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The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah

Introduction to Chronology

The English word “chronology” originates from the Greek "chronologia," combining "chronos" (time) and "lego" (to say or tell), meaning “the computation of time.” Chronology enables us to place events in their proper sequence and assign accurate dates to these events.

Jehovah is described as “the Ancient of Days” and the God of Eternity (Daniel 7:9; Psalm 90:2; 93:2). His precision as a Timekeeper is evident from the accurate movements of the stellar bodies and the precise timing of events as recorded in the Bible. These events occurred exactly as foretold, whether the period was a day (Exodus 9:5, 6), a year (Genesis 17:21; 18:14; 21:1, 2; 2 Kings 4:16, 17), decades (Numbers 14:34; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23; Daniel 9:2), centuries (Genesis 12:4, 7; 15:13-16; Exodus 12:40, 41; Galatians 3:17), or millenniums (Luke 21:24). We are assured that Jehovah's future purposes will be executed precisely at the predetermined time, down to the exact day and hour (Habakkuk 2:3; Matthew 24:36).

God intended for humanity, made in His image (Genesis 1:26), to measure the passage of time. Early in Genesis, the “luminaries in the expanse of the heavens” are described as serving to divide day and night and to mark “signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14, 15; Psalm 104:19). Human reckoning and recording of time have continued from Adam’s day until now (Genesis 5:1, 3-5).

Accurate chronology requires a fixed point in time from which to count forward or backward. This marker could be as simple as sunrise for measuring hours, a new moon for measuring days of a month, or the start of spring for measuring the span of a year. For longer periods, significant events are used as starting points. In nations of Christianity, for instance, the years are counted from what was believed to be the time of Jesus' birth, hence "C.E." (Common Era).

The use of eras in secular history began relatively late. The Greeks, around the fourth century B.C.E., used four-year periods called Olympiads starting in 776 B.C.E. The Romans reckoned years from the traditional founding of Rome (753 B.C.E.) and also referred to the names of consuls in office that year. It wasn't until the sixth century C.E. that Dionysius Exiguus calculated what is now known as the Common Era. Muslim peoples date their years from the Hegira (Muhammad’s flight from Mecca in 622 C.E.). Earlier civilizations like the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians did not consistently use an era system.

The Bible does not explicitly set forth one era arrangement as the starting point for all events. However, precise chronological information demonstrates a clear interest in timekeeping. For example, Exodus 12:41 states that the Israelites left Egypt exactly 430 years after Abraham crossed the Euphrates, marking the validation of the covenant with Abraham. Similarly, 1 Kings 6:1 notes that Solomon began constructing the temple 480 years after the Exodus.

Biblical chronology does not always conform to modern systems where all events are dated relative to a single fixed point like the start of the Common Era. Instead, biblical writers often dated events relative to significant occurrences within their context, much like how people naturally reference notable events today.

Some chronological points remain indefinite because we may not know the precise starting point used by the biblical writer, and variations in starting points do not imply confusion. Copyists' errors could explain some discrepancies, but without sound evidence, assuming errors is unwarranted. The remarkable accuracy and care in copying the Bible books have preserved their internal integrity.

Understanding biblical chronology involves recognizing its method of dating events relative to significant markers, respecting the accuracy and reliability of the biblical record, and acknowledging the challenges of aligning biblical and secular histories. This approach reinforces the confidence in the Bible's historical and chronological accuracy.

Introduction to the Kings of Israel and Judah

The chronology of the kings of Israel and Judah is a vital aspect of biblical history, providing a framework for understanding the events and narratives of the Old Testament. Accurate dating of the reigns of these kings not only helps in comprehending the historical context but also strengthens the reliability of the biblical record. This article will explore the timelines of the united and divided monarchies, examine the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah, and address the challenges involved in synchronizing these reigns. By delving into these chronological details, we aim to shed light on the significance of accurate biblical chronology for believers today.

