Timeline of Events in the Iron Age

What happened in the Iron Age? Which empires rose and fell? How do these events interact with Bible events? Look here for answers. 

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).

1179 BC – Catastrophic end to many civilians in the Western Mediterranean, including Crete and Mycenae

1046-256 BC – Zhou Dynasty in China

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 by Remus and Romulus, legendary descendants from Troy

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

750 BC – Legendary rape (abduction) of the Sabine women

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.

732 BC – Fall of Damascus

729-686 BC – Hezekiah reigned in Judah.

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.

684-320 BC – Maghada Dynasty in India

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

495-429 BC – Life of Pericles (Greek Ruler)

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.

484-325 BC – Life of Herodotus (Greek historian)

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.

470-399 BC – Life of Socrates (philosopher)

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.

460-395 BC – Life of Thucydides (historian and general)

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).

430 BC – Plague of Athens (recurred 429, 427, 426), a devastating epidemic that killed 1/3 to 2/3 of the population. Typhus, typhoid, and viral hemorrhagic fevers are possible pathogens.

427-347 BC – Life of Plato (philosopher)

Around 425 BC – Ministry of Malachi.

Early fourth century BC – Edom destroyed by the Nabateans, a people from northern Arabia and the southern Levant.

415-413 BC – Disastrous Athenian invasion of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War.

403 BC – Artaxerxes II (403-359 BC) ascended to the Persian throne.

384-322 BC – Life of Aristotle (philosopher)

384-322 BC – Life of Demosthenes (statesman)

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 died in Babylon, his four generals dividing up his empire. This resulted in the Ptolemic Kingdom (Egypt and Palestine), Seleucid Kingdom (Persia, Mesopotamia and Eastern Anatolia), Lysimachid Kingdom (Western Anatolia and Trace) and Antigonid Kingdom (Macedonia).

221-206 BC – Qin Dynasty in China

206 BC – 220 AD – Han Dynasty in China

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).

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Timekeeping in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East

Students of antiquity stumble over important questions. To accept any ancient work such as the Bible as a valid historical document we must understand the basics of daily life in the Bible. It is unfortunate, or exciting depending upon your point of view, that the Bible encompasses over 2,000 years, thousands of square miles and dozens of cultures. Simple questions abound such as “what time of day was Jesus crucified?” While this article will not provide a definitive answer, it will shed light on the question.

Israel

Time was divided into days, weeks, months and years during the Israelite monarchy. During and after the Babylonian exile the Jews adopted the Babylonian system of dividing the daylight period into hours. 

Greece and Babylon

According to the journal of the British Archaeological Association (Volume 38:1882), the Athenians reckoned their day from sunset to sunset and the Babylonians from sunrise to sunrise.

Rome

The 1882 British Archeological Association journal also reported that the Romans measured their day from midnight (medice noctis inclinatio) to midnight. The phrase in Latin suggests “the decline of midnight” or the early morning hours. The second portion of the day was called the gallicinium, or cock-crow, and spoke of the later morning hours until noon. The third portion, the conticuum, was the hottest part of the day in Southern Europe, the hours of silence when men take their rest. The final part, the diluculum, constitute the evening when the day is declining. These portions would be roughly 0001 to 0600 (midnight to 6 AM, 0601 to 1200 (6:01 to 12:00 noon), 1201 to 1800 (12:01 to 6 PM), and 1801 to 2400 (6:01 to midnight). 

Other authorities attest that the Romans, like the Greeks and Jews, divided their day into twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness. While simple, this makes the length of each hour different depending upon latitude and time of year. While light and dark hours are the same all year at the equator, the period of light shortens during the winter and lengthens during the summer, and this change is more pronounced the farther north or south one goes. In Rome, for example, a summer solstice daylight hour would last around 75 minutes and a winter solstice daylight hour about 45 minutes, though the division of each hour into minutes and seconds did not occur until the Middle Ages.

The night watch was divided in three hour segments; the first watch from 1801 to 2100, the second from 2101 to 2400, the third from 2401 to 0300, and the fourth watch from 0301 to 0600. Pity the poor Romans who got stuck with the night watch on 21 December at Hadrian’s Wall!

