Chronology of the Bible

Chronology of the Bible
This article deals with the chronology of the Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament). For material on the Christian New Testament, see Chronology of Jesus, Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles, and Timeline of Christianity. For a historical look at the bible see The Bible and history. For the composition of the various books of the Bible, see Dating the Bible.

The chronology of the Bible is the elaborate system of genealogies, generations, reign-periods, and other means by which Hebrew Bible measures the passage of time and thus give a chronological framework to biblical history from the Creation until the historical kingdoms of Israel and Judah.[1]

The passage of time in the earlier passages of Genesis is indicated by counts of generations: an individual lives so many years, fathers a son, and dies at such and such an age: when the ages at each birth of a new generation are added together, the result is the total number of years elapsed. In later books the passage of years is calibrated to events in the overall narrative (e.g., 1 Kings 6:1 states that the building of the Temple of Solomon began in the 480th year from the Exodus), or through inter-relationships of the reigns of kings (e.g., king A of Israel comes to the throne in the Xth year of king B of Judah and rules Z number of years, for example in 1 Kings 15:25-28).

While the events during the monarchic period (10th to 7th centuries BCE) are historical and can be related to extra-biblical historiography, attempts to date Moses and the Exodus, or yet earlier events such as the birth of Abraham, Noah's Flood, or even the date of Creation itself have met with little success.



The biblical chronology is built on "blocks" of numbers which were significant to the authors: the basic numbers are 12, 40 (a "generation"), and 480 (12 generations of 40 years); other significant numbers include 100, 60, 20 and 10.[1]

The biblical chronology takes as its main events the creation of Adam in Year 0 AM, the birth and call of Abraham, the Exodus, the construction of the Temple of Solomon, the Edict allowing the return of the Jews to Jerusalem which, according to Ezra, was issued by Cyrus the Great in the first year of his conquest of Babylon, and the rededication of the Temple under the Maccabees.[1] The following table is from Seder Olam Rabbah:

Event Year AM Year BCE (non-biblical) Span
Creation of Adam 0 3924 BCE 0
Birth of Abram (Genesis 11:26) 1948 1976 BCE 1948
Promise to Abraham 2048 1906 BCE 70
Birth of Isaac 2148 1876 BCE 100
Descent into Egypt 2235 1686 BCE 190
Exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12:40) 2448 1476 BCE 210 (430 from Promise to Abraham; 400 from Birth of Isaac)
Foundation of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 6:1) 2928 997 BCE 480
Destruction of Temple 3338 587 BCE 410
Return from exile (Ezra 1:2-4) 3626 535 BCE 52

BCE denotes "Before our Common Era" - CE denotes "Common Era". In the calculation of these dates, bear in mind that there is no year zero in the transition between BCE year 1 and CE year 1.

Some scholars have posited that the underlying chronology is built on a special calendar called the Jubilees calendar, which has exactly 52 (not 54) weeks, and 364 (not 365) days, so that each day falls on on the same date each month (the first day of each month, for example, is always a Wednesday, which was a major festival-day).[2]

Creation to the Flood

Biblical dating commences with Creation or the creation of Adam, depending on the source. In the Seder Olam Rabbah, written in ca. 160 CE and meant to be a history of the world, Adam's creation is considered year 0,[dubious ] and his death 930 years later is considered year 930. The Jewish calendar currently in use calls the 5 days prior to Adam's creation year 1, and has Adam created on the first day of year 2.

