Is there more Biblical evidence that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a phantom 20 years in their time line from their date of the fall of Jerusalem to the decree issued by Cyrus to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem? Remember, they claim three dates in their doctrine: Fall of Jerusalem in 607 BCE, Fall of Babylon in 539 BCE, and Cyrus’ decree in 537 BCE.
Keeping in mind that they disregard skeptical, secular historians and stick to what the Bible says, it’s time to examine other Biblical evidence. For the purpose of this study, the Jehovah’s Witnesses New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 Revision) (on-line) will be used.
Beginning with the prophet Zechariah, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach:
This book of the Hebrew Scriptures identifies its writer as “Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo the prophet.” (Zec 1:1) It also provides a basis for establishing the time period covered and an approximate date for the composition. The last time indicator found in the book of Zechariah is the fourth day of Chislev in the fourth year of Darius’ reign (about December 1, 518 B.C.E.). (7:1) Accordingly, this book could not have been committed to writing before the close of 518 B.C.E. Since it was in the “eighth month in the second year of Darius” (October/November 520 B.C.E.) that “the word of Jehovah occurred to Zechariah” (1:1), the book covers a period of at least two years. Insight Volume 2
So right away we know the events recorded in this book occurred no earlier than 518 BCE. (As a side note, that agrees with secular history.)
As background, Cyrus had issued the decree to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The work began, but was hindered.
Then the people of the land were continually discouraging the people of Judah and disheartening them from building. They hired advisers against them to frustrate their plans all the days of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Da·ri′us of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of A·has·u·e′rus, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem … Now after the copy of the official document of King Ar·ta·xerx′es had been read before Re′hum and Shim′shai the scribe and their colleagues, they quickly went to Jerusalem to the Jews and used force to stop them. It was then that the work on the house of God, which was in Jerusalem, came to a halt; and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Da·ri′us of Persia (Ezra 4:4-6, 23-24).
Thus, the work on the Temple stopped until God intervened through His prophets.
Then the prophets Hag′gai and Zech·a·ri′ah the grandson of Id′do prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and in Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. It was then that Ze·rub′ba·bel the son of She·al′ti·el and Jesh′u·a the son of Je·hoz′a·dak started to rebuild the house of God, which was in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them and supported them (Ezra 5:1-2).
Here is what Zechariah heard:
So the angel of Jehovah said: “O Jehovah of armies, how long will you withhold your mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with whom you have been indignant these 70 years?” (Zechariah 1:12)
What is of interest here is how this prophecy relates to the date of the fall of Jerusalem per Jehovah’s Witness reckoning of time. Remember, they deduced the date of 607 BCE for the fall of Jerusalem because it was 70 years prior to the issuing of Cyrus’ decree in 537. It was Cyrus’ decree, they claim, that was the ending dates of Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy and the date for when God’s rulership began to be “trampled on by the nations.”
But in “the word of Jehovah came to the prophet Zech·a·ri′ah son of Ber·e·chi′ah son of Id′do” (Zechariah 1:1), the seventy years is only now ending according to verse 16:
Therefore this is what Jehovah says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and my own house will be built in her,”declares Jehovah of armies, “and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.”
There are other seventy-year prophecies in the Bible such as the one about Tyre found in Isaiah 23:15-17. So, to keep the reader on track, the New World Translation provides the following cross-references:
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.
Zechariah 7:5 “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and wailed in the fifth month and in the seventh month for 70 years, did you really fast for me?”
2 Chronicles 36:20,21 He carried off captive to Babylon those who escaped the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia began to reign, to fulfill Jehovah’s word spoken by Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill 70 years.
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 seventy years. But when seventy 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 Chal·de′ans a desolate wasteland for all time.
There is now no doubt that Zechariah’s prophecy refers to the end of the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah for the end of the exile. Therefore, the seventy years could not have ended upon Cyrus’ decree. If you examine Cyrus’ decree, what you see is:
“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says, ‘Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the true God—whose house was in Jerusalem’” (Ezra 1:2-3).
His edict does not say all of the Jews are free to return to Judah. He only authorizes those to return to “rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel.” Ezra 2:64-65 tells us it was a relatively small number that actually returned. “The total number of the entire congregation was 42,360, apart from their male and female slaves, who were 7,337; they also had 200 male and female singers.”
The evidence from Ezra suggests the seventy years did not end with Cyrus’ decree. Even if you argue the point as being one of interpretation, it cannot negate Zechariah who recorded the seventy-year period didn’t end until his time. Bear in mind, Insight Volume 2 teaches us the events in this book occurred no earlier than 518 BCE. Taking their research, 70 years plus 518 places the fall of Jerusalem circa 588 BCE. That’s within a year or two of the historically accepted date for the fall of Jerusalem of 586/587 BCE. (The one or two years can be accounted for by a difference in regnal year calculations or it can be shown the actual start of the prophecy occurred prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. See Jeremiah’s seventy year prophecy.)
Remember, every Scripture verse used in this study came from the New World Translation (2013 Revision). The date for the book of Zechariah came from Insight Volume 2 and all quotations are copied directly from Jehovah’s Witness on-line resources. Their own documents – including their Bible – demonstrate the fall of Jerusalem had to occur circa 588 BCE. To arrive at a date of 607 BCE requires 20 phantom years – 20 years that are not corroborated in secular history or Biblical accounts.