By Sir Robert Anderson
CHRONOLOGICAL TREATISE AND TABLES
THE point of contact between sacred and profane chronology, and therefore the first certain date, in biblical history, is the accession of Nebuchadnezzar to the throne of Babylon (cf. Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1). From this date we reckon on to Christ and back to Adam. The agreement of leading chronologers is a sufficient guarantee that David began to reign in B.C. l056-5, and therefore that all dates subsequent to that event can be definitely fixed. But beyond this epoch, certainty vanishes.. The marginal dates of our English Bible represent: in the main Archbishop Ussher's chronology,[*] and notwithstanding his eminence as a chronologer some of these dates are doubtful, and others entirely wrong.
Of the doubtful dates in Ussher's scheme the reigns of Belshazzar and "Ahasuerus" may serve as examples. Belshazzar's case is specially interesting. Scripture plainly states that he was King of Babylon at its conquest by the Medo-Persians, and that he was slain the night Darius entered the city. On the other hand, not only does no ancient historian mention Belshazzar, but all agree that the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus, who was absent from the city when the Persians captured it, and who afterwards submitted to the conquerors at Borsippa. Thus the contradiction between history and Scripture appeared to be absolute. Skeptics appealed to history to discredit the book of Daniel; and commentators solved or shirked the difficulty by rejecting history. The cuneiform inscriptions, however, have now settled the controversy in a manner as satisfactory as it was unexpected. On clay cylinders discovered by Sir H. Rawlinson at Mughier and other Chaldean sites, Belshazzar (Belsaruzur) is named by Nabonidus as his eldest son. The inference is obvious, that during the latter years of his father's reign, Belshazzar was King-Regent in Babylon. According to Ptolemy's canon Nabonidus reigned seventeen years (from s. c. 555 to B.C. 538), and Ussher gives these years to Belshazzar.
In common with many other writers, Ussher has assumed that the King of the book of Esther was Darius Hystaspes, but it is now generally agreed that it is the son and successor of Darius who is there mentioned as Ahasuerus – "a name which orthographically corresponds with the Greek Xerxes."The great durbar of the first chapter of Esther, held in his third year (ver. 3), was presumably with a view to his expedition against Greece (B.C. 483); and the marriage of Esther was in his seventh year (2:16), having been delayed till then on account of his absence during the campaign. The marginal dates of the book of Esther should therefore begin with B.C. 486, instead of B.C. 521, as given in our English Bibles.
But these are comparatively trivial points, whereas the principal error of Ussher's chronology is of real importance. According to 1 Kings 6:1, Solomon began to build the Temple "in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt." The mystic character of this era of 480 years has been noticed in an earlier chapter. Ussher assumed that it represented a strictly chronological period, and reckoning back from the third year of Solomon, he fixed the date of the Exodus as B.C. 1491, – an error which vitiates his entire system.
Acts 13:18-21, St. Paul, in treating of the interval between the Exodus and the end of Saul's reign, specifies three several periods; viz., 40 years, about 450 years, and 40 years = 530 years. From the accession of David to the third year of Solomon, when the temple was founded, was forty-three years. According to this enumeration therefore, the period between the Exodus and the temple was 530 + 43 years = 573 years. Clinton, however, whose chronology has been very generally adopted, conjectures that there was an interval of twenty-seven years between the death of Moses and the first servitude, and an interval of twelve years between "Samuel the prophet" (1 Samuel 7) and the election of Saul. Accordingly he estimates the period between the Exodus and the temple as 573 + 27 + 12 years = 612 years.Clinton's leading dates, therefore, are as follows:--
B.C. 4138. – Adam.B.C. 2482. – The Deluge.B.C. 2055. – The Call of Abraham.B.C. 1625. – The Exodus.B.C. 1096. – The Election of Saul.B.C. 1056. – David.B.C. 1016. – Solomon.B.C.. 976. – Rehoboam.B.C. 606. – The Captivity (i.e., the Servitude to Babylon).
