The Jehovah Witnesses claim that the end of the Jewish Babylonian Exile occurred in 537 BCE when Cyrus issued the decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. That date agrees with most secular historians. They also agree that Babylon fell to Cyrus in 539 BCE. Since it was appointed for the Jews to serve Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah prophecy), the Jehovah Witnesses conclude that the fall of Jerusalem must have occurred 70 years earlier, in 607 BCE.
However, historians calculate the fall of Jerusalem to have been 20 years later than Jehovah Witness doctrine – circa 587 BCE. (The exact year varies by a year or so from source to source, but not anywhere near twenty years.) If one points out the discrepancy to a Jehovah Witness, the normal answer is, “Would you rather believe historians or the Bible?”
Certainly, no true Christian is going to believe a secular historian over the Bible; and the Bible clearly states the fall of Jerusalem occurred “On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of 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” (2 Kings 25:8,9).
What about the date 537? That is the accepted date that Cyrus allowed some of the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. The Bible says that occurred in “the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God “(Ezra 5:13). That was after the fall of Babylon in 539.
All one has to do to arrive at the year of Jerusalem’s fall is to start with 539 BCE and add the number of years each Babylonian ruler reigned until we get to Nebuchadnezzar’s nineteenth year. Since the Jehovah Witnesses are skeptical of secular historians, let’s use Watchtower documents to find the names and the number of years each king reigned. This comes from the January 1, 1965 edition of The Watchtower, page 29, “Babylon’s Last Dynasty of Semite Kings.”
Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach) as the oldest son succeeded Nebuchadnezzar to the throne in 581 B.C.E. He did a kindness to one of the Judean captives, by which kindness he unwittingly carried out Jehovah’s purpose. Second Kings 25:27-30 states: “It came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin the king of Judah, in the twelfth month [in 580 B.C.E.], . . . Evil-merodach the king of Babylon, in the year of his becoming king, raised up the head of Jehoiachin the king of Judah out of the house of detention; and he began to speak good things with him, and then put his throne higher than the thrones of the kings that were with him in Babylon. And he took off his prison garments; and he ate bread constantly before him all the days of his life.” Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) had seven sons in Babylonia, including Shealtiel, whose nominal son Zerubbabel became governor of rebuilt Jerusalem, and through whose line of descent Jesus Christ came.-1 Chron. 3:17-19; Hag. 1:1; 2:23; Ezra 5:1, 2; Matt. 1:12. Evil-merodach reigned two years and was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, who reigned for four years, which time he spent mainly in building operations. His underage son Labashi-Marduk, a vicious boy, succeeded him, and was assassinated within nine months. Nabonidus, who had served as governor of Babylon and who had been Nebuchadnezzar’s favorite son-in-law, took the throne and had a fairly glorious reign until Babylon fell in 539 B.C.E.
In summary, this article shows that the Watchtower research of the line of Babylonian kings agrees with secular historians. Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by Evil-merodach who reigned for 2 years, then Neriglissar who reigned for 4 years, Labashi-Marduk for 9 months, and Nabonidus until 539 B.C.
How long did Nabonidus reign? Jehovah Witness documents show 17 years:
Other investigators say this: “The Nabunaid Chronicle . . . states that Sippar fell to Persian forces VII/14/17 [Footnotes]”VII/14/17”: The 7th Hebrew month Tishri, 14th day, 17th year of Nabonidus’ reign. (Oct. 10, 539), that Babylon fell VII/16/17 (Oct. 12), and that Cyrus entered Babylon VIII/3/17 (Oct. 29). This fixes the end of Nabunaid’s reign and the beginning of the reign of Cyrus. Watchtower 1968 Aug 15 p. 491
Last supreme monarch of the Babylonian Empire; father of Belshazzar. On the basis of cuneiform texts he is believed to have ruled some 17 years (556-539 B.C.E.). He was given to literature, art, and religion. Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2 p.457 Nabonidus
Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years (several Jehovah Witness documents – see page 4 of 6) and since Jerusalem fell in his nineteenth year, that means he reigned 24 years after the fall of Jerusalem.
Time for some easy math:
Labashi-Marduk………..9 months (round up to 1 year)
Now, take the 48 years from above and add the 2 years from 539 (fall of Babylon) to 537 (Cyrus decree) and the total time from the fall of Jerusalem to Cyrus’ decree is 50 years – not 70. Stated another way, add the 50 years from Cyrus’ decree in 537 and you get 587 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem. That is the date historians have. It is 20 years different from the date of 607 the Jehovah Witnesses use for the fall of Jerusalem.
Remember, the names and the number of years each ruler reigned was extracted from Jehovah Witness literature. The dates of the fall of Babylon and Cyrus’ decree were also taken from Jehovah Witness documents. (See “Watchtower Supports the list of Babylonian Kings” for detailed references, “607 : 1914 : Seven Times” for a more in-depth discussion, and to see an actual copy of the 1965 Watchtower article, click here and scroll down the page.)
Their own documents easily demonstrate 587 BCE was the actual date of the fall of Jerusalem and not 607 BCE. Their own documents reveal they need 20 additional years to make the fall of Jerusalem occur in 607 BCE. Those 20 phantom years are not supported by historians and are not supported by the Watchtower scholarly research.
It also suggests they have the wrong starting and or ending dates of Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy and the date for when God’s rulership began to be “trampled on by the nations.” If that date is wrong, then so is their 1914 date for the end of the “trampling.”