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The writer, in the following pages, has had no intention of forming a system of chronology. It is simply the result of his own study to understand the several passages of Scripture that give dates or periods of time. In doing this he was gradually led on, step-by-step, until the principal links of the whole chain of events from the creation passed under review, and are here given.
God may not have intended to give the material for a complete chronology; but He has given a great many links — many more than is generally supposed by those who have but cursorily examined the subject — leaving but few places really doubtful.
Yet, strange to say, that out of the many chronologists, scarcely two agree in their results. Two things have principally caused this disagreement: first, that when difficulties have arisen, the first thought seems to have been to suppose that Scripture is wrong, and then, of course, it was no longer a question of understanding the Scripture, or reconciling apparent discrepancies, but it gave ample room for the writer’s opinion: and, secondly, that most chronologists seem to have approached the subject with some foregone conclusions; and these again think nothing of supposing the Scripture to be wrong.
But the writer is desirous of understanding the Scripture, because he believes it is right — always right — inspired by God, who never makes mistakes. Mistakes there may be, of course, by copyists; but these are generally discoverable: this is not the question; but whether God so controlled the writers as to prevent them making mistakes. Assuredly He did, for nothing less would be worthy of God. It is, then, these inspired Scriptures we seek to understand.
Others have supposed that the difficulties of chronology may be overcome by some system of cycles, or recurring periods, at which great events have happened. But surely any one who has examined these systems (for there are several) must have noticed that whatever measure be taken, some event falls in at the right time, and is taken as a proof that the system is correct; while what one person thinks to be a cardinal point, another thinks to be of no importance: so that all are made to appear right, though they differ materially, and are destructive of each other.
The great danger of anything of the sort is, that if I have a system I am nearly sure to judge of Scripture by my cycles, instead of judging my cycles by Scripture. For instance, the LXX. and the Hebrew differ; and I want to know which is right. I am nearly sure to say that that is right which agrees with my cycles. This would be judging of Scripture by my system, and is surely false in principle.
Further, we do not find any such system of regular periods even in nature. The sun and moon are for days and years (Gen. 1:1414And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: (Genesis 1:14)), and yet a sidereal month (the revolution of the moon) is 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, 11.5 seconds; and the average time from a new moon to a new moon is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, 2.9 seconds; and a year (the revolution of the earth round the sun) is 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, 9.6 seconds: all very irregular, as man might think, and yet we are sure that in wisdom God made all His works (Psa. 104:2424O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. (Psalm 104:24)). It may be that this apparent irregularity was the result of the curse for man’s sin (“for the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now,” Rom. 8:2222For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. (Romans 8:22)); but if it was, all the rest would also be involved in the curse.
So, by picking out the births of leading men, or by taking great leading events, we have been unable to discover that they took place according to any regular succession of periods.
It is God’s Word, then, that we approach: not to call it in question, but to understand it; and “the meek will He guide in judgment” (Psa. 25:99The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. (Psalm 25:9)).