Ai And Old Testament Chronology: Who Cares -- By: Eugene H. Merrill

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 27:2 (Spring 2014)
Article: Ai And Old Testament Chronology: Who Cares
Author: Eugene H. Merrill

Ai And Old Testament Chronology: Who Cares

Eugene H. Merrill


The term “chronology” in the minds of many is redolent of images of stuffy old eccentrics deep in rumination in some musty study over trivia that have no practical relevance to everyday life and well-being. Who cares when Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem or when Hannibal crossed the Rubicon or when Betsy Ross sewed together the first American flag or even when Nixon left the White House in disgrace? These tidbits may be of interest to historians who write and sell books to other cranks or to professors of history who find that though their students are bored stiff learning about men and battles and dates of the long ago, they themselves are content in their own little cocoons of idiosyncrasy. Besides that, everyone has to do something to make a living.

However, all husbands (and more than a few wives) who have lost track of a birthday or wedding anniversary soon discover that if dates and the proper sequence of events “slip the mind,” suddenly chronology—if not the most important thing in the world—begins to make a great leap upward on the scale of priorities. It does matter when she was born and under what circumstances and it is critical for him never to forget the happiest day in her life, the day she married him and now, curiously, why?

The Significance Of Biblical Chronology

A common but adequate and accurate analogy to historiography is that of anatomy. Just as the human skeleton is the indispensable “framework” around and upon which the body with all its parts are suspended, so chronology is the equally indispensable framework upon or against which the flow and facts of history find proper arrangement, relationship, function, and meaning. The medical student might as well take the scattered parts of a cadaver, piece them back together randomly, and call it anatomy and physiology as for a seminarian to cut the Bible to shreds and then re-assemble it any way he chose and call the result biblical history. One would reasonably expect both to flunk and to look to some other vocation where cause and effect and temporal sequence have no intrinsic or even practical value. In short, anyone who takes the Bible seriously as the very Word of God in everything it intends to say—even about science and history—is forced to confront the chronology-history issue as one whose facets are of necessity mutually integrative and informative.

Was the Tower of Babel episode pre-Flood or afterward? Did Abraham live in the EB-MB era or Iron Age I? Are the lists of the kings of Israel and Judah accurate and do they arrange their respective reigns in the right order? Does it really matter when Joshua conquered Ai? Is it not of little...

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