Historical Overview of the Old Testament
This page has two purposes. The first is to quickly place each book within the broad sweep of Jewish history, not to explore the details of that history. A more detailed discussion of the setting for a particular book may be included on the main page for that book. The second purpose is to provide chronological anchor points that are both verifiable and internally consistent for use when working on other pages. This page (excluding footnotes) should remain short enough to read in about thirty minutes.
- 1 Timelines
- 2 Simplified overview of four historical periods
- 3 Period 1: The patriarchs, the sojourn in Egypt, and altars
- 4 Period 2: From Moses to Samson: Judges and the Tabernacle
- 5 Period 3: From David to the Babylonian Captivity: Kings and the First Temple (of Solomon)
- 6 Period 4: From the return to Jerusalem to the destruction by Rome: Provincial governors and the Second Temple (of Zerubbabel)
- 7 Resources
- 8 Notes
Referring to one of the following timelines may make it easier to relate specific events described on this page to the big picture of Old Testament history.
Simplified overview of four historical periods
Students of the book of Mormon are often introduced to the Pride Cycle of Nephite history in Helaman and the first part of Third Nephi. In similar fashion, the history of the Old Testament can be understood as a cycle in which brief periods of righteousness, blessing, and prosperity are followed by long periods of religious and political decline.
The books of the Old Testament tend to be clustered chronologically at the turning points of destruction following a long period of decline and the subsequent brief periods of righteousness. If one were to count these periods by pages rather than by years, it would appear that these turning points were at least as long, if not longer, than the periods of decline. But when years are counted, it is seen that the periods of righteousness usually last no more than two or three generations, while the periods of decline last for centuries.
Echoes of this cycle appear three times during the time of the patriarchs, referred to here as Period 1:
- from Adam to Noah, in Genesis 1-6a
- from Noah to Abraham, in Genesis 6b-10; and
- from Abraham through the Sojourn in Egypt in Genesis 11-Exodus 2.
This cycle then provides the backbone of Israel's history as a people in the promised as the Old Testament recounts three repetitions of this cycle:
- Period 2 from Moses to Samson;
- Period 3 from King David to the Babylonian Captivity; and
- Period 4 from the return to Jerusalem under the Persians to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in New Testament times.
Period 1: The patriarchs, the sojourn in Egypt, and altars. The Old Testament is concerned with Israel as a people. But Genesis recounts the time before Israel was a people, and it is therefore primarily concerned only with the individuals from whom Israel is descended rather than groups. We have little information abut this period except that the two fathers of mankind were Adam and Noah, that Abraham is descended from them and received a great blessing from God, that Isaac and Jacob inherited the birthright to that blessing, and that Joseph brought Israel together as a people by forgiving and bringing his brothers down to Egypt. So while echoes can be seen of this cycle of brief righteousness followed by lengthy decline, it is difficult to come to any certain conclusions.
During this time authority ran along patriarchal lines and was not clearly subject to outside political authority such as a local king. Worship is described only as occurring at rough hewn altars. And Abraham was promised that his descendants would eventually possess the Promised Land of Canaan, but not until they had first spent 400 years in Egypt.
Period 2: From Moses to Samson: Judges and the tabernacle. The first clear occurrence of the cycle of brief righteousness followed by lengthy decline was during the period from Moses to Samson. The ministries of Moses and his successor Joshua are recounted in great detail in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua. The books of Exodus and Numbers recount the purging of the faithless First Generation that came up out of Egypt with Moses and its replacement by the faithful Second Generation that then conquered the Promised Land under Joshua. The faithfulness of this Second Generation is evident from two events. Near the beginning of the book of Joshua, after the miraculous conquest of Jericho, Israel failed to conquer the next city (Ai) until it rooted out the one single Israelite who had disobeyed God's instructions. At the end of the book, as the tribes dispersed to their newly conquered homes, the tribes residing in Israel proper were ready to destroy the tribes who lived across the Jordan River in response to a single event that was initially misinterpreted as idolatry. Under Joshua, Israel began to enjoy the Abrahamic Covenant's promise of complete conquest and possession of the Land of Promise.
The book of Judges, in contrast, is structured to highlight a downward spiral of apostasy and decline over the course of about three centuries during which Israel was usually under threat by its neighbors. At the beginning of the book, the covenant of complete possession of the promised Land was replaced by a lesser covenant of only partial possession due to the faithless Third Generation violating three key commandments: (1) no foreign alliances; (2) no intermarriage with foreigners; and (3) no idolatry. At the beginning of the book, at least the judges are portrayed as diligent leaders who had to stir up the faithless people to faithfulness. By the end of the book, even the judges are portrayed as faithless. The last judge in the book is Samson, a contemporary of Samuel who died shortly before Saul became king. Samson was the greatest physical hero in Israel's history, but he is depicted as being concerned with only his own personal interests, not with the welfare of Israel, and in the end he was destroyed by a harlot. The last two stories, clearly out of chronological order, recount the nearly complete destruction of the tribe of Benjamin at the hands of Israel itself, and the decision by the tribe of Dan to abandon its inheritance in the Promised Land. The book of Judges blames this outcome on the violation of the three key commandments and the absence of a king.
During most of this time, worship of God was focused at the Tabernacle, and Israel was ruled by an ad hoc series of judges who often functioned as chieftains.
Period 3: From David to the Babylonian Captivity: Kings and the First Temple (of Solomon). The next occurrence of the cycle of brief righteousness followed by lengthy decline is recounted in Samuel and Kings. The book of Samuel recounts the reigns of Saul and David. While Saul had his faults, he was a faithful king to the extent that he: (1) did not make foreign alliances; (2) did not intermarry with foreigners; and (3) did not tolerate idolatry. Even when Saul sought out a witch at the end of his life, the point is made that it would be hard to find a soothsayer because Saul had been diligently putting them all to death. David did take some foreign wives, but his favorite was always an Israelite (Michal and then Bathsheba), he did not make foreign alliances, and he did not tolerate idolatry. Samuel thus recounts two generations of kings who largely kept these three commandments, and the result was that the covenant of complete conquest of the Promised Land was restored, and Israel reached its greatest strength and size.
The book of Kings recounts three centuries of decline as Israel's kings frequently violated the same three commandments. The book begins by recounting how Solomon, the man who built God's house: (1) made alliance with foreign rulers; (2) intermarried with the daughters of those foreign rulers; and (3) had his heart turned by them to idolatry. During Solomon's reign, that idolatry was only personal and was not official state policy. But upon Solomon's death, the kingdom was divided, and idolatry was always the official state policy of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom was ultimately conquered and wiped off the map by Assyria following an unbroken string of twenty idolatrous northern kings. In the Southern Kingdom of Judah (consisting mostly of Jews from the tribe of Judah), idolatry was also from time to time official state policy. The Southern Kingdom survived Assyria, but it was ultimately conquered and carried off by Babylon as a result of "the sins of King Manasseh," namely idolatry and murder. By the end of this period, the covenant of possession of the Promised Land had been revoked, first as to the Lost Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom who were carried off by Assyria, and then as to the Jews of the Southern Kingdom who were subsequently carried off by Babylon.
During most of this time, worship of God was focused at the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and Israel was governed by kings.
Period 4: From the return to Jerusalem to the destruction by Rome: Provincial Governors and the Second Temple (of Zerubbabel). Judah was subject to Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity for about 70 years. At the end of that time, Babylon was in turn conquered by Persia. The Persian king soon allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. This Second Temple was known as the Temple of Zerubbabel, named for one of the initial Jewish returnees. In all, three principal groups returned over the course of about 120 years. These events began the final occurrence of the cycle of brief righteousness followed by a lengthy decline. This righteous beginning and restoration of the covenant of possessing the Promised Land (at least for the tribe of Judah) is recounted, among other books, in Ezra and the last two books of the Old Testament chronologically, Nehemiah and Malachi.