In this chronology Browne proposes three corrections (Ordo Sec., Ch. 10, 13); viz., he rejects the two conjectural terms of twenty-seven years and twelve years above noticed; and he adds two years to the period between the Deluge and the Exodus. If this last correction be adopted (and it is perfectly legitimate, considering that approximate accuracy is all that the ablest chronologer can claim to have attained for this era), let three years be added to the period between the Deluge and the Covenant with Abraham, and the latter event becomes exactly, as it is in any case approximately, the central epoch between the Creation and the Crucifixion. The date of the Deluge will thus be put back to B.C. 2485, and therefore the Creation will be B.C. 4141.
The following most striking features appear in the chronology as thus settled:--
From Adam to the Covenant with Abraham (B.C. 4141 to B.C. 2055) is 2086 years.From Abraham to the Crucifixion of Christ (B.C. 2055 to A.D. 32) is 2086 years.From Adam to the Deluge (B.C. 4141 to B.C. 2485) is 1656 years.From the Deluge to the Covenant (B.C. 2485 to B.C. 2055) is 430 years.From the Covenant to the Exodus (B.C. 2055 to B.C. 1625) is 430 years.From the Exodus to the Crucifixion (B.C. 1625 to A.D. 32) is 1656 years.
The Covenant here mentioned is that recorded in Genesis 12 in connection with the call of Abraham. The statements of Scripture relating to this part of the chronology may seem to need explanation in two respects.
Stephen declares in Acts 7:4 that Abraham's removal from Haran (or Charran) took place after the death of his father. But Abraham was only seventy-five years of age when he entered Canaan; whereas if we assume from Genesis 11:26 that Abraham was born when Terah was but seventy, he must have been one hundred and thirty at the call, for Terah died at two hundred and five. (Compare Genesis 11:26, 31, 32; 12:4.) The fact however is obvious from these statement that though named first among the sons of Terah, Abraham was not the firstborn, but the youngest: Terah was seventy when his eldest son was born, and he had three sons, Haran, Nahor, and Abraham. To ascertain his age at Abraham's birth we must needs turn to the history, and there we learn it was one hundred and thirty years. And this will account for the deference Abraham paid to Lot, who, though his nephew, was nevertheless his equal in years, possibly his senior; and moreover, as the son of Abraham's eldest brother, the nominal head of the family. (Genesis 13:8, 9.)
Again. According to Exodus 12:40 "the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years." If this be taken to mean (as the statement in Genesis 15:13, quoted by Stephen in Acts 7:6, might also seem to imply) that the Israelites were four centuries in Egypt, the entire chronology must be changed. But, as St. Paul explains in Galatians 3:17, these 430 years are to be computed from the call of Abraham, and not from the going down of Israel into Egypt. The statement in Genesis 15:13 is explained and qualified by the words which follow in ver. 16. The entire period of Israel's wanderings was to be four centuries, but when the passage speaks definitely of their sojourn in Egypt it says: "In the fourth generation they shall come hither again" – a word which was accurately fulfilled, for Moses was the fourth in descent from Jacob.It was not till 470 years after the covenant with Abraham that his descendants took their place as one of the nations of the earth. They were slaves in Egypt, and in the wilderness they were wanderers; but under Joshua they entered the land of promise and became a nation. And with this last event begins a series of cycles of "seventy weeks" of years.
From the entrance into Canaan (B.C. 1586-5) to the establishment of the kingdom under Saul (B.C. 1096) was 490 years.From the kingdom (B.C. 1096) to the servitude to Babylon (B.C. 606) was 490 years.From the epoch of the servitude (B.C. 606) until the royal edict of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, the national independence of Judah was in abeyance, and with that date began the mystic era of 490 years, which form the "seventy weeks" of the prophecy of Daniel.
Again the period Between the dedication of the first temple in the eleventh year of Solomon (B.C. 1066-5) and the dedication of the second temple in the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes of Persia (B.C. 515), was 490 years.
