INSIGHT: The Journal of the Prophecy Society of Atlanta Volume 3, Number 3 - September
Harmonized Chronology of the Hebrew Kings
by Dan Bruce
In early 2008, while preparing a Bible commentary on the Book of Daniel, I understood the chronological importance of the fourth chapter of Daniel for determining the year that the United Kingdom of Israel divided into the separate kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south.a From my research in Daniel, I was able to calculate that the division took place in the year 961 BCE, not in 931 BCE, the latter year being the date that has been widely accepted by biblical and secular scholars for almost 150 years as the year of the separation.
In 1867, the British orientalist Sir Henry Rawlinson published a paper containing a major error that has since skewed the chronologies of almost all ancient Mesopotamian cultures, including that of the Hebrew kings.b The error that Rawlinson introduced into academia was an incorrect date for the Bûr-Saggilê eclipse, which was stipulated in the Assyrian Eponym Canon to have occurred in the tenth year of Ashur-dan III.
The eclipse date proposed by Rawlinson was June 15, 763 BCE,c and that date was used by biblical scholars (using references to the reigns of Shalmaneser III of Assyria and Ahab of Israel found on Assyrian inscriptions) to identify 931 BCE as the date that the United Kingdom of Israel fragmented into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. However, Rawlinson identified the wrong eclipse as the Bûr-Saggilê eclipse and thus the date he proposed as the anchor date for Assyrian chronology is incorrect. Consequently, the traditional and widely-accepted year for the beginning of the Hebrew monarchies in Israel and Judah, derived from Rawlinson’s Bûr-Saggilê date, is also incorrect.
With my new understanding of the correct date for the division of the Hebrew kingdoms—knowledge based on my Danielic research and independent of Assyrian chronology—I used the correct date, 961 BCE, as the separation date or anchor date for recalculating the dates for the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, and proceeded to show how those reigns can be synchronized precisely with one another by using the chronological details exactly as given in 1 & 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and the prophets, all done without having to disregard any biblical texts or assume scribal error and/or later emendation of the text.d
The detailed timeline charts showing the harmonized reigns of the Hebrew kings that are displayed on the subsequent pages of this article are graphic images of pages from Chapter Two of my book Sacred Chronology of the Hebrew Kings. (The entire text of the book is available for reading online at no charge, click here and see the explanation that begins in Chapter Two. The book also shows how the harmonized reigns of the Hebrew kings synchronize with the reigns of the kings of the Neo-Asyrian Empire and with the reigns of the pharaohs of Egypt’s 20th through 26th dynasties.)
Note that the following assumptions about regnal accounting practices employed by scribes in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were used for preparing the harmonized kings chronology shown on the pages that follow this introduction:
The kingdom of Israel used regnal years that began on the 1st of Nisan (the first Hebrew month), and the portion of a king’s reign occurring before his initial 1st of Nisan was counted as Year One in his reign (the non-accession-year system).
The kingdom of Judah used regnal years that began on the 1st of Tishri (the seventh Hebrew month), and the portion of a king’s reign occurring before his initial 1st of Tishri was not counted as a numbered year in the king’s reign but was considered to be an unnumbered accession year (the accession-year system).
In both kingdoms there were instances in which a king and his successor co-reigned. The years in the successor king’s co-reign were sometimes included in the total years recorded for his reign, but sometimes not. There is only one long co-reign mentioned in the Bible, that of Amaziah of Judah and his son Uzziah of Judah, and one short co-reign by Uzziah of Judah and his son Jotham of Judah.
The Jewish Seder Olam records a short co-reign by Jehoahaz of Israel and his son Jehoash, and the chronological specifications require a short co-reign by Jotham of Israel and his son Ahaz.
The kingdom of Israel experienced periods in which two claimants for the throne controlled separate parts of the kingdom of Israel at the same time. Omni and Tibni of Israel disputed the throne, as later did Pekahiah and Pekah of Israel.