The Old Testament account of the cycle ends here because there is no canonized scriptural record of the four centuries between Malachi and the New Testament. The issue of foreign alliances was largely moot now that Judah was a conquered province. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi all preached against intermarriage with foreigners. And the "Second Temple Judaism" depicted in the Gospels and Acts indicates that the Jews had by then learned, or perhaps even over-learned, the lesson against allowing affinity with foreigners to lead one away into idolatry. But we also learn from the New Testament that, six centuries after the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they had nevertheless apostatized as a people sufficiently to reject Jesus Christ, after which the Second Temple was destroyed, the Jews were driven out of Jerusalem, and the covenant of possession of the Promised Land was again revoked for 2,000 years until modern times.
Period 1: The patriarchs, the sojourn in Egypt, and altars
Events prior to the reign of King Saul (1049 BC) are especially difficult to date, and prior to that time there are major discrepancies between even the most respected chronologies. It is perhaps easiest to understand those early events in relation to each other by counting generations rather than years. Generations overlapped, since children were born before their parents died. And different people's ancestral generations occurred at different rates since, for example, Isaac was born very late in the lives of his parents Abraham and Sarah.
Genesis recounts the history of the patriarchs, including the establishment of mankind, the Lord's special covenant with Abraham, the passing of that covenant down to Jacob individually, and the establishment of the House of Israel as collective heir to that covenant. That history covers 24 generations.
- Adam and Eve (Generation 1), who were placed in the Garden of Eden. (Gen 2:18-25).
- Cain, who murdered his brother Abel (Generation 2). (Gen 4:1-16).
- Lamech (Generation 7), who like his ancestor Cain murdered a close relative. (Gen 4:18-24).
- Nimrod (Generation 13) (Gen 10:8-10), who was king of Babel (Gen 11:1-9), though not necessarily when the language of mankind was confounded and the Jaredites were led away. (Ether 1:33-37).
- Abraham the Hebrew (Generation 20) (Gen 11:26), who received the Abrahamic Covenant and traveled from Mesopotamia to Canaan, to Egypt, and then back to Canaan.
- Isaac (Gen 21:5), his brother Ishmael (Gen 16:15-16), and their cousin Lot (Gen 11:27) (Generation 21).
- Jacob and Esau (Generation 22). (Gen 25:26).
- Joseph (Generation 23) (Gen 41:46), who was sold into Egypt, became second ruler of Egypt, and moved his father's family, the House of Israel, to Egypt where they remained together as a single group.
- Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph's two sons (Generation 24) (Gen 48:5), who were the last generation to receive significant individual mention in Genesis.
- The House of Israel was in Egypt for four generations (Gen 15:16), which could mean either four lifetimes during 430 years, or four steps in ancestry during 215 years. Israel at first enjoyed a position of favor in Egypt (Gen 47:5-13) but was later reduced to slavery. (Ex 1:7-15).
Job may also be set during the time of the patriarchs. There is little to indicate when the book occurred, but it appears to be set earlier rather than later, likely even before the Exodus, since Job performed his own priestly sacrifices without any mention of Levitical priesthood, his wealth was measured in animals rather than coins, and he lived for an additional 140 years following a story that began after seven adult children had each moved out to live in their own homes.
A more detailed discussion of the history and dating of the patriarchs is found at the discussion of Genesis 5-6a for Adam to Noah, the discussion of Genesis 11b for Noah to Abraham, the discussion of Moses for changes to the chronology in the Joseph Smith Translation, and Genesis: Historical overview for Abraham to Joseph.
Period 2: From Moses to Samson: Judges and the Tabernacle
Israel lived as a people in the wilderness and then in the Promised Land under Moses, Joshua, and a series of ad hoc judges for almost 400 years. During the first year of Israel's wandering in the desert, the ark of the covenant and portable tabernacle were built. At the very end of this period Samuel anointed Saul as king, and then King Solomon built a permanent temple to replace the tabernacle. During this period Israel was frequently threatened and subjugated by its immediate neighbors.
Exodus and initial conquest, about 67 years
Five books -- Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua -- provide the account of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, its wandering in the wilderness, and its establishment as a nation in the promised land of Canaan. This history covers two generations, the First Generation that came up out of Egypt with Moses, and the Second Generation that entered Canaan with Joshua.
1. Moses, though a Hebrew, spent 40 years as a prince in Egypt (Acts 7:20-29), spent another 40 years in Midian with Jethro (Acts 7:29-30; Ex. 7:7), after which he led the children of Israel out from Egypt on the occasion of the first Passover (Exodus 12) and then spent a final 40 years in the wilderness with the children of Israel, dying at the age of 120. (Ex. 7:7; Deut 34:7). The events recorded during this time fall into four chronological periods:
- Exodus 1-2. The first two chapters serve as a prologue, quickly covering the entire Egyptian Captivity and Moses' life through age 80.
- Exodus 3 - Leviticus - Numbers 14. The next two and a half books cover a compressed group of events that all occurred within the space of only about two years. Those events began with Moses' call to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10) and continued into the second year of wandering in the wilderness. (Deut 2:14; Num 13:26; Num 14:33).
- Numbers 15-19. The next five chapters move quickly through a few key events that occurred over the next 38 years of wandering in the wilderness.
- Numbers 20 - Deuteronomy 34. The last book and a half cover another compressed group of events that all occurred during the final year of Moses' life. (Num 20:1; Num 33:38; Deut 1:3; Deut 34:7).
2. Joshua succeeded Moses and led the faithful Second Generation for about 27 years, including about 7 years of war as Israel entered and conquered much of Canaan (Josh 14:6-10), followed by about 20 years of peace. During this short time Israel fulfilled and began to enjoy the Covenant of Complete Conquest of Canaan under the Abrahamic Covenant and the conditions spelled out in Deuteronomy. King David's ancestor Salmon was apparently a member of this Second Generation since he married Rahab (Matt 1:4-5), the harlot who hid two Israelite spies in Jericho. (Josh 2:1).
Judges, about 330 years
Judges tells the story of Israel’s internal disintegration under an ad hoc series of judges.
- Judges 1-2. The two opening stories serve as a prologue that contrasts the faithful Second Generation who conquered much of the Promised Land under Joshua with the faithless Third Generation who broke the Covenant of Complete Conquest through idolatry, foreign alliances, and intermarriage with gentiles. (Judg 2:2; 3:6-7). The Lord therefore revoked that covenant and replaced it with a lesser Covenant of Partial Conquest, under which gentile nations would be left in the land to stir up Israel unto a remembrance of God. (Judg 2:20-23).
- Judges 3-16. The middle portion relates stories about six judges: Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, makes brief mention of six more judges to round out an even dozen, and at the center tells of a usurper king named Abimelech. These stories depict Israel’s increasing wickedness, weakness, and inability to obtain deliverance and rest. This portion of Judges relates a chronology of about 329 years that overlaps into the beginning years of Israel's final judge, Samuel.
- Judges 17-21. The last two stories tell how the entire tribe of Dan spiritually apostatized and physically abandoned its land of inheritance in the promised land, and how the tribe of Benjamin was almost entirely destroyed at the hands of Israel itself. These last two stories feature grandsons of Moses (Judg 18:30, NIV) and Aaron (Judg 20:28), as though Israel’s condition at the end of Judges can be blamed on a single faithless Third Generation. It is likely that these two stories are placed far out of chronological order for literary effect as a closing epilogue.
