A Historical Timeline of the Bible

The following table concerns the chronology of the return of the Jews from their exile. The Jews were taken captive by the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar over the period of time from 605 B.C. to 586 B.C. When Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C. the Jews became the subjects of the Medo-Persian empire. A year later in 538 B.C., Cyrus issued a proclamation for the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem . The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel and Esther cover the events of the Medo-Persian control over the Jews. Refer to Tables 6 and 7.


Table 11 - Chronology of the Return from Exile

Medo-Persian Ruler




Cyrus II (the Great) [559-530]

Accession Year


Babylon falls to Cyrus on October 9.

It would seem that, on October 29, Cyrus appointed his 62 year old general Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, governor over the conquered Chaldean kingdom. Darius the Mede, who was made ruler (Daniel 9:1) was known as Gobryas or Gubaru or Ugbaru.

On November 6, Darius the Mede, who engineered the capture of Babylon, died of a sudden fatal illness. The implication is that God provided special encouragement and protection to Darius, which evidently included the divine removal of a dangerous rival, through the agency of the archangel Gabriel (Daniel 11:1).
    539/8 Timeframe of Daniel 9. In the first year of governor Darius, Daniel comes to realize that with the fall of the Babylonian empire (Jeremiah 25:11-12) the time had come for God to bring the Jews back to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 29:10) as the 70 years were complete (Daniel 9:2). Deeply moved, Daniel humbles himself and implores God in prayer and fasting to forgive the Jews and to restore Jerusalem (Daniel 9:3-19). In response, Gabriel appears and tells him of seventy weeks and the anointed prince [The Seventy Weeks Prophecy] (Daniel 9:24-27).




Cyrus issues a proclamation for the Jews to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). All during Cyrus' reign the Samaritans harassed the Jews and hired counselors against them.




Return of Jews under Zerubbabel (probable; 70 years, inclusive, from 1st phase of captivity in 605).


Return of Jews under Zerubbabel (probable; 70 years, inclusive, from 1st phase of captivity in 605 B.C.).

605/604 B.C. - 70 years = 535/534 B.C.

Reconstruction of the Temple begun.

Cambyses II [530-522]

Accession Year


Rebuilding of the Temple stopped until the second year of Darius I.

The second son of Cyrus II assassinated by his brother Cambyses II, who kept the murder a secret.

Patizithes, Magi custodian of Cambyses' palace, deposed Cambyses (while he campaigned in Egypt ).

Psuedo-Smerdis (Guamata) [522]

Accession Year

(7 months only)

Patizithes, Magian custodian of Cambyses' palace, deposed Cambyses (while he campaigned in Egypt).

Patizithes put forward his brother Guamata, to impersonate Smerdis, and proclaimed him king. After a reign of seven months Darius I slew the pretender.

Darius I (the Great) [522-486]

Accession Year


Darius I, son of Hystaspes of the Achaemenid dynasty, took the throne in a coup d'état








Haggai and Zechariah prophesize.




Darius issued a decree that the rebuilding of the Temple should continue without interference (Ezra 6:6-12).




On Adar 3 the Jews finished construction of the Temple (Ezra 6:13-15).

Xerxes (Ahasuerus) [486-465]



Esther made queen




Jews delivered from death.




Artabanus, a courtier, murdered Xerxes in December 465 B.C.

Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) [465-424]

Accession Year


Artaxerxes I took the throne in late December.







ca. 461

Malachi speaks out against religious laxity.



458 (457)

Artaxerxes issued a decree permitting the Jewish people in his empire to return to Jerusalem to beautify the Temple and to worship (Ezra 7:11-26, Daniel 9:25).



458 (457)

Ezra left Babylon for Jerusalem on Nisan 1 [the 1st month]. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem on Ab 1 [the 5th month] (Ezra 7:1-9).



ca. 456

Without royal authorization Jerusalem's Jews attempt to rebuild the city including "finishing the walls and repairing the foundations" (Ezra 4:12).



ca. 456

Learning of the matter, Artaxerxes I puts a halt to the unauthorized rebuilding the city, forbids any rebuilding of the city until he issues a decree authorizing it, and forcibly destroys the recently rebuilt walls (Ezra 4:21-22).



445 (444)

Nehemiah troubled on hearing that Jerusalem 's Jews "are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire" (Nehemiah 1:3).




Nehemiah asks Artaxerxes I to send him to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Artaxerxes issues a royal decree authorizing the rebuilding of the walls (Nehemiah 2:1-5).




Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:1; 5:14).




Ezra, with Nehemiah present, read the Law in a public ceremony (Nehemiah 8:9).



433 (432)

End of Nehemiah's first term as governor. After 12 year stay Nehemiah left Jerusalem (Nehemiah 5:14; 13:6).




Nehemiah returned for a second stay before Artaxerxes' reign ended in 424 B.C.


Table 10c

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