I want to share a letter I wrote to a relative of mine months ago. I argue that rejecting the 607 dating for the destruction of Jerusalem in favor of the archeological and historically correct date of 587 works just fine even within Bible prophecy. My letter starts with me quoting the last line from their email to me about accepting the Bible’s timeline:
“Bottom line: will you accept the chronology recorded in the Bible, Gods view or accept the chronology of secular historians and the view of imperfect man?”
“”I am so glad that is your main argument and not the archeological data, in which case I would had to have composed a very very boring email about cuneiform tablets and astrological data. So just so we are on the same page, you would agree that from a ‘secular’ or ‘stuff we can physically can prove’ point, that 95% of the data points to 587 NOT 607 right? I’m not saying 607 is wrong because of that, just that, besides the Bible, the weight of evidence falls on a different date, right? OK, now if the Bible definitely and specifically points to 607 than you are absolutely right and no amount of ‘secular’ data can overturn the scriptures, and the Bible will eventually prove itself to be right as it has many times before. OK, now we are on common ground. So here is where I challenge your mind now: Bible chronology does NOT point to 607.
I want to start with this point. That Bible prophecy does not fall apart if 607 is not correct. In fact, other Christian groups reconcile the 70 years prophecy within the historical timeframe of 587. So it can be done and still hold true to the Bible. (So why are we so insistent on sticking to it? That’s for you to ponder over.)
To sum up the JW position, 607 has to be the correct date because after Babylon fell (539) the Jews were released from captivity in 537, a date that is universally accepted by everyone, and since the Bible clearly refers to 70 years, its a simple matter of counting backwards to the year 607. 587 doesn’t work because that would make it only a 50 year timeframe.
There is A LOT of scriptural info to cover on this, so I wont be able to get to it all. I will just cover a few points and we go further if you want to later. I don’t even want to be dogmatic in offering a different viewpoint. So I will offer you simply possibilities.
Solution #1: The 70 years can be viewed from a Babylonian perspective, including their domination of the nations. Consider Jeremiah 25:11-12:
“And all this land will be reduced to ruins and will become an object of horror, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. But when 70 years have been fulfilled, I will call to account the king of Babylon and that nation for their error, declares Jehovah, and I will make the land of the Chaldeans a desolate wasteland for all time.”
This shows the 70 years were the entire period the Babylonians were conquering “these nations”, and the period of vassalage to the Babylonians. Verse 12 of the end of the 70 years with the “account against the king of Babylon”. The Babylonians dominated for a period of 70 years from their defeat of the Assyrians in 609 to their fall by the Persians in 539.
Solution # 2: The 70 year period does refer to the Jews. Daniel 9:2:
“In the first year of his reign I, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of years mentioned in the word of Jehovah to Jeremiah the prophet to fulfill the desolation of Jerusalem, namely 70 years.”
Jeremiah 29:10 in the New World Translation refers to the Israelites spending 70 years “at Babylon”. Back up to verse 1 and you see that Jeremiah indicates that this includes the time period when the Israelites (such as Daniel) were taken to Babylon prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. (Remember chapter 29 was written BEFORE the final destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.)
(***NOTE*** I specifically said that the New World Translation uses the term “at Babylon” at Jeremiah 29:10. This is because most other translations translate it as “FOR Babylon” (NIV, ESV, NASB, RSV, ASV, DBY) this just underscores the possibility of Solution # 1 that I mentioned above.)
Solution # 2.1: Also a 70 year Jewish application. 70 years could refer to the time period between the destruction of the 1st temple in 587/586 and the completion of the second temple in 515 (?), the temple being completed 20 years after the return from Babylon. (This one is kinda shaky, and I don’t put much credibility to it)
Solution # 3: Not a literal 70 years. In its Hebrew connotation, the number 70 can be used to represent completeness or universality. It is not necessary for the 70 years to be a literal period of time. Consider that the Bible also prophecies a 70 year period of time for the city of Tyre (Isaiah chapter 23). Look at how the Watchtower reasons on why the 70 year desolation of Tyre was NOT literal:
“Isaiah goes on to prophesy: “It must occur in that day that Tyre must be forgotten seventy years, the same as the days of one king.” (Isaiah 23:15a) He says: “These nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:8-17, 22, 27) True, the island city of Tyre is not subject to Babylon for a full 70 years, since the Babylonian Empire falls in 539 B.C.E. Evidently, the 70 years represents the period of Babylonia’s greatest domination- when the Babylonian royal dynasty boasts of having lifted its throne even above “the stars of God.” – (ISAIAH’S PROPHECY LIGHT FOR ALL MANKIND 1 page 253)
There is no reason that this same reasoning could not be applied to Jerusalem. If the 70 years of Tyre was not a literal 70 years, then the 70 years for Jerusalem does not need to be taken literally. To me this a big inconsistency. We claim that the 70 years for Tyre is figurative, but insist the 70 years of Jerusalem’s destruction had to be literal. This inconsistency between these two reasonings to me really identify the REAL reason that we reject 587 – and that is it undermines our basis for 1914.
And no, even if 1914 is wrong it doesn’t change the last days prophecy and evidence around us. So why is this so important? If you don’t have 607, then you don’t have 1914. And if you don’t have 1914………then you don’t have 1919. And if you don’t have 1919…………well that is THE basis for the claim of being the ‘faithful and discreet slave’.””
That was my thought out and reasoned letter to my family about this important issue. Their response to it was……wait……there was no response. I never heard back.