- Does it make sense to deal with Bible chronology?
- From the creation of Adam to Noah's deluge
- From Noah's deluge to Abrahamic Covenant
- From Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant
- How long was the Egyptian bondage?
- From the Exodus from Egypt to the division of the land
- The period of the judges
- The period of the kings
- 70 years of desolation
- 537 B.C. - the end of the 70 years of desolation
- Summary of the Bible chronology timeline
DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO DEAL WITH BIBLE CHRONOLOGY?
Dealing with chronology is seen by many circles as a controversial issue. Very few from amongst sincere Bible students are indifferent to this area of Biblical studies. The vast majority is either strongly "in favour" or decisively "against". The whole controversy boils down to the aim for which one should examine the dates and periods laid out in the Bible. If the aim is to discover the time of Jesus' second coming and the beginning of his reign, too many have already been wrong on this issue and for too many it has become a stumbling block to take more risk in guessing. On the other hand, Bible chronology seen solely through the prism of its historical use is rejected by the many who believe the study of history is not part of their vocation and does not facilitate their growth in Christ.
The main text pointed to as an argument against the study of chronology is Mt. 24:36, where Jesus says: "But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only" (KJV). And if no one knows the day or the hour, looking for them is pointless. In that same passage, however, Jesus instructs: "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Mt. 24:42 KJV). The imploration to be watchful is repeated in a number of New Testament passages. The parable of the ten virgins given by Jesus in the context of Matthew 24 chapter and the complex sign of his second coming and the termination of the age provided there also ends with an imperative: "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Mt. 25:13 KJV). "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night" and precisely for this reason "let us not sleep, as [do] others; but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thes. 5:2,6 KJV).
If the Lord's people were to learn about Christ's second coming at the same time as the rest of the world, the command to watch would carry no special meaning. Vigilance will allow us to be informed before these things happen, "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither [any thing] hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear..." (Lk. 8:17,18 KJV). God reveals His plans, for "The Sovereign Lord never does anything without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets" (Amos 3:7 GNB). But much will depend on listeners, "for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" (Lk. 8:18 KJV).
The Apostle Paul writes that "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth ... so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed" (2 Tim. 3:16,17 GNB). Everything that is in the Scripture - the Old Testament, prophecies, as well as chronology - serves our edification and benefit. If the Bible contains chronological information in such detail as we find there, God apparently wanted to have it this way. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: "Quench not the Spirit" - be sanctified, rekindle the spirit in yourselves. Still, immediately after that he adds: "Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thes. 5:19,20 KJV). If we are interested only in the spirit, but prefer to leave out the 'prophesyings', we may be missing out on something. In so doing, may we not find ourselves in the end among those whose "devotion is not based on true knowledge" (Rom. 10:2 GNB).
But chronology is not only about the time of Christ's second coming. The Apostle Paul writes that "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God..." (Heb. 11:3 KJV). These 'worlds' are different epochs in the developing Divine plan of the ages. Each lasted a certain amount of time and each had its own specific tasks. Recognition of these elements allows us to better see what has happened and what has yet to happen so that the new order of things could begin. The proper view of chronology determines the proper view of time-based prophecy and, consequently, the proper assessment of the time we are in.
The aim of the present lecture is not to discuss time-based prophecies (which abound in the Bible), neiher is it to provide any predictions about the future. The text is entirely devoted to reconstruction of the Biblical chronology, especially in the period which reaches beyond secular chronology and concerning which we therefore have no data apart from the teaching of the Scripture.
FROM THE CREATION OF ADAM TO NOAH'S DELUGE
Determining the length of the period from the creation of Adam to Noah's deluge does not present any special difficulties because the book of Genesis provides us with very precise infomation. The length of the period is essentially the sum of the length of the patriarchs' lives from their birth to the birth of the first-born son.
