Sunday Morning Greek Blog

January 24, 2012

Old Testament Timeline

Filed under: 1 Chronicles,Chronology,Genesis,Old Testament,Septuagint — Scott Stocking @ 6:29 am

(Note: The first part of this was originally posted as Genesis Timeline.)

The Evidence from Genesis

Table 1 is a work in progress. As I was reading through Genesis, I took note of all the ages of the patriarchs and the timing of the significant events in their lives, when known. In some places, I had to make an educated guess (e.g., the birth of Jacob’s 12 sons, and especially of Joseph and of his sons), but I’m fairly confident I got close. I did not check this against anyone else’s chronology, but I’m open to comments or input on any data I may have missed. Years are given a.c., after creation, and I assume the years are literal and that there are no gaps, although I’m sure some would argue that point with me. At some point, I intend to do the backward chronology and put in the b.c. years, but I want to do a little more study on that first. I hope you find the chart useful.

I ordered the columns by year of death, year of birth, and year of birth of descendant so I could use Excel’s “high-low-close” graph feature to create a timeline (Figure 1). You will easily see that after the flood, age spans decrease dramatically. This is because the flood was a result, in part, of the protective vapor canopy around the earth condensing. That canopy allowed the new earth to flourish and blocked the harmful radiation of the sun, thus allowing longer life (and bigger dinosaurs). But more about that in a future post!

Table 1: Genesis Timeline: Years of birth, death, and significant events in the lives of the Patriarchs.

 

Year of Death (a.c.)

Year of Birth (a.c.)

Child Born (a.c.)

Age @ child’s birth

Age @ death

Comments

Adam

930

0

130

130

930

 

Seth

1042

130

235

105

912

 

Enosh

1140

235

325

90

905

 

Kenan

1235

325

395

70

910

 

Mahalalel

1290

395

460

65

895

 

Jared

1422

460

622

162

962

 

Enoch

987

622

687

65

365

 

Methuselah

1656

687

874

187

969

 

Lamech

1651

874

1056

182

777

 

Noah

2006

1056

1556

500

950

Date of the flood: 1656 a.c.

Shem

2156

1556

1656

100

600

Gen 10:21: “Whose older brother was Japheth” makes him the youngest, presumably.

Arphaxad

2094

1656

1691

35

438

 

Shelah

2124

1691

1721

30

433

 

Eber

2185

1721

1755

34

464

 

Peleg

1994

1755

1785

30

239

Gen 10:25: Peleg = “divided”: “because in his time, the earth was divided”. A reference to the Tower of Babel?

Reu

2024

1785

1817

32

239

 

Serug

2047

1817

1847

30

230

 

Nahor

1995

1847

1876

29

148

 

Terah

2081

1876

1946

70

205

 

Abra(ha)m

2121

1946

2046

100

175

 

Isaac

2226

2046

2106

60

180

No firm date given for birth of Jacob/Esau, but Esau is 40 when he marries and before Jacob takes his birthright.

Jacob/Esau

2253

2106

2166

60

147

Genesis 45:6: Two years into the famine when Joseph reveals himself. If Jacob was 60 when Joseph was born (he was in Paddan Aram for 20 years), this would make Joseph 70 years old when he revealed himself to his brothers. Genesis 47:9: Jacob was 130 when he went to Egypt.

Joseph

2276

2166

2231

65

110

Genesis 37:2: Joseph is 17 when he has his dreams (2183 a.c.). Genesis 41:46: Joseph is 30 years old (2196 a.c.) when he enters Pharaoh’s service. In 41:50: Joseph’s two sons were born “before the years of famine,” so he is roughly 65(?) when his sons are born.

Moses

2706

2586

   

120

Exodus 12:40: Israelites leave Egypt after 430 years; Jacob came to Egypt in 2236 a.c., so the Exodus happens in 2666 a.c. That would put Moses’s birth at 2586 a.c., death at 2706 a.c.

 

Figure 1: Genesis Timeline Chart

Figure notes: The y-axis represents years after creation. The bottom number with the red mark indicates the year of birth of the descendant to the right. The top number indicates the year of death of the father to the left.

[Added 1/27/2012]

The Evidence from Exodus and Beyond

I said this was a work in progress, so I’m going to keep adding to it. It shouldn’t surprise me that right after I post this, I run across something that throws a wrench in the works. I realize that patriarchal genealogies may not be comprehensive (usually only the sons are listed), but I have trouble believing that there are gaps, because the point was to show an unbroken line of descent. So what am I talking about here?

