Refutation of Appendix in Let Your Kingdom Come
In the "Appendix to Chapter 14" of Let Your Kingdom Come, the Society briefly discusses and rejects the historical and biblical evidence as presented above. The discussion is incomplete, lacks objectivity, and conceals pertinent facts. The following discussion of the misrepresentation of historical evidence barely scratches the surface and concentrates more on how the Appendix in Let Your Kingdom Come misrepresents the biblical evidence. The reader should attempt to see for himself how this misrepresentation occurs, in light of the above scriptural discussion. Statements from Let Your Kingdom Come are prefaced by "KC".
Let Your Kingdom Come, in the "Appendix to Chapter 14," on pages 186-189 says:
Note that the above calculation relies on (See Watchtower: 8/15/68 pp. 490-4; 5/15/71 p. 316; Insight, Vol. 1, p. 453):
But both Let Your Kingdom Come and Insight (pp. 448-50, 454-6) reject all these methods of calculating historical dates when they point to the conclusion that Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C., not 607 B.C. What kind of scholarship and reasoning is this?
Indeed they have, and here it is:
NEO-BABYLONIAN KINGS LENGTH OF REIGN B.C.E. DATES Nabopolassar 21 years 625 - 605 Nebuchadnezzar 43 years 604 - 562 Evil-merodach 2 years 561 - 560 Neriglissar 4 years 559 - 556 Labashi-Marduk 3 months 556 Nabonidus 17 years 555 - 539
Nebuchadnezzar not only did those things, but he immediately returned to Palestine after securing the throne, and finished conquering all of Syria-Palestine including Judah. This is confirmed by Babylonian Chronicles, Berossus, 2 Chronicles and Daniel.
This paragraph lays the groundwork for setting up a dichotomy between "secular chronology" and "the chronology of the Bible." In reality, the dichotomy is between Bible chronology and Watchtower chronology.
Whenever someone says "Evidently thus and so...," let the reader beware. It means he has no evidence to back up his claim, and is using the word to intimidate his readers into thinking they should be intelligent enough to see it for themselves. The Society has never advanced any evidence that Ptolemy and Berossus got their information from documents written in the Seleucid period. The author of Let Your Kingdom Come seems to think that if Berossus and Ptolemy got their information from sources dated to the Seleucid period, then somehow it must be wrong. He never explains why this ought to be, but in the Society's usual fashion he presents incomplete evidence and leaves it up to the reader to draw the "right" conclusion. In any case, the real evidence is that Ptolemy and Berossus independently got their information from documents originating in Neo-Babylonian times. That is why their chronologies agree with documents from those times and with astronomical data, as shown by Let Your Kingdom Come's next statement:
Let Your Kingdom Come fails to mention another contemporary stele from the reign of Nabonidus, the Hillah stele, which also establishes the length of the whole Neo-Babylonian era, including the reign of Nabonidus. The two stele agree with each other completely, as well as with Ptolemy and Berossus.
An astronomical diary, BM 32312, was published in the mid-1980s, which records astronomical observations that enable scholars to date the tablet to 652 B.C.E. Along with another tablet, BM 86379 (the "Akitu Chronicle"), it establishes Nebuchadnezzar's reign from 604-562 B.C.E. This provides independent confirmation of VAT 4956, so Let Your Kingdom Come's attempt to discredit it is baseless. Other records of astronomical observations provide similar confirmation.
Let Your Kingdom Come fails to mention the excellent cross-correlation of Neo-Babylonian history with Egyptian history of the same time period. It can hardly be argued that Egyptian history was altered in the Seleucid era in such a way that it corresponded precisely to alterations of Babylonian history.
In the statement after this, Let Your Kingdom Come discounts these thousands of business and administrative documents that have been found that date their transactions by some king's regnal year. Documents have been found that refer to every year of the Neo-Babylonian period, from 626 B.C.E. to 539 B.C.E., and none have been found that conflict with the accepted chronology for this period. If the Society's interpretations are correct, there must be a period of 20 years missing from the Neo-Babylonian period, between the end of Nebuchadnezzar's reign and the beginning of Nabonidus's reign.
The following discussion calculates the odds that the thousands of documents could have accidentally missed referring to this 20 year period. The 20 year figure is derived from the difference between 587 and 607 B.C.E. for the date of Jerusalem's destruction.
According to historians the Neo-Babylonian period covers 88 years from 626 to 539 B.C.E. inclusive, and some 4,950 documents were published prior to 1983 referring to that period. About 50,000 such documents have been found altogether. The Society says the period should actually be 108 years, beginning about 646/5 B.C.E. If that is true, 20 years are missing from mention in the collection of documents. The Society agrees that this is a contiguous block of time.
