EXILED FROM JERUSALEM TO BABYLON:
586 BCE or 607 BCE?
"If 586 BCE is wrong and 607 BCE is right, which Babylonian
king reigned an extra 21 years?" (From: Google Search)
(Investigator 186, 2019 March)
Secular textbooks date the main “devastation” of Jerusalem when the Temple was burned and city wall demolished 586 BCE.
But Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) promote 607 BCE.
In 539 BCE Persia conquered Babylon and decreed freedom to Babylon's captives. This is an undisputed date:
this date  is an accepted one, there being no evidence to the
contrary, it is usable as a pivotal date in coordinating secular
history with Bible history. (JW Website)
believe that the Jewish captives got back to Jerusalem two years later
in 537 BCE, having been absent 70 years. They subtract 70 years to get
607 BCE and declare 586 BCE wrong.
ADDING 21 YEARS
21 years to 586 BCE requires JWs to also add 21 years (or close to 21
years) to many other events, extensively changing ancient history.
For example their book Insight on the Scriptures (Volume 2, 1988, page 480) quotes historian Grayson:
his accession year he [Nebuchadnezzar] returned to Hattu and "in the
month Shebat [January-February, 624 B.C.E.] he took the vast booty of
Hattu to Babylon." (Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, by A. K.
Grayson, 1975, p. 100)
would assume, because of "624 B.C.E" added in brackets, that Grayson
advocates 624 B.C.E. for Nebuchadnezzar's accession. However Grayson accepts 605 B.C.E.; 624 is the JW
LETTER TO WATCHTOWER SOCIETY
A letter sent to Australia's JWs headquarters is here reprinted with names abbreviated:
The "Babylon book" cited in the letter is Babylon the Great Has Fallen… (1963); and "W.T." is The Watchtower magazine.
letter implies that if Nebuchadnezzar's reign began in 604 BCE and
Jerusalem's Temple was burned in Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year (2 Kings
25:8) then we get 586/585 BCE for that event. 607 BCE is arithmetical
am currently studying with Robert M…., a brother from the Gladesville
Congregation. We are part way through the book "Let Your Kingdom Come".
have been looking into Bible chronology, in particular the pivotal date
of 607 B.C.E. and seem to have come up against a discrepancy.
The regnal years for the last kings of Babylon are as follows:
Nebuchadnezzar 43 years Insight book, p. 480
years Babylon book, p. 184,
W.T. 1.1.65, p. 29
17 years Insight book, p. 457
W.T. 15.8.68, p. 491
Based on these years and the absolute date of 539 B.C.E., we are able to determine the chronology of the era as follows:
Nebuchadnezzar 604 – 562 B.C.E.
Amel-Marduk 561 – 560 B.C.E.
Neriglissar 559 – 556 B.C.E.
Labashi-Marduk 556 – 555 B.C.E.
Nabonidus 555 – 539 B.C.E.
However, the Insight book puts the dates for Nebuchadnezzar 20 years earlier, i.e. 624 – 582 B.C.E
We cannot understand where the extra 20 years have come from, and would be very grateful if you could offer an explanation.
P.S. Brother M… is aware that I have written to you on this matter.
says that the Neo-Babylonian Empire when Babylon ruled the lands
between Egypt and Persia lasted from 626 BCE to 539 BCE or 87 years.
The reigns of the Neo-Babylonian kings:
• Nabopolassar (Nebuchadnezzar's father) 626/625-605
dates differ from the letter by one year because the letter's
calculations use whole years whereas historians calculate more
precisely using months and days.
Some events in 605 BCE:
Evil-Merodach (Amel Marduk)
Nine months in 556
• Belshazzar Son of Nabonidus and co-regent 550-539
605 May: Nebuchadnezzar, commanding the Babylonian forces, defeats
Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish at the Euphrates River.
(Wiseman 1956; Parker & Dubberstein 1956)
• 605 August 15: Nebuchadnezzar's father, King Nabopolassar, dies
• 605 September 7: Accession of Nebuchadnezzar.
