Many sincere folks are unaware that there is a problem with 607 BC as the year of Jerusalem’s destruction. Some might not truly comprehend the full significance of this problem or just what the issues are. Often, some will belay such a study for fear that it’s just “over their head” and just leave such things in the hands of those perceived smarter than they are.
In the door-to-door work, I sometimes encountered people who told me, “Well, that’s what my preacher says, and that’s good enough for me!” No doubt you will agree that such thinking is highly imprudent. However, if we leave off an examination in the hands of those who seem to be in elevated positions, would we not be taking the same course?
At Acts 17:11, the Bereans were called noble-minded because they just didn’t take the Apostle Paul’s word for it, but were “examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so”. Time and time again in the Bible, we are told to test and examine what we are being taught. (See 1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Ephesians 5:10) Truly, how can we encourage other people to do so, and not do so ourselves?
According to historians, archeologists, archeastronomers, theologians and other academics, Jerusalem was destroyed in 587/586 BCE, not 607 BC. Go to any library, check any encyclopedia or neutral reference work. The consensus is unanimous. Why then do some hold to the teaching that 607 BC was the year of Jerusalem’s destruction? For this, we must understand the framework of the argument, before we can accept or reject it. The framework revolves around an interpretation of the 70 years of Jeremiah called the “70 years of Desolation”.
The 70 years of Desolation are said to:
- Be an exact, rather than rounded, period of time.
- Be a period primarily centered on the punishment of Judah and Jerusalem.
- Be marked by complete Exile of all Judah to Babylon, leaving the land completely desolate and uninhabited.
- Begins the year Jerusalem is destroyed.
- Ends with the “restoration of pure worship”, that is, the Jews returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the Altar, and make sacrifices. This is said to occur in September/October 537 B.C.E.
Thus, by calculating backwards: 537 BCE – 70 years = 607 BC
The Bible’s Viewpoint:
Understanding this framework, we can examine the argument point by point, in light of Scripture. Since 607 BC is derived from subtracting 70 years from 537 BC, the year set as the return of the Jewish Exiles to Jerusalem, we must examine whether or not the Exiles returned in 537 BC. To examine this, we must first read Ezra 1:1 to 3:6.
Another key issue to examine is what event ends the 70 years of Jeremiah. Do the 70 years end when the Exiles arrive back in Jerusalem? Not according to Jeremiah 25:12, which ties the ending of the 70 years with the fall of Babylon, which occurred in 539 BC.
Since the 70 years ends with fall of Babylon, when do the 70 years begin? What events characterize the 70 years? According to Jeremiah 25:11, this would be a time when the nations would serve the Babylonian world power. When did the nations begin to serve Babylon? There are two viable interpretations in this regard: the final blow to Assyria’s last stronghold in 609 BC, when her last king disappears from history—or the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, which is about the time the prophesy of Jeremiah 25 was uttered.
Another issue is the relation 70 years of Jeremiah synonymous to the Exile. Is one synonymous with the other? What is the relationship of relationship of the two? Did the Exile begin with Jerusalem’s destruction? When Jerusalem was destroyed, did that leave Judah without an inhabitant for the next 70 years?
Often, the question of arises about Jeremiah 29:10, which while many translations render the thought, “70 years for Babylon”, a few translations render “70 years at Babylon”. However, before we concentrate on this single verse, we must understand this verse in the context of Jeremiah 29. Jeremiah 29 contains a letter that the prophet wrote those Exiled to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s 7th year, that is, those deported 11 years before Jerusalem’s destruction. Understanding the content and context of this letter will help us gain a fuller understanding of the link between the 70 Years and the Exile.
A great source of confusion can be how Jeremiah 29:10 is translated. It comes down to a single Hebrew preposition Lamedh–is it ‘at’ or ‘for’? To get the broadest sense of what Jeremiah was saying, it is best to compare many translations to be free of possible bias from any one source.
Another passage that can be ambiguously rendered and understood is 2 Chronicles 36:20. Some take this to mean that the 70 year Exile starts from the destruction of Jerusalem. But is this what Chronicles is saying? A proper exegesis of the matter demands we go to the source, that is to say, Jeremiah, who defined what the 70 years are all about. Once we have these groundrules, we can better interpret passages referencing Jeremiah’s prophesy when they are referenced elsewhere in the Bible.
Another ‘prooftext’ that is often cited is Daniel 9:1, 2. Does this passage mean that the destruction of Jerusalem lasted 70 years? The end of the 70 years and the end of the desolation of Jerusalem are related, but are they equivalent? Here again, we must we apply the same principles of exegesis by basing our understanding of the 70 years on the ground rules found in Jeremiah, and not the other way around.
It is clear that the 70 Years for Babylon were inevitable. But was the destruction of Jerusalem inevitable? Was the Exile inevitable? Are the 70 Years, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Exile all one and the same? To best understand what the 70 years are about, it is best to ‘zoom out’ and get an overview by reading Jeremiah 25, 27, 28, 29. Each of these chapters have a casual connection to the other, and give insight and different views on what it would mean for the nations to serve Babylon. It is also helpful to read Jeremiah 36, set during Jerusalem’s final siege. Once the connections between them can be drawn, the verses on the 70 years will fall into place.
Is there any Scriptural evidence in the Bible that indicates 587 BC? By examining the books of Haggai and Zechariah, we can weigh whether the year 587 BC or 607 BC better fits within the timeframe for the destruction of Jerusalem.
If you’ve made the examination thus far, now might be a good time to recap the five elements of the 607 argument and why the Bible itself does not support the idea that Jerusalem was destroyed in that year, but rather, 587/586 BC.