The kingdom of Israel switched to the accession-year system after 768 BCE, but omitted an accession year in the reign of Pekah since he was a rival king already ruling from Gilead when he usurped the throne in Samaria.
The kingdom of Judah sometimes omitted counting an accession year if there was a less-than-smooth transition from the reign of one king to another.
There is only one way that the reigns will harmonize if none of the biblical data is disregarded or considered inaccurate and if undocumented co-reigns are not employed to make artificial adjustments. After all, the chronological details described in the Bible are describing real events that happened in real time, and they happened in only one way and one way only. The harmonized chronology of the Hebrew kings that results when the above assumptions are applied to the biblical text is displayed in easy-to-read side-by-side format in the timeline tables that are displayed below.
Note that the footnotes shown on each page of the timeline tables are
explained on the table page itself, not in the endnotes to this article.
These endnotes are not referenced to the numbered footnotes used
on the timeline tables, see each table for those references.
a My commentary on the Book of Daniel was originally published by The Prophecy Society under the title Daniel Unsealed (ISBN 978-0-98169-0-8), updated and re-released under the same title (ISBN 978-0-9816912-1-3), and updated again and re-released in 2012 under a new title, Lifting the Veil on the Book of Daniel (ISBN 978-0-9816912-2-0). It is that last edition to which chronological references are made in my recent books and papers. The entire text of Daniel Unsealed is available for reading online at no charge, click here.
b Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, “The Assyrian Canon Verified by the Record of a Solar Eclipse, B.C. 763” (The Athenaeum: Journal of Literature, Science and the Fine Arts; number 2064; May 18, 1867); p. 660-661.
cThe correct date for the Bûr-Saggilê eclipse is June 24, 791 BCE, as explained in the article Reassessing the Bûr-Saggilê Eclipse. In a related article on the same website, the reign of pharaoh Shoshenq I (identified by Champollion as the biblical Shishak) and how my new chronology for the Hebrew kings synchronizes with his inscriptions at Karnak are discussed, see Shoshenq I was (and then wasn’t ) Shishak.
d Edwin R. Thiele, in his groundbreaking book, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983), was forced to disregard portions of and/or assume scribal error in the biblical text of 2 Kings, chapters 17 and 18, in order to make his chronology of the kings harmonize. The authors of all recent harmonization attempts have made the same or similar assumptions, especially with regard to co-reigns, that call into question the accuracy of the biblical text with respect to the Hebrew kings.
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The Prophecy Society of Atlanta publishes books and papers about a widely-neglected topic, sacred chronology, and provides access to Bible-based interpretations of chrono-specific predictive prophecies that you may not have heard explained in your local church or synagogue. When you examine our publications, you will quickly discover that the chronologies and interpretations presented by the Society answer many of the questions left unanswered, or poorly answered, in the study Bibles and biblical commentaries popular today. Our research and its resulting scholarship are centered on the Bible, which we believe is the revealed word of the one true Living God, and it is sustained by the belief that the Bible can be understood by anyone who is genuinely seeking to understand it with an open mind and a seeking heart. We trust that you will find our Bible-based discussions thought-provoking and spiritually enriching. If there is anything you don't understand about our publications, ask us about it. We're here to help you as you seek to understand the mind of God. …read more about us!
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An exposition revealing what the seven chrono-specific predictive prophecies in the Book of Daniel say about the history of the Jews, Jerusalem, and the Anointed One of Israel.
Paperback, 224 pages (6 x 9); ISBN 978-1489505415. (click here)
Sacred Chronology of the Hebrew Kings
A harmony of the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, and how the chronologies and histories of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia synchronize with their reigns.
Paperback, 160 pages (6 x 9); ISBN 978-1489509048. (click here)
Synchronized Chronology of the Ancient Kingdoms of Israel, Judah, Egypt, Assyria, Tyre, and Babylon from 1006 BCE to 560 BCE.
Paperback, 36 pages (8½ x 11); ISBN 978-1489557773. (click here)
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