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O.T. CHRONOLOGY]
867
BIBLE

influence. Now one of the kings, who corresponds with Amen-hōtep IV., is Burnaburiash (Burna-buryas), king of Babylon, and Egyptologists and Assyriologists are agreed that the date of these monarchs was c. 1400 B.C. The conquest of Canaan, consequently, could not have taken place till after 1400 B.C. (ii.) It is stated in Ex. i. 11 that the Israelites built in Egypt for the Pharaoh two store-cities, Pithom and Rameses. The excavations of M. Naville have, however, shown that Ramses II. of the 19th dynasty was the builder of Pithom; and though the other city has not at present been certainly identified, its name is sufficient to show that he was its builder likewise. Hence the Pharaoh of the Exodus is commonly supposed to have been Ramses (Rameses) II.’s successor, Merenptah (Mineptah). Egyptian chronology is unfortunately imperfect; but Professor Petrie, who has paid particular attention to the subject, and who assigns the reign of Amen-hōtep IV. to 1383-1365 B.C., assigns Ramses II. to 1300-1234 B.C.[1] In Merenptah’s fifth year the Delta was invaded by a formidable body of Libyans and other foes;[2] and it has been conjectured that the Israelites took the opportunity of escaping during the unsettlement that was thus occasioned.

Alternative dates for Ramses II.: Maspero, The Struggle of the Nations (1897), p. 449, c. 1320-1255; Breasted (1906), 1292-1225; Meyer (1909), 1310-1244. Attempts have been made to identify the Khabiri, who are mentioned often in the Tel el-Amarna letters as foes, threatening to invade Palestine and bring the Egyptian supremacy over it to an end, with the Hebrews. The Exodus, it has been pointed out, might then be placed under Amen-hōtep II. (1448-1420 B.C., Breasted; 1449-1423, Petrie), the successor of Thothmes, and more time would be allowed for the events between the Exodus and the time of David (c. 1000), which, if the date given above be correct, have been thought to be unduly compressed (see Orr in the Expositor, March 1897, p. 161 ff.); but there are difficulties attaching to this view, and it has not been adopted generally by scholars. There may be some ultimate connexion between the Khabiri and the Hebrews; but the Khabiri of the Tel el-Amarna letters cannot be the Hebrews who invaded Canaan under Joshua.

The mention of Israel on the stele of Merenptah, discovered by Petrie in 1896 (“Israel [Ysirael] is desolated; its seed [or fruit] is not”), is too vague and indefinite in its terms to throw any light on the question of the Exodus. The context speaks of places in or near Canaan; and it is possible that the reference is to Israelite clans who either had not gone down into Egypt at all, or had already found their way back to Palestine. See Hogarth’s Authority and Archaeology, pp. 62-65.

2. From the Exodus to the Foundation of the Temple (in the fourth year of Solomon, 1 Kings vi. 1).—In the chronological note, 1 Kings vi. 1, this period is stated to have consisted of 480 (LXX. 440) years. Is this figure correct? If the years of the several periods of oppression and independence mentioned in the Book of Judges (Judges iii. 8, 11, 14, 30, iv. 3, v. 31, vi. 1, viii. 28, ix. 22, x. 2, 3, 8, xii. 7, 9, 11, 14, xiii. 1, xv. 20, xvi. 31) be added up, they will be found to amount to 410 years; to these must be added further, in order to gain the entire period from the Exodus to the foundation of the Temple, the 40 years in the wilderness, x years under Joshua and the elders (Judges ii. 7), the 40 (LXX. 20) years’ judgeship of Eli (1 Sam. iv. 18), the 20 or more years of Samuel (1 Sam. vii. 2, 15), the y years of Saul (the two years of 1 Sam. xiii. 1 [R.V.] seem too few), the 40 years of David (1 Kings ii. 11), and the first four years of Solomon, i.e. 144 + x + y years, in all 554 years, + two unknown periods denoted by x and y—in any case considerably more than the 480 years of 1 Kings vi. 1. This period might no doubt be reduced to 480 years by the supposition, in itself not improbable, that some of the judges were local and contemporaneous; the suggestion has also been made that, as is usual in Oriental chronologies, the years of foreign domination were not counted, the beginning of each judge’s rule being reckoned, not from the victory which brought him into power, but from the death of his predecessor; we should in this case obtain for the period from the Exodus to the foundation of the Temple 440 + x + y years,[3] which if 30 years be assigned conjecturally to Joshua and the elders, and 10 years to Saul, would amount exactly to 480 years. The terms used, however (“and the land had rest forty years,” iii. 11, similarly, iii. 30, v. 31, viii. 28), seem hardly to admit of the latter supposition; and even if they did, it would still be scarcely possible to maintain the correctness of the 480 years: it is difficult to harmonize with what, as we have seen, appears to be the most probable date of the Exodus; it is, moreover, open itself to the suspicion of having been formed artificially, upon the assumption that the period in question consisted of twelve generations,[4] of 40 years each. In the years assigned to the different judges, also, the frequency of the number 40 (which certainly appears to have been regarded by the Hebrews as a round number) is suspicious. On the whole no certain chronology of this period is at present attainable.[5]

