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How to Understand the Chronology of the Bible

How to Understand the Chronological Account of the Bible
The Chronological Account of the Bible covers 4070 years from Genesis to Revelation. But its books are not so ordered. Here is help!

Most people know nothing about Bible chronology. The Bible is a huge book, unread, but even devotional readers have a challenging time placing the time of the events spread out over the 4074 years it covers.

The Bible IS history, in fact the first written history we have.
Moses began writing Genesis around 1500 BC, but he mentions a “book of Adam” that lists ten generations born from Adam through Noah (2948-1998 BC).
Some suggest that it was Noah who compiled the “book of Adam,” but the more important conclusion we draw is that there was writing at this early date.

So, the beginning of history precedes Herodotus (c. 484 – c. 425 BC), “the Father of History,” by a thousand years. Now the Bible is not the earliest book we have, but those more ancient, like the Epic of Gilgamesh (1700 BC) and the Egyptian Book of the Dead (1550 BC) do not aim at history and provide no chronologies or other dates to build a history on. The Bible does.

Bible Chronology: two foundational books

Today, we are looking at two books that help us understand the sequence of events in the Biblical context but also in relation to historical events in the larger world of those years.

Bible chronology: The STARTING POINT

The Annals of the World is a book for a lifetime. I have been scrolling through its 1245 pages for many years and always find something new and of interest.

James Ussher (1581-1656) was an Anglican bishop who wrote the Annals of the World in 1650. It is one of the most important and INFLUENTIAL BOOKS of Western culture.

His work recognized God as Creator and world history unfolding in coordination with the events of the Bible, the common worldview of all Christendom until the 18th century.

Ussher’s chronology represented a considerable feat of scholarship:
it demanded great depth of learning in what was then known of ancient history, including the rise of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as expertise in the Bible, biblical languages, astronomy, ancient calendars, and chronology.

Ussher’s account of historical events for which he had multiple sources other than the Bible is usually in close agreement with modern accounts – for example, he placed the death of Alexander in 323 BC and that of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Ussher’s last biblical co-ordinate was the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, and beyond this point, he had to rely on other considerations.

Ussher was the finest scholar of his day and fixed the creation of the world on October 23, 4004 BC.
It was not a guess or an arbitrary date, but a thoughtful analysis based on the knowledge of his day, consistent with the thinking of Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler.
Modern evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould observes “that that he was doing the best he could with the tools and the knowledge that he had.”

These dates were printed in the King James Bibles we read, and millions of Christians accepted them as fact and still do today, I am among them!

The Wonders of Bible Chronology by Philip Mauro

I love THIS BOOK and have been blessed by it for 50 years!

Philip Mauro (1859 – 1952) was an American lawyer who practiced before the Supreme Court and prepared briefs for the Scopes Trial. He authored several important books including The Wonders of Bible Chronology (1933) and was AN EXPERT on the Seventy Weeks of Daniel (1921).

Here is an ASSESSMENT OF ITS VALUE from a reviewer:

The value of this chronological information is that it is based upon the Word of God alone. The biblical chronology is intertwined with the genealogical accounts given in the Scriptures, the historical narratives of the lives of the people in the Bible, and the historical information of the nations of the earth.
All this information is given for one reason, i.e., to record the history of the lineage of Jesus Christ who is the savior of the world!
The Bible has one theme: the redemption of mankind.
God develops His own timetable to bring Jesus into the world and to complete the work of redemption.
This timetable is revealed in the pages of God’s Word and Mauro helps the Bible student to see and understand it.

Both Ussher and Mauro were devout, orthodox, Protestant scholars and agree 100% on the dates from creation. Ussher is the more scholarly of the two, and the Annals of the World is an academic work. The Wonders of Bible Chronology is written for the nonprofessional, focused on celebrating the intricate pattern and consistency of the Bible and its message of the Lord Jesus Christ and His great love and salvation.

We will look at this through the ages that Ussher has used to identify the major segments of the Bible and that Mauro blends in with nicely. A SIMPLIFIED AND LINEAR PRESENTATION OF MAURO’S CHRONOLOGY may be viewed here.

