The Chronology of the Pentateuch (Part 3)

8. The Table of Nations

If we assume births every two years, and about 30 years between generations (cp. Gen. 11:12-24), we can come up with an approximate series of dates for the generations recorded in Genesis 10. We shall assume that all three of Noah’s sons had their firstborn sons two years after the Flood (cp. Gen. 11:10). See the Table.

9. Abram in Canaan and Egypt

Abram entered Canaan in am 2083. We are not told how long he dwelt in Canaan before his descent into Egypt, but I suggest two years. My reason is almost purely aesthetic and theological: it means that Abram’s exodus from Egypt happened in the third year, as did his separation from Lot. Often in the Bible a preliminary judgment is rendered on the third day or in the third year, and thus it is reasonable to suggest that the same thing happened here. We do read in Genesis 12:4 that Abram was 75 when he left Haran. He spent a little time at Shechem (v. 6). Then he pitched his tent at Bethel (v. 8), a statement that indicates a somewhat longer sojourn. After a time, he moved into the Negev (v. 9). Then there was a famine in the land. Abram moved into Egypt, was celebrated as a sheik, and received many gifts. Then God struck the Egyptians with plagues. All of this indicates to me a time of about 2-3 years.

Now, what is interesting is that if Abram’s exodus from Egypt came in the third year, am 2086, this is 430 years after the Flood. The 430 years of “bondage” in Egypt begin with Abram’s arrival in Canaan, as we have seen, so that there would be a three-year overlap of these two 430-year periods. Since the Hebrews’ migration into Goshen happened exactly in the middle of the 430 years of “bondage in Egypt,” it strikes me as aesthetically appropriate to put the fall of the nations at the tower of Babel exactly in the middle of the 430 years from the Flood to Abram’s third year in Canaan. That is why I put the tower of Babel in am 1871. This date for Babel is late enough for Joktan and his clans to be involved, but early enough for the two civilizations of Ur and Egypt to have developed to the point they seem to have at the time of Abram.

If I am correct, then most likely the war of the kings recorded in Genesis 14 happened right after Abram’s exodus from Egypt, as did God’s making covenant with him in Genesis 15 (which followed the war of Genesis 14 immediately). We notice that in Genesis 15 Abram was commanded to slaughter animals that were 3 years old. The death and resurrection of these animals signifies that from that time forth God would tie Abram to the land. This indicates to me that he had been in the land for 3 years.

But the reader should be aware that my suggestion that Abram’s exodus from Egypt happened in the third year of his sojourn in Canaan is somewhat speculative (though I think pretty well grounded in the text and in Biblical theology), and my date for the tower of Babel is purely speculative, though approximately correct.

10. The Chronological Structure of Abraham’s Life

Abraham was born in 2008. He received his call from God to leave Haran at age 75, in 2083 (Gen. 11:32; 12:1; Acts 7:4). After ten years he took Hagar as concubine at age 85 (Gen. 16:3), in 2093. Ishmael was born a year later, when Abraham was 86 (Gen. 16:16), in 2094. Since Abraham lived 175 years, the birth of Ishmael came at the center of his life. We shall discuss the importance of this below.

At the age of 99, Abraham was told to circumcise his household, and was told that Sarah would have a son (Gen. 17:1, 24; 18:10). This was the year 2107, the year Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The next year, 2108, Isaac was born (Gen. 17:17; 21:5).

Five years later, Isaac was “weaned,” meaning that he moved from his mother’s tent to his father’s (or in some other way was presented by Sarah to Abraham). The 400 years of Genesis 15:13 began when Isaac was five years old. This is approximately the time when Isaac was weaned, and when Ishmael was seen laughing by Sarah and was cast out. Ishmael’s mother was an Egyptian, as the text is careful to point out in this context (Gen. 21:9). While there was no direct oppression involved in Ishmael’s simple laughter, yet when we remember that the name Isaac means “he laughs,” we can understand Sarah’s fear that Ishmael would be a counterfeit Isaac. Paul in Galatians 4:29 says that this laughter constituted “persecution,” in the sense that it detracted from Isaac’s place as heir. Thus, Paul identifies the beginning of the 400 year oppression with the weaning of Isaac. This is the year 2113. Abraham was 105.

Sarah died 32 years later. Sarah was 90 at the birth of Isaac (Gen. 17:17; 21:5). She died at the age of 127 (Gen. 23:1). Therefore, Isaac was 37 when Sarah died, in the year 2145. Abraham was 137.

Abraham died at the age of 175 (Gen. 25:7), in 2183. In the providence of God, Abraham’s life is structured chiastically:

A. Birth in 2008

B. Entrance into land at age 75

C. Birth of Ishmael at age 86

B’.Birth of Isaac at age 100

A’.Death at age 175

If we reflect on this, we see that the land and seed are connected (B). We also see that at the center of Abraham’s life (C) is the production of his own seed, which is not good enough. In a sense, Ishmael is Abraham’s true seed, the seed produced by sinful man (though Ishmael became a believer, Gen. 21:20, cp. 21:22). Only after God’s miracle is the true seed born, the seed of the woman, whose dead womb is miraculously opened.

