This morning in Sunday School I was describing the background of the feast of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. In order to fully understand what this story, and what all Bible stories mean, we must understand the social, political, and cultural context. However it was hard for many in my class to remember and properly order each event so that they could grasp the full meaning of the passage. As a result, I promised to write and post a timeline of people and events that pertain to the eight centuries before Christ.
Keep in mind that these dates, specifically the dates of the reigns of kings, are approximate. Ancient chroniclers reckoned events by when they occurred in a sovereign’s reign (cf. Isaiah 6:1).
854 BC – King Ahab of Israel (869-850 BC) allied with Hadadezer of Syria and ten other kings held off at attack by Shalmaneser III, King of Assyria (858-824 BC), at the Battle of Qarqar.
841 BC – The Assyrians campaigned against Israel, forcing King Jehu (841-815 BC) to pay tribute.
810-782 BC – King Adad-Nirari III of Assyria claimed tribute from Israel.
798-782 BC – Jehoash reigned in Israel
796-767 BC – Amaziah reigned in Judah
793-753 BC – Jeroboam II reigned in Israel.
790-739 BC – Uzziah (Azariah) reigned in Judah (coregency with his father at first)
790 BC – Ministry of the prophet Jonah
782-746 BC – Shalmaneser IV reigned in Assyria
Around 782-745 BC – Ministry of the prophet Jonah. Assyria was at war with the powerful kingdom of Urartu (Van), allied with Mannai and Madai.
Around 767-752 BC – Ministry of the prophet Amos
753 BC – Rome founded
753-752 BC – Zechariah and Shallum ruled in Israel
752-732 BC – Pekah reigned in Israel
752-742 BC – Menahem reigned in Israel
750-731 BC – Jotham reigned in Judah
Around 750-715 BC – Ministry of the prophet Hosea.
Around 750-722 BC – Ministry of the prophet Micah.
742-740 BC – Pekahiah reigned in Israel
Around 740 BC – Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC) was king of Assyria and invaded Israel, requiring tribute from Menahem (752-732 BC). He later invaded Judah and received tribute from King Ahaz (735-715 BC).
735-715 BC – Ahaz reigned in Judah.
732-722 BC – Hoshea reigned in Israel.
729-686 BC – Hezekiah reigned in Judah.
732 BC – Fall of Damascus
728 BC – 25th Dynasty in Egypt founded under Piye
722 BC – Assyria under Shalmaneser V (727-722 BC) besieged the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Ahaz of Judah paid tribute to Assyria.
721 BC – King Sargon II of Assyria (721-705 BC) conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, and carried the people into exile.
718 BC – King Canduales of Lydia was murdered by Gyges, a courtier and probably a freed slave. Gyges then became King of Lydia.
717 BC – Assyria attacked Phoenicia and besieged Tyre but failed to conquer it.
703 BC – Hezekiah King of Judah (728-687 BC), stopped paying tribute to Assyria, thus launching a rebellion against Sennacherib (705-681 BC).
701 BC – Assyrian army under Sennacherib conquered Lachish and besieged Jerusalem.
701 BC – King Hezekiah of Judah humbled himself and God delivered Jerusalem, wiping out the Assyrians.
697-642 BC – Manasseh reigned in Judah.
681-669 BC – Esarhaddon reigned in Assyria
669-633 BC – Ashurbanipal reigned in Assyria.
663 BC – Fall of Thebes
660 BC – Zoroaster (c 660- c 583 BC), founder of the Persian religion Zoroastrianism, was born.
652-626 BC – Ministry of the prophet Nahum.
Around 650 BC – Manasseh, the wicked king of Judah and son of Hezekiah, was captured by the Assyrians and carried away. While there he repented and sought God.
643 BC – Manasseh died and was succeeded by his son Amon.
642-641 BC – Amon reigned in Judah.
641 BC – Amon was assassinated and succeeded by his son, the good king Josiah (640-609 BC).
640-609 BC – Josiah reigned in Judah.
627-621 BC – Ministry of the prophet Zephaniah.
627-580 BC – Ministry of the prophet Jeremiah.
626-616 BC – Babylonian army under Nabopolassar (626-605 BC) and his son Nebuchadnezzar (605-562) achieved Babylonian independence from Assyria.
626-590 BC – Ministry of the prophet Habakkuk.
612 BC – Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, fell to Nabopolassar and the Babylonians.
609 BC – King Josiah died fighting against the Egyptians under Pharaoh Neco in the Battle of Megiddo.
609 BC – Pharaoh Neco installed Jehoahaz, then Jehoiakim as King of Judah.
605 BC – Nabopolassar died. At the Battle of Carchemish, Babylon defeated Assyria and Egypt (Pharaoh Neco).
605 BC – First exile of the Jews, including Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, to Babylon.
605-535 BC – Ministry of the prophet Daniel.
598 BC – Nebuchadnezzar installed Jehoiachin as King of Judah.
600 BC – Approximate time for the ministry of Hosea.
598-597 BC – Jehoiachin reigned in Judah.
596 BC – Revolt of Judah under Jehoiachin. Babylonians defeated the Jews and installed Zedekiah as king.
597-586 BC – Zedekiah reigned in Judah.
593-570 BC – Ministry of the prophet Ezekiel.
587 BC – Revolt of Zedekiah, Jerusalem and temple destroyed. Most of the inhabitants of the land were taken away.
586 BC – Remnants of the people in Judah killed the Babylonian governor Gedeliah, kidnapped Jeremiah, and fled to Egypt.
585 BC – Solar eclipse – key event from which other events were dated.
Around 586? – Early exilic period – Obadiah ministered and wrote his book.