The account of Israel's last judge, Samuel, is recorded in 1 Samuel 1-8. Although Eli is also identified as having "judged" Israel for 40 years (1 Sam 4:18), it appears that he functioned more as a priest than a military leader. (1 Sam 2).
Period 3: From David to the Babylonian Captivity: Kings and the First Temple (of Solomon)
Israel was governed by independent kings for almost 450 years beginning in 1049 BC. Saul, David, and Solomon ruled over a single united kingdom. Following the death of Solomon in 931 BC, Israel split into two kingdoms. The Southern Kingdom of Judah had both good kings and bad. Eight of those kings are briefly reviewed here: the first who was insufferably proud, three who were unusually good, three who were unusually wicked, and one who was unusually wicked but repented. The Northern Kingdom of Israel, in contrast, had an unbroken string of twenty wicked kings, five of whom are briefly reviewed here. The Temple of Solomon stood in Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom. In the Northern Kingdom, idol worship was officially promoted as a way to keep the loyalty of its people away from Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom. After two centuries, Assyria erased the Northern Kingdom in 723 BC. Another century later Babylon conquered the Southern Kingdom and in 587 BC destroyed the Temple of Solomon.
United kingdom, 1049-931 BC
Israel was united under a single king for only about 120 years under three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon. The account of that history is recorded in 1 Samuel 9 - 1 Kings 11 and again in 1 Chronicles 10 - 2 Chronicles 9. The books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon likely also date from this period, though portions of some of these books were probably written later.
1. Saul (ruled 1049-1009 BC) spent much of his reign fighting the Ammonites to the east and the Philistines to the west, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. His reign began well, but because of pride he disobeyed instructions from the prophet Samuel and was rejected by the Lord in favor of David. His life ended tragically as he tried to kill David, did kill the Lord's priests, and ultimately committed suicide at the end of a losing battle with the Philistines. Saul's reign is detailed in 1 Samuel 9-31 and his death is briefly reviewed in 1 Chronicles 10.
2. David (r. 1009-969 BC) is the great national hero of Israel. He was a great warrior, and during his reign Israel went from being threatened by its neighbors to reaching its greatest physical size. Israel again enjoyed Complete Conquest of the promised land of Canaan. David captured Jerusalem. He also transformed Israel from a rural, tribal kingdom into a cosmopolitan nation with a capital city, standing army, national bureaucracy, and systematic taxation. Like Saul, David sinned. But unlike Saul, he sought repentance rather than rebelling against the Lord. The greatest threat to his reign came from his own sons, whom he failed to discipline when they committed crimes similar to his own. David's life and reign are detailed in both 1 Samuel 16 - 1 Kings 2 and 1 Chronicles 11-29. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David.
3. Solomon (r. joint 971 / sole 969-932 BC) succeeded his father David as king. The highlight of his reign was the construction of the Temple of Solomon and its dedication in October-November 961 BC. Solomon was known for his wealth and wisdom. He enjoyed the fruits of David's empire but left the kingdom no stronger than he found it. He also tolerated pagan idolatry among members of his own family. Solomon's reign is described in both 1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9. Solomon is commonly identified as the author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Division of the kingdom, 931-885 BC
1. Rehoboam (South #1) (r. 931-914 BC) was Solomon's heir and could have inherited the entire kingdom. At his coronation the northern tribes requested that he relax their tax burden, to which he arrogantly responded that he would instead increase their burden. The northern tribes thus left the kingdom and selected a king of their own from the tribe of Ephraim, leaving Rehoboam and the House of David to rule only the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
2. Jeroboam (North #1) (r. 931-910 BC) was the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam had previously been promised the rule over ten tribes by a prophet of God. But as king, in order to discourage his subjects from traveling to the Southern Kingdom to worship at the Jerusalem temple, he set up golden calf idols at Dan in the north and at Bethel in the south of his kingdom, proclaiming that these two idols had brought Israel up out of Egypt.
Elijah and Elisha, 885-793 BC
The ministries of Elijah and Elisha in the Northern Kingdom of Israel are recorded in 1 Kings 15 - 2 Kings 13, and the same time period is again covered in 2 Chronicles 14-24. These two prophets opposed the Omrid dynasty's efforts to promote worship of the foreign idol Baal. At the end of this period Jehu destroyed both the Omrid dynasty and Baal worship from the Northern Kingdom. But rather than promote worship of Jehovah, Jehu promoted worship of the two golden calves at Dan and Bethel. Baal worship also enjoyed a brief period of official sanction in the Southern Kingdom, and it never went entirely away while the two kingdoms remained.
In the NORTHERN KINGDOM, Omri (N #7) (r. 885-874 BC) founded the Omrid dynasty, married his heir to a foreign princess, and founded the Northern Kingdom's new capital city of Samaria (1 Kings 16:15-28).
1. Ahab (N #8) (r. 874-853 BC) succeeded his father Omri as king. Ahab was married to Jezebel, a foreign princess from Sidon. He went beyond Jeroboam's local idolatry by promoting worship of the foreign idol Baal. He also tried to kill the prophet Elijah. (1 Kings 16-22 and 2 Chronicles 18).
The prophet Elijah ministered during the reign of Ahab and the brief reign of his son Ahaziah, or during about 874-852 BC. He caused a famine by sealing the heavens so that Israel did not receive rain for three and a half years, miraculously multiplied a widow's grain and oil, raised her son from the dead, and called down fire from heaven upon the priests of Baal. (1 Kings 17 - 2 Kings 2 and 2 Chronicles 21).
2. Jehu (N #11) (r. 841-814 BC) was anointed to become king by the prophet Elisha. Jehu overthrew the Omrid dynasty, and he killed all the priests and worshipers of Baal. But rather than reinstate the worship of Jehovah, he again promoted Israel's own local brand of idolatry, the two golden calves at Bethel and Dan. (2 Kings 9-10 and 2 Chronicles 22:7-9).
The prophet Elisha ministered during the reigns of Jehoram and Jehu, or during about 852-814 BC. He died during the reign of Jehoash, or not earlier than 798 BC. Elisha's ministry often paralleled that of his mentor Elijah. Elisha prophesied a seven year famine, miraculously multiplied a widow's oil, raised a woman's son from the dead, and healed the Syrian general Naaman of leprosy. (2 Kings 2-10, 13).
In the SOUTHERN KINGDOM, the influence of the Omrid dynasty began to be felt just as it was being wiped out of the Northern Kingdom.
3. Jehoram (S #5) (r. 854/848-841 BC) and Athaliah (S #7) (r. 841-835 BC). Jehoram was the first really wicked king of the Southern Kingdom. He was married to Athaliah, daughter of wicked Ahab and Jezebel, and he began his reign by killing off all his brothers. Elijah sent him a prophecy of his death. Jehoram was succeeded after, a brief interval, by his queen Athaliah, who openly promoted the worship of Baal in the Southern Kingdom. Athaliah also sought to kill off potential rivals, including her grandsons, but she missed the infant Joash who was hidden in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Athaliah brought the Southern Kingdom to the brink of disintegration before being killed. (2 Kings 8:16-24 and 2 Chronicles 21).
4. Joash (S #8) (r. 835-796 BC) was the surviving grandson of Jehoram and Athaliah, and he was a righteous king. He refurbished the temple for the first time, more than a century after its original construction. (2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 23-24).
Assyrian invasions, 793-687 BC
During the 700's BC, Israel and Judah were increasingly caught between two great powers, Egypt to the south and Assyria to the north. Assyria was very cruel and very much feared. Egypt was often seen as a powerful and kinder ally who could provide protection against Assyrian advances. This provides the setting for both 2 Kings 14-20 and 2 Chronicles 25-32, as well as five (or perhaps six) prophetic books: Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah, and perhaps also Joel.
