Historical Overview of the Patriarchs

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Purposes of this historical overview section include: (1) providing a sense of how much the lives of the patriarchs overlapped, something that is often not apparent from the way in which narrative text is divided up; and (2) providing chronological anchor points that are both verifiable and internally consistent for use when working on subpages. The historical data on this page for events prior to Abraham is merely a summary that relies upon the detailed discussion and documentation at Chapter 5-6a and Chapter 10-11a. Another detailed account from Adam to Abraham that incorporates modern revelation is located at Moses. A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel, including Genesis, is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.

The second purpose is to provide chronological anchor points that are both verifiable and internally consistent for use when working on other pages.


Timelines[edit]

Referring to one of the following timelines may make it easier to relate specific events described on this page to the big picture of the history of the patriarchs.

Adam to Noah[edit]

The first ten generations of the history of man between the fall and the flood, or the "ante-diluvian period" roughly corresponds to 4,000 BC to 2,500 BC.
  • Adam and Eve (Generation 1), who were placed in the Garden of Eden. (Gen 2:18-25). Fall in Year 0. Adam blessed his descendants three years before his death at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 927 in Year 927. (D&C 107:53). Adam died at age 930 in Year 930. (Gen 5:5).
  • Cain murdered his brother Abel (both Generation 2). (Gen 4:1-16).
  • Seth (Generation 2) was born in 130 when his father Adam was age 130. (Gen 5:3). Seth is identified as a replacement for Abel and is righteous like unto Abel. (Moses 6:2-3). Ordained by Adam at age 69 in 199. (D&C 107:42). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 797 in 927. Zion taken up when age 857 in 987. Died at age 912 in 1042. (Gen 5:8).
  • Enos (Generation 3) was born in 235 when his father Seth was age 105. (Gen 5:6). Ordained by Adam at age 134 in 369. (D&C 107:44). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 692 in 927. Zion taken up when age 752 in 987. Died at age 905 in 1140. (Gen 5:11).
  • Cainan (Generation 4) was born in 325 when his father Enos was age 90. (Gen 5:9). Ordained by Adam at age 87 in 412. (D&C 107:45). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 602 in 927. Zion taken up when age 662 in 987. Died at age 910 in 1235. (Gen 5:14).
  • Mahaleel (Generation 5) was born in 395 when his father Cainan was age 70. (Gen 5:12). Ordained by Adam at age 496 in 891. (D&C 107:46). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 532 in 927. Zion taken up when age 592 in 987. Died at age 895 in 1290. (Gen 5:17).
  • Jared (Generation 6) was born in 460 when his father Mahaleel was age 65. (Gen 5:15). Ordained by Adam at age 200 in 660. (D&C 107:47). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 467 in 927. Zion taken up when age 527 in 987. Died at age 962 in 1422. (Gen 5:20).
  • Enoch (Generation 7) was born in 622 when his father Jared was age 162. (Gen 5:18). Ordained by Adam at age 25 in 647. (D&C 107:48). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 305 in 927. Taken up with Zion at age 365 in 987. (Gen 5:22-23).
Generation 7 is the only other generation prior the flood about which we have much information. Righteous Seth's descendant in Generation 7, Enoch (622-987), walks with God and is taken by God (Chapter 5-6a). In contrast, wicked Cain's descendant in Generation 7, Lamech, is another murderer (Chapter 4).
  • Lamech (Generation 7), who like his ancestor Cain murdered a close relative (Gen 4:18-24).
  • Methuselah (Generation 8) was born in 687 when his father Enoch was age 65. (Gen 5:21). Ordained by Adam at age 100 in 787. (D&C 107:50). Blessed by Adam at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 240 in 927. Zion taken up when age 300 in 987. Died at age 969 in 1656. (Gen 5:27).
Enoch's son Methuselah (Generation 8) lives to the age of 969, dying in 1656, the same year as the flood. There is nothing to indicate whether Methuselah dies because of the flood or shortly before it occurs. Methuselah's son Lamech (Generation 9, not the descendant of Cain) lives only to the age of 777, dying in 1651 five years before the flood (Chapter 5-6a).
  • Lamech (Generation 9) was born in 874 when his father Methuselah was age 187. (Gen 5:25). Ordained by Seth at age 32 in 906. (D&C 107:51). Zion taken up when age 113 in 987. Died at age 777 in 1651. (Gen 5:31).
  • Noah (Generation 10) was born in 1056 when his father Lamech was age 182. (Gen 5:28-29). Ordained by Methuselah at age 10 in 1066. (D&C 107:52). Flood at age 600 in 1656. (Gen 7:6). Died at age 950 in 2006. (Gen 9:29).
Noah (Generation 10) is born in 1056, only about a hundred years after Adam dies and Enoch is taken by God. While Noah's ancestors all had birthright sons when between the ages of 65-187, Noah does not have any sons until about age 500. By this time his father Lamech and grandfather Methuselah are both well advanced in years (Chapter 5-6a).
  • Noah (Generation 10) (Gen 5:28), who built the ark at the time of the Flood (Gen 7:4).