The Historical Evidence:
If after examining the Bible, we are still on the fence? It might be beneficial to look at the Historical record in order to confirm our interpretation. But why should we look at anything outside the Bible? Isn’t the Bible alone enough to determine this Chronology? In framing the argument of the Bible versus the Historical, we create a false choice for ourselves, and are overlooking one very crucial detail.
Ancient astronomical diaries help us determine absolute dates which we can synchronize to the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, as well as to events in Bible chronology. Observations found on these diaries are like a fingerprint of the sky from 2500 years ago. The sky does not lie! One of the most important of these diaries is VAT 4956, which helps us determine an absolute date for Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year. By knowing Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year, we can calculate back to year of Jerusalem’s destruction in Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year.
Much discussion often revolves around VAT 4956–and to be sure the dozens of planetary and lunar observations fix Nebuchadnezzar’s 37th year to 568 BC. However, there are other astronomical tablets that are just as crucial in determining the absolute dates of the Neo-Babylonian chronology. In particular: the lunar observation tablets: LBAT 1420, LBAT 1419, LBAT 1421.
Nearly ten thousand cuneiform economic and administrative tablets dated to the Neo-Babylonian era have been found and translated. Each are dated with the month, day and year of the ruling king. The tabulation of these tablets overwhelmingly paints a clear picture of who ruled Babylon and for how long. The stones are crying out!
If Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year was truly 607 BC, it would open a 20 year gap in the Neo- Babylonian dynasty that would be completely unaccounted for. Some try to argue that there were other kings between the known rulers, or that these known kings ruled for much longer than history records. Another argument is that there were gaps between kings. However, there are ways to test whether or not this is the case. For instance, one helpful examination is by taking into account the over 3000 tablets from the Babylonian banking firm ‘the sons of Egibi’. Here, we can trace this business from family head to family head, determining how long each headed the business, and relating this to the ruling monarch.
Another important piece of evidence to consider is the Adad-Guppi Stele, an inscription from the 6th century BC, commissioned by Nabondius as a type of obituary honoring his mother. These inscriptions help us confirm the Neo-Babylonian chronology yet again, identifying the kings of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, as well as how long they ruled. A careful examination also reveal there could be no gaps between the Neo-Babylonian kings.
To be considered as well: The Hillah Stele (aka Nabondius No 8) details a 54 year period that the temple of the moon good Sin in Harran was in ruins. From other reliable sources, we can trace the beginning and end of this 54 year period, and this helps us to confirm that there are no gaps between the Neo-Babylonian Kings, no extra kings, no additional years of rule.
It might helpful at this point to review and collate the historical evidence examined thus far to better understand how one piece of evidence relates to the other.
There are various concepts that might be helpful to review in more detail. Video Appendix 1 covers some basic background information on how the ancient Semitic people observed days, months, and years. It is important when discussing Babylonian and Bible chronology.
Another important overview is understanding a synopsis of Neo-Babylonian history, who the kings were and what events characterized their reigns. For starters, Nabopolassar founded the Neo-Babylonian in 626 BC, and ruled for 21 years until his death in 605 BC. His deathblow to Assyria in 609 BC is often regarded as the start of a 70-year period of Babylonian ascendancy and the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC cemented Babylon’s hold of Judah and other nations in that region.
Of course, of crucial importance to this discussion is Nebuchadnezzar II, the Babylonian king who came to power in 605 BC and ruled until his death in 562 BC, a span that equates to 43 regnal years. During his reign, Judah became a vassal state of Babylon, and due to rebellions, he had to intercede on more than one occasion, ending in the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC. During his reign, Judeans went into Exile into three waves: in 597 BC, in 587 BC, and finally in 582 BC.
The next three Neo-Babylonian Kings have shorter histories: Amel-Marduk (562-560 BC), Nergal-sharezer (560-556 BC), and Labashi-Marduk (556 BC). Amel-Marduk and Nergal-sharezer (aka Neriglissar) are both directly mentioned in the Old Testament. The mention of Amel-Marduk, also known as Evil-Merodach, in 2 Kings 25:27-30 also shows there could have been no gaps between the rule of Nebuchadnezzar and Evil-Merodach.
Finally, it is helpful to consider highlights of the reign of Nabonidus, the last king of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty (Assession year: 556, Regnal Years: 555 to 538 BC). In 539 BC, this dynasty came to an end with the overthrow of Babylon by the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, exactly 70 years after Babylon overthrew Assyria.
Archaeoastronomy is an invaluable tool that enables us to synchronize the relative chronology of the Bible to absolute dates found in astronomical diaries. With it, we can test various Bible interpretations, for instance, whether Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BC or 587 BC. We don’t have to be experts to do this. The tools we need are within our grasp: a computer, an astronomical diary, and astronomical freeware like Cartes du Ciel. The goal of this is to empower you to “test all things” for yourself.
Here is a link for Cartes du Ciel: http://www.ap-i.net/skychart/
Translation of VAT 4956: http://www.caeno.org/pdf/F019_Translation.pdf
What follows is an analysis of the astronomical observations of VAT 4956, a diary that records sun, moon, and planets, constellations. The dozens of observations on this tablet could only occur once in thousands of years: 568 BC. Because of length considerations, Appendix 7 is broken up into several videos. Appendix 7a primarily concentrates on Side 1, Lines 1-4, that is, Month I.
Appendix 7b primarily concentrates on Side 1, Lines 8-17, that is, Months II & III.
Appendix 7c primarily concentrates on observations from Side 2.
Again the dozens of observations on this tablet could only occur once in thousands of years, pinpointing 568 BC as Nebuchadnezzar’s 37 year. Since we know Jerusalem was destroyed in his 18th year, this means that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BC.