Formerly, Biblical scholars considered the numbers & history of the Hebrew Kings to be a mass of confused contradictions. Edwin Thiele, in his book, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings harmonized all but 3 of the numbers in 1 & 2 Kings. The prestigious Cambridge Ancient History adopted Thiele’s chronology as “the absolute chronology of Palestine” for the Period of the Divided Kingdom.[i]
This lesson shows how Thiele calculated this “absolute chronology.” This lesson also shows how to reconcile the 3 problems Thiele failed to solve. More important, this lesson presents 87 points of historical synchronism between Bible history and the histories and archaeology of Assyria and Babylonia. The sources for the evidences in this lesson are in the footnotes of your manual.
To present evidence which will confirm the Bible history of Israel’s divided kingdom.
LESSON OBJECTIVES: You will:
- Examine Thiele’s basis for dating the divided kingdom and problems he did not adequately solve.
- Study evidences which serve to confirm Bible history of the divided kingdom.
- Learn of archeological evidence which confirm the Bible history during the captivity to the Persian restoration.
THIELE’S BASIS FOR DATING THE DIVIDED KINGDOM
- Nine Eclipses of the sun in specific years of reign of Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian kings have established astronomically absolute dates for Bible history from Solomon to the Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity. See these dates in Table 21-A of your manual.
- Assyria’s Eponym Calendar calls every year by the name of an important official, permitting scholars to know specifically which year a particular event occurred.
- Ptolemy, the famous astronomer of Egypt of the 2nd century A.D., recorded Babylon’s Nabonassar Era, which specifies exact years of Babylonian kings who reigned before and after the reign of Nabonassar, beginning in 747 B.C.
- Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions record in known B.C. years the names of Hebrew kings and other Biblical people and events.
THIELE USED FIVE FACTORS TO RECONCILE WHAT APPEARED TO BE CONTRADICTORY DATES[ii]
- Spring/Fall Calendars: Thiele proved Judah used a fall calendar beginning in the month of Tishri and that North Israel used a spring calendar beginning in Nisan
- Accession Year Method: Judah used the accession year method, which counted the first year of reign as year zero. New Year’s Day of the next year began Year one.
- Non-Accession Year Method: North Israel used the non-accession year method: the year the king began his reign was called year one.
- Co-Reigns: Kings of both Judah and North Israel often appointed their sons as co-regents to avoid conflict as to which son was the true heir when the father died. Some prophets who recorded 1 & 2 Kings included the years of co-reign in the total reign. Other prophets recorded only the years of sole reign (after the father died).
- Rival Reigns: Links to Assyrian history enabled Thiele to discover that North Israel was divided into two dynasties at one point, reconciling an apparent discrepancy.
- Dual-Dating Linked the beginning of a Judean king to a particular year of reign of a North Israelite king, and vice-versa.
THIELE’S ABSOLUTE DATE IN OLD TESTAMENT CHRONOLOGY[iii]
- Shalmaneser III, an Assyrian king, has been astronomically dated 858 -824 B.C.[iv]
- Shalmaneser III’s encounter with King Ahab fixed 853 B.C. as Ahab’s death.
- Shalmaneser III’s encounter with King Jehu fixed 841 B.C. as Jehu’s 1st year.
- 853 B.C. and 841 B.C. were the anchor dates that enabled Thiele to calculate an absolute chronology for the kings who reigned before and after Ahab and Jehu.
THREE CHRONOLOGICAL PROBLEMS THIELE DID NOT ADEQUATELY SOLVE
- 1 Kings 16:8 says Baasha died in Asa’s 26th In apparent contradiction, 2 Chronicles 16:1 says Baasha fortified Ramah in Asa’s 35th year. Thiele believed this was an error that a later editor created.
- Thiele proved that Baasha died in Asa’s 26th year in 885 B.C., confirming 1 Kings 16:8. However, Thiele failed to see that 2 Chronicles 16:1 says Baasha fortified Ramah in the 35th year of Asa’s reign, not of Asa himself. The Hebrew word for “reign” is malkuth, which Brown, Driver & Briggs defines as “royalty, royal power, reign, kingdom.” Asa’s kingdom or dynasty began when his father Rehoboam inherited the throne from Solomon in 930 B.C.
- Baasha thus fortified Ramah in the 35th year of Asa’s kingdom, which was 895 B.C., 10 years before Asa died in 885 B.C.
- 1 Kings counted the years of Asa’s personal reign and 2 Chronicles counted the years of Asa’s dynasty, reconciling an apparent contradiction.
