.). The Bible record shows that, before Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of the city, Jehoiakim died and was succeeded by Jehoiachin. On taking the city, Nebuchadnezzar sent Jehoiachin into exile and placed Zedekiah on the throne. Only the Bible provides information on the subsequent events leading to the destruction of Jerusalem. For further information as to how the year 607 B.C.E. (as the date for that destruction) harmonizes with and is confirmed by Bible prophecy, see APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS. The events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem are considered under the headings JEHOIAKIM; JEHOIACHIN; NEBUCHADNEZZAR; ZEDEKIAH..
From the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah to the Jewish return from exile (607 to 537 B.C.E.)
The length of this period is fixed by God’s own decree concerning Judah, that “all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”—Jer. 25:8-11.
Various attempts have been made to harmonize this seventy-year period with the Ptolemaic dates used by modern historians, such as counting the seventy years from the initial exile, when King Jehoiachin, Daniel, and others were taken captive (2 Ki. 24:12-17), or by considering the seventy years as counting from the time of the temple’s desolation until the time of its completed reconstruction in the sixth year of Darius I. (Ezra 6:15) Endeavoring to uphold this seventy-year temple destruction theory (supposedly running from 586 to 516 B.C.E.), some scholars cite Zechariah 7:5-7. Jehovah there refers to the fasting done by the Jews in certain months of each year for seventy years. But nothing is said in this text as to this seventy-year period terminating with the completion of the rebuilt temple in 516/515 B.C.E. Rather, it is quite evident that Jehovah is referring to the past practice of the Jews, when they fasted at those specific times during the seventy years prior to their return to Jerusalem and Judah in 537 B.C.E. This is evident also from the fact that these words were spoken in the “fourth year of Darius the king,” whereas the temple was not completed until Darius’ “sixth year.”—Ezra 6:15; Zech. 7:1.
The Bible prophecy does not allow for the application of the seventy-year period to any time other than that between the desolation of Judah, accompanying Jerusalem’s destruction, and the return of the Jewish exiles to their homeland as a result of Cyrus’ decree. It clearly specifies that the seventy years would be years of devastation of the land of Judah. The prophet Daniel so understood the prophecy, for he states: “I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” (Dan. 9:2) After describing the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21 states: “Furthermore, he carried off those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon, and they came to be servants to him and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign; to fulfill Jehovah’s word by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolated it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
Jerusalem came under final siege in Zedekiah’s ninth year (609 B.C.E.) and the city fell in his eleventh year (607), corresponding with Nebuchadnezzar’s nineteenth year of actual rule (counting from his accession year in 625). (2 Ki. 25:1-8) In the fifth month of that year (the month of Ab, corresponding to parts of July and August) the city was set afire, the walls were pulled down, and the majority of the people led off into exile. However, “some of the lowly people of the land” were allowed to remain and these did so until the assassination of Gedaliah, Nebuchadnezzar’s appointee, whereupon they fled into Egypt, finally leaving Judah completely desolate. (2 Ki. 25:9-12, 22-26) This was in the seventh month, Ethanim (or Tishri, corresponding to parts of September and October). Hence the count of the seventy years of desolation must have begun about October 1, 607 B.C.E., ending in 537 B.C.E. It was in the seventh month of this latter year that the first repatriated Jews arrived back in Judah, exactly seventy years from the start of the full desolation of the land.—2 Chron. 36:21-23; Ezra 3:1.
From the Jewish return from exile to the conversion of Cornelius (537 B.C.E. to 36 C.E.)
In the second year of the return from exile (536 B.C.E.), the foundation of the temple was relaid in Jerusalem, but the rebuilt temple was not completed until the sixth year of the reign of Darius. (Ezra 3:8-10; 6:14, 15) Since Darius I (Persian) did not establish himself in Babylon until defeating the rebel Nebuchadnezzar III in December of 522 and shortly afterward capturing and killing him in Babylon, the year 522 B.C.E. may be viewed as the accession year of King Darius I. His first regnal year, then, began in the spring of 521 B.C.E. (Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.—A.D. 75, Parker and Dubberstein, page 30) Darius’ sixth year therefore began April 11/12, 516 B.C.E., and continued until the end of March of 515 B.C.E. On this basis, the rebuilding of the temple was completed by Zerubbabel on March 5/6 of 515 B.C.E.
