607 and 1914
1914 is fundamental to the existence of the Watchtower Society, yet 1914 is based on Jerusalem being destroyed in 607 BC, when all evidence proves it to have fallen in 587 BC. This is but one of many flaws of the Watchtower interpretation regarding the Seven Times of Daniel 4.
This article looks at several aspects to this prophecy:
- The history behind the interpretation of Daniel 4
- Does Daniel 4 have 2 prophetic fulfilments
- Was 607 or 587 the destruction of Jerusalem
- Inconsistencies in the calculation
The Watchtower Society started as an offshoot of the nineteenth century Second Adventist movement, taking their prophecy of the Seven Times of Daniel 4, to prove the End would arrive in 1914.
In 1823 John Aquila Brown published in The Even-Tide that the "seven times" of Daniel 4 were prophetic of 2520 years running from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's reign in 604 B.C. to 1917 A.D. In the 1830's William Miller explained that a number of prophecies were to conclude in 1843, and so came to the conclusion that Daniel 4 was also to end in 1843. To do so he claimed the seven times started when Manasseh was taken as a captive to Babylon in 677 B.C. Apollos Hale and Sylvester Bliss corrected this date by removing the year zero that Miller had used in the calculation, promoting the time of the end to the year 1844. At Miller's suggestion Samuel Snow calculated that the end would arrive on October 22 to correspond with the tenth day of the seventh Jewish month, the Day of Atonement for the year 1844 based on the ancient Karaite Jewish calendar.
When 1844 proved to be false prophecy it was reworked by Second Adventists, such as Barbour and later promoted by Russell. The start date was moved to 606 B.C. and the end date to 1914 A.D. This was expected to culminate in Armageddon. With the failure for the end to eventuate in 1914 most Adventist groups came to recognise that Daniel 4 was not intended to have a second prophetic fulfilment and stopped referring to it.
Daniel 4 - no Second Fulfilment
Each prophecy in Daniel had only one fulfilment:
- Daniel 2: An immense image representing kingdoms
- Daniel 4: Seven times representing Nebuchadnezzar
- Daniel 5: Writing on the wall foretelling Babylon's immediate destruction
- Daniel 7: Four beasts being 4 world powers
- Daniel 9: Seventy weeks foreshadowing Christ's arrival
- Daniel 11: Kings of the North and South
Quite simply the discussion should end here. The Watchtower has no precedence to claim Daniel 4:9-32 should have two fulfilments; nothing but wishful thinking motivates a Witness to believe that Daniel 4 is any different.
Reading Daniel 4:9-32 reveals that this prophecy was fulfilled with Nebuchadnezzar spending 7 years acting as a beast, likely inflicted with lycanthropy. Nothing leads the reader to conclude a second fulfilment; no reference to a second fulfilment, no reference to Gentile times, no reference to the Last Days and no reference to the Israelites. Despite this, the prophecy of the Seven Times is the lynch pin of the Watchtower belief structure.
The current Watchtower understanding is that this prophecy signifies the end of God's rulership through the Jews in 607 B.C. The next 2,520 years were the Gentile Times of the Nations, until God re-established his Kingdom in heaven in 1914.
The interpretation for this secondary fulfilment of this prophecy goes as follows;
- The cutting down of the tree represents the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 607 B.C.
- The "seven times" constitute 2,520 years, 7 lunar years of 360 days each
- The principle of "a day for a year" converts 2520 days to 2520 years
- The 2520 years of the Gentile times ended in 1914, coinciding with the start of Jesus heavenly rulership
Feed this many diverse principles into the imaginary machine of prophetic interpretation and a plethora of results arrive out the other end. This is fully attested by the scores of prophetic parallels Russell arrived at that have now been abandoned as wrong. The Watchtower used this same methodology to find significance in the following dates - 1780, 1799, 1829, 1844, 1846, 1872, 1874, 1875, 1878, 1880, 1881, 1891, 1906, 1910, 1915, 1920, 1921 and 1925, each of which are now relegated to the annals of inaccurate 'old light'. A person should be realistic about the ability of the Watchtower Society to interpret prophecy after considering that to date there has been a proven time prophecy failure rate of 100%. Does this inspire confidence that the current understanding of 1914 is any more accurate and that Holy Spirit guides Watchtower prophetic interpretation?
607 B.C. inaccurate
Turn to every encyclopaedia or archaeological text on the subject and you will find that Jerusalem fell between 586 and 587 B.C. The Watchtower uses 607 B.C. by claiming all historical evidence we have on the subject is wrong. Yet to make such a claim opens a paradox - if archaeology is unreliable for 587 B.C., and this same information is being used to determine 607 B.C., then 607 must be equally unreliable.