The Society says that 582 B.C.E. was the last year of Nebuchadnezzar (Insight, Vol 2. p. 480), Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach) reigned for two years beginning in 581 B.C.E., Neriglissar reigned for the next four, and Labashi-Marduk reigned for nine months (Watchtower, 1/1/65, p. 29). The end of Labashi-Marduk's rule must, therefore, have been about 575 B.C.E. according to Watchtower chronology. See also Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules!, pp. 182-5. The Society says that Nabonidus began reigning in 556 B.C.E. (All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial, 1990, p. 139; Insight, Vol. 2. p. 457; Watchtower, 8/15/68, p. 491). (Interestingly, the Babylon book, p. 184, says that Nabonidus took the throne immediately after Labashi-Marduk, implying a reign of 36 years for Nabonidus. This conflicts with the 17 years assigned by historians and in the later Watchtower references.) Therefore, according to the Society's own figures, about 20 years in the period between these reigns have no business documents referring to them. Interestingly, in no single publication does the Society put all these dates together and propose a specific Neo-Babylonian chronology.
The probability that these years could have been skipped can be estimated by making the assumption that the 4,950 documents conform to a uniform probability distribution, i.e., the 4,950 documents should be randomly distributed among the 108 years. Alternatively, any year should be as likely as any other to have some document referring to it.
Under these conditions, and using standard mathematical notation, the problem can be restated as follows: We place at random n points in an interval (0,T) corresponding to the 108 years. What is the probability that none of the n points fall outside the 88-year period that has been accounted for? Restating this in a different way, we can ask what is the probability that all the n points fall inside some sub-interval (t1,t2), corresponding to the 88 years?
The placing of a single point in the interval (0,T) has a probability
The probability of placing all n points within the interval is
Using the actual numbers the total probability turns out to be
which is an extremely small number. By this estimate, the odds of skipping a 20-year period are therefore about one in (2 x 10440). For comparison, it is estimated that there are about 1080 elementary particles in the known universe.
This is actually a conservative calculation, because the assumption of uniform probability distribution is not actually correct. The bulk of the 4,950 published documents actually refer to dates toward the end of the Neo-Babylonian period, so the actual probability is smaller. Further, a substantial number of tablets have been translated, but not published. They are all consistent with the accepted chronology, and if they were included in the calculation the probability would be far smaller.
As shown by the following quotation, by the Society's own argument these figures mean it is impossible for 20 years to be missing from the Neo-Babylonian chronology accepted by most scholars. The book Life -- How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation refers, on page 44, to the improbability of evolution:
The above calculation shows how unreasonable it is to argue that the business documents may have missed some Babylonian rulers' years by sheer chance. The only alternative is to propose some sort of extensive conspiracy that eliminated all records of the 20-year period, but this is hardly possible because many of the documents were buried shortly after being written. The only reason they survived is that they were buried. Furthermore, not just Babylonian records would have to have been tampered with, but also those of the Egyptians, because Egyptian and Babylonian chronology confirm each other very well for that period.
At this point it should be clear that the Society has concealed or misrepresented much of the historical evidence that establishes Neo-Babylonian chronology. From this flawed base Let Your Kingdom Come critically appraises the evidence:
This is not an argument. It is an excuse. By the same token, none of Jehovah's Witnesses can deny the possibility that the Society's present picture of Babylonian history might be misleading or in error. The point is, it takes evidence to establish a thing, not vague generalities.
While it is true that Assyrian and certain other priests tended to distort their histories, this is not generally true of the Babylonians. A. K. Grayson, a well-known authority on Babylonian historical records, said:
The scribal distortion of history, then, refers to Assyrian, not to Neo-Babylonian history, a fact that Let Your Kingdom Come conceals:
One Babylonian chronicle, BM 22047, records a successful attack by the army of Egypt upon the Babylonian garrison in the city of Kimuhu on the Euphrates in 606/5 B.C.E. Another, BM 21946, discusses events in November to December of 601 B.C.E.:
Let Your Kingdom Come continues:
This shows that the Society recognizes there is no historical evidence supporting the 607 date -- otherwise it would present the evidence and not resort to the lame argument that "people make mistakes, so we're not convinced." A chronology that has to be based on "yet undiscovered material," because it is demolished by the discovered material, is resting on a weak foundation. If any idea, refuted by an overwhelming mass of discovered evidence, is to be retained based on "yet undiscovered material" that might support it, all ideas, however false, could be retained on the same principle. But it should be remembered that such a faith is not founded upon "the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld;" it is founded upon wishful thinking.
