Chronology of the Judges
Knowing when the Exodus was, and who was the Pharaoh, or what was going on in Egypt at the time, is a topic of great interest to Jews and Christians. However, due to an artificial shortening of Biblical Chronology, chiefly in the period of the Judges, the date of the Exodus according to the Scripture has gone off course almost 200 years, which means that everyone is looking in the wrong place for the Exodus in archeology and history. The true date has been revised downwards from the 17th century BC to the 15th century BC due to a misreading of the 1Kings 6:1 cipher and a later revision of Biblical Chronology by Chronologists committed to the accuracy of Assyrian Chronology, but not committed to the accuracy of Scripture. Based on McFall and Thiele’s chronology most are convinced the Exodus was in 1446 BC. But this date is 186 years too low. Building on the 983/982 BC date for the start of the Divided Kingdom, established independently of Assyrian archaeological interpretations, we can work our way back through the Judges to an Exodus date of 1632 BC. This paper shows that the period from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon was 613 years, and not the 480 assumed by careless readers of 1Kings 6:1. It shows that the Judges cannot be squished into the lesser amount of time. And except for three unknowns of 7, 14, and 19 years each (x,y,z), amounting to only 40 years, that even if
x + y + z = 0, that the true 613 years cannot be in any way reduced to 480.
The figures are as follows:
Total Conquest years x years unknown
Joshua and Elders y years unknown
Mesopotamian Oppression 8 years Judges 3:8
Deliverance by Othniel 40 years Judges 3:11
Moabite Oppression 18 years Judges 3:14
Deliverance by Ehud 80 years Judges 3:30
Oppression by Hazor 20 years Judges 4:3
Deliverance by Deborah 40 years Judges 5:31
Oppression by Midian 7 years Judges 6:1
Deliverance by Gideon 40 years Judges 8:28
Oppression by Abimelech 3 years Judges 9:22
Administration of Tola 23 years Judges 10:1-2
Subtotal years 279 + x + y
Ammonites take Heshbon
Jair judges in remaining
transjordan territory 22 years Judges 10:3
Ammonite Oppression 18 years Judges 10:6-8
Jepthah Administrates 6 years Judges 12:7
Ibzan Administrates 7 years Judges 12:8
Elon Administrates 10 years Judges 12:11
Abdon Administrates 8 years Judges 12:13
Philistine Oppression I 40 years Judges 13:1
Eli Judges Israel 40 years 1 Samuel 4:18
Philistine Oppression II 20 years 1 Samuel 7:2
Samuel Judges z unknown
Total years 450 + x + y + z
First observe that all the known figures of the judges and oppressions amount to 450 years. And this is the origin of the number 450 years given in Acts 13:19. The number of Samson’s years, which are 20 is omitted due to the fact that the Scripture says he judged
in the days of the Philistines (Judges 15:20). So we are told in this case there was an overlap. Years are not given for a few other judges, i.e. Shamgar, and so we have to conclude that the historian did not mean for their years to be used to compute the chronology. These 450 years +x +y +z quickly run past 480 when we add 40 years for the variables (computed below), 40 years for the wilderness, and 40 years for Saul, and 40 for David, and 3 for Solomon. The total comes to 613. Let’s go into the details.
x may be determined from the fact that Israel entered the Trans-Jordan to take Heshbon at the end of 38 years from the sin of the ten spies (Deut. 2:14), and then the land was divided in the 45th year from the sin of the ten spies (Joshua 14:10). The total years is
x = 45 - 38 = 7. The figure
y may be computed by noting that Israel lost Heshbon after 300 years to the Ammonites (Judges 11:26). This event happened in the 1st year of Jair, who ended up judging only the remaining part of the Trans-Jordan not taken by the Ammonites. Other judges unnamed judged the west side of the Jordan until the Ammonites took over the whole country. The equation uses the subtotal above:
279 + x + y = 300, x = 7.