Romans kept time with a sundial, imported from Sicily in 263 BC, and with a water clock. The sundial divided daylight into 12 equal hours but only measured sunrise, midday and sunset with precision. Courts opened at about the third hour (0900 or 9 AM) and lunch was at midday. After lunch was time for a nap and then return to work from 1600 to 1900. The day was divided in half, with the morning ante meridiem (AM) and the afternoon post meridiem (PM). The water clock was a container with a hole in it that was used to measure time. It controlled speakers’ time in the Senate and timed athletic events.

It seems most likely that the early Roman Empire used sunrise to sunrise, or sunset to sunset as the Greeks and Jews did, early in their history, but later transitioned to the midnight to midnight system. As their armies conquered and they gained a vast empire, it would be harder and harder to maintain, administer, and defend their far flung lands and peoples with inconsistent measures of hours and days.

Bible

Expressions such as “the sixth hour” are found primarily in the New Testament. The authors, all Jewish except for Luke (Hebrews is unknown), could have used the Jewish system (measuring from sunset to sunset or sunrise to sunrise) or the later Roman system (measuring from midnight to midnight). Typically Jews measured from sunrise but the Romans could either measure from midnight or noon. The context and each authors’ routine usage can provide some clues.

Passage

Term

Jewish time

Roman time

Most likely based on context

Matthew 20:3

“third hour”

0900

0300 or 1500

Jewish, because the landowner was going out to hire workers

Matthew 20:5

“sixth and ninth hour”

1200, 1500

0600, 0900 or 1800, 2100

Jewish, because the landowner was continuing to hire workers

Matthew 20:6, 9

“eleventh hour”

1700

1100 or 2300

Jewish, because the landowner was continuing to hire workers

Matthew 27:45-46

“sixth hour”, “ninth hour”

1200, 1500

0600, 0900 or 1800, 2100

Jewish, because the darkness was unusual and prolonged. Darkness early or late in the day is neither.

Mark 15:25

“third hour”

0900

0300 or 1500

Unclear

Mark 15:33-34

“sixth hour”, “ninth hour”

1200, 1500

0600, 0900 or 1800, 2100

Jewish, because the darkness was unusual and prolonged. Darkness early or late in the day is neither.

Luke 23:44

“sixth hour”, “ninth hour

1200, 1500

0600, 0900 or 1800, 2100

Jewish, because the darkness was unusual and prolonged. Darkness early or late in the day is neither.

John 1:39

“tenth hour”

1600

1000 or 2200

Unclear

John 4:6

“sixth hour”

1200

0600 or 1800

Jewish, because Jesus would not be tired from His journey at 0600 and the woman would not be getting water alone at 1800.

John 4:52

“seventh hour”

1300

0700 or 1900

Unclear

Acts 3:1

“ninth hour”

1500

0900 or 2100

Unclear

Acts 10:3, 9

“ninth hour”, “sixth hour”

1500, 1200

0900, 0600 or 2100, 1800

Unclear

Acts 10:30

“ninth hour”

1500

0900 or 2100

Unclear

Acts 23:23

“third hour”

2100

??

Jewish, “3rd hour of the night” suggests after sundown

Conclusion

In the modern world timekeeping has become such a science that fractions of a second matter. All over the globe commerce, war, navigation, research, and even relationships are impacted by the measurement of time. People today think in terms of minutes and seconds, while our ancestors thought in terms of day, fortnights, and seasons.

From this survey it seems clear that the New Testament writers measured time from sunrise (or sunset) rather than from midnight as the Romans later did. Writers of other ancient works used differing ways to measure, but they were all based on natural phenomena. To understand any ancient work, we need to have some understand of the basics of their lives. Time is an important part.  

Hezekiah – an Example of Crisis Leadership

Hezekiah had the same foibles and failings as the rest of us, and that is why his example is worth studying. 

After the golden age of Israel, during the reigns of David and his son Solomon, Israel split apart.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin kept Rehoboam, grandson of David as their king, but the northern ten tribes chose Jeroboam, an Ephraimite.  The subsequent history of Israel is a sad tale of uniformly evil rulers, people unfaithful to the Lord, and near extermination by the Assyrians two hundred years later (721 BC).  The history of Judah is little better, with a few good kings, including Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah and Jotham interspersed with many evil ones.  Judah lasted 135 years longer than Israel but became progressively more wicked and was finally overwhelmed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

Continue reading “Hezekiah – an Example of Crisis Leadership”