The following chronological Old Testament timeline is based upon scriptural passages in the Bible. The verse references are provided. It should be noted that time lengths provided in the Bible are usually in whole years. Thus, the further back in the timeline, the more rounding error can occur. However, this has little effect on the later dates and should only affect the older dates by a few years.
The table below lists Biblical events in their chronological order. The events listed are those which are most useful in building the chronology, not necessarily those which are most spiritually significant. Within the table are certain events for which Bible chronologists sometimes disagree. For those events I have provided an internal link to some further discussion that is written below the table. The following questions are examined: (1) The age of Terah when his son, Abraham, was born, (2) the period over which the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, and (3) the period over which the judges led Israel.
There is some disagreement among Bible chronologists as to whether Terah was 70 years old or 130 years old when his son, Abram (later renamed Abraham), was born.
The view that Terah was 130 years old at the birth of Abraham:
(1) Acts 7:4 says, "Then came he (Abraham) out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran (Haran): and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell." Consider also that Genesis 11:32 says, "And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran", and that Genesis 12:4 says, "... Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran." Subtracting 75 from 205 leaves 130 for Terah's age at the birth of Abraham. This is the strongest reason for the view that Terah was 130 years old when Abraham was born.
(2) As a secondary support, some refer to the fact that Genesis 11:32 records Terah's death, but Abraham leaving Haran is not recorded until a few verses later in Genesis 12:4. If one assumes the events were recorded in chronological order, that would mean that Terah was 130 at the birth of Abraham. However, we know that one cannot always assume the scriptures are recorded in chronological order. Generally, most of the events in the Bible are chronological, but sometimes God records events in a different order. For example, Genesis 35:27-29 records the death of Isaac, which happened when Jacob was 120 years old. Later in the text, Genesis 37:2 begins telling the beautiful story of Joseph. The story begins when Joseph is only 17. This was 12 years before Isaac died, when Jacob was 108. Why did God choose to record the death of Isaac earlier? Perhaps He did it to keep it from showing up in the middle of the story of Joseph, and being a distraction from the subject at hand. Likewise, perhaps God was telling of Terah's death before getting into the story of Abraham. Whatever God's reasons were, the events in the Bible are not always recorded in the precise order in which they took place.
(3) Another weaker point is that since Nahor married the daughter of Haran (Genesis 11:29), some assume that Haran must have been much older than Nahor and Abraham. This is of course, far from conclusive, since Nahor may have simply married a woman 20 or 30 years younger than himself. This often happens today, but it would have been much more common in the days when life spans were around 200 years.
The view that Terah was 70 years old at the birth of Abraham:
(1) This determination is more direct, since Genesis 11:26 says, "And Terah lived 70 years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."
(2) A little less direct, but perhaps even stronger support is the miraculous nature of the birth of Isaac. In Genesis 17:17, when God told Abraham that he would have a child at the age of one hundred,"... Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? ..." (Genesis 17:17). Now Abraham would not have thought it was strange at all if his own father (Terah) had been 130 years old when he (Abraham) was born. A man of 100 years would have still been considered quite youthful. But before Isaac was conceived, Genesis 18:11 says, "... Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age ...." Also, Hebrews 11:11-12 says, "Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him(Abraham)as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable." So in those days, men of 100 years were passed the age of being able to father children and considered "as good as dead". In fact, no man born after the global flood is said to have fathered a child when 100 or more, with Abraham being the only exception. This is strong support for Terah having been 70 years old at the birth of Abraham rather than 130.
We know that when God originally gave His Word to those who wrote the scriptures in the original manuscripts, God did not make any errors. If properly copied, translated, and understood, the Bible has no contradictions. However, based upon what we know today, I can see how a reasonable Bible student could come to either conclusion, that Terah was 70 or 130 years old. The numbers in the table above are based upon Terah being 70 years old at the birth of Abraham. If Terah was actually 130 years old at the birth of Abraham, then all of the years for the previous events would shift backwards in time 60 years. That would put the creation at 4010 BC instead of 3950 BC. As always, students are encouraged to search the scriptures to see whether the words of any teacher are correct.
One common misunderstanding of Biblical chronology is the thinking that the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. In actuality, the time was much shorter.
The belief that the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years is largely based upon these two verses, "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years ..." (Genesis 15:13). "And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years" (Acts 7:6).
Then there is this passage in Exodus, "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:40-41). This does not mean that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt 430 years. Paul explains that the 430 years extends from the time of God's covenant with Abraham until the children of Israel left Egypt. "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (Galatians 3:17).
