587 or 607?
We strongly suggest that you forego the reading of this document and click on the linked document, The Problem with Setting Bible Historical Dates instead, since it reflects the latest research./p>
Most secular historians point to 587/586-B.C.E. as the date for the desolation of Jerusalem, and many pages that have been written to prove this is true. But the question for Christians is: What does the Bible say? Can the Bible prove or disprove either date? Let’s take a closer look using Bible prophecies and events.
Most historians agree that 539-B.C.E. is the date of the overthrow of Babylon, for there is much evidence pointing to this. So, it is called an absolute date. However, secular historians say that Babylon’s king (NebuChadnezzar) began his reign in 605-B.C.E., while the Bible seems to indicate that his reign began in 625-B.C.E. What accounts for the 20-year discrepancy?
Notice that the Bible says at Jeremiah 52:12, 13 (NIV): ‘On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.'
Editor's Note: The words 'nineteenth year' do not appear here in the Septuagint. However, that it was the nineteenth year is indicated at Jeremiah 32:1.
The Bible shows that the Jews returned to their homeland in the first year of King Cyrus, which would have been 537-B.C.E. So, we arrive at 607-B.C.E. for the start of the desolation of Jerusalem by counting 70 years back from 537-B.C.E. (using the prophecy of the 70-years of Jerusalem’s desolation). And since the destruction occurred in NebuChadnezzar’s 19th year, if we count 18 years back from 607-B.C.E., this shows us that the date when NebuChadnezzar began his rule was 625-B.C.E.
Now, secular historians (who calculate their dates by how long each Babylonian King reigned) count back from what they think is the 19th year of NebuChadnezzar’s reign (539-B.C.E.) and conclude that 587-B.C.E. was the year that Jerusalem was desolated. However, the Bible leaves us no doubt that they are wrong. Let us show you why.
The simple reason for concluding that 607-B.C.E. is the correct date can be found at Daniel 9:1, 2, which reads, ‘It was during the first year of the reign of Darius, the son of AhasuErus from the seed of the Medes, who ruled over the kingdom of the Chaldeans, that I DaniEl came to understand the number of the years from the words that [Jehovah] had given to the Prophet JeremJah, for there he prophesied that Jerusalem would lie desolate for seventy years.’
That this period is true is confirmed in the record at 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21, where we read, ‘Then he carried off everyone who was left to Babylon, where they served as slaves for him and his sons until the Medes came along and fulfilled the words of [Jehovah] through Jeremiah, and the land had observed its Sabbaths. For, during the seventy years that the land lay desolate, it was observing the Sabbath.’
Now, the Hebrew word that is translated desolate here is shama, which also means desert or wilderness… a place where no one lives. So, according to the Bible, Jerusalem was a desolate waste for 70 years. Then if Babylon was destroyed in 539-B.C.E., and Cyrus released the Jews in his first year (as the scriptures tell us), the date that Jerusalem was re-inhabited was 537-B.C.E… and counting back 70 years brings us 607-B.C.E.
But if (as historians say) Jerusalem started its desolation in 587-B.C.E., the 70-years of the Bible record would bring us to 517-B.C.E. Is it possible that 517-B.C.E. was when the Jews returned? No, for by that time, as both the books of Zechariah (written in 518-B.C.E.) and Haggai (written in 520-B.C.E.) show, the Jews had built houses, planted crops, and were working on the Temple. Why, Jerusalem had definitely been inhabited for quite some time before 517-B.C.E. So, 587 doesn’t fit into the prophecy or the Bible record.
Some also claim that Daniel was in Babylon during the 2nd year of NebuChadnezzar’s reign. So, they reason that if NebuChadnezzar started his rule in 625-B.C.E. and Daniel was brought into exile before that, he would have been well over 100-years-old when he died, since he lived under the rule of Cyrus and Darius after Babylon was conquered.
But notice what Daniel 1:1 says: ‘It was during the third year of the reign of JehoiAkim (the king of Judah) that NebuChadnezzar (the king of Babylon) came to Jerusalem and attacked it.’
Note that it was NebuChadnezzar who did the conquering and took the exiles, and among these exiles was Daniel, for Daniel 1:5, 6 says, ‘Then the king arranged for them to eat at the king’s table each day, to share in his banquet wine, and to have them taken special care of for three years. And after that, they were to be brought before the king.’
So, Daniel had been in captivity for at least three years by the end of this period, right?
But Daniel 2:1, 2 says, ‘It was in the second year of the reign of NebuChadnezzar that he had a dream, which disturbed him so deeply that he couldn’t sleep. So, the king said to call [his] officials, priests, sorcerers, and Chaldeans, to have them interpret the dream.’
