Timeline of the Prophets

 

 

Most of the prophetic books begin with historical information, and thus we can place them on a historical timeline. However, some books - notably Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah - do not provide us with adequate information. Below is a rough timeline of the events of history in the backdrop of the prophetic works. I have based this on the dating of William F. Albright.

Minor Prophets with significantly disputed dating: Joel, Obadiah, Jonah




10th Century BCE

The United Kingdom of Israel

Israel is united under the first three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon.

 

The Kingdom Divides 

Around 930 BCE, Israel was divided into two: The Northern Kingdom of Israel (ruled by King Jeroboam) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (ruled by King Rehoboam).

Prophetic Advisors 

Pre-literary prophets act as advisors to kings, e.g. Samuel and Nathan.

 

Prophetic Rebels 

More rebellious (pre-literary) prophetic voices are born, such as Ahijah.

9th Century BCE

In the North: Israel goes through (roughly) ten kings in one century. Four of these deaths are murder at the hands of the next king. All are described in biblical literature as bad.

 

In the South: Judah goes through (roughly) seven monarchs in one century, including the only queen (Ataliah). Three deaths are violent, from political powers. Three kings are described as good and four as bad. The kingdoms attempt to gain peace through royal marriage, but continue to clash. 

 

Foreign Political Powers: The Neo-Assyrian Empire looms in the background.

Prophetic Rebels 

We are still in the era of the pre-literary prophets. Most act as rebellious voices, such as Elijah and Elisha.

8th Century BCE

In the North: Between 800 and 722, the North goes through seven kings, four of whom were assassinated (two lasting less than a year on the throne), and all of whom were depicted in biblical literature as bad. In 722 BCE, the North falls to the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The captives never return.

 

In the South: The South goes through five kings in a century, four of whom are depicted as good. Relationship with the North is patchy. Once the North falls, the Assyrian king besieges Jerusalem (701) but fails to capture it. 

 

Foreign Political Powers: The Neo-Assyrian Empire is incredibly powerful. 

Prophetic Writers 

The era of the literary prophet begins. Prophets write their prophecies down in largely poetic books.

In rough chronological order:

 

Amos

Hosea

Isaiah (Major Prophet)

Micah

(The Fall of the North) 

Naḥum

7th Century BCE

The lone kingdom of Judah has six kings in a century, two of whom are celebrated as good (Hezekiah and Josiah) and introduce religious reforms. 

 

Judah becomes a vassal to Assyria. The international power structure hiccups; the Neo-Assyrian empire starts to crumble from within. Egypt remains loyal to the crumbling Neo-Assyrian empire. There is a vacuum of power. Judah decides to switch allegiance to the up-and-coming Neo-Babylonian Empire. It is a mistake: Judah becomes a vassal of Egypt. 

 

At the very end of the century, the Egyptians lose an important battle to the Babylonians. Judah attempts to switch sides to the Babylonians. The Babylonians fail to invade Egypt. Judah switches allegiance back to Egypt.

Prophetic Writers 

The era of the literary prophet continues. In rough chronological order:

 

Zephaniah

Jeremiah (Major Prophet)

Habakkuk

6th Century BCE

Nebuchadnezzar (King of Babylon) besieges Jerusalem in retaliation. The city falls. People and objects are carted off to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar appoints King Zedekiah to rule what is left. 

 

Zedekiah revolts and attempts to switch allegiance to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar returns and besieges the city once again. This results in the destruction of the Temple and the end of Judah’s independence (586 BCE). 

 

The Babylonian Exile continues. In 539 BCE, the Neo-Babylonian Empire falls to the Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great sends us home to rebuild the Temple.

Prophetic Writers 

The era of the literary prophet continues. In rough chronological order:

 

Isaiah cont. (Major Prophet)

Jeremiah cont. (Major Prophet)

Ezekiel (Major Prophet)

 

Return from Exile 

Ḥaggai

Zekhariah

Malakhi

 

 

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