Biblical scholars over the centuries have felt certain that in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the 5th and 11th chapters were somehow a record of counting time for the new planet earth. It wasn’t until the second half of the twentieth century that the mystery was finally solved. These chapters consist of a series of verses naming a person, how old they were when they “begat” a descendant, and also how long they lived. The descendant follows the previous ancestor in each subsequent verse, and so the begat age and total age are marked off down through the bloodline as their record of history unfolds. Chapter 5 starts with Adam, who lived to be 930 years old, and ends at Noah (of the great flood) and his 3 sons. Chapter 11 continues with Noah’s son Shem, who lived to be 600 years old. After 10 total names, this chapter’s list ends with Abram, known later as Abraham. Did Adam, Shem and others really live that long, or do these numbers represent something else? There is no other information in the Bible that would make us think that all of these age numbers are somehow spiritual in nature. Therefore, we must accept them as true Biblical facts, and build from there.
The key to putting together the calendar of history from Bible data is to first construct the timeline as year numbers ascending from creation. This strategy gives creation the designation “year 0,” and each subsequent event marks the next known significant year in history with a larger number. For example, as Seth was begat by Adam 130 years after Adam’s creation in year 0, the birth of Seth marks year 130 in our ascending calendar. We then continue to build the timeline as intervals between important Biblical events, moving farther from creation in increasingly larger numbers. When we finally fill in the more recent Biblical dates, we can compare them to secular records in our modern calendar, and align the 2 calendars together. For instance, if event X is found in the Bible to be 10,000 years after creation, and the same event in accurate secular records occurred in 1000 BC, that would tell us that creation took place in 11,000 BC. We could then fill in the modern calendar dates for the entire timeline of history, as recorded in the Bible.
The main difficulty with this approach is that each date depends on the accuracy of the previous date. If a date is off by even 1 year, the entire timeline after that date will also be inaccurate. In looking at these two chapters, does the time counting shift to a new generation when the descendant was begat, or when the ancestor died? Numerically, this makes a huge difference, and it has caused confusion until our day. Many of these verses mention that the ancestor had other sons and daughters, but they are not named. This is telling us that the ones showcased here were special, the patriarchs, the ones who carried the calendar down the blood line from the previous progenitor. If these people mark the time, their births must have begun that respective segment of time. The question is – when were they actually born? In other places in the Bible, “son” can mean son, or grandson or great-grandson. Could “begat” also be flexible in that it sometimes refers to son, but other times means someone farther down the family tree?
In checking the Bible for Seth, Genesis 4:25 declares: “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth:…” Seth is a direct son of Adam, and “called his name” emphasizes to us that this is the case, as a father would normally name his own son. The patriarch calendar, then, continues with Seth when he is born in year 130. When the patriarch calendar is dealing with a father-son relationship, the son takes over as the time marker when he is begat by his father, who remains alive, but is then no longer keeping Biblical time.
Although the two chapters in Genesis have four additional father-son patriarch relationships, most of the others show no similar Biblical evidence. In these cases, the descendant must have been either a grandson or great-grandson, but not a direct son. So, when the descendant was begat, the patriarch’s wife actually gave birth to the descendant’s father or grandfather, creating an extra generation or two that is not mentioned at all. When the calendar is not discussing father and son, the next patriarch in the bloodline takes over at birth, which is actually the same year the previous patriarch died. Luke 3:36-37 helps to prove that this is correct. It documents the names in Genesis 5 and 11, but in reverse order. However, in Luke, there is an extra “Cainan” between two patriarchs in the Genesis 11 list, a different person altogether. This is not a mistake, but rather it’s God showing us that there can be other generations between these time keepers.
There is one more good proof that this methodology is correct. In Exodus 12:40 we read: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years.” This is a time bridge, placed in the Bible to help us gain understanding. Israel was enslaved in Egypt for exactly 430 years, but the calendar was also maintained in the Bible by patriarchs in the nation. When we carefully work out all of the Biblical data and add up the length of time these people lived in Egypt, we also get a total of 430 years. This shows us that as one patriarch died, another would be born and thus take over representing the calendar in the same year.