Are we to conclude that these results are purely accidental? No thoughtful person will hesitate to accept the more reasonable alternative that the chronology of the world is part of a Divine plan or "economy of times and seasons."
The chronological inquiry suggested by the data afforded by the books of 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, is of principal importance, not only as establishing the absolute accuracy of Scripture, but also because it throws light upon the main question of the several eras of the captivity, which again are closely allied with the era of the seventy weeks.
The student of the book of Daniel finds every step beset with difficulties, raised either by avowed enemies, or quasi expositors of Holy Writ. Even the opening statement of the book has been assailed on all sides. That Daniel was made captive in the third year of Jehoiakim "is simply an invention of late Christian days," declares the author of Messiah the Prince (p. 42), in keeping with the style in which this writer disposes of history sacred and profane, in order to support his own theories.
In Dean Milman's History of the Jews, the page which treats of this epoch is full of inaccuracies. First he confounds the seventy years of the desolations, predicted in Jeremiah 25, with the seventy years of the servitude, which had already begun. Then as the prophecy of Jeremiah 25 was given in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, he fixes the first capture of Jerusalem in that year, whereas Scripture expressly states it took place in Jehoiakim's third year (Daniel 1:1). He proceeds to specify B.C. 601 as the year of Nebuchadnezzar's invasion; and here the confusion is hopeless, as he mentions two periods of three years each between that date and the king's death, which nevertheless he rightly assigns to the year B.C. 598.
Again, Dr. F. W. Newman's article on the Captivities, in Kitto's Cyclopaedia, well deserves notice as a specimen of the kind of criticism to be found in standard books ostensibly designed to aid the study of Scripture.
"The statement with which the book of Daniel opens is" (he maintains) "in direct collision with the books of Kings and Chronicles, which assign to Jehoiakim an eleven years' reign, as also with Jeremiah 25:1. It partially rests on 2 Chronicles 36:6, which is itself not in perfect accordance with 2 Kings 24. In the earlier history the war broke out during the reign of Jehoiakim, who died before its close; and when his son and successor Jehoiachin had reigned three months, the city and its king were captured. But in the Chronicles the same event is made to happen twice over at an interval of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:6 and 9); and even so we do not obtain accordance with the received interpretation of Daniel 1:1-3."
This writer's conclusions are adopted by Dean Stanley in his Jewish Church (vol. 2., p. 459), wherein he enumerates among the captives taken with Jehoiachin in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Daniel, who had gained a position at the court of Babylon six years before Jehoiachin came to the throne! (Compare 2 Kings 24:12 with Daniel 2:1.)
A reference to the Five Great Monarchies (vol. 3., pp. 488-494), and the Fasti Hellenici, will show how thoroughly consistent the sacred history of this period appears to the mind of a historian or a chronologer; and moreover how completely it harmonizes with the extant fragments of the history of Berosus.
Jehoiakim did in fact reign eleven years. In his third year he became the vassal of the King of Babylon. For three years he paid tribute, and in his sixth year he revolted. There is not a shadow of reason for believing that the first verse of Daniel is spurious; and apart from all claim to Divine sanction for the book, the idea that such a writer – a man of princely rank and of the highest culture, (Daniel 1:3, 4.) and raised to the foremost place among the wise and noble of Babylonia – was ignorant of the date and circumstances of his own exile, is simply preposterous. But according to Dr. Newman, he needed to refer to the book of Chronicles for the information, and was deceived thereby! A comparison of the statements in Kings, Chronicles, and Daniel clearly establishes that the narratives are independent, each giving details omitted in the other books. The second verse of Daniel appears inconsistent with the rest only to a mind capable of supposing that the living king of Judah was placed as an ornament in the temple of Belus along with the holy vessels; for so Dr. Newman has read it. And the apparent inconsistency in 2 Chronicles 36:6 disappears when read with the context, for the eighth verse shows the writer's knowledge that Jehoiakim completed his reign in Jerusalem. Moreover the correctness of the entire history is signally established by fixing the chronology of the events, a crucial test of accuracy.