This appears to be powerful testimony that Neo-Babylonian chronology is not necessarily well established. But Let Your Kingdom Come misrepresents Professor Campbell. Concerning this Campbell said:
597 B.C.E. was when Jerusalem was first captured and Jehoiachin exiled. Concerning this, Dr. Campbell's co-author, Dr. Freedman, said:
In the Babylon book, the historical evidence about the happenings around 598-7 B.C.E. is misrepresented. On page 134 the book says:
However, Harper's Bible Dictionary actually says that Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years, from 609-598 B.C., and that
On page 187 Let Your Kingdom Come gets to the meat of its argument, that the Bible is the basis for the Society's chronology in spite of secular history:
The reader should keep the above words in mind throughout the rest of this discussion.
From our discussion above, remember that the foretold desolation was conditional upon the Jews disobeying Jehovah's instructions to submit to Babylon (Jer. 27:11), but the 70 years of servitude were not. Also, Jer. 25:9 is a clear use of hyperbole, because it says God would make Judah and the other nations "devastated to time indefinite." The expression "to time indefinite" usually means "forever," but the devastation lasted no more than 70 years for the Jews.
Again note that this scripture does not equate the time of Jerusalem's desolation with the 70 years. Rather, it says that the land will be devastated and the nations will serve 70 years. Note that it is "these nations" who are spoken of, not just the Jews, and they are not devastated for 70 years, but will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. This conclusion is so obvious that a heading on page 826 of the 1971 large-print edition of the New World Translation automatically described the 70 years as "70 years' servitude." Similarly, the Aid book, under the subject "Jeremiah, Book of," outlined the contents of Jeremiah, and on page 904, point D.1., described the events of Jer. 25:1-11: "Nebuchadnezzar to desolate Judah; it and surrounding nations to serve Babylon for 70-year period." This is precisely correct. Unfortunately, Insight, Vol. 2, under the same subject, compacts the outline into "Highlights of Jeremiah" and says "God's people will be exiles for 70 years in Babylon."
The 1963 book Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules! listed a number of scriptures (p. 161) that foretold the complete desolation of Judah, that it would be "without an inhabitant." It listed Jeremiah 9:11; 4:7; 6:8; 26:9; 32:43; 33:10, 12; Zechariah 7:5, 14. An examination of these again shows that the desolation was not inevitable, but would occur if and only if the Jews refused to repent, just like what occurred with Jonah and Nineveh. Much of the book of Jeremiah is, in fact, a call to repentance. Nor do the Scriptures speak of a 70-year period of desolation, "without an inhabitant," but rather the ultimate accomplishment of that condition.
For example, Jer. 4:1, 7 says: "'If you would return, O Israel,' is the utterance of Jehovah, 'you may return even to me. And if you will take away your disgusting things on my account, then you will not go as a fugitive...Your own cities will fall in ruins so that there will be no inhabitant." The only way to understand these utterances is that they are conditional upon the Jews' repentance. It was only after the final siege of Jerusalem began, when it was too late to repent, that the desolation became inevitable, as Jer. 32:43 and 33:10, 12 mention.
Zechariah 7 is not even a prophecy, but a summary of what Jehovah caused to befall the unfaithful Jews. We previously discussed (p. 15) how this scripture in and of itself proves that the Society's interpretation of the 70 years is wrong, because it shows that Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C.E.
This is not stated in 2 Chronicles or anywhere else in the Bible. As previously discussed, the key point is that while the 70 years were running, and for the part of those years during which it was desolated, the land "kept sabbath."
Note that Jer. 25:12 is not mentioned in Let Your Kingdom Come's Appendix. Possibly this is because the scripture clearly states that the 70 years would end when Jehovah called "to account against the king of Babylon," not when Cyrus released the Jews. The only attempt the Society seems to have ever made to explain how this scripture fits in with its interpretations appeared in the September 15, 1979 Watchtower. On pages 23-4 it said:
Is this a good, sound explanation, or just an explanation that sounds good? Who does this explanation say the nations would be serving at the end of the 70 years? Cyrus. Who does the Bible say the nations would be serving at the end of the 70 years? Let the Bible answer:
So the Bible clearly states that the last king of Babylon the nations would serve would be Nebuchadnezzar's grandson, who turned out to be Belshazzar. He was killed by Cyrus's troops in 539 B.C.E., when "the time even of his own land" came and the Persians began to "exploit him as a servant." (See also Jer. 25:13,14) Here again the Society directly contradicts the Bible.
On page 136, paragraph 26, Let Your Kingdom Come does mention Jer. 25:12:
Then it tells how the Jews responded to Cyrus's 538 B.C.E. decree permitting them to return to Judah. But it fails to address any of the considerations we have discussed here or on page 10. Let Your Kingdom Come's discussion has the events reversed in time.
