What is the basic timeline of the Old Testament?

The following timeline of the Old Testament has been compiled with the assumption that the genealogies are literal and complete. If so, God created the world about 6000 years ago. All years are approximate.

Creation to the Flood
Creation: 4000 B.C. (we don't know how long Adam and Eve lived in the Garden before their exile.)
Adam: 4000 B.C. – 3070 B.C. (Genesis 2:7; 5:5)
Methuselah: 3350 B.C. – 2350 B.C. (Genesis 5:21; 5:27)
Noah: 2950 B.C. – 2000 B.C. (Genesis 5:29; 9:29)
Flood: 2350 B.C. (Genesis 6-9)

Note that Methuselah died a very short time before the Flood. It is possible that his name, literally "death/spear/violence – bring," was the prophecy "his death shall bring." His death certainly did herald a significant event.

The Flood to Abraham
Flood: 2350 B.C. (Genesis 6-9)
Tower of Babel: 2250 B.C. (Genesis 11:1-9)
Egypt founded: 2170 B.C.
Abraham: 2165 B.C. – 1990 B.C. (Genesis 11:26; 25:8)

The genealogies in the Old Testament show that Noah died while Abraham's father was living. Noah's father, Lamech, was born about eighty years before Adam died. It's very possible that the story of creation could have been passed on through very few steps.

Abraham to the Exile
Abraham: 2165 B.C. – 1990 B.C. (Genesis 11:26; 25:8)
Abraham goes to Canaan: 2090 B.C. (Genesis 11:31)
Ishmael: 2080 B.C. – ? (Genesis 16:11)
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed: 2065 B.C. (Genesis 19:1-29)
Isaac: 2065 B.C. – 1885 B.C. (Genesis 21:1; 25:29)
Jacob: 2050 B.C. – 1855 B.C. (Genesis 25:26; 49:33)
Joseph: 1910 B.C. – 1800 B.C. (Genesis 30:23-24; 50:26)
Joseph sold into slavery: 1895 B.C. (Genesis 37:18-36)
Jacob and family move to Egypt: 1870 B.C. (Genesis 46-47)
Exile to Egypt: 1870 B.C. – 1450 B.C. (Genesis 46--Exodus 12:33-41)

After the Flood, lifespans drastically decreased. Noah lived to be 950 years old. Abraham, who was born shortly after Noah died, lived to be only 175.

The Exile to the Monarchy
Exile to Egypt: 1870 B.C. – 1450 B.C. (Genesis 46--Exodus 12:33-41)
Moses: 1530 B.C. - 1410 B.C. (Exodus 2:2; Deuteronomy 34:5)
Moses flees to Midian: 1490 B.C.(Exodus 2:15-25)
Exodus from Egypt: 1450 B.C. (Exodus 12:33-14:31)
Forty years in the Wilderness: 1450 B.C. – 1410 B.C. (Exodus 16--Joshua 1)
Joshua's rule: 1410 B.C. – 1390 B.C. (Deuteronomy 34:50--Judges 2:8)
Conquest of Canaan Completed: 1400 B.C. (Judges 1)
Deborah serves as Judge: 1245 B.C. – 1200 B.C. (Judges 4-5)
Gideon serves as Judge: 1195 B.C. – 1155 B.C. (Judges 6)
Samuel serves as Judge: 1090 B.C. – 1045 B.C. (1 Samuel 1:1-25:1)

The Timeline of the Old Testament shows the Israelites were in Egypt for about 400 years and then were ruled by judges for about 400 years. They then demanded a king.