The United Monarchy: Saul, David, and Solomon

The period of the united monarchy encompasses the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, spanning from approximately 1050 B.C.E. to 930 B.C.E. This era marks the transition from a loose confederation of tribes to a centralized kingdom under a single ruler.

Saul, the first king of Israel, was anointed by the prophet Samuel around 1050 B.C.E. His reign was characterized by initial military successes and subsequent decline due to disobedience to Jehovah’s commands. Saul’s reign lasted about 40 years, ending with his death in battle against the Philistines.

David, chosen by Jehovah and anointed by Samuel while Saul was still king, ascended to the throne around 1010 B.C.E. After a period of civil conflict, David unified the tribes of Israel and established Jerusalem as the political and spiritual center. His reign, lasting 40 years, was marked by military conquests, administrative organization, and the establishment of a covenant with Jehovah. David's legacy includes his heartfelt psalms and the promise of an eternal dynasty through his lineage.

Solomon, David’s son, began his reign around 970 B.C.E. Known for his wisdom, Solomon expanded the kingdom’s boundaries and established strong trade relations. His most significant achievement was the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a central place of worship for Jehovah. However, Solomon’s later years were marred by idolatry and heavy taxation, leading to discontent among the tribes. His reign also lasted 40 years, concluding in 930 B.C.E. with his death.

The united monarchy under Saul, David, and Solomon represents a foundational period in Israel’s history, setting the stage for the subsequent division of the kingdom. Understanding this era is crucial for comprehending the later developments in the history of Israel and Judah.

The Division of the Kingdom

The division of the kingdom occurred shortly after the death of Solomon in 930 B.C.E. This pivotal event marked the end of the united monarchy and the beginning of the separate kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The division was primarily a result of Solomon's oppressive policies, including heavy taxation and forced labor, which created widespread discontent among the tribes.

Rehoboam, Solomon's son, ascended to the throne and faced immediate challenges. When approached by the northern tribes with a plea to lighten the burdens imposed by his father, Rehoboam harshly rejected their request. Instead of easing their yoke, he threatened to increase their labor, saying, "My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions" (1 Kings 12:14, UASV).

This response led to a revolt by the ten northern tribes, who rejected Rehoboam as their king and chose Jeroboam, a former official under Solomon, as their leader. Jeroboam established the northern kingdom of Israel, with its capital initially at Shechem and later at Samaria. The northern kingdom consisted of ten tribes and became known for its deviation from the worship of Jehovah, as Jeroboam set up golden calves at Bethel and Dan to prevent the people from returning to Jerusalem for worship (1 Kings 12:28-30).

Rehoboam retained control over the southern kingdom of Judah, which included the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with Jerusalem as its capital. Judah remained more consistent in its worship of Jehovah, although it also faced periods of idolatry and unfaithfulness.

The division of the kingdom had significant implications for the history and spiritual life of the Israelites. The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah developed distinct political, social, and religious identities. This division also led to conflicts and hostilities between the two kingdoms, further complicating their histories.

Understanding the division of the kingdom is essential for comprehending the subsequent narratives of the kings and prophets, as well as the overall trajectory of Israelite history. It sets the stage for the prophetic messages and the eventual exile of both kingdoms, highlighting the consequences of disobedience and the need for faithful adherence to Jehovah's covenant.

The Kings of Israel

The northern kingdom of Israel, established in 930 B.C.E. after the division of the united monarchy, saw a succession of kings who ruled until the kingdom's fall to Assyria in 722 B.C.E. This period was marked by political instability, frequent changes in leadership, and widespread idolatry.

Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel, reigned from 930 to 910 B.C.E. He is known for setting up golden calves in Bethel and Dan, leading Israel into idolatry (1 Kings 12:28-30). His reign established a precedent of religious apostasy that would plague the northern kingdom.

Nadab, Jeroboam's son, reigned briefly from 910 to 909 B.C.E. He continued his father’s idolatrous practices and was assassinated by Baasha, who then took the throne.