I was reading in Exodus 6 this morning (6:16–20 is what caught my attention) where the ages of Levi and his descendants are given. Levi lived 137 years, his son Kohath lived 133 years (LXX has 130), and Kohath’s son Amram, Moses’s father, lived 137 years (LXX has 132). The genealogy at 1 Chronicles 6 agrees with Exodus 6:16–20 with no additions. We don’t know the ages of the fathers when their sons were born, but working from the assumption that they were 60ish (since that seemed to be the pattern toward the end of the Genesis timeline above) when their respective key descendants were born, and assuming Levi was born about 10 years before Joseph (ca. 2156 a.c.), there’s no way you can stretch out the chronology in 6:16–20 to fill the 430 years of Exodus 12:40! Table 2 is a proposed addition to the Excel sheet above.

Table 2: From Levi to Moses (hypothetical; revised in Table 3)

 

Year of Death (a.c.)

Year of Birth (a.c.)

Child Born (a.c.)

Age @ child’s birth

Age @ death

Levi

2293

2156

2216

60

137

Kohath

2349

2216

2276

60

133

Amram

2413

2276

2336

60

137

Moses

2456

2336

2396

60

120

Gershon

2396

2396

2396

   

 

Notice that this hypothetical data puts Moses’s birth at 2336, a full 250 years before my proposed date above! What is going on here?

The key may lie in a closer look at the textual history of Exodus 12:40. The Hebrew text says that the Israelites were in Egypt 430 years. But the LXX and the Samaritan Pentateuch say they lived in Egypt and Canaan 430 years. Could it be that the mention of living in Egypt symbolized the fact that the Israelites did not yet have a permanent home anywhere, and so in Moses’s mind, that included the years from Abram’s settlement in Canaan to Jacob’s move to Egypt? If this is intended to imply 430 years from the time Abram settled in Canaan, where does that leave us? Here’s the math: Genesis 12:4 says Abram was 75 years old when set out from Harran. If Abram was born in 1946 a.c., 1946 + 75 = 2021. Add 430 to that, and you get 2451 a.c. for the date of the exodus, when Moses is 80 years old. Are you following me so far? Subtract 80 from that, and you get Moses’s birth year in 2371 a.c. So if I make Moses’s ancestors slightly older when they have their kids, I can make the chronology work a little better. Table 3 shows the revision.

Table 3: From Levi to Moses: final

 

Year of Death (a.c.)

Year of Birth (a.c.)

Child Born (a.c.)

Age @ child’s birth

Age @ death

Levi

2293

2156

2226

70

137

Kohath

2359

2226

2301

75

133

Amram

2438

2301

2371

70

137

Moses

2491

2371

2431

60

120

Gershon

2431

2431

2431

   

 

At this point, I may as well bring in the other major chronological statement from the Old Testament and try to put everything into the more familiar B.C. years. Solomon began building the temple in the fourth year of his reign, 480 years (LXX has 440) after the Israelites came out of Egypt. Solomon’s reign is dated circa 971–931 B.C. (working from the chronology in William LaSor, David Hubbard, & Frederic Bush, Old Testament Survey [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972] p. 293), so Solomon began building the temple roughly 967 B.C. Adding 480 years to that puts the Exodus at 1447 B.C. So 1447 B.C. = 2451 a.c. That would put creation at 3898 B.C., give or take about 100 years depending on how you deal with the unknowns.

However, LaSor et al. suggest (p. 127) that the 480 years is a rounding, of sorts: 12 generations times 40 years/generation. But they significantly shorten that number, almost cutting it in half, and suggest that the exodus happened in the early thirteenth century B.C. rather than the mid fifteenth century B.C. I will have to save that debate for another time, though.

Conclusion

The puzzle of biblical chronolgy is fascinating, if only because I love to play with numbers. I realize I’ve made some “educated guesses” here, but as for the genealogies, I would have a difficult time believing there are any gaps in such detailed records. If you compare Matthew’s genealogy with the corresponding text in 1 Chronicles, it is clear that Matthew does leave out a few generations toward the end, but he’s certainly given enough information to connect us to his primary source material.

I believe in a recent creation, but I’m not so sure the earth itself is that new. After all, Genesis 1:1 says something was here before God made something out of it (“the earth was without form and void” doesn’t mean it didn’t exist at the time).

Peace

Scott Stocking

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