In our weekly online Bible Study at Spirit of Joy!, taking a big-picture look at the history of the Bible.
As with many things, I could not find exactly the resources I needed and so I made some.
Biblical History – The Timeline
First, the very biggest of big pictures. A look at the whole timeline of Biblical history from creation to the Babylonian exile.
In reading the Bible with people, I ask them to focus on three dates:
- 1000 bce: the rule of David over the United Kingdom
- 722 bce: The Fall of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to the Assyrians
- 590 bce: The Fall of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to the Babylonians
When talking about where the facts of history intersect with the narrative of the Christian Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, these three dates provide convenient way-markers. Much of the Bible can be difficult to pinpoint to an exact historical moment, but these three events have good outside witnesses to help us date them. Having these in place then helps to provide approximate reference to the dates of other significant events.
(Notice that I left a very wide space for the Exodus. The dates of the historical events behind the Biblical account are nebulous, with scholars varying widely on their possible dates. That 200 year window is a good compromise).
The Kings of the United Kingdom, Israel, and Judah
Zooming in, the next chunk is the bulk of the narrative of the Christian Old Testament (Hebrew Bible).
This timeline covers from Saul – the first king anointed by the Prophet Samuel – through to Zedekiah – the last king of Judah before the Babylonian exile.
The dates listed are not meant to be definitive, but to give a point of reference. There is scholarly debate about the whole timeline, as well as with a year plus or minus on the various reigns described below (which is why I really use the three dates listed above as the key markers in the historical timeline).
I’ve tried my best to overlay the approximate ministry of the Hebrew prophets – insofar as we have information about when they might have taken place. In addition, I have provided just a few notes about the events of each king’s (and one queen’s) reign and what was happening in the wider world.
I find especially helpful the “summary judgment” provided by Scripture on each of the rulers.
Note: Throughout, I have relied on the account given in Samuel / Kings, rather than Chronicles.
For a slightly easier-to-read version, you may also download this timeline of the rulers and prophets of Israel and Judah as a pdf