The Gentile Times Reconsidered (607 B.C.E.) -Part A1 - Jeremiah 25:10-12 Reviewed

by FaceTheFacts 255 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • FaceTheFacts

    During the last three to four months, I have spent a great deal of time sinking my teeth into various critical Biblical commentaries and lexicons. Naturally, after beginning to research "the truth about the truth" one of the most commonplace yet controversial arguments revolve around the "Gentile Times" doctrine (i.e. the application of the Seven Times of Daniel 4 from 607 B.C.E. to 1914 A.D.). Since there is no shortage of opinions and arguments about this subject, I find it necessary to define clearly the parameters of each review and subsequent discussion of this book. This thread specifically will deal with section A (the exegesis of Jeremiah 25) and the reckoned chronology from therein (i.e. 609 B.C.E. to 539 B.C.E.). Other related subjects such as Daniel 9:2, the list of Babylonian Kings' regnal years, questionable Watchtower statements/dishonesty, the translation of Jeremiah 29:10, and so forth are not confined within the parameters of our discussion. These will be discussed a future time, in a separate thread, to avoid a conglomeration of several simultaneous arguments which can, in turn, confuse or make it difficult to keep track off the discussion.

    Disclaimer: All quotes cited are taken directly from Jonnson Olof, Carl. The Gentile Times Reconsidered: Chronology and Christ's Return. (Commentary Press, Revised and Expanded, 2004)

    It is held that these seventy years were a period of complete desolation for Judah and Jerusalem. Although it is predicted in the passage that the land of Judah would be a devastated place, it should be noted that this “devastation” is not equated with, or linked with, the period of the seventy years. All that is clearly and unambiguously stated in the text is that “these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years”. The phrase “these nations” is a reference back to verse 9, in which it is predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would come against “this land [that is, Judah] and its inhabitants, and also against all these nations round about.” The seventy years, then, should be understood to mean years of servitude for these nations.”Servitude” here should not be taken to mean the same thing as desolation and exile.

    An "easy target" fallacy is committed here (i.e. a strawman) since the Watchtower's interpretation of the "70 years" referring to a period of desolation is not based on a superficial reading of the text of Jeremiah 25 alone, but upon a series of intertextual references to the "seventy years" of Jeremiah (i.e. 2 Chronicles 36:21; Daniel 9:2; cf. Insight On The Scriptures, p. 463, Vol. 1).

    Thus, the nations that accepted the Babylonian yoke would serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But the nations that refused to serve the Babylonian king would become devastated. The seventy years of servitude foretold by Jeremiah, therefore, did not apply to Judah as a nation, but only to the nations who submitted to the king of Babylon.

    The highlighted statements are incorrect for several reasons. Since Jonnson postulates that the 70 years began in 609 B.C.E., the burden of proof requires that he substantiates a tribute of vassalage in that specific year. Bear in mind, that there is difference between a nation's utter defeat and loss of battle and a tribute of vassalage. During this time period, vassalage consisted of a monetary tribute (i.e. taxation) to the dominant nation, a formal agreement of the vassal king to respect and adhere to the wishes of the King as well as to not seek aid from surrounding nations and in some cases, pay tribute to the sacrificial gods of the dominating nation (cf. Isaiah 7:2-6; 8:12; 2 Kings 16:10-16; 2 Kings 33:23-35). Thus, there is no substantiation for the starting point of the 70 years here.

    Also when reading Jeremiah 25, Jonnson's proposes a strained exegesis on the text and it's quite obvious that his bolded statements thus have no basis in the text itself.

    The chapter begins: "The word that occurred to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Je·hoi′a·kim the son of Jo·si′ah, the king of Judah, that is, the first year of Neb·u·chad·rez′zar the king of Babylon; which Jeremiah the prophet spoke concerning all the people of Judah and concerning all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (i.e. the emphasis here is clearly on the Judeans and their disobedience and the text provides no basis to "exclude" Judah from among "these nations"). “Therefore this is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘“For the reason that YOU did not obey my words (the emphasis and audience of the message has not changed here) here I am sending and I will take all the families of the north,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “even [sending] to Neb·u·chad·rez′zar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about (i.e. the preceded warnings apply to Judah and the surrounding nations); and I will devote them to destruction and make them an object of astonishment and something to whistle at and places devastated to time indefinite. (i.e. Judah and the surrounding lands will suffer this fate) 10 And I will destroy out of them the sound of exultation and the sound of rejoicing, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the hand mill and the light of the lamp. 11 And all this land must become a devastated place, (the audience being referred to even at this point obviously still includes the Judeans) an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”’

    Later in Jeremiah 25 he continues describing the calamity coming upon "all the nations" (i.e. "these nations) and Judah is specifically mentioned: "And I proceeded to take the cup out of the hand of Jehovah and to make all the nations drink to whom Jehovah had sent me: 18 namely, Jerusalem and the cities of Judah and her kings."