Jer. 25:12 says that "when the seventy years have been fulfilled [PAST TENSE] I shall call to account against the king of Babylon." Since the desolation ended in 537 B.C.E. when the Jews returned home, it is evident that paragraph 25 on page 136 explicitly contradicts the order of events stated in God's Word:
This paragraph is saying that first the desolation would end, and then Jehovah would call the king of Babylon to account. Is Let Your Kingdom Come's claim on page 189, "we are willing to be guided primarily by God's Word" true or not? Let the reader judge.
The truth is, the Society bluntly refuses to accept the most natural understanding of Jer. 25:11,12 and related texts. While there is room for discussion about the beginning of the 70 years, Jer. 25:12 leaves no doubt as to its ending.
See below for a full discussion of this claim. Here is what Berossus said about Nebuchadnezzar's taking of Jewish captives in his accession year:
Thus Berossus gives support to Daniel's statement in Dan. 1:1 that Jewish captives were brought to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar's accession year. This confirmation of Dan. 1:1 is important, because Berossus derived his information from the Babylonian chronicles, or sources close to those documents, originally written during the Neo-Babylonian era itself. The strength of this evidence is great enough that the Society takes pains to discredit Berossus. But it never addresses the fact that Berossus and Daniel support each other.
Let Your Kingdom Come fails to mention here that the Bible itself supports Berossus's statement, using the most direct reading of Dan. 1:1-6. From the discussions below and on page 13, it is clear that Daniel, independently of Berossus, mentions a deportation in the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar.
As a side point, Jer. 52:28-30 strongly suggests that the land was not completely stripped of inhabitants until five years after the fall of Jerusalem:
The Society says in Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God's Kingdom Rules!, on page 167, that the last Jews, referred to in verse 30,
On page 416, Insight, Vol. 1, says pretty much the same thing.
But the passage in Jeremiah does not justify this understanding. The whole of Jeremiah 52 stresses events in Jerusalem and Judah. The three deportations are preceded by the statement: "Thus Judah went into exile from off its soil." Verse 28 mentions "Jews," verse 29, "Jerusalem," and verse 30, "Jews." The captives of the three exiles then are totaled as a unit in verse 30. Nations or peoples other than from Judah are foreign to the chapter.
Virtually every commentator applies Jer. 52:30 to another deportation from Judah. All the evidence shows that the Babylon book makes its statement for no other reason than it has no choice but to do so, to avoid contradicting the Society's understanding of the 70 years as a desolation beginning in 607 B.C.E. The scripture puts an upper bound of 65 years for the period of "desolation without an inhabitant." The proper understanding, that the desolation was to ultimately happen, is perfectly in accord with the scriptures discussed.
Now, as respects Let Your Kingdom Come's citation of Jeremiah 52:28-30 as proof that Dan. 1:1 could not have been talking about a deportation in the third regnal year of Jehoiakim, note that this argument presupposes that Jeremiah 52:28-30 contains a complete record of the deportations, which it clearly does not. The sum total of Jewish captives taken in the three deportations referred to in the passage is given in verse 30 as "four thousand and six hundred." However, 2 Kings 24:14-16 gives the number of those deported during only one of these deportations as 18,000. Different theories have been proposed to explain this discrepancy, none of which may be regarded as more than a guess. The Aid book, page 297, and Insight, Vol. 1, page 415, for instance, say that the figure "apparently refers to those of a certain rank, or to those who were family heads." Another clue may be Jer. 52:29, which mentions exiles from Jerusalem. It may be that verses 28-30 literally refer to only the captives taken from Jerusalem, not all of Judah. All the commentators seem to agree that Jer. 52:28-30 does not give a complete number of those deported, and some also suggest that not all deportations are mentioned in the text. At the very least the one referred to in Dan. 1:1 in the "third year" of Jehoiakim is not mentioned -- which does not prove it did not take place. It was probably not mentioned in Jeremiah chapter 52 because it was a very small one, consisting only of Jews from among "the royal offspring and of the nobles" (Dan. 1:3,4) with the intention of using them as servants at the royal palace.
This is consistent with Jeremiah's repeated warnings to the Jews not to rebel against the king of Babylon, because they would be severely punished. (Jer. 27:5-11) The warning implies that Jehovah was giving them rope to hang themselves, and therefore, only a token number of captives would be taken when Jerusalem first came under the Babylonian yoke, so that they would have the chance to obey the warning under fairly normal conditions.