Jerusalem was first taken by the Chaldeans in the third year of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1). His fourth year was current with the first of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:1). This accords with the deft, the statement of Berosus that Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition took place before his actual accession (Jos., Apion, 1. 19). According to the canon of Ptolemy, the accuracy of which has been fully established, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar dates from B.C. 604, i.e., his accession was in the year beginning the first Thoth (which fell in January) B.C. 604, and the history leaves no doubt it was early in that year. But the captivity, according to the era of Ezekiel, began in Nebuchadnezzar's eighth year (comp. Ezekiel 1:2 and 2 Kings 24:12); and in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity, Nebuchadnezzar's successor was on the throne (2 Kings 25:27). This would give Nebuchadnezzar a reign of at least forty-four years, whereas according to the Canon (and Berosus confirms it) he reigned only forty-three years, and was succeeded by Evil-Merodach (the Iluoradam of the Canon), in B.C. 561.
It follows therefore that Scripture antedates the years of Nebuchadnezzar, computing his reign from B.C. 605. This would be sufficiently accounted for by the fact that, from the conquest of Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim, the Jews acknowledged Nebuchadnezzar as their suzerain. It has been overlooked, however, that it is in accordance with the ordinary principle on which they reckoned regnal years, computing them from Nisan to Nisan. In B.C. 604 the 1st Nisan fell on or about the 1st April, and according to Jewish reckoning, the King's second year would begin on that day, no matter how recently he had ascended the throne. Therefore "the fourth year of Jehoiakim that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar" (Jeremiah 25:1), was the year beginning Nisan B.C. 605; and the third of Jehoiakim, in which Jerusalem was taken and the servitude began, was the year beginning Nisan B.C. 606.
This result is most remarkably confirmed by Clinton, who fixes the summer of B.C. 606 as the date of Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition.It is further confirmed by, and affords the explanation of a statement of Daniel, which has been triumphantly appealed to in depreciation of the value of his book. If, it is urged, the King of Babylon kept Daniel three years in training before admitting him to his presence, how could the prophet have interpreted the King's dream in his second year? (Daniel 1:5, 18; 2:1). Daniel, a citizen of Babylon, and a courtier withal, naturally and of course computed his sovereign's reign according to the common era in use around him (as Nehemiah afterwards did in like circumstances.) But as the prophet was exiled in B.C. 606, his three years' probation terminated at the close of B.C. 603, whereas the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, computed from his actual accession, extended to some date in the early months of B.C. 602.
Again. The epoch of Jehoiachin's captivity was in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:12), i.e., his eighth year as reckoned from Nisan.
But the ninth year of the captivity was still current on the tenth Tebeth in the ninth year of Zedekiah and seventeenth of Nebuchadnezzar (comp. Ezekiel 24:1, 2, with 2 Kings 25:1-8).
And the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar and eleventh of Zedekiah, in which Jerusalem was destroyed, was in part concurrent with the twelfth year of the captivity (comp. 2 Kings 25:2-8 with Ezekiel 33:21).
It follows therefore that Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) must have been taken at the close of the Jewish year ("when the year was expired," 2 Chronicles 36:10), that is the year preceding 1st Nisan, B.C. 597; and Zedekiah was made king (after a brief interregnum) early in the year beginning on that day. And it also follows that whether computed according to the era of Nebuchadnezzar, of Zedekiah, or of the captivity, B.C. 587 was the year in which "the city was smitten."The first link in this chain of dates is the third year of Jehoiakim, and every new link confirms the proof of the correctness and importance of that date. It has been justly termed the point of contact between sacred and profane history; and its importance in the sacred chronology is immense on account of its being the epoch of the servitude of Judah to the King of Babylon.