    Also a reading of Jeremiah 25:11 in the LXX (which is far older and traditionally regarded as more accurate than the Masoretic text) states:"And all the land shall be a desolation; and they shall serve among the Gentiles seventy years." The LXX equivalent makes it quite obvious that the "servitude" (specifically, the servitude of seventy years) is NOT in reference to vassalage as it would be nonsensical to say: "The nations (they) will serve as vassals among the nations." Hence, it is patently obvious the "seventy years" refer to "THESE NATIONS", "ALL THE NATIONS", etc. which would include Judah and this attenuates his chronology causing two contravening methodologies and it invalidates his interpretation of "servitude" as "vassalage."

  • FaceTheFacts

    Further comments on Jeremiah 25:10-12: A crucial part in coming to understanding a text is to compare parallel usages of the statements of the text under examination (i.e. how "parousia" should be translated as "coming" OR as "presence" instead). Below is the text of Jeremiah in it's transliterated Hebrew form.

    and-she-becomes (u-eithe) all-of (kl) the-land (e-artz) the-this (e'zarth) to desertion (l-chrbe) to desolation (l-shme) and they serve (u-obdu) the nations (e-guim) the these (e-ale) king of (ath-mlk) Babel (Bbl) seventy (shboim) year (shne)

    The verb used here (aw-bad') uses the verb pattern "Qal" here and is inflective of the perfect mood. The perfect mood is used to state completed actions in the past (i.e. "He studied, He talked, He served) which is commonly used in prophetic oracles to demonstrate that the events are so certain to happen that it is if they already have and this is done by using this tense. The imperfect mood would have been more definitively used to indicate an ongoing action in the past that will continue into the future (i.e. the nations having started serving Babylon in 609 B.C. and continuing to serve into the future). What does this indicate? That the writer of Jeremiah (who dates the oracle to about 605 B.C.) did not indicate that the servitude had yet begun, but was yet future. Therefore, the servitude, at the very earliest, had not started by 605 B.C. but was designated to a specific time interval to be completed in the future.

    The rationality of my statements can be seen when we read a text that is almost word-for-word the same as Jeremiah 25:11; that of Genesis 15:13 which states: "13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslavedand oppressed four hundred years."

    Comments: Similar statements are made in reference to the nation of Judah: "And you must say to them, ‘Just as YOU have left me and have gone serving a foreign god in YOUR land, so YOU will serve strangers in a land that is not YOURS.’(5:19) "And I will hurl YOU out from off this land into the land that YOU yourselves have not known, neither YOUR fathers, and there YOU will have to serve other gods day and night, because I shall not give YOU any favor.”’ (16:13) "I also will make you serve your enemies in the land that you have not known". (17:4)

    Further comments: What is translated "be enslaved" in the New American Standard Version, is virtually the same phrase contained in Jeremiah 25:11 and the context is patently similar as well. What's translated "they will be enslaved" is "and·they-serve·them" (u-obdu-m) which is virtually the same as "(u-obdu) from Jeremiah 25:11; they are both inflected in the perfect mood (i.e. completed action in the past). This shows that just as Abraham's descendants had not yet "served them" (i.e. The Egyptians), the nations had not yet begun serving "the king of Babylon". The mood here again, is indicative of a future occurrence and NOT one of continuous, habituous past action that will continue indefinitely into the future. Besides, the fact that such a time period is specifically designated as "seventy years" (i.e. written in Hebrew as a COMPLETED action of the past) shows that the writer could not possibly have interpreted the 70 years as something having already started, as it would be grammatically incorrect for a fixed time period.This conclusively proves that the servitude, at the earliest, had not yet begun by 605 B.C. which utterly dismantles all of Jonnson's chronology. So what did the "servitude" in Jeremiah imply?

    The meaning "to serve" (i.e. as a slave) is indicated in general contexts in Gen. 14:4; 1 Samuel 1:11; 17:9; 1 Kings 4:21; Jer 25:11; 27:6ff." - Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts, 2005)

    In summary all of my arguments are:

    • Jonnson did not substantiate what is required by the burden of proof (i.e. the tribute/vassalage of nation to Nabopolassar in 609 B.C.)
    • Jonnson's conclusion that the 70 years referred only to the nations contravenes the text, poses a strained exegesis, and has no textual basis for concluding so.
    • The perfect mood reflective in Jeremiah 25:11 (as supported by Genesis 15:13) does not indicate a future continuance of an event that has already started (which would require the use of the imperfect mood)
    • Therefore, the servitude, at the very least had not yet begun in 605 B.C., which in turn, dismantles all of his chronology.
  • moggy lover
  • moggy lover
    moggy lover

    I think you are being unnecessarily pedantic here and are placing conclusions on Jonsson's words that were certainly not originally intended.

    1. He does not say that the 70 year period of Jer 25:11 ran from 609-539 BC. He concedes that it may have done so, but it could just as easily have been a typical Middle Eastern figure of speech current at the time for an approximation of 70 years. If the period began in 605 BC and ended in 539 BC then we have a period of some 66 years which as I said is an approzimation. The point is that no one knows the exact date for the starting point. Not the Watchtower, not you.

