Back Cover of Nov15, WT: Did Judah Remain Desolate?

by Midget-Sasquatch 9 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Midget-Sasquatch

    I quickly read it all and thought.

    Again they use a poorlyreferenced quote and they leave out who knows what. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the actual BAR article they used disagreed with their "history."

  • VM44


    The Bible foretold that the land of the kingdom of Judah would be devastated by the Babylonians and would remain desolate until the return of the Jewish exiles. (Jeremiah 25:8-11) The strongest reason to believe that this prophecy came true is the inspired historical account recorded some 75 years after the first group of exiles returned to their homeland. It states that the king of Babylon "carried off those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon, and they came to be servants to him and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign." And regarding the land, it is reported: "All the days of lying desolated it kept sabbath." (2 Chronicles 36:20,21) Is there any archaelogical evidence to support this?

    In the journal Biblical Archaeology Review, Ephraim Stern, professor of Palestinian archaeology at Hebrew University, points out "The Assyrians and Babylonians both ravaged large parts of ancient Israel, yet the archaeological evidence from the aftermath of their respective conquests tells two very different stories." He explains: "While the Assyrians left a clear imprint of their presence in Palestine, there is a strange gap after the Babylonian destruction....We find no evidence of occupation until the Persian period...There is a complete gap in evidence suggesting occupation. In all that time, not a single town destroyed by the Babylonians was resettled."

    Professor Lawrence E. Stager of Harvard University agrees. "Throughout Philistia, and later throughout Judah," he says, the Babylonian king's "scorched-earth policy created a veritable wasteland west of the Jordan River." Stager adds: "Only with Cyrus the Great, the Persian successor to the Babylonians, does the archaeological record begin Jerusalem and in Judah where many Jewish exiles returned to their homeland."

    Yes, Jehovah's word concerning Judah's lying desolate was fulfilled. What Jehovah God foretells always comes true (Isaiah 55:10,11) We can put our complete confidence in Jehovah and in the promises recorded in his Word, the Bible.-2 Timothy 3:16.

  • Leolaia

    Ephraim Stern does not believe that Judah as a whole was "desolate" and (as a JW would read the phrase) without inhabitant during the exilic period. In a recent article "The Babylonian Gap: The Archaeological Reality" (JSOT 2004:273-277), he makes the following claims which he says are fairly secure:

    • Even before the Babylonian campaigns of 605 BC onward, Judah had experienced ongoing devastations by the Assyrian and Egyptian armies and there were also regional conflicts between Judah and Edom and Judah and Philistia which led to devastation at sites.
    • Before the Babylonian campaigns in the Levant there were a total of ten kingdoms in the land: Two were controlled by Assyria (Samaria and Megiddo), and the rest were independent (Judah, Ammon, Edom, Moab, and the four kingdoms of the Philistines). All these kingdoms had ceased to exist by the Persian period, as indicated by discontinuities in material culture.
    • In Judah, Philistia and Edom, most Iron Age II sites end at destruction levels of the Babylonian conquest (e.g. Babylonian arrowheads embedded at destruction levels in Tel Malhata in Edom, Jerusalem in Judah, and En-Gedi) and are immediately followed with Persian levels. Some cities that had been devastated in the seventh century BC in Assyrian campaigns, such as Megiddo III, Dothan, Beth-shean, Tel Rehov, etc. were resettled and rebuilt in the Assyrian period (and thus have Assyrian pottery), but these levels are similarly followed by dramatically different Persian levels. The Assyrians appeared to have tried to rebuild and resettle cities in conquered territories, while the Babylonian military strategy was the destroy them and not rebuild.
    • In the Persian levels, there is evidence that Phoenicians had moved into the previous Philistine cities and Edomites had moved into previous Judean cities. In the Babylonian conquest, "the land was not 'emptied' but its great harbor cities in the north and south were totally destroyed, and the population, some of which was killed and some deported by the Babylonians was sharply reduced" (p. 274). Substantial resettlement did not occur until the Persian period, and then largely by non-Judeans.
    • There is however a notable exception: the land of Benjamin in Judah, which shows evidence of continuity throughout the Babylonian period to the Persian period, and Rabat Ammon and central Samaria (p. 276). These are areas where Judean and Samaritan/Israelite culture continued. The Society neglects to mention this point in Stern's may have been mentioned in the BAR article, I would have to check my back issues to be sure.

    In another recent article, "The Rural Settlement of Judah in the Sixth Century B.C.E." by Oded Lipschits (Palestine Exploration Journal, 2004:99-107), there is further evidence presented of continuity in the rural areas in contrast to the destruction and desolation of urban centers. This article focuses on the evidence from the land of Benjamin. Here is a quote from the abstract:

    "The present paper claims that the major and most conspicuous archaeological phenomenon in Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem is the sharp decline in urban life, which is in contrast to the continuity of the rural settlements in the region of Benjamin and in the area between Bethlehem and Beth Zur. These archaeological investigations demonstrate that a new pattern of settlement was created in Judah, in which the core settlements were destroyed or abandoned while, at the same time, the surrounding region continued to exist almost unchanged. The differences between the various regions of this small kingdom should be understood as the outcome of a planned Babylonian policy of using some of the rural highland areas as a source for agricultural products. The settlement in those areas became a place of specialized wine and oil production, and was used both for paying the taxes and supplying the basic products for the Babylonian administration and forces stationed in the area. A similar situation is detectable in the area south of Rabbath-Ammon, around Tell el 'Unieiri and Tell Hesban, and perhaps also in the Baq'ah region, north of Rabbath-Ammon" (p. 99).