The period to the Flood is derived using the genealogical table of the ten patriarchs listed in Genesis 5, and 7:6, called the generations of Adam. According to the Masoretic Text, this period consists of 1656 years, and this dating is also followed by Western Christian Bibles derived from the Latin Vulgate. According to the Samaritan texts the period is 1307 years, and according to the Septuagint (Codex Alexandrinus, Elizabeth Bible) it is 2262 years.[3] J. Ussher agrees with the dating until the birth of Abraham, which he argues took place when Terah was 130, and not 70 as is direct reading of Genesis 11:26, thus adding 60 years to his chronology for events postdating Abraham.[4]

Date (AM)
Date [1]
Event Reference
0 AM 0 AM The heaven and the earth are created, including Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:1 ff
130 AM 230 AM Seth born, son of Adam with Eve Genesis 5:3
235 AM 435 AM Enosh born, son of Seth Genesis 5:6
325 AM 625 AM Kenan born, son of Enosh Genesis 5:9
395 AM 795 AM Mahalalel born, son of Kenan Genesis 5:12
460 AM 960 AM Jared born, son of Mahalalel Genesis 5:15
622 AM 1122 AM Enoch born, son of Jared Genesis 5:18
687 AM 1287 AM Methuselah born, son of Enoch Genesis 5:21
874 AM 1474 AM Lamech born, son of Methusaleh Genesis 5:25
930 AM 930 AM Adam dies at 930 Genesis 5:5
987 AM 1487 AM Enoch "walks with God" Genesis 5:23-24
1042 AM 1142 AM Seth dies at 912 Genesis 5:8
1056 AM 1663 AM Noah born, son of Lamech Genesis 5:28-29
1140 AM 1340 AM Enosh dies at 905 Genesis 5:11
1235 AM 1535 AM Kenan dies at 910 Genesis 5:14
1290 AM 1690 AM Mahalalel dies at 895 Genesis 5:17
1422 AM 1922 AM Jared dies at 962 Genesis 5:20
1557 AM 2163 AM Shem, Ham and Japheth born, sons of Noah
Noah still 500 years old, nearly 501 years old.
Genesis 5:32
1651 AM 2207 AM Lamech dies at 777 Genesis 5:31
1656 AM 2252 AM Methusaleh dies at 969 Genesis 5:27
1656 AM 2262 AM On the seventeenth (Septuagint: 27th) day of the second month, the fountains of the great deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. Genesis 7:4-11
1656 AM 2262 AM On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, Noah's Ark lands on "mountains of Ararat" Genesis 8:4
1657 AM 2263 AM On the twenty-seventh day of the second month, Noah and his family exit the ark Genesis 8:13-14
1658 AM 2264 AM Arphaxad born, son of Shem
Shem still 100 years old, 2 years after the flood began, nearly 101 years old.[5]
Genesis 11:10

Flood to Abraham

The period from the Creation to Abraham is measured by the genealogies at Genesis 5 and 11, elapsed time being calculated by the addition of the ages of the patriarchs at the birth of their offspring. The genealogies exist in three main manuscript traditions, the Masoretic (in Hebrew), the Septuagint (in Greek), and the Samaritan Torah (Hebrew). The three do not agree with each other, here or elsewhere. (The Septuagint is represented in this table by two manuscripts, Alexandrinus and Vaticanus; dates are Anno Mundi, or AM, meaning from the Creation):[6]

Period Masoretic
Year of the Flood 1656 AM 2262 AM 2242 AM 1307 AM The Masoretic, Alexandrinus and Samaritan chronologies puts the deaths of all the pre-Flood patriarchs except Noah either in or prior to the Flood, but Vaticanus has Methuselah outlive the Flood by 14 years.
Flood to Abraham 292 years 1072 years 1172 years 942 years The year which the Flood takes up appears to be excluded from the count of the chronology: Shem is born in Noah's 500th year, the Flood begins in Noah's 600th, and they leave the Ark a little more than a year later; yet we are told that Shem, who should be 102, is only 100. This is presumably because the world has been "deconstructed" (returned to the state of tohu wa bohu, chaos) and time does not exist for this period.[7]
Year of Abraham's birth 1948 AM 3334 AM 3414 AM 2249 AM The two sets of patriarchs before and after the Flood are exactly symmetrical: there are ten in each group, and the final members of each, Noah and Terah, each have three sons who will begin the next section of the chronology.

The following is a list of Biblical patriarchs from Shem to Abraham, given with their Masoretic date.