The servitude must not be confounded with the captivity, as it generally is. It was rebellion against the Divine decree which entrusted the imperial scepter to Nebuchadnezzar, that brought on the Jews the further judgment of a national deportation, and the still more terrible chastisement of the "desolations." The language of Jeremiah is most definite in this respect. "I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant." "The nation which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand." "But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the Lord, and they shall till it and dwell therein" (Jeremiah 27:6, 8 11; and comp. chap.38:17-21).
The appointed era of this servitude was seventy years, and the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah was a message of hope to the captivity, that at the expiration of that period they should return to Jerusalem (ver. 10). The twenty-fifth chapter, oil the oilier hand, was a prediction for the rebellious Jews who remained in Jerusalem after the servitude had commenced, warning them that their stubborn disobedience would bring on them utter destruction, and that for seventy years the whole land should be "a desolation."
To recapitulate. The thirty-seventh year of the captivity was current on the accession of Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27), and the epoch of that king's reign was B.C. 561. Therefore the captivity dated from the year beginning Nisan 598 and ending Adar 597. But this was the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar according to Scripture reckoning. Therefore his first year was Nisan 605 to Nisan 604. The first capture of Jerusalem and the beginning of the servitude was during the preceding year, 606-605. The final destruction of the city was in Nebuchadnezzar's nineteenth year, i.e., 587, and the siege began 10th Tebeth (or about 25th December), 589, which was the epoch of the desolations. The burning of Jerusalem cannot have been B.C. 588, as given by Ussher, Prideaux, etc., for in that case the captivity would have begun B.C. 599, and the thirty-seventh year would have ended before the accession of Evil-Merodach. Nor can it have been B.C. 586, as given by Jackson, Hales, etc., for then the thirty-seventh year would not have begun during Evil-Merodach's first year.This scheme is practically the same as Clinton's, and the sanction of his name may be claimed for it, for it differs from his only in that he dates Jehoiakim's reign from August B.C. 609, and Zedekiah's from June B.C. 598, his attention not having been called to the Jewish practice of computing reigns from Nisan; whereas I have fixed Nisan B.C. 608 as the epoch of Jehoiakim's reign, and Nisan B.C. 597 for Zedekiah's. Not of course that Nisan was in fact the month-date of the accession, but that, according to the rule of the Mishna and the practice of the nation, the reign was so reckoned. Jehoiakim's date could not be Nisan B.C. 609, because his fourth year was also the first of Nebuchadnezzar, and the thirty-seventh year, reckoned from the eighth of Nebuchadnezzar, was the first of Evil-Merodach, i.e., B.C. 561, which date fixes the whole chronology as Clinton himself conclusively argues. It follows from this also that: Zedekiah's date must be B.C. 597, and not 598.
The chronology adopted by Dr. Pusey is essentially the same as Clinton's. The scheme here proposed differs from it only to the extent and on the grounds above indicated. His suggestion: that the fast proclaimed in the fifth year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36:9.) referred to the capture of Jerusalem in his third year, is not improbable, and points to Chisleu (Nov.) B.C. 606 as the date of that event. For the reasons above stated, it could not have been B.C. 607, as Dr. Pusey supposes, and the same argument proves that Canon Rawlinson's date for Nebuchadnezzar's expedition (B.C. 605) is a year too late.The correctness of this scheme will, I presume, be admitted, as regards the cardinal point of difference between it and Clinton's chronology, namely, that the reigns of the Jewish kings are reckoned from Nisan. It remains to notice the points of difference between the results here offered and Browne's hypotheses (Orda Saec., Ch. 162-169). He arbitrarily assumes that Jehoiachin's captivity and Zedekiah's reign began on the same day. This leads him to assume further (1) that they were reckoned from the same day, viz., the 1st Nisan, and (2) that Nebuchadnezzar's royal years dated from some date between 1st Nisan and 10 Ab 606 (Ch. 166). Both these positions are untenable. (1) The Jews certainly reckoned the reigns of their kings from 1st Nisan, but there is no proof that they so reckoned the years of ordinary periods or eras such as the captivity. (2) The presumption is strong, confirmed by all the synchronisms of the chronology, that they computed Nebuchadnezzar's royal era either according to the Chaldean reckoning, as in Daniel, or according to their own system, as in the other books.
