Historical Dating

Isaac A Zlochower (zlochoia@ix.netcom.com)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 20:34:13 -0800

Alon Klamkin (TF 99) questionned the rough date that I gave for the death
of Sarah ,"over 3600 years ago". This is the approximate traditional date
which is derived as follows: Avraham was born in the year 1948 a.m.
(derived from the Torah's chronology of the geneologic tree of Avraham back
to Adam). He was 10 years older than Sarah, and so was 137 when his wife
died in the year 2085 a.m. Subtracting 2085 from 5757 gives 3672 years
since the death of Sarah.

How long afterwards was Jerusalem conquered by King David and made into his
royal city? Yaakov (Jacob) was 130 when the family went to Egypt.
Yitzchok (Isaac) was 60 years older than his son, and would have been 190
at that time. He was 37 at the death of his mother. Thus 153 years
elapsed from the death of Sarah to the start of the Egyptian exile.
Traditionally, the stay in Egypt was not 400 or 430 years, but 210. Kings
I 6:1 informs us that the building of the Temple by David's son, Shlomo
(Solomon) was started in the fourth year of his reign 480 years after the
exodus from Egypt. That totals 843 years from the death of Sarah to the
start of the Temple. Now David ruled in Jerusalem for 33 years, so that 37
years (33 + 4) must be subtracted from the 843, or 806 years from Sarah's
death to the conquest of Jerusalem. Subtracting 806 from 3672 gives 2866
years since the founding of Jerusalem by David. If you add the 166 year
difference between the secular date for the destruction of the first temple
and the traditional date, then you have over 3000 years since the founding
of Jerusalem.

The 3000 year anniversary celebration is therefore inaccurate in either
system of reckoning, but who is counting? Concerning any political
implications in my posting, try not to read too much into it. I was just
illustrating the irony of the current situation in the Holy Land. In fact,
I was merely sharing my private musings on the entire subject of the
circumstances of Sarah's death. A more traditional and acceptable
viewpoint is given by the great 19th century commentator, the Malbim. The
Malbim proposes that Sarah felt that her final days on earth were
approaching (the reader can relate this to the Akedah) and journeyed to
Hebron in order to be buried in the Machpela cave that she know about.
Avraham learned of his wife's death after returning home to Be'er Sheva
from the Akedah.

Yitzchok Zlochower