Determining the Year by Fact and Bible
1, 2. (a) To what territory was Jehovah limiting the contest as to domination? (b) What typical government did Jehovah organize, how was it brought into being, and what finally happened to it?
AS WE have seen, for about 2,500 years from Abel to Moses Jehovah had provided angelic protection for his individual true worshipers. Now the time came for him to demonstrate on a small scale what he had in mind eventually to provide for earth’s inhabitants on a global scale, namely, the restoration of His rightful sovereign control by means of a loyal theocratic government. In the development of the issue for earth-wide domination God marked out a sample territory in Palestine with four boundaries and which became called the “Land of Promise”. (Heb. 10:1; Gen. 15:18-21; Ex. 23:31; Deut. 34:1-4; Heb. 11:9) As a redeemer in 1513 B.C. Jehovah purchased Israel as his people, delivered them out of Egypt and organized them under a typical theocratic government which he empowered from his sovereignty, and he also became their invisible ruler. (Ex. 6:6; 19:6; Deut. 33:2-5; Isa. 33:22) He brought his people into the Promised Land to possess it in the year 1473 B.C. After six years they had largely expelled and subdued the former inhabitants who had had no legal right to the land, being merely squatters. In this way Jehovah’s sovereign control legally and in fact was established over this territory of contest.
2 For a period of 866 years the same form of theocratic government under the one constitution of the Law covenant exercised national sovereignty in the Promised Land. This was longer by many years than most original governments that had existed on this earth as empowered by Satan. Because of the unfaithfulness of Judah’s anointed kings as in the case of the anointed cherub in Eden, Jehovah eventually disempowered this typical theocratic government and ended his sovereign control for a time in Palestine. He stripped the last wicked king of Judah, Zedekiah by name, of his ruling powers in 607 B.C. and sent him away captive to Babylon in the hands of his Gentile conqueror Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.—2 Ki. 25:1-7.
3. What pronouncement did God make as to the termination of this typical government?
3 Of this termination of typical kingdom government in 607 B.C. the Bible records: “And you, you knave, O prince of Israel to be slain, for whom the hour of sin’s full punishment brings doom—‘Off with his diadem, away with his crown!’ says the Lord the Eternal [Jehovah, AS]; ‘turn things upside down, up with the low, down with the high! I lay all in ruins, ruins, ruins; everything shall be overturned, till the rightful man arrives—and I will give him everything.’” (Ezek. 21:25-27, Mo) Observe that this pronouncement shows the legal right of the crown is to lapse for a long time “till the rightful man arrives”. When that “son of man” arrives it implies there will be a restoration of divine, sovereign-empowered government, but this time over the entire earth, as it says, “I will give him everything.”
4, 5. (a) How did Jehovah illustrate his position as a sovereign? (b) To what extent were the peoples of Israel and Judah recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty?
4 For the benefit of his faithful, loyal subjects on earth Jehovah God gave an illustration of his legal pre-eminent position as the Sovereign who can rightfully empower kingdoms over the earth and the universe. Significantly God illustrated this matter to the prophet Jeremiah shortly before the divine sovereignty was withdrawn from empowering the last reigning king of the Davidic line, Zedekiah. Note what Jehovah the Sovereign, likened to a potter, says of his building up and breaking down of claylike governments:
5 “‘Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear what I have to say.’ So I went down to the potter’s house. He was at work with his wheel; and whenever any vessel he was making got spoiled in his hands, he re-moulded it to please himself, till he was satisfied. Then the Eternal’s word came to me, ‘O house of Israel, cannot I do to you as this potter does? Why, as the clay in the potter’s hands, so you are in my hands. At one time I may speak of tearing up a nation or kingdom, breaking it down and destroying it; but if that nation turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the evil that I thought of inflicting upon it. Again, I may speak of building up a nation or kingdom, of planting it; but if that nation does evil in my sight by refusing to listen to my voice, then I will change my mind about the benefits which I meant to bestow upon it. So give the men of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem this message from the Eternal [Jehovah, AS]: “I am shaping a calamity for you and devising a plan against you; ah, turn every one of you from your evil courses, amend your life and work!” They will say, “It is no use to talk; we mean to live as we choose, and follow, every man of us, our own evil, stubborn minds.”’”—Jer. 18:2-12, Mo.
6. What was Jehovah’s judgment for their repudiating his sovereignty?
6 And so it was that most of the people of Israel and Judah as well as their kings finally repudiated their great “potter” Sovereign, Jehovah. Instead they chose to go their own rebellious ways even as their Gentile neighbor nations of Satan’s world had been doing for centuries. For this reason Jehovah decreed that the Jews represented by their capital city Jerusalem would be dominated by Gentile nations and ruled over by their Satan-empowered governments from 607 B.C. forward. Jesus, the greatest prophet, referred to this domination and its continuing long after his earthly ministry, when he said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24, NW) How long were these “appointed times of the nations” which Jesus spoke of? Jehovah the revealer of secrets makes known these “times” in his own way and time.
“APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS”
7. What does Isaiah prophesy in his 14th chapter as to the king of Babylon?
7 Fully 150 years before Jerusalem lost its national sovereignty to the Gentile nation of Babylon, Isaiah prophesied a taunt song. It was against the king of Babylon who was described as a ‘hewer down of fir-trees’, meaning a killer of God’s true worshipers, pictured as “trees of righteousness”. The king of Babylon, Isaiah foretold, would exalt his throne above the stars or princes of God’s typical theocracy and would overthrow this sovereign government by completely subjugating it. He having gained this ascendancy as a world ruler, God’s judgment would come and the king of Babylon too would be cut down like a tree and all men would see his humiliation. (See Isaiah 14:4, 8, 12-16; 61:3.) All this came to pass upon the ruling dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar, the conquering king of Babylon. He in turn symbolized the greater king of Babylon, Satan the Devil, who eventually will be totally defeated and cut down to annihilation.
8. How was it that Egypt and Assyria became the first and second world powers respectively? How was it determined which nation was to succeed Assyria as a world power?
8 A brief historical setting of the physical facts in fulfillment of Isaiah 14 is as follows. As has been said, domination of the Promised Land marked out by Jehovah in Abraham’s time was the point of contest. Egypt, reckoned as being the first world power because it dominated Palestine after Abraham’s time, lost its control of the Promised Land when the Israelites possessed it from 1473 B.C. onward. Centuries later Assyria became the second world power when it subjugated the northern kingdom of Israel in 740 B.C. (2 Ki. 17:6) In 632 B.C. Nineveh, the capital city of this second world power Assyria, fell to a coalition of Gentile powers, the Chaldeans (Babylonians), the Scythians and the Medes. (Nah. 3:7) The question now was, Which nation would fill the vacuum left by the fall of Assyria and thus become the third world power? Both Egypt, under its king, Necho, and Babylonia, led by its young commander-in-chief, Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, made a bid for this position. They settled the question at the great ancient battle of Carchemish by the river Euphrates in 625 B.C. with Babylon defeating Egypt. (2 Chron. 35:20) After his victory and in this same year, 625 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, upon the death of his father, ascended the throne of Babylon.
9. Describe Nebuchadnezzar’s attempts to assert his mastery over the kingdom of Judah, and the final result.
9 Five years later Nebuchadnezzar sought to assert his newly won mastery over the Near East by making tributary one of the last of the independent kingdoms, the kingdom of Judah with its king, Jehoiakim, which he did by coming against Jerusalem in 620 B.C. (2 Ki. 24:1, 7; 2 Chron. 36:5, 6) In 618 B.C. Jehoiakim died in an attempt to throw off the Babylonian suzerainty. For this reason Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for the second time (in 618 B.C.) and forced it to terms by taking Jehoiachin, the successor of Jehoiakim, captive to Babylon together with many of Judah’s princes and other outstanding men including Daniel. (2 Ki. 24:1, 8-16; Dan. 1:1-6) Nebuchadnezzar gave Jerusalem another chance as a subsidiary sovereign state by allowing Zedekiah, the brother of Jehoiakim, to be anointed king of Judah in 617 B.C. (2 Ki. 24:17, 18) Zedekiah, like his brother, attempted to throw off the Babylonian yoke by rebelling. But this forced Nebuchadnezzar in his anger to come against Jerusalem for a third time, but this time to utterly destroy it. Nebuchadnezzar began his third siege of Jerusalem on the tenth day of the tenth month, Tebeth, in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, or on January 18-19, 608 B.C. (that is, after 6 p.m. January 18), according to our present Gregorian calendar system.* (2 Ki. 25:1) By July 2-3, 607 B.C., the famine due to the siege was exceeding great, the enemy had made a breach in Jerusalem’s wall fortifications and King Zedekiah fled the city on this day to Jericho, where he was later captured for deportation.—2 Ki. 25:2-7.
10, 11. (a) Precisely when were the temple and the king’s palace destroyed in Jerusalem, and what did this mean as to divine sovereignty? (b) What further slight evidence of Jewish control was there, and what happened to it?
10 The Chaldean (Babylonian) soldiers, having entered Jerusalem, began to burn the “house of Jehovah”, the “king’s house” and all the great houses of the city on Ab 7, July 30-31, 607 B.C. (2 Ki. 25:8, 9) By Ab 10, August 2-3, 607 B.C., three days later, they had completely destroyed the temple, the royal palace and the walls of the city. (Jer. 52:12-14) At this point it should be remembered that Jehovah made his sovereign will known through his priesthood at the temple, and the king’s palace was the center from which the administration of the nation as delegated by God to the king emanated. (2 Ki. 22:12, 13) Thus these centers of divine, sovereign-empowered administration ceased with the overthrow of Jerusalem.
