About a year and a half ago (03-03-11), discussing what I had learned in ancient history studies with someone who had been close to me, I received this note in the mail explaining why nothing was possible other than what was taught in ministry school, a 2520-year sequence of events that culminated invisibly in 1914.
"This question was on my Theocratic Ministry School Review that will be covered tonight:"
How does 2 Chronicles 36:21 underscore the fulfillment of the prophecy recorded at Jeremiah 25: 8-11?
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 archaeological evidence to support this?
In the journal BiblicalArchaeologyReview, 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.”
Citing Ephraim Stern as a reference for 607 BC and 70-year desolation has been discussed before. As far as I can tell, reading his article in the Biblical Archeology Review, its introduction and critique - all parties agreed that Jerusalem had been leveled 20 years later. Only this ministry school excerpt never tells anyone that - and I have never convinced my correspondent to even look it up.
But let's go to the crucial matter. A number of people have suggested that concentrating on the date of the Temple's destruction is a side issue. It's dealing with the assertions of prophets.
What does the next line of Jeremiah chapter 25 say?
In the NWT:
"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 Chaldeans and I will make it desolate wastes to time indefinite." In clearer KJV English: Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord, and I will make it a perpetual desolation." ---------------------------------- It never happened. It's not even known whether Nabonidus died in battle outside the city or was appointed a regional governor by Cyrus. The city changed hands with little bloodshed and continued as a principal city and capital of the Persian empire for CENTURIES. Alexander made it his capital in the 4th century and died there. Specifically, Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BCE. The fact is that Jeremiah 25:12 is a FAILED prophecy. And since it is false, why should anyone assume that Jer 25:9-11 overrules existing historical evidence? Jer 25:8-11 does in deed conflict with historical evidence. And the compilers of such documents as the ministry school lesson notes - they know it. Just like they know that Ephraim Stern in no way support their dates or 70-year suppositions.In fact, it was even clear to the Jewish community of the 5th and 4th centuries BC that Babylon had not been punished because much of it still remained in Babylon and other Persian ruled cities. Persian rule was the best thing that ever happened to Judea, providing it with centuries of security the Jewish community never had before or after. In the light of history, the four verses look to be propaganda rather than prophecy. Similar destruction notices appear in Isaiah in chapters 13 and 14, but as I said before, 14:22-23 gives that one away too. "I will rise against them, declares Yahweh Sabaoth, and deprive Babylon of name, remnant, offspring and posterity", declares Yahweh. "I shall turn it into the haunt of hedgehogs, a swamp." And that is in fact what Assyrian King Sennacherib did 100 years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. Sennacherib just as thoroughly destroyed Babylon, flooding it and driving its population off into slavery. Nothing like it happens again. But both the editors of Isaiah and the Watchtower Society (e.g., "What the Bible Really Teaches", distributed for home instruction to people like me) would have you believe that Cyrus was dispatched the city in the same way. It was also Sennacherib that condemned Babylon to 70-years desolation, but his son and successor Esarhaddon gave it a reprieve after 11 years. My conclusion from this is that the 70-year desolation position of the society is not unassailable. Should I say this is an obvious weakness? It took me long enough to notice it. But it is a gaping hole in an argument that is based on, "A prophet prophesies it, and that settles it." When that argument is offered, it helps to read the previous or next verse.