286 + y = 300; y = 300 - 286 = 14. So the period of Joshua and the Elders that outlived him after the allotment of the land was 14 years.
In another paper I compute the value of
z to be 19 years, and this calculation may be found in the Scroll of Biblical Chronology. The total time for the Judges is:
450 + x + y + z, which is
450 + 7 + 14 + 19 = 490 years. This is the time from Joshua’s commissioning in the Trans-Jordan to the end of Samuel’s judgeship, when Israel asked for a King.
The figure 490 suggests 10 Jubilees. It says,
When you will enter unto the land which I am giving to you, then the land will have rested a rest to Yăhwēh. (Lev. 25:2) This implies that the counting of the Sabbatical and Jubilee periods begins when they enter the land. But Joshua was made leader of Israel in the Trans-Jordan the year before they came into the land, and they came into the land in the first month. The Sabbatical periods begin counting in the 7th month of the year they entered the land. So we have to offset the 490 years like this:
Joshua in Trans-Jordan...........1
First year in the land...........1
Last year of Samuel............490
First year of king Saul........490
Second year of king Saul...Jubilee
We find in 1Samuel 13:3 that when he had reigned a full year and was in his second year (1 Samuel 13:1) that he
blew the trumpet throughout all the land (תָּקַע בַּשּׁוֹפָר בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ), which alludes to Lev. 25:9,
And you will make the trumpet pass through in all your land (תַּעֲבִירוּ שׁוֹפָר בְּכָל־אַרְצְכֶם). This statement in 1 Samuel 13:1 is another cipher. It is telling us that the year was the Jubilee. And indeed we see that it fits. Counting back from this Jubilee, it also synchronizes with the seven year periods of Joseph in the land of Egypt, and the date of Creation. Let us now return to the subject of the Judges.
First we have to observe that the computed periods of
x = 7 years and
y = 14 years cannot overlap with any other period, since they are computed as independent time. Also we have to observe that the long number of 300 years (Judges 11:26) cannot be shortened by overlapping, since it is one sum. As we delve into that 300 year period we will see that the sums that make it up cannot be overlapped either. The word “rest” in Judges 3:11, (וַתִּשְׁקֹט הָאָרֶץ), or precisely, “Then (the land) was undisturbed” indicates that the land was “at peace” (BDB, שָׁקַט). Holladay’s Lexicon glosses,
1. have peace, quiet, be at peace. TWOT,
be quiet, tranquil, at peace, and even the noun form of this word means “tranquility.” The verb is introduced with a waw consecutive, “Then the land had peace...” following deliverance from 8 years of oppression. It is therefore impossible to overlap the 8 years with the following 40 years, and further impossible to overlap the 40 years with the Moabite oppression, since an oppression is not peace.
The deliverance under Ehud is introduced by the same verb phrase,
Then was subdued Mō’av̱ in that day under the hand of Yisra’ēl. Then the land had tranquility eighty years. (Judges 3:30) Again trying to overlap the 80 years with either the previous oppression or the following oppression is the same as rejection of the written text. An overlap is not possible. An overlap is arbitrary. An overlap ignores the text for the sake of human reasoning. Yet the Higher Critics aim to destroy Scripture. Their theories are the Atheists’ theory of what Scripture means. And their theories have contaminated almost every bible reference tool on chronology. Don’t believe them. They pretend to uphold Scripture to get Christians to listen, but secretly they have worked hard to undermine the text in every subtle way. They censor true Bible Scholars out of their schools, and the force others to pay lip service to their humanistic view of Scripture.
After the deliverance by Deborah and Barak, the text says,
Then the land had tranquility forty years. (Judges 5:31) The verb is the same. The waw consecutive is the same. The preceding 20 year oppression may not be included, nor may the following 7 year oppression. To attempt this is the same as to say the text lies. A scholar does not have to say the text lies, or say the text is incorrect. But if the scholar overlaps the time periods then the scholar believes the text is a lie, or is ignorant of the text, and has no competence!