There are numerous ways used to determine that Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C. This includes Ptolemy's Canon, the Nabonidus Chronicle, Harran, Hillah stele and synchronization with Egyptian chronology. The Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, page 274 states "Archaeological evidence for the destruction of the kingdom in 586 B.C. comes from Jerusalem, Lachish, Tell Beit Mirsim, and other sites." Tens of thousands of detailed Economic-administrative and legal documents have been unearthed outlining daily, monthly and yearly occurrences during the reign of the Babylonian kings.
Prosopography - study of careers - supports 587 through comparison of business people such as the Egibi business house. The Watchtower's addition of twenty years to Babylonian history during this period results in having to extend by 20 years the life span of members of the Egibi family. Watchtower chronology would require people mentioned in these records to have been working to over the age of 100. Likewise, when compared with the Adad-guppi' stele, for Jerusalem to have fallen in 607 would require the mother of Nabonidus to have lived until the age of 121.
The highly predicable nature of the stars and planets makes astronomical observations a valuable source for dating prior events. Babylonians placed great importance on astrology and the thousands of records uncovered prove precisely the dates for the reign of Babylonian kings. VAT 4956 provides 30 observations, 5 of which place Nebuchadnezzar's 37th year as 568/67 B.C.E., making this an absolute date. This is significant as 2 Kings 25:2,8 places "the eleventh year of King Zedekiah" in "the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar", proving beyond doubt the date for the fall of Jerusalem.
As early as 1929 Raymond Philip Dougherty's Nabonidus and Belshazzar, Yale University Press p.10 showed that the knowledge of the reign of these kings "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."
The Watchtower claims that the above evidence is all meaningless, wrong and untrustworthy.
"If we follow the accurate timekeeping of Jehovah God as recorded in his Word, we see that the desolation of Judah ran from 607 to 537 B.C.E. and will thereby avoid making the mistake of the chronologers of Christendom who ignore the prophecy of the seventy years' desolation and date Jerusalem's destruction as occurring in 587 B.C.E. They limit the desolation of Jerusalem and the land of Judah to merely fifty years, accepting the unreliable calculations of pagan historians rather than the infallible Word of God." Watchtower 1965 Sep 15 p.569
"However, where the interpretation of these findings conflicts with clear statements in the Bible, we accept with confidence what the Holy Scriptures say, whether on matters related to chronology or any other topic." Watchtower 1989 Mar 15 p.22
This baseless argumentation is counterproductive, as the Watchtower relies on the very same historical records to arrive at 607. 607 can only be determined using historical records to calculate when Babylon fell. Archaeological evidence that exists to show that the destruction of Jerusalem was in 586/587 B.C. is the same evidence that the Society uses to prove 539 B.C. was the destruction of Babylon.
Furthermore, the claim that 587 conflicts with Bible prophecy is not a relevant argument. As shown later, there are historically acceptable ways to reconcile the prophecy of 70 years.
Not surprisingly, since the Watchtower relies on historical evidence to prove when Babylon fell, information presented in the Watchtower's own journals can be used to show that 607 B.C. is wrong. (N.B. In viewing the calculation remember that everything goes backwards when calculating years B.C.)
"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
"After reigning but two years King Evil-Merodach was murdered by his brother-in-law Neriglissar. According to the inscriptions that have been found, this usurper of the throne spent most of his time in building operations and reigned four years. When he died, his son Labashi-Marduk, though not yet of age, succeeded him. He was a vicious boy, and within nine months he had his throat cut by an assassin. Nabonidus, who had served as Governor of Babylon and who had been Nebuchadnezzar's favorite son-in-law, now took the throne and had a fairly glorious reign till Babylon fell in 539 B.C." Babylon the Great Has Fallen - God's Kingdom Rules p.184
2 Kings 25:8-9 "And in the fifth month on the seventh [day] of the month, that is to say, the nineteenth year of King Neb·u·chad·nez´zar the king of Babylon, Neb·u´zar·ad´an the chief of the bodyguard, the servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 And he proceeded to burn the house of Jehovah and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; and the house of every great man he burned with fire."
- Babylon fell 539 B.C.
- Plus Nabonidus 17 years
- Plus Labashi-Marduk 1 year
- Plus Neriglissar 4 years
- Plus Evil-Merodach 2 years
- Plus Nebuchadnezzar 43 years
- Equals start of Nebuchadnezzar's reign 606 B.C.
- Minus Nebuchadnezzar's 19th year
- Date for Destruction 587 B.C.
Since the rule of kings take us back only as far as 587 B.C., where does the Watchtower add the additional 20 years? They move the rulership by each King back 20 years, and then extend Nabonidus' reign by 20 years.