Let Your Kingdom Come continues:
Note that Josephus wrote this more than 600 years after Daniel and almost 400 years after Berossus. Even if he were right, this would not contradict the claim that the 70 years of servitude began in the accession year of Nebuchadnezzar, as Jeremiah's prophecy clearly applies the servitude to "these nations" (Jer. 25:11), that is, the nations surrounding Judah and not just Judah alone. In fact, Josephus even supports the conclusion that these nations became subservient to Nebuchadnezzar in his accession year, as he states that "the king of Babylon took all Syria, as far as Pelusium, excepting Judah," at that time. Pelusium was on the border with Egypt.
Also, there is no reason to believe that Josephus's statement is more trustworthy than the information given by Berossus, and certainly by Daniel. Josephus here is probably presenting a conclusion of his own, based on a misunderstanding of 2 Kings 24 similar to the Society's.
See the discussion below of when the three-year vassalage of Jehoiakim to Babylon took place. A close look at Josephus's description of the events of the destruction of Jerusalem indicates strongly that he was simply paraphrasing the Bible and giving his opinion or interpretation of the events it describes.
The well-known early 19th century Bible scholar Dr. Hengstenberg, in a thorough discussion of Daniel 1:1, gives the following comment on the expression "excepting Judah" in Josephus's Antiquities:
Josephus's statement, therefore, cannot be given much weight compared to the statement of Berossus, who, the evidence shows, got his information from sources preserved from the Neo-Babylonian period. It especially cannot be given much weight compared to what Daniel said, who was personally involved in the deportation he described, and was inspired to write what he did.
This conceals the fact that Josephus, in his third and last reference to the period of Jerusalem's desolation, states that the temple lay desolate for 50 years, not 70. In Against Apion I, 21, he says:
Note that from 587 B.C.E. to 537 B.C.E. is precisely 50 years. The secular dates for the fall of Jerusalem and for the end of the exile precisely match Josephus's last statement.
In support of his last statement Josephus first quotes Berossus and then the records of the Phoenicians. Thus, in this passage Josephus contradicts his earlier statements on the period of desolation's length. Is it really honest to quote Josephus in support of the idea that the desolation lasted for 70 years, but conceal the fact that he also gives 50 years for the same period later in his work? It is quite probable that he, in the last passage, corrected his earlier statements about the period's length.
The translator of Josephus, William Whiston, wrote a special dissertation on Josephus's chronology, titled "Upon the Chronology of Josephus," which is included in his publication of Josephus's complete works (The Complete Works of Josephus, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960, 1978, 1981) as Appendix V. Whiston points out that in the later parts of his works Josephus often corrected his earlier figures, and that he often made mistakes in his chronological calculations. Of the 70 years, which Josephus first reckons from the destruction of the temple to the return of the Jewish exiles in the first year of Cyrus, Whiston says that "it is certainly Josephus's own calculation," and that the 50 years for this period given in Against Apion, section 21, "may probably be his own correction in his old age." (pp. 688-9, para. 23)
As mentioned, it also is significant that from 587 B.C.E. to 537 B.C.E. is 50 years, which corresponds exactly with Josephus's last statement. So it should be obvious that Josephus's statements on the 70 years cannot honestly be used to argue against the statements of Berossus in the way the Society has done.
As discussed earlier, these scriptures do not support this claim.
Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, wrote a defense of Christianity toward the end of the second century. As the Society points out, he commenced the 70 years with the temple's destruction. But concealed is the fact that Theophilus founded his chronology upon the Greek Septuagint version, which renders Jer. 25:11,12 quite differently from the Hebrew Masoretic Text:
While the LXX gives some support to the Society's application of the 70 years, the rest of the LXX's chronology disagrees completely with that of the Hebrew text, so that if the Society would follow the LXX's, its chronology would collapse completely. The LXX disagrees with the Masoretic Text in many other places, as well, and scholars do not really know what to make of it. In the introduction to the above LXX translation, page iii, Brenton explicitly states that
He comments further that they often inserted their own interpretations and traditions. Insight, Vol. 2, comments on the way these translation difficulties affected the book of Jeremiah. Under the subject "Jeremiah, Book of," on page 32, it said:
So Theophilus's application of the 70 years was evidently his own calculation, as were those of other early writers. His contemporary, Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-216 C.E.), ended the 70 years in the second year of Darius Hystaspes (520-19 B.C.E.), as did Eusebius in his chronicle (published c. 303 C.E.), thus indicating that the desolation of Jerusalem took place c. 589 B.C.E. or later. Eusebius also tries another application, starting with the year in which Jeremiah began his activity, 40 years prior to the desolation of Jerusalem, and ends the 70 years in the first year of Cyrus, which he sets at c. 560 B.C.E. It is obvious that these early Christian writers did not have access to sources that could have helped them to establish an exact chronology for the period.