    2. The contention behind Jer 25:11 is misplaced by you. The emphasis is on what the two statements made in that text mean, and what the Watchtower makes it mean. According to the NAB translation, Jer 25:11 says:

    "This whole land will be a ruin and a desert. Seventy years these nations will be enslaved to the king of Babylon"

    Jonsson's contention is that the Watchtower reads this text as: "This whole land will be a ruin and a desert [for] seventy years. These nations will be enslaved to the king of Babylon". The "seventy years" mentioned here answers the question: "How long will the nations be enslaved to Babylon?" and not, as the Watchtower interprets it, "How long will this whole land be desolate?" The first sentence has no time limit, the second does.

    As one can see, despite the fact that Jer 25:1 makes it clear that Judah and Jerusalem are being addressed, it is equally clear that, as far as verse 11 is concerned, the nations around about are included in a specific time period [70 years] and prophecy [enslavement].

    3. The Neo-Babylonian conquest under Nabopolassar, actually began in 612 BC, when Nineveh, the capital of Assyria fell to the invading Babylonians. The inhabitants were enslaved, but the Assyrian Empire barely survived by moving its capital to Harran. By this defeat, much of Assyria's fighting force were enslaved in Babylon. But in 609 BC the Assyrians suffered another major defeat and Harran was captured by the Babylonians.

    Assyria was now so weak that it no longer could fight off the Babylonians without allies. The capital was again moved, this time to Chargemish, and here in 605 BC the final Assyro-Babylonian battle was fought. The inexorable tide of Babylonian conquest was riding athwart the entire ME area. Nothing would stop them. The Assyrians and their Egyptian allies lost, and Assyria disappeared from off the map. Suffering the same fate it had meted out to others.

    4. The use of the prophetic element in Jer 25:11 is both post positive as well as future. And not just one way as you suggest with your Hebraic techno-babble. By 605 BC elements of Jeremiah's prophecy had already began its fulfillment, but the major portion, still future, would stand as a sign of Judah's continuing apostasy till 539 BC.

  • Jeffro

    I've never read Jonsson's book, so I won't comment on comments about it.

    The style of formatting is a dead giveaway for Ethos reincarnated though. Big surprise that was.

  • Jeffro
    Other related subjects such as Daniel 9:2, the list of Babylonian Kings' regnal years, questionable Watchtower statements/dishonesty, the translation of Jeremiah 29:10, and so forth are not confined within the parameters of our discussion.

    As anticipated, Ethos FaceTheFacts wants to consider points in isolation without considering the context of related materials.

    See also and

  • Jeffro
    Also a reading of Jeremiah 25:11 in the LXX (which is far older and traditionally regarded as more accurate than the Masoretic text) states:"And all the land shall be a desolation; and they shall serve among the Gentiles seventy years." The LXX equivalent makes it quite obvious that the "servitude" (specifically, the servitude of seventy years) is NOT in reference to vassalage as it would be nonsensical to say: "The nations (they) will serve as vassals among the nations."

    The sense in which Judah was "among the Gentiles" is that 'the Gentile' nations were also in servitude to Babylon. Judah was among those 'Gentile' nations that were also subservient to Babylon. The word here translated 'among' is Strongs G1722, (en), which is a basic preposition that can mean in, by, with etc. It is translated in the Greek scriptures many times as with, and this is the sense that matches the context in which Judah served Babylon with the other nations.

    It is evident from the context that the verse does not refer to exile because the passage talks about all the nations being in servitude. However, all the people from all the nations were not exiled. Jeremiah 27:8-11 quite clearly indicates that exile was a punishment for nations that didn't submit to Babylon during the 70 years, rather than something that happened to all the nations.

  • Hoffnung

    The Facts are quite easy, and confirmed by the insight book, under "Assyria". The 70 years of Jeremiah 25 indeed started at the 17th year of Nabopalassar, when he defeated the Assyrians in Haran. That is where they became the supreme power of the region and one after the other of the "surrounding nations" became vassal, or under servitude, of Babylon. The former supreme power was Assyria. It is telling you do not find this tidbit of info under "Babylon" in the it-book. A comprehensive list of the vassal nations you find in the 2nd part of Jeremiah 25, e.g. Elam = part of present day Iran. As the territory of all these surrounding nations is immensely vast, obviouly they did not become vassal nations at the same time, it required some time to bring the Babylonian armies to the nations. That, the by then sill crownprince, Nebuchadnezzar needed some time, estimated 4 years, to bring also Judah into this servitude, does not influence the starting point of the prophecy.

    Face the Facts, Rolf Furuli tried the very same thing with the same kind of words as you do. His book did not convince anybody.


  • FaceTheFacts

    Nothing particularly unique about my formatting, i.e. using a highlighter and red text.

    Complaints about the review being pedantic? All critical reviews are pedantic...details are everything. Thats why even the best researches have years of editing before they can be published. Have you actually read academic reviews? Be glad im not a professor....this should be 20 pages long!

    Rolf Furuli is irrelevant to the arguments on hand. It is necessary to maintain some sort of structure in these type of discussions and there is nothing wrong with me defining the parameters of our discussion.

  • Jeffro
    Nothing particularly unique about my formatting, i.e. using a highlighter and red text.

    Nope. Not as simple as that. You're editing your long posts in a text editor other than the forum editor, and the resultant HTML is quite revealing.

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