    Later in the article, Lipschits contrasted "regions known to have been destroyed at the beginning of the sixth century B.C.E. and that had had no settlement continuation in the Persian period (the Jordan valley, the Negev, the southern Shephelah, etc.)" with the region of Benjamin and "the northern Judean hills" were there was clear continuity throughout the period (p. 102). As far as depopulation is concerned, Lipschits estimates the following:

    "[D]uring the Babylonian period there was a demographic and settlement crisis -- a decline of approximately 70% in the size of the population (Lipschits 2003, 356), The sharpest decline occurred in Jerusalem and its environs (around 90%), which were the focus of the Babylonian activities (Lipschits 2001, 129-42). A similar rate of decline also took place in the Judean desert, Jordan valley, the western littoral of the Dead Sea, and in the Shephelah (Lipschits 2000, 31-42; 2003, 334-46), However, in the Benjamin region, there was a more moderate decrease (approximately 60%) in the size of the settled area between the end of the Iron Age and the Persian period. As will be discussed further, to judge from the results of the excavations of the main sites in this region, one may assume that this decrease took place gradually at the end of the sixth and the beginning of the fifth centuries B.C.E, (Lipschits 1997, 196-245; 1998, 8-32; 1999, 155-90; 2003, 346-51), Furthermore, throughout the region between Jerusalem and Beth-Zur, there is marked settlement continuity, with an impressive increase in the number of small sites, as can be concluded from comparison between settlement patterns of the end of the Iron Age and those from the Persian period (Lipschits 1997: 276-99; 2003: 351-55)" (p. 102-103).

    And even some cities in Benjamin were not destroyed and prospered subsequently:

    "In the region of Benjamin, there were four important, central cities that were not destroyed by the Babylonians and that even flourished during the sixth century B.C.E. (Lipschits 1999a, 155-178; 2003, 346-48; Carter 2003, 307-10): Mizpah (Tell en-Nasbeh), Gibeah (Tell el-Ful), Bethel (identified in the village of Beitin), and Gibeon (identified in the village of el-Jib). At the end ofthe sixth century B.C.E. and during the Persian period, there is a marked process of depopulation and settlement decline in those four sites (Zorn 1993, 184-85; Stern 2001, 321-22; Lipschits 2003, 348-49)" (p. 104).

    The later decline in those sites may have been connected with the restoration of Jerusalem as an administrative and cultural center. However, the author also notes that even into the Hellenistic period, the overwhelming majority of the population continued to live in rural settlements.

    The Stager quote is poorly referenced, so it may prove difficult to assess how he is being quoted, but I think I can find it with some effort.

  • Leolaia

    As mentioned above, the Society does not explicitly say that "desolate" = "uninhabited" in this short piece, tho they have claimed this before in their literature (cf. "...the Jewish captives returned to a desolate land uninhabited by man or beast" in the 15 September 1951 Watchtower, p. 566; "...seventy years after Judah had been left uninhabited when the last Jews fled to Egypt not long after Jerusalem’s desolation " in the 1 May 1967 Watchtower, p. 260, etc.).

    In the article quoted in the piece (published in the November/December 2000 issue of BAR), Ephraim Stern did indeed note what was printed in his later article:

    "I do not mean to imply that the country was uninhabited during the period between the Babylonian destruction and the Persian period. There were undoubtedly some settlements, but the population was very small. Many towns and villages were either completely or partly destroyed. The rest were barely functioning. International trade virtually ceased. Only two regions appear to have been spared this fate -- the northern part of Judah (the region of Benjamin) and probably the land of Ammon, although the latter region awaits further investigation."

    And here is Ephraim Stern writing in the the May/June 2002 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review:

    "I have never claimed that the land was entirely emptied, and it is very likely that, here and there, rural settlements remained, as attested in surveys and excavations. But what political or other significance can a defeated population have when it has no significant urban centers, when its religious center has been burned down, when its primary trade routes no longer exist, and when it no longer has its own government?

    Although I have not claimed that the land was entirely abandoned, distinctions must be made between fundamentally different population densities. When my family arrived in the Land of Israel in 1800, for example, there were 300,000 inhabitants on both sides of the Jordan. Today there are some 13-14 million people living there. Still, it cannot be said that the land was empty in 1800 -- only that it was sparsely populated".
  • myelaine


    Jeremiah 29:19

  • Zico

    I notice they don't mention Jeremiah 25:12.

  • Hellrider

    Impressing work, Leolaia (again). You should rewrite it into an article about misquoting and misuse of academic works, and post it as an article on the web, not just here on the forum. You should do that with lots of your work. I think it`s a waste that so much brilliant work is just placed in the archives here on JWD.

  • Midget-Sasquatch

    I'm also very grateful to Leo for all that research. With the speed and amount done I just know you don't work for the government!

    True believing dubs should seriously consider what this demonstrates about their teacher. Either their dishonesty or ineptness. See - I can give "Mommy" the benefit of the doubt.

    VMM - Thanks for OCRing the text for me. Last time I posted scans (of KN 37) someone ratted on me about copyright and they were quickly removed from the image hosting site.

  • AlanF

    So Leo, have you found the Biblical Archaeology Review article that the WTS quoted? It would be interesting to see the context to see exactly what the author said.


  • jayhawk1

    Where do the lies end? Thanks Leolaia.

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