The chronology of the Old Testament is convoluted and difficult to reconcile with known historical events. In the article titled “Biblical Chronology – Part 2” I presented a mapping that puts the date of the creation of Adam at 4117 BCE. That mapping is based on the known historical date of the invasion of the Levant (which we know as Lebanon today) by the Pharaoh Shishonq I in 925 BCE.
But there are other historical events to which we could have pinned those in the Old Testament. Ideally we would like to match all of the following historical events to their corresponding events in the biblical timeline:
- The conquest and sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BCE, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:1 – 7
- The battle of Carchemish in 605 BCE, described in Jeremiah 46:2
- Defeat of Josiah, king of Judah, by the Pharaoh Nekau II in 609 BCE, mentioned in 2 Kings 22:21 and 2 Kings 23:28 – 30
- The conquest of Samaria by Shalmaneser V in 722 BCE, described in 2 Kings 18:10 – 11
- The attack of Jerusalem by the Pharaoh Shishonq I in 925 BCE, described in 1 Kings 14:25
There are portions of the biblical chronology related to all of the above to be found in 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Haggai. In addition the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke have genealogies for Jesus. Matthew’s goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s goes back to Adam. But there are several problems with these various timelines:
- Luke’s list includes a man, Cainan, son of Aphraxad, who is nowhere to be found in any Old Testament book.
- Luke’s list matches Matthew’s list between Abraham and King David, but Luke lists Nathan rather than Solomon as the son of King David– and their two lists disagree on all but two names (Shialtiel and Zerubbabel) between King David and Joseph the father of Jesus. This means that Matthew and Luke disagree about the identity of the father of Joseph.
- Between King David and Joseph Matthew’s chronology lists 26 generations; Luke lists 41. That represents a difference of roughly 300 years.
- The names in Matthew’s list between King David and Zerubbabel don’t always agree with histories found in the Old Testament.
- The books of Kings and Chronicles record the histories of two different kingdoms– Israel and Judah. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah; Samaria was the capital of Israel. The lists of the kings of these two kingdoms reference each other. For example, 1 Kings 16:28 says that Ahab became king of Israel when Asa was in his 38th year of kingship over Judah. These cross-linked relationships are difficult to untangle, and they have gaps.
- Some of the times reported in the Old Testament books could not possibly work. For example, 2 Kings 15:33 says that Jotham reigned Judah for 16 years. But 2 Kings 15:30 says that Hoshea killed the King of Israel in the 20th year of Jotham’s reign, which would be impossible if Jotham only reigned for 16 years. And 2 Kings 17:1 says that Hoshea began his rule in the 12th year of the rule of King Ahaz of Israel, which would put the date of his ascension to power 7 years later.
Given these various constraints it is simply not possible to map the 5 key historical events listed above to the biblical timeline with absolute assurance. The following list is, I think, about the best that can be done. It starts at the time of the Pharaoh Shishonq I and works forward in time. This is an abbreviated listing, as it only shows the kings of Judah. To get a full understanding of the overall timeline you need to show the timeline of the kings of Judah alongside those of Israel. Another issue to keep in mind is that the names in this listing are specific to the Revised Standard translation. Bear in mind that there are some differences in the spellings of proper names from one translation to another.
- 925 BCE: Invasion of the Levant by the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishonq I in the 5th year of the reign of Rehoboam, King of Israel. (1 Kings 14:25)
- 913 BCE: Abijah began his reign as King of Judah in the 18th year of the reign of Jeroboam, King of Israel. (1 Kings 14:31)
- 911 BCE: King Abijah is killed by God andAsa began his reign as King of Judah in the 20th year of the reign of Jeroboam, King of Israel. (1 Kings 15:9)
- 869 BCE: King Asa died after ruling for 41 years and Jehoshaphat began his reign as King of Judah in the 4th year of the reign of King Ahab of Israel. (1 Kings 22:41 – 42)
- 844 BCE: King Jehoshaphat died after ruling for 25 years and his son Jehoram began his reign as King of Judah in the 5th year of the reign of King Joram / Jehoram of Israel. (Should be the 7th year.) (2 Kings 8:16 – 17)
- 839 BCE: Ahaziah began his reign as King of Judah in the 12th year of the reign of Joram / Jehoram of Israel. (2 Kings 8:25 – 26)
- 837 BCE: Athaliah killed her son Ahaziah and took control of the throne of Judah after Ahaziah had ruled for 1 year. (2 Kings 11:1 – 3)
- 831 BCE: The temple guards killed Athaliah and put Joash / Jehoash on the throne in the 7th year of Jehu’s reign as King of Israel. (2 Kings 12:1)
- 811 BCE – 809 BCE: GAP of 2 years with no King of Israel
- 791 BCE: The servants of Joash / Jehoash killed him in the 40th year of his reign and his son Amaziah began his reign as King of Judah in the 2nd year of Joash King of Israel. (2 Kings 14:1)
- 764 BCE: King Amaziah died 15 years after the death of King Joash / Jehoash of Israel. (2 Kings 14:17)
- 763 BCE – 750 BCE: GAP of 13 years with no King of Judah
- 750 BCE: Azariah / Uzziah began his reign as King of Judah in the 27th year of Jeroboam III’s reign as King of Israel. (2 Kings 14:21)
- 736 BCE – 712 BCE: GAP of 24 years with no King of Israel
- 698 BCE: King Azariah / Uzziah died after ruling for 52 years.