|From the creation of Adam to the birth of Seth (Gen. 5:3) ...||130 years|
|From the birth of Seth to the birth of Enos (Gen. 5:6) ...||105 years|
|From the birth of Enos to the birth of Cainan (Gen. 5:9) ...||90 years|
|From the birth of Cainan to the birth of Mahalaleel (Gen. 5:12) ...||70 years|
|From the birth of Mahalaleel to the birth of Jared (Gen. 5:15) ...||65 years|
|From the birth of Jared to the birth of Enoch (Gen. 5:18) ...||162 years|
|From the birth of Enoch to the birth of Methuselah (Gen. 5:21) ...||65 years|
|From the birth of Methuselah to the birth of Lamech (Gen. 5:25) ...||187 years|
|From the birth of Lamech to the birth of Noah (Gen. 5:28) ...||182 years|
|From the birth of Noah to the deluge (Gen. 7:6) ...||600 years|
|Total ...||1656 years|
There may appear a question at this point, why not skip the deluge and not proceed by the same method to the covenant with Abraham? It turns out, however, that the whole period would become shorter by 2 years... The problem lies with Gen. 5:32, where it is said that "Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth" (KJV). In Gen. 7:6 we read that at the day of the deluge Noah was 600 years old, which means Sem would have to be 100 years old. However, Gen. 11:10 states that Sem reached the age of 100 years 2 years after the deluge. The solution to this apparent disparity may lie in Gen. 10:21, where we read that Japheth was the oldest of the brothers. It seems, therefore, that it was Japheth who was born when Noah was 500 years old, and Sem was born 2 years later. Gen. 5:32 does not specify how old was Noah at the birth of each of the sons, but only specifies his age at the birth of his first-born Japheth.
FROM NOAH'S DELUGE TO ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
|From the deluge to the birth of Arphaxad (Gen. 11:10) ...||2 years|
|From the birth of Arphaxad to the birth of Salah (Gen. 11:12) ...||35 years|
|From the birth of Salah to the birth of Eber (Gen. 11:14) ...||30 years|
|From the birth of Eber to the birth of Peleg (Gen. 11:16) ...||34 years|
|From the birth of Peleg to the birth of Reu (Gen. 11:18) ...||30 years|
|From the birth of Reu to the birth of Serug (Gen. 11:20) ...||32 years|
|From the birth of Serug to the birth of Nahor (Gen. 11:22) ...||30 years|
|From the birth of Nahor to the birth of Terah (Gen. 11:24) ...||29 years|
|From the birth of Terah to his death (Gen. 11:32) ...||205 years|
|Total ...||427 lat|
Why is the time of Terah's death identified with the time at which the covenant with Abraham was made? God revealed himself to Abraham (called Abram at that time) when he was in Ur of the Chaldeans in Mesopotamia and there made him a promise, but based on a condition: "Depart from thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee" (Acts 7:2,3 WB). Abraham moved, but with a stopover in Haran (Acts 7:3). His father Terah died there, and there also Abraham heard the word of promise again: "Depart ... to a land that I will show thee. And I will make of thee a great nation" (Gen. 12:1-3 BW). So in order for this promise to become legally binding Abraham not only had to leave his homeland Ur - this he had already done - but he also had to enter the promised land. The covenant was made right after he entered the land (Gen. 12:5-7). Therefore, the date of the covenant can be settled with a good measure of precision as taking place at Abraham's entry into Canaan, a few months after Terah's death.
FROM ABRAHAMIC COVENANT TO THE LAW COVENANT
The period from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant was defined by the Apostle Paul as lasting 430 years. "Further, I say this: The Law, which came into being 430 years later, does not invalidate the covenant previously made by God [after Abraham fulfiled the condition and entered the land], so as to abolish the promise" (Gal. 3:17 NW). The thing worth considering here is whether Paul's statement agrees with what Moses has to say in Ex. 12:40, where we read that "The Israelites had lived in Egypt for 430 years" (GNB). If the Egyptian bondage lasted 430 years, contradiction is obvious. It could not have lasted 430 years if Paul says that a period of the same lenght covered events from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant - if so, bondage in Egypt would have to be much shorter.
New World Translation casts a little more light on this issue, stating in Ex. 12:40 that "The dwelling of the Israelites, who had dwelled in Egypt, was 430 years" (NW). So it was not the dwelling of Israel in Egypt, but the dwelling of Israel, which dwelt in Egypt - in the second case we have a non-defining clause, which brings in additional information without impacting the basic meaning of the entire sentence. If we omit this information - and in the case of a non-defining clause we have the right to do so without disrupting the overall sense - we are left with a statement that "The dwelling of the Israelites [...] was 430 years". But does this shortened form have any meaning?
