Monday, April 30, 2012

What OT History Dates Do I Need to Remember?

Have you ever watched a history documentary on TV and wondered how that historical period lines up with the Bible?  For example, according to The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Tutankhamun (a.k.a. King Tut) reigned from 1336-1327 B.C. What was happening in Israel during that time?

I recently finished teaching an Old Testament Survey course at my church.  Throughout the semester I drilled four dates into the students that they needed to remember.  These are the dates I use as mental pegs to hang all of the events of OT history.  By rememebering these four dates, you can place almost any story in the Old Testament within a hundred years or so of when it occurred.  Here they are:

     Abraham:  2000 B.C.

     Exodus:  1446 B.C.

     David:  1000 B.C.

     Exile:  586 B.C.

Abaham actually lived from approximately 2166-1991 B.C., but 2000 is a nice round number.  David actually reigned from 1011-971 B.C., but 1000 B.C. is easier to remember.  The other 2 dates are more precise.  For the date of the Exodus, I hold to what scholars call an "early date": 1446 B.C.  And for the Exile, the most significant event was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

So out of all the dates in the Old Testament, these are the four that you should commit to memory.  As I said above, using these four dates you can get in the ballpark of almost any event in the Old Testament.  Some examples ...

- Joseph going to Egypt: since he was the great-grandson of Abraham (2000 B.C.) it must have been around 1900 B.C.

- Joshua conquering Jericho: since this was during the Conquest, it was about 40 years after the Exodus (1446 B.C.) so it was around 1400 B.C.

- Gideon fighting the Midianites: this was during the period of the Judges, so sometime between 1446 and 1000 B.C. ... maybe around 1200 or 1100 B.C.

- David & Goliath: that's an easy one ... a few decades before 1000 B.C. when David was king.

-Ahab & Elijah: sometime between David (1000 B.C.) and the Exile (586 B.C.) ... More precisely Ahab reigned in the ninth century, from about 875 to 850 B.C.

- Jeremiah's writings: another easy one ... since he wrote during the fall of Jerusalem, it must have been around 586 B.C.

- Ezra & Nehemiah: they lived after the Exile had ended.  The year 586 B.C. was around the beginning of the Exile, so you know their stories happen a few decades later.

So what Old Testament dates do I really need to remember?  2000 (Abraham), 1446 (Exodus), 1000 (David), and 586 (Exile).  If you can remember those, you hold the keys to dating everything else.

Returning to our original question, what was happening in Israel during the reign of King Tut in 1336-1327 B.C.?  ... Why don't you tell me?  ;-)

For you overachievers, you can add one more helpful date to this list: 722 B.C.  This is the date of the destruction of Samaria and the exile of the northern kingdom of Israel.  (The date 586 B.C. refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah.)  The date 722 B.C. helps split up the dense history of the monarchy period: if the event involves the northern kingdom, then you know it happened sometime between David (1000 B.C.) and the end of the northern kingdom (722 B.C.)