For the Watchtower timeline to be correct Nabonidus needs to have ruled for 36 years, yet the Society admits archaeologists determine he only ruled for 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
The Watchtower states that the 70 years of desolation were between 607 - 537 B.C. This has not always been the case; Russell believed the seventy years extended from 606 - 536 B.C.
"This brings us to the period of the desolation of the land, which lasted seventy years, and was ended by the restoration of its people from Babylon, in the first year of Cyrus, B.C. 536..." Studies In the Scriptures Series II - The Time Is at Hand p.51
Russell counted 70 years back from 536 to 606 B.C. In the 1940's the Watchtower Society admited to the error of adding the year zero in their calculations. Rather than move Jesus rulership to 1913 they chose to retain a result of 1914, subsequently changing the desolation of Jerusalem from 606 B.C. to 607 B.C., hence ending the seventy years in 537 B.C. instead of 536 B.C.
By the 1940's historians had proven that Babylon fell in 539 B.C. and the Watchtower Society concurs that this figure is a pivotal year historically. Consequently, rather than change the start of the 70 years to 609 B.C., they once again favoured the retention of 1914 by deriving the explanation that the Jews were probably not released until 2 years after the fall of Babylon - 537 B.C. However if Jeremiah 25:12 is to be taken at its word then 539 B.C. must be used. It states that the seventy years would be fulfilled when Babylon is destroyed, not in an estimated year for the release of the Jews.
"'And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,' is the utterance of Jehovah, 'their error, even against the land of the Chal·de´ans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite."
In agreeance with archaeological sources Josephus states that Jerusalem was desolate for 50 years:
"Nebuchadnezzar, in the eighteenth year of his reign, laid our temple desolate, and so it lay in that state of obscurity for fifty years; but that in the second year of the reign of Cyrus its foundations were laid, and it was finished again in the second year of Darius." (Against Apion Book I, Chapter 21)
Josephus also discusses a period of desolation of 70 years. Surprisingly the Watchtower attempts to use Josephus to prove Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C
"Furthermore, Josephus elsewhere describes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and then says that "all Judea and Jerusalem, and the temple, continued to be a desert for seventy years." (Antiquities of the Jews X, ix, 7) He pointedly states that "our city was desolate during the interval of seventy years, until the days of Cyrus." (Against Apion I, 19) This agrees with 2 Chronicles 36:21 and Daniel 9:2 that the foretold 70 years were 70 years of full desolation for the land." (Italics as added by the Watchtower) "Let Your Kingdom Come" p.188 Appendix to Chapter 14
By emphasising the word desolate the Watchtower Society hides the meaning of the sentence. If the emphasis is shifted to the word during, it shows Josephus meant the city was desolate during the 70 years, for the 50 year period he mentioned earlier.
July or October
Many Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the start of World War One marked the end of the Gentile times and the start of the Last Days. After being cast from heaven Satan set about creating 'woe for the earth' by starting the War, a clear indication he was now confined to the earth. This is incorrect.
The Watchtower teaches that Jesus started ruling October 2 1914.
"That was a highly interesting time because a few of us seriously thought we were going to heaven during the first week of that October." Yearbook 1975 p.72
However, World War One began 2 months prior to this, generally considered to have been July 28. The start of World War One therefore should not be used by Jehovah's Witnesses as a sign of Jesus 'presence' as it began prior to the Last Days.
Lunar Day for a Solar Year
The principle of "a day for a year" was used regularly by Russell but is only occasionally adhered to in Rutherfordian prophetic calculations. For instance the Daniel prophecies of 1260, 1290 and 1355 days are all currently said to signify a day for a day, not a day for a year. Previously Russell had interpreted these same prophecies with the concept of a day for a year, with results completely unrelated to current interpretation.
The 2,520 years are calculated by using a 360 day lunar calendar, supported by comparing time frames of Daniel with Revelation. However, the Watchtower then applies the 2,520 lunar years to a 365 ¼ day solar calendar to arrive at 1914. This is 2556 lunar years. Some scholars prefer consistent use of a lunar calendar and convert 2520 lunar years to 907,200 days. 907,200 days from 607 B.C. ended in 1878 A.D.
What were the 70 years?
The Watchtower Society claims that Bible prophecy would be compromised if Jerusalem fell in 587 B.C., yet Christian scholars reconcile Bible prophecy with accurate history.
The Bible refers to numerous 70 year periods, and close inspection reveals more than one 70 year period during Babylonian times. As the New World Translation introduces inflections to support their specific understanding it is recommended to read several translations to understand the meaning of the following passages.