- 2 Kings 15:30 links Hoshea’s 1st year of reign to the 20th year of Jotham, which is 732 B.C., but 2 Kings 17:1 links Hoshea’s 1st year of reign to Ahaz’s 12th year, which is 724 B.C., an apparent contradiction of 8 years. Thiele attributed the error to a later scribe, who changed the original out of ignorance.
- If Ahaz was appointed co-ruler in Jotham’s 8th year (744 B.C.), then Ahaz’s 12th year of co-reign coincided with Jotham’s 20th year in 732 B.C., and the 8-year contradiction disappears.
- Perhaps Thiele thought that Jotham could not have appointed Ahaz as his co-ruler in his 8th year (744 B.C.) because Jotham was still co-reigning in that year with his father Azariah (called also Uzziah).
- However, 2 Chronicles 26:21 says Azariah (Uzziah) became a leper late in life and retired to a separate house, leaving Jotham as sole ruler.
- If Azariah retired by 744 B.C., then Jotham was free to appoint his son Ahaz as his co-ruler in 744 B.C., making 732 B.C. Ahaz’s 12th year of co-reign, Jotham’s 20th year and Hoshea 1st year, solving the problem.
- 2 Kings 18:1 says that Hezekiah began to reign in the 3rd year of Hoshea, which is fixed by Assyrian history to 729 B.C. However, the same Assyrian records prove that Hezekiah’s 14th year occurred in 701 B.C., dating his 1st year in 715 B.C., an apparent 14-year contradiction with 2 Kings 18:1. Thiele attributed this error also to a scribe who ignorantly revised the original text.
- However, Thiele did not consider a co-reign for Hezekiah. If Ahaz appointed Hezekiah co-ruler at 11 years of age in Ahaz’s 6th year of sole reign (729 B.C.), then Hezekiah began to co-reign in Hoshea’s 3rd year (729 B.C.) as 2 Kings 18:1 says.
- Thus, Hezekiah became co-ruler in 729 B.C. at age 11, and co-reigned for 14 years until Ahaz died in 715 B.C.
- In 715 B.C. Hezekiah became sole ruler and reigned for 29 years. Some prophets count his years of co-reign and others of his sole reign.
- Judah’s kings adopted the practice of appointing co-rulers at a young age. Jotham appointed Ahaz co-ruler when he was 8. Ahaz appointed Hezekiah co-ruler when he was 11. Hezekiah appointed his son Manasseh co-ruler at age 12.[v] Appointing a young son as the official heir to the throne avoided disputes among brothers and allowed the young prince to be trained early for his future work as king. Thus, co-reigns often explain what appear to be contradictory data in the Bible.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL CONFIRMATION OF EARLY DIVIDED KINGDOM.
- In this century many archaeological discoveries have confirmed Biblical events during the period of the early divided kingdom. Some of these discoveries are listed below. Most of the evidence below is taken from an article by Bryant G. Wood on “Biblical Archaeology’s Greatest Achievements.”[vi]
- A recently discovered inscription at Tel Dan, dated from the mid-9th century B.C., mentions “the House of David,”[vii] the first time David’s name has been found.
- 1 Kings 12:28-30 says Jeroboam built a cult center at Dan. Dan was excavated and the cult center was found and dated to the time of Jeroboam.[viii]
- 1 Kings 16:15-18 says King Zimri burned the city of Tirzeh when he was attacked by his own general Omri. Excavation showed that Tirzeh was indeed destroyed by fire in the early 9th century when Zimri reigned.
- Ostraca found at Samaria and dated to the early 8th century record 7 names of clan names of Israel (Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Shemida, Noah and Hoglath), all found in the Bible: Numbers 26:29-34; Joshua 17:2-3.
- Amos 1:1 recorded an earthquake during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah, between the years 792 and 753 B.C. Excavation of Gezer and other 8th century cities show evidences of this earthquake.
- An inscription on a small ivory pomegranate from the mid-eighth century mentions the “house of Yahweh,” a reference to Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.[ix]
- A text in Jordan dated from the mid-8th century records a vision of Balaam that is similar to Numbers 22-24, including the name for God as El-Shaddai.[x]
CONFIRMATION OF BIBLE HISTORY OF OMRI, AHAB AND JEHU
- The Moabite Stone by king Mesha of Moab, confirms the history surrounding kings Ahab and Omri. It is dated c. 850 B.C., shortly after Ahab’s death.
- It gives us the correct Hebrew style of letters for the 9th century.
- It confirms that king Mesha ruled Moab as recorded in 2 Kings 3:4ff, 27.