Masoretic date Event Bible verse
1658 AM Arpachshad, son of Shem, born Genesis 11:10
1693 AM Shelah, son of Arpachshad, born Genesis 11:12
1723 AM Eber, son of Shelah, born Genesis 11:14
1757 AM Peleg, son of Eber, born and the division of tongues Genesis 11:16
1787 AM Reu, son of Peleg, born Genesis 11:18
1819 AM Serug, son of Reu, born Genesis 11:20
1849 AM Nahor, son of Serug, born Genesis 11:22
1878 AM Terah, son of Nahor, born Genesis 11:24
1948 AM Abram, son of Terah, born Genesis 11:26

Abraham to United Monarchy

This table gives the Masoretic dates (Seder Olam Rabbah) in the Anno Mundi era and converted to the Dionysian era (1 AM = 3925 BCE).[citation needed]

The 40-year reigns of David and Solomon of the United Monarchy are probably schematic rather than historical, even though those two kings may be historical.[8]

Masoretic date
Masoretic date
Event Bible verse
1948 AM 1976 BCE Abram, son of Terah, born. The Ussher chronology from this point diverges with the earlier chronologies, as J. Ussher assumes that Terah was 130 when Abram was born, and not 70.[9] based on 11:32 and 12:4. Genesis 11:26.
1958 AM 1966 BCE Sarai is born Genesis 17:17
1996 AM 1928 BCE Peleg dies Genesis 11:19
1996 AM 1928 BCE The Tower of Babel was destroyed Genesis 10:25
1997 AM 1927 BCE Nahor dies Genesis 11:25
2006 AM 1918 BCE Noah dies Genesis 9:28
2026 AM 1898 BCE Reu dies Genesis 11:21
2034 AM 1890 BCE Ishmael, son of Abram with Sarai's handmaiden, Hagar, born Genesis 16:16
2047 AM 1877 BCE Abram and Sarai are renamed Abraham and Sarah by God.
Abraham is circumcised.
Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed
Genesis 17:10
2048 AM 1876 BCE Isaac, son of Abraham with Sarah, born Genesis 21:5
2049 AM 1875 BCE Serug dies Genesis 11:23
2083 AM 1841 BCE Terah dies Genesis 11:32
2085 AM 1839 BCE Sarah dies Genesis 23:1
2096 AM 1828 BCE Arpachshad dies Genesis 11:13
2108 AM 1816 BCE Jacob and Esau, sons of Isaac with Rebekah, born Genesis 25:26
2123 AM 1801 BCE Abraham dies Genesis 25:7
<2126 AM 1798 BCE Shelah dies Genesis 11:15
2158 AM 1766 BCE Shem dies Genesis 11:11
2171 AM 1753 BCE Ishmael dies Genesis 25:17
2187 AM 1737 BCE Eber dies Genesis 11:17
2199 AM 1725 BCE Joseph, son of Jacob with Rachel, born Genesis 41:46
2216 AM 1708 BCE Joseph is sold by his brothers Genesis 37:2
2227 AM 1697 BCE Joseph interprets the dreams of the butler and the baker while in prison Genesis 41:1
2228 AM 1696 BCE Isaac dies Genesis 35:28
2229 AM 1695 BCE Joseph is elevated to Pharaoh's second Genesis 41:46
2238 AM 1686 BCE Jacob moves to Egypt at the age of 130
After 7 years of plenty and 2 years of famine
When Joseph was 39
Genesis 47:9, 45:11, 41:46
2255 AM 1669 BCE Jacob dies Genesis 47:28
2309 AM 1615 BCE Joseph dies Genesis 50:26
2365 AM 1560 BCE Aaron, son of Amram with Jochebed, born Exodus 7:7
2368 AM 1557 BCE Moses, son of Amram with Jochebed, born Exodus 7:7
2448 AM 1476 BCE The Israelites leave in a mass exodus from Egypt. Genesis 15:13,
see also 1 Kings 6:1
2487 AM 1437 BCE Moses and Aaron die Deuteronomy 34:7
2488 AM 1436 BCE The Israelites enter Canaan Joshua 4:19
2448–2884 AM 1476–1040 BCE Period of Joshua, Judges and Saul, first King of Israel 1 Kings 6:1
2 Samuel 5:4
2853 AM 1071 BCE Jesse begets David 2 Samuel 5:4
2883–2923 AM 1041–1001 BCE David reigns as king of Israel 1 Kings 2:11 - reigns for 40 years
2890 AM 1034 BCE David moves his capitol from Hebron to Jerusalem 1 Kings 2:11
2923–2963 AM 1001–961 BCE Solomon son of David reigns as king of Israel 1 Kings 11:42
2927 AM 997 BCE Foundation of Temple laid in the 4th year of Solomon's reign
480th year after the Exodus
1 Kings 6:1

