Determining where we are in the biblical time line from creation is not easy. However, it can be done if we look at ALL the relevant Scriptures before arriving at a conclusion. To get started, let’s establish the beginning of our time line based on the chronology given in Genesis:
|Adam's creation to Seth's birth||130 years||Gen. 5:3||130 AM|
|Seth's birth to Enosh's birth||105 years||Gen. 5:6||235 AM|
|Enosh's birth to Cainan's birth||90 years||Gen. 5:9||325 AM|
|Cainan's birth to Mahalaleel's birth||70 years||Gen. 5:12||395 AM|
|Mahalaleel's birth to Jared's birth||65 years||Gen. 5:15||460 AM|
|Jared's birth to Enoch's birth||162 years||Gen. 5:18||622 AM|
|Enoch's birth to Methuselah's birth||65 years||Gen. 5:21||687 AM|
|Methuselah's birth to Lamech's birth||187 years||Gen. 5:25||874 AM|
|Lamech's birth to Noah's birth||182 years||Gen. 5:28-29||1056 AM|
|Noah's birth to the Flood||600 years||Gen. 7:6||1656 AM|
|Flood to Arphaxad's birth||2 years||Gen. 11:10||1658 AM|
|Arphaxad's birth to Salah's birth||35 years||Gen. 11:12||1693 AM|
|Salah's birth to Eber's birth||30 years||Gen. 11:14||1723 AM|
|Eber's birth to Peleg's birth||34 years||Gen. 11:16||1757 AM|
|Peleg's birth to Reu's birth||30 years||Gen. 11:18||1787 AM|
|Reu's birth to Serug's birth||32 years||Gen. 11:20||1819 AM|
|Serug's birth to Nahor's birth||30 years||Gen. 11:22||1849 AM|
|Nahor's birth to Terah's birth||29 years||Gen. 11:24||1878 AM|
|Terah's birth to Abram's birth||70 years||Gen. 11:26||1948 AM|
AM = Anno Mundi - "Year of the World" (from creation)
As you can see from the chart above, Abram was born in the year 1948 AM (not coincidentally, the modern nation of Israel, composed of Abraham's descendants, was reborn in the year 1948 CE).
GALATIANS 3:16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. (NKJV)
In Galatians 3:17, Paul tells us that from the establishment of God's covenant with Abraham until the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, 430 years elapsed. Genesis 12:1-3 shows us this initial covenant:
GENESIS 12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (NKJV)
When was this covenant established? Most would answer that it was established when Abram was 75 years old. This would be an incorrect deduction, however. Elsewhere the Scriptures show that God brought Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees BEFORE he brought him out of Haran (Gen. 11:31; 15:7; Neh. 9:7).
Stephen confirms this fact in his discourse before the Sanhedrin:
ACTS 7:2 And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, BEFORE he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.'" (NKJV)
So how do we determine how long Abram was in Haran after God made the covenant with him? Genesis 15 gives us the answer:
GENESIS 15:13 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age." (NKJV)
According to the cantillation signs placed in the Hebrew text of Genesis 15:13 by the scribes, the phrase "400 years" refers back to the words, "your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs." The years of Abraham's offspring being strangers in a strange land BEGAN with the birth of Isaac (2048 AM), NOT with the Egyptian enslavement. Therefore the text ought to be understood as follows: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs . . . 400 years." Adding 400 years to the date of Isaac's birth brings us to 2448 AM, which is the year of the Exodus and the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai.
The 30-year difference in the number of years mentioned by Paul in Galatians 3:17 and the number of years specified to Abram by God is due to two different starting points for the same ending point. God's first recorded covenant with Abram (Gen. 12:1-3) was instituted 430 years before the Law was given on Mount Sinai, while Genesis 15:13 refers to 400 years between the birth of Abraham's chosen offspring, Isaac, and the Exodus from Egypt. This means that God made that first covenant with Abram in 2018 AM, 30 years before Isaac was born. Genesis 12:4 tells us that Abram left Haran at the age of 75, which would have been in 2023 AM. The covenant of the pieces (Gen. 15) was probably made ten years later in the year 2033 AM, just before the birth of Ishmael in 2034 AM.