FIVE "DEVASTATIONS" of JERUSALEM
forces attacked Jerusalem five times — Daniel 9:2 has the plural
"devastations" — and each time took Jews into exile to Babylon. The
first four attacks are confirmed by archaeology:
605: After the Carchemish Battle, Babylonian forces occupied Syria and
Palestine. Prominent Jews including Daniel were taken into exile to
Babylon. (Daniel 1:1-3; 2:1)
597: Nebuchadnezzar deposed King Jehoiakim of Jerusalem and transferred
3000 Jews to Babylon. (II Chronicles 36:5-8; Jeremiah 52:28)
597: King Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) reigned 3 months in Jerusalem after
which the Babylonians took 10,000 Jews to Babylon. (II Chronicles
36:9-10; II Kings 24:8-14)
586: The Babylonians burned Jerusalem's Temple, demolished Jerusalem's
wall, and transferred 832 Jews to Babylon. Jews remaining in Jerusalem
killed their Babylon-appointed governor and fled to Egypt. (II Kings
25:22-26; II Chronicles 36:17-19; Jeremiah 40-43; 44:30; 52:29-30)
• 581: 745 Jews taken to Babylon. (Jeremiah 52:30)
21 YEARS ADDED
add 21 years to 586 BCE and claim that the devastation when the Temple
was burned and city wall demolished occurred in 607 BCE, basing this on
II Chronicles 36 which says:
[Nebuchadnezzar] took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from
the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the
establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD
by the mouth of Jeremiah,
until the land had made up for its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay
desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. (2 Chronicles 36:21)
the exile here mentioned seemingly lasted 70 years, and ended,
according to JWs, in 537 BCE when 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem,
JWs calculate 537 +70 = 607 BCE.
Chronicles 36:21, however, does not state that the exile there
mentioned was the start of the 70 years. The wording allows for this
particular exile to start within or during the 70 years and
contributing to the fulfilment of the 70 years.
becomes plainer in Jeremiah which II Chronicles mentions as its source.
Jeremiah's 70 years refer to when Babylon dominated Judah and
word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the
fourth year of King Jehoiakim … that was the first year of King
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon…
goes on to list Judah, Syria, Egypt and other nations that would serve
Babylon. They don't all serve exactly 70 years but "one after another …
disaster is spreading from nation to nation…" (25:26, 32)
made his prediction in, "the fourth year of Jehoiakim … the first year
of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon…" In that same year the Babylonians
took Daniel and other upper-class Jews to Babylon. (Daniel 1:1-3; 2:1)
This was the start of the "devastations" of Jerusalem and 70-year exile of the Jews — in the 1st year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BCE.
devastation when the temple was burned was the fourth devastation,
occurring in the "nineteenth" year of Nebuchadezzar (II Kings 25:8) — 586 BCE.
After the third exile (597 BCE), of King Jehoiachin (Jeconiah) with 10,000 Jews, Jeremiah wrote them a letter stating:
This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations
shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after 70 years are
completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land
of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity… (Jeremiah 25:11-12)
thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon's seventy years are completed
will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my word and bring you back
to this place … from which I sent you into exile. (29:10)
Obviously the 70 years had already started, but they started not in 597 BCE but 8 years earlier with the first exile.
interpreting II Chronicles 36 with help from Jeremiah and Daniel 1, the
Bible agrees with history that Nebuchadnezzar's kingship began 605 BCE
when Daniel and other hostages were taken to Babylon. That's when the
70 years began — with the first group of exiles. The siege when the
Temple was burned occurred 19 years later 587/586 BCE.
21 EXTRA YEARS
For JWs to be correct regarding 607 BCE requires that one Babylonian king reigned 21 years longer than stated in history books:
assigned 21 years to the reign of Nabopolassar, 43 to Nebuchadnezzar, 2
to Evil-merodach, 4 to Neriglissar, and 17 to Nabonidus, for a total of
87 years. Counting back from the first year of Cyrus, from the
fall of Babylon, therefore, historians date Nabopolassar's first year
as commencing in 625 B.C.E., Nebuchadnezzar's first year as 604, and
the destruction of Jerusalem as 586 or 587. These dates are some 20
years later than those indicated by Bible chronology… (The Watchtower
1969 2/1 90)
Ancient sources for dating ancient Middle Eastern events include:
Babylonian priest Berossus; Egyptian astronomer Claudius Ptolemy;
Jewish historian Josephus; archaeological discoveries; astronomical
observations; and Egyptian records.
example, Johns (1904) discusses a legal dispute over the ownership of a
slave which, "was decided in the tenth year of Nabonidus." (p. 181)
Horne (1917) discusses "Contract-Tablets Relating to Belshazzar" of
which one is dated "21st day of Nisan, the 5th year of Nabonidus, King
of Babylon". Others are dated the 11th and 12th years. (pp 457-459)
(1920) in Records From Erech Time of Nabonidus deals with the temple
archives of Erech (150km SE of Babylon) and starts off: "Two hundred
and forty six texts of the Yale Babylonian Collection dated in the
reign of Nabonidus (555-538 B.C), are published in this volume." The
texts consist of receipts, sales, court testimonies, promissory notes,
rents, land leases, and other records.
lists the 246 texts with the year, month and day of Nabonidus' reign.