11 However, there was one more slight evidence of Jewish sovereignty after the fall of the Holy City, and that was Nebuchadnezzar’s appointment of Gedaliah, a Jew, as the governor of the remaining settlements in the country. But two months later Gedaliah and his Babylonish advisors were slain by a party of Jewish assassins. At the news of this tragic flouting of Nebuchadnezzar’s mercy, all the remaining Jews fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah the prophet with them. (2 Ki. 25:22-26; Jer. 41:1-18; 43:5-7) The land’s now becoming desolated of Jewish inhabitants, the last trace of theocratic rule came to an end during the seventh month, which began September 21-22, 607 B.C. So with swift-moving events the land was emptied and theocratic sovereignty withdrawn, giving the Gentiles undisputed control of the Promised Land for their “appointed times”.—Luke 21:24.
12, 13. (a) To whom was disclosed the number of the “times” of the nations, and in what manner? (b) What was the theme of the disclosure? Briefly give the picture revealed.
12 How many “times” did God appoint for the Gentile nations to have undisputed control over the Promised Land which was the testing ground for earth-wide sovereignty? The Bible answers there were to be seven “times”. (Dan. 4:16, 23, 25) Significantly this number was disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream after 607 B.C. when he had become the totalitarian ruler of the third world power. Note now the details of this dream as Nebuchadnezzar tells it to Jehovah’s witness Daniel for divine interpretation. Observe how the theme of this dream is God’s sovereignty, “to let the living know that the Most High reigns over the realm of men, giving it to anyone whom he chooses, and setting over it the lowest of mankind.”—Dan. 4:17, Mo.
13 Nebuchadnezzar said to Daniel: “‘O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, I know the spirit of the gods divine is in you, and no mystery is any trouble to you; hear the visions of my dream that I have seen, and tell me what they mean. Such were the visions of my brain in bed. I looked, and there was a tree in the middle of the earth, enormously high! The tree grew and grew strong, till it was high as heaven and visible from the ends of all the earth; its leaves were lovely and its fruit was rich, with food for all; wild animals sheltered under it, birds of the air roosted in its branches, and it fed all living creatures. In the visions of my brain in bed I looked, and there was one of the angel-guard! He came down from heaven and called aloud, “Hew the tree down, hack away its branches, lop off its leaves, and scatter its fruit: let the animals remove from underneath it, and the birds from its boughs. Still, leave the stump of its roots in the earth, among the soft grass of the field, with a band of iron and bronze round it; let the dews of heaven drench it—and let him share the herbage of the earth with the animals, let his mind cease to be human, let an animal’s mind be given him, and let seven years [times, AS] pass over him.”’”—Dan. 4:9-16, Mo.
14, 15. How was this dream fulfilled as to Nebuchadnezzar?
14 Daniel interpreted the dream to foretell that seven times or years of madness would overtake Nebuchadnezzar, during which he could not personally carry on his imperial government but would become wild like a beast and live out in the open fields. So in effect this great world ruler would find his kingdom taken away from him like the cutting down of the lofty tree mentioned in his dream. After seven years his sanity would return, and he would be restored to his kingdom, which, like that banded tree stump in the ground, was to be held pending his return to the control of his empire.
15 All this came to pass near the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Books on Nebuchadnezzar refer to his seven years of madness. (Dan. 4:33) “The form of madness from which he (Nebuchadnezzar) suffered when pride overthrew his reason was that called lycanthropy, in which the patient fancies himself one of the inferior animals and acts as such. Nebuchadnezzar imagined that he had become an ox, and went forth to eat grass like other cattle.” (The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p. 422. See also Nebuchadnezzar, by G. R. Tabouis, pp. 263-265, 383.) Michaud, in his Biographie universelle, writes: “Nebuchadnezzar was punished for his pride by rather a strange malady, for he fell into a state of complete dementia and was persuaded that he had been turned into an ox.” Another French writer, Larousse, gives a similar account, adding, “He died a year after recovering his reason.”
16. How does this dream have its major application to heavenly rulership? What hope does God leave for mankind?
16 However, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream finds its major application to heavenly rulership. In ¶ 7 to 11, pages 261, 262, we have described the invisible theocratic rulership originally entrusted to the covering cherub in Eden. God’s sovereignty in fact operating through this anointed cherub was fittingly described by the lofty tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. When this exalted theocratic ruler of men and the animals rebelled by putting at issue the sovereign supremacy of Jehovah God, he was forthwith dismissed from God’s mountainlike organization and forever divorced from union with God. This was the cutting down of the lofty tree. To give hope to righteous mankind how glad we are to notice that God in the vision left a stump of this tree. Clearly this pictures the suspension of the office of righteous heavenly rulership through which God will exercise his sovereignty again over the earth. It would be kept in abeyance until He should come who would prove his right thereto. The dream shows that the Most High will give this kingdom right to the “lowest of mankind” or a son of man.—Dan. 4:17, Mo.