However, because of a statement made by Stephen, many think that Abram didn't leave Haran until after his father died:
ACTS 7:4 "Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell." (NKJV)
Based on the biblical chronology shown above, we know that Terah was born in 1878 AM. Genesis 11:32 tells us that Terah lived 205 years. So simple math establishes that Terah didn't physically die until 2083 AM (35 years AFTER the birth of Isaac). There is no way to reconcile Stephen's statement if we apply it to Terah's physical death. Therefore, unless we assume (incorrectly) that Stephen was mistaken, we have to realize that he was referring to Terah's spiritual death, not his physical death.
Many times the Scriptures speak of the living as being dead because of sin (Rom. 6:13; Col. 2:13; Eph. 2:1, 5; I Tim. 5:6; I John 3:14; I Pet. 4:6; Rev. 3:1). We know that Terah worshiped other gods (Jos. 24:2). Clearly Stephen was referring to Terah's spiritual state, not his physical state, when he mentioned his death.
Exodus 12:40-41 tells us the very day that God first made His covenant with Abram:
EXODUS 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years – ON THAT VERY SAME DAY – it came to pass that all the armies of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. (NKJV)
The Bible tells us that the Israelites started their trek out of Egypt on the 15th of the month of Abib (Num. 33:3). Therefore, we know that 430 years earlier, on 15 Abib (or Nisan), God first told Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and promised to bless him if he did.
Some argue that Exodus 12:40-41 shows conclusively that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 430 years. However, the focus of these verses is the SOJOURN of the children of Israel. Literally, this sojourn began when Abraham left Ur at the age of 70.
It is easy to prove from the Bible itself that the period of time that the Israelites dwelt in Egypt was not 400 or 430 years:
GENESIS 46:2 Then God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night, and said, "Jacob, Jacob!" And he said, "Here I am." 3 So He said, "I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. 4 I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes." 5 Then Jacob arose from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried their father Jacob, their little ones, and their wives, in the carts which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 So they took their livestock and their goods, which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to Egypt, Jacob and all his descendants with him. 7 His sons and his sons' sons, his daughters and his sons' daughters, and all his descendants he brought with him to Egypt. 8 Now these were the names of the children of Israel, Jacob and his sons, who went to Egypt: Reuben was Jacob's firstborn. . . . 11 The sons of Levi were Gershon, KOHATH, and Merari. (NKJV)
We see that when Jacob and his descendants left Canaan to move to Egypt, his son Levi and his grandson Kohath were among those who made the journey. After arriving in Egypt, Kohath had a son named Amram (Exo. 6:18). In turn, Amram had a son named Moses (Exo. 6:20). Moses was 80 years old when the Exodus took place (Exo. 7:7).
To find the MAXIMUM possible time between the Israelites move to Egypt and the Exodus, we will make some assumptions. We are told that Kohath lived to be 133 years old (Exo. 6:18), and Amram lived to be 137 years old (Exo. 6:20). Let's assume that Kohath had just been born when Jacob and Levi his father moved to Egypt. We will also assume that Amram had Moses in the last year of his life. To these two life spans, we will add Moses' age at the Exodus (80):
Kohath lived 133 years (Exo. 6:18)
Amram lived 137 years (Exo. 6:20)
Age of Moses at the Exodus was 80 years (Exo. 7:7)
TOTAL – 133 + 137 + 80 = 350
The maximum possible time for the sojourn is only 350 years. We see that the biblical chronology does not allow for 430 or 400 years in Egypt. Therefore, the 400 years of Genesis 15:13 must be a reference to something else. As demonstrated above, it is referring to the period of time between the birth of Isaac and the Exodus from Egypt. Now let’s go back to the year of Isaac's birth and work our way forward on the time line.