Following the Midianite oppression the Scripture says,
Then the land had tranquility forty years. (Judges 8:28) Again an overlap with the previous oppression is impossible. An overlap with the following 3 year oppression is impossible.
Judges 10:1 opens with,
Then arose after A’v̱i̱meleḳ to save Yisra’ēl Tōla‘ [...] The text says “after” (אַחֲרֵי), and the verse starts with a waw consecutive. Also, Judges 9:55 says that A’v̱i̱meleḳ died. So there is no way to make Tola’s 23 years overlap the previous period. Tola’s rule is closed out with,
Then he died. Then he was entombed in Shami̱r. (Judges 10:2) Judges 10:3 opens with,
Then arose after him Ya’i̱r. So these 22 years must follow Tola’s 23. Not only can an overlap not be made, but an overlap would be arbitrary. How much overlap should there be?
Those who suggest overlaps do so because they want to reduce the chronology to fit into 480 years (1Kings 6:1). But as I explained in another paper (And in the Scroll Book), this figure is a cipher for the 480 times Israel observed the Passover during the times they were not rebelling against the Almighty.
Judges 12:7 begins,
Then Yiphtaḥ judged Yisra’ēl six years. Then he died [...] Judges 12:8-10 opens,
Then I’v̱tsan judged Yisra’ēl after him [...] seven years. Then he died. We see here that the rule passed from a Gileadite to a man of Bethlehem to a man of Zebulun, who judged 10 years. This also opens,
Then after him Ē’lōn the Zev̱ūlōni̱ judged Yisra’ēl. Then he judged Yisra’ēl ten years. (Judges 12:11) The text is doubly redundant using the words “after” and noting the death of the previous ruler before the administration of the new ruler. Ē’lōn dies in Judges 12:12.
Then A‘v̱dōn judged Yisra’ēl after him [...] eight years. (Judges 12:13-14)
The language of Judges 13:1 opens up,
Then made added the sons of Yisra’ēl to do evil in the eyes of Yăhwēh. Then Yăhwēh gave them into the hand of the Pelishti̱m forty years. We see that before the introduction of the minor judges that Yisra’ēl did evil (Judges 10:6), and he gave them to the Ammonites for 18 years. In Judges 10:11 they cry out for deliverance. In Judges 10:16 they repent and put away the foreign gods. There is therefore no way to overlap the Judges that delivered them afterward with that oppression. The period of minor judges is closed out with Judges 13:1, a return to their evil.
A general principle is given in Judges 2:18,
And when Yăhwēh made raised up for them judges. Then Yăhwēh had been with the judge, and he had saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge, because Yăhwēh had compassion because of their groaning before the face of their oppressors and their maltreaters. The only exception to this is where it says about Samson that,
He will begin to deliver Yisra’ēl from the hand of the Pelishti̱m (Judges 13:5), and this is confirmed in Judges 15:20, where it says, he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines.
The book of first Samuel opens up with Eli, who judged Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 4:18) for forty years. The general principle stands for Eli also. He saved Israel from the Philistines during the life of Eli, but when the Almighty judged the house of Eli, then Eli died, and the Philistines ruled Israel again for 20 years (1 Samuel 7:2).
Floyd Nolen Jones (The Chronology of the Old Testament), tries to collapse the period of the Judges into 480 years. Let’s see how he does it:
BC Dates from Jones Book. Naming of Era's follows my conventions.