One needs to bear in mind that the promise given to Abraham was not fulfilled at the moment of his entering Canaan. Stephen teaches that God "did not give him any inheritance in it, no, not even enough to put his foot on" (Acts 7:5 NW). The Apostle Paul agrees with it, stating that Abraham "lived as a foreigner in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, living in tents" (Heb. 11:9 NW). Therefore, Abraham's dwelling began at the moment of his coming into the land, but it was only temporary, without the title to ownership. As if to confirm the temporary character of Abraham's dwelling in the land, in a number of translations we do not read about 'dwelling', but about 'sojourning' (see Ex. 12:40 in King James Version, Webster Bible). Israel sojourned there in their father Abraham in the same way that Levi paid the tenth to Melchizedek. "For Levi had not yet been born, but was, so to speak, in the body of his ancestor Abraham when Melchizedek met him" (Heb. 7:9,10 GNB). So Abraham's entering Canaan (and simultaneous confirmation of the covenant) began the period of 430 years, within which Israel was dwelling in the land without the title to ownership. When did the 430 years end?
Moses states that "At the end of the 430 years, on this very day, all the multitudes of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:40,41 NW). The night mentioned here is the night of Passover, the night of eating the lamb and of Israel leaving Egypt. The prophet Jeremiah states that this night was the proper time of God entering the covenant with this nation (Jer. 31:32, 34:13) - the covenant which was a legal transfer of the Abrahamic promise to Israel. Thus ended the 430-year period of the sojourning of Israel, who in the covenant received confirmation of inheriting the promised land (Deut. 1:8). It is therefore clear that the 430 years of Moses and the 430 of Paul is the same period of time. The dwelling of Israel in the land without the title to ownership, but with the promise of inheriting it, began at the moment Abraham entered Canaan and the Abrahamic Covenant came into force. The end of the period is the Passover night when Israel entered the covenant relationship with God, and "all the multitudes of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt" (Ex. 12:41 NW).
HOW LONG WAS THE EGYPTIAN BONDAGE?
The period of the Egyptian bondage is not a separate period, but falls within the already discussed period from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant. Nevertheless, its length seems to require a separate comment. The reason for it is not only Ex. 12:40-42, but also Gen. 15:13 and Acts 7:6, where we read that "your [Abraham's] offspring will be foreigners in a land not theirs and that the people there will enslave them and afflict them for 400 years" (Gen. 15:13 NW). If the Egyptian bondage were to last 400 years, it is visible in plain sight that the period from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant could not have been longer by only 30 years. On the other hand, some argue that a period shorter than 400 years would have been insufficient for Israel to grow from a family of 70 into a nation of two to five million people (Gen. 46:27; see Num. 1:45,46). Can this doubt be anyhow explained?
First, it needs to be stressed that the 400-year period is not the time of Israel dwelling in Egypt. It is the time of their dwelling "in a land not theirs" - first in Canaan, with Abraham and his offspring staying there without the title to ownership, and later in Egypt. So the period of 400 years is included in the period of 430 years from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant. It was also a period of affliction. As such it ended at the same time the period of 430 years ended with Israel leaving Egypt on the Passover night. If so, its beginning falls 30 years after Abrahamic Covenant had been made. Did anything happen then that could be marked as the beginning of the said affliction?
Abraham was 75 when he left Haran and went to Canaan (Gen. 12:4). Isaac was born 25 years later (Gen. 21:5), Ishmael was 14 years older than his brother (Gen. 16:16). 30 years after the covenant was made Isaac was 5 and apparently at that time Abraham held a feast celebrating his withdrawal from breastfeeding. Also at that time "the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, was mocking Isaac" (Gen. 21:8-10 NW). It seems therefore that this was the time Abraham's offspring as "foreigners in a land not theirs" came to be 'enslaved and afflicted for 400 years' up until their leaving Egypt (Gen. 15:13 NW). Since Isaac was born 25 years after the covenant, the moment of his persecution in the 30th year points to the time Isaac was 5 years old. Abraham's feast described in Gen. 21:8-10 apparently took place precisely at that time as Isaac was withdrawn from breastfeeding and started suffering persecution as Abraham's offspring. Although in our culture the age of five for weaning seems unlikely, in Palestine it was nothing extraordinary. Especially the firstborn were fed longer in order that they would grow stronger (cf. Mt. 21:15,16).