This is one of the dreams that Daniel interpreted.
So, critics argue that this convincing proof Daniel was there in the 2nd year of NebuChadnezzar’s reign. But if Daniel had already been there at least 3 years, how could he interpret the dream in NebuChadnezzar’s 2nd year? It would have been at least his 3rd year. So, why did Daniel write that it was in the 2nd year of NebuChadnezzar’s reign?
The obvious reason for this is that Daniel was writing from the perspective of how many years the Jews had been under NebuChadnezzar’s rule. He was speaking of how many years NebuChadnezzar had ruled them, not how many years he had been king!
Notice for example, what Jeremiah 52:28 tells us. ‘These are the people whom NebuChadnezzar took into exile: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews.’
So, if the first exiles were taken by NebuChadnezzar in the 7th year of his rule, then how could Daniel have been there to interpret his dream in the 2nd year of his reign?
The fact is; Daniel was taken into exile at the same time as Ezekiel, JehoiAchin, and the rest of the first exiles, which was around 617-B.C.E. So, he would have been less than 100-years-old when he served under both Cyrus and Darius. And that would have been very possible for a man full of God's Spirit and having Jehovah's support.
Promoters of the 587-B.C.E. theory argue that what the Bible says about the rule of JehoiAkim disproves 607-B.C.E. as the date of Jerusalem’s desolation. Does 607-B.C.E. fit in with the Bible history about JehoiAkim? Yes it does! Note:
JehoiAkim began his rule in 628-B.C.E., and he reigned for 11 years, For 2 Chronicles 36:5 tells us, ‘Twenty-five years old was JehoiAkim when he began to reign, and for eleven years he reigned in Jerusalem.’
NebuChadnezzar began his rule in 625-B.C.E. (the 4th year of JehoiAkim). For Jeremiah 25:1 tells us, ‘The word that occurred to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of JehoiAkim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, that is, the first year of NebuChadnezzar the king of Babylon.’
JehoiAkim was set up as a vassal king by NebuChadnezzar in 620-B.C.E., for 2 Kings 24:1 tells us, ‘In his days NebuChadnezzar the king of Babylon came up, and so JehoiAkim became his servant for three years. However, he turned back and rebelled against him.’
NebuChadnezzar conquered JehoiAkim in 617-B.C.E., then JehoiAchin reigned for 3 months thereafter. And during this time, many Jews were taken into captivity.
Note what 2 Kings 24:12-17 tells us about this: ‘Then JehoiAchin (the king of Judah) surrendered to the king of Babylon, along with his mother, servants, governors, and eunuchs, so the king of Babylon [took him captive] during the eighth year of his reign. Then he went in and took all the treasures in the Temple of [Jehovah], and all the treasures in the king’s palace. And he had all the gold things that Solomon (the king of Israel) had placed in the Temple of [Jehovah] cut off and removed, just as [Jehovah] said would happen. Then he took all the governors and all the important people from Jerusalem and carried them into captivity (some ten-thousand people), including all the contractors and their workers, so all that was left in the land was just poor people. He carried off JehoiAchin, his mother, his wives, his eunuchs, and all the great people of the land. He took them all from Jerusalem and resettled them in Babylon. He also carried off seven thousand of [Judah’s] greatest men, a thousand contractors and their craftsmen, and a thousand of the best soldiers, and took them to Babylon.’
2 Chronicles 36:5 tells us: ‘Twenty-five years old was JehoiAkim when he began to reign, and for eleven years he reigned in Jerusalem; and he continued to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah his God.’
Now, Daniel said that it was in JehoiAkim’s 3rd year that he was conquered, but he had to be speaking about the third year from the time that he started as a vassal king to NebuChadnezzar, for how could he be conquered in this 3rd year if he reigned for 11 years? So, NebuChadnezzar’s 8th year was JehoiAkim’s 11th year, just as the scripture shows.
Jeremiah 52:28 confirms this, for it says, ‘These are the people whom NebuChadnezzar took into exile: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews.’
So, he took exiles at the end of the 7th year (or at the beginning of the 8th year as described in 2 Kings 24), and in the 18th year of his reign.
Thereafter (in 617), Zedekiah began his rule, which lasted 11 years until 607-B.C.E. So Jeremiah 52:12, 13 tells us, ‘And in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, that is, [in] the nineteenth year of King NebuChadnezzar, the king of Babylon, NebuZaradan the chief of the bodyguard, who was standing before the king of Babylon, came into Jerusalem. And he proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah and the house of the king and all the houses of Jerusalem; and every great house he burned with fire.’