Baasha reigned from 909 to 886 B.C.E. His reign was characterized by internal strife and conflict with the kingdom of Judah. He continued the idolatry initiated by Jeroboam and faced the prophetic condemnation of Jehu son of Hanani (1 Kings 16:1-4).

Elah, Baasha's son, reigned for two years (886-885 B.C.E.) before being assassinated by Zimri, one of his officials.

Zimri’s reign was the shortest, lasting only seven days in 885 B.C.E. He committed suicide by setting the royal palace on fire after a coup led by Omri, the commander of the army.

Omri’s reign (885-874 B.C.E.) marked a significant political and economic development. He established Samaria as the new capital of Israel (1 Kings 16:24) and formed alliances with neighboring nations. However, he continued the idolatrous practices, leading Israel further from Jehovah.

Ahab, Omri's son, reigned from 874 to 853 B.C.E. His reign is one of the most infamous in Israel’s history due to his marriage to Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Sidon, and the subsequent introduction of Baal worship (1 Kings 16:31-33). Ahab’s conflict with the prophet Elijah and the dramatic showdown on Mount Carmel are significant events of his reign (1 Kings 18).

The dynasty of Omri continued with Ahaziah (853-852 B.C.E.) and Jehoram (852-841 B.C.E.), both of whom perpetuated the idolatrous practices of their predecessors.

Jehu, anointed by the prophet Elisha, initiated a bloody coup and reigned from 841 to 814 B.C.E. He eradicated Baal worship from Israel but did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam (2 Kings 10:28-31).

Subsequent kings, such as Jehoahaz (814-798 B.C.E.), Jehoash (798-782 B.C.E.), Jeroboam II (782-753 B.C.E.), and others, continued the patterns of idolatry and political turmoil. The prophetic ministries of Amos and Hosea occurred during this time, calling Israel to repentance.

The last kings of Israel included Zechariah (753-752 B.C.E.), Shallum (752 B.C.E.), Menahem (752-742 B.C.E.), Pekahiah (742-740 B.C.E.), Pekah (740-732 B.C.E.), and Hoshea (732-722 B.C.E.). Hoshea's reign ended with the Assyrian conquest of Samaria and the exile of the northern tribes in 722 B.C.E. (2 Kings 17:6).

The kings of Israel, with few exceptions, led the nation into deeper idolatry and away from Jehovah’s covenant, culminating in their ultimate downfall and exile. Their reigns serve as a sobering reminder of the consequences of unfaithfulness to Jehovah.

The Kings of Judah

The southern kingdom of Judah, established in 930 B.C.E. after the division of the united monarchy, had a line of kings descended from David. Unlike the northern kingdom of Israel, Judah experienced periods of religious reform and fidelity to Jehovah, although it also faced times of idolatry and unfaithfulness.

Rehoboam, the first king of Judah, reigned from 930 to 913 B.C.E. His harsh policies led to the division of the united kingdom. Despite his initial unfaithfulness, Rehoboam eventually strengthened his kingdom and attempted to follow Jehovah (2 Chronicles 12:12-14).

Abijah, Rehoboam's son, reigned from 913 to 911 B.C.E. His reign was brief but notable for his victory over Jeroboam of Israel, which he attributed to his reliance on Jehovah (2 Chronicles 13:10-12).

Asa, Abijah's son, reigned from 911 to 870 B.C.E. He was a godly king who initiated significant religious reforms, removing idols and restoring the worship of Jehovah (1 Kings 15:11-15). However, in his later years, Asa relied on human alliances rather than seeking Jehovah's guidance (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).

Jehoshaphat, Asa's son, reigned from 870 to 848 B.C.E. He continued his father's reforms, strengthened the kingdom, and sought to follow Jehovah. He is known for his alliance with Ahab of Israel and his efforts to teach Jehovah's law throughout Judah (2 Chronicles 17:7-9).