How long then was the Egyptian bondage? Isaac was born 25 years after Abrahamic Covenant was made (Gen. 12:4, 21:5). Jacob was born when Isaac was 60 (Gen. 25:26). Jacob went to Egypt when he was 130 years old (Gen. 47:9). Together it sums up to 215 years from Abrahamic Covenant to the beginning of the Egyptian bondage (understood as the whole period of Israel's dwelling in Egypt). If the whole period from Abrahamic Covenant to the Law Covenant spanned over 430 years according to Gal. 3:17, for the Egyptian bondage there remain 215 years (215+215=430).
Evidence supporting the above calculations can also be found in Biblical genealogy. At the time of exodus from Egypt Moses was 80 years old (Ex. 7:7). His mother Jochebed was Levi's daughter (Num. 26:59). Levi lived to be 137 years old (Ex. 6:16). Still, in Egypt he could have spent only a part of his life as he got there as an adult, Joseph's older brother (Gen. 37:3). At the time of Jacob coming to Egypt with his sons Joseph was 39 (Gen. 41:46-54, 45:3-11). So Levi could have spent in Egypt a maximum of 97 years (137 years of Levi's lifespan - 39 years of Joseph's lifespan which Levi spent in Canaan - a minimum of 1 year by which Levi was older than Joseph = a maximum of 97 years which Levi could have spent in Egypt). If the Egyptian bondage lasted 400 years, 223 years passed from Levi's death to the birth of Moses. Assuming Moses's mother Jochebed was born at the time of Levi's death, at Moses's birth she would have been 223 years old. But if we assume Israel's bondage in Egypt lasted 430 years, as suggested by Ex. 12:40 in the Good News Bible translation, it appears that Moses was born to a 253-year-old woman, which is quite absurd.
Consideration of the age of Moses's father leads to similar conclusions. Amram lived to be 137 years old and his father Kohath 133 years old (Ex. 6:18,20). We know that Kohath came to Egypt with Jacob (Gen. 46:8,11). Even if we assume that Kohath was born in that same year Jacob left for Egypt and that Amram was born in the year his father Kohath died, there still remains a gap of 50 years until Moses's birth (!) - assuming that the Egyptian bondage lasted 400 years. So it can be demonstrated in a few different ways that Israel's stay in Egypt could not have lasted for 400 years, and even more so for 430 years, because conclusions that such views entail absolutely overshoot common sense.
Interestingly, Gen. 15:13-16, where the number of 400 years appears, also indirectly supports the view that the Egyptian bondage was to be much shorter. In Gen. 15:16 we read, namely, that Israel would return from captivity in the fourth generation. So how many generations elapsed from Jacob's entering Egypt until the return to Canaan? Four. The Egyptian period included the generation of Moses, his parents and grandparents. Israel's disbelief, however, prevented them from entering the promised land in the third generation, which had to die in the wilderness (Num. 14:26-38). So, according to the prophecy, Israel returned in the fourth generation - the generation which did not know Egypt and was born in the wilderness. This information is significant inasmuch as the period of 400 years mentioned in Gen. 15:13 could not include 3 generations - in the case of Moses, for instance, there would be a gap of 50 years between his birth and the death of his father, which is simply impossible. This way, informing about the 400-year affliction of Israel, Gen. 15:13-16 warns us that this period does not equate the length of the Egyptian bondage.
The question remains whether it does not defy common sense to believe that within as little as 215 years Israel grew from a family of 70 people into a nation of a few million people? If it was to happen by natural methods, a number of this order of magnitude would most likely be unachievable. However, Scripture shows that this process was miraculously supported by God himself. It was God who "made his people very fruitful; He made them mightier than their adversaries" (Ps. 105:23,24 NW). If it was a divine action, as we are told by the Bible, as believing people we can do no more than accept it by faith.
FROM THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT TO THE DIVISION OF THE LAND
The period from Exodus to the division of the land among the 12 tribes can be divided into two sub-periods: from Exodus to the mission of spies in Canaan, and from the mission of spies to the division of the land. Spies were sent to the land from the Paran wilderness at the beginning of the second year after Israel went out of Egypt, as we read in Num. 33:3, 10:11-13, 13:1-26. From that time to the division of the land there was a period of 45 years, as we learn from Caleb (Josh. 14:7,10). Together it makes for a period of 46 years. Because Israel's stay in the wilderness started after the spies had come back and lasted for 40 years (Num. 14:22,23,33,34; Acts 7:36; Heb. 3:9), the remaining 5 years coincide with the period of conquest and division of the land.