The next date of major importance is the commissioning of Nehemiah in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I. (Neh. 2:1, 5-8) The reasons for favoring the date of 455 B.C.E. for this year as against the popular date of 445 B.C.E. have been considered earlier in this article and particularly in the article on ARTAXERXES No. 3. This commissioning, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls resulting from it, form the starting point of the prophecy concerning the “seventy weeks” at Daniel 9:24-27. The weeks there are clearly “weeks of years” (Dan. 9:24, RS, AT, Mo), totaling 490 years. As demonstrated under the heading SEVENTY WEEKS, the prophecy pointed to Jesus’ appearance as the Messiah in the year 29 C.E.; his death at the “half of the week” or in the middle of the last week of years, that is, in 33 CE.; and the end of the period of God’s special favor to the Jews in 36 C.E. Thus, the seventy weeks of years closed with the conversion of Cornelius, 490 years from the year 455 B.C.E.—Acts 10:30-33, 44-48; 11:1.
Jesus’ appearance as the Messiah came in the precise year foretold, six months after John the Baptist began his preaching in the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” (Luke 1:36; 3:1, 2, 21-23) Since, as has been shown, Tiberius began his rule on August 17, 14 C.E. (Gregorian calendar), his fifteenth year ran from August 17, 28 C.E., to August 16, 29 C.E. The evidence, then, is that Jesus’ baptism and anointing took place in the fall of the year 29 CE.
Since Jesus was thirty years of age in 29 C.E. at the time of his baptism (Luke 3:23), his birth took place thirty years earlier, or about the fall of the year 2 B.C.E. He was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus and the Syrian governorship of Quirinius. (Luke 2:1, 2) Augustus’ rule ran from 27 B.C.E. to 14 C.E. P. Sulpicius Quirinius, Roman senator, was governor of Syria twice, the first time evidently coming after P. Quintilius Varus, whose term as legate of Syria ended in 4 B.C.E. Some authorities place Quirinius’ first governorship in 3-2 B.C.E. (See REGISTRATION.) Herod the Great was then king of Judea, and we have seen that there is evidence pointing to the year 1 B.C.E. as the likely time of his death. Thus, all the available evidence, and particularly the Scriptural references, indicate the fall of 2 B.C.E. for the human birth of God’s Son.
The later apostolic period (36 to c. 100 C.E.)
It is possible to fix approximate dates for a number of the events taking place during this period. The prophecy of a great famine spoken by the Christian prophet Agabus, and the subsequent persecution instigated by Herod Agrippa I, resulting in the apostle James’ death and the jailing of Peter, evidently took place in 44 C.E. (Acts 11:27-30; 12:1-4) Herod Agrippa died that year and there is evidence that the foretold famine came in the year 46 C.E. This latter date (or shortly thereafter) probably marks the time of the relief ministration effected by Paul and Barnabas.—Acts 12:25.
Paul’s first visit to Corinth can be dated through the proconsulship of Gallio. (Acts 18:1, 11-18) As explained in the article on GALLIO, this proconsulship ran from the summer of 51 to the summer of 52 C.E. Thus, Paul’s eighteen-month activity in Corinth likely began in the autumn of 50 C.E., ending in the spring of 52 C.E. This is further confirmed by the fact that two of Paul’s associates in Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla, had recently arrived there from Italy due to Emperor Claudius’ edict requiring all Jews to depart from Rome. (Acts 18:2) Paulus Orosius, historian of the fifth century, states that this order was given in Claudius’ ninth year, early in 50 C.E.