Bible Chronology: The First Age of the World 4004 to 2346 BC

This Age begins with Creation and ends when the waters of the Flood abated and left the world as we have it today. Both Ussher and Mauro date the Biblical events by counting forward from Creation. The principal events covered here are:

4004 BC: The first acts of history involve events in the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve into the world beyond.
The Bible is silent on the domestic lives of the first family but records the first newsworthy item in Genesis 4.

There is no written history outside the Bible for this time, the pre-Flood world. But I did discover a photo of the ADAM AND EVE SEAL (LINK HERE) A stone seal was discovered in the Tepe Gawra Mound archaeological site, near ancient Nineveh (present-day Iraq). It has been dated about 3500 BC. The depiction is of a naked man and woman, bent in sorrow and with a serpent behind them. Supports the Adam and Eve story.

3874: Cain murders Abel and goes out from the presence of God. Adam was 130 years old at this time, and Ussher opines the number of people on the earth at the time of this murder could have been as many as 500,000.
3017: Adam dies at the age of 930.
2353: The Great Flood destroys the world.

Looking back over this period’s genealogies, Philip Mauro concludes that the genealogy is in itself a wonder, not just that a chronology is given, but one that leads directly to the Lord Jesus Christ! The very same ten names are given in the Gospel of Luke back-tracking from the birth of Jesus!

Bible Chronology: The Second Age of the World 2348 to 1921 BC

This age begins when the earth is desolate, its only inhabitants the eight persons who were saved in the ark when God destroyed the wicked. From this group come the peoples of the world. But their dispersion throughout the earth came only after the confusion of language at the tower of Babel in 2224.

2224: Nimrod founded Babylon and Ussher points out the Bible’s documentation of this:

Micah 5:6: Nimrod built Babylon and was the instigator of the building of the tower of Babel according to Josephus (l. 1. Antiq. c. 4.)
Moses affirms that the royal seat of that kingdom was here. Genesis 10:10
Nimrod made Babylon famous in those days. Jeremiah 5:15

2188: Beginning of Egypt explained by Ussher:

Constantinus Manasses states that the Egyptian state lasted 1663 years. Counting backward from the time that Cambyses, king of Persia, conquered Egypt, leads us to this period. About this time Mizraim, the son of Ham, led his colony into Egypt. Hence Egypt was called sometimes the land of Mizraim, sometimes of Ham, Ps 105:23,27 106:21,22

1922: God called Abram out of Ur and sent him to the Promised Land.

Ussher: Abram when he was 75 years old, obeyed the call of God. He took Sarai his wife and Lot, his brother Haran’s son, with all the substance, which he had gotten and souls which God had given him in Haran.
He took his journey and at length came into the land of Canaan.

Bible Chronology: The Third Age of the World 1921 to 1492 BC

1921: Abram’s Promise and Ussher’s comments:

After Terah died who was Abram’s father, God again called Abram from his own country, kindred, and his father’s house. A further promise and evangelical covenant of blessing was given to him. That is, in his blessed seed, our Lord Jesus Christ, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Ge 12:1,2 Ac 7:4

From the time of the giving of this promise and Abram’s immediate departure, we mark as the start of those 430 years that Abram and his posterity spent in foreign lands. Ex 12:40,41 Ga 3:17

Mauro makes this comment on this:

It is a matter of interest to observe that the call of Abram divides the chronology of the Bible into two periods of equal length. In other words, the first eleven chapters of Genesis cover a period of history almost equal in length to the rest of the Bible. 1897: Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed. This was at the same time three angels visited Abram and Sarai, changed their names to Abraham and Sarah and promised them a son, Isaac.

1760 Jacob’s Ladder: On his journey, he saw a vision of a ladder. In this vision, God confirmed to him, all the blessings formerly given to his father. God assured him of his grace and favour for the future. In remembrance of this experience, Jacob set up a pillar. He changed the name of the place from Luz to Bethel and made a vow to God there. – Ussher

Jesus referred to this in his conversation with Nathaniel in John 4, and Jesus is now accepted as that ladder that connects heaven and earth.

1728: Joseph to Egypt: His 11 jealous brothers sold their 17-year-old brother into slavery, little imagining he would become ruler of Egypt!

