OTB5 – Old Testament chronology
Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 11 May 2020
Based on the results of research by OT experts, Figure OTB5 summarises the likely chronology of the OT.
Table OTB5 shows the probable or possible dates of occurrence of events as recorded in each book. It also shows the known or estimated times when the contents of each book were written, compiled and collected. Most of the dating after 1050BC is now fairly precise for the relevant biblical books and events.1
LOCATING THE OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS HISTORICALLY
|BOOK||LOCATIONS||PROBABLE OR||POSSIBLE DATES (BC)|
|Where the recorded events happened||When (BC) the recorded events occurred||When (BC) the Book was produced in its final form|
|Genesis 1-11||Mesopotamia?||c.4000??||c.1300-1200? (c.950?)|
|Genesis 12-50||Canaan, Egypt||c.2000-1700?||” ” “|
|Exodus||Egypt, Sinai||c.1400-1200?||” ” “|
|Leviticus||Sinai||” “||” ” “|
|Numbers||Sinai, Plains of Moab||” “||” ” “|
|Deuteronomy||Plains of Moab||” “||” ” “|
|Joshua||Canaan||” “||” ” “|
|Ruth||Israel, Moab||c.1150?||” “|
|2 Samuel||“||1010-970||” “|
|1 Kings||Israel, Judah||970-850||c.570-550|
|2 Kings||” “||850-586||” “|
|1 Chronicles||Mostly Israel and Judah||(Adam)-970||c.440-340|
|2 Chronicles||” ” “||970-538||” “|
|Esther||Susa, Persia||c.470 c.450?||370?|
|Job||“land of Uz”||c.2000-1700?||c.900?-600?|
|Song of Solomon||“||c.970||c.970 ( ” ” )|
|Nahum||“||c.663-612||just prior to 612|
These issues are highly significant when exploring the development of OT theology over time. In particular, the later OT books contain an increasing amount of interpretation and applications of theology derived from the earlier OT books. So each book has to be seen from the perspective of when it was finally written, to the extent that this can be known, when considering the theology it contains.
I have treated most of the OT books as unified chronological and theological units rather than arbitrarily breaking them up into segments belonging to different eras.4 Yet information apparently inserted by later writers of the historical accounts is taken into consideration.
1. Other OT dating is still being sorted out. The extensive chronological data in the OT itself has been compared with discoveries of the records of other nations (eg lists of kings and officials, battles, solar eclipses, etc). The Hebrews, Egyptians, Babylonians and Persians used differing time-reckoning systems, based either on the solar year or lunar months.
They also reckoned dates by the year of reign of each king. But these did not of course begin at the start of a calendar year and sometimes there was a gap or an overlap between kings. There are in fact some apparent chronological contradictions in the OT (eg the king-years totals for Kings vs. Chronicles are different). (Return to reading).
2. The order of the books in the Hebrew Scriptures was based more on theological than chronological concerns. (Return to reading).
3. For example, the narrative in 2Kings ends (2Kings 25:27-30) at about 550BC, which is over 400 years later than the events recorded early in 1Kings. The “time-lapse” is even longer in Chronicles, which begins with genealogies from Adam and concludes at the end of the Babylonian Exile in 538BC (2Chronicles 36:22-23). (Return to reading).
4. This does not apply to collections such as Psalms and Proverbs, or long time-span historical books such as Kings and Chronicles. (Return to reading).