Bible Chronology

The various books of the Bible, written over a period of at least 1,200 years, recount the history of a particular people and their interactions with many other cultures. Since all ancient peoples had more than one way of counting time, and since the biblical writers had an interest in the timing of events often quite different from the events that interest us, it is no wonder that Near Eastern scholars have difficulty establishing a firm chronology of biblical events.

The early periods of biblical history present the greatest difficulties, as one might expect. Archaeological evidence of human habitation in ancient Jericho and elsewhere in the New East goes back to 8000-5000 B.C., called the Pre-pottery Neolithic Period , before metal was used (-lithic coming from the Greek word for stone). The transition from stone for tools and weapons to easily smelted metal took place around 4000-3000 B.C., the Chalcolithic Period (chalco from the Greek word for copper or brass). That transition is seen in some excavations in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Sumerian culture, evidently growing during that period, was prominent in the Early Bronze Period (3000-2000 B.C.), which also marked the rise of an early Semitic people, the Akkadians. Many Near Eastern archaeological sites date back to the Middle Bronze Period (2000-1500 B.C.). The Late Bronze Period (1500-1200 B.C.), just before the introduction of iron tools and weapons, saw the fall of Hittite and Ugaritic cultures and the rise of Philistine power.

In what period did Abraham and the other Hebrew patriarchs of the Book of Genesis live? Archaeological evidence for some of the customs described in Genesis 11-50 could be used to argue for each of the bronze periods. Since such indirect evidence can be interpreted in different ways, it is best to remain open on possible dates, at least up to the time of Israel’s united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon. The following table shows that scholarly opinion is divided on the dates of biblical events up to that time, the period when historical documentation from extrabiblical sources becomes relatively firm.

Chronological Table

This table details biblical events, associated dates, and the parts of the Bible that were being written at approximately that time. Additionally, it mentions some of the archaeological or historical evidence for assigning the biblical event to that particular date. All dates shown should be regarded as approximate, especially those preceded by “c.” (for the Latin circa , “about”).

The Patriarchal Period: Four Suggested Dates

Biblical Event:
2166-1805 B.C. Hebrew Patriarchs (Gen.11-50). These dates fit a 15th century B.C. Exodus and the Hebrew text of Exodus 12:40 which gives 430 years for the time of the Israelites in Egypt.
Documented Historical Findings:
Some adoption tablets exist from this period: Sumerian, 2100 B.C., and Old Babylonian, 2000 B.C. Other support comes from 20th-century B.C. texts found at Alalakh, and possibly from Ebla material.

Biblical Event:
1952-1589 B.C. Hebrew Patriarchs. These dates also fit an early Exodus, but are based on the early Greek translation (Septuagint) of Exodus 12:40, which says the Israelites spent 430 years “in Egypt and in the land of Canaan,” making the stay in Egypt only 215 years.
Documented Historical Findings:
Some support for these dates comes from 18th-century B.C. texts found at Mari, 15th-century B.C. texts from Nuzu, and 16th-century texts from Alalakh.

Biblical Event:
1950-1650 B.C. Hebrew Patriarchs. These dates fit a later 13th-century B.C. Exodus and represent a Middle Bronze Period culture.
Documented Historical Findings:
Texts from Mari, Nuzu, and Alalakh indicate the historicity of such customs mentioned in Genesis as adoption, selling of a birthright, deathbed wills, marriage contracts, and choice of heirs.

Biblical Event:
1500-1300 B.C. Hebrew Patriarchs. These dates fit a 13th-century B.C. Exodus, and represent a Late Amarna Age culture of the 14th-century B.C.
Documented Historical Findings:
Hebrew conquest of Canaan would have been proceeding when the Egyptian Pharaoh, Meneptah, son of Rameses II, invaded Palestine about 1225 B.C.

The Exodus: Two Suggested Dates

Biblical Event:
c. 1446 B.C. Exodus (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers). This date is indicated by I Kings 6:1, which says Solomon began his Temple 480 years after the Exodus, and is supported by Judges 11:26.
Documented Historical Findings:
Some Mycenean IIIB pottery from the Judges period found at Hazor, a city destroyed in the Conquest of Canaan, suggests by its date on Exodus as early as this.

Biblical Event:
c. 1280 B.C. Exodus. This date is suggested by Exodus 1:11, which says the Hebrew slaves built the cities of Pithom and Rameses. (The Pentateuch was written in this period.)
Documented Historical Findings:
Rebuilding of Pithom and Rameses occurred in the 13th-century B.C., Israel is regarded as a nation on the triumphal stele, or monument, of the Egyptian pharaoh Meneptah, c. 1200 B.C.