Mauro charts this chronology out for us:

Death of Joseph 1677 1632 Birth of Moses 1613 1571 Flight of Moses from Egypt 1573 1531 Return of Moses/Exodus 1533 1491

Mauro’s dates are 42 years older than Ussher’s due to his placement of the Creation at 4046 vs Ussher’s 4004, the more widely used date.

Bible Chronology: The Fourth Age of the World 1491 to 1012 BC

This age begins with the giving of the Law to Moses, and runs through the journey to the Promised Land, its conquest, and government, from judges to kings.

1451: Joshua commands the Sun to stand still. It is interesting to note that Joshua was fighting on behalf of the Gibeonites who were not God’s chosen people but Canaanites.

Ussher: When Joshua raised the siege, he pursued those five kings slaughtering their troops as far as Azekah and Makkedah.
At this time the sun stood still over Gibeon and the moon over the valley of Ajalon for almost a WHOLE DAY until the Israelites were fully avenged of their enemies.

1245: Gideon was hiding in a cave when God called him to judge Israel, calling him a “mighty man of valour.”

Ussher: When the Israelites fell into this fourth bondage, they cried to God for help and were reproved by a prophet. Then was Gideon of Manasseh, son of Joash the Abiezrite chosen to deliver them by an angel sent from God.
By God’s command, he overturned the altar of Baal and burnt its grove. As a result of the strife between him and the people, he was called Jerubbaal and Jerubbesheth. Jud 6:32 & 2Sa 11:21.
From 32,000 volunteers, he selected three hundred men according to God’s criteria. Gideon and these men equipped with their trumpets, pitchers and torches so frightened the Midianites, that he put to flight all their host.

The people wanted to make Gideon king, but he refused. But they persisted in their desire to be like the other nations and have a king. God granted their request.

Mauro gives an overview of the time of the judges, explaining (in chapter VII) how the 450 years St. Paul attributed to them was allotted to each judge, from Othniel to Samuel.

1095: Saul was anointed king and delivered the children of Israel from the Philistines but grew proud, and the Lord chose another, David a shepherd and slayer of Goliath to replace him.

1063: David was anointed by Samuel while Saul was still king. He became king in 1055.

Bible Chronology: The Fifth Age of the World 1012 to 586 BC

The foundation of the temple to Jeremiah’s life as the temple was burned and the people taken to Babylon.

1015: Solomon takes the throne and rules for 40 years. Because of his sins, the Lord takes ten tribes of Israel away from him and sets up Jeroboam as king of Israel. From this time on, there are two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

King Jeroboam set up golden calves in Bethel and Dan for the people of Israel to worship so that they would no longer go to Jerusalem to worship.
All the kings of Israel “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” distinguished only by the degree of their idolatry.

Yet the Lord did not abandon Israel, but sent them mighty prophets, like Elijah, Elisha, and Jonah who tried to turn the rulers back to the Lord, but to no avail. The kingdom of Israel was wiped out in 721 BC, just 30 years after the city of Rome was founded.

Judah, the kingdom of the south, endured because of the faithfulness of good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah and major prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. But God’s wrath fell on Judah too, when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon broke down the walls of Jerusalem in 588. Ussher has this to say:

Thus, Judah was carried away out of her own land. (Jereimiah 52:27 & 2 Kings 25:21) 468 years after David began to reign over it.
These events have been recorded from the dividing of the ten tribes, from the tribe of Judah, 388 years and from the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, 134 years.

Bible Chronology: The Sixth Age of the World 587 – 414 BC

We now enter what Ussher is calling the Sixth Age of the World, and it is really a prophetic age, one of the great prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who are preparing God’s people for their return to their homeland and the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom of God.

After being carried away into Babylon, God’s people longed to go home, to re-establish their homeland and temple. This is the first theme we see in the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. But when will this be? No one knew, but Daniel received an angelic vision giving an answer in 538 BC

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. Daniel 9:24-15

536: Ezra and Nehemiah the 70 weeks captivity fulfilled

Cyrus proclaimed the end of the Jews’ captivity, and this is the start of Daniel’s 70 weeks of years. Using Ussher’s starting date of 473 brings the end of those weeks to 17 AD; Using Mauro’s date of 457 brings us to 33 AD. Both clearly within the lifetime of Jesus.

