Historians can get pretty snippy over numbers. 2070 or 1989 B.C.? 1600 or 1558 B.C.?
Maybe if someone paid me to be picky about such things, I’d consider getting snippy too. But since I’m pretty sure there isn’t a check in the mail, the phrase “around 4000 years ago” keeps me happy.
[Note: Before continuing, be sure to check out the introductory post, “Chinese History at Your Fingertips.” ]
According to the Xià–Shāng–Zhōu Chronology Project (夏商周断代工程), the 夏 Xià Dynasty was from 2070 to 1600 B.C. Works for me. According to Bible scholar Gleason Archer, Abraham was 75 years old in 2091. Also works for me.
Regardless of how you juggle the numbers, Abraham lived approximately the same time as the 夏 Xià Dynasty. Following the above two formulas puts Abraham as an old man at the founding of the 夏 Xià Dynasty, making him a contemporary of legendary 夏 Xià Dynasty founder, 大禹 Dàyǔ the Great.
Tricky Early History
If you check out this Answers Research Journal article about Abraham and the Chronology of Mesopotamia, you’ll see that there’s a lot of guesswork when it comes to the chronology of such early history. Speculation reigns supreme.
In fact, for a long time, historians questioned the very existence of the 夏 Xià Dynasty. The only reason we’ve even heard of it is because of 司马迁 Sīmǎ Qiān, China’s Herodotus, who lived and wrote in the first century B.C.
He told us about two early dynasties, called the 夏 Xià and the 商 Shāng. Both were questioned until the 商 Shāng was verified fairly recently. “So,” it’s reasonably argued, “If 司马迁 Sīmǎ Qiān was right about the 商 Shāng, odds are he was right about the 夏 Xià as well.”
How to Remember
In my Bible, right between Genesis 11 and 12, I have written: “夏朝” (Xià Dynasty). That way every time I read the Bible, I’ll be mindful of what was going on in China.
So, what was going on in China? Unfortunately, for this dynasty, “It’s real slim pickin’s,” to quote Laszlo Montgomery of the China History Podcast. We know next to nothing.
Assuming that he was a real person, one of the more memorable figures of the period is 大禹 Dàyǔ the Great, the somewhat mythical leader who tamed the flooding of “China’s Sorrow:” The 黄河 Huánghé (Yellow River).
At one point, Abraham had some water problems of his own. In Genesis 12:10, there was a famine that drove him to Egypt. To help me link these two people together in my mind, I wrote next to Genesis 12:10, 大禹治水 Dàyǔ Zhìshuǐ — “Dàyǔ Tames the Waters.” (I apologize for my terrible handwriting! I’ve been told several times, “You write like a child.”)
On the other end of the 夏 Xià Dynasty, both chronologically and morally, is the notorious 桀王 King Jié, the man who single-handedly drove the dynasty to ruin. That is, almost single-handedly. His villainous concubine 妺喜 Mòxǐ reportedly egged him on. Among other infamous episodes, they created a lake of wine for a drunken orgy. This is a really bad idea on many levels, including the fact that people don’t swim too well when under the influence. 妺喜 Mòxǐ laughed away when 3,000 soldiers drowned.
In my Bible, at the end of Genesis, I have written 夏桀 Xià Jié, to remind myself that this evil king probably ended China’s first dynasty after Joseph and before Moses. (Sorry again for the atrocious penmanship!)
Featured Image: Elijah Wilcott, 2007