Returning to Genesis chapter 5, the names continue all the way down to Noah, who we can now show was born in the 5,423rd year of planet earth. There is certainly a lot of confusion about the timeline around the flood, and part of it relates to finding the correct birth years of Noah’s sons. Genesis 5:32 says: “And Noah was 500 years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Okay, did Noah’s wife have triplets, or was this the birth year of his first son, with the other two born over subsequent years? If the latter, which son was born first? Shem starts the patriarch calendar in chapter 11, so he is the important time keeper. We also know that the three children are direct sons because of other statements in the Bible. Genesis 7:11 tells us that Noah was 600 when the flood began, and so this puts the start of the flood in our calendar 6,023 years from creation. As mentioned above, Noah’s first progeny was born 500 years after Noah was born, which was also 100 years before the flood started, year number 5923. Proceeding to Genesis chapter 11, we see important information in verse 10: “These are the generations of Shem: Shem was 100 years old, and begat Arphaxad 2 years after the flood:…” 2 years after the flood started, Shem was 100, so he would have been born 98 years before the flood in year 5925 to carry on the patriarchs’ role. Noah’s first son was born in 5923, but the patriarch, Shem, was born 2 years later. To simply conclude that Noah’s first born was the patriarch Shem would have thrown the calendar off by those 2 years!
It should be noted that halfway down the patriarch calendar in chapter 11, Peleg represented the years from 7860 to 8099 after creation. During this period, the tower of Babel and the division of the continents must have occurred (Genesis 10:25, I Chronicles 1:19). In other words, around 2000 years after the flood, God split the land into continents and divided up the people to begin to develop our modern day diversity of languages and cultures.
Abram (Abraham) was a direct son of Terah, and the last name in this patriarch list. However, his birth in year 8846 is also tricky to discover. As with Noah, Terah had 3 sons (at the age of 70), but the Bible doesn’t say directly when Abram was born. Genesis 11:32 and 12:4 solve the puzzle. Terah died in Haran at the age of 205, and Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran, which was the same year. Doing all the math, Terah was 70 when the first son was born, 130 when Abram was born, and then Terah died 75 years later.
Abram entered the land of Canaan, the promised land, the same year that he left Haran. His son Isaac was born when he was 100 years old, as stated clearly in Genesis 21:5, 8,946 years from creation. The next step in the calendar is again easy to understand. Genesis 25:26 mentions that Isaac was 60 when the next Bible patriarch, his son Jacob was born (year 9006).
When Jacob was 130 years old, he was told by God to leave Canaan with his family and go live in Egypt, as there was a terrible famine. Genesis 47:9 gives us this age fact, putting the year at 9136. His family remained in Egypt for exactly 430 years, growing as a nation until their exodus in year 9566 (Exodus 12:40-41).
After finally escaping from Egypt, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (Deuteronomy 29:5) under the guidance of Moses, until finally reaching the land of Canaan 9,606 years from creation. During this period, Moses wrote down the first five books of the Bible, dictated directly from God. These included the patriarch calendars from Genesis, accurate time information about people, most of whom lived thousands of years previously! The Bible tells us that Moses was well educated in Egypt (Acts 7:22), but knowledge of the ancient patriarchs certainly would have been impossible without Divine guidance.
The Holy Bible gives us another wonderful time bridge to allow us to jump ahead in history. In I Kings 6:1 we read: “And it came to pass in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the 4th year of Solomon’s reign over Israel,…that he began to build the house of the Lord.” Throughout this period, Israel was ruled over by various judges and then King Saul and King David. The Israelites left Egypt in year 9566, so King Solomon began to build the great temple in the 10,046th year. This marked the end of King David’s and King Solomon’s 4 year co-regency, and the start of the 36 year sole reign of King Solomon. One has to be careful with the facts, as each king reigned 40 years, but 4 years were overlapping (I Kings 1:46, 2:11,11:42). At the end of King Solomon’s reign in the 10,082nd year from creation, the nation of Israel was divided.
National Israel was separated into two nations, the 10 tribes of Israel and the 2 tribes of Judah. Both divisions each had 20 kings which marked the passing of time, with many Biblical references, but sorting out the dates is incredibly complex. There were 2 methods of time keeping based on the kings’ reigns, the accession year system and the non-accession year system. In the first system of counting, the reign began the first full year after the initial partial year. All the kings of Judah and the last 12 kings of Israel used this method. In the non-accession method, the first partial year was the official first year of reign, which added one additional year to the total. The first 8 kings of Israel followed this method. There were numerous co-regencies, dynasties, blood lines crossing over- a plethora of details to work through to carry the calendar through this era. When finally resolved, however, many of these periods of rule could be matched to secular records, allowing the Biblical timeline to be converted to modern day dating.
Vince Des Roches resides in Napa Valley, California.
His website – http://www.areyouwatchingorsleeping.com/ – contains a great deal of information on history’s timeline, end times, and God’s Salvation Plan.