Divided Monarchy

The biblical chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah concern historical events and can be compared to dates from Assyrian chronology such as the Battle of Qarqar.[10]

The sum of the reigns of the kings of Judah comes to 430 years, the same as the Septuagint's version of the period between the promise of the Land of Canaan given to Abraham and the covenant at Sinai.[11]

For this period, most historians follow either of the older chronologies established by William F. Albright or Edwin R. Thiele, or the newer chronologies of Gershon Galil and Kenneth Kitchen. See Kings of Israel and Kings of Judah for the differences between these chronologies. These scholarly chronologies may differ for up to about forty years from the traditional Masoretic dates in the early period, while all authorities agree that the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, ruled from 597 to 587 or 586 BCE.

The following table only gives the Anno Mundi dates of the Masoretic tradition and its conversion in the Dionysian era (AM 1 = 3925 BC).

Masoretic date
Masoretic date
Event Bible verse
2963 AM 961 BCE The United Monarchy splits into two rival kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. 1 Kings 12
2964–2981 AM 961–944/3 BCE Rehoboam son of Solomon reigns as king of Judah (Albright: 922–915 BCE; Thiele: 931–913 BCE)
2964–2986 AM 961/60–939 BCE Jeroboam I son of Nebat reigns as king of Israel
2981–2984 AM 944/3–941 BCE Abijam son of Rehoboam reigns as king of Judah
2984–3025 AM 941–900 BCE Asa son of Abijam reigns as king of Judah
2986–2987 AM 939–938 BCE Nadab son of Jeroboam I reigns as king of Israel
2987–3010 AM 938–915 BCE Baasha reigns as king of Israel
3010–3011 AM 915–914 BCE Elah son of Baasha reigns as king of Israel
3011 AM 914 BCE Zimri reigns as king of Israel
3011–3012 AM 914–913 BCE Tibni reigns as king of Israel
3011–3022 AM 913–903 BCE Omri reigns as king of Israel
3022–3042 AM 903–883/2 BCE Ahab son of Omri reigns as king of Israel
3025–3050 AM 900–875 BCE Jehoshaphat son of Asa reigns as king of Judah
3042–3043 AM 883/2–882/1 BCE Ahaziah son of Ahab reigns as king of Israel
3047–3054 AM 878/7–871/70 BCE Jehoram (Joram) son of Jehoshaphat reigns as king of Judah
3043–3054 AM 875–871/70 BCE Joram (Jehoram) son of Ahab reigns as king of Israel
3054–3055 AM 871/70–870 BCE Ahaziah son of Jehoram reigns as king of Judah
3055–3061 AM 870–864 BCE Athaliah wife of Jehoram rules over Judah
3054–3084 AM 871/70–841 BCE Jehu son of Nimshi reigns as king of Israel
3061–3101 AM 864–824 BCE Joash (Jehoash) son of Ahaziah reigns as king of Judah
3084–3100 AM 841–825/4 BCE Jehoahaz son of Jehu reigns as king of Israel
3098–3114 AM 827/6–811 BCE Jehoash (Joash) son of Jehoahaz reigns as king of Israel
3100–3129 AM 825–796 BCE Amaziah son of Joash reigns as king of Judah
3103–3154 AM 822–771/70 BCE Jeroboam II son of Jehoash reigns as king of Israel
3117–3168 AM 808–757/6 BCE Uzziah (Azariah) son of Amaziah reigns as king of Judah
3154–3155 AM 771/70–770 BCE Zechariah son of Jeroboam II reigns as king of Israel
3155–3155 AM 770 BCE Shallum reigns as king of Israel
3155–3166 AM 770–759 BCE Menahem son of Gadi reigns as king of Israel
3166–3168 AM 759–757 BCE Pekahiah son of Menahem reigns as king of Israel
3168–3184 757/6–741/40 BCE Jotham son of Uzziah reigns as king of Judah
3167–3188 AM 758–737 BCE Pekah son of Remaliah reigns as king of Israel
3184–3200 AM 741/40–725 BCE Ahaz son of Jotham reigns as king of Judah
3188–3206 AM 737–719 BCE Hoshea son of Elah reigns as king of Israel
3200–3229 AM 725–696 BCE Hezekiah son of Ahaz reigns as king of Judah
3206 AM 719 BCE Northern kingdom of Israel falls to Assyria
3229–3284 AM 696–641 BCE Manasseh son of Hezekiah reigns as king of Judah
3284–3286 AM 641–639 BCE Amon son of Manasseh reigns as king of Judah
3286–3317 AM 639–608 BCE Josiah son of Amon reigns as king of Judah
3317 AM 608 BCE Jehoahaz son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3317–3327 AM 608–598 BCE Jehoiakim son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3327 AM 598–597 BCE Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Coniah) son of Jehoiakim reigns as king of Judah
3327–3338 AM 597–587 BCE Zedekiah (Mattaniah) son of Josiah reigns as king of Judah
3338 AM 587 BCE Kingdom of Judah falls to Babylon