- It confirms kings Omri and Ahab ruled over Israel (2 Kings 16-22) and that Ahab invaded and controlled the land of Moab (2 Kings 3:4ff).
- It confirms Mesha’s revolt against Israel (1 Kings 16:16-28; 2 Kings 3:4).
- It confirms Moab’s god was Chemosh (Numbers 21:29; I Kings 11:7,33).
- It also mentions the name of Yahweh, God of the Israelites.
- It confirms the names of many Biblical cities and places: the Arnon (Numbers 21:13); Aroer (Joshua 13:16); Ataroth (Numbers 32:34); Baal-meon (Joshua 13:17; Numbers 32:38); Beth-bamoth (Joshua 13:17;), Beth-diblathaim (Jeremiah 48:22); Bezer (Joshua 20:8); Dibon (Numbers 32:34; Joshua 13:17); Horonaim (Isaiah 15:5); Jahaz (Joshua 13:18); Kerioth (Jeremiah 48:24); Kiriathaim (Joshua 13:19); Medeba (Joshua 13:9,16); Nebo (Numbers 32:38; Deut. 34:1.)
- The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III names 5 kings and events recorded in the O.T. His reign is astronomically dated 858-823 B.C.
- He fought Ahab in his 6th year (853 B.C.) confirming 1 Kings 20:1-2.[xi]
- He fought Ben-Hadad (Hadadezer) named in I Kings 20:1-2.[xii]
- He took tribute from king Jehu of Israel (called Omriland = land of king Omri) in his 18th year (841 B.C.).[xiii]
- He inscribed a picture with King Jehu bowing before him.[xiv]
- He defeated Hazael, king of Aram, who fought Jehu (2 Kings 10:31-36).[xv]
CONFIRMATION OF BIBLE HISTORY FROM 745 TO 727 B.C.
- Tiglath-pileser III, another Assyrian king is astronomically dated 745-727 B.C. The Bible names him 4 times: 2 Kings 5:19; I Chronicles 5:6, 26; 2 Chronicles 28:20.
- Tiglath-pileser records 6 names and events found in the Bible.
- 2 Kings 15:19 says Menahem, king of Israel, gave 1,000 talents of silver to king Pul. Tiglath-pileser III reported that he defeated Menahem, king of Israel and Azariah, king of Judah, in 743-742 B.C.[xvi]
- He received tribute from Ahaz,[xvii] confirming 2 Kings 16:5-18; 2 Chronicles 28:16-21
- He replaced Pekah with Hoshea,[xviii] confirming 2 Kings 15:29-30.
- He conquered large parts of Israel (Omriland) in confirmation of 2 Kings 15:29-30 and calls these locations the land of Omri.[xix]
- He defeated Resin of Syria,[xx] fulfilling Isaiah 7:1-8:8; 2 Kings 15:37.
ASSYRIAN CONFIRMATION OF BIBLICAL HISTORY FROM 727 TO 704 B.C.
- 2 Kings 17:3-6 and 18:9-10 say Shalmaneser V conquered N. Israel and destroyed the capital of Samaria. Assyrian records confirm Shalmaneser V’s conquest.[xxi]
- 1 Kings 22:39 and Amos 3:15; 6:4 describe Ahab’s palace of ivory and ivory beds. Excavation of Samaria confirmed its destruction and uncovered many plaques and panels of ivory among its ruins.[xxii]
- 2 Kings 17:24-41 and 18:9-12 report how Assyria carried Israel into Assyrian exile. Assyrian records show that Shalmaneser V died in 722 B.C., the same year he conquered Israel. His son, Sargon II, took his father’s place and records the exact numbers of Israelites that were carried into captivity.[xxiii]
- Sargon II recorded his capture of Ashdod in his 11th year (711/710 B.C.), the same year when Isaiah prophesied that Assyria would conquer Egypt[xxiv] (Isaiah 20:1-4).
CONFIRMATION OF BIBLICAL HISTORY OF HEZEKIAH AND MANASSEH.
- 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:2-4,30 report that Hezekiah prepared for the invasion of Assyria by building the Siloam Tunnel to bring water from the Gihon spring outside the walls into the city at the Pool of Siloam. An inscription found in the tunnel confirms that Hezekiah built it.[xxv]
- Sennacherib, an Assyrian king, who reigned 705-681 B.C., is mentioned by name in 13 different Bible verses.[xxvi] Sennacherib’s records confirm 5 different people and events recorded in the Bible.
