Biblical chronology is complicated. Scholars have debated for centuries over when certain biblical events occurred. The Bible itself isn’t always internally consistent—it doesn’t always agree with itself about when certain events took place. This is complicated by archaeology and the texts of ancient Israel’s neighbors, which often paint a different picture than the Bible.
The Old Testament Come, Follow Me manual of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says,
Don’t expect the Old Testament to present a thorough and precise history of humankind. That’s not what the original authors and compilers were trying to create. Their larger concern was to teach something about God—about His plan for His children, about what it means to be His covenant people, and about how to find redemption when we don’t live up to our covenants. Sometimes they did it by relating historical events as they understood them—including stories from the lives of great prophets. Genesis is an example of this, as are books like Joshua, Judges, and 1 and 2 Kings. But other Old Testament writers did not aim to be historical at all. Instead, they taught through works of art like poetry and literature. The Psalms and the Proverbs fit in this category. And then there are the precious words of prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, who spoke the word of God to ancient Israel—and, through the miracle of the Bible, still speak to us today.
There are a myriad of challenges in trying to discern Biblical chronology. These scholars articulate some of the challenges well:
The biblical narrative presents events in a historical framework. However, there are several chronological challenges to studying ancient Israelites and their history.
First, the biblical authors and editors were not interested in portraying history per se, but in recounting Jehovah’s work in the course of history (similar to Mormon’s efforts). They thus focused on events with positive or negative religious components, resulting in the omission of valuable information for reconstructing the history of Israel.
Second, no person named in the Old Testament is mentioned in contemporary nonbiblical texts until the mid-ninth century B.C., over a century after King David’s death. So readers are completely dependent on the Bible and the remains of material culture obtained through archaeological excavations for evidence of the Israelites and their practices prior to that time.
And third, there are discrepancies in the chronological data preserved within the Hebrew Bible itself, between data in the Hebrew Bible and ancient translations of the Bible (like the Septuagint), and between biblical data and non-biblical sources from the ancient Near East. None of these challenges, however, undermines our ability to understand the general picture and some of the detail of Israelite history. The archaeological discoveries of almost two centuries, both inscriptions and artifacts, generally validate the biblical depiction of ancient Israel…
Because of challenges in the surviving chronological data, there are discrepancies of a few years in various chronological systems. No reconstructed chronology for ancient Israel or the ancient Near East as a whole is without problems…Other publications will have slightly different dates for some kings and events.
For the sake of simplicity and literary cohesiveness, we have chosen to present the dates of the Old Testament as they best correspond with the internal narrative of the Bible. These dates are not necessarily corroborated with the findings of archaeology or source criticism, though those are valuable tools in assessing historical dating.
Many of the dates assigned rely on this timeline from Bible Hub.
The following is a timeline based off The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford, 2004). It differs from the internal chronology of the Bible in that it doesn’t not assign a specific date to Creation, it presents a later dating of the Exodus (1200s BC as opposed to 1400s BC), and it assigns general time periods to many events in biblical history, as opposed to calculated dates. This chronology more closely aligns with the findings of archaeology and historical critical methods of dating biblical texts. However, as noted above, no chronological system is perfect, so the following timeline may act as a general guide, but not an infallible one.
The Bible Timeline: the 4 Major time periods in Scripture
Overview of Biblical Chronology
The Biblical Timeline
William F. Albright, “The Chronology of the Divided Monarchy of Israel,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 100 (1945): 16–22.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., “The Chronology of the Old Testament,” Frank E. Gaebelein, (gen.ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 1. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979). Hbk. ISBN: 0310364302, 359–374.
Peter Åström, ed., High, Middle or Low?: Acts of on International Colloquium on Absolute Chronology held at the University of Gothenburg 20th–22nd August 1987. Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology and Literature. (Paul Åström Forlag, 1987). ISBN: 9186098640.
James Barr, Biblical Chronology, Legend or Science? (London: University of London, 1987).
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The Kings of Israel & Judah 1020–587 BCE (Dr. K.C. Hanson)
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Leslie McFall, “The Chronology of Saul and David,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 53.3 (Sept. 2010): 475–533.View in format
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Edwin R. Thiele, “The synchronisms of the Hebrew kings––a re–evaluation,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 2 (1964): 120–136.View in format
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