- 698 BCE – 696 BCE: GAP of 2 years with no King of Judah
- 696 BCE: Jotham, son of Azariah / Uzziah, began his reign as King of Judah in the 2nd year of Pekah, King of Israel. (2 Kings 15:32 – 33)
- 681 BCE: King Jotham died and his son Ahaz began his reign as King of Judah in the 17th year of Pekah, King of Israel. (2 Kings 15:38, 2 Kings 16:1 – 2)
- 678 – 669 BCE: Hoshea killed King Pekah of Israel and began his rule as King of Israel. (There are three different reports of when and how this happened in 2 Kings 15:30, 2 Kings 15:33, and 2 Kings 17:1. Several of the following dates are calculated from this date. I believe that the only date that makes sense in the context of what follows is 669 BCE.)
- 665 BCE: King Ahaz of Judah died after ruling for 16 years. (2 Kings 16:2)
- 666 BCE: Hezekiah began his reign as King of Judah in the 3rd year of Hoshea’s reign as King of Israel. (This only makes sense if we use the date of 669 BCE for the killing of King Pekah.) (2 Kings 16:2, 2 Kings 18:1)
- 660 BCE: King Shalmaneser V of Assyria attacked Samaria in the 7th year of Hoshea’s reign as King of Israel. (2 Kings 18:9). The historical date for this event is 722 BCE.
- 637 BCE: Hezekiah died after ruling as King of Judah for 29 years. His son Mannaseh began his reign as King of Judah. (2 Kings 20:21; 2 Kings 21:1)
- 582 BCE: Amon began his reign as King of Judah when his father Mannaseh died after ruling for 55 years. (2 Kings 21:18 – 20)
- 580 BCE: Josiah began his reign as King of Judah when his father Amon was killed after ruling for 2 years. (2 Kings 21:26; 2 Kings 22:1)
- 549 BCE: King Josiah was killed at Megiddo by Pharaoh Nekau II. (2 Kings 22:21; 2 Kings 23:28 – 30) The historical date is 609 BCE.
- 549 BCE: King Josiah’s son Jehoahaz reigned as King of Judah until he was taken captive by Pharaoh Neco after 3 months.
- 549 BCE: Eliakim, the second son of King Josiah, was made King of Judah by Pharaoh Nekau II and was renamed to Jehoiakim. (2 Kings 34 – 36; I Chronicles 3:15)
- 545 BCE: Pharaoh Nekau II was defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Carchemish in the 4th year of King Jehoiakim’s reign. (Jeremiah 46:2) The historical date for this event is 605 BCE.
- 538 BCE: Jehoiachin became King of Judah following the death of his father Jehoiakim after 11 years of rule. (2 Kings 23:36)
- 527 BCE: King Jehoiachin and the officials and artisans of Judah were carried off to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in the 11th year of Jehoiachin’s reign. (2 Kings 24:10 – 17; Jeremiah 24)
- 527 BCE: King Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiachin’s uncle Mattaniah king of Jerusalem and renamed him Zedekiah. (2 Kings 24:17)
- 516 BCE: Nebuchadnezzar laid seige to Jerusalem and took it in the 11th year of Zedekiah’s reign and carried off all survivors as captives to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:1 – 7) The historical date for this event is 587 BCE.
The key differences from the above list are as follows:
- 660 BCE: King Shalmaneser V of Assyria attacked Samaria in the 7th year of Hoshea’s reign as King of Israel. (2 Kings 18:9). The historical date for this event is 722 BCE, a difference of 62 years.
- 549 BCE: King Josiah was killed at Megiddo by Pharaoh Nekau II. (2 Kings 22:21; 2 Kings 23:28 – 30) The historical date is 609 BCE, a difference of 60 years.
- 545 BCE: Pharaoh Nekau II was defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon at Carchemish in the 4th year of King Jehoiakim’s reign. (Jeremiah 46:2) The historical date for this event is 605 BCE, a difference of 60 years.
- 516 BCE: Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and took it in the 11th year of Zedekiah’s reign and carried off all survivors as captives to Babylon. (2 Kings 25:1 – 7) The historical date for this event is 587 BCE, a difference of 71 years.
So there is a difference of between 60 and 71 years. That’s about a 17 to 21 percent error over the 338 years between 925 BCE and 587 BCE. But 41 of those years can be accounted for by the gaps in the biblical chronology that I have highlighted above. If those gaps are simply errors in the record, then that would reduce the discrepancy to a range of 19 to 30 years, or a 5 to 9 percent error. Another possibility is that they actually do represent periods of time when there were no kings of either Israel or Judah.
Part of that difference might be due to a confusion of names. At one point a king named Joram or Jehoram ruled as King of Israel at the same time that another man named Joram or Jehoram ruled as King of Judah. And later, a man named Joash or Jehoash reigned as King in Israel while another man named Joash or Jehoash ruled as King of Judah.
Copyright (c) 2020 by David S. Moore
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