The two years Paul spent in prison at Caesarea were during the last two years of the governorship of Felix, Paul thereafter being sent on to Rome by Felix’ successor Porcius Festus. (Acts 21:33; 23:23-35; 24:27) The date of the accession of Festus is somewhat uncertain, historical evidence not being in full agreement. However, the most probable time appears to narrow down to the years from 57 to 60 C.E., with some modern authorities favoring either 59 or 60 C.E. At any rate, Paul’s subsequent arrival in Rome may be placed between 59 and 61 C.E.
The great fire that ravaged Rome came in July of 64 C.E. and was followed by fierce persecution of Christians, Nero being the instigator. It is probable that Paul’s second imprisonment and his execution took place shortly thereafter. (2 Tim. 1:16; 4:6, 7) The exiling of John to the isle of Patmos is generally considered to have taken place during the reign of Emperor Domitian. (Rev. 1:9) The persecution of Christians reached a peak during his rule (81-96 C.E.), particularly in the last three years. The traditional view is that John was released from exile following Domitian’s death and died in Ephesus about the close of the first century C.E. Thus, by John’s writing his epistles about this time, the Bible canon was completed and the apostolic period came to its close.
[Chart on pages 336-337]
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PERIOD FROM THE START OF THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN TO THE REIGN OF SAUL
This chart is presented to illustrate one of a number of ways in which the chronological periods stated in the book of Judges could fit within the span of indicated elsewhere in the Biblical record.
CONQUEST of Canaan* (6)
Intervening period* (35[?])
SYRIA under Cushan-rishathaim oppresses Israel (8)
OTHNIEL victorious over Syria
“Land had no disturbance” (40)
MOAB under Eglon oppresses Israel (18)
EHUD victorious over Moab
“Land had no further disturbance”* (80)
CANAAN under Jabin of Hazor oppresses Israel (20)
SHAMGAR ‘saves Israel’ from Philistines. Period unstated.
BARAK victorious over Canaan
“Land had no further disturbance” (40)
MIDIAN oppresses Israel (7)
GIDEON victorious over Midian
“Land had no further disturbance. . . in the days of Gideon” (40)
ABIMELECH rules (3)
TOLA (of Issachar) judges Israel (23)
JAIR (of Gilead) judges Israel (22)
AMMON oppresses Israel (18)
ELI* High priest (40)
SAMUEL* Priest, prophet, judge
300 years from start of Israelite conquest. (Judg. 11:26-33)
JEPHTHAH victorious over Ammon; judges (6)
IBZAN (of Bethlehem) judges (7)
PHILISTIA oppresses Israel (40)
ELON (of Zebulun) judges (10)
ABDON (of Ephraim) judges (8)
SAMSON* (of Dan) judges (20)
Philistia defeats Israel
Ark of covenant in Kiriath-jearim 20 years
Intervening period (5 [?])
Samuel leads Israel to victory over Philistia (1 Samuel 7:7-14)
Period between conquest of Canaan and first oppression of Israel. During this period Joshua died, other “older men” died, and another generation rose. (Judg. 2:7-11) This period is left indeterminate in the Bible. The figure given in the chart is only a suggestion.
This expression may refer only to the “land” now relieved of oppression. Compare the regional use of the word “land” at Judges 1:27, 31-33. Or the expression may mean no further disturbance ‘from that quarter,’ in this case, Moab. As noted, the Biblical record does not say that Ehud judged for 80 years. The oppression by Jabin, apparently affecting primarily the northern tribes of Israel, is stated to have begun after Ehud’s death, not after the 80 years. (Judg. 3:30; 4:1, 2) However, while it seems certain that some of the periods mentioned in the book of Judges were concurrent rather than successive, the example given in this chart is simply an illustration of a possibility and is not intended to be viewed as definite.
Eli’s priesthood must have begun more than 60 years prior to Saul’s reign, since Eli ‘judged Israel for forty years’ (1 Sam. 4:18), and since the ark of the covenant was in Kiriath-jearim for 20 years subsequent to his death and up to the Israelite victory over Philistia, which preceded Saul’s reign. (1 Sam. 6:1; 7:1, 2) Eli’s judging as a priest would not prevent other judges from serving contemporaneously, even as Samuel appointed his own sons to serve as judges in Beer-sheba.—1 Sam. 8:1, 2.