Noah to Abraham[edit]

In 1656 the Flood began when Noah was age 600. (Gen 7:6). Noah's three sons were then about a hundred years old (Gen 5:32; Gen 11:10). In 1658, two years after the flood, Arphaxad (Generation 12) was born to his father Shem. (Gen 11:10). In 1693 Salah (Generation 13) was born when his father Arphaxad was age 35. (Gen 11:12).

In 1723 Eber (Generation 14) was born when his father Salah was age 30. (Gen 11:14). In 1757 Peleg (Generation 15) was born when his father Eber was age 34. (Gen 11:16). In 1787 Reu (Generation 16) was born when his father Peleg was age 30. (Gen 11:18).

In 1819 Serug (Generation 17) was born when his father Reu was age 32. (Gen 11:20). In 1849 Nahor (Generation 18) was born when his father Serug was age 30. (Gen 11:22). In 1878 Terah (Generation 19) was born when his father Nahor was age 29. (Gen 11:24).

In 1948 Abraham (Generation 20) was born when his father Terah was age 70. (Gen 11:26). Abraham, the tenth generation from Noah, was born 292 years after the flood. Abraham and his "fathers" lived in Chaldea. (Abr 1:1).

Nimrod (Generation 13) (Gen 10:8-10), who was king of Babel, though not necessarily when the language of mankind was confounded (Gen 11:1-9). The non-birthright genealogical information for the descendants of Noah emphasizes the mighty king Nimrod (Generation 13) and says that the beginning of his kingdom was Babel. While we have no specific chronological data for Nimrod, his Generation 13 peer from the birthright line, Salah, was born only 37 years after the flood in 1693 and lived for 433 years until 2126, three years after the death of Abraham (Gen 11:12, 15). Moreover, while a connection between Nimrod and the Tower of Babel incident can be reasonably inferred, the connection is not explicit. It is thus difficult to conclude anything more specific than that language was probably confounded at the Tower of Babel before Abraham was born in 1948, but perhaps at least fifty or a hundred years after the flood in 1656 (Chapter 10-11a). The land was divided in the days of Peleg. explain. But was does "in his days" mean? The Jaredites left from the Tower of Babel for America shortly before language was confounded, likely some time between about 1750 and 1900.

Eber (Generation 14). Since the number seven is often used in the Bible to symbolize completeness or perfection, and since the birthright son in Generation 7 was Enoch who walked with God (Gen 5:22), attention is naturally drawn to Eber, the birthright son in Generation 14. We are not told much in Genesis about either Enoch or Eber. But Shem, the great high priest (D&C 138:41), is described in Gen 10:21 as the father of all the children of Eber. To identify Shem's great claim to fame as being the father of Eber's children suggests that Eber was in fact someone special. And Abraham is known not as a Shem-ite, but as an H-eber-ew. So while we know almost nothing about Eber, we do at least know enough to suggest that he was someone very significant.

Shortened lifespans. After the flood, the natural lifespan of mankind rapidly decreased from more than 900 years to less than 200 years. When Abraham (Generation 20) ws born in 1948, all of his male ancestors back to and including Noah were still alive. But in spite of the great difference in their ages, most died during Abraham's lifetime, and at Abraham's death in 2123 only three were still alive: Shem (Generation 11), Salah (Generation 13), and Eber (Generation 14).

Abraham to Joseph[edit]

In 1948 Abraham (Generation 20) was born when his father Terah was age 70. (Gen 11:26). Abraham left Ur of Chaldea, "the residence of his fathers," for Haran in Syria together with his father Terah, his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot (Generation 21). (Gen 11:27, 31; Abr 1:1).

In 1996 Peleg (Generation 15) died at age 239. He was the first to die of Abraham's male ancestors back to Noah. (Gen 11:19). The next year in 1997 Abraham's grandfather Nahor (Generation 18) died at age 148. (Gen 11:25). In 2006 Noah (Generation 10) died at age 950. (Gen 9:29).

In 2023 Abraham, age 75, left Haran in Syria for Canaan together with Sarah and Lot, but his father Terah remained in Haran. (Gen 12:4-5). Over the next ten years, when between the ages of 75 and 85, Abraham spent time in Egypt (Gen 12:10-20), returned to Canaan and parted ways with Lot (Gen 13:5-12), and then rescued Lot and was blessed by Melchizedek. (Gen 14:18-20). In 2026 Reu (Generation 16) died at age 239. (Gen 11:21).