Jeremiah 25 applies a 70 year period to both the surrounding nations and Jerusalem, the period the Babylonians were conquering "these nations" and their vassalage to the Babylonians
- Jeremiah 25:11-12 "And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years."' 12 "'And it must occur that when seventy years have been fulfilled I shall call to account against the king of Babylon and against that nation,' is the utterance of Jehovah, 'their error, even against the land of the Chal·de´ans, and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite."
Jeremiah ends the 70 years with the "account against the King of Babylon". Babylon fell in 539 B.C. indicating the start of this 70 year period against "these nations" could have been 609 B.C.
In a separate passage Jeremiah 29:10 refers to Israelites spending 70 years at Babylon. Reading from verse 1 indicates this includes the time period when the Israelites were taken to Babylon prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Historians date this to the year 605 B.C.
Zechariah 1:12, Zechariah 7:4-5, 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 and Daniel 9:2 all refer to 70 year periods.
- Daniel 9:2 "In the first year of his reigning I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, [namely,] seventy years."
Daniel may be indicating the period from the first destruction in 601 B.C. Alternately, 70 years was the length of time the temple was in a state of disrepair from the start of the siege on Jerusalem in 589 B.C. to the completion of the new temple in 519 B.C.
Whatever the case, Bible prophecy holds true against well supported secular history, whilst none of these periods point to 607 B.C.. Considering Daniel 4 is not an end time prophecy, the precise start and end dates of the 70 years are of little more than passing interest.
The bona fide reason the Watchtower rejects 587 B.C. is that it undermines their basis for 1914. As proof that convenience is the sole motivator of claiming a literal 70 year period consider the enlightening piece of Watchtower reasoning for 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 p.253
There is no reason that this same reasoning could not be applied to Jerusalem, except that it would undermine the doctrine of 1914.
1914 or 1874
Current Watchtower publications are not transparent about their history. Before and even after 1914 it was consistently stated that Jesus rulership started in 1874. However the Watchtower now claims that prior to 1914 they were saying that this was the date for Jesus rulership and presence to occur. This simply is not true, as the following quotes show.
"Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present since October 1874, A.D., according to the testimony of the prophets, to those who have ears to hear it: and the formal inauguration of his kingly office dates from April 1878, A.D." Studies in Scriptures Series IV (1897) p.621
"The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D." Prophecy (1929) p.65
Russell and Rutherford believed that Jesus invisible presence and rulership started in 1874. The end of the Gentile times in 1914 was to signify God's Kingdom re-starting visible rulership on earth, starting with Armageddon. It was not until Golden Age 1930 p.503 that Rutherford for the first time stated that Christ's return and "presence" were 1914 instead of 1874. This was not mentioned again until 1943. It has only been from 1943 onwards that 1914 has been consistently stated to be the start of the Last Days and the beginning of Jesus presence and rulership.
Knowing this, it is eye opening to find Watchtower articles claiming that the Organization always understood that 1914 was the year that began Jesus presence and rulership.
"Why, then, do the nations not realize and accept the approach of this climax of judgment? It is because they have not heeded the world wide advertising of Christ's return and his second Presence. Since long before World War I Jehovah's witnesses pointed to 1914 as the time for this great event to occur." Watchtower 1954 Jun 15 p.370
"…a prophecy providentially caused sincere 19th-century Bible students to be in expectation. By linking the "seven times" of Daniel 4:25 with "the times of the Gentiles", they anticipated that Christ would receive Kingdom power in 1914." Watchtower 1998 Sep 15 p.15
What do the preceding mistruths suggest about the honesty and integrity of the Watchtower? If the Watchtower has no qualms about falsifying its own history, it should come as no surprise that they ignore the facts about the date 607 B.C.E. as well.
The expectation that Jesus returned invisibly in 1874, and that his visible return would mark the end of the Gentile times was more logical than the current view that it has started invisibly. If the prophecy of the seven times was to signify the time that the end of God's visible rulership ended, then it would also be expected that it was to signify the time God's visible rulership would return to replace the kings of the earth. With the current interpretation, there is no way to prove whether or not Gods invisible kingdom has begun ruling.
1914 is fundamental to the existence of the Watchtower Society, as from this is derived the concept that in 1919 Jesus chose the Watchtower Society as his Faithful Slave and sole channel for salvation. Yet Daniel 4 is the only Scripture Jehovah's Witnesses use to specifically pinpoint 1914 as the year Jesus started to rule. An accumulation of evidence proves beyond doubt that the destruction of Jerusalem did not occur in 607 B.C. An objective reading of the Bible and history accepts this without issue. The Watchtower Society has a vested interest in 1914 and hence 607, stringently hiding from truth in an attempt to dismiss evidence to the contrary.
For a more detailed discussion of this topic see jwfacts.com - 607 1917 Seven Times