THE PERIOD OF THE JUDGES
The length of the period of the judges is directly stated in Acts 13:19,20 - "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" (KJV). The greek hos translated as 'about' could also mean 'for'. Thus, there is no need to ponder what length of time hos is in this particular case, the more so that 1 Kings 6:1 also leaves for the period of the judges a non-decimal number of tens. An interesting argument in favour of the 450-year period of the judges is also laid out by the Bible code. In Hebrew each letter corresponds with a number. It happens so that all the letters in the word haszofetim (judges) add up to 450:
Doubts regarding the discussed period are not limited to the hos particle. The text from Acts 13:19,20 is rendered in different versions with different meanings. There are Bible translations that associate the 450 years with the period of conquest and division of Canaan instead of the period of the judges (see Good News Bible as an example). Faultiness of this version of the text was evidenced under the subtitle "From the Exodus from Egypt to the division of the land" and the Bible commentary on Acts 13:19,20. Another problem is connected with 1 Kings 6:1, where there are 480 years left for the period from Exodus to the beginning of the erection of the temple, which leaves for the period of the judges a span of 350 years instead of 450 years. This difficulty was discussed in the Bible commentary to 1 Kings 6:1.
THE PERIOD OF THE KINGS
The length of the period of the kings may be calculated by adding periods of reign of all Israel's rulers
|The rule of Saul (Acts 13:21) ...||40 years|
|The rule of David (1 Chron. 29:27) ...||40 years|
|The rule of Solomon (2 Chron. 9:30) ...||40 years|
|The rule of Rehoboam (2 Chron. 12:13) ...||17 years|
|The rule of Abijah (2 Chron. 13:2) ...||3 years|
|The rule of Asa (2 Chron. 16:13) ...||41 years|
|The rule of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20:31) ...||25 years|
|The rule of Jehoram (2 Chron. 21:20) ...||8 years|
|The rule of Ahaziah (2 Chron. 22:2) ...||1 year|
|The rule of Athaliah (2 Chron. 22:12) ...||6 years|
|The rule of Jehoash (2 Chron. 24:1) ...||40 years|
|The rule of Amaziah (2 Chron. 25:1) ...||29 years|
|The rule of Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:3) ...||52 years|
|The rule of Jotham (2 Chron. 27:1) ...||16 years|
|The rule of Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:1) ...||16 years|
|The rule of Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:1) ...||29 years|
|The rule of Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:1) ...||55 years|
|The rule of Amon (2 Chron. 33:21) ...||2 years|
|The rule of Josiah (2 Chron. 34:1) ...||31 years|
|The rule of Jehoiakim (2 Chron. 36:5) ...||11 years|
|The rule of Zedekiah (2 Chron. 36:11) ...||11 years|
|Total ...||513 lat|
70 YEARS OF DESOLATION
The next chronological period begins with the invasion of king Nebuchadnezzar and the abduction of Judah into captivity. It is important, however, to define precisely what was to happen within that time. Its identification with captivity is incorrect, and as such leads to erroneous conclusions regarding the date of its beginning and its end.
In 2 Chron. 36:21 it is said that 70 years were foreseen "To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: [for] as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years" (KJV). So the 70-year period was not the time of captivity, but the time of desolation, depopulation of the land (see 1 Kings 9:7,8; Jer. 19:8, 25:9). At the same time, 2 Chron. 36:21 associates the desolation of the land with fulfilling sabbath, "as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath". Sabbath was a time of rest in Israel. Just as every seventh day was a time of rest for people and animals, every seventh year was a time of rest for the land:
"Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest to the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest, thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: [for] it is a year of rest to the land" (Lev. 25:3-5 WB). The apostate Israel did not keep the provisions of the Law, neither did they keep the provision concerning the rest of the land. Israel's exile to Babylon let the land 'enjoy her sabbaths' as it was not cultivated (Lev. 26:34,35,43).
