Approximate Chronology of the Old Testament Writings

A Guide to Understanding the Bible
by Harry Emerson Fosdick

Approximate Chronology of the Old Testament Writings

Approximate Chronology of the Old Testament Writings

1. Before the time of David, 1000 B.C.

Songs and lyrics, such as the song of Deborah (Judges, chap. 5); the song of the well (Numbers 21:17-18); the song of Lamech (Genesis 4:23-24); the taunt against the Amorites (Numbers 21:27-30); etc.

Oracles, such as Balaam’s (Numbers, chaps. 23-24); the curse of Canaan (Genesis 9:25-27); the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:1-27); etc.

Sayings, such as Samson’s riddle (Judges 14:14); Jotham’s fable Judges 9:7-15); etc.

Possibly records of ancestral traditions, of the Exodus and the conquest, and quite probably notations of legal custom, afterwards incorporated in the early books of the Bible.

2. Between 1000 B.C. and 700 B.C.

History, such as the achievements of Saul, David, and Solomon (parts of First and Second Samuel and of First Kings); begin- nings of the royal annals and of the temple records; the rise and fall of Omri’s dynasty (I Kings, chaps. 20-22; II Kings, chap. 3; 6:24 - 7:20; 8:7-15; chaps. 9-10); etc.

Songs and parables, such as praise of David’s victories (I Samuel 18:7); Nathan’s parable (II Samuel 12:1-4); David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan (II Samuel 1:19 ff.); etc.

Laws, especially the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:23—23:19) and the Decalogue of Exodus 34.

Narratives, such as some stories of Elijah (I Kings 17:1—19:21); of Elisha (II Kings, chaps. 2-8 in part; 13:14-2I); the Judean Document of early narratives (Yahwist) about 8So B.C.; the Ephraimitic Document (Elohist) about 750 B.C.

The writings of prophets—Amos, about 750 B.C.; Hosea, beginning about 745 B.C.; Isaiah of Jerusalem, beginning about 738 B.C.; Micah, beginning about 725 B.C.

3. From 700 B.C. to the fall of Jerusalem, 597 B.C.

Editorial combinations and completions -- the combination of the Judean and Ephraimitic narratives; the first edition of the Books of Kings.

Laws -- the publishing of Deuteronomy, 621 B.C.

The writings of prophets -- Zephaniah about 627 B.C.; Jeremiah, beginning 626 B;C.; Nahum, about 610 B.C.; Habakkuk, beginning about 600 B.C.

4. From 597 B.C. to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, 444 B.C.

Editorial work, such as the combination of the Judean and Ephraimitic Documents with Deuteronomy in the first six books of the Bible; the second edition of the Books of Kings; the edition of the stories of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel in the Deuteronomic tradition.

Laws, especially the "Holiness Code" (Leviticus, chaps. I7-26) and the Priestly Code.

The writings of prophets -- Jeremiah, extending till after 585 B.C.; Ezekiel, 593-57I B.C.; Isaiah of Babylon (Isaiah, chaps. 40-55), between 546 and 539 B.C.; Haggai, 520 B.C.; Zechariah, chaps. 1-8, beginning 520 B.C.; Malachi, about 460 B,C.; Obadiah, date uncertain; and various additions to the prophetic books, such as Amos 9:8 -- 15; Isaiah, chaps. 56 - 66; chaps. 34-35; 11 :10 -- 16; etc.

Poetry -- The Lamentations, about 586-550 B.C.

5. From 444 B.C. to 100 B.C.

History -- the memoirs of Nehemiah, shortly after 432 B.C., and Ezra, shortly after 444 B.C.; the Books of the Chronicles,

300 - 250 B.C.

Poetry and general literature -- the Books of Ruth, Proverbs, Job, Esther, Song of Solomon, Jonah, Ecclesiastes, and the completed Book of the Psalms.

The writings of prophets -- Joel, about 400 B.C.; Zechariah, chaps. 9-11; additions to the prophetic books, such as Isaiah 19:1-25; 23:1-14; chap. 33; etc.

Apocalypses -- Isaiah, chaps. 24-27; Daniel, 165 B.C.; Zechariah, chaps. 12 -14.