Interestingly the second half of Abraham’s life is also structured chiastically:

A. Birth of Isaac, Abraham 100

B. Death of Sarah, Abraham 137

A’.Death at age 175

The death of Sarah, followed shortly by Isaac’s marriage, which involves taking Rebekah into Sarah’s tent (Gen. 24:67), moves Abraham off the scene as regards the core of redemptive history. Abraham marries Keturah and has six more sons, but they are not the seed line.

Now, if we look at Acts 7:2-4, we find the Holy Spirit saying that Abram received God’s initial call in Ur, moved to Haran until his father Terah died, and then moved to Canaan. This is, of course, a typological prophecy of Israel’s later exodus from Egypt: wandering in the wilderness (Haran) until the older generation (Terah) dies, and then entering the land. We are not told when Abram made his exodus from Ur and went to Haran, but it was sometime during his first 75 years. Also, at some point in these 75 years he married Sarai. Thus, Abram’s marriage to Sarah and call parallel chiastically the death of Sarah and the removal of his call. We can now put it all together (see the chart).

The Structure of Abraham’s Life

A. Birth of Abraham

B. Marriage to Sarah and call of Abraham (age ?)

C. Sojourn in Haran; God appears and tells him to leave (Gen. 12)

D. Entrance of Abraham into land (age 75)

E. Attack of Pharaoh on Sarah (Gen. 12) (age 76-77?)

F. Abraham re-enters land (Gen. 13) (age 77?)

G. War of the Kings; Lot rescued (Gen. 14) (age 78?)

H. God appears to Abraham (Gen. 15) (age 78?)

I. Birth of Abraham’s son Ishmael (age 86)

H’. God appears to Abraham (Gen. 17) (age 99)

G’. Destruction of Sodom; Lot rescued (Gen. 18) (age 99)

F’. Abraham leaves land (Gen. 20) (age 99)

E’. Attack of Abimelech on Sarah (Gen. 20) (age 99)

D’. Birth of Sarah’s son Isaac (age 100)

C’. Sojourn in Philistine territory; God appears, tells him to leave, return to land, offer Isaac (Gen. 22)

B’. Death of Sarah and removal of Abraham’s call (age 137)

A’. Death of Abraham (age 175)

An Hypothetical Chronology for the Table of Nations

Date Line of Shem Line of Ham Line of Japheth

1656 – Flood

1658 – Arpachshad ben Shem Cush ben Ham Gomer ben Japheth

1660 – Elam ben Shem Mitsrayim ben Ham Magog ben Japheth

1662 – Asshur ben Shem Put ben Ham Madai ben Japheth

1664 – Lud ben Shem Canaan ben Ham Javan ben Japheth

1666 – Aram ben Shem Tubal ben Japheth

1668 – Meshech ben Japheth

1670 – Tiras ben Japheth

—- – Generation gap

1688 – Seba ben Cush Ashkenaz ben Gomer

1690 – Havilah ben Cush Riphath ben Gomer

[Ludim] ben Mitsrayim

1692 – Sabtah ben Cush Togarmah ben Gomer

[Anamim] ben Mitsrayim

1693 – Shelah ben Arpachshad

1694 – Raamah ben Cush Elishah ben Javan

[Lehabim] ben Mitsrayim

Sidon ben Canaan

1696 – Uz ben Aram Sabteca ben Cush Tarshish ben Javan

[Naphtuhim] ben Mitsrayim

Heth ben Canaan

1698 – Hul ben Aram Nimrod ben Cush (?) [Kittim] ben Javan

[Pathrusim] ben Mitsrayim

[Jebusite] ben Canaan

1700 – Gether ben Aram [Casluhim] ben Mitsrayim [Dodanim] ben Javan

[Amorite] ben Canaan

1702 – Mash ben Aram [Caphtorim] ben Mitsrayim

[Girgashite] ben Canaan

1704 – [Hivite] ben Canaan

1706 – [Arkite] ben Canaan

1708 – [Sinite] ben Canaan

1710 – [Arvadite] ben Canaan

1712 – [Zemarite] ben Canaan

1714 – [Hamathite] ben Canaan

 

Date Line of Shem Line of Ham Line of Japheth

—- – Generation gap

1723 – Eber ben Shelah

1724 – Sheba ben Raamah

1726 – Dedan ben Raamah

1730 – [Philistines] ben [Casluhim]

—- – Generation gap

1757 – Peleg ben Eber

1759 – Joktan ben Eber Nimrod ben … Cush (?)

—- – Generation gap

1787 – Reu ben Peleg

1789 – Almodad ben Jotkan

1791 – Sheleph ben Joktan

1793 – Hazarmaveth ben Joktan

1795 – Jerah ben Joktan

1797 – Hadoram ben Joktan

1799 – Uzal ben Joktan

1801 – Diklah ben Joktan

1803 – Obal ben Joktan

1805 – Abimael ben Joktan

1807 – Sheba ben Joktan

1809 – Ophir ben Joktan

1811 – Havilah ben Joktan

1813 – Jobab ben Joktan

—- – Generation gap

1819 – Serug ben Reu

—- – Generation gap

1849 – Nahor ben Serug

—- – Generation gap

1871? – Tower of Babel

1878 – Terah ben Nahor

James Jordan is scholar-in-residence at Theopolis. This article originally appeared at Biblical Horizons