The Wilderness Wanderings: Two Suggested Dates

Biblical Event:
c. 1446-1406 B.C. Wanderings (Numbers, Deuteronomy).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
c. 1270-1230 B.C. Wanderings. The dates depend on the dates chosen for the Exodus and conquest of Canaan.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Conquest and Judges Period: Two Suggested Dates

Biblical Event:
c. 1406-1050 B.C. Conquest (Joshua and Judges). These dates are based on the idea that the Judges period must have required several centuries.
Documented Historical Findings:
The city of Hazor was destroyed in the conquest of Canaan, and the Mycenean IIIB pottery found there suggests a conquest date shortly after 1400 B.C.

Biblical Event:
c. 1230-1025 B.C. Conquest and Judges. These dates are possible if the Judges narratives overlap.
Documented Historical Findings:
Some evidence suggests that Bethel and Hazor were not conquered until the 13th-century B.C., when Philistine cities were strong.

Israel’s United Kingdom (c. 1050-931 B.C.)

Biblical Event:
1050-1050 B.C. Saul reigns as king (I Sam. 8-31)
Documented Historical Findings:
An iron plow-point found at Gibeah, probably Saul’s headquarters, has been dated at about 1010 B.C.

Biblical Event:
1010-970 B.C. David reigns as king (II Samuel; I Kings 1-2;I Chron. 11-29).(Joshua, Judges, some Psalms written.)
Documented Historical Findings:
What may be David’s walls found on top of earlier Jebusite walls on Ophel in Jerusalem. Millo built by David (II Sam. 5:9).

Biblical Event:
970-930 B.C. Solomon. (I & II Samuel, Ruth, some Psalms, many Proverbs, Ecclesiastes written.)
Documented Historical Findings:
Gezer and Megiddo fortified (I Kings 9:15-17). Temple and royal palace built in Jerusalem (I Kings 9:1,15).

Divided Kingdom: Israel

Biblical Event:
931-910 B.C. Jeroboam I (I Kings 11-14).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
910-909 B.C. Nadab (I Kings 15:25-31).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
909-886 B.C. Baasha (I Kings 15-16).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
886-885 B.C. Elah (I Kings 16:8-10).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
885-885 B.C. Zimri (I Kings 16:9-20).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
880-874 B.C. Omri (I Kings 16:16-28).
Documented Historical Findings:
Mentioned on Moabite Stone and in Assyrian annals. Samaria fortified (I Kings 16:23-24)

Biblical Event:
874-853 B.C. Ahab (I Kings 16-22).
Documented Historical Findings:
Probably reinforced Samaria (I Kings 16:29). Many ivory inlays from his period recovered. Mentioned in Monolith Inscription of Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria.

Biblical Event:
853-852 B.C. Ahaziah (I Kings 22:51 to II Kings 1).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
852-841 B.C. Jehoram (II Kings 3-9).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
841-814 B.C. Jehu (II Kings 9-10).
Documented Historical Findings:
Named on Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, c. 838 B.C.

Biblical Event:
814-798 B.C. Jehoahaz (II Kings 10-13).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
798-782 B.C. Jehoash (II Kings 13:10-12).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
782-753 B.C. (Coregent from 793 B.C.) Jeroboam II (II Kings 13-14). (Hosea written probably during this period.)
Documented Historical Findings:
Jasper seal of Shema at Megiddo and the Samarian ostraca (records on bits of pottery) are contemporary 8th-century artifacts.

Biblical Event:
753-752 B.C. Zechariah (II Kings 15:8-12).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
752-752 B.C. Shallum (II Kings 15:13-15).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
752-742 B.C. Menahem (II Kings 15:14-22).
Documented Historical Findings:
Mentioned in Assyrian annals of Tiglathpileser III, c. 742 B.C., found at Nimrud.

Biblical Event:
742-740 B.C. Pekahiah (II Kings 15:23-26).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
740-732 B.C. Pekah (II Kings 15:25-31).
Documented Historical Findings:
Mentioned in Assyrian annals of Tiglathpileser III, c. 742 B.C. found at Nimrud.

Biblical Event:
732-722 B.C. Hosea (II Kings 15-17).
Documented Historical Findings:
Fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. mentioned in Khorsabad annals of Assyria.


DIVIDED KINGDOM: JUDAH

Biblical Event:
931-913 B.C. Rohoboam (I Kings 12-14).
Documented Historical Findings:
The invasion of Palestine by his forces, c. 925 B.C. described in the Egyptian pharaoh Shishak’s inscription at Karnak.

Biblical Event:
913-911 B.C. Abijam (I Kings 15:1-8).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
911-870 B.C. Asa (I Kings 15:9-24).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
870-848 B.C. Jehoshaphat (coregent from 873 B.C.) (I Kings 15;II Kings 8; II Chron. 17-21).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
848-841 B.C. (coregent from 853 B.C.). Jehoram (II Kings 8:16-24;II Chron. 21-22).(Obadiah written?)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
841-841 B.C. Ahaziah (II Kings 8-9).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
841-835 B.C. Athaliah (II Kings 11;II Chron. 22-23).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
835-796 B.C. Jehoash (II Kings 11-12).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
796-767 B.C. Amaziah (II Kings 14:1-20).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
767-740 B.C. (coregent from 790 B.C.) Uzziah (II Kings 14-15;II Chron. 26).(Some Proverbs, Amos, Micah written. Job? Joel? Jonah?)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
740-731 B.C. (coregent from 750 B.C.) Jotham (II Kings 15;II Chron. 27).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
732-716 B.C. (coregent from 744). Ahaz (II Kings 16).
Documented Historical Findings:
Appealed to Tiglathpileser III for Assyrian help against Syria and Israel (II Kings 16:7) Judah made tributary.