The Society's use of ancient writers, then, is demonstrably very selective. Let Your Kingdom Come quotes Josephus on the 70 years of desolation, at the same time concealing the fact that he later gives 50 years for the period. The reference to Theophilus reflects the same methods. He is quoted not because he presents evidence that really supports the Society's chronology, but because his calculation agrees to some extent with it. Other contemporary Christian writers, whose calculations differ from the Society's, are ignored. These methods are a clear misrepresentation of the full body of evidence from the various ancient writers who discussed the 70 years. Such a smorgasbord approach to Biblical scholarship is distasteful and indicates a disrespect for the truth and for God's Word.
There cannot be the slightest doubt about the matter: The most direct reading of Jeremiah's prophecies (Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10) is in clear conflict with the Society's application of the 70 years. In spite of this, Let Your Kingdom Come boldly declares:
This argument is a red herring, as very few commentators make this claim. The refutation is not even right. If the 70 years are regarded as years of captivity for the Jews, and they are started when Nebuchadnezzar first took captives in the summer of 605 B.C.E., then the first year of captivity, using the Jewish civil calendar, ran from Tishri (Sept/Oct) to Tishri, 606 to 605 B.C.E. According to Ezra 3:1, the Jews had returned from exile and "were in their cities" in Tishri of 537 B.C.E. The Jewish civil year starting in 537 B.C.E. ran from Tishri to Tishri, 537 to 536 B.C.E. So the entire period of the captivity, counted this way, ran from 606/5 B.C.E. through 537/6 B.C.E., inclusive. This is exactly 70 years. Therefore, captivity for at least some of the Jews lasted 70 years.
As shown above on page 10, Ezra reported no such thing. It would conflict with Jer. 25:12.
These dates agree with, and in fact are entirely based on, secular history, as indicated above on page 19.
This argument is only partly true and is in any case a straw man. This essay has presented an application in which the 70-year period is naturally applied to the period of Babylonian supremacy, from 609 B.C.E. to 539 B.C.E. It agrees with all the scriptures and with secular history. The Bible clearly states that the period ended when the king of Babylon was called to account, which occurred in 539 B.C.E., so the argument against an application in 535 B.C.E. does not address the strongest arguments. The Society is aware of this application, but chose to ignore it. Its application conflicts with secular history, ignores Jer. 25:12, and requires the rejection of the natural understanding of Dan. 1:1,2, Dan. 2:1, Zech. 1:7,12 and Zech. 7:1-5. How does the Society reinterpret these latter scriptures?
The statements of Zechariah have been discussed above. With regard to Daniel's statements, Let Your Kingdom Come objects that "some who have tried to explain away the problem have in a strained manner claimed that...Ezra and Daniel were using some peculiar Jewish viewpoint that differed from the official count of Cyrus's reign." This is ironic, because the Society is forced into the same predicament with Dan. 1:1, 2 and Dan. 2:1. It claims that Dan. 1:1, 2 really refers to Jehoiakim's third year of vassalage to Babylon, and that Dan. 2:1 really refers to Nebuchadnezzar's second year as desolator of Judah.
Why is the Society so concerned to show that these scriptures refer to something other than what they clearly do? Because together they require Daniel to be in Babylon to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream in his second year, and he certainly could not do that if he was not brought to Babylon until Nebuchadnezzar's seventh regnal year, as the Society claims. If Daniel really was in Babylon as early as Nebuchadnezzar's second year, in 603/2 B.C.E., the 70-year prophecy could have begun to be fulfilled at least as early as 605 B.C.E. Dan. 1:1, 2 also directly supports statements from a number of secular historical documents, and this support must be undermined as well.
For example, the Babylonian historian Berossus told how, shortly after defeating Egypt at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.E., Nebuchadnezzar learned that his father Nabopolassar had died, and so he had to go back to Babylon to secure the throne. Berossus said that "after he arranged affairs in Egypt and the remaining territory, he ordered some of his friends to bring the Jewish, Phoenician, Syrian, and Egyptian prisoners together with the bulk of the army and the rest of the booty to Babylonia." Similarly the very important Babylonian Chronicle BM 21946 described the battle at Carchemish and subsequent events. It said that in his first year Nebuchadnezzar marched about victoriously in "Hattu" (Syria-Palestine), and "all the kings of Hattu came into his presence and he received their vast tribute." These two accounts show that Jehoiakim had been made a vassal to Nebuchadnezzar within a year of Jehoiakim's fourth regnal year, and that booty and prisoners were taken to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar's accession year (Jehoiakim's third regnal year). Dan. 1:1 is in complete agreement with these secular accounts.