The NORTHERN KINGDOM of Israel continued on its wicked way for another seven decades until it was wiped out by Assyria.
1. Jeroboam II (N #14) (r. 793/782-753 BC) reigned at a time of strength and prosperity for Israel, in large part because the great powers of the region were occupied in other directions (CITE). Jonah prophesied that under Jeroboam II's rule Israel would again grow to its ideal territorial borders, which it did (2 Kgs 14:25). Jonah was also sent to warn Ninevah that it must repent in order to avoid destruction. Jonah's lack of interest in saving the Assyrian capital is understandable, but Ninevah repented sufficiently and was spared. Israel's prosperous and secure condition made it easier to dismiss the prophetic warning given by Amos during 768-753 BC near the end of Jeroboam II's reign that the Northern Kingdom would not only be conquered, but would be utterly destroyed. Jeroboam II's reign receives brief mention at the end of 2 Kings 14.
Jeroboam II was followed by a series of six kings over thirty years (753-723 BC). During that time the powers Syria, Assyria, and Egypt all gained in strength, so that increasingly Israel had to either rely on the Lord for protection or be destroyed. In 723 BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. Tens of thousands of Israel's elites were carried off and became the Lost Ten Tribes. Assyria also brought in large numbers of foreign settlers who intermarried with the remaining Israelite peasants, and their mixed descendants became known as Samaritans. This ended the history of the Northern Kingdom. (2 Kings 15, 17). Following an unbroken string of twenty wicked monarchs who violated the terms of the Covenant of Complete Conquest as explained in Deuteronomy, the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom did not possess the land of Canaan at all.
The SOUTHERN KINGDOM of Judah was also invaded by Assyria, but it survived through divine intervention.
Isaiah received his call as a prophet in 740 BC, the year that king Uzziah died and was succeeded by his son Jotham. (Isaiah 6). Isaiah preached a new covenant regarding Israel's possession of Canaan as promised to Abraham; not Complete Conquest, nor even Partial Conquest, but rather Scattering and eventual re-Gathering.
Micah ministered during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Like Isaiah, Micah is often associated in particular with the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC, so Micah ministered at least during 736-701 BC. Micah's ministry thus began soon after, and largely overlapped with, the ministries of Hosea and Isaiah.
Joel might have ministered at almost any time when there was a temple in Jerusdalem, from the days of Elisha down to the post-exilic period following Malachi (excepting only the Babylonian Captivity when there was no temple). Joel could thus have been the very earliest or the last of the twelve minor prophets, or almost anywhere in between.
2. Ahaz (S #12) (r. 735/732-716 BC) was a particularly wicked king. He openly rejected the worship of Jehovah, closed the temple, erected pagan altars throughout Jerusalem, and participated in child sacrifice. Like queen Athaliah before him, king Ahaz brought Judah to the brink of destruction. In the opening years of Ahaz's reign, Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel jointly invaded the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah prophesied to the Southern king Ahaz that the invasion would fail, which it did. (Isaiah 7). Ahaz made alliance with Assyria, and Assyria soon conquered Syria in 732 BC and then the Northern Kingdom of Israel a decade later in 723 BC. The last five verses of Isaiah 14 were received in the year that Ahaz died. Ahaz's reign is recorded in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.
3. Hezekiah (S #13) (r. 729/716-687 BC) cleansed and reopened the temple within months of succeeding to the throne. In 701 BC Assyria invaded the Southern Kingdom of Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem with a massive army of 185,000. Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would soon be free. (Isaiah 36-39), and during Passover the Assyrian army was destroyed by a plague. Hezekiah then sought to increase Judah's security by allying with Babylon. Hezekiah's reign is recorded in 2 Kings 18-20 and 2 Chronicles 29-32.
End of Southern Kingdom's independence, 687-605 BC
Following the Assyrian invasions, and then the death of king Hezekiah in 687 BC, the Southern Kingdom of Judah survived for nearly another century until 605 BC. This final century before the Babylonian conquest and destruction of the temple is the setting for 2 Kings 21-25 and 2 Chronicles 33-36, as well as four prophetic books: Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and part of Jeremiah. Three kings ruled Judah during almost all of this time.
1. Manasseh (S #14) (r. 697/687-643 BC) promoted idolatry, participated in child sacrifice, defiled the temple, and murdered many including his grandfather, the prophet Isaiah. He was captured and taken to Assyria, and while in captivity he had a change of heart and repented. Upon being restored to the throne he attempted to undo the damage from earlier in his reign, but blame for the wicked condition of Judah when it fell to Babylon a half century later is nevertheless traced to his reign. (2 Kgs 23:26). Manasseh's reign is recorded in 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33.
During Manasseh's reign over Judah, Assyria invaded Egypt. The Egyptian city of Thebes (Luxor) fell to Assyria in 663 BC. Nahum subsequently prophesied that, like Thebes, the Assyrian capital Ninevah would also fall. This prophecy was later fulfilled by the Babylonian conquest of Ninevah in 612 BC.
Manasseh was succeeded as king by his son Amon (S #15), who reigned for only two years before being assassinated. Amon was then succeeded by his son Josiah.
2. Josiah (S #16) (r. 641-609 BC) was only age eight when he assumed the throne. Twelve years later in 629 BC he began to purge idolatry out of Judah. Jeremiah began his ministry that same year. (Jeremiah 1). Another six years later in 623 BC Josiah renovated the temple, which led to the discovery of a copy of the Torah. This triggered further reforms such as reinstituting the celebration of Passover. In 612 BC a combined army of Babylonians and Persians (Medes) conquered the Assyrian capital Ninevah. Josiah, who was allied with Babylon, died three years later while trying to prevent an Egyptian army from advancing northward along the Mediterranean coast to assist the retreating Assyrians. Jeremiah 2-6 also date from the reign of Josiah. (Jer 3:6). Josiah's reign is recorded in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35.
Zephaniah was a second great grandson of Hezekiah and prophesied during the reign of Josiah, likely before the temple was renovated in 623 BC. Zepahaniah prophesied judgment against Judah in the near term, and eventual restoration when it repented.
Josiah was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz (S #17), but three months the Egyptian army, as it returned southward toward Egypt, stopped and deposed him in favor of his brother Jehoiakim.
3. Jehoiakim (S #18) (r. 609-598 BC) was a very wicked king at a very precarious moment in Judah's history. During the first year of Jehoiakim's reign, Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the temple. (Jeremiah 26). Jehoiakim continued as king of Judah into the Babylonian period. His reign is recorded in 2 Kings 24 and 2 Chronicles 36.
Habakkuk lamented the wicked state of society in Judah and was informed that the Lord would employ the Babylonians to punish Judah for that wickedness. His prophecy is typically dated to the last days before the Babylonian conquest, most commonly to the reign of Jehoiakim, but possibly as early as the reign of Josiah or even Manasseh.
Period 4: From the return to Jerusalem to the destruction by Rome: Provincial governors and the Second Temple (of Zerubbabel)
Following the Babylonian conquest of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was ruled by a series of four great powers: (1) Babylon, (2) Persia, (3) Greece, and (4) Rome. During the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews were without a temple or homeland. The Persians, however, allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This Second Temple stood for almost 600 years under the Persians, Greeks, and Romans until shortly after the ministry of Christ, when Rome destroyed the Second Temple and dispersed the Jews from Jerusalem.
