Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the River Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. On the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was upon him there. (Ezekiel 1:1-3)
The Bible is a book with many internal pieces of evidence proving the veracity of its claims. Critics of holy scripture must contend with the content of the book, examining the harmony and consistency of the Bible, the unity of diversity, its profound and rational doctrine of God and man, purity of ethics, and agreement of archaeological claims. Fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest arguments proving the Bible to be divine. Another means of showing the Bible to be authentic is the frequent use of dating Biblical events. There are many instances of dates proven accurate in a historical setting. Others are sometimes vague for modern man in their setting but nonetheless are used to establish authenticity to those who were the first readers of the word.
Ezekiel begins his book by dating the message as the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month. He further says the word of the Lord came to him on the fifth day of the month, which was in the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity. Scholars disagree on the setting of the thirtieth year. Different views are presented to determine what year this signifies. The setting of the book of Ezekiel follows the captivity of Judah in Babylon. Judah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 606 B.C. Jerusalem was captured, and a second group was taken into captivity in 597 B.C. In the year 586 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the Temple. It would be seventy years (536 B.C.) before the people of God returned to their homes. Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in the first days of the Babylonian conquest. The first part of his book warned the Jews of the impending doom of Jerusalem due to their sinfulness. When Ezekiel heard Jerusalem had fallen (586 B.C.), he proclaimed a message of hope and restoration through a remnant that would return to Israel.
The audience of Ezekiel understood the significance of the dates. Using the road signs of time, Ezekiel impresses upon the hearts of the people God’s plan to punish Israel and to save His people. The prophet Jeremiah declared the captivity of Israel would only last seventy years. Daniel would later realize the time was drawing near for God to fulfill His promise to return His people to Israel. In the first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel learned from reading Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. The time was drawing near for God’s word to be fulfilled. Daniel knew this because of the biblical dating embedded in God’s word.
Luke would use extensively the art of dating to validate his book. He begins with the days of Herod, the king of Judea. The birth of Jesus was during the days of Caesar Augustus. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth but had to go to Bethlehem to be registered according to the census that took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene. Luke is the only writer that says Jesus was thirty years of age when He began His ministry. Dates were important as road signs to show the validity of scripture on the history pages.
Isaiah prophesied during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Jeremiah lived in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. Jeremiah continued to preach throughout the reign of King Jehoiakim, Josiah’s son, until the eleventh year of the reign of King Zedekiah, another of Josiah’s sons. His work continued up to when the people of Jerusalem were taken away as captives. The book of Daniel begins by dating the events in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
Biblical dating is not arbitrary. There are many references given in scripture confirming the stories of the Bible are not myths but events based on historical, geographical, and archeological significance. The Holy Spirit places these road markers throughout scripture as silent witnesses to the proof that the Bible is God’s divine word. These dates are part of the complete package of knowing God has revealed His word, and it is true. Take time to examine the dates. It will help to affirm your faith.