Thanks for publishing on this topic, Doug.
I would just like to note that the WTS does not represent true "Bible chronology" and is dishonest regarding the 70 years. Without using dates, only relative chronology,
1. AGREE: We all agree that the 70 years end with the return to Jerusalem in the 1st year of Cyrus.
2. DISAGREE: The WTS dates the 70 years beginning in year 18 of Nebuchadnezzar, the spurious year for the fall of Jerusalem. The Bible dates the 70 years as beginning in year 23, the year of the last deportation. The WTS is considered to be dishonest in this regard since it quotes Josehpus regarding the 70 years, who also represents the 70 years as beginning in year 23 of Neb2 with the last deportation at Ant. 11.1.1. Josephus also clearly indicates those deported in year 23 were deported out of Egypt. The WTS avoids this suggestion completely, inventing a group of Jews who they claim fled into surrounding countries when Gedealiah was killed and giving no reference at all as to the fate of those who ran down to Egypt. This also ignores Jeremiah 44:14,28 which clearly shows a remnant of those who "escaped from the sword" would return to Judea.
So, in conclusion, regardless of what the WTS claims about the seventy years, the Bible agrees with Josephus that the 70 years began with the last deportation and ends in the 1st of Cyrus. That is "relative chronology" regardless of what dates you want to assign to the 1st of Cyrus (i.e. 537 vs 455 BCE).
HERE ARE THOSE REFERENCES:
(A) This is Josephus showing the 70 years are linked with those last deported in year 23 of Neb2, that is, when "our peopele were removed out of their own land."
1. IN the first year of the reign of Cyrus (1) which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of these poor people, according as he had foretold to them by Jeremiah the prophet, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity.
(B) This shows blatant dishonesty by the WTS because they quote from this passage in Josephus regarding the year 23 campaign by Nebuchadnezzar II to help explain the last deportation in year 23, but they ignore the specific statement by Josephus that those deported in year 23 was out of Egypt.
"[in] the twenty-third of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he made an expedition against Celesyria; and when he had possessed himself of it, he made war against the Ammonites and Moabites; and when he had brought all these nations under subjection, he fell upon Egypt, in order to overthrow it; and he slew the king that then reigned (16) and set up another; and he took those Jews that were there captives, and led them away to Babylon. And such was the end of the nation of the Hebrews, as it hath been delivered down to us, it having twice gone beyond Euphrates; for the people of the ten tribes were carried out of Samaria by the Assyrians, in the days of king Hoshea; after which the people of the two tribes that remained after Jerusalem was taken [were carried away] by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and Chaldea. Now as to Shalmanezer, he removed the Israelites out of their country, and placed therein the nation of the Cutheans, who had formerly belonged to the inner parts of Persia and Media, but were then called Samaritans, by taking the name of the country to which they were removed; but the king of Babylon, who brought out the two tribes, (17) placed no other nation in their country, by which means all Judea and Jerusalem, and the temple, continued to be a desert for seventy years"
(C) This statement shows WTS dishonesty, who invent some year 23 deportees from surrounding nations outside of Judea rather than following the Bible or Josephus and linking the last deportees to those who were left over from the sword who had ran down to Egypt. The obvious avoidance or denial is because he 70 years of desolation requires no one to pass through Judea. Obviously, if the last deportees came out of Egyt they would have trekked back through Judea and thus it would not have been totally desolated until after year 23. This would spoil the 1914 and 607 BCE propaganda the WTS is promoting.
From "it-1 Captivity" page 416:
Some two months later, after the assassination of Gedaliah, the rest of the Jews left behind in Judah fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah and Baruch along with them. (2Ki 25:8-12, 25, 26; Jer 43:5-7) Some of the Jews also may have fled to other nations round about. Probably from among these nations were the 745 captives, as household heads, exiled five years later when Nebuchadnezzar, as Jehovah’s symbolic club, dashed to pieces the nations bordering Judah. (Jer 51:20; 52:30) Josephus says that five years after the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar overran Ammon and Moab and then went on down and took vengeance on Egypt.—JewishAntiquities, X, 181, 182 (ix, 7).
Note that the WTS quotes from Josephus 10.9.7, quoted above, which is the same reference that clearly says those deported this year were deported from Egypt! So the WTS was quite aware the historical last deportation as far as the Jews were concerned was from Egypt. But this is ignored. However, the Bible supports the last deportation from Egypt as follows:
Jeremiah 44:14 " 14 And there will come to be no escapee or survivor for the remnant of Judah who are entering in to reside there as aliens, in the land of Egypt, even to return to the land of Judah to which they are lifting up their soul[ful desire] to return in order to dwell; for they will not return, except some escaped ones.’”
Jeremiah 44: 28 And as for the ones escaping from the sword, they will return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all those of the remnant of Judah, who are coming into the land of Egypt to reside there as aliens, will certainly know whose word comes true, that from me or that from them.”’”
2 Chronicles 23: 20 " Furthermore, he 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; 21 to fulfill Jehovah’s word by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolated it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years."
Those "remaining from the sword" or "escaping from the sword" is a direct reference to those who were not killed by Nebuchadnezzar II down in Egypt. So the WTS has to ignore the above three Bible references who confirm for us who the last deportees were and where they came from. Josephus directly identifies them as well as coming out of Egypt in complete agreement with the Bible. Thus the Bible shows the land was not totally desolated until after year 23. The WTS, thus goes out of its way to avoid the idea that the last deportees came out of Egypt by inventing some Jews who "prbably" fled outside of Judea when Gedaliah was killed. Why invent some probable explanation for the deportees when the Bible and Josephus tell us precisely where the last deportees came from? Again, the WTS is in denial here. It can't accept the Bible or Josephus claiming the last deportees who began the 70-year exile were out of Egypt, because that would destroy their claim the land was desolated completely from the fall of Jerusalem.
That essentially means, even using the incorrect date of 537 BCE for the return from Babylon, that 607 BCE would actually be year 23 of Nebuchadnezzar, the year of the last deportation and not the year for the fall of Jerusalem.
These direct historical references to a 70-year period linked to the last deportation is a critical chronological reference which stand independently of any connection with any interpretation of any other 70-year period in the Bible. That is, even if a 70-year period of domination by Babylon over the nations is convincing, it is incidental and irrelevant to the 70-year exile of the last deportees in year 23. Thus this would be a separate, completely independent and thus coincidental 70-year reference or any other 70-year reference in the Bible.
Thanks, Doug, for pointing out WTS dishonesty and falsehood regarding the 70 years.
1) Per Josephus, there was a 70-year period from the last deportation out of Egypt year 23 of Nebuchadnezzar II to the 1st of Cyrus
2) Per the Bible there was a 70-year period from the last depotation out of Judea in year 23 of Nebuchadnezzar to the 1st of Cyrus.