In the first 2 articles in this series, information was taken from Jehovah’s Witnesses documents to demonstrate the date they use for the fall of Jerusalem is incorrect.
Is there more 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.
Since the previous two articles depended upon a historical list of rulers, is it possible that there was an unknown ruler or the reigns of one or more kings were longer than history reveals? The answer could have been “it’s possible,” that is if it wasn’t for the discovery of ancient records, most notably the Assyrian “eponym” lists and hundreds of thousands of cuneiforms. In the eponym lists, a certain government official was designated each year as the eponym for that year – kind of like Time magazine’s Person of the Year – and thus a year-by-year list of eponyms was developed. From them, an ‘Eponym Canon” has been produced, giving the names of all the eponyms in unbroken sequence from 892 until 648 BCE. Of tremendous significance is this entry:
Bur-Sagale of Guzana, revolt in the city of Assur. In the month Simanu an eclipse of the sun took place.
The solar eclipse is one of two major “events of the year” in the eponym of Bur-Sagale during the reign of Assur-din III. Because solar eclipses are a result of the earth’s orbit, they can be predicted into the future and into the past. NASA has a website in which a user can enter data and determine when and where an eclipse will or has occurred. Researchers have determined the exact date for the Bur-Sagale eclipse as June 15, 763 BCE. With this date, other historical events can be dated.
Let’s take an example. Suppose you had a list of all of the Time magazine’s Person of the Year issues. For whatever reason, they aren’t dated, but you know they are all in order and they are all one year apart. Then, you identify a date for one of the issues. From there, all you have to do is add or subtract one year each time you move either forward or backward through the issues. Now suppose you had a list of Great Britain’s Time magazines with their Persons of the Year without dates. After a little research, you found out that the US person of the year did something with the British person of the year in the same year. You could now date that issue of Great Britain’s Time magazine and with that date fixed, you could date all of the other British issues as well.
In a similar manner, Edwin R. Thiele, an American Seventh-day Adventist missionary in China, an editor, archaeologist, writer, and Old Testament professor, was able to use the Bur-Sagale eclipse and other astronomical data to date Old Testament Hebrew kings. He was also able to link the history of the Assyrians to the history of the Biblical list of Hebrew kings. To further prove his work, he cross-checked his research with Ptolemy’s canon, a document that recorded astronomically dated history from the Nabonassar era in 747 B.C. through Alexander the Great. (For a detailed look into Thiele’s research, see Thiele’s Biblical Chronology as a Corrective for Extrabiblical Dates by Kenneth A. Strand of Andrews University.)
From the records of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, Thiele found that in the Assyrian’s sixth year of reign, King Ahab of Israel fought against Shalmaneser III at the battle of Qarqar. Thiele dated the battle of Qarqar and Ahab’s death as 853 BCE. Thiele also learned from the records that in Shalmaneser III’s 18th year, he received tribute from King Jehu of Israel. This would have been Jehu’s first year of reign. These two dates provide a solid point of assigning a dated chronology for all the Hebrew kings.
Because these dates are astronomically calculated by the unchanging and predictable orbit of the earth, it’s like a stake. The dates are fixed. They cannot be moved based upon opinion or theory. Ahab’s death cannot be moved forward or backward in time and subsequently, neither can any of Israel or Judah’s kings and events that occurred during their reigns.
By using these dates, Theile (and others) was able to take the number of years a king reigned and develop a chronology.
Ahab ruled for 22 years and died in 853 BCE. He lived in the same time period as Judah’s King Jehoshaphat who reigned for 25 years. Because of 1 Kings 22:41, we know “Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.” By correlating the regnal year differences of Israel and Judah, it has been determined that Jehoshaphat died in 848 BCE. Staying with the line of Judah’s kings:
Jehoram reigned 8 years and died in 841.
Ahaziah reigned less than 1 yea and also died in 841.
Athaliah reigned 6 years and died in 835.
Joash reigned 40 years and died in 796,
Amaziah reigned 29 years and died in 767.
Azariah (also known as Uzziah) reigned 52 years and died 739.
Jotham reigned 16 years and died 731.
Ahaz reigned 16 years and died 715.
Hezekiah reigned 29 years and died in 686.
Manasseh reigned 55 years and died in 642.
Amon reigned 2 years and died in 640.
Josiah reigned 31 years and was killed in battle in 609.
Jehoahaz was deposed after 3 months by by Pharaoh Necho II in 609.
Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years until 598.
Jehoiachin was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar in 597.
Zedekiah reigned 11 years until the fall of Jerusalem in 586.
The point of all of this? Because the eclipse in the eponym of Bur-Sagale during the reign of Assur-din III can be dated, tied into Jewish history, and the reigns of the kings determined, the fall of Jerusalem cannot be moved back by 20 years. Even if there was an unknown king between Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus or one or more rulers reigned for longer than thought during that time, the date of 586 cannot be moved 20 years.
Furthermore, the assigned dates of the reigns of these kings are not solely depended upon the date of the Bur-Sagale eclipse. The following are from a very detailed article by Alan Feuerbacher called “Discussion Of Historical Evidence”. (Interestingly, this article contains counter arguments by the Watchtower Society):
Hundreds of thousands of cuneiform texts have been excavated in Mesopotamia since the middle of the 19th century. The overwhelming majority of them are economic and administrative items such as contract tablets, official letters from the temple archives, and legal records. These texts are to a great extent dated just as are commercial letters today, giving the year of the reigning king, the month, and the day of the month. A text concerning ceremonial salt from the archives of the temple Eanna in Erech, dated in the first regnal year of Evil-merodach, is given here as an example:
One and one-half talents of salt, the fixed offering of the month Sivan of the god Usur-amatsu, Ina-sillis brought. The sixth day of the month Sivan, the first year of Amel-Marduk, the king of Babylon.
Another interesting business document mentions both the 43rd year of Nebuchadnezzar and the accession year of his son, Evil-merodach. A slave girl was placed at the disposal of one Nabu-ahhe-iddina “in the month of Ajaru, forty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.” Some months later, “in the month of Kislimu, accession year of (Amel)-Marduk,” full payment was given for the girl. This text, then, fixes the length of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and shows that he was succeeded by Evil-merodach.
Are Ptolemy’s canon and the Assyrian records reliable? How well do they mesh with the Biblical record? In his paper In Search of a Correct Bible Chronology, Roger Waite writes, “If agreement with the Assyrian Records authenticates Ptolemy’s Canon, it must of necessity authenticate the biblical record as well. Furthermore, it should be noted that wherever these three witnesses meet, they are in accord.”
Only by grasping at straws (such as: cuneiforms were dated wrong due to sandstorms or bad weather obscuring the skies), can the scientific and historical research be dismissed. The reality is, there were only 50 years between the fall of Jerusalem and Cyrus’ decree – not 70. The reason for that is not because the Bible is wrong, but those who interpret it are. It comes down to this: The Bible is right. Archaeological records and astronomy are right. Those who claim there are 70 years have picked the wrong beginning and/or ending date.