We know that Jacob and his family entered Egypt 215 years (see timeline above) after God's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-7. This was half way through the 430 years. Furthermore, we know that Joseph was 39 at that time and lived 71 more years to the age of 110. From Exodus, we know that Israel did not become slaves to Egypt until after Joseph died. "And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph" (Exodus 1:6-8). Subtracting 71 from 215 leaves 144 years, the maximum time that Israel could have been enslaved by Egypt.
The fact that the children of Israel were only in Egypt for 215 years is also consistent with the genealogy of Moses. Born 80 years before the exodus from Egypt, Moses was the son of Amram, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi (1 Chronicles 6:1-3). Of course, Levi was one of Jacob's 12 sons. We see from Genesis 46:8-11 that Kohath, the grandfather of Moses, was already born when Jacob and his family entered Egypt. Kohath lived to be 133, and his son Amram lived to be 137 (Exodus 6:18-20). Even if Kohath was only a year old when they entered Egypt, and Amram and Moses were each born in the last year of their father's lives, then the maximum time in Egypt could have only been 133 + 137 + 80 = 350 years, still well short of the traditional 400 years. Actually, based on the 215 year period, Amram and Moses were probably born when their fathers were around 70 years old, which was quite typical for that time in history.
So what about the 400 years of servitude prophesied in Genesis 15:13? Perhaps this number is meant to be cumulative over Israel's history. The six servitudes during the time of the judges totaled 111 years, and the Babylonian servitude was 70 years. If the entire 215 years in Egypt were counted, then this total is 396 years. This may or may not be the 400 years to which God was referring. Perhaps the 400 years is meant to include the time in which Isaac and Jacob were strangers in the land of Canaan before the children of Israel went to Egypt. Whichever the case, all of God's prophecies either have been or will be fulfilled.
1 Kings 6:1 says, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD." So we know that 480 years elapsed between the exodus from Egypt and the year that King Solomon began building the first temple, in the fourth year of his reign. When we subtract out the 40 years in which Israel wandered in the wilderness, the 30 years that Joshua was alive in the land of Israel prior to the judges, King Saul and King David's reigns of 40 years each, and the first 4 years of Solomon's reign, we are left with 326 years in which Israel was lead by the judges.
Some have had difficulty reconciling this with the words of the Apostle Paul, recorded by Luke, in Acts 13:17-20. Preaching in Antioch, Paul said, "The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it. And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness. And when he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, he divided their land to them by lot. And after that he gave unto them judges about the space of four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet."
The King James translates this passage as the judges ruling for about 450 years. From the Greek text however, this passage can be understood to mean that from the calling of Israel's fathers to the beginning of the period of the judges was about 450 years. Most English versions translate it this way. For example, the New American Standard version translates Acts 13:17-20 as follows, "The God of this people Israel chose our fathers, and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with an uplifted arm He led them out from it. And for a period of about forty years He put up with them in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land as an inheritance - all of which took about four hundred and fifty years. And after these things He gave them judges until Samuel the prophet."
So it was not the time of the judges that covered about 450 years, but it was the period between God's choosing of Israel's fathers to the dividing of the land that took about 450 years. Chronologically, this would be correct. By the calculations recorded in the table above, from the dividing of the land of Israel back to the call of Abraham was 475 years, which is "about 450". Also, from the dividing of the land of Israel back to the birth of Isaac was 450 years.
From the time of Joshua's death (1426 BC) to the monarchy established at the beginning of the reign of King Saul (1100 BC), Israel was ruled by 14 different judges and was also forced into servitude 6 times. The 14 judges were Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Izban, Elon, Abdon, Samson, Eli, and Samuel. The six servitudes were to the Mesopotamians, the Moabites, the Canaanites, the Midianites, the Philistines with the Amorites, and the Philistines by themselves. The total years of all the judges and of all the servitudes adds up to considerable more than the 326 years, if one does not consider the overlapping which took place. However, we know that some of the leaderships of the judges overlapped some of the servitudes. For example, we know from Judges 4:3-4 that for 20 years of the time Deborah judged, Israel was in servitude to the Canaanites, and we know from Judges 13:1 and 16:30-31 that during the 20 years that Samson judged, Israel was in servitude to the Philistines. Also, some of the leaderships of some of the judges may have overlapped each other, as they may have judged over separate geographical areas of Israel. There is not enough information to piece together all of the details of just when each judge lead and when each servitude took place with much certainty. We can only be certain that the total time of the judges was about 326 years, from about 1426 to 1100 BC.
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