In 2033 Abraham, age 85, married Hagar, who gave birth the next year in 2034 to Ishmael (Generation 21). (Gen 16:3, 15-16). In 2047, when Abraham was age 99, the Lord changed his name from Abram to Abraham, instituted the covenant of circumcision, and promised that his birthright son Isaac would be born the next year to Sarah. (Gen 17). Following the destruction of Sodom (Gen 18-19), Isaac (Generation 21) was born in 2048 when Abraham was age 100. (Gen 21:5).

In 2049 Serug (Generation 17) died at age 230. (Gen 11:23). In 2083, Terah (Generation 19) died in Haran in Syria at age 205, sixty years after Abraham left Haran for Canaan. (Gen 11:32). Two years later Sarah died at age 127 when Abraham was age 137. (Gen 17:17; 23:1). Another three years later in 2088 Isaac, at age 40 when his father Abraham was age 140, married Rebekah of Padam-Aram in Syria. (Gen 25:20). In 2096 Arphaxad (Generation 12) died at age 438. (Gen 11:13).

In 2108, after Isaac and Rebekah had been married for twenty years, they had twin boys Jacob and Esau (Generation 22) when their father Isaac was age 60 and their grandfather Abraham was age 160. (Gen 25:26). In 2123 Abraham (Generation 20) died at age 175. (Gen 25:7). In 2126 Salah (Generation 13) died at age 433. (Gen 11:15).

In 2148 Esau at age 40 married two Hittite women. (Gen 26:34). Ten years later in 2158, five hundred and two years after the flood, Noah's son Shem (Generation 11) finally died at age 600. (Gen 11:10-11). In 2171 Jacob and Esau's uncle Ishmael (Generation 21) died at age 137 (Gen 25:17). In 2187 Eber (Generation 14), the last of the long lived patriarchs, died at age 464. (Gen 11:10-17).

Meanwhile, Jacob obtained through trickery the birthright blessing of his elderly father Isaac. Jacob soon fled in 2184 at age 76 (when Isaac was age 136) from the presence of his brother Esau to the house of his uncle Laban in Padan-Aram in Syria.[1] After seven years, in 2191, Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah, but a week later was allowed to also marry Rachel in return for another seven years of service that lasted until 2198. (Gen 29:15-30). During this second seven years, between 2191-2198, eleven of Jacob's twelve sons plus a daughter Dinah (Generation 23) were born (Gen 29:31-30:21). It is reasonable to estimate that Leah's son Levi is born about 2194 and her son Judah about 2195. Joseph was born in 2198 at the conclusion of the second seven years (Gen 30:22-26) when his father Jacob was age 90.[2] Jacob then worked a final six years to earn flocks, for a total of twenty years, before returning home to Canaan in 2204 at age 96 and reconciling with his brother Esau. (Gen 31:38, 41).

At some point during 2204-2215, when Jacob was age 96-108, his sons killed the men of Shechem (Gen 34), Jacob moved his family to Bethel (Gen 35:1), and Rachel died giving birth to Jacob's youngest son Benjamin. (Gen 35:16-20). In ____ Jacob settled in Mamre. (Gen 35:27). About ____ Judah married Shuah, a Canaanite, and had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. (Gen 38:1-5).

Meanwhile in 2215 Joseph was sold into slavery at age 17. (Gen 37:2). Over the next thirteen years during 2215-2228 he first served Potiphar and then, after being falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, spent the remainder of those years in prison. In 2226, two years before his release from prison, he interpreted the dreams of pharoah's baker and cupbearer. (Gen 41:1).

In 2228, Isaac (Generation 21) died at Hebron in Canaan at age 180 and was buried by his twin sons Jacob and Esau, age 120. (Gen 35:28).

Also in 2228 Joseph at age 30 interpreted Pharoah's dream, was released from prison, and was made the second ruler over Egypt. (Gen 41:46). During 2229-2235, Egypt enjoyed seven years of plenty, and Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manasseh were born. (Gen 41:47-53; 48:5).

In about ____ Judah's sons Er and Onan each married Tamar and then died. (Gen 38:6-10). Then Judah's wife Shuah also died. (Gen 38:12). When Judah refused to let his third son Shelah marry Tamar, she seduced Judah and gives birth to twin sons Pharez and Zerah. (Gen 38:27-30).

During 2237-2243 there were seven years of famine in both Egypt and Canaan. In 2238, during the second year of the famine, Jacob, age 130, moved his entire household from Canaan to Egypt. (Gen 45:6, 11; 47:9, 28). After seventeen years, in 2255, Jacob (Generation 22) died in Egypt at age 147. (Gen 47:9, 28). In 2309 Joseph (Generation 23) died at age 110. (Gen 50:22-26).

