The Chronology of the Kings of Judah and Israel—1 Kings 1:1

The fact that each nation or geographical region had its own system of keeping records, counting time, and establishing a yearly calendar has greatly complicated our understanding of ancient chronologies. The ancient world did not have a universal calendar or system of counting years as we do today in the anno Domini form of calendar years. To understand ancient chronology, we must correlate the dates found in the records of ancient Near Eastern kingdoms with those used in the current anno Domini system. Scholars achieved this first for the chronology of ancient Babylon. The detailed astronomical records that the Babylonians kept made it possible to correlate the reports of certain astronomical events with modern dates. Once historians had established a chronology for the kings of Babylon, it was possible to cross-reference Babylonian encounters with other nations, such as military campaigns, against other ancient Near Eastern kings and thus establish chronologies for neighboring countries such as Assyria and Egypt, as well as for Israel and Judah.

However, having an anno Domini year to go with biblical events is only the beginning to understanding the region’s complex chronology. Most of the ancient Near East employed a lunisolar calendar. It measured time by dividing the year according to the phases of the moon and the four different seasons. While this calendar had 12 months, because it was lunar, such a calendar would slowly get out of synchronization with the solar seasons (marked by solstices and equinoxes). To compensate, now and then, it would be necessary to add an extra month (a second Adar in Israel and Judah) to compensate. The time of the year when a country began its calendar also varied and scholars now recognize that Israel and Judah started their calendar years in different seasons (spring and fall respectively).

When it comes to understanding and building a chronology for the kings of Israel and Judah, we must take into account a few more details: how did people count the year of a king’s accession to the throne? Was there coregency? Did the systems of Israel and Judah differ in some way from each other?

The accession year system does not count the year when a king takes the throne as his first year but as his accession year. The following calendar year then becomes the first year of his reign. This system leaves no overlap in the transition between kings. The year the former king dies is the accession year of his son. In the non-accession year system, the year a king assumes the throne is year one of his reign even if only one month remains before the end of the calendar year. This system also created an overlap between the last year of the former king and the first year of his son.

After Israel’s division into the rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel, Israel adopted a non-accession year system, while Judah seems to have maintained an accession year system. However, due to influences from the northern kingdom during the marriage of Jehoram to Athaliah (2 Kings 8:18, 26), Judah switched to the non-accession year system from the time of Jehoram to that of Joash. After the reign of Joash, scribes seem to have returned to the accession year system, which they maintained until the Babylonian exile in 586 BC. While Israel started its time reckoning in the non-accession year system, evidence suggests that after the time of Jehoash of Israel, they adopted the accession year system, which remained in use until Israel’s final deportation in 722 BC.

While the sequence of months for both Israel and Judah went from Nisan to Adar, their regnal calendars followed different reckonings. In Judah, at least from the time of Solomon, scribes counted the regnal year from Tishri to Tishri. That is, the regnal years in Judah started in the fall. But in Israel, regnal years went from Nisan to Nisan, commencing therefore in the spring.

The biblical texts suggest several coregencies or periods of joint rulership. In Judah, all were legitimate father-son coregencies, while in Israel, some involved two rival kings reigning in different parts of the northern kingdom at the same time. The most common reason for a coregency between father and son is for a smoother transition and a way to avoid internal struggles for power between potential heirs.

Coregencies in Judah included:

Coregencies and rival rulers in Israel included:

Saul            1050-1011

United Monarch

David 1011-971

Solomon 971-931

Judah Israel
King Dates King Dates
Rehoboam 931–913 Jeroboam I 931–909
Abijah 913–910 Nadab 909–908
Asa 911–869 Baasha 908–885
Jehoshaphat 872–848 Elah 885–884
Jehoram 853–841 Zimri 884
Ahaziah 841 Tibni 884–880
Athaliah 841–835 Omri 884–873
Joash 835–796 Ahab 873–853
Amaziah 796–767 Ahaziah 853–852
Azariah (Uzziah) 792–739 Joram 852–841
Jotham 750–731 Jehu 841–813
Ahaz 735–715 Jehoahaz 813–798
Hezekiah 715-686 Jehoash 798–781
Manasseh 697–642 Jeroboam II 793–753
Amon 642–640 Zechariah 753–752
Josiah 640–609 Shallum 752
Jehoahaz 609 Menahem 752–741
Jehoiakim 609–598 Pekaniah 742–739
Jehoiachin 598–597 Pekah 752–731
Zedekiah 597–586 Hoshea 731–722


Rochberg-Halton, “Calendars,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 810-814.

Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.