Again, the reason the Society rejects all this evidence is that it clearly points to a beginning of Judah's servitude early in Jehoiakim's reign. This puts unacceptable pressure on the interpretation of the 70 years as years of Jerusalem's desolation, because it provides independent scriptural support that the 70 years of Jer. 25:11,12 and 29:10 are years of Babylonian supremacy, not of Judean captivity or desolation. Thus the Society holds that the "third year" mentioned in Dan. 1:1 should be understood as the third year of Jehoiakim's vassalage to Nebuchadnezzar, which, it is argued, was his 11th and last regnal year (and the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar). Interestingly, this explanation goes back all the way to Josephus in the first century. But the explanation conflicts with Dan. 2:1, which has Daniel at the court of Nebuchadnezzar and interpreting his dream in his "second year." If Daniel was not brought to Babylon until Nebuchadnezzar's eighth year, how could he be there interpreting dreams in his second year? So this text, too, has to be reinterpreted and made to say something else.
The Society has offered several different explanations for this through the years, the latest one being that in Dan. 2:1 Daniel reckons Nebuchadnezzar's years from the destruction of Jerusalem in his 18th year. Nebuchadnezzar's second year, then, should be understood as his 20th year! Thus we find that the Society's application of the 70 years is extremely strained, because it conflicts with a direct reading of Daniel, which is in turn strongly supported by several lines of secular evidence as well as 2 Chron. 36:7,10,18 (see the discussion beginning on page 2).
It is interesting to note that not many of Jehovah's Witnesses know anything about all this reinterpretation of scripture. It only seems to be discussed in the Society's reference-style books. The latest attempts at explanation, given in Insight, Vol. 1, page 1269, and in All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial (1990), pages 138-9, are based on one given in the 1946 book Equipped for Every Good Work, pages 225-227. These books claim that the opening verse of Daniel actually refers to the third year of Jehoiakim as a tributary king to Nebuchadnezzar (EP:225; SI:138; IT-1:1269). In their discussions of Dan. 1:1, the books do not take notice of the fact that the Babylonians used the accession-year method of reckoning regnal years, whereas the Jews used the nonaccession-year method, when they claim that the third year spoken of by Daniel could not have been the fourth year spoken of by Jeremiah. But the Society clearly knows the difference, as shown in Let Your Kingdom Come, page 186, paragraph 2. Nor do they account for the strong likelihood that Daniel, as a Babylonian official, most likely would have used the Babylonian method.
Equipped For Every Good Work claims that Dan. 2:1 actually refers to Nebuchadnezzar's rule in a special capacity, "as the first of the world rulers of the Gentile times." (EP:227) This explanation is repeated in the 1963 edition of All Scripture Is Inspired, page 139. It cannot be correct, because Daniel's contemporary readers would have had no idea what he was talking about. By the time the Aid book was published, the explanation had been revised (p. 821). So the latest books make the claim that the "second year of the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar" of Dan. 2:1 is probably the second year "dating from Jerusalem's destruction in 607 B.C.E." (SI:139; see IT-1: 1185; IT-2:481; Aid:821,1212) Not a word of explanation or justification is given -- just that it "evidently," or "probably," counts from Jerusalem's destruction.
What is the justification for all this reinterpretation? Simply that it is needed to make the Society's chronology work out. This is clearly evident from the fact that no justification whatsoever is given to the reinterpretations other than statements such as "evidently it is to this third year of Jehoiakim as a vassal king under Babylon that Daniel refers at Daniel 1:1." (IT-1:1269) Also see the explanation for the events surrounding Jehoiachin's deportation under the subject "Jehoiachin" (IT-1:1267). In Equipped For Every Good Work Fred Franz really takes the prize for strained explanations. Demonstrating his mastery of double-talk and penchant for inventing explanations that invert cause and effect, he said, with reference to Dan. 2:1 (EP:227):
Since the latest publications do not offer this argument, the Society has apparently abandoned it. What takes its place? A lone "evidently."
The Society's arguments that Dan. 1:1 refers to Jehoiakim's third year of vassalage to Nebuchadnezzar, corresponding to Nebuchadnezzar's seventh regnal year, do not stand up to scriptural examination in another way. If this vassalage ended in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar and the 11th actual year of Jehoiakim, it must have begun three years earlier, according to 2 Kings 24:1, or in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year and Jehoiakim's eighth actual year (IT-1:1269). But the Bible makes no mention of a campaign against Jehoiakim in the eighth year of his rule. Also, as is stated in 2 Kings 23:34-37, Jehoiakim was a tributary king of Egypt before he became a vassal to Babylon. This means that his vassalage to Egypt would have continued up to his eighth year. But both Jer. 46:2 and the Babylonian Chronicle BM 21946 indicate that this could not be. They show that Jehoiakim's vassalage changed from Egypt to Babylon in the same year as the battle of Carchemish, i.e., the fourth year of Jehoiakim.