Jehoram, Jehoshaphat's son, reigned from 848 to 841 B.C.E. His reign was marked by idolatry and violence, influenced by his marriage to Athaliah, Ahab's daughter. He led Judah into idolatry and suffered divine judgment (2 Chronicles 21:6-10).

Ahaziah, Jehoram's son, reigned for a short period in 841 B.C.E. His reign was cut short by Jehu's revolt in Israel, and he followed the idolatrous practices of his mother, Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:3-4).

Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, seized the throne and reigned from 841 to 835 B.C.E. She attempted to eradicate the Davidic line but was overthrown by a coup led by the high priest Jehoiada, who preserved the young Joash (2 Chronicles 23:12-15).

Joash, also known as Jehoash, reigned from 835 to 796 B.C.E. He began his reign under the guidance of Jehoiada and restored the temple worship. However, after Jehoiada's death, Joash turned to idolatry and faced judgment from Jehovah (2 Chronicles 24:2-18).

Amaziah, Joash's son, reigned from 796 to 767 B.C.E. He started well by avenging his father's murder and following Jehovah, but later turned to idolatry and suffered defeat by Israel (2 Chronicles 25:2-16).

Uzziah, also known as Azariah, reigned from 767 to 740 B.C.E. His reign was marked by military success and prosperity due to his faithfulness to Jehovah. However, he became prideful and was struck with leprosy for unlawfully burning incense in the temple (2 Chronicles 26:4-21).

Jotham, Uzziah's son, reigned from 740 to 732 B.C.E. He continued his father's faithful policies and was a godly king, strengthening Judah spiritually and militarily (2 Chronicles 27:2-6).

Ahaz, Jotham's son, reigned from 732 to 716 B.C.E. He was one of Judah's most idolatrous kings, sacrificing to false gods and leading the nation into apostasy. He faced severe judgments and invasions from surrounding nations (2 Chronicles 28:1-5).

Hezekiah, Ahaz's son, reigned from 716 to 687 B.C.E. He was a godly king who enacted significant religious reforms, including purging idols, restoring temple worship, and celebrating Passover. His faith in Jehovah was evident during the Assyrian invasion when he sought divine intervention (2 Kings 18:3-7, 2 Chronicles 32:20-23).

Manasseh, Hezekiah's son, reigned from 687 to 643 B.C.E. He was initially a wicked king, introducing widespread idolatry and desecrating the temple. However, after being taken captive by the Assyrians, he repented and sought Jehovah, initiating some reforms upon his return (2 Chronicles 33:10-16).

Amon, Manasseh's son, reigned from 643 to 641 B.C.E. He reverted to his father’s earlier idolatry and was assassinated by his officials (2 Chronicles 33:21-24).

Josiah, Amon's son, reigned from 641 to 609 B.C.E. He was one of Judah's most faithful kings, initiating a thorough religious reformation, destroying idols, and restoring the temple. His reign was marked by the rediscovery of the Book of the Law and a renewed covenant with Jehovah (2 Kings 22:1-2, 2 Chronicles 34:1-7).

Jehoahaz, Josiah's son, reigned for three months in 609 B.C.E. before being deposed by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (2 Chronicles 36:2-4).

Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, reigned from 609 to 598 B.C.E. His reign saw the beginning of Babylonian domination and he faced judgment from Jehovah for his idolatry and injustice (2 Chronicles 36:5-7).

Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim's son, reigned for three months in 598 B.C.E. before being taken captive to Babylon. His brief reign marked the first significant deportation of Judah's people (2 Chronicles 36:9-10).

Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's uncle, reigned from 597 to 586 B.C.E. His reign ended with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon and the destruction of the temple, fulfilling the prophetic warnings of Jehovah’s judgment (2 Chronicles 36:11-19).

The kings of Judah, with their varied degrees of faithfulness and idolatry, illustrate the spiritual ebb and flow of the nation. Their reigns provide valuable lessons on the importance of obedience to Jehovah and the consequences of turning away from Him.