3. From the Fourth Year of Solomon to the Captivity of Judah.—During this period the dates are both more abundant, and also, approximately, far more nearly correct, than in any of the earlier periods; nevertheless in details there is still much uncertainty and difficulty. The Books of Kings are a compilation made at about the beginning of the Exile, and one object of the compiler was to give a consecutive and complete chronology of the period embraced in his work. With this purpose in view, he not only notes carefully the length of the reign of each king in both kingdoms, but also (as long as the northern kingdom existed) brings the history of the two kingdoms into relation with one another by equating the commencement of each reign in either kingdom with the year of the reign of the contemporary king in the other kingdom.

The following are examples of the standing formulae used by the compiler for the purpose:—“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Asa to reign over Judah. And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem” (1 Kings xv. 9, 10). “In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah (and reigned) twenty and four years” (ibid. ver. 33).

In these chronological notices the lengths of the reigns were derived, there is every reason to suppose, either from tradition or from the state annals—the “book of the chronicles of Israel” (or “Judah”), so constantly referred to by the compiler as his authority (e.g. 1 Kings xv. 23, 31, xvi. 5); but the “synchronisms”—i.e. the corresponding dates in the contemporary reigns in the other kingdom were derived, it is practically certain, by computation from the lengths of the successive reigns. Now in some cases, perhaps, in the lengths of the reigns themselves, in other cases in the computations based upon them, errors have crept in, which have vitiated more or less the entire chronology of the period. The existence of these errors can be demonstrated in two ways: (1) The chronology of the two kingdoms is not consistent with itself; (2) the dates of various events in the history, which are mentioned also in the Assyrian inscriptions, are in serious disagreement with the dates as fixed by the contemporary Assyrian chronology.

(1) That the chronology of the two kingdoms is inconsistent with itself is readily shown. After the division of the kingdom the first year of Jeroboam in Israel coincides, of course, with the first year of Rehoboam in Judah; and after the death of Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah in battle with Jehu (2 Kings ix. 24, 27), the first year of Jehu in Israel coincides similarly with the first year of Athaliah in Judah; there are thus in the history of the two kingdoms two fixed and certain synchronisms. Now, if the regnal years of the kings of Israel from Jeroboam to Jehoram be added together, they will be found to amount to 98, while if those of the kings of Judah for the same period (viz. from Rehoboam to Ahaziah) be added together, they amount only to 95. This discrepancy, if it stood alone, would not, however, be serious. But when we proceed to add up similarly the regnal years in the two kingdoms from the division after Solomon’s death to the fall of Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 10), we find in the southern kingdom 260 years, and in the northern kingdom only 241 years 7 months. This is a formidable discrepancy. Ussher, in order to remove it, has recourse to the doubtful expedient of artificially lengthening the northern series of years, by assuming (without any authority in the text) an “interregnum of 11 years” after the death of Jeroboam II., and an “anarchy for some years” between Pekah and Hoshea (see the margin of A.V. at 2 Kings xiv. 29; xv. 8, 29).

  1. 1 Petrie, Hist. of Egypt, i. (ed. 5, 1903), p. 251; iii. (1905), p. 2.
  2. See Merenptah’s account of the defeat of these invaders in Maspero, op. cit. pp. 432-437; or in Breasted’s Ancient Records of Egypt (Chicago, 1906), iii. 240-252.
  3. Namely, 40 years in the wilderness; Joshua and the elders (Judges ii. 7), x years; Othniel (iii. 11), 40 years; Ehud (iii. 30), 80 years; Barak (v. 31), 40 years; Gideon (viii. 28), 40 years; Jephthah and five minor judges (x. 2, 3, xii. 7, 9, 11, 14), 76 years; Samson (xvi. 31), 20 years; Eli (1 Sam. iv. 18), 40 years; Samuel (vii. 2), 20 years; Saul, y years; David, 40 years; and Solomon’s first four years—in all 440 + x + y years.
  4. Namely, Moses (in the wilderness), Joshua, Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Eli, Samuel, Saul and David.
  5. The “300 years” of Judges xi. 26 agrees very nearly with the sum of the years (namely, 319) given in the preceding chapters for the successive periods of oppression and independence. The verse occurs in a long insertion (xi. 12-28) in the original narrative; and the figure was most probably arrived at by computation upon the basis of the present chronology of the book.