Samuel began service at the temple as a young child, perhaps no more than five years of age. (1 Sam. 1:24, 25) He likely died not long before Saul’s death. (Compare 1 Samuel 19:18-20; 28:3-5; 31:1-5.) His suggested position as above would make him about 35 by Eli’s death (1 Sam. 3:19-21; 4:15-18) and about 60 when Saul became king.—1 Sam. 8:1-5.
Samson’s judging seems to have consisted mainly of his campaigns waged single-handedly against the Philistines. Thus his judgeship could have run concurrently with that of others, including Samuel. While his activity is not said to have ended the Philistine oppression, yet it was foretold that he would “take the lead in saving Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judg. 13:5) Hence, it seems likely that he died not long before the decisive Israelite victory over the Philistines achieved under Samuel’s direction.
[Chart on pages 340-347]
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Prophets, Kings, of Judah and Israel.
KINGDOM OF JUDAH B.C.E. KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
KING REHOBOAM (17) 997 KING JEROBOAM (22)
Prophets: Prophets: AHIJAH
SHEMAIAH 1 Ki. 11:29-31;
2 Chron. 11:2, 3 MAN OF GOD
IDDO 1 Ki. 13:1, 2
KING ABIJAM (ABIJAH) (3) 980*
KING ASA (41) 978*
976* KING NADAB (2)
975* KING BAASHA (24)
Prophet: JEHU (son of
Prophet: AZARIAH 966
Prophet: HANANI 962*
952* KING ELAH (2)
951* KING ZIMRI (7 days)
951 KING TIBNI
951 KING OMRI (12)
940* KING AHAB (22)
KING JEHOSHAPHAT (25) 937*
920* KING AHAZIAH (2)
KING JEHORAM (8) 919* KING JEHORAM (12)
Prophets: JEHU (son of Hanani) 1 Ki. 22:8;
JAHAZIEL 917 ELISHA
Prophet: ELIJAH 911
KING AHAZIAH (1) 906*
QUEEN ATHALIAH (6) 905* KING JEHU (28)
904 Prophet: ELISHA 2 Ki. 9:1-4
KING JEHOASH (40) 898*
KING JEHOAHAZ (17) 876*
862* KING JEHOASH (16)
Prophet: ZECHARIAH 860*
859 Prophet: ELISHA
KING AMAZIAH (29) 858*
Prophet: MAN OF GOD
844* KING JEROBOAM II(41)
HOSEA: Hos. 1:1
AMOS: Amos 1:1
KING UZZIAH (AZARIAH) (52) 829
Prophets: AMOS: Amos 1:1
HOSEA: Hos. 1:1
JOEL(?): Joel 1:1
791* KING SHALLUM (1 month)
KING MENAHEM (10)
780* KING PEKAHIAH (2)
Prophet: ISAIAH 778* KING PEKAH (20)
KING JOTHAM (16) 777* Prophets: MICAH
Prophets: MICAH: Mic 1:1;
KING AHAZ (16) 762*
Prophets: MICAH; 761 Prophet: ODED
HOSEA; ISAIAH 2 Chron. 28:6-11
KING HOSHEA (9) 758*
KING HEZEKIAH (29) 746*
Prophets: MICAH; HOSEA; 745
(End of the Kingdom 740*
KING MANASSEH (55) 716
KING AMON (2) 661
KING JOSIAH (31) 659
Prophets: NAHUM (?)
ZEPHANIAH: Zeph. 1:1
Prophet: JEREMIAH 647*
Prophets: HULDAH 642
KING JEHOAHAZ (3 mos.) 628
KING JEHOIAKIM (11)
Prophets: HABAKKUK (?)
JEREMIAH: Jer. 25:1-3
KING JEHOIACHIN (3 months, 619
Prophet: DANIEL 618*
KING ZEDEKIAH (11) 617
Prophet: EZEKIEL 613
Prophet: OBADIAH 607*
Jeroboam’s 18th year; Abijam of Judah becomes king.