Furthermore, BM 21946 indicates that it was in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year that Babylon and Egypt again fought, with neither side the clear winner (see p. 25) and heavy casualties on both sides. It was probably this battle that encouraged Jehoiakim to rebel against Babylon and refuse to pay tribute. Is it more likely that Jehoiakim submitted to vassalage for three years to Babylon when it suffered this heavy defeat, or that he rebelled against a vassalage that had begun three years earlier? The Babylon book (p. 136) quotes Josephus in support of its contention that Jehoiakim was made vassal to Babylon in his eighth year, and in Nebuchadnezzar's fourth year. But as we saw beginning on page 34, there is little reason to accept Josephus's word against the combined testimony of Daniel and Berossus. Furthermore, the Bible itself makes no mention of any campaign by Nebuchadnezzar against Jehoiakim in Jehoiakim's eighth year.
So the Society's interpretations are again shown to cause conflicts among scriptures which are themselves supported by secular history. Dan. 1:1 should be accepted for what it says, even though by so doing the Society's interpretations are shown to be incorrect.
Let Your Kingdom Come continues:
Let Your Kingdom Come's use of Jer. 29:10 shows why the correct translation, namely, "for Babylon" versus "at Babylon" is so crucial. Without the New World Translation's rendering the Society loses a major piece of its scriptural argument. That is why the New World Translation chooses the textually least likely rendering. As has been shown, the context shows it is an impossible rendering. That is why it conflicts with that of most other translators.
The application presented in this essay allows for the 70 years being either a round or exact number. In either case they are best interpreted as 70 years of Babylonian supremacy. As we have shown on page 7, Dan. 9:1, 2 gives no support to the view that Daniel discerned the 70 years were about to end. Rather, it supports the view that he already saw that Babylon had been called to account and, therefore, that the 70 years were over. Then he set about acting to fulfill Jer. 29:12: "And YOU will certainly call me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to YOU." This, along with the preceding two verses and Jer. 25:11, 12, shows the foretold calling to Jehovah for deliverance must occur after the 70 years had ended. The Society's dogged rejection of what these scriptures clearly say shows how empty Let Your Kingdom Come's next words are:
These statements give the impression that there is a conflict between the Bible and secular evidence on the 70 years, and that the Society faithfully stands for the Bible against secular evidence. But this essay gives evidence that nothing could be further from the truth. Biblical and historical data are in excellent agreement on the period. Historical and archaeological discoveries uphold and confirm biblical statements. On the other hand, the interpretation of the 70-year period given by the Society conflicts very much with facts established by secular evidence. It conflicts with the "easiest and most direct understanding of the various Biblical statements" on the 70 years, such as Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10; Dan. 1:1-6; 2:1; and Zech. 1:7,12; 7:1-5. The real conflict, therefore, is not between the Bible and secular evidence, but between the Bible and secular evidence on the one hand, and the Watchtower Society on the other. As its application of the 70 years is in conflict both with the Bible and with historical facts, it has nothing to do with reality and should be rejected by all sincere Christians. The Appendix to Let Your Kingdom Come in defense of the Society's chronology is an exercise in the art of concealing truth. As Bible scholar E. R. Thiele said about a Watchtower article on chronology, "It reminds me of the way an unscrupulous lawyer would deal with facts in order to support a case he knows not to be sound."
The basic notions in the Society's application of the 70 years go back to at least 1823, when John Aquila Brown published a chronology remarkably like the Watchtower Society's. Others expanded upon Brown's ideas, the most notable of whom was William Miller. Based on a chronology much like Brown's, Miller predicted that the world would end in 1843, and when that failed he predicted 1844. When that failed, he gave up, but some of his followers kept going. One of these was Nelson H. Barbour, who first published his findings in the early 1870s. In 1875 he predicted that 1914 would bring the end of the Gentile times. He claimed that Jerusalem fell in 606 B.C.E., and applied the "seven times" of Nebuchadnezzar's madness as a period of 2,520 years running from 606 B.C.E. to 1914 C.E. (he did not handle the "zero" year correctly). In 1876, Charles Taze Russell adopted Barbour's chronology and the interpretation of the 70 years on which it was based. With minor modifications, this chronology is what Jehovah's Witnesses use today. In view of the clear contradictions with the Bible and with historical evidence, and since all previous prophetic speculations based on the Society's application of Jeremiah's 70 years have failed, this entire set of doctrines should be abandoned as the failure it has proved to be.
(For a more thorough examination of these issues, see The Gentile Times Reconsidered by Carl Olof Jonsson.)