Patriarchs' Timeline - Pete and Paul

Pete: I am curious as to how you predict a flood date of 2900 BC.             

Paul: From a biblical perspective - I take the length of time between important events, we can then avoid problem areas like adding up the Kings or Judges’ timelines, which may overlap with co-regencies and other factors.            

The general consensus is that Solomon started building the temple in 966 BC. So that's a good place to start. The Septuagint tells us that the exodus happened 440 years before the building of the temple, (1 Kings 6:1). Then, from the promise given to Abraham in the Mesopotamian city of Ur there were 430 years until the exodus occurred. So that gives us the starting date for Abraham's journey. I then work backwards from the start of Abraham’s journey using the patriarchs' ages when their first child was born.              

The 2,900 BC date for the geological flood deposits in Mesopotamia agree with the Bible if we use the Septuagint. So we find that the Septuagint and archaeology concur.           

From a geological perspective:

  • The Sumerian deluge corresponds to flooding at Shuruppak and various other cities, as far north as Kish, the flood layer is radiocarbon dated to 2900 BC.
  • The Sumerian King List places the flood at about 2900 BC.
  • William Hallo, who was a professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature, placed the flood at 2900 BC according to Mesopotamian literature.
  • Pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (3000–2900 BC) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum.
  • Geological flood layers at the cities of Lagsah, Uruk, Shurrupak, Kish and Ur average a date of 2900 BC.
  • Sir Max Mallowan, the prominent British archaeologist, specialising in ancient Middle Eastern history, excavated and put the flood layers he found at 2900 BC.
  • Dr. Helmut Brückner, Department of Geography, University of Marburg said, "It seems that Mesopotamia was subject to a mega-flood around 2900 BC."
  • Excavations have revealed “flood clay” five feet thick at Uruk. Flood deposits seven feet thick are also reported as far northwest as the ancient city of Kish. The artifacts of human life suddenly disappear in the flood layers, but can be found below and above them.

Interestingly: "The Epic of Gilgamesh" was a popular story in Mesopotamia, a number of copies of it have been found around the region. In the story we read that a man named Utnapishtim built an ark in the town of Shuruppak—Utnapishtim means “long-lived.” Josephus tells us that Noah feared being murdered so he and his family moved to a new location. Shuruppak, was a city about 65 miles northwest of Eridu.                    

Pete: In response to your conclusion about the 430 years in Egypt beginning instead at the time of Abraham's promise, here is what Exodus 12:40 says,      

     "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." (KJV)           

The time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. It seems very clear to me. Am I missing something?               

Paul: The Israelites didn’t sojourn in Egypt, they were static - located in Goshen. The 430 years starts from when Abraham left the city of Ur, that’s when Abraham began the journey and when he received the promise - and that’s the point Paul makes in Gal 3:16–18 - "The promises were spoken to Abraham... the law, which came 430 years afterward." (The law was introduced in the third month after the exodus).       

We also ought to note that the Masoretic text does not say, "The sojourning of the children of Israel in Egypt was 430 years." But, "The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt." Meaning the sojourning of the nation, who at that point, were living in Egypt.        

We should note the wording, “the sojourning” of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt; that is, the sojourning of the Israelite nation. The word “sojourning” includes the first journey made by Abraham from the city of Ur, his journeys in Canaan and Egypt, his grandson Jacob’s journey to Paddan Aram in northern Mesopotamia, and the family’s final journey south into Egypt.

As we are told in Psalm 105:10-13: "He confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, 'To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.' When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people."

The “sojourning” included all of these previous journeys, because in Egypt the children of Israel did not sojourn—they were given a location: Goshen. Hence, the Scripture says, “the sojourning of the children of Israel who ‘dwelt’ in Egypt.”

Some Bibles have a footnote for Exodus 12:40 explaining that the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch include Canaan, not only Egypt.

The Septuagint reads,               

     "Now the residence of the sons of Israel during which they dwelt in the land, Egypt, and in the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years" (Exodus 12:40).   

Let us also be careful about the phrase “children of Israel.” This was a name for them as a nation, which included their roots back to Abraham, not only the actual “children” or “offspring” of Israel (or of Jacob as he was also known), because Jacob himself went to Egypt and he can be included in the phrase “children of Israel.” The narrative is telling us that from the time Abraham left his native country and began the sojourning, to the release of his posterity from enslavement in Egypt, totalled 430 years.           

The term “children of Israel” includes the people before Jacob too (i.e., Isaac and Abraham). The NIV translates the term “children of Israel” as the “Israelite people” and the Samaritan Pentateuch states, “the sojourning of the children of Israel and their fathers, who dwelt in Canaan and in Egypt, [was] four hundred and thirty years.” Both of the Jewish Talmuds agree, stating, "in Egypt, and in the rest of the lands.'' The time period of 430 years began from the promise made to Abraham, as the Apostle Paul explains in Galatians 3:17. 

The root of the Hebrew word used for “sojourning” can also be used for “dwellings” or “settlements” so we could think of Exodus 12:40 meaning “The length of time throughout all the places Abraham and his posterity dwelled from when he first set out totalled 430 years.”