The latest nine of the 246 documents are from Nabonidus' 17th year
which suggests his reign ended before his 18th year started.
(1923) lists details from 262 tablets from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar
and 158 tablets from the reign of Nabonidus which show that
Nebuchadnezzar reigned 43 years, Nabonidus 17 years:
The Babylonian Chronicles. These are clay tablets which list events
year by year in cuneiform script. The Nabonidus Chronicle, for example,
gives a year by year account of Nabonidus' reign. Babylonian Chronicle
21946 covers the first 11 years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign from which
historians calculate the 597 BCE capture of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:28)
to his: "Year 7 … on the second Adar…" — in our calendar, March
Cuneiform texts recording financial transactions and law suits dated by
the name of the reigning king and the year, month and day of his
reign. Alstola (2017) writes: "Babylonian legal and
administrative texts from private and temple archives from the sixth
and fifth centuries are a treasure trove ... tens of thousands of such
tablets are preserved in museums and private collections." (p.
tablet represents a definite transaction which took place at a certain
time and place between individuals that are mentioned by name... (p.
All the years of Nabonidus are represented except the fourteenth. (p. 17)
1929 Dougherty published a king list based on 2000 tablets, and gives
the same dates as above under "Historical Dates". Dougherty refers to
six other ancient sources (which largely agree with the cuneiform
texts) and says:
of the 158 cuneiform texts from the time of Nabonidus translated in
Dougherty (1923). These four deal with interest, debt and customs duty.
Cuneiform is the oldest style of writing and was used to write in various languages for 3500 years.
total one million cuneiform tablets and fragments have been excavated
in the Middle East. The majority, perhaps 90%, remain untranslated. The
British Museum has 130,000 of which 50,000 are from the Neo-Babylonian
the above Neo-Babylonian King-lists the first is based upon more than
two thousand dated cuneiform documents. It must therefore be accepted
as the ultimate criterion in the determination of Neo-Babylonian
chronological questions… (p. 10)
clay-text collections have been examined since Dougherty's work,
without finding 21 extra years. For example, Beaulieu (2000) discussed
313 clay texts and Alstola (2017) 289. One clay-text is dated "the
fortieth year of Nebuchadnezzar" (p. 84), and others the tenth,
eleventh and twelfth years of Nabonidus. (pp 72-73; 216)
of the thousands of ancient tablets indicate that any 6th century BCE
Babylonian king reigned 21 years longer than ancient historians and
modern textbooks state.
The 21 extra years required by JWs never happened!
The official JW website states:
The tablet translators don't merely "believe" that "Nabonidus' 17th regnal year was his last" — JWs are implying Nabonidus reigned longer — but established this from hundreds of dated cuneiform documents, plus ancient historians and other sources.
supreme monarch of the Babylonian Empire; father of Belshazzar. On the
basis of cuneiform texts he is believed to have ruled some 17 years
spite of the brevity of the Nabonidus Chronicle the tablet … remains
the most complete cuneiform record of the fall of Babylon available …
pertinent sections read:
year:] … In the month of Tashritu, when Cyrus attacked the army of
Akkad in Opis on the Tigris, the inhabitants of Akkad revolted, but he
(Nabonidus) massacred the confused inhabitants. The 14th day, Sippar
was seized without battle. Nabonidus fled. The 16th day, Gobryas
(Ugbaru), the governor of Gutium and the army of Cyrus entered Babylon
without battle…—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 306.
may be noted that the phrase “Seventeenth year” does not appear on the
tablet, that portion of the text being damaged. This phrase is inserted
by the translators because they believe that Nabonidus' 17th regnal year was his last…
ZECHARIAH'S 70 YEARS
Zechariah Chapter 1 has its time-setting the 2nd year of King Darius' reign i.e. 520 BCE. (1:1, 7)
Zechariah speaks of God being "angry these seventy years":
the angel of the LORD said, "O Lord of hosts, how long will you
withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you
have been angry these seventy years?" (1:12)
Zechariah 7 is set in Darius' 4th year, 518 BCE, and mentions annual fasts in the 5th and 7th months "for these seventy years":
When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? (7:5)
fasts were still, in 518 BCE, an ongoing practice — people asked,
"Shall I mourn and practice abstinence in the fifth month, as I have
done for so many years?" (7:3)
5th and 7th months were when the Temple was burned and Jerusalem's
governor was murdered, after the siege of 586 BCE. (II Kings 25:8, 25)
1:16 and 6:12 predicted that the Temple would be rebuilt. The
rebuilding was completed in "the sixth year of King Darius" (Ezra 6:15)
or 516 BCE.
