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The Hebrews were the only nation of antiquity, who had among them a regular chronological history. In the sacred Scriptures, there is a chain of such history from the creation of the world till profane history assumes an authentic form. In the early portion of this history, the chronology is determined by a sucsession of first-born sons, accompanied by a statement of the age of each individual, at the time when his eldest son was born. In the later portion of the history, the chronology is determined by the time allotted for the continuance of the authority of a succession of judges, and afterwards of kings. There are some difficulties in adjusting this chronology, chiefly arising from variations introduced into manuscripts and translations of the Scriptures, during a long course of ages; but still, the best, perhaps the only guide, to a general view of ancient chronology, is the history contained in the sacred Scriptures. As the land in which the Israelites were placed, was in the very centre of the world's population, in the neighbourhood of the great empires that successively arose, and as it became an integral part of these empires, the history of that people is intermingled with almost all that is important in the history of our species. In reading the sacred history, there is brought before us in regular succession the sovereignties established on the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the states that arose to eminence on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean sea; the kingdoms of Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, Assyria, Babylon and Persia, and the influence which they possessed in the affairs of men in different ages of the world. The regular chain of Jewish history and chronology is interrupted at the building of the second temple, after the return from the captivity of Babylon, when the Persian monarchy was at its height: but a general view of the subsequent history of the world, marking the rise of the Grecian empire on the ruins of the Persian, its separation into several kingdoms, the advance of the Roman empire in its gigantic strides to universal sovereignty, its strength and character, its decay and overthrow, is given in the prophetic visions
of a Hebrew prophet, so graphically, and in a manner so perfectly conformable to the truth of history, that when we lose the aid of Jewish history, we cannot follow a better guide than the bold characteristic sketch of subsequent events furnished by the Jewish prophecies.
The history of the world naturally divides itself into two great periods, namely, that which elapsed before the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ into the world; and that which has elapsed since that event. The appearance of that illustrious personage on our planet was the commencement of that great revolution of mind, which has already produced such stupendous effects, and which is every day extending and strengthening its influence. It was then that those sublime views of the Deity, and that pure morality, which the nation of the Jews had received from the Scriptures, began to be diffused over the world, a process which soon changed the aspect of the Roman empire, and laid the foundation of that superior illumination and humanity, and those just conceptions of the rights and liberties of men, which distinguish from the rest of mankind Europeans, as well as all who are of their kindred in other regions of the globe. The commencement of this mighty movement is happily marked among the nations professing Christianity, by their adopting it as the fixed era, from which they date all other events either before or after it; stating the time of their occurrence by the number of years before Christ, or after Christ. We shall regard the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ, as the great turning or hinging point of the world's history, and view the chronology of all other events with reference to it.
Our attention, therefore, is, in the first place, to be directed to those events which took place before the birth of Jesus Christ.
'The various dates and periods noted in the Hebrew Scriptures, as examined and compared by many learned men, make the duration of the world, from the creation recorded in the book of Genesis, till the birth of Christ, 4004 years. For aiding the memory, this
period may be conveniently divided, as follows: At the middle of this period, or two thousand years before Christ, and two thousand after the creation of the world, Abraham was born: and the call of Abraham was the commencement of that important dispensation of Providence, by which one family were separated from the rest of the world, increased to a nation, planted in a central place of the earth, that they might preserve among them the knowledge of the name, and character, and law of the true God, and ultimately diffuse it among the rest of mankind. In the middle of the period between the creation of the world and the birth of Abraham, or about the year B.C. 3017, Enoch was translated to heaven, as a token of the favour and approbation with which God regarded his devout and holy character. In the middle of the period between the birth of Abraham and the birth of Christ, or about the year, B. C. 1004, Solomon's temple was finished. This period marked the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham in their literal sense; for then, and not till then, did his seed reign in peace and prosperity, from the great river Euphrates to the shores of the Mediterranean sea. Thus the whole period of four thousand years is divided into four parts of a thousand years each, every successive period commencing with a remarkable event, namely, the creation-the translation of Enoch—the birth of Abraham—and the completing of Solomon's temple.
These four periods, thus distinctly marked, may be further conveniently divided into eight, each of 500 years. So little is recorded respecting the first two periods of a thousand years, that it is of less importance to divide them into half thousands. We remark, however, that the first thousand years, namely, from the creation of the world to Enoch, is divided nearly equally, by the birth of Jared, the fifth descendant from Adam, which, was according to the common chronology, in the year B. C. 3544. The second thousand years, namely, from Enoch to Abraham, is divided nearly equally, by the denunciation of the deluge and the commencement of the building of the ark.
The divisions of the latter two periods of a thousand years are marked by very important eras. That which intervened between Abraham and Solomon, is divided by the mission of Moses to the Israelites, their deliverance from Egypt, and the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, which is determined to the year 1491, or nearly 1500, years B.C. The last period of a thousand years, or that which intervened between Solomon and the birth of Christ, is equally divided by the building of the second temple, after the return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, which event is determined to the year B.C. 515. Thus the whole period from the creation of the world to the birth of Christ is divided by remarkable eras, into eight periods, of about 500 years each, as in the following table.
In the following chapters a succinct view of the state of the world at each of these eight eras will be given.
Creation of the World.
A. M. 1.-B. C. 4004.
This era is marked by that stupendous operation, which is usually called the creation, but which was obviously bringing the earth from a previous state of chaos, into the order in which we now behold it. "In the beginning," it is written, "God created the heavens and the earth." And the earth," (subsequently to that beginning which is mentioned, but how long subsequently is not stated,) "was without form and void (or empty,) and darkness was upon the face of the deep." From this state, it was brought, by the work of six days, commencing with the commanding the light to shine upon it, and concluding with the creation of man. On the seventh day, God rested from his work, and thus laid the foundation of the institution of the Sabbath.
When man was created, he was placed in the garden of Eden, some delightful spot in the neighbourhood of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates; and a command was given to him, enforced by the penalty of death, by which command he was given to know his subjection and responsibility to the Almighty Creator. then made and brought to him, to be his wife. The fall of Adam and Eve into sin, soon follows, and their expulsion from the garden of Eden, to earn their bread by the sweat of their face; and then, in pursuance of the penalty of death which they had incurred, to return to the dust whence they were taken.
This era also is distinguished by the annunciation of the great redemption from sin and suffering, which God purposed to accomplish for man, by the mission of his own Son, in our nature, into the world. "The seed of the woman," said he, "shall bruise the head of the serpent." The ordinance of sacrifice is also introduced, typical of the sacrifice which the promised