Babylonian conquest, 605-539 BC
Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and probably Obadiah are each set, at least in significant part, during the Babylonian Captivity from 605 BC to 539 BC. Two Babylonian kings are important to the Old Testament.
1. Nebuchadnezzar (ruled 605-562 BC) decisively defeated the combined armies of Assyria and Egypt in mid 605 BC at the battle of Carchemish. He soon returned to Babylon to succeed his father as king, and then before the end of the year invaded Judah. The Jewish king Jehoiakim (S #18) submitted to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar carried off a large number of Jewish captives including Daniel and his three friends. Daniel's refusal to eat the king's food occurred upon his arrival in Babylon, and during the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign Daniel interpreted the king's dream of the statue. (Daniel 1-2). During the same year as this first Babylonian invasion, Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would serve Babylon for seventy years and also announced prophecies against several other nations. That year he also dictated the prophecies he had received so far to his scribe Baruch. King Jehoiakim burned the scroll on which the prophecies were written, so Jeremiah dictated them again. (Jeremiah 25, 36, 45-51).
King Jehoiakim (S #18) of Judah soon rebelled against Babylonian rule, and Nebuchadnezzar invaded a second time, conquering Jerusalem on 16 March 597 BC. The rebellious Jehoiakim died during the siege and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (S #19). But upon taking the city, the Babylonians replaced the new Jewish king with his uncle Zedekiah (S #20). Jeremiah 24, 29 and 1 Nephi 1 date from the initial months of Zedekiah's reign. Following this second invasion, the Babylonians carried off most of the remaining Jewish elites and and resettled many of these exiles on the Chebar River about 50 miles southeast of the capital Babylon. Six years later Ezekiel received his call as a prophet while among these exiles on 31 July 593 BC, and he received several more revelations over the following two years. (Ezekiel 1-23). About the same time, likely around 595-94 BC, Nebuchadnezzar sentenced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3).
By 594 BC the Jewish king Zedekiah was plotting to rebel against Babylon, contrary to the counsel of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 27-28) and Ezekiel (Ezek 17:13-16). Nebuchadnezzar responded by invading Judah for the third time and on 27 January 589 BC again laying siege to Jerusalem. When the siege was temporarily lifted, Jeremiah left Jerusalem but was thrown in prison back inside Jerusalem. This invasion and siege provide the setting for Jeremiah 19b-23, 32-34, 37-39. Also during this siege Ezekiel, still in exile on the Chebar River in Babylonia, received several of the prophecies recorded in Ezekiel 24-31. After besieging Jerusalem for two and a half years, the Babylonians again took the city, and a month later on 28 August 587 BC destroyed the Temple of Solomon. (Jeremiah 52; 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36). Soon after receiving news of Jerusalem's fall, Ezekiel announced the prophecies recorded in Ezekiel 32-39. The Mulekites fled Jerusalem at the time Zedekiah was carried away captive into Babylon. (Omni 1:14-15; Hel. 6:10).
Jeremiah left the fallen city of Jerusalem to live at Mizpah with the Jewish governor of Babylonian Judah. Several months later the governor was assassinated. Those who fled to avoid reprisal took Jeremiah with them to Egypt, where he announced his last prophecy. (Jeremiah 40-44).
Jeremiah also wrote Lamentations regarding the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.
Near the end of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Ezekiel received his vision of a new temple in 574 BC (Ezekiel 40-48) and his final prophecy against Egypt in 571 BC. (Ezek 29:17-30:19). Nebuchadnezzar's period of insanity (Daniel 4) would also have occurred late in his reign, likely at some point during 573-569 BC, though many scholars believe the episode happened instead to the later king Nabonidus.
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by three kings of lesser importance over the course of only six years (562-556 BC).
2. Nabonidus (r. 556-539 BC) was the last Babylonian king. Beginning in probably 553 BC his son Belshazzar ruled in his place as co-regent. In the first and third years of Belshazzar's reign, probably 553 BC and 551 BC, Daniel received his two visions of beasts. (Daniel 7-8). A decade later in 539 BC, Belshazzar hosted a feast during which he publicly disrespected Jehovah by drinking out of vessels taken from the Jerusalem temple. A hand appeared and wrote words on the wall, which Daniel interpreted as a prophecy that Babylon would be overthrown. (Daniel 5).
During the Babylonian Captivity the exiled Jews were prohibited from returning to Jerusalem.
The final destruction of the Jaredites likely occurred during the Babylonian Captivity. (Omni 1:21).
Persian conquest, 539-332 BC
There are eight "post-exilic" or "second temple" books in the Old Testament: part of Daniel plus all of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These books were created during about the first century of Persian rule over the Jews. Four Persian kings are significant to the Old Testament.
1. Cyrus the Great (r. 559-530 BC) conquered Babylon on 12 October 539 BC. This was the conquest prophesied the previous evening during Belshazzar's feast. References in Daniel to "Darius the Mede" who conquered Babylon at age 62 (Dan 5:31-6:1; Dan 9:1) mean Cyrus the Great, who did in fact conquer Babylon when 62 years old. Thus it was Cyrus who planned in the first year of his reign over Babylon, 539 BC, to set Daniel as head overseer of the 120 provincial governors, and who was tricked instead into sentencing Daniel to the den of lions. (Daniel 6). That same year Daniel also received his vision of Jerusalem's future history. (Daniel 9). Two years later, in 537 BC, Daniel received his final recorded vision of two warring kingdoms. (Daniel 10-12).
Meanwhile, in 538 BC, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, thus ending the Babylonian Captivity about 70 years after the first wave of Babylonian deportations. The first large group of exiles to return to Jerusalem was led by the new Jewish governor Sheshbazzar who had charge of the temple vessels, by Zerubbabel who later succeeded him as governor, and by the high priest Joshua. This group arrived in 533 BC and within months rebuilt the temple altar. (Ezra 1-3). When the returning Jews refused to let the Samaritans assist in rebuilding the temple, the offended Samaritans raised opposition to the Jews throughout the reigns of Cyrus and Darius, including writing a letter to the king that caused construction on the temple and city wall to stop. (Ezra 4).
2. Darius I (r. 522-486 BC) emerged in 522 BC as the next Persian king. Soon after, during 29 August - 18 December 520 BC, Haggai received a series of five recorded revelations at Jerusalem that prompted the Jews to resume construction on the temple. The first half of Zechariah also dates from October-November 520 BC to 7 December 518 BC at Jerusalem. The second Jerusalem temple, or Temple of Zerubbabel, was soon completed and on 12 March 515 BC was dedicated a little more than 70 years after its destruction by the Babylonians. (Ezra 5-6). Darius, near the end of his reign, invaded Greece but was prevented from advancing further by his defeat at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
3. Xerxes (r. 486-465 BC) succeeded his father Darius as king of Persia. The 180 day banquet at which Xerxes put away his queen Vashti (Esther 1) occurred during the third year of his reign, likely winter 483-482 BC, and would be consistent with gathering his nobles to make plans during that time for a second Persian invasion of Greece. Xerxes did briefly occupy Athens before returning home, but the invasion failed a year later when the Persian army and navy that he left behind suffered twin defeats on the same day in 479 BC. Esther was then presented to king Xerxes during the seventh year of his reign in about January 478 BC. (Esther 2). The main action of the story involving Haman at the royal court occurred during Xerxes' twelfth year in April-June 474 BC. (Esther 3-9). The Jews then prevailed over their enemies on 5 April 473 BC, and the next day they celebrated Purim for the first time.