Jewish computation

The Jewish calendar's reference point is traditionally held to be about one year before the Creation of the world.

The current Hebrew calendar year numbering system, which counts years from the Creation, has been in use for over 1000 years.[12] The year numbering system was adopted sometime before 3925 AM (165 CE), and based on the calculation of Rabbi Yose ben Halafta in about 160 CE in the Seder Olam Rabbah.[13]

The year numbers are based on the computations of dates and periods found in the Hebrew Bible. In Jewish tradition, "Year 1" is considered to have begun on the 25 of Elul, 6 days before the beginning of "Year 2" on the first of Tishrei, when Adam was created. The new moon of its first month (Tishrei) is called molad tohu (the mean new moon of chaos or nothing). By Halafta's calculation first humans were created in the year 3761 BCE.[14] However, Seder Olam Rabbah treats the creation of Adam as the beginning of "Year Zero". This results in a two year discrepancy between the years given in Seder Olam Rabbah and the Jewish year used today. For example, Seder Olam Rabbah gives the year of the Exodus from Egypt as 2448 AM; but, according to the current system, the year would be 2450 AM.

Despite the computations by Yose ben Halafta, confusion persisted for a long time as to how the calculations should be applied.[15] In 1000, for example, the Muslim chronologist al-Biruni noted that three different epochs were used by various Jewish communities being one, two, or three years later than the modern epoch.[16] The epoch seems to have been settled by 1178, when Maimonides, in his work Mishneh Torah, described all of the modern rules of the Hebrew calendar, including the modern epochal year. His work has been accepted by Jews as definitive, though it does not correspond to the scientific calculations. For example, the Jewish year for the destruction of the First Temple has traditionally been given as 3338 AM or 421 BCE. This differs from the modern scientific year, which is usually expressed using the Gregorian calendar as 587 BCE. The scientific date takes into account evidence from the ancient Babylonian calendar and its astronomical observations. In this and related cases, a difference between the traditional Jewish year and a scientific date in a Gregorian year results from a disagreement about when the event happened — and not simply a difference between the Jewish and Gregorian calendars. (See the "Missing Years" in the Jewish Calendar.)