Therefore in 520 BCE and 518 BCE, 66 and 68 years had passed since the Temple was burned.
The phrase "these seventy years" therefore anticipated the completion
of the reconstruction in four years after 520 BCE and two years after
518 BCE — i.e. in 516 BCE.
Zechariah, therefore, supports the date 586 BCE for the destruction of the Temple because 516 + 70 = 586.
The JW book Paradise Restored to Mankind — By Theocracy (1972) accepts 520 BCE as the second year of Darius (p. 31) but denies that the 70 years were in 520 still in progress:
the prophet Zechariah and the angels knew that those seventy years of
utter desolation of the land of Judah and Jerusalem … ended in the year
537 B.C.E. (p. 132)
How can 70 years be still in progress in 520 B.C.E. when they finished in 537 B.C.E? :
then, the angel … was referring back to that former period of seventy
years… He was asking whether Jehovah's denunciation of them was being
renewed… (p. 133)
The "angel", however, wasn't referring to a "former period of 70 years" at all. Zechariah says "these seventy years" implying the 70 years were still ongoing. If referring to an earlier 70 years the wording should be "those
70 years". Zechariah furthermore links the 70 years with the fasts that
were still practiced in 518 BCE. (7:3) The fasts were not a previous
period of fasts that ended in 537 BCE. Presumably the Jews stopped the
fasts in 516 BCE when the Temple reconstruction was finished — and
Bible taken at its word tells of two overlapping periods of 70 years
(605-c.535 and 586-516) and agrees in both with ancient records and
1994 letter reprinted above queries why 20 years are missing from the
reigns of Babylon's kings in JW publications. The Watchtower Society
replied but ignored the problem, and merely reiterated official belief:
Witnesses accept the unanimous testimony of Bible prophets. Judah and
Jerusalem were desolate for 70 years. (Jer. 25:8-11; 2 Chron. 36:20-23;
Dan. 9:2) This stands in contrast to the meagre and fragmentary
evidence that has been interpreted by some authorities to substantiate
their claims on Babylonian chronology. There is no doubt that the
Gentile Times ended in 1914. Therefore Jerusalem must have been
destroyed by the Babylonians 2520 years prior to the Kingdom being
established in heaven. (February 2, 1994)
facts that Jeremiah's 70 years began when Daniel was taken captive in
605 BCE, and that Zechariah supports 586 BCE, have been known for
centuries. Baptist theologian John Gill (1697–1771) in Exposition of
the Old Testament wrote:
nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years; both the Jews,
and other nations of Egypt, reckoning from the date of this prophecy,
the fourth year of Jehoiakim's reign, when Daniel and others were
carried captive, (Daniel 1:1-6 ); to the first year of Cyrus
When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth; on the seventh or tenth day of
the fifth month Ab, on account of the temple being burnt by
Nebuchadnezzar: and seventh [month]; the month Tisri, which answers to
September; on the third day of this month a fast was kept on account of
the murder of Gedaliah, (Jeremiah 41:1) … These seventy years are to
be reckoned from the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, when the city was
destroyed, to the second or fourth of Darius…
DANIEL'S WORDS ALTERED
Daniel interpreted a dream in Nebuchadnezzar's 2nd year, therefore was in Babylon at the start of Nebuchadnezzar's reign:
the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such
dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him…" (Daniel
Watchtower reckoning, however, Daniel cannot be a captive until
Nebuchadnezzar's 20th year. They therefore arbitrarily add the required
years by claiming the 2nd year means the 20th year:
second year of Nebuchadnezzar's kingship (probably counting from the
destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E, and therefore actually referring
to his 20th regnal year)… (Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, p. 481)
However, Babylonian kings were crowned "King of Babylon" not King of Jerusalem!