Jones Jones Text Diff
Exodus 1491 BC -39 Years 40
Trans-Jordan Conquest 1452 BC -7 Years 7 x
Allotment of the land 1444 BC -45 Years 14 y +31
Mesopotamian Oppression 1400 BC -8 Years 8
Othniel 1392 BC -32 Years 40 -8
Moabite Oppression 1360 BC -18 Years 18
Ehud 1342 BC -62 Years 80 -18
King of Hazor 1280 BC -20 Years 20
Deborah and Barak 1260 BC -20 Years 40 -20
Midianite Oppression 1240 BC -7 Years 7
Gideon 1233 BC -33 Years 40 -7
Abimelech Oppression 1200 BC -3 Years 3
Tola 1197 BC -23 Years 23
Jair 1174 BC -4 22 -18
Ammonite Oppression 1170 BC -8 Years 18 -10
Eli 1162 BC -10 Years 40 -30
Jepthah 1152 BC -6 Years 6
Ibzan 1146 BC -5 Years 7 -2
Philistines I 1141 BC -2 Years 40 -38
Elon 1139 BC -10 Years 10
Abdon 1129 BC -7 Years 8 -1
Philistines II 1122 BC -21 Years 20 +1
Samuel 1101 BC -6 Years 19 z -13
Saul King 1095 BC -40 years 40
David King 1055 BC -40 years 40
Solomon King 1015 BC -3 Years 3
Temple Built 1012 BC
480 613 -133
The negative numbers in the last column represent Jones overlaps. The overlaps are justified by claiming that while one part of the land was at peace, another part of the land was being oppressed. The overlaps amount to 133 years. Let us add up the years without the oppressions by other nations, and see what they are:
Trans-Jordan Conquest 7 x
Allotment of the land 14 y
Deborah and Barak 40
Samuel 19 z
Saul King 40
David King 40
Solomon King 3
The total years is 479 years and 1 month covering 480 Passovers, or anniversaries of the going out of Egypt.
Jones collapses the second Philistine Oppression into the first Philistine Oppression. He also lopped 10 years off of the Ammonite oppression. Since the second Philistine oppression was 20 years, the oppressions are shortened by 30 years by Jones. Jones did not realize that Israel really did sin for 390 years independent of the sin of Judah for 40 years. That loss of 30 years leaves his chronology shorted to only 360 years of possible sin for Israel. Also lost are 4 land Sabbaths needed to complete the total for the Babylonian exile. Because Jones’s overlaps are arbitrary, it is impossible to synchronize the Jubilees with the Jubilee ciphers in the reign of Saul, David, Hezekiah, the fall of Nineveh, Nebuchanezzar’s madness, the entry into the land, Joseph, or Creation.
What else is lost by ignoring the plain sense of Scripture and artificially collapsing the book of Judges? It is evident that Jones has collapsed the 18 year Ammonite Oppression to inside of the 300 years of Judges 11:26. Why did he have to do this? Well the following minimal calculation shows why:
Trans-Jordan Conquest 300
Ammonite Oppression 18
Philistine Oppression 40
Saul King 40
David King 40
Solomon King 3
Total 481 + ?
Samuel became the Judge in 1 Samuel 7:6 on the eve of the Philistine defeat. It was the defeat of the Second Philistine Oppression, but Jones has it at the end of the first Philistine Oppression. Then in 1 Samuel 7:13 it says,
Then was the hand of Yăhwēh on the Pelishti̱m all the days of Shemū’ēl. “The days of Shemū’ēl” means his administration as Judge, and not all the days of his life. For clearly in the preceding twenty years, Yisra’ēl was in rebellion, and the Philistines had subdued Yisra’ēl at the end of Ē‘li̱’s administration. A period of peace ensued (1 Samuel 7:14). 1 Samuel 7:15 says,
So Shemū’ēl judged Yisra’ēl all the days of his life. What the passage means then is that he unofficially judged Yisra’ēl all the days of his life even when he was not the official judge. For he rendered decisions during the life of Ē‘li̱, and certainly to any of Yisra’ēl during the Second Philistine Oppression who inquired, and also during his official Judgeship, and also during the years his sons were appointed judges in a lesser capacity, and after Saul became King he advised as many as came to him, including Saul. The point is that there was a period of peace after the end of the Philistine Oppression in which Shemū’ēl judged officially and then grew old and appointed his sons judges before Sha’ūl became king.
