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One of the enjoyable discoveries of working on the ESV Study Bible was that the timelines of some of the key OT characters could be plotted—either because of explicit reference (e.g., so-and-so was 75 years old when X happened), or through inference (e.g., 25 years later) or through comparison with the ages of other characters.

Here are some of the results:

Abraham’s Timeline

Event

Age of Abraham

Genesis

Abram departs from Haran, enters Canaan 75 12:4-5
Abram fathers Ishmael with Hagar 85-86 16:3-4
Abraham fathers Isaac with Sarah 100 21:5
Abraham’s wife Sarah dies 137 23:1
Abraham’s son Isaac marries Rebekah 140 25:20
Abraham dies 175 25:7

 

Isaac’s Timeline

Event

Age of Isaac

Genesis

Isaac’s mother Sarah dies 37 23:1
Isaac marries Rebekah 40 25:20
Isaac fathers Jacob and Esau with Rebekah 60 25:26
Isaac’s father Abraham dies 75 25:7
Isaac’s brother Ishmael dies 123 25:17
Isaac sends Jacob to Laban in Haran 137 28:5
Isaac’s grandson Joseph is born 151 30:25; 31:38-41
Isaac dies 180 35:28

 

Jacob’s Timeline

Event

Age of Jacob

Genesis

Jacob’s grandfather Abraham dies 15 25:7
Jacob sent to Laban in Haran 77 28:5
Jacob marries Leah and Rachel 84 29:21-30; 30:1, 22-26
Jacob fathers Joseph with Rachel 91 30:22-24
Jacob flees from Laban to Canaan 97 ch. 31
Jacob’s son Joseph sold into slavery 108 37:12-36
Jacob’s father Isaac dies 120 35:28-29; cf. 25:26 with35:28
Jacob reunites with Joseph and moves his family to Egypt 130 chs. 46-47; cf. 47:9, 28
Jacob dies 147 47:28

 

Joseph’s Timeline

Event

Age of Joseph

Genesis

Joseph’s father Jacob moves family from Haran to Canaan 6 31:17-21
Joseph sold to Potiphar in Egypt 17 ch. 37
Joseph interprets dreams of cupbearer and baker in prison 28 ch. 40
Joseph’s grandfather Isaac dies 29 35:28-29
Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, is released from prison 30 41:1-36
Seven years of plenty; sons Manasseh and Ephraim born during this time 30-37 41:47-52
Seven years of famine; two years into the famine Joseph reconciles with his brothers and father 37-44 41:53-47:26
Joseph’s father Jacob dies 56 47:28
Joseph dies 110 50:22-26

 

Three Stages of Moses’ Life

Location

Age

Reference

Egypt 0-40 Ex. 2:11Acts 7:23
Midian 41-80 Ex. 2:15; 7:7Acts 7:29-30
The wilderness 81-120 Deut. 31:2; 34:7; cf. Num. 14:33-34Deut. 29:5 

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6 thoughts on “Timelines of Some Key Characters in the Old Testament”

  1. Kathy Gillespie says:

    Ishmael is Isaac’s uncle, not his brother.

    1. Anthony says:

      Abraham fathered both Ishmael (with Hagar) and Isaac (with Sarah). This makes Ishmael and Isaac brothers (not uncle and nephew) — from same father but different mothers.

  2. Brett says:

    Wasn’t there a seven year gap between the two weddings of Jacob to Leah and Rachel?

    1. No. Jacob worked 7 years before the wedding where Laban pulled a bait-and-switch with Leah for Rachel. Immediately afterward, Laban negotiated with Jacob for Rachel, but he let him marry Rachel right away although Jacob still had to spend 7 years working for Laban. That’s how he managed to have 12 kids before he left Laban. Although 4 women bore his kids, they couldn’t have been pregnant all at once for the way the child-bearing competition happened.

      1. Brett says:

        Thanks for the insight Jim. I’ll be reading that soon in my Bible reading plan and I’ll keep that in my mind as I read through the life of Jacob.

  3. I laid out a detailed timeline once from Adam to Solomon and noticed a couple of things. I know that there are arguments for reading gaps into the years given. I assumed as much for laying out the timeline. So, if the numbers of years are as they appear most simply:

    1) Noah had the opportunity to know Seth.
    2) Noah’s father had the opportunity to know Adam.
    3) Abraham was over 50 years old before Noah died.

    These three items speak to a possibly very short line of custody, and exceptional opportunity for narrative correction as it was passed down, for the creation narrative.

    4) Sarah gave birth to Issac before Abraham’s father died.

    Given that Abraham and Sarah were in Canaan long before this happened, Abraham’s father’s death at the time of his leaving Haran was legal rather than physical. I assume it was so that Abraham could take his inheritance with him.

    5) Abraham was alive many years after Joseph’s birth.

    This goes back to custody of the creation narrative and possible placement in Egypt’s libraries where Moses would have had access to them. It’s speculation, of course, to consider this, but the possibility is interesting. Speaking directly with God, Moses would have had any errors corrected by The Author himself anyway.

    6) It’s also interesting to see the dramatic shortening of human lifespan after the flood.
    7) Since Abraham followed only about 250 years after the flood, the dispersion after Babel was very fast. I may be misinformed, but I understand that archeology has revealed an advanced civilization among the Chaldeans apparently from the time of Abraham that includes schools and libraries with manuscripts of linguistics. It’s interesting that Abraham could communicate with the Canaanites and Egyptians having never been there before. He was well-educated and had some knowledge of their languages.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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