The text of Exodus remarks that the Israelites marched out on the “very same day,” - "At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt" (Exodus 12:41), which tells us that Abraham marked that day as special and told his descendants about it too. The date the Israelites left Egypt was 14th Abib (Nisan) 1406 BC, which means that Abraham first started his journey on 14th Abib 1836 BC. (To read a little more on the 430 years see The 430 Years)

Working backwards according to the Septuagint the patriarchal timeline looks like this:               

Solomon begins building the temple 966 BC (Then add the 440 years of 1Kings 6:1).            

Exodus 1406 BC (The law was issued early in the third month after the exodus).          

Gal 3:16–18 informs us that the promise to Abraham came 430 years before the law.               

Abraham received his first promise in the city of Ur. (Gen 12:1) Stephen confirms this in Acts 7:2 -  "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and told him, ‘Leave your country and your kindred and go to the land I will show you.’ So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God brought him out of that place and into this land where you are now living."            

The sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, and Canaan (LXX) was four hundred and thirty years. (Exodus 12:40).                

At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD's divisions left Egypt (Exodus 12:41).

Informing us that Abraham’s journey began on 14th Abib 1836 BC.       

(This is also confirmed by the Lord who said to Abraham, “Know for certain that for 400 years your descendants will be strangers” (Gen 15:13). Starting from the birth of Isaac, who was Sarah and Abraham’s offspring there would be 400 years until Abraham’s descendants were free, which happened at the exodus. Abraham left Haran when he was 75 years old (Gen 12:4) leaving us to conclude that he was 70 when he left the city of Ur. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Giving us 430 years - 30 years from the city of Ur to the birth of Isaac and 400 years from the birth of Isaac to the exodus.)            

Therefore Abraham was born in 1906 BC (He was 70 years old when his journey began.)

Terah was born in 2036 BC (Terah was 130 when Abraham was born.)             

Nahor 2115 BC (Nahor was 79 when he fathered his first son. This figure is taken from the Septuagint “Codex Alexandrinus,” which has the full genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. “Codex Vaticanus,” which is the version of the Septuagint held in the Vatican, has 179 years for Nahor’s age at the birth of his first son.)         

Serug 2245 BC  (130 at birth of son.)               

Reu 2377 BC  (132 at birth of son.)               

Peleg 2507 BC  (130 at birth of son.)               

Eber 2641 BC  (134 at birth of son.)               

Shelah 2771 BC  (130 at birth of son.)               

Arphaxad 2906 BC  (We need to notice that Genesis 11:10 says “Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad.” Arphaxad was 135 at the birth of his son.)               

Flood 2908 BC (Coinciding with the archaeological and geological flood deposits.)                

Shem 3006 BC (Shem was not Noah’s first born - “Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.” (Gen 5:32) [Shem is mentioned first because he is important to the continuing story. He was also in the genetic line to Christ] Arphaxad was born two years after the flood when Shem was 100 so Noah was 502 when Shem was born. Noah was 600 when the flood came. (Gen 7:6) Japheth’s birth preceded Shem’s birth by two years. Japheth is called "the elder" in Genesis 10:21 and Ham is called the "youngest" in Genesis 9:24.)              

Noah 3508 BC  (500 at birth of son.)               

Lamech 3696 BC  (188 at birth of son.)               

Methuselah 3863 BC  (167 at birth of son.)               

Enoch 4028 BC  (165 at birth of son.)               

Jared 4190 BC  (162 at birth of son.)               

Mahalaleel 4355 BC  (165 at birth of son.)               

Cainan 4525 BC  (170 at birth of son.)               

Enosh 4715 BC  (190 at birth of son.)               

Seth 4920 BC  (205 at birth of son.)               

Adam 5150 BC  (230 at birth of son.)               

Archaeologists have found no signs of warfare among the Ubaid culture based in southern Mesopotamia from 5500 BC to 4000 BC. The houses were elaborate but no overt status symbols were found. The people lived a quiet and simple life. The garden that God planted would have taken time to root and grow etc. so there’s a good margin for Yahweh to have been active from around 5500 BC in that area.                

Adam was taken to the garden where he began his job of looking after the trees. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (Gen 2:15).

The Ubaid people designed their rectangular temple buildings to align with the cardinal points of the compass. The earliest temple at Eridu had a simple offering table or altar. Adam’s son Abel offered some of the firstborn of his flock as an offering (perhaps on that table,) which pleased Yahweh. Cain brought some fruit of his crops to offer, which didn’t please Yahweh.

"Abel brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock. And the LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering" (Gen 4:4). In the 1940s archaeologists Fuad Safar and Seton Lloyd, dug down to the earliest level at Eridu which revealed the oldest southern Mesopotamian temple.

The date of 966 BC for the beginning of Solomon's temple seems to work in both directions.

Going backwards in time the date correlates with the archaeological flood stratum of 2,900 BC, plus a number of other events on the way.

Going forward in time from 966 BC, the timeline for Judah's kings also seems to work out. Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem, the deportation of King Jeconiah, and Zedekiah enthroned in his place, and the plundering of the city in 597 BC are written about in the Babylonian Chronicles and in the Bible. If we add up Judah's kings' reigns from Solomon we arrive at 597 BC.