Jeroboam’s 20th year; during it Abijam possibly dies and Asa begins ruling, although regnal years do not begin counting until Nisan of following year.
Asa’s 2nd year; Jeroboam perhaps dies and Nadab becomes king of Israel.
Asa’s 3rd year; Nadab evidently is killed during this year (his second) and Baasha begins to reign.
Asa’s 10th year; peace till this point.—2 Chron. 14:1.
35th year from division of kingdom.—2 Chron. 15:19.
36th year from division; Asa’s 16th year; Baasha comes up to build Ramah.—2 Chron. 16:1.
Asa’s 26th year; Baasha possibly dies and Elah begins to reign.
Asa’s 27th year; Zimri murders Elah and later commits suicide; Omri assumes kingship during this year, with Tibni opposing him.
Asa’s 31st year; Omri overcomes Tibni’s opposition and becomes sole ruler.—1 Ki. 16:23.
Omri rules from Samaria.—1 Ki. 16:23, 24.
Asa’s 38th year; in it Omri evidently dies and Ahab becomes king.
Ahab’s fourth year of ruling; Asa dies in his 41st year (2 Chron. 16:13) and Jehoshaphat becomes king.
Jehoshaphat’s third year; priests begin teaching in Judah.—2 Chron. 17:7-9.
Jehoshaphat’s 17th year; Ahaziah ‘becomes king’ in Israel evidently while Ahab still living.
Jehoshaphat’s 18th year; Ahab perhaps dies, leaving Ahaziah as sole king. Jehoram of Israel is stated to have become king in this year; it is possible that the brief reign of his brother, Ahaziah, who died sonless, may here be credited to Jehoram so that Jehoram’s reign is counted from the death of Ahab in Jehoshaphat’s 18th year. (Compare references to 35th and 36th years of Asa’s reign at 2 Chronicles 15:19; 16:1, which evidently must refer to the 35th and 36th years from the start of the divided kindgom.) It also appears, in this 18th year of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram of Judah became associated in some way with his father in the kingship, since Jehoram of Israel is stated to have become king in “the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat.”—2 Ki. 1:17.
The 2d year of the Judean Jehoram’s association with Jehoshaphat in the kingdom.
The Israelite Jehoram’s 5th year; Jehoram of Judah becomes king “while Jehoshaphat was king of Judah.” (2 Ki. 8:16) The words “while Jehoshaphat was king of Judah” appear in the Masoretic text, as well as in the Vatican No. 1209 and Alexandrine manuscripts. They are lacking in the Syriac and are omitted in some modern translations (AT, RS, Mo).
The Israelite Jehoram’s 11th year; Ahaziah of Judah perhaps anointed to the kingship.
The Israelite Jehoram’s 12th year; Jehoram of Judah perhaps dies and Ahaziah of Judah becomes sole king.
Evidently during this year, credited to Ahaziah, Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah are slain by Jehu. Athaliah becomes queen in Judah.
Jehu’s 7th year; also probably Athaliah’s 7th year, in which she is executed; this is counted as the first year of Jehoash.
Jehoash’s 23rd year; repairs temple at Jerusalem (2 Ki. 12:6); Jehoahaz of Israel becomes king.
The Judean Jehoash’s 37th year; during it Jehoash of Israel evidently became associated in the kingship with his father, Jehoahaz, though his sixteen years of rule do not appear to count until after his father’s seventeen-year reign.
Perhaps toward the close of this year, Jehoahaz’ 17-year rule of Israel ends and Jehoash of Israel becomes sole king.
The Israelite Jehoash’s 2d year of sole rule; Amaziah becomes king of Judah.
Amaziah’s 15th year; Jehoash evidently dies and Jeroboam II becomes king. Amaziah thus outlives Jehoash of Israel by about 15 years.—2 Ki. 14:17.