Although in popular Jewish thought the counting is to the creation of the world, it had been emphasized in many ancient texts dealing with creation chronology [17] that the six days of creation till man are metaphoric days - especially the days before the creation of the sun and earth.[18]

The modern epoch year is set at 3761 BCE, taking into account that there is no year zero in the Julian year count.

See also



  1. ^ a b c Thomas L. Thompson, "The historicity of the patriarchal narratives" (Trinity Press, 2002) pp.14-15
  2. ^ Gordon J. Wenham, "The Book of Leviticus" (Eerdmans, 1979) p.302, note 4
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Biblical Chronology
  4. ^ The Chronology Of The Old Testament (2005) by Floyd Nolen Jones. ISBN 978-0-89051-416-0. p 278.
  5. ^ Note the change in terminology. Adam "lived" 130 years and begat Seth. Seth "lived", etc. But with Noah it does not say Noah "lived" 500 years, but that he was 500 years old and Noah begat Shem, Ham and Japheth. There is no reason to shift the birth of Shem 2 years later, since Noah was 500 years old for a whole year before his 501st birthday, and Shem was 100 years old for a whole year before his 101st birthday. There's your 2 extra years for Arphaxad (Arpachshad) to be born 2 years after the flood began. Simple arithmetic.
  6. ^ G.F. Hasel, "Genesis 5 and 11: Chronogenealogies in the Biblical History of Beginnings"
  7. ^ [ "Tracing the Origin of the Sabbatical Calendar in the Priestly Narrative (Genesis 1 to Joshua 5)", Journal of Hebrew Scriptures II, Volume 5, Article 13, p.11]
  8. ^ History and ideology in the Old Testament, by James Barr, fn.6, p.63
  9. ^ The Chronology Of The Old Testament. (2005) by Floyd Nolen Jones. ISBN 978-0-89051-416-0. p 295.
  10. ^ see e.g. The Jerusalem Chronology of the Israelite Monarchies, by Brad Aaronson (1989)
  11. ^ Wayne Sibley Towner, "Genesis", (Westminster John Knox, 2001) p.75
  12. ^ Maimonides (Times:Laws of 7th year, chapt 10): For instance this year is ... and which is also counted as 4936 to the creation... is a Shemita year."
  13. ^ p.107, Kantor. Note that the book Seder Olam Rabah has been continuously edited throughout the ages, and probably reached its current version around 806 CE according to the historian Leopold Zunz.
  14. ^ Genesis 2:7
  15. ^ Leopold Zunz On Time and Literature Zur Geschichte und Literatur opening chapter.
  16. ^ See The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries.
  17. ^ e.g.Maimonides Guide to the Perplexed (chapt 25): We do not reject the Eternity of the Universe, because certain passages in Scripture confirm the Creation; for such passages are not more numerous than those in which God is represented as a corporeal being; nor is it impossible or difficult to find for them a suitable interpretation. We might have explained them in the same manner as we did in respect to the Incorporeality of God. We should perhaps have had an easier task in showing that the Scriptural passages referred to are in harmony with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe if we accepted the latter... but... If we were to accept the Eternity of the Universe as taught by Aristotle, that everything in the Universe is the result of fixed laws, that Nature does not change, and that there is nothing supernatural, we should necessarily be in opposition to the foundation of our religion...
  18. ^ Rabbi A. Kook (Orot Hakodesh Book 2 Chapt 537): If these six days were simply six days, why then would they be called "The secrets of creation" and why would it be forbidden to learn them until correctly prepared... The theory of evolution is increasingly conquering the world at this time, and, more so than all other philosophical theories, conforms to the kabbalistic secrets of the world. Evolution, which proceeds on a path of ascendancy, provides an optimistic foundation for the world. How is it possible to despair at a time when we see that everything evolves and ascends? ... My Jewish Learning

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