Uncertainties in calculating dates[edit]

The period from the Fall to the death of Joseph in Egypt roughly corresponds to 4000 BC to 1700 BC. There is no consensus, however, about the exact dating of events during that period. This difficulty can be understood by thinking of events before Christ in four groups.

(1) Counting backwards from Christ, there is broad scholarly consensus that Solomon reigned from 970-931 BC. From this it is not too difficult to count back and determine that Saul began to reign in 1049 BC.[3] Scholarly disagreement about dates more recent than 1049 BC usually involve a difference of less than five years.

(2) Next is the date of the Exodus. There is broad scholarly consensus that the Exodus occurred in either 1250 BC or 1446 BC. But there is not a consensus about which of these two dates is correct. There is broad agreement that following the Exodus, Moses led Israel for 40 years and Joshua for about another 27 years, for a total of about 67 years. But the length of the period between Joshua and Saul, the period covered by the book of Judges, is not settled. So here one must choose between two dates that are 196 years apart. (See the lengthy footnotes at Historical Overview of the Old Testament for the arguments in favor of each of these two dates).

(3) Third is the length of time that Israel was in Egypt prior to the Exodus. There is broad scholarly consensus that the Israelite sojourn in Egypt lasted either 215 years or 430 years. But again there is not a consensus about which of these two lengths of time is correct. Here one must choose between two dates that are 215 years apart. (Again see the lengthy footnotes at Historical Overview of the Old Testament for a discussion of the arguments in favor of each of these two positions).

(4) Fourth, there is broad consensus that according to Genesis the length of time from the Fall of Adam and Eve until Jacob moved all of his household to Egypt was 2,238 years. This number is easily derived from the genealogical and chronological data discussed in greater detail below. (Since the age difference between each father and son is given only in whole years, it is reasonable to expect that twenty rounding errors averaging half a year each could accumulate to a total error of about ten years, or a little less than one half of one percent). But there is still a choice to made here as well since the Joseph Smith Translation manuscripts make changes during the first twelve generations from Adam to Arphaxad that add another 128 years to this total. (See below for a discussion of those changes).

A calculation for the date for the Fall based on the Biblical chronology would thus be (either 1250 BC or 1446 BC for the date of the Exodus) + (either 215 years or 430 years for the sojourn in Egypt) + (either 2238 years per Genesis or 2366 years per the JST) to yield eight different possible dates ranging from 3703 BC at the shortest to 4242 BC at the longest.

The dates below are calculated: (1) assuming that the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC; (2) assuming that the Israelite sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years; and (3) follow the account in Genesis and do not include the additional 128 years given in the JST.

JST changes to dates in Genesis[edit]

The book of Moses makes only a few changes to the dates provided in Genesis. Several additional changes that did not make their way into Moses were also recorded on OT1, probably after OT1 had been copied to the OT2 manuscript from which Moses was taken. All of those changes are noted below in bold:
  • 7. Enoch. Born in 719 when father age 162 (Gen 5:18). Ordained by Adam at age 25 in 744 (D&C 107:48). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 278 in 997. Taken up with Zion at age 430 in 1149 (Moses 8:1).
  • 10. Noah. Born in 1184 when father age 182 (Gen 5:28-29). Ordained by Methuselah at age 10 in 1194 (D&C 107:52). Flood at age 600 in 1784 (Gen 7:6). Died at age 950 in 2134 (Gen 9:29).
  • 11. Shem. Born in 1676 when father age 492 (Moses 8:12). Flood at age 108 in 1784 (Gen 7:6). Died at age 610 in 2286 (Gen 11:11; Gen 11:10 JST).[4]
  • 12. Arphaxad. Born in 1786 two years after the flood when when father age 110 (Gen 11:10 JST).[5] Died at age 438 in 2224 (Gen 11:13).

Resources[edit]

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Notes[edit]

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.

  1. Jacob's age when he went to the house of his uncle Laban is not given directly but can be calculated as follows: First, as explained in another footnote below, Jacob is age 90 when Joseph is born. Second, Joseph is born at the end of the 14 years during which Jacob served for his wives Leah and Rachel (Gen 30:22-25). Jacob thus began at age 76 to serve his uncle Laban.
  2. Jacob's age at the birth of Joseph is not given directly but can be calculated as follows: Joseph stands before Pharaoah at age 30 (Gen 41:46). The seven years of plenty are then about to happen in the future, as opposed to already happening, so they occur when Joseph is age 31-38, and in the second year of the subsequent famine Joseph is age 40 (Gen 41:25-30). Jacob is 130 when he moves from Canaan to Egypt during that second year of famine (Gen 45:6-11; Gen 47:9,28). The age difference between Jacob and Joseph is thus 130-40=90 years.
  3. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 37-44, 106 & n.165, 111-15, 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. See Old Testament: Historical Overview for further details on dating the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon.
  4. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 61.
  5. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 61.




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