Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It is generally accepted that Abraham lived 175 years. However, the dates when he lived are rather fuzzy and hotly debated.

When was he alive and what reasons would you give for your conclusion?

What methods have gone into determining the dates in which Abraham (and perhaps other early biblical figures) lived and died?

share|improve this question
    
Technically speaking he is still alive... –  McGafter Aug 12 at 13:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The best way to find this estimate is to take known historical dates and work backwards from there using dates and durations in the Bible.

The Mesha Stele has been dated to about 840-850 BCE, and seems to pretty clearly describe the time of Omri. If we assume it was written when the events happened, not long afterwards, we can use it to work backwards. Omri's reign began in the 31st year of Asa and lasted twelve years, which means that Asa's reign began around 870-890. Previously, Rehoboam ruled for 17 and Abijah for three. Although the transition is not entirely clear to me, the prior ruler was apparently Solomon for 40 years. In his fourth year, he started to build the temple, which was 480 years after leaving Egypt. So that takes us back 20+36+480 = 536 years further, to 1406-1426 BCE as the dates for the exodus.

Now we come to a difficult stretch because there are, to my knowledge, no clear chronological links between Moses and, say, Joseph. Moses' grandfather Kehat was with Jacob on the way into Egypt, and if you add up all the ages that's a maximum of 350 years (actually surely less, since Kehat was not an infant), but it's not clear what the minimum was. The most direct statement is Genesis 15:13, which puts four hundred years between Abraham's offspring and the exodus. Since the phrase is "in a land that is not theirs", and Ishmael and Isaac did not start off owning the land, it seems that the most harmonious interpretation is that this was 400 years from Ishmael's birth. We find that Abraham was 86 years old at the time. The 400 years probably didn't end until after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, so that's 360 years from Ishmael's birth to the exodus.

Therefore, according to historical and Biblical evidence, Abraham was born somewhere in the range of 1852-1872 BCE and died 175 years later (1677-1697). If the 400 years are accounted for differently, these dates could change significantly.

For what it's worth, other people have studied the matter and come up with different timelines; it's complicated by the lack of accurately-dated historical evidence for events prior to David upon which to anchor the timeline.

(Beware of lots of little edits to fix up small mathematical errors and other details.)

share|improve this answer

1948AM computes to 2052BC. His death aged 175 in 2123 AM 1877BC &430 years later was the Exodus 2553AM 1447 BC,the sojourning off 430 years to the day Exodus 12:39. The sojourning ow as of Abrahams Seed,the Children of Israel,that dwelt in Egypt....in2553AM. 1447BC, 480 years to Solomons 4th year 3033AM. 967BC etc

share|improve this answer
1  
What is 1948AM? –  LCIII Aug 12 at 12:13

I, along with others, have done studies on the chronology of the Old Testament genealogies - which puts Abraham being born ~1950 years after Adam, and about 300 years after the flood.

Given that the earth is approximately 6000 years old, that makes Abraham's birth about 2050BC.

share|improve this answer
    
I tend to look at Abraham being born at 2166, but your answer is close enough. –  Sȱɳɨȼ Ʈħe ǶḝÐɠḝħȱɠ Sep 29 '11 at 15:24
2  
Does the age of the earth really affect when Abraham was born? 2050BC is the same year whether the earth is 6000 years old or 4 billion years old... –  Flimzy Sep 29 '11 at 18:46
    
I also don't understand what your answer to the question about Jericho has to do with the earth being 6000 years old :) –  Flimzy Sep 29 '11 at 18:48
1  
@Flimzy: The BC date is of course fixed relative to Christ, but the OP appears to have calculated this based on counting forward from Adam and subtracting that from the age of the earth rather than counting backwards from Christ, hence the need to specify the 6k criteria used in the math. –  Caleb Sep 29 '11 at 22:10
4  
@Flimzy: Um, I still don't think you see what happened here. All the chronologies (actually in this case genealogies) start at Adam and work forward. In order to give this a BC date you have to also place Adam at a give BC date. The math for that is not included here, hence the need to specify where the scale is said to begin based on a date for creation of Adam (also presumed to be the age of the earth). –  Caleb Sep 29 '11 at 22:20

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.