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Israelite Prophets Date Chart

Dennis Bratcher

The United Monarchy
Dates (BC) Prophets of United Israel
1020-1000 Samuel
975-960 Nathan
The Divided Kingdoms
Dates (BC) Israel (Northern)   Judah (Southern) Dates (BC)
870-850 Elijah    
850-800 Elisha    
750-745 Amos [Jonah] [740-730]
750-745 Hosea    
    Isaiah of Jerusalem 742-700
Micah 722-701
Zephaniah 628-622
Jeremiah 626-586
Nahum 612
Habakkuk 605
Ezekiel 593-573
Obadiah c. 586/5
Isaiah 40-55 540
Haggai 520-515
Zechariah 520-515
Isaiah 56-66 515-500
Joel 500-350?
Malachi 500-450
Jonah 450-400

This chart includes only the major prophetic figures of the Old Testament period.  The period following 750 BC, beginning with Hosea and Amos, is often referred to as the classical period of prophecy and those prophets as writing prophets.  Both names are somewhat inaccurate.  There is not nearly as radical a break between prophets before the beginning of the "classical" period and those after as the name might imply.  Also, not all of the prophets were necessarily writers. In some cases the books are a combination of the prophet's words along with later stories about the prophet as well as much later application of the prophetic message to new historical contexts.  Amos is a good example of such a composite book.  On the other hand, some prophetic books, such as Ezekiel, are relatively coherent indicating a great deal of unity of composition.  Yet in other cases, such as the Book of Jonah, the prophet whose name appears as the title of a book had little to do with the authorship of the book, since it is a writing about the prophet, his life, and message.

The dates reflect the active ministry of the prophets as determined from datable portions of the biblical accounts.  Except for the Isaiah traditions, there is no attempt here to sort out the different time periods that are reflected in the prophetic books themselves (see The Unity and Authorship of Isaiah).  For example, it is clear that the collection of sermons and stories from Amos underwent editing (redaction) in the Southern Kingdom after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC, some 150 years after the ministry of Amos in the Northern Kingdom (Amos 9:11-15).

This simply reminds us that there is a difference between the immediate historical context of prophetic figures of the Old Testament and the historical context of the books that bear their name.   The books are the products of the community of faith sometimes over many centuries as they collected, reflected upon, and used the messages brought by the prophets themselves (for a graphic of the different time frames of biblical material, see The Three Triads of Biblical Interpretation and the accompanying article, Guidelines for Interpreting Biblical Narrative).  The books often bear clear evidence of this dynamic use of the prophetic traditions over a period of time, which also speaks of the ongoing vitality of the writings as God's living word to the people.

Daniel is not included here because the book is not normally considered a prophetic book, but rather part of The Writings, the reflective and devotional literature of Israel.  There is little historical evidence to date the book of Joel, and it could fall anywhere between 500 BC to as late as 300 BC.  The historical setting of Jonah is the Assyrian era of the 8th century BC, but many scholars place the actual writing of the book in the middle fifth century BC, shortly after Nehemiah's reforms. This suggests that the book uses much older traditions from the Assyrian era as a means to address a different set of problems in the post-exilic community.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2018, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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