Since Ezekiel gives many prophecies in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem, it is vital that we establish exactly when Ezekiel was taken into exile. At Ezekiel 40:1 we read, ‘In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, in the start of the year, on the tenth [day] of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city had been struck down, on this very same day the hand of Jehovah proved to be upon me.’
So, here we can definitely establish that Ezekiel was in exile some 11 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. Using secular chronology, this would be 597/598-B.C.E., but according to the Bible it would be 617/618 -B.C.E. Keep these dates in mind, because they are vital for the rest of our discussion.
Ezekiel prophesied that NebuChadnezzar would plunder and desolate Egypt… and he even showed how long that desolation would last! This prophecy is a key to establishing when the desolation of Jerusalem took place.
Part of that prophecy was made in the 27th year of Ezekiel’s exile, for we read at Ezekiel 29:17-19, ‘Now it came about in the twenty-seventh year, in the first [month], on the first [day] of the month, that the word of Jehovah occurred to me, saying … Here I am giving to NebuChadnezzar the king of Babylon the land of Egypt, and he must carry off its wealth and make a big spoil of it and do a great deal of plundering of it; and it must become wages for his military force.’
Now, counting 27 years from 597/598 -B.C.E. (the date of Ezekiel's exile according to secular chronology) brings us to 570-B.C.E. But if we count 27 years from 617/618-B.C.E., that brings us to 590-B.C.E. These dates are very important when considering the prophecy that Ezekiel made about how long the land of Egypt would be desolated. For, notice how long Ezekiel then said Egypt was to be desolated (Ezekiel 29:12), ‘And I will make the land of Egypt a desolate waste in the midst of desolated lands; and its own cities will become a desolate waste in the very midst of devastated cities for forty years; and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations and disperse them among the lands.’
Now let’s compare the dates. Ezekiel gave this prophecy in 570-B.C.E., so the desolation had to take place sometime after that. Vat 4956 (the source that establishes the 37th year of NebuChadnezzar and which secular historians believe to be 568-B.C.E.) also talks about NebuChadnezzar’s campaign against Egypt. So according to secular chronology, NebuChadnezzar desolated Egypt in 568… his 37th year. So, the 40-year desolation would have ended in 528-B.C.E. But Cyrus let all the exiles go in 537-B.C.E.!
Historical records show that Egypt actually had an alliance with the last Babylon King, Nabonidus, before the destruction of Babylon in 539, so Egypt had been repatriated before 539… and 568 to 539 is less than 30 years. So, how could Egypt have been desolated for 40 years?
Now let’s compare these dates to what the Bible shows to be true. Ezekiel would have made the prophecy in 590-B.C.E., and the 37th year of NebuChadnezzar’s reign would be the year 588-B.C.E., which would also be the year that Egypt was desolated. Now let’s add the 40 years of desolation, and we arrive at the year 548-B.C.E., which allows plenty of time before their restoration (sometime before 539-B.C.E.). It amazingly fits into the Bible prophecies and chronology.
In Ezekiel 26:1-4 we read of a prophecy that was to be fulfilled upon Tyre. It says, ‘And it came about in the eleventh year, on the first [day] of the month, that the word of Jehovah occurred to me, saying … Here I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up against you many nations, just as the sea brings up its waves. And they will certainly bring the walls of Tyre to ruin and tear down her towers, and I will scrape her dust away from her and make her a shining, bare surface of a crag.’
Now, we can establish that Ezekiel made this prophecy either in 586-B.C.E. (according to secular chronology) or in 606-B.C.E. (according to Bible chronology).
Then notice what Isaiah 23:15-17 tells us: ‘And it must occur in that day that Tyre must be forgotten seventy years, the same as the days of one king. At the end of seventy years it will happen to Tyre as in the song of a prostitute: Take a harp, go around the city, O forgotten prostitute. Do your best at playing on the strings; make your songs many, in order that you may be remembered. And it must occur at the end of seventy years that Jehovah will turn his attention to Tyre, and she must return to her hire and commit prostitution with all the kingdoms of the earth upon the surface of the ground.’
Now lets return to Ezekiel 26:7, 8 and see how what he wrote ties into the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, Here I am bringing against Tyre NebuChadnezzar the king of Babylon from the north, a king of kings, with horses and war chariots and cavalrymen and a congregation, even a multitudinous people.’
So, we see that Tyre was besieged by NebuChadnezzar, and for 70 years Tyre was ‘forgotten.’ This doesn’t mean that Tyre was to be desolated for 70 years, but that it was merely forgotten as a major commercial center.