TABLE #1-- CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE
The following table will show at a glance the several eras of the servitude to Babylon, king Jehoiachin's captivity, and the desolations of Jerusalem.
In using the table it is essential to bear in mind two points already stated.
1. The year given in the first column is the Jewish year beginning the 1st Nisan (March – April). For example, B.C. 604 is the year beginning the 1st April, 604; and B.C. 589 is the year beginning the 15th March, 589 According to the Mishna, "On the 1st of Nisan is a new year for the computation of the reign of kings, and for festivals." To which the editors of the English translation add this note:" The reign of Jewish kings, whatever the period of accession might be, was always reckoned from the preceding Nisan; so that if, for instance, a Jewish king began to reign in Adar, the following month (Nisan) would be considered as the commencement of the second year of his reign. This rule was observed in all legal contracts, in which the reign of kings was always mentioned."
If these points be kept in view the chronology of the table will be found to harmonize every chronological statement relating to the period embraced in it, contained in the Books of Kings, Chronicles, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel
TABLE #2-- TABLE OF CHRONOLOGICAL PARALLELISMSSHOWING THAT THE CALL OF ABRAHAM WAS THE CENTRAL POINT BETWEEN THE CREATION AND THE CRUCIFIXION
* Bishop Lloyd, to whom was entrusted the task of editing the A. V., in this respect made a few alterations, as ex. gr., in the book of Nehemiah he rejected Ussher's chronology, and inserted the true historical date of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
1. Rawlinson's Herodotus, 4., p. 212. Xerxes (old Persian Khshayarsha) is derived by Sir H. Rawlinson from Khshaya, 'a King'" (Ibid. 3., 446, App. Book 6. note A).
2. Josephus appears to confirm this in Ant. 20:10 Ch. 1, where he specifies 612 years between the Exodus and the temple, but in Ant. 8:3 Ch. 1, he fixes the same period at 592 years. It is supposed that in the longer era he included the twenty years during which both the temple and the palace were building.3. Cf. Browne Ordo Saec. Ch. 13. His system, however, compels him to specify the destruction of Jerusalem (A. D. 70) as the close of the Mosaic economy, which is certainly wrong. The crucifixion was the great crisis in the history of Judah and of the world.
4. Clinton, F. H., vol. 1., p. 299. Alford's supercilious comments on this (Gr. Test., Acts 7:4) could be easily disposed of were the occasion opportune for the discussion this would involve. Indeed a passing reference to Genesis 25:1, 2, would have modified his statements.
5. His mother was a daughter of Levi (Exodus 2:1).
6. It is a remarkable coincidence that the era of the second temple was so nearly this same period of 490 years, B. C. 515 to about B. C. 18 when Herod rebuilt it.
7. Clinton, F. H., vol. 1., p. 367.
8. The Paschal new moon, in B. C. 604, was on the 31st of March.
9. F. H., vol. 1., p. 328.
10. This is confirmed by Ezekiel 40:1, compared with 2 Kings 25:8, for the twenty-fifth year of the captivity was the fourteenth year after the destruction of Jerusalem (viz., the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar), reckoned inclusively according to the ordinary practice of the Jews.
11. These results will appear at a glance by reference to the table appended.
12. As this event was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:8), and the captivity began in his eighth year (2 Kings 24:12).
13. Clinton, F. H.. , vol. 1., p. 319.
14. Ibid., pp. 328-329.
15. Fasti H., vol. 1., p. 319.
16. Daniel, p. 401.
17. Five Great Mon., 4. 488.
18. Treatise, Rosh Hashanah, 1. 1.
19. These dates are Clinton's, subject to remarks in App. 1., ante. They are selected mainly to throw light on Daniel's visions. The names of historians, etc., are introduced in the fifth century B. C. to indicate the character of the age in which the prophetic era of the seventy weeks began.