Thus it is evident that Jones’ elimination of the Second Philistine Oppression is not enough. He has to push the 18 year Ammonite Oppression back inside the 300 years in order to achieve his 480 year goal. The
481 + ? years is still too much. Judges 10:8, however says,
Eighteen years all the sons of Yisra’ēl which were beyond the Yardēn in the land of the E’mōri̱ which is in Gil‘ad. And this is where Ḥeshbōn was, in the Trans-Jordan. It is preposterous to suppose that the Ammonites had control of the whole Trans-Jordan for 18 years and did not have control of Ḥeshbōn. The 18 years have to lie outside the 300 years that Yisra’ēl possessed the city. Also Judges 11:26 implies that they had possession of the city for those 18 years at least and that Jepthah is calculating up to sometime earlier than the beginning of his Judgeship,
During the dwelling of Yisra’ēl in Ḥeshbōn and in her daughters, and in A‘r‘ōr and her daughters, and in all the cities which are upon the banks of the A‘rnōn, three hundred years. And why had you not delivered them in that time? (Judges 11:26) The 300 years cover not only Israel’s possession of Ḥeshbōn, but also the surrounding territory. Clearly then, since the Ammonites prevailed for 18 years, Yisra’ēl had to have lost all of this at the beginning of the Ammonite period or before.
Judges 10:4 says that Ya’i̱r controlled 30 cities in Gil‘ad. These cities were in the territory of ‘Ōg, the king of Bashan, which is the same as the Golan Heights. Ḥeshbōn and its cities were in the territory of Ammon south of Bashan. Ḥeshbōn was in the territory of Reuben. Jair, on the other hand was a judge from the half tribe of Manasseh north of that territory. So Yisra’ēl had lost Ḥeshbōn at the end of Tōla‘s judgeship, and Ya’i̱r was a local judge keeping the Ammonites back from crossing the Jordan. The narrative implies that Tōla delivered all Yisra’ēl according to the general principle of the Judge in Judges 2:18. But then Judges 10:4 clearly implies that Ya’i̱r only judged 30 cities in Bashan. During his years part of Yisra’ēl was taken by the Ammonites. These years, however, are graciously assigned to Ya’i̱r, and the whole nation not reckoned under judgment until further rebellion occurred when he died. That the Ammonites made progress after the death of Tōla is implied in Judges 10:8, which implies that prior to oppressing all of the Trans-Jordan tribes, that some of the Trans-Jordan tribes were oppressed, namely Reuben, in whose inheritance was Ḥeshbōn.
We see then that the Ammonites certainly had possession of Ḥeshbōn at the beginning of the 18 years when they overran all of the Trans-Jordan. This figure alone, and the additional fact that Samuel has to be assigned a reasonable number of years for his judgeship render Jones’s collapsing of Judges and Oppressions into a 51 year period between Jepthah and King Saul untenable.
I have never yet run across a chronological number in Scripture that is rounded off, or an estimate, except where a qualifying word indicating it is an estimate is used. The 300 years in Judges 11:26 should therefore be regarded as exact. The inclusion of Ya’i̱r’s 22 years inside the 300 years leads to the conclusion that the time between the Allotment of the land and the first Oppression was -8 years. Of course this is absurd. Given the strict sequence of things that is the norm in Scripture, it is necessary to tie in the end of the 300 years with the end of Tōla’s administration, who appears to be a Judge over all Israel and not the local Judge that Scripture specifically indicates for Ya’i̱r. This is the only path open in view of the contradictions resulting from putting Ya’i̱r’s years inside the 300 years, or the 18 year Oppression of Ammon inside the 300 years.