584-564 BC – Moab, which had attacked Judah during Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion (2 Kings 24:2), resisted Babylon and was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
563 BC – Nebuchadnezzar died
560 BC – Evil-Merodach, son of Nebuchanezzar, assassinated in a conspiracy led by Neriglissar
560 BC – Croesus became king of Lydia, a large kingdom in present day western Turkey.
556 BC – Neriglissar died
556 BC – Labashi-Marduk, son of Neriglissar, ascended to the throne of Babylon.
556 BC – Nabonidus, a wealthy merchant in Babylon, led a rebellion against Labashi-Marduk, seized power and assassinated the king.
551 BC – Confucius (551-479 BC) was born
546 BC – Croesus King of Lydia was defeated by Cyrus the Persian and his empire was destroyed. Nabonidus had allied with Croesus, and so Cyrus attacked him
540-539 BC – Cyrus (539-530) defeated the Babylonians at the Battle of Osis and Nabonidus fled south.
539 BC – Cyrus conquered Babylon and killed the king, Belshazzar (29 October).
538 BC – Cyrus issued his proclamation for Jews to return home (Ezra 1:1).
538-537 BC – Many of the Jewish exiles returned to Palestine. Temple rebuilding began.
538-518 BC – Assuming that Daniel wrote the Book of Daniel and that he finished it shortly before his death in the early part of Cyrus I’s reign, it must have been written in this period.
Around 530 BC – Many factors including resistance from neighbors caused the rebuilding of the Temple to stop.
530 BC – Cyrus the Great was killed while fighting against the Massagetae, a nomadic tribe in Central Asia related to the Scythians, along the Jaxartes River (modern Syr Darya).
Late sixth century to early fifth century BC – Probable writing of the Book of Joel.
529 BC – Cambyses (530-522 BC) ruled Persia.
528 BC – Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC) founded Buddhism.
525 BC – Persian forces under Cambyses conquered Egypt.
522 BC – After some political intrigue, Darius I (522-486) ascended to the throne of Persia.
520 BC – Haggai’s first message (August), second message (October), third and fourth messages (December)
520 BC – Zechariah’s ministry began (November)
520 BC – Temple construction resumed.
519 BC – Zechariah’s eight night visions (February)
516/15 BC – Temple in Jerusalem rebuilt under Zerubbabel (Ezra 6:15).
512 BC – Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) wrote the Art of War.
510 BC – Establishment of the Roman Republic
490 BC – In the Battle of Marathon, Darius 1 (the Great, 550-486 BC) of Persia was defeated by the Athenians and Plateans.
485 BC – Xerxes 1 (The Great, 485-465 BC) became king over Persia. He is known as Ahasuerus in the book of Esther.
480 BC – Xerxes 1 invaded Greece with a large army, winning at the Battle of Thermopylae and losing decisively at the Battle of Salamis. Xerxes returned to Susa and left his general Mardonius in command of the Persian army in Greece.
After 480 BC – Zechariah’s final prophecy
479 BC – Mardonius was crushed by the Greeks in the Battle of Platea and the Battle of Mycale. The Persian Army limped home, a shadow of its former self.
479-465 BC – Likely period during which the events in the Book of Esther occurred.
475-450 BC – Ministry of the prophet Malachi.
465 BC – Xerxes (As mentioned in the Book of Esther was assassinated, and after some intrigue, his son Artaxerxes succeeded him.
464 BC – Artaxerxes I (464-424 BC) became ruler over Persia.
458 BC – Ezra led a group of Jewish exiles back to Judah and wrote the Book of Ezra, recounting the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel.
450-300 BC – Most likely date range for the writing of the Book of Esther.
449 BC – Herodotus completed his History, covering the Persian wars.
445 BC – Nehemiah led a group of exiled Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.
431-404 BC – The Peloponnesian War between the Athenian empire and the Peloponnesian League (including Sparta).
Around 425 – Ministry of Malachi.
Early fourth century BC – Edom destroyed by the Nabateans, a people from northern Arabia and the southern Levant.
403 BC – Artaxerxes II (403-359 BC) ascended to the Persian throne.
358 BC – Artaxerxes III (358-337 BC) became ruler of Persia.
331 BC – Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) crushed Darius the Persian for the final time at the Battle of Gaugamela, destroying the Achaemenid Empire and extending his borders from Macedonia to India.
323 BC – Alexander’s four generals divided up his empire, resulting the Ptolemic Kingdom (Egypt and Palestine), Seleucid Kingdom (Persia, Mesopotamia and Eastern Anatolia), Lysimachid Kingdom (Western Anatolia and Trace) and Antigonid Kingdom (Macedonia).
198 BC – Antiochus III (The Great) of the Seleucid Kingdom defeated the Ptolemiac forces at the Battle of Panium, wresting Palestine from Egyptian control.
168 BC – Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, prompting a revolt. Later he massacred Jews in Judah.
164 BC – The Maccabees rebelled against the Seleucids, throwing off their rule and founding the Hasmonean Dynasty which reigned in Palestine until the Roman conquest.
63 BC – Roman forces intervened in a Hasmonean Civil War and captured Jerusalem, making Judah a client state.
37 BC – After Jerusalem passed back and forth between Parthian and Roman rulers, Rome finally secured it and the Idumean Herod the Great became “King of the Jews”.
4-6 BC – Jesus was born.
Please use this as a reference when trying to understand the history of the Ancient Near East in the seven centuries before Christ. This information came from several references, including The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 1899-1983) and Annals of the World by Irish Archbishop Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656).