- Isaiah 39:44 says Merodach Baladan, a Babylonian king, sent Hezekiah a gift when he was sick (Isaiah 39:44). Sennacherib’s record the existence of Merodach Baladan as contemporary with Hezekiah.[xxvii]
- 2 Kings 18:13-14 says Sennacherib captured all of the fortified cities of Judah, and stopped in Lachish before going to Jerusalem. Records of Sennacherib report the capture of Lachish and 40 other cities of Judah.[xxviii]
- Isaiah 36-38 reports that Sennacherib and his army surrounded Jerusalem and were getting ready to destroy it. Sennacherib wrote in his memoirs that he “encircled Hezekiah like a bird in a cage” in Jerusalem.[xxix]
- Isaiah 37:36-37 reports that God’s angel killed 189,000 Assyrian troops, saving Jerusalem from what seemed certain destruction. Isaiah 10:16 predicted that Assyrian troops would be destroyed by a “wasting disease.” Sennacherib failed to report the loss of his soldiers, but he also did not dishonestly claim to have destroyed Jerusalem and to have captured Hezekiah.
- Isaiah 37:37-38 reports that Sennacherib returned to his palace in Nineveh where two of his sons killed him and fled to the land of Ararat. Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib, confirms that his two brothers killed his father, but he did not know where they fled, whereas Isaiah did.[xxx]
- Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, reigned over Assyria 681-668 B.C. His name is mentioned 3 different times in the Bible: 2 Kings 9:37; Ezra 4:2; Isaiah 37:38.
- Esarhaddon’s own records report he received tribute from Manasseh, which is also recorded in 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 32:33.[xxxi]
- Esarhaddon said he conquered Egypt and Tirhakah, the Ethiopian king of Egypt, as predicted in Isaiah 20:2-6 and as reported in Isaiah 37:9.[xxxii]
- He also boasted great things as described in Isaiah 10:12-16.[xxxiii]
- Ashur-Banipal reigned from 668-632 BC and killed king Tirhakah, whose name appears as the Cushite king of Egypt in 2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9. He also conquered Egypt and appointed new kings over Egypt who gave their allegiance to him, [xxxiv]as predicted in Isaiah 20:2-6.
EVIDENCE FOR BIBLE HISTORY FROM 621 TO 586 B.C.
- An eclipse of the moon on April 22, 621 B.C. dates the 5th year of Nabopolassar King of Babylon, fixing 605 B.C. as Nabopolassar’s 21st and last year.[xxxv]
- Babylonian Records show that in 609 B.C. Ashur-uballit II led a coalition of Egyptian and Assyrian forces against a Babylonian army at Haran on the Euphrates River.[xxxvi] 2 Kings 23:30-35 reported that in the same year of 609 B.C. king Josiah of Jerusalem was killed by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt when he passed through Israel to join the Assyrian forces at Haran (2 Kings 23:30-35).
- Babylonian records show the battle at Haran lasted 3 months, confirming 2 Kings 23:31-35 that says Jehoahaz reigned only 3 months after Josiah died in 609 B.C. and that also says Pharaoh Necho imprisoned Jehoahaz and replaced him with Jehoiakim immediately after his battle at Haran against Babylonia.
- In the spring of 605 B.C., Nabopolassar’s records show that he sent his son, Nebuchadnezzar, to fight Pharaoh Necho at Charchemish.[xxxvii] Egypt was defeated and Nebuchadnezzar went on to conquer all of Hatti-land, which includes all of Syria and Judah to the border of Egypt.[xxxviii]
- Jeremiah 46:2 lists the victory at Charchemish in Jehoiakim’s 4th year in Nisan (spring) years. Daniel 1:1 dates the same war in Jehoiakim’s 3rd year in Tishri (fall) years. The conquest occurred in 605 B.C.
- Nabopolassar died in August, 605 B.C. and Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to become king. Jeremiah 25:1 assigns 605 B.C. to the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar, using non-accession dating of his reign, in complete agreement with the Babylonian records.
- A letter found at Arad refers to the Temple of Yahweh and to the last days of Judah’s kingdom until Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C.[xxxix]
- Seals of Jeremiah’s companions, Jerahmeel, the king’s son (Jeremiah 36:26) and of Berechiah (Baruch), son of Neriah the scribe (Jeremiah 32:12; 36:4), were found by archaeologists and dated to the time of Jeremiah.[xl]
- Babylonian records say Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem a 2nd time March 16, 597 B.C., in his 7th year.[xli] 2 Kings 24:12 says that Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem in his 8th year. The Babylonian and Biblical records are in agreement because Babylon used a spring calendar and Judah used a fall calendar.
- Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem July 18, 586 B.C.[xlii]as recorded in many Biblical records which are recorded in the footnote.[xliii]
BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY TO THE PERSIAN RESTORATION
- 2 Kings 24:12-15 reports Nebuchadnezzar’s making Jehoiachin a prisoner and carrying him to Babylon with 10,000 of his officials and skilled men. Babylonian nation records dated from Nebuchadnezzar’s Years 10 to 35, list daily provisions for “Jehoiachin, king of Judah” and other “men of Judah.”[xliv]
- 2 Kings 25:27-30 says Evil Merodach released Jehoiachin from prison and permitted him to eat in the king’s palace the rest of his life. A Babylonian text names Evil Merodach (Amel-Marduk) as Nebuchadnezzar’s successor in 561 B.C. in confirmation of the Biblical record of his existence.[xlv]
- Daniel 5 names Belshazzar as the last Babylonian king, but Herodotus, the Greek historian, says the last king was Nabonidas. Formerly, scholars thought Daniel was wrong. However, a Persian cylinder was excavated that names Belshazzar as co-ruler with his father. Belshazzar reigned in Babylon as Daniel 5 says, and his father retired to Arabia.[xlvi] Daniel’s knowledge of Belshazzar as co-ruler (Dan.5:7) proves he was an eyewitness of this period of history.
- Ezra 1:1-4 reports that Cyrus conquered Babylon, liberated the Jews and permitted them to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Excavation uncovered the Cylinder of Cyrus which records his liberation of all the slaves of Babylon with permission to return to their lands and rebuild their temples.[xlvii]
THERE ARE NO SELF TEST QUESTIONS FOR THIS LESSON
[i] T.C. Mitchell, “Israel and Judah Until the Revolt of Jehu,” Cambridge Ancient History, 2nd Ed., III.1.445.
[ii] Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, 43-66.
[iii] Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, pp. 67-78.
[iv] Cambridge Ancient History, 2nd Ed., III.1.259.
[v] Thiele, op. cit., p. 64
[vi] Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June, 1995, pp. 33-35.
[vii] David Found at Dan,” Biblical Archaeological Review, Mar./April, 1994.
[viii] “The Remarkable Discoveries at Dan,” Biblical Archaeological Review, Sep’t./Oct., 1981.
[ix] “The Pomegranate Scepter Head,” May/June, 1992, Biblical Archaeological Review.
[x] “Fragments from the Book of Balaam Found at Deir Alla,” Biblical Archaeological Review, Sept/Oct., 1985.
[xi] Ancient Records of Assyria (A.R.) I.611; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 279.
[xii] Ancient Records of Assyria I.563.
[xiii] Ancient Records of Assyria (A.R.) I.590; Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 280-81.
[xiv] Pritchard, Ed., The Ancient Near East in Pictures, p. 122.
[xv] Ancient Records of Assyria, I.575.
[xvi] Ibid., I.770,772,779.
[xvii] Ibid., I.801.
[xviii] Ibid., I.815-16.
[xix] Ibid., I.815-16.
[xx] Ibid., I.772,779.
[xxi] Ibid., I.828.
[xxii] Ibid. and Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past, I.185-188.
[xxiii] Ancient Records of Assyria, II.4,55,99,118.
[xxiv] Ibid., II.29-30.
[xxv] Finnegan, Light From Ancient Past, I.190-191.
[xxvi] 2 Kings 18:13; 19:16, 20, 36; 2 Chronicles 32:1,2,9, 10, 22; Ia. 36:1; 37:17, 21, 37.
[xxvii] Ancient Records of Assyria, II.241.
[xxviii] Ancient Records of Assyria, II.489.
[xxix] Ibid., II.340,327,347.
[xxx] Ibid., II.502.
[xxxi] Ibid., II.690,876.
[xxxii] Ibid., II.556,564,575
[xxxiii] Ibid., II.876.
[xxxiv] Ibid., II.580.
[xxxv] Thiele, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, p. 181.
[xxxvi] Ibid., p. 181; (B.M. 21946).
[xxxvii] Ibid., pp. 183-185
[xxxviii] Ibid., p. 183.
[xxxix] Biblical Archaeological Review, Mar./April, 1987.
[xl] Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June, 1995, pp. 33-35.
[xli] Thiele, op. cit., p. 186
[xlii] Ibid., pp. 187-191)
[xliii] 2 Chron. 36:10-21; 2 Kings 25:2-25; Jer. 32:1; 39:l; 41:1-2; 43:2-7; 52:4-127; Ezek. 24:1-24; 33:21.
[xliv] Pritchard, Ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 308.
[xlv] Ibid., pp. 311-312.
[xlvi] Ibid., p. 309-10, footnote 5.
[xlvii] Ibid., p. 316.