WHY PERSIST WITH 607?
importance to JWs of 607 BCE is that they add 2520 years, which they
call the "Gentile times", and get 1914 when, they claim, God's Kingdom
real milestone was reached, therefore, in 1925, when The Watch Tower of
March 1 featured the article “Birth of the Nation.” It presented an
eye-opening study of Revelation chapter 12. The article set forth
evidence that the Messianic Kingdom had been born—established—in 1914,
that Christ had then begun to rule on his heavenly throne, and that
thereafter Satan had been hurled from heaven down to the vicinity of
the earth. This was the good news that was to be proclaimed, the news
that God’s Kingdom was already in operation. How this enlightened
understanding stimulated these Kingdom proclaimers to preach to the
ends of the earth! (JWs—Proclaimers of God's Kingdom 1993, 138-139)
If 607 BCE is wrong then the 1914 Kingdom and other doctrines based on 1914 would all be rubbish, including:
a. Satan the Devil was thrown out of heaven in 1914;
have already changed some of these beliefs. In 1969 belief "e" was
discarded. In 1995 beliefs "d" and "k" were discarded, the latter after
having been a central "truth" since the 1920s! Belief "i" has been
discarded by implication because in 2009 the Governing Body began to
identify itself alone as the "faithful slave", demoting thousands of
JWs previously included.
if 607 BCE is wrong then all the doctrines "a" to "k" are wrong. The
entire JW prophetic scheme and authority of the Watchtower Society and
Governing Body collapses like a house on sand during a flood. Since JWs
equate 1914 with the "Gospel" or "good news" they would (according to
Galatians 1:6-9) be "accursed" for adding falsehoods to "the gospel".
huge collapse has happened before. In the 19th century 1914-1915 was
proclaimed as the end of the end-times, not the start of the end-times
as taught afterwards:
b. Jesus returned invisibly in 1914;
c. The "time of the end" began in 1914;
d. From 1914 until Armageddon is one generation;
e. The "great tribulation" began in 1914, was cut short in 1918, and would resume at Armageddon;
f. 1260 days (Revelation 12:6) were fulfilled in 1914-1918;
g. The resurrection of the dead began invisibly in 1918;
h. Jesus inspected all religions in 1918-1919 and identified the Russellites or early JWs as the only faithful group;
Jesus in 1919 appointed a "faithful slave class" (Matthew 24:45-47) as
his representative and "prophet" consisting of members of the 144,000;
j. God's end-time preaching dates from 1919-1922;
k. The separation of the "sheep and goats" (Matthew 25:31ff) began in 1919.
not surprised then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that
the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is due
to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the 'battle of
the great day of God Almighty' (Rev. 16:14) which will end in A.D.
1915, with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is
the Russellites who promoted such false predictions emerged JWs who
eventually differed from the parent cult in thousands of theological
points. It was apostasy from Russellism on a grand scale!
"Gentile Times" prove that the present governments must all be
overturned about the close of A.D. 1915… (Studies in the Scriptures
Volume II, 1889, pp 101 & 142)
change 586 BCE to 607 requires adding 21 years to the reign of a 6th
century BCE Babylonian king and to other ancient dates, besides
altering the words of Daniel and Zechariah. Such revisions are refuted
by thousands of ancient dated documents, and by the falseness of
predictions derived by adding 2520 years to 607 BCE to get 1914.
Alstola, T. 2017 Judeans in Babylonia A Study of Deportees in the Sixth and Fifth Centuries BCE
Anonymous. Babylon, Jerusalem and 70 Years, Investigator Magazine #182, 38-52
Beaulieu, P-A. 2000 Legal and Administrative Texts from the Reign of Nabonidus, Yale University
Beaulieu, P-A. 2018 A History of Babylon 2,200 BC—AD 75, Wiley & Sons
Dougherty, R.P. 1920 Records from Erech Time of Nabonidus, Yale University
Dougherty, R.P. 1923 Archives From Erech Time of Nebuchadrezzar And Nabonidus, Yale University
Dougherty, R.P. 1929/2008 Nabonidus and Belshazzar A Study of the Closing Events of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, Yale University
A.K. 1975 Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, Review by Millard A. in
Journal of the American Oriental Society, July 1980
Horne, C.P. (Directing editor) 1917 The Sacred Books and Early Literature of The East, Parke, Austin & Lipscomb
Johns, C.H.W. 1904 Babylonian And Assyrian Laws, Contracts and Letters, Charles Scribner's Sons
Parker, R.A. & Dubberstein, W.H. 1956/2007 Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. – A.D. 75, Wipf & Stock Publishers
Wiseman, D.J. 1956 Chronicles of Chaldean Kings 626-556 B.C. London: Trustees of the British Museum
Wiseman, D.J. 1985 Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, Oxford