|Abram's birth to Isaac's birth||100 years||Gen. 21:5||2048 AM|
|Isaac's birth to the Exodus||400 years||Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6||2448 AM|
|Exodus to the beginning of Solomon’s Temple||480 years||1 Kings 6:1||2928 AM|
|Beginning of Solomon’s Temple to the completion of his house||20 years||1 Kings 9:10; 2 Chr. 8:1||2948 AM|
An interesting thing happened after Solomon completed the Temple in seven years (1 Kings 6:38) and then his own house in 13 years (1 Kings 7:1). God once again appeared to him and told him the penalty for future disobedience:
1 KINGS 9:1 And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD and the king's house, and all Solomon's desire which he wanted to do, 2 that the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 And the LORD said to him: "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 4 Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, 5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, 'You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.' 6 But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?' 9 Then they will answer, 'Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the LORD has brought all this calamity on them.' " (NKJV)
In the Ezekiel, we see a prophecy which speaks of the destruction of both the first Temple and second Temple in Jerusalem:
EZEKIEL 4:1 "You also, son of man, take a clay tablet and lay it before you, and portray on it a city, Jerusalem. 2 Lay siege against it, build a siege wall against it, and heap up a mound against it; set camps against it also, and place battering rams against it all around. 3 Moreover take for yourself an iron plate, and set it as an iron wall between you and the city. Set your face against it, and it shall be besieged, and you shall lay siege against it. This will be a sign to the House of Israel. 4 Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the House of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. 5 For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, 390 days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the House of Israel. 6 And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the House of Judah 40 days. I have laid on you a day for each year. 7 Therefore you shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem; your arm shall be uncovered, and you shall prophesy against it." (NKJV)
What is the meaning of these actions that God commanded Ezekiel to perform? An understanding of the symbolism and the time periods portrayed gives us valuable chronological information related to the biblical time line.
This prophecy was given in the 5th year of the captivity of King Jehoiachin of Judah (Eze. 1:2). The final siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the city (including Solomon’s Temple) by the Babylonians was still several years in the future.
First, let's identify the specifics given to us in the prophecy:
The focus of this prophecy given to Ezekiel was two future sieges of the city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel was told to portray through his actions two different periods of time (390 years and 40 years). It was during these time periods that the events which would bring about those sieges of Jerusalem would take place.
How do we know what these time periods represent? First, we have to determine a starting point. What better starting point for the countdown to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple than God’s personal warning to Solomon regarding the future destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple as punishment for disobedience (1 Kings 9:1-9)?
Secular history tells us that the destruction of Jerusalem and the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon took place in 586 BCE (interestingly, the gematria of ירושלם "Jerusalem" in Hebrew equals 586). If we add 390 years to the date of God’s warning to Solomon regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (2948 AM), we see that Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 3338 AM.
In agreement with the creation date we calculated above, rabbinic sources generally place the destruction of the first Temple in the creation year 3338 AM. When synchronized with secular history, it becomes clear that the Jewish calendar in common usage has a period of approximately 163 years omitted.
Having identified the creation year 3338 AM with the Roman year 586 BCE, we now are able to synchronize the creation calendar to our commonly used Roman calendar:
|Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem/the Temple||587/586 BCE||3338 AM|
|Second Temple completed||517/516 BCE||3408 AM|
|Artaxerxes’ commission to Ezra to rebuild Jerusalem||458/457 BCE||3467 AM|
|Nehemiah appointed governor of Judah by Artaxerxes||445/444 BCE||3480 AM|
|Daniel’s seven weeks of years completed||410/409 BCE||3515 AM|
|Antiochus Epiphanes desecrates Second Temple||168/167 BCE||3757 AM|
|Judas Maccabee recaptures & cleanses Second Temple||165/164 BCE||3760 AM|
|Yeshua's birth||5/4 BCE||3920 AM|
|Tiberius begins co-rule with Augustus Caesar||12/13 CE||3936 AM|
|Yeshua begins his ministry||26/27 CE||3950 AM|
|Yeshua crucified and resurrected||29/30 CE||3953 AM|
|Destruction of the Second Temple||69/70 CE||3993 AM|
|Birth of the modern State of Israel||1947/1948 CE||5871 AM|
|Six-Day War & Recapture of the Temple Mount||1966/1967 CE||5890 AM|
|Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty||1978/1979 CE||5902 AM|
|Oslo Peace Accord||1992/1993 CE||5916 AM|
|Palestinian Al-Aqsa Intifada begins||1999/2000 CE||5923 AM|
We are currently in the creation year 5934 AM (2010/2011 CE), which is 5771 on the Jewish calendar.
Bryan T. Huie
October 24, 2009