Many people ask, “Does the Bible really tell us how old the earth is?” Because God inspired Scripture to record certain chronological details, we have an unbroken timeline from creation to the birth of Christ, allowing us to say with certainty that the earth is around 6,000 years old today.
It is important to talk about the precision of the chronological data that Scripture gives us. For example, Scripture tells us that Adam fathered Seth when he was 130 years old (Genesis 5:3), but we don’t know the month or the day. So this and most of the rest of the timeline information Scripture gives us is accurate to within one year. This means that there will be an uncertainty of less than one year for every timeline data point. So when you add up the father-son data in Genesis 5, it tells us that the global Flood of Noah’s day happened when the earth was 1,656 years old, plus up to less than 10 years, because we have 10 numbers that have less than a year of certainty. If all of the recorded numbers were recorded just shy of the next birthday (for instance, Adam was 130 and 11 months when he fathered Seth, Seth was 105 and 11 months when he fathered Enosh, and so on), the Bible allows that the Flood could have been when the earth was 1665 years old. But this uncertainty adds up to only a couple dozen years over the entire 4,000 years from creation to the birth of Jesus.
The Flood to the Patriarchs
There is an unbroken father-son list from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham in Genesis 11. Genesis 21:5 tells us that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Genesis 25:26 tells us that Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born, and Genesis 47:9 tells us that Jacob was 130 when he went to Egypt. Putting all these numbers together, we can tell that Jacob went to Egypt 642 + less than 12 years after the global Flood, meaning that the earth was 2298 + less than 22 years old. There is not an unbroken father-son list with ages after this, but the Bible gives us more information that allows us to take the timeline even farther.
The Patriarchs to the Exodus to the Kings
Exodus 12:40 says that Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. So the Exodus happened when the earth was 2,728 years old + less than 23 years old. Then we know that Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years, meaning that they entered the Promised Land in 2,768 + less than 24 years. But here the chronology becomes a bit hazier for a while. This is because we don’t know exactly how long the conquest took, or exactly how long it was before the judges started ruling Israel. We’re told how long each judge ruled, and how long each period of peace lasted, but some of these clearly overlap, and some judges clearly only ruled part of Israel, while another judge was ruling another part.
The next clear statement on the timeline comes in 1 Kings 6:1, which says, “In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.” So if we subtract 40 years each for the wandering in the desert, Saul’s reign, and David’s reign, and 4 for the partial reign of Solomon, that leaves about 356 years for the period of the judges. This fits well with the numbers in the Book of Judges, too, if we assume a few overlaps. So Solomon began to build the Temple when the earth was 3,208 + less than 23 years old. Notice that even though we’re thousands of years into history at this point, the uncertainty about the dates is less than 25 years!
The Kings to the Exile
It is tricky to make a chronology of the kings of Israel, because we know that sometimes there were co-regencies where a father and son ruled at the same time, and comparing the kings of Judah to the kings of Israel helps us to calculate when those happened. When we do that, we find that from the Temple to the Exile of Judah was about 345 years, when the world was around 3,553 years old. At this point, it’s possible to say what the date would be in our calendars, and that is 586 B.C. This would mean that today the world would be around 6,150 years old, plus or minus less than 50 years.
The Bible is history!
The Bible is the account of how God has acted in history. This means that what it says has to be historically accurate! One way the Biblical authors communicated that they were giving actual history was by recording the lifespans, or measuring the amount of time between certain events. And we can trust this history and what it tells us about God.
One great way to teach your children about the history of the world is to create a timeline of world history with your children. Here is one grandfather’s testimony of the impact it had on his family. The finished product can be hung on a bedroom or school room wall. In my presentations at all four GHC venues, I will be addressing how parents can teach their children to trust the Bible’s history, starting in Genesis.
Length of Time
|Jacob in Egypt||Exodus||430||2728||Exodus 12:40|
|Exodus||Temple begun||480||3208||1 Kings 6:1|