Chronology is the arrangement of facts and events in the order of time. The writers of the Bible themselves do not adopt any standard era according to which they date events. Sometimes the years are reckoned, e.g., from the time of the Exodus (Numbers 1:1; 33:38; 1 Kings 6:1), and sometimes from the accession of kings (1 Kings 15:1, 9, 25, 33, etc.), and sometimes again from the return from Exile (Ezra 3:8).
Hence in constructing a system of Biblical chronology, the plan has been adopted of reckoning the years from the ages of the patriarchs before the birth of their first-born sons for the period from the Creation to Abraham. After this period other data are to be taken into account in determining the relative sequence of events.
As to the patriarchal period, there are three principal systems of chronology:
- that of the Hebrew text
- that of the Septuagint version
- that of the Samaritan Pentateuch
The Samaritan and the Septuagint have considerably modified the Hebrew chronology. This modification some regard as having been wilfully made, and to be rejected. The same system of variations is observed in the chronology of the period between the Flood and Abraham. Thus:
From the birth of Arphaxad, 2 years after the Flood, to the birth of Terah.
- Hebrew: 220 years
- Septuagint: 1000
- Samaritan: 870
From the birth of Terah to the birth of Abraham.
- Hebrew: 130
- Septuagint: 70
- Samaritan: 72
The Septuagint fixes on 70 years as the age of Terah at the birth of Abraham, from Genesis 11:26; but a comparison of Genesis 11:32 and Acts 7:4 with Genesis 12:4 shows that when Terah died, at the age of 205 years, Abraham was 75 years, and hence Terah must have been 130 when Abraham was born. Thus, including the 2 years from the Flood to the birth of Arphaxad, the period from the Flood to the birth of Abraham was 352 years.
The next period is from the birth of Abraham to the Exodus. This, according to the Hebrew, extends to 505 years. The difficulty here is as to the 430 years mentioned Exodus 12:40-41; Galatians 3:17. These years are regarded by some as dating from the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15), which was entered into soon after his sojourn in Egypt; others, with more probability, reckon these years from Jacob’s going down into Egypt. (See EXODUS.)
In modern times the systems of Biblical chronology that have been adopted are chiefly those of Ussher and Hales. The former follows the Hebrew, and the latter the Septuagint mainly. Archbishop Ussher’s (died 1656) system is called the short chronology.
- Creation—Ussher: 4004 B.C. / Hales: 5411 B.C.
- Flood—Ussher: 2348 B.C. / Hales: 3155 B.C.
- Abram leaves Haran—Ussher: 1921 B.C. / Hales: 2078 B.C.
- Exodus—Ussher: 1491 B.C. / Hales: 1648 B.C.
- Destruction of the Temple—Ussher: 588 B.C. / Hales: 586 B.C.