Biblical Event:
716-686 B.C. (coregent from 729 B.C.). Hezekiah (II Kings 18-20).(Some Proverbs, Song of Solomon written?)
Documented Historical Findings:
Siloam tunnel (II Kings 20:20) built in 701 when Sennacherib besieged Jerusalem.

Biblical Event:
687-642 B.C. (coregent from 696 B.C.). Manasseh (II Kings 21:1-18;II Chron. 33).(Isaiah written)
Documented Historical Findings:
Commanded by Esarhaddon, King of Assyria, to visit Neneveh.

Biblical Event:
642-640 B.C. Amon (II Kings 21:18-26).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
640-609 B.C. Josiah (II Kings 21-23).(Nahum written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
609 B.C. Jehoahaz (II Kings 23:31-34).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
609-597 B.C. Jehoiakim (II Kings 23-24).(Habakkuk, Zephaniah written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
597 B.C. Jehoiachin (II Kings 24:6-15).
Documented Historical Findings:
Exiled by Babylonians

Biblical Event:
597-586 B.C. Zedekiah (II Kings 24-25).
Documented Historical Findings:
Fall of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and 587 B.C. confirmed by the Babylonian Chronicle. Lachish letters written just before Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C.

Biblical Event:
586-582 B.C. Gedaliah (II Kings 25:22-25). (Jeremiah, Lamentations written. I & II Kings?) NOTE: Ancient systems of reckoning have produced chronological problems for the divided monarchy period.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
597-538 B.C. Exile in Babylonia. (Some Psalms, Ezekiel, Daniel written)
Documented Historical Findings:
Ration tablets near Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon unearthed, mentioning Jehoiachin as captive along with other royal princes. Seal impressions and a seal from Palestine show that Jehoiachin’s property was probably under a steward.

Biblical Event:
538 B.C. Fall of Babylon and edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2-4).
Documented Historical Findings:
Edict preserved on Cyrus Cylinder

Biblical Event:
535-515 B.C. Return of exiles to Judea (Ezra 2).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
520-520 B.C. Haggai and Zechariah.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
516 B.C. Temple completed. (Haggai, Zechariah written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
486-465 B.C. Period of Xerxes and Esther (Esther 1-10).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
458-444 B.C. Work of Ezra and Hehemiah. (Some Psalms, Joel written?)
Documented Historical Findings:
Geshem’s name (Neh. 2:19;6:1) attested on a silver 5th-century B.C. bowl. Tobiah (Neh. 2:10; 6:17) mentioned in Zeno Papyri. Family castle near Amman now in ruins.

Biblical Event:
440 B.C. Malachi. (Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Malachi, I & II Chronicles written.)

Intertestamental and New Testament Periods

Biblical Event:
331-65 B.C. Greek period in Palestine.
Documented Historical Findings:
Greek became common language of New East. Greek culture widespread.

Biblical Event:
300-287 B.C. Simon I High Priest in Jerusalem.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
190 B.C. Dead Sea community probably founded.
Documented Historical Findings:
Dead Sea scrolls

Biblical Event:
175 B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
167 B.C. Maccabean revolt.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
143-37 B.C. Rule of Hasmoneans.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
65 B.C. Roman period in Palestine.
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
40-4 B.C. Herod the Great
Documented Historical Findings:
Extended Temple, built magnificent structures, fortified Masada

Biblical Event:
30 B.C. to A.D. 14. Agustus as Roman Emperor (Luke 2:1)
Documented Historical Findings:
Many inscriptions and public works

Biblical Event:
c. 4 B.C. Birth of Christ (Luke 2)
Documented Historical Findings:
Quirinius (Luke 2:2) governor of Syria

Biblical Event:
A.D. 14-30. Ministry of Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
Documented Historical Findings:
Pilate (Matthew 27)procurator of Judea. (Josephus, Antiquities, 18,3,1; Wars of the Jews 2,9,1)

Biblical Event:
A.D. 36. Conversion of Paul (Acts 9:1-30)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
A.D. 46-48. Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14)(Galatians, James written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
A.D. 49-52. Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15-18)(I & II Corinthians written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
A.D. 53-58. Paul’s third missionary journey (Acts 18-21)(Romans, I & II Corinthians written)
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)

Biblical Event:
A.D. 70. Fall of Jerusalem (New Testament documents completed by c. A.D. 95).
Documented Historical Findings:
(No external documentation.)