JCIM Timeline

by Lisa Liel

What follows is the timeline of the period of the divided monarchy from the death of Solomon and accession of Rehoboam until the 37th year of the exile of Jehoiachin, when Nebuchadnezzar's son and successor Evil-Merodach released Jehoiachin from prison.

As I wrote on the main JCIM page, I am in the process of putting together a complete online edition of the JCIM. In the meantime, however, the following should be enough to make the timeline at least somewhat understandable.

(Note: I have included no sources and made almost no attempt whatsoever to justify conclusions reached. This is only a weak draft and the justifications will follow.)

First, some basics:

Different Counting Systems
Kings in the ancient world reckoned their regnal years according to the beginning of the year. In other words, on the first day of the year, it became the next year of that king's reign.

But it was rare that a king would actually become king on the first day of the year. Thus there were two different ways of dealing with the fraction of a year between the actual accession and the first full year. Either it could be called Year One, and the first full year be called Year Two, or it could be called Year Zero, or the accession year, and the first full year be called Year One.

This last method is called the accession year system, or AYS, and the former method is called the non-accession year system, or NYS. The AYS was the system commonly used in Mesopotamia, while the NYS is also called the Egyptian system, because it was used there.

Different Calendars
Another thing that complicates the chronology of this period is the fact that the kingdoms of North Israel and Judah used different calendars. That this is the case is clear from the reign of Zechariah son of Jeroboam II. Zechariah reigned for 6 months. We are told that he began his reign in the 38th year of the reign of Uzziah king of Judah, and that his reign ended in the 39th year. Thus a new year began in Judah. Had a new year begun in North Israel, Zechariah's reign would have been given either as one year (in the NYS) or two years (in the AYS). The only time it ever made sense to give a reign in terms of weeks or months was if the reign began and ended the same year.

One place where it's clear that the counting system changed is the accession of Ahaziahu of Judah. One verse gives this as the twelfth year of Joram of North Israel, while another gives it as the eleventh year. The latter verse comes after the kingdom of North Israel, which had been founded under the aegis of Egypt, paid tribute to Assyria (an act found in Assyrian records, though not in the Bible). The clear conclusion is that at this time, North Israel switched from the NYS of the Egyptians to the AYS of the Assyrians. Thus, what had been called Joram's twelfth year was now called his eleventh year.

Coregencies
Yet another complication is the existence of coregencies. This happened when a king associated his son and heir with him on the throne. This could happen for a multitude of reasons, and there are mentions, some explicit, some less so, of coregencies during the period of the monarchy in Israel.

Given this, a king's reign might be calculated by some as beginning with his coregency or with his sole reign after the death of his father.

Special Dating Methods
There are times when a special code phrase is used by the author of Chronicles to indicate a count for a king that isn't the same as that king's regnal years. That begins from some other important event.

The code phrase used, which we find not only in Chronicles, but also once in Daniel, is "the kingship of...", rather than "the reign of". In Hebrew, l'malkhut rather than limlokh.

The clearest example of this is in the reign of Asa of Judah, when a war between Asa and Baasha of North Israel is placed in the 36th year of the kingship of Asa. Ten years after Baasha died. Clearly, this counts from some time earlier than the accession of Asa.

The Timeline Itself
The timeline diagram is arranged as follows. Note that there are 3 scales of time. Sabbatical and Jubilee years began in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, approximately September/October. This system ran throughout our period and there are some useful conclusions that may be drawn from certain justapostions of events and Sabbatical years, so I have included this.

Years BCE is fairly self-explanatory. Years LM stands for Liytziyat Mitzrayim, or from the Exodus. This calendar is useful for three reasons:

  1. It begins on Nisan, approximately March/April, which is the calendar used in Judah. Nisan is the month referred to throughout the Bible as "The first month".

  2. It provides a link through I Kings 6:1, which equates Solomon's 4th year with the year 480 from the Exodus, or 480 LM.

  3. It is forward counting, as opposed to the BCE calendar. I have found that this helps immeasurably when working with chronology.
The dates above the scales, in yellow, are those of North Israel. Those beneath, in blue, are those of Judah.

As a simple example, I Kings 15:1 tells us that Abijah son of Rehoboam became king in the 18th year of Jeroboam I of North Israel. I Kings 15:2 tells us that he reigned for 3 years. And I Kings 15:9 tells us that his son Asa became king in the 20th year of Jeroboam I. Mathematically, this doesn't seem to make sense. But as you can see from the timeline, it does.

I hope that will help you to get a basic understanding of the timeline. I hope to have something more complete and cogent up in the not-too-distant future.

I have also prepared a simple table of dates for the kings of Judah and North Israel. This table is available in BCE or LM dates.


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