Synchronizing the Reigns

Synchronizing the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah involves aligning their respective timelines to create a coherent chronology. This process is essential for understanding the historical context of biblical events and the interactions between the two kingdoms. Various methods, including biblical records, archaeological findings, and extrabiblical sources, contribute to this synchronization.

The primary biblical sources for the chronology of the kings are the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. These texts provide detailed accounts of the reigns of the kings, often noting the synchrony between the kings of Israel and Judah. For instance, 1 Kings 15:1 states, "Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah." Such references help establish a relative timeline.

One of the key challenges in synchronizing the reigns is the difference in the dating systems used by Israel and Judah. Israel primarily used the non-accession year system, where the partial first year of a king’s reign was counted as his first year. In contrast, Judah used the accession year system, where the partial first year was not counted, and the first full year was considered the beginning of the reign.

To reconcile these differences, scholars use cross-references in the biblical texts. For example, 2 Kings 8:16 states, "In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign." By aligning such references, a more accurate timeline can be constructed.

Archaeological evidence, such as the Assyrian Eponym Canon and the Babylonian Chronicles, provides additional data for synchronizing the reigns. These sources often mention interactions with the kings of Israel and Judah, providing external confirmation of biblical dates. For instance, the Assyrian records of Shalmaneser III mention King Ahab of Israel participating in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 B.C.E.

Another critical aspect of synchronization is the use of co-regencies, where a father and son ruled simultaneously. This practice was more common in Judah and helps explain overlapping reigns. For example, Jehoshaphat and his son Jehoram had a co-regency, as noted in 2 Kings 8:16.

Adjustments are also made for discrepancies in the lengths of reigns reported in the Bible. Some variations can be attributed to different counting methods or scribal errors. By carefully analyzing the data and considering these factors, scholars can create a more accurate chronology.

To illustrate the synchronization process, consider the reigns of Jehoram of Israel and Jehoram of Judah. Jehoram of Israel began his reign in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat of Judah (2 Kings 3:1). Jehoram of Judah began his reign in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel (2 Kings 8:16). By aligning these references, we can establish that Jehoram of Israel reigned from 852 to 841 B.C.E., and Jehoram of Judah from 848 to 841 B.C.E., with a co-regency beginning in 853 B.C.E.

Synchronizing the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah is a complex but crucial task for biblical chronology. It involves analyzing biblical texts, considering different dating systems, using archaeological evidence, and accounting for co-regencies and other discrepancies. This detailed work helps create a coherent timeline that enhances our understanding of the historical context of biblical events and the interactions between the two kingdoms.

Challenges in Chronology

Synchronizing the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah presents several challenges, given the complexities and variances in the ancient records. Despite the detailed accounts in the biblical texts, difficulties arise due to differing dating systems, co-regencies, and external historical records.

One major challenge is reconciling the non-accession year system used by Israel with the accession year system employed by Judah. The non-accession year system counts the partial first year of a king's reign as the first full year, while the accession year system begins the count with the first full year. This difference can create discrepancies in the length of reigns and the synchronization between the two kingdoms. Careful cross-referencing of the biblical texts is necessary to align these systems accurately.

Another challenge is the presence of co-regencies, where a father and son ruled simultaneously for a period. For example, Jehoshaphat and his son Jehoram co-reigned in Judah, which can complicate the chronology if not correctly identified and accounted for. Recognizing these overlaps helps in creating a more coherent timeline.

Additionally, there are variations in the lengths of reigns reported in different parts of the Bible. These differences can be attributed to counting methods, rounding of numbers, or scribal errors. For instance, 2 Kings 15:1 states that Azariah (Uzziah) began to reign in the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam II of Israel, while 2 Kings 14:23-29 reports Jeroboam II reigned for forty-one years. Such variations require careful analysis and comparison with other historical and archaeological data.

Archaeological records and external historical documents, like the Assyrian Eponym Canon and the Babylonian Chronicles, offer additional information that can aid synchronization. However, these sources also present challenges due to their own inconsistencies and biases. For example, the Assyrian records of Shalmaneser III mention King Ahab of Israel participating in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 B.C.E., but reconciling this with the biblical timeline requires aligning various reigns and events accurately.