The Unified Monarchy
Saul Reigns: 1095 B.C. – 1015 B.C. (1 Samuel 10:17-2:13)
David Reigns: 1015 B.C. – 970 B.C. (2 Samuel 1:1--1 Chronicles 19:1)
Solomon Reigns: 970 B.C. – 930 B.C. (1 Chronicles 19:1--2 Chronicles 9:31)
The Kingdom Splits: 930 B.C. (2 Chronicles 10)

Israel
Israel, the Northern Kingdom: 930 B.C. – 725 B.C.
Elijah serves as Prophet: circa 870 B.C.
Obadiah serves as Prophet: circa 845 B.C.
Elisha serves as Prophet: circa 840 B.C.
Jonah serves as Prophet: circa 780 B.C.
Hosea serves as Prophet: circa 760 B.C.
Assyria destroys Israel: 725 B.C. (2 Kings 17)

Judah
Judah, the Southern Kingdom: 930 B.C. – 590 B.C.
Joel serves as Prophet: circa 825 B.C.
Amos serves as Prophet: circa 750 B.C.
Micah serves as Prophet: circa 725 B.C.
Isaiah serves as Prophet: circa 690 B.C.
Zephaniah serves as Prophet: circa 640 B.C.
Nahum serves as Prophet: circa 625 B.C.
Habakkuk serves as Prophet: circa 620 B.C.
Ninevah destroyed: 612 B.C.
Jeremiah serves as Prophet: circa 600 B.C.
Babylonian exile: 590 B.C. (2 Kings 25)

After being ruled by judges for 400 years, the nation of Israel only lasted about 165 more years united under one king. The Northern Kingdom of Israel so rebelled against God that it was only another 200 years before the Assyrians destroyed them. The Southern Kingdom of Judah managed to last about 340 years before the Babylonian captivity.

Exile in Babylon
Babylonian Empire: 1984 B.C. – 539 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon: 605 B.C. – 562 B.C.
Daniel taken to Babylon: 605 B.C. (Daniel 1)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego survive the fiery furnace: 595 B.C. (Daniel 3)
Daniel's confrontation with Belshazzar: 539 B.C. (Daniel 5)
Persian Empire: 539 B.C. – 330 B.C.
Cyrus King of Great Persian Empire: 576 B.C. – 530 B.C.
Jews start returning to Jerusalem: 536 B.C.
Temple Rebuilt: 530 B.C. – 515 B.C. (Ezra)
Haggai serves as Prophet: circa 525 B.C.
Zechariah serves as Prophet: circa 525 B.C.
Xerxes (Ahasuerus) King of Persia: 485 B.C. – 465 B.C. (Esther)
Esther becomes Queen: 475 B.C.
Esther saves the Jews: 470 B.C.
Ezra serves as Priest: 460 B.C. – 430 B.C.
Nehemiah Governor of Jerusalem: 460 B.C. – 430 B.C.
Malachi serves as Prophet: circa 440 B.C.

Jeremiah was right—from the fall of Judah to the first refugees returning to Jerusalem was about seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). But the Old Testament timeline doesn't tell the whole story. Not all the Jews left, and there are still small pockets of Jews in such places as Iran and India.

The Intertestamental Period
Alexander the Great reigns in Greece: 336 B.C. – 323 B.C.
Judea ruled by the Greek Empire: 330 B.C. – 308 B.C.
Judea ruled by Egypt: 308 B.C. – 195 B.C.
Judea ruled by Syria: 195 B.C. – 130 B.C.
Maccabean Revolt: 164 B.C. – 63 B.C.
Judea ruled by the Roman Empire: 65 B.C. – 70 A.D.
Julius Caesar rules Roman Empire: 46 B.C. – 44 B.C.
Herod the Great reigns as King of the Jews: 37 B.C. – 4 B.C.
Jesus born: 6-4 B.C.

Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament have much to say about the timeline between Malachi and the birth of John the Baptist. Most of what we can gather from this period comes from the Apocryphal books of 1 and 2 Maccabees as well as secular historical records.


Related Truth:

Why should we read the Old Testament?

Should the Bible be interpreted literally?

Are Bible miracles literal events?

What is the basic timeline of the New Testament?

Is the Bible still relevant today?


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