Approximate 27th year of Jeroboam II (2 Ki. 15:1); in this year Uzziah ‘becomes king’ in some special sense, possibly now free from domination of Jeroboam II, a domination that may have begun during the reign of Jehoash of Israel.—2 Chron. 25:23, 24.
Uzziah’s 27th year; Jeroboam II apparently dies and, according to 2 Kings 14:29, is replace by his son Zechariah. However, in accord with 2 Kings 15:8, it may be that due to Zechariah’s being very young or for some other reason not stated, the kingship was not fully established or confirmed to Zechariah until Uzziah’s 38th year.
Uzziah’s 38th year.
Uzziah’s 39th year; Shallum kills Zechariah and rules for one month, then is killed by Menahem, who assumes kingship of Israel.
Uzziah’s 50th year; Pekahiah becomes king of Israel.
Uzziah’s 52d year; Pekah becomes king of Israel.
Pekah’s 2d year; Jotham becomes king of Judah. Though administering the affairs of the “king’s house” after Uzziah’s illness (2 Chron. 26:21), Jotham’s sixteen years evidently begin to count after Uzziah’s death in his 52d year.
Pekah’s 17th year; during it Jotham dies and Ahaz becomes king, his reign officially counting from the following Nisan.
Ahaz’ 4th year, evidently referred to as ‘Jotham’s 20th,’ being the twentieth year from the start of Jotham’s reign. (2 Ki. 15:30) Pekah is slain by Hoshea and Hoshea assumes kingship.
Hoshea is again stated as ‘becoming king’ in Ahaz’ twelfth year. (2 Ki. 17:1) The year indicated by the letter “m” is the 14th year of Ahaz’ actual reign. However, it may represent the 12th year of his being a tributary king to Tiglath-pileser, as described in the preceding chapter. (2 Ki. 16:7-18; compare Daniel 1:1, which evidently refers to the third year of Jehoiakim as a vassal king, that year being the eleventh year of his actual reign.) In this “twelfth year” of Ahaz, Hoshea perhaps fully established his control over Israel, or it might be that at this point Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser gave his backing to Hoshea, since his inscriptions make the claim that he put Hoshea on the throne.
Hoshea’s 3d year in the sense just described; during it Ahaz evidently dies and Hezekiah becomes king, counting his reign officially from the following Nisan.
The 4th year of Hezekiah’s official reign and the 7th year of Hoshea. Siege of Samaria begins.
The 6th year of Hezekiah’s official reign and the 9th year of Hoshea. During this year Samaria falls and the northern kingdom of Israel come to an end.
Hezekiah’s 14th year; Sennacherib invades Judah.—2 Ki. 18:13.
Josiah’s 8th year; he starts to search for Jehovah.—2 Chron. 34:3.
Josiah’s 12th year; he cleans high places out of the land.—2 Chron. 34:3.
Nebuchadnezzar defeats Egypt in Battle of Carchemish during Jehoiakim’s 4th year; becomes king of Babylon but does not start first regnal year until following Nisan.—Jer. 46:2.
Jehoiakim begins vassalship to Babylon.—2 Ki. 24:1
Jehoiakim’s 3d year of vassalship (11th year of reign); rebels against Babylon. (2 Ki. 24:1; compare Daniel 1:1.) Nebuchadnezzar’s 7th regnal year; takes Jehoiachin and others into exile (Jer. 52:28); makes Mattaniah (Zedekiah) king of Judah.
Zedekiah’s 9th year since becoming king; Jerusalem comes under siege.—2 Ki. 25:1, 2.
Ninth of Tammuz, walls of Jerusalem breached (2 Ki. 25:2-4); 7th of Ab, city burned (2 Ki. 25:8, 9); land of Judah abandoned and left desolate in the seventh month (Ethanim) by about October 1, in 19th year since Nebuchadnezzar assumed the kingship of Babylon but in his 18th regnal year.—2 Ki. 25:22-26; Jer. 41:1-3; 43:1-7; 52:29.
[Picture on page 330]
Crown Prince Xerxes standing behind Darius (on the throne), with head on same level as that of his father the king (from Persepolis Treasury)