Now, secular history would try to tell us that the siege of Tyre began shortly after the desolation of Jerusalem, which they say is around 586/7-B.C.E. And if so, the 70 years would therefore end in 517-B.C.E. But Ezra 3:6, 7 tells us ‘When the seventh month arrived the sons of Israel were in [their] cities. And the people began to gather themselves as one man to Jerusalem. And they proceeded to give money to the cutters and to the craftsmen, and eatables and drink and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians, to bring cedar timbers from Lebanon to the sea at Joppa, according to the permission granted by Cyrus the king of Persia to them.’
This event happened in 537/536-B.C.E., only 50 or so years after the siege of Tyre. And Isaiah 23:18 was fulfilled at this time when Tyre was hired by Jehovah, for the scriptures says, ‘And her profit and her hire must become something holy to Jehovah.’ (Because Tyre was supplying cedar timbers for Jerusalem, it was a holy work performed by Tyre).
So, secular chronology can’t be correct! The siege of Tyre could have only taken place in 606-B.C.E. shortly after the true date of the destruction of Jerusalem in 607-B.C.E. For if we count 70 years from 607/606-B.C.E., we arrive at just in the right year, 537/536-B.C.E. when the timbers were supplied for Jehovah's rebuilding work.
As you can see, the timelines are impossible if 587-B.C.E. is the correct date of Jerusalem's desolation because:
The 70-year prophesy about Tyre, which began after the destruction of Jerusalem. If that happened in 586, it would bring us to 516, some 20 years after the exiles returned and Tyre provided cedars for the Jew’s rebuilding work.
The 40 years of devastation on Egypt. It that began in 568, the 40 years ends in 528, but all the exiles were released in 537.
The 70 years that Jerusalem was to be uninhabited and desolate. If 587 is correct, the desolation would have ended in 517, when houses had been built and crops grown for some 20 years.
So, here is the true chronology:
625 – NebuChadnezzar begins his rule
617 – Daniel, Ezekiel, and JehoiAchin were exiled
614 – Daniel’s training ends
607 – Jerusalem was destroyed and the 70 years begin
606 – Ezekiel prophesies against Tyre
606 – The siege of Tyre and the 70 years of being forgotten begins
605 – Daniel interprets NebuChadnezzar’s dream
590 – Ezekiel gets the prophecy of Egypt’s desolation and tells of the siege of Tyre is now completed (it lasted 13 years according to Josephus)
588 – Egypt’s 40-year desolation begins
548 – Egypt’s 40-year desolation ends
539 – Babylon is conquered
537 – the Jews are restored to their homeland and the 70 years end
536 – the 70 years on Tyre end when they provide timber for Jerusalem.
Yes, the date of 607-B.C.E. the fall of Jerusalem fits perfectly with the Bible. It is in fact the only date that does fit perfectly… no other date will work!
EDITOR’S NOTE: While we (the editors) tend to agree that 607-B.C.E. may be a closer date for the destruction of JeruSalem because it appears to be more in line with Bible prophesy, we have found that the point which readers attempt to use this date in order to prove (that mankind has been on the earth for just a little over 6,000 years) is probably badly flawed, for it is based on obvious miscalculations and on flawed scriptural texts. Please consider OUR NOTE in the article by Jehovahs Witnesses, ‘1975 – A Marked Date?’ Also, see OUR NOTE AND THE LINKS concerning the obvious errors in the Masoretic text periods in Genesis Chapters 5 and 11.
One of our advisers sent this note: ‘I would remove the argument about the timing of Daniel's exile (3 years of training and then interpreting a dream in the second year of NebuChadnezzar). Those who make this argument are not taking into consideration the calculation of regnal years/ascension years for Babylonian kings. By the facts, this is entirely possible, hence it is not an argument against secular history's timeline.’
Another reader commented:
‘Something else you could add is Jer 1:3 where the originator of the prophecy of the 70 years states that Jerusalem went into exile in the 11th year of Zedekiah which is of course when Jerusalem started the 70 years of desolation. It would seem that Jeremiah gave a brief summary of the time period of his prophecy and the kings involved at the very beginning of his book to prevent any misunderstanding that the 2 events were at the same time. 68 years later Daniel interprets the writing on the wall then later under Darius the Mede recalls the 70 years of Jerusalem's desolation by Jeremiah and how it was close to completion. Dan 9:1,2 as you stated comfirmed this. Cyrus a little later gives the release order and the Jews were then allowed to return right on time 70 years after the desolation started. Whether any from the start of the exile were still alive aside from Daniel cannot be determined but for sure the next generation did. Most of the focus for the 587/6 crowd is with the exile rather than the desolation. There were some Jews removed some years before and this becomes part of their argument but misses the point of what the prophet was saying that the desolation would be for 70 years and the exile would be coincident with it. 607 is the only date that fits this scenario.’