4. Artaxerxes I (r. 465-424 BC) succeeded his father Xerxes as Persian king. During his reign, in 458 BC, Ezra led a second large group of Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem and upon his arrival instituted religious reforms. (Ezra 7-10). Thirteen years later, in 445 BC, Nehemiah led the third and last major group of returning exiles and then rebuilt the city wall of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1-12). Nehemiah was the Persian governor of Judea from 445 to 433 BC, after which he went back to the Persian court. He returned a second time to Jerusalem in probably late 429 or early 428 BC and instituted religious reforms similar to those previously instituted by Ezra. (Nehemiah 13). Similar reforms were also advocated by Malachi, and there is general agreement that his book also dates from the reign of Artaxerxes I, who died in 424 BC. Malachi and Nehemiah mark the close of the Old Testament.
During the Babylonian Captivity, large Jewish communities were established in Babylon, in the Nile delta of Egypt, and in many other locations outside of Judah. Increased importance was naturally given to aspects of religious practice that did not require a national temple, such as reading from written scripture, observing the Sabbath, and the local synagogue. Even after the return from Babylon, most Jews (as narrowly defined by those who returned) continued to live outside of Judah among the scattered Diaspora. Thus, even after the Babylonian Captivity ended, the Jews became less a geopolitical entity defending a piece of land from foreign armies, and more an ethno-religious identity defending itself against impurity, whether in the form of unorthodox religious practices or intermarriage with foreigners. During this period of Second Temple Judaism, the period of Jewish history into which Christ was later born, Jewish national identity was concerned much more than it had been previously with exclusivity based upon ethnic and religious purity.
Greek conquest, 332-164 BC
While Artaxerxes I ruled in Persia and Nehemiah was governor in Judea, Socrates (b.469 BC-d.399 BC) lived in Greece during Athens' golden age. Socrates taught his student Plato, who in turn taught Aristotle. During 343-340 BC Aristotle taught his most famous student, Alexander the Great. Alexander inherited the throne of Macedon in 336 BC, and two years later his army swept out of Greece to spend the next decade conquering most of the known world, including Egypt, Persia, and part of India. In 332 BC, a century after the last of the recorded prophets, Alexander took possession of Jerusalem.
A decade later Alexander died at age 32 in 323 BC. Decades of warfare among his generals finally resulted in four principal Greek empires based in Macedon (northern Greece), Asia Minor (Turkey), Syria, and Egypt. In 198 BC the Greek Ptolemaic empire in Egypt lost control of Palestine, including Jerusalem, to the Greek Seleucid empire with its capital at Antioch in Syria. During this time the land of Judah came to be known by the Greek form of its name: Judea.
Maccabean independence, 164 BC - 63 BC
The Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes (r. 175-164 BC) outlawed Judaism, and on 6 December 167 BC he had the Jerusalem Temple intentionally desecrated. This led to the Maccabean revolt, the cleansing of the temple, and on 14 December 164 BC the rededication of the temple. De facto Jewish independence was largely achieved by 162 BC and was formally claimed in 142 BC. That independence lasted for a hundred years.
Roman conquest, 63 BC - 135 AD
In 63 BC, the Roman general Pompey entered Jerusalem at the invitation of competing factions within the Jewish state. A generation later Augustus, the heir of Pompey's rival Julius Caesar, became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC and ruled until 14 AD. For the three and a half decades from 36-1 BC, Roman Judea was governed by Herod, who greatly enlarged the Temple of Zerubbabel so that it became known as the Temple of Herod.
Jesus Christ was born and ministered in Judea. Most scholars place his birth in either 4 or 1 BC and his death and resurrection in either 30 or 33 AD.
Another forty years later, while the New Testament was still being written, the second Jerusalem temple was destroyed by Rome in 70 AD following a Jewish revolt. In 135 AD the Romans put down another Jewish revolt and barred all Jews from entering Jerusalem except on one certain day per year. A large Jewish diaspora had existed since at least the Babylonian conquest more than six centuries earlier, and by the time of Christ two thirds of all Jews in the Roman Empire lived outside of Judea. But 70 AD marked the end of the Jerusalem Temple, and 135 AD marked the end of Jerusalem as a Jewish city for nearly two thousand years until modern times. Israel was now fully scattered until the gathering began in modern times.
'This heading is for listing links and print resources, including those cited in the notes. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →
- Alden, Robert L. The New American Commentary, Vol. 11: Job. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993. (ISBN 0805401113). BS1415.3 .A43 1993.
- Breneman, Mervin. The New American Commentary, Vol. 10: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993. (ISBN 0805401105). BS1355.3 .B73 1993.
- Brown, S. Kent and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel. Between the Testaments: From Malachi to Matthew. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002, (ISBN 1570089019). BS1700 .H65 2002. Nice narrative account of events after the Old Testament that set the stage for the New Testament.
- Coogan, Michael D. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. (ISBN 0195087070). BS635.2 .094 1998. A standard narrative reference explaining events.
- Dillard, Raymond Bryan. "Joel." In Thomas Edward McComiskey, ed. The Minor Prophets, An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, Vol. 1: Hosea, Joel, Amos. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1992. (ISBN 0801062853). BS1560 .M47 1992.
- Finegan, Jack. Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and and Problems of Chronology in the Bible, revised ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Pub., 1998. (ISBN 1565631439). BS637.2 .F5 1998. One of the two standard references for assigning specific dates to Old Testament events.
- Glazier-McDonald, Beth. Malachi: The Divine Messenger. Atlanta: Scholars Press (Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series #98), 1987. (ISBN 1555400930), (ISBN 1555400949). BS1675.3 .G53 1987.
- Hartman, Louis F. The Anchor Bible: Daniel. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1978. (ISBN 0385013221). BS1555.3 .H37 1978.
- Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. New Bible Companion. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990. (ISBN 084234733X). BS511.2 .H777 1990.
- Jones, Floyd Nolen. The Chronology of the Old Testament, 15th ed. (New Leaf Press ed.). Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2005. (ISBN 089051416X). Page references are to the published edition rather than the online PDF file. Insightful but also exhibits gaps in the author's knowledge; a good second reference for assigning specific dates to events.
- Pasachoff, Naomi and Robert J. Littleman. A Concise History of the Jewish People. New York and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1995, 2005 ed. (ISBN 074254365X). DS109.9 .P33 2005.
- Patterson, Richard D. The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991. (ISBN 0802492649). BS1635.3 .P37 1991.
- Steinmann. Andrew E. From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. (ISBN 0758627998). BS637.3 .S74 2011. Builds on the earlier work of Finegan and Thiele and may become a third standard reference; likewise addresses the difficult issues but also presents a comprehensive timeline including the easy issues.
- Sweeney, Marvin A. The Twelve Prophets: Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry, Vol. 1. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000. (ISBN 0814650953) BS1560 .S94 2000
- Thiele, Edwin. The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, new revised ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1994. (ISBN 082543825X). BS 1335.5 .T48 1994. One of the two standard references for assigning specific dates to Old Testament events.
- Waltke, Bruce K. "Micah." In Thomas Edward McComiskey, ed. The Minor Prophets, An Exegetical and Expository Commentary, Vol. 2: Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, and Habakkuk. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1993. (ISBN 0801063078). BS1560 .M47 1992.
- Young, Rodger C. "Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders." In Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS), 48 (2005):225-248. Louisville, Kentucky: The Evangelical Theological Society, 1958-present. Improves upon Thiele's earlier work.
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves, such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word. In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources are preferable to footnotes.