In all my years of teaching Sunday school and the Bible, only one person (a little girl of ten) asked me “why did Jesus come when He did?” The answer is Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of years. And here is where chronology ends. Using Daniel’s weeks of years to promote theories about the future of Jesus’ second coming is clearly in defiance of Jesus’ words:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. Mark 13:32-33

Although Ussher goes on with his chronology from here in detail, it is the history of events outside the scope of the Old Testament. The Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi in 416 BC, contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah. Ussher goes on with his Annals in detail and provides a good context for understanding his Seventh Age of the World, beginning in 5 BC.

Between the testaments God was at work preparing for His Son to appear.

During these four hundred years:

God united the Biblical world under one government that provided peace and stability for the Gospel message. God also gave that world one common language so that the Gospel could be preached, written, taught, and understood.
He also ordained a community for His people to live and worship and to receive the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Bible Chronology: The Seventh Age of the World 4 BC to 70 AD

All the above chronological items look forward to this Seventh Age, the culmination of the Scriptures as Mauro repeatedly emphasizes. Ussher goes into more detail on each of the four dates that concern us here:

4 BC Jesus’ birth, Jesus Christ and Son of God, in the fulness of time was born of the most blessed virgin Mary, at Bethlehem. {Matthew 1:25 2:1,5; Galatians 4:4} Mary wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. {Luke 2:7}

27: AD baptism, When all the people were being baptized, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized of John. {Luke 3:21, Matthew 3:13, Mark 1:9} John denied that Jesus needed any baptism from him but the Lord urged him and said that it was needful that all righteousness be fulfilled. Then John baptized him. {Matthew 3:14,15} Jesus was about 30 years old. {Luke 3:23}

33: AD crucifixion and resurrection

The FOURTH PASSOVER in which CHRIST, our PASSOVER, was sacrificed, {1 Corinthians 5:7} and so put an end to all the legal sacrifices prefiguring this one. The beginning of the fourth or middle year of the last week of Daniel. {Daniel 9:27}

And most important of all Ussher’s description of the events of the Resurrection

When the sabbath was over, (April the 5th) and it dawned toward the first day of the week, very early in the morning while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome came with spices.
They came to see the sepulchre and anoint Jesus. They wondered who would roll away the stone from the door for them.
When the sun was risen, they came to the sepulchre and they saw the stone was rolled away.
There was a great earthquake for the angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. ….
(Thus, Jesus appeared five times on the very first day of his resurrection.) {John 20: 19-23 Luke 24:36-49 Mark 14:14-18}

70 AD: the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was destroyed on a Saturday. {*Dio, l. 65. 8:271} This was the day the Jews most religiously observe and September 8th fell on a Saturday that year.
The city was taken and destroyed. Titus commanded all the city and temple to be rased to the foundation and made flat and also to be ploughed according to the custom.
He spared the west part of the wall only and the three towers, Hippicon, Phasaelus, and Mariamme.
He left those which for their great beauty and strength, would be a monument to posterity to the magnificence of that city.

And with this, Ussher’s chronology ends.

Bible Chronology: Concluding thoughts

Knowing the times these events occurred has helped me understand the Bible more. Not only does it give me a sense of the sequence of when these things happened, it roots them in history and helps me enter the reality of the Bible and its purpose.

Much more could be said, but I will leave the last thoughts of Philip Mauro as an affirmation of the importance of Bible chronology:

In conclusion we would again direct attention to the remarkable fact that there is one, and only one, continuous line of dated events in the Bible; that it extends from the creation of Adam to the resurrection of Christ: and that, as we follow that line through successive Books and successive eras, it brings us into contact with all the leading personages, the leading events, and the leading doctrines of Holy Scripture.
Clearly then, the Chronology of the Bible must be reckoned among its greatest wonders.

More amazing to me is God's mighty power, wisdom, and love. This is His chronology, and He gave it to us, you and me whom He knew outside of time and indeed outside of materiality when we were yet unformed and had no substance. We were of value to Him then, before the foundation of the world. It is all given to show us His love and assure us He is planning good for us. We will see Him one day, and one another too. How we will rejoice to be with Jesus in the place He is preparing for us. It is all good and driven by His grace and love, love, love.

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