Secular histories, while valuable, often contain discrepancies and mythical elements, making them less reliable than the biblical record. The Sumerian King List, for instance, claims implausibly long reigns for its earliest kings, highlighting the mythical nature of some ancient records. By contrast, the Bible presents a more coherent and continuous historical account, providing a solid framework for chronology.

In the context of Egypt, modern historians rely on Egyptian king lists and astronomical calculations. However, these sources are often fragmentary and require coordination with writings such as those of Manetho, an Egyptian priest whose works arrange the reigns into 30 dynasties. The synchronization with biblical events, such as the Exodus (1446 B.C.E.) and Pharaoh Shishak’s attack on Jerusalem (925 B.C.E.), requires careful alignment with these lists. For example, Pharaoh Shishak's attack during Rehoboam’s fifth year helps pinpoint this event in 925 B.C.E.

In conclusion, synchronizing the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah is a complex task involving the careful analysis of biblical texts, recognition of different dating systems, identification of co-regencies, and comparison with archaeological and historical records. Despite these challenges, the biblical chronology remains a reliable framework, providing a coherent and continuous historical account that aligns with known historical events when interpreted correctly.

The Importance of Accurate Chronology in Biblical Studies

Accurate chronology in biblical studies is crucial for several reasons, as it underpins the historical reliability of the biblical narrative and aids in the proper interpretation of Scripture.

Firstly, accurate chronology helps validate the historical authenticity of the Bible. By aligning biblical events with known historical dates and archaeological findings, scholars can demonstrate the reliability of the biblical record. This validation strengthens faith in the Bible as a trustworthy document, providing confidence in its historical accounts and reinforcing its authority as inspired Scripture.

Secondly, chronology is essential for understanding the context of biblical events. Knowing the precise dates of events such as the reigns of kings, major battles, and prophetic ministries helps readers grasp the historical and cultural background of the biblical narrative. For instance, understanding the timeline of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities provides insight into the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, as well as the experiences of Daniel and his contemporaries.

Thirdly, accurate chronology aids in harmonizing the events recorded in different books of the Bible. The historical books (e.g., 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles) and the prophetic books often overlap in their accounts of events and reigns of kings. A well-established chronology allows scholars to correlate these accounts, resolving apparent discrepancies and providing a unified historical narrative.

Additionally, chronology is vital for prophetic interpretation. Many biblical prophecies involve specific time periods, such as the seventy weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27) or the seventy years of captivity predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Accurate dating of these periods is essential for understanding the fulfillment of these prophecies and for making sense of eschatological timelines.

Accurate chronology also helps in tracing the lineage of significant biblical figures, particularly in relation to the messianic line. Understanding the genealogies and their chronological context reinforces the continuity of the biblical narrative and highlights the fulfillment of messianic prophecies in the person of Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, a precise chronology enhances the study of biblical covenants. For example, the timing of the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants is crucial for understanding the development of God’s redemptive plan throughout history. Recognizing the historical context of these covenants deepens our appreciation of their significance and the continuity of God's promises.

Finally, accurate chronology is indispensable for defending the faith against skeptical critiques. Critics often challenge the Bible’s historical reliability, but a well-supported chronological framework provides a strong counterargument. By demonstrating the consistency and accuracy of the biblical timeline, scholars can effectively respond to such critiques, reinforcing the credibility of the biblical account.

In summary, accurate chronology is of paramount importance in biblical studies. It validates the historical reliability of the Bible, provides essential context for understanding biblical events, aids in harmonizing different biblical accounts, is crucial for prophetic interpretation, helps trace significant genealogies, enhances the study of biblical covenants, and strengthens the defense of the faith against skeptical critiques. Through careful chronological study, believers can gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the biblical narrative and its theological significance.

About the Author

EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 220+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).


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