When did the 70-year-long sabbath of the land begin? Some associate it with the first invasion of Babylonians, when Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jehoiakim and "brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD", and Zedekiah was made a Babylon-dependent king over Judah (2 Kings 24:10-17; 2 Chron. 36:9,10 WB). The Babylonian captivity is supposed to have started at that time. However, as it was pointed out earlier, 70 years is not a time of captivity, but desolation. The first Babylonian invasion did not lead to desolation, which is best evidenced by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar left in Judah his appointed king with court, nobility and priests. Moreover, not all cities surrendered to Babylon at that time (Jer. 34:1-22).
The actual desolation of the land occurred during the second invasion in the fourth month of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:2-7). This time the whole nation was taken into captivity but a handful of the poorest (Jer. 39:10). But even they, along with their leader Gedaliah, were assassinated seven months later. Whoever remained fled to Egypt (2 Kings 25:22-26; Jer. 41:1-3). Thus, at the end of Zedekiah's eleventh year the land was in a state of complete desolation.
537 B.C. - THE END OF THE 70 YEARS OF DESOLATION
Seventy years of desolation is the last period the length of which can be determined only on the basis of Biblical evidence. With its end we arrive at a moment where lay history starts to be dependable. How then do we settle the year in which the 70 years of desolation came to an end?
Israel's release was a derivative of another very important event, i.e. the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great, the ruler of Persia. That moment has been very clearly ascertained by historians. Due to the finding of the so called Nabonidus Chronicle in the late XIX century we know today that the city Babylon fell to Cyrus on the night of 6/7 October 539 BC. In the following year Cyrus issued a decree on the release of Israel. We read about the event in the book of Ezra: "In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order that Jehovah’s word spoken by Jeremiah would be fulfilled, Jehovah stirred the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his kingdom, which he also put in writing, saying: This is what King Cyrus of Persia says, 'Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel — he is the true God — whose house was in Jerusalem'" (Ezra 1:1-3 NW).
However, the year 538 does not mark the end of desolation. It was a year Jews were allowed to return to their land, but arrival of the first settlers in Judah and putting an end to the rest of the land was possible no sooner than in the following year (see Werner Keller, The Bible as History, p. 352). This conclusion appears to be correct for a few reasons. We do not know when exactly Cyrus announced the decree on the release of Israel. We only know it was during his first year as the ruler of Babylon. This period could be seen as having started in October 539 BC, even though some historians prefer to see it begin in March of the year 538. There is no indication that Cyrus issued the decree on the next day after he conquered Babylon. In addition, we need to consider an unspecified amount of time Jews took to prepare for the journey and 7 months of the journey itself (Ezra 3:1). Moreover, even if first settlers came to Judah in the fall of 538 BC, full use of the land - sowing, planting and harvesting - could begin in the spring of 537 BC at the earliest and it seems that this date is most likely as the end of the 70-year desolation.
SUMMARY OF THE BIBLE CHRONOLOGY TIMELINE
The Bible contains a number of chronological prophesies and time parallels. Therefore, one should reasonably expect that the God who passed all this content to us has also provided a key to unlock it - a complete and reliable Bible chronology timeline. The very process of data analysis indicates that is precisely what happened. There do happen to be doubts about lengths of particular periods, such as in the case of the Egyptian bondage or the period of the judges. Still, information contained in the Bible helps to identify these doubts and indicate the right solution with a high degree of certainty.
Obviously, we can speak of a high degree of certainty, not about absolute certainty. Biblical chronology is open to attack, but that is to be expected. If everything could be settled in an indisputable way, faith could possibly be replaced by a calculator. God, however, had planned it differently. "We understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" not by sight, but "through faith" (Heb. 11:3 KJV; 2 Cor. 5:7).
If the above analysis can satisfy both reason and faith in determining lengths of particular periods in Biblical history, its last objective is a synthetic summary of the dates of the most important Biblical events described in the Old Testament:
|The end of the desolation of the land||537|
|The fall of Zedekiah's kingdom,|
the beginning of the Babylonian captivity
|Saul becomes the first king over Israel||1120|
|The division of Canaan between tribes of Israel,|
the beginning of the period of the judges
|The end of the Egyptian bondage,|
the Law Covenant is made
|Jacob comes to Egypt||1831|
|Abraham enters Canaan,|
Abrahamic Covenant is made
|The creation of Adam||4129|