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     I.  Setting fixed dates


         A.  Sothic cycle:  1,460 year cycle

The Sothic Cycle is based on the rising of the star Sothis.  The Egyptians used a 365-day calendar but never added a “leap day” every four years.  Every year, then, their calendar fell 1/4th of a day behind the solar calendar.  Every 1,460 years (365x4) comprised a Sothic cycle.  During this cycle, the star Sothis would rise on every day of the year until it returned to its original day (July 19).[1]

This is helpful for establishing the dates of the Egyptian Pharaohs (e.g., 1545 as the 9th year of Amenhotep I and 1877 as the 7th year of Senwosret III).[2]

         B.  Assyrian eponym list

A key find in establishing fixed dates for the OT kings was the Assyrian eponym lists from 893-666 BC.  In Assyrian records, every year was named after one of the limmu (a leading Assyrian official).  These eponym lists chronicle key events in the empire for every year.  Especially important is the year named after the limmu, Bur Sagale, in which an eclipse took place.  Because of the fixed rotation of the solar bodies, astronomers have been able to calculate that this eclipse took place on June 15, 763 BC.[3]  This date has become the key to dating events in the OT, because references to Israel and its kings occasionally appear in the Assyrian records.  Working from 763 as a fixed date, scholars have successfully calculated two key absolute dates in Israel’s history.  First, Assyrian annals record that Ahab participated in a battle (the Battle of Qarqar) against Shalmaneser III of Assyria.  This battle occurred in 853.  Second, the black obelisk of Shalmaneser III pictures Jehu kneeling before him (paying tribute).  This obelisk dates to the eighteenth year of Shalmaneser or 841 BC.  These two synchronizations between Israelite and Assyrian history provide the data necessary to assign dates to the regnal years of the other Jewish kings recorded in Scripture.[4]

   II.  Arriving at a date for Abraham


            Note:  From the absolute dates 841 and 853, it is possible to arrive, by a careful computation of the regnal years given in I and II Kings, at 966 as the fourth year of Solomon.

A.     I Kings 6:1:  480 years from fourth year of Solomon to Exodus.  966+480=1446 (Exodus).

B.     Exodus 12:40:  430-year sojourn in Egypt.  1446+430=1876 (Migration to Egypt).

C.     Genesis 47:9:  Jacob was 130 years old at migration to Egypt.  1876+130=2006 (Birth of Jacob).

D.    Genesis 25:26:  Isaac was 60 years old when Jacob was born.  2006+60=2066 (Birth of Isaac).

E.     Gen. 21:5:  Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born.  2066+100=2166 (Birth of Abraham).

  III.  Key OT dates


         A.   2166 BC:  Birth of Abraham

         B.   1876 BC:  Migration of Jacob to Egypt

         C.   1446 BC:  Exodus from Egypt (I Ki. 6:1; Judg. 11:26)

         D.  1010 BC:  David begins his reign

         E.   966 BC:  Fourth year of Solomon (I Ki. 6:1)

         F.   722 BC:  Fall of Northern Kingdom (Samaria) (II Ki. 17)

         G.  586 BC:  Destruction of Jerusalem (II Ki. 25)


[1] Gleason Archer, “The Chronology of the Old Testament,” in vol. 1 of The Expositor's Bible Commentary, p. 360.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Canon of Ptolemy further confirms the accuracy of these Assyrians lists.  J. Barton Payne, “Chronology of the OT,” ZPEB, I:830.

[4] The chronicles of the Chaldaean kings have also greatly assisted in dating with precision the closing years of the Southern Kingdom.

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