- Scholars are divided over whether the House of Israel was in Egypt: (1) for four generations of lifetimes over 430 years, or (2) for four generations of births over 215 years. (1) In favor of four lifetimes over 430 years: (A) In the initial statement to Abraham that his seed would be in Egypt, four generations is expressly equated with four hundred years (Gen 15:4-5, 13, 16). (B) That is how the verse was understood by Stephen (Acts 7:6). (C) The account of the Exodus states that Israel left Egypt exactly 430 years to the day after its sojourn began (Ex 12:40-41). (D) Paul's statement in Gal 3:17 that the 430 years of sojourning prior to the Exodus began counting when the Abrahamic Covenant was confirmed can be explained as meaning that the covenant was confirmed when Israel moved to Egypt. (E) Paul's statement, according to most English translations of Acts 13:17-20 (NIV, NASB), that the time down to dividing the land under Joshua was about 450 years, should be understood as beginning with Israel's entry into Egypt, which would yield about the same amount of time in Egypt, about 403 years, after subtracting 40 years under Moses (Ex. 7:7; Deut 34:7) and 7 years under Joshua (see note below on length of Joshua's leadership). (F) This longer time period is possible according to the genealogies given in Chronicles that identify Moses' contemporaries Bezalel as the 7th generation from Jacob (Ex. 31:2; 1 Chron 2:2-20) and Elishama as the 10th generation and his grandson Joshua as the 12th generation from Jacob (Num 1:10; 1 Chron 7:22-27). (G) This longer time period would allow Israel's population of 70 at the time it moved to Egypt (Ex. 1:5) to grow to 603,550 during the Exodus (Num 1:46; also see Ex. 12:37) within 16 generations occurring on an average of every 25 years with only 3.5 children per couple reaching adulthood and in turn reproducing, whereas four generations of births would require 19 surviving offspring per couple in each generation. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 67-70; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 203-04. (2) In favor of four generations of births over 215 years: (A) Paul's statement in Gal 3:17 that the 430 years of sojourning prior to the Exodus began counting when the Abrahamic Covenant was confirmed is most easily understood as referring to its first confirmation upon Abraham himself. Twenty five years then passed before Isaac was born (Gen 12:4; Gen 21:5), Isaac was 60 at Jacob's birth (Gen 25:26), and Jacob was 130 when he moved to Egypt (Gen 47:9). So of Paul's 430 years, half, or 215 years, passed before the House of Israel moved to Egypt, leaving only another 215 years in Egypt. (Gen 15:16). (B) Paul's statement, according to most English translations of Acts 13:17-20 (NIV, NASB), that the time down to dividing the land under Joshua was about 450 years, is most easily understood as beginning with the promise to Abraham "choosing our fathers." Subtracting the same 215 years, as well as another 40 years in the desert under Moses (Ex. 7:7; Deut 34:7) and the first 7 years under Joshua (see note below on length of Joshua's leadership), would yield about the same amount of time in Egypt, about 188 years. (C) This shorter time period accords with the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke that identify Naason, who as Rahab's father in law would have left Egypt with Moses, as the 5th generation from Jacob (Matt 1:3-5; Luke 3:32-33), and in Ex 6:16-20 that identifies Moses as the 5th generation from Jacob, although Moses' generation may have been shortened to identify only his tribe, clan, and family group while omitting intervening generations. Two hundred years would be a long but not unreasonable time for four generations to be born in Egypt, whereas four hundred years would be unreasonable at a hundred years per generation. Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 49-60; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 204-05.
- Joseph was age 30 when he interpreted Pharoah's dream, age 39 when his father's family moved to Egypt, and age 110 when he died 71 years after Israel moved to Egypt (Gen 41:46, 53; Gen 45:6; Gen 50:22). At least those 71 years would not be included in the time Israel spent in servitude.
- 1:2-5; Job 42:7-8, 16; Alden, New American Commentary, Vol. 11: Job, 25-28, noting that there are no conclusive hints about dating in the book of Job itself and that dates have therefore been suggested even as late as after Malachi; Hughes, New Bible Companion, 215.
- Scholars are divided whether the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC or in 1250 BC. Biblical, historical, and archeological data is cited on both sides. Since it is widely accepted that Moses and Joshua led Israel for about 67 years, and that Saul then began to reign as king in about 1049 BC, the question may be rephrased as whether the intervening period recorded in Judges lasted about 134 years or about 330 years. The earlier date of 1446 BC is followed here since 134 years simply seems too short to accommodate any dating scheme for the entire book of Judges. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 45-65 argues for 1446 BC, Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 201-03, 227-28, 244-45 reviews the arguments without clearly taking sides.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 81-86. Also see Num 9:1-2; Num 10:11, which clearly refer to events early in the second year of wandering. The Kadesh of Num 13:26 is again equated with the Kadesh-barnea of Deut 2:14 in Num 32:8 and Josh 14:7.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 86.
- Joshua, Caleb, and the other Israelite spies were sent to Canaan during Israel's second year in the wilderness (Deut 2:14; Num 13:26; Num 14:33). Forty five years later, as the conquered land was being divided, Caleb requested that Joshua give him Horeb as an inheritance (Josh 14:7-10). This would thus have occurred in the forty seventh year after leaving Egypt, or in the seventh year after Joshua succeeded Moses. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 89; Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 90. Caleb was age 85 when the land of Canaan was divided at the conclusion of Joshua's military campaigns (Josh 14:7-10). Joshua lived to age 110. (Josh 24:29; Judg 2:8). Joshua and Caleb were contemporaries, and Joshua lived to an age 25 years greater than Caleb's age when the land was divided, so it is reasonable to assume that Joshua led Israel for about 25 years after the land was divided, or a total of about 32 years after succeeding Moses and first entering the land of Canaan. Josephus reports that Joshua in fact led Israel for 25 years, Eusebius reports that Joshua led for 27 years, and the Seder Olam Jewish chronology reports that Joshua led for 28 years. Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 89-90 citing these ancient sources. It thus appears that Joshua was about 5 years older than Caleb and led Israel for about 7 years of war plus about 20 years of peace, or a total of about 27 years.