Floyd Nolen Jones made a Herculean effort to cram the Judges into 480 years. However, he fails to make it possible, even with his more than usual conservative approach to Scripture. Just a look at the chart above showing the differences between his figures and the Biblical text is enough to show the attempt has failed. A plain reading of Scripture gives the following sequence:
Wilderness 40 years 39.5 40 Heshbon Era:
Conquest x = 7 years 7 6.5 7 years
Elders y = 14 years 14 years
Cushan 8 years 8 years
Othniel 40 years 40 years
Moab 18 years 18 years
Ehud 80 years 80 years
Hazor 20 years 20 years
Deborah 40 years 40 years
Midian 7 years 7 years
Gideon 40 years 40 years
Abimelech 3 years 3 years
Tola 23 years 23 years
Jair 22 years Subtotal 300 years
Ammonites 18 years
Minor Judges 31 years
Philistines I 40 years
Eli 40 years
Philistines II 20 years
Samuel and Sons z = 19 years
Saul 40 years
David 40 years
Solomon 3 years 3.5 3.5
Total 613 years
The sum is exact because the 40 year time in the wilderness overlaps the 7 year conquest by 1/2 year. And the time of Solomon reign was actually 3 1/2 years. So the half year added in the calculation at the beginning is taken away at the end of the calculation. This is a consequence of Israel switching from a spring based epoch for years before the entry into the land to a fall based Tishri epoch for judgeships and eras after they entered into the land.
The 480th year counts to the beginning of the 480th year (spring basis) in which Israel spiritually came out of Egypt. Their rebellions, in which other nations were put over them, is according to the cipher, a return to Egypt. The actual time they were out of spiritual Egypt is 479 years, since the 480th year began in the spring of Solomon’s 4th year, and only 1 month passed to 1Kings 6:1, since it was the second month of this year. We have seen the total time was 613 years. The difference is the number of years they were spiritually returned to Egypt under foreign powers, i.e.
613 - 479 = 134. This figure can be checked as follows:
Cushan 8 years
Moab 18 years
Hazor 20 years
Midian 7 years
Abimelech 3 years
Ammonites 18 years
Philistines I 40 years
Philistines II 20 years
Total 134 years
When the 134 years is combined with 256 other years that Israel rebelled during the divided kingdom, the total comes to 390 years. These results confirm that 1Kings 6:1 is a cipher which we are to use on the years they were not under foreign powers to calculate
z = 19 for Samuel’s judgeship. There are of course many who will object to Scripture containing ciphers, and as a consequence will leave the chronology unsolved. In view of this, I should confirm that Scripture contains other ciphers:
1. The Cipher of Terah’s Age at Abraham’s birth.
2. The 400 year Cipher in Genesis 15.
3. The 480th year Cipher.
4. The 40 year Cipher of Absalom
5. The 40 year Cipher of Ish-bosheth
6. The 35th and 36th year Cipher of Asa.
7. The 42 year Cipher of Ahaziah
8. The 390 year Ciphers of Ezekiel 4.
9. The 40 year Cipher of Ezekiel 4.
10. The Sabbatical/Jubilee Cipher of Joseph.
11. The Jubilee Cipher of Saul.
12. The Jubilee Cipher of David.
13. The Sabbatical/Jubilee Cipher of Hezekiah.
14. The Jubilee Cipher of the fall of Nineveh.
15. The Sabbatical/Jubilee Cipher of Nebuchadnezzar.
Anyone who thinks the Spirit did not put ciphers to be solved into Scripture should think twice, because when the solution to each Cipher is given, all the solutions synchronize together into the chronology. I did not think to explain it this way at first, because having solved the main ciphers, I did not perceive that the ciphers were intentionally put into the text to conceal a direct answer. But now I see that the intent of the ciphers is to demonstrate the power of the Spirit of the Almighty over the text of Scripture, and the individual men who put it together under that guidance. What I believe we are looking at is the hidden miracle of a perfect chronology in Scripture, just as Messiah is hidden in Messianic prophecy.