- (1) Prior to the judgeship of Jephthah, the book of Judges recounts an uninterrupted chronological sequence of 290 years (Judg 3:8 to 10:5). Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 95-96, 103, 106-07 (subtracting one year from each notice of elapsed time on the assumption that the inclusion of partial event years leads to double-counting transitional calendar years). This is consistent with Jephthah's statement that in his day 300 years had passed since the Israelites first occupied Gilead (Judg 11:26) beginning not earlier than the last year of Moses' life (Numbers 32), or not more than eight years before the land was divided under Joshua (see notes above on Numbers 20-Deuteronomy 34 and on Joshua). Judges then relates that the Israelites were oppressed by the Ammonites for 18 years and the Philistines for 40 years (Judg 10:7-9; Judg 13:1). So the total time covered by Judges would be 290 + 17 + 39 = 346 years. (2) Again subtracting transitional years, the judgeships of Jephthah (6 years - Judg 12:7), Ibzan (7 years - Judg 12:8-10), Elon (10 years - Judg 12:11-12), Abdon (8 years - Judg 12:13-15) and Samson (20 years - Judg 15:20; Judg 16:31) total only 51 - 4 = 47 years, a little short of the combined 58 - 1 = 57 years of Ammonite and Philistine oppression (Judg 10:7-9; Judg 13:1). Significantly, it was not prophesied that Samson would deliver Israel from the Philistines, but only that he would begin to do so. (Judg 13:5) Josephus states that Samuel was a judge for 12 years, slightly more than the 10 years required to round out the Ammonite and Philistine oppressions and then deliver Israel from the Philistines (1 Sam 7:9-15) before anointing Saul as king. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 97-103, citing Josephus, Antiquities, 6:294. (3) Jephthah fought the Ammonites to the east for the first six years of the Ammonite oppression (Judg 12:7). Samson, however, was not even born until after the Philistine oppression began (Judg 13:1-5) and then had to grow to maturity before beginning to deliver Israel from the Philistines to the west (Judg 13:5) during his judgeship of twenty years (Judg 15:20; Judg 16:31) during the latter part of the forty year Philistine oppression. That leaves sufficient time for the 25 years of intervening judgeships by Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon during the last 12 years of the Ammonite oppression and first 13 years of Philistine oppression, followed by 20 years of judgeship by Samson and 7 more years of Philistine oppression during the the judgeship of Samuel. (4) Steinmann suggests that the Ammonite and Philistine oppressions were actually concurrent and that Samson's judgeship overlapped with probably Elon and Abdon who judged after Jephthah. With regard to the Ammonite and Philistine oppressions introduced in Judg 10:7-9 and Judg 13:1, he argues that the phrase "that year" means these two oppressions were concurrent rather than sequential, notes that the Philistine oppression introduced at the beginning of the Jephthah cycle does not actually appear until the Samson cycle, and that the Hebrew grammar of this reintroduced Philistine oppression does not necessarily require that the two cycles be chronologically sequential. If correct, both the time of the oppression and the sequence of judgeships would be reduced by about two decades, and the total length of time covered by Judges would be 290 + 39 = 329 years, to which the remaining years of Samuel's judgeship after defeating the Philistines would still have to be added. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 96-107. This calculation accords with 1 Kgs 6:1, which places the fourth year of Solomon's reign 480 years after the Exodus. Subtracting 40 years in the desert under Moses, 27 years under Joshua, 40 years under Saul, 39 years under David, and the first 4 years under Solomon similarly leaves 330 years, though already including the latter portion of Samuel's judgeship after defeating the Philistines. (While the King James translation of Acts 13:20 states that the period of the judges lasted 450 years, other translations (NIV, NASB) clarify that the 450 years ended rather than began with the division of the land under Joshua, and so occurred prior to the time of the judges).
- Saul ruled for probably forty years (Acts 13:21). It is possible, however, that a more accurate number is 42 years. The calendar dates are calculated by counting backward from King Solomon's reign. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 106 & n.165, 114-15.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 111-12, noting that the reigns of David and Solomon overlapped in a short co-regency (1 Kgs 1:32-2:10; 1 Chron 23:1-2).
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 37-45, noting that these dates for Solomon's reign are widely accepted as one of the principal known anchor points from which the rest of the Old Testament chronology can be calculated; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 249-50; Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 67-78.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 124.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142, 154.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142, 154.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142.
- Amos 7:7-9; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 151.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 142.
- The date of the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom is often stated to be 721 BC or 722 BC, but the date of 723 BC appears to be more accurate. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136, 141, 156.
- Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 29; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 340-42.
- Hosea 1:1; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Isa 6:1; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 155, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Micah 1:1; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 156-57, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246; Waltke, Micah, 591-93.
- Dillard, Joel, 240-43, briefly surveying wide range of dates proposed by various scholars.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141-42, 156, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 314-16.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 156, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- 2 Kgs 19:20-36; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 251; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 156-57.
- Patterson, Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, 3-7.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 157-58, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 346-47.
- Zeph 1:1; Patterson, Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, 275-79.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 141, 157-58, following Young, Tables of Reign Lengths from the Hebrew Court Recorders, 246.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 158-59.
- Patterson, Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary, 115-17.
- Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 252-53; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 158-59, 172.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 158-59, 164.
- Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 257-58, 264; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 162, 167.
- 2 Kgs 24:1-14; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 371; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 43; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 264.
- The date of 31 July 593 BC is widely accepted. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 163-64, 167; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 264.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 159-60.
- 2 Kgs 24:20; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 159-68, 174; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 258-59.
- The consensus date for the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple has been 17 August 586 BC. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 259; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 371; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 43. Steinmann appears, however, to be correct in building upon that earlier work to advocate a date one year earlier, 28 August 587 BC, discussing especially Ezek 26:1-2. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136-38, 164-69.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 172, 174.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 167.
- Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets, 1:280-85.
- These dates from Steinmann are again one year earlier than the previous consensus view. Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 265; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 172.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 173-74.
- Hartman, The Anchor Bible: Daniel, 178-79.
- The consensus view favors 553 BC as the beginning of Belshazzar's reign as co-regent, but some scholars argue instead for 550 BC. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 172, 175; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 375-77.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 175.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 175-79; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 266; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 376.
- Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 44; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 179-80.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 188-91 (also 180-87). Some scholars argue that Sheshbazzar led a group of returnees that was distinct from and earlier than the group led by Zerubbabel and Joshua. But that would contradict the statement in Neh 7:5-7 that the first group returned with Zerubbabel. Others suggest that Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel were the same person. But that is unnecessary and would contradict the ancient understanding in 1 Esdras 6:17 that the temple vessels were turned over to two people named Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel. The simplest solution requiring no correction of the text is simply that Sheshbazzart returned with the temple objects as governor (Ezra 1:8; Ezra 5:14), Zerubbabel returned at the same time and exercised much actual power in leading the people (Ezra 3:8) under Sheshbazzar's governorship (Ezra 5:16), and then at some point by the reign of king Darius, Zerubbabel succeeded Sheshbazzar as governor (Hag 1:1). The likely year of return is calculated from a consistent pattern of sabbatical years in Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 188-91.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 388.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 388, 403; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 267; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 165-67, 192.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 192-95; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 397, 403-04, 415. The title "Ahasueras" simply means "mighty king," and thus could refer to any of the Persian kings, but the scholarly consensus view places the beginning of the story of Esther in the third year of the reign of Xerxes. Jones, The Chronology of the Old Testament, 199, 205. However, Jones argues instead for Darius's third year, stating that the Hebrew grammar of Esther 2:5-6 indicates that it was Mordecai rather than his grandfather Kish who came out of Jerusalem about the same time as Daniel. If Mordecai was age ten in 586 BC when Babylon carried off the third wave of deportees from Jerusalem, then by the third year of Darius' reign in 520 BC Mordecai would be age 76, but by the third year of Xerxes' reign in 484 BC he would be age 112, clearly too old for active service in the palace. Jones, Chronology of the Old Testament, 199-205.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 397, 401.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 195-209, 214, noting that this date for the return of Ezra to Jerusalem is both the traditional view and the view most widely accepted today among scholars, and addressing alternative dates.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 209-14, noting that the reference in Neh 1:1 to "the twentieth year" is not to the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I's reign, and that scholars do not know or agree on what it does refer to.
- Glaziere-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 16-17 noting that a date between 470-450 BC is the majority view of scholars while arguing for a date shortly before Nehemiah.
- Authorship of Chronicles is traditionally attributed to Ezra, Breneman, New American Commentary, Vol. 10: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 32-33, but the "cautious scholarly consensus" is that Chronicles was written later in the Persian period. Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 373.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 367-70; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 45, 51, 63-69.
- Brown & Holzapfel, Between the Testaments, 38; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 417, 422-24; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 49-50.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 424; Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 216; Brown & Holzapfel, Between the Testaments, 43; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 51.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 217, 225-26; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 436-37; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 53-54; Brown & Holzapfel, Between the Testaments, 51-52, 58-60.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 221-34; Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 450-51, 473, 477; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 58, 61-62; Brown & Holzapfel, Between the Testaments, 69-71, 79-80.
- Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 220, 238, 249, 280; Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology, 291, 353, 366-68.
- Coogan, The Oxford History of the Biblical World, 503-07, 563-64; Pasachoff & Littleman, A Concise History of the Jewish People, 51, 67-69, 85-88, 96-97.
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