17, 18. (a) When do the “seven times” begin to apply as to the “tree stump”? (b) When does the period of “madness” become particularly manifest, and what changes are there in Gentile domination over Jerusalem?
17 Not before “seven times” had passed over the symbolic tree stump could God, according to his own decree, establish the kingdom over men in the hands of a righteous invisible ruler. The prophetic dream does not indicate that the “seven times” began at Eden immediately with the rebellion of Satan and his loss of the right and authority of righteous rulership. The facts in fulfillment show they did not begin then but in the days of the dreamer who had the dream fulfilled on him in miniature, namely, at the time the pictorial rulership was taken away from the last anointed king of Judah, Zedekiah. The dream merely announces that in the tree stump’s experience there would pass over it a period of “seven times” and that this would immediately precede the unbanding of the stump and its free growth again.
18 This makes it apparent that the “seven times” began with Nebuchadnezzar’s overturning of Jehovah’s typical theocracy at Jerusalem, in 607 B.C. As long as the typical administration of God at Jerusalem operated at all, even imperfectly, in his name, that long there was some measure of national sanity and a partial exhibition of right rule among nations on this earth. But with the overthrow of the typical theocracy there was then no restraint at all to the unreason and bestiality of human governors and humankind. The Gentile powers or governments were now exclusive in the field. God’s covenant people no longer held any national sovereignty in the midst of this world, independently of the Gentile nations. In 539 B.C. the Medo-Persian world power exercised domination over the Promised Land. In 332 B.C. it passed into the hands of Alexander, the Greek conqueror. In 63 B.C. Roman rule was established over Palestine. From A.D. 637 to 1917 various Mohammedan rulers generally controlled Jerusalem. In 1917 Viscount Allenby of Great Britain took Jerusalem from the Mohammedan Turks, who had controlled it since 1517.
19, 20. How long are the “seven times” of the nations? Give the proofs for establishing 1914 as a marked date.
19 How long are “seven times”, the times of the nations? The mathematics are supplied for us in another prophecy unrelated to this one which uses the term “times” or “periods of time”. In Revelation 12:6 (NW) there is mentioned 1,260 days and then in the 14th Re 12 verse 14 this very same period is referred to as 3 1/2 “times”. So if 3 1/2 “times” is 1,260 days, then 7 “times” (twice 3 1/2 “times”) must be twice 1,260, or 2,520 days. Early in their wilderness trek the Israelites repudiated the sovereign wisdom of their God by wanting to return to Egypt on having believed the faith-lacking reports of the ten unfaithful spies. (Num. 14:1-4) For this lack of faith by the people in God’s sovereign leadership, Jehovah sentenced the nation to forty years of wandering in the wilderness with no sovereign control of land. “For every day spent in spying out the land, you shall spend a year being punished for your evil-doing, forty years for forty days; that will teach you what it is to have me against you.”—Num. 14:34, Mo.
20 So according to this rule established in the wilderness the Jewish nation, who time and again showed they did not appreciate Jehovah’s sovereign control, would have to bear God’s adverse judgment at the hands of their Gentile overlords for a period of seven “times”, or 2,520 year-days. These 2,520 years ran from the desolating of Jerusalem and the land in the summer and fall of 607 B.C. up to the summer and fall of 1914, when they expired. From 607 B.C. to 1 B.C. is 606 years. From 1 B.C. to A.D. 1 is only one year, because the ancients had not discovered the zero which according to modern mathematics would have made it two years. The use of the zero is only of comparatively recent mathematical origin. From A.D. 1 to A.D. 1914 is 1,913 years. Therefore adding 606 years plus 1 year plus 1,913 years we get a total of 2,520 years.
21-23. (a) Give one correction of a slight error made by the brothers many years ago as to determining 1914. (b) Explain a second correction.
21 At this point some will inquire why Charles T. Russell in 1877 used the date 606 B.C. for the fall of Jerusalem whereas The Watchtower of late years has been using 607 B.C. This is because, in the light of modern scholarship, two slight errors were discovered to have been made which cancel each other out and make for the same result, namely, 1914. Concerning the first error, Russell and others considered 1 B.C. to A.D. 1 as being two years whereas in fact this is only one year because, as has been said above, there is no “zero” year in the B.C.-A.D. system for counting years. “The Christian era began, not with no year, but with a 1st year.”—The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, p. 102.
22 The second error had to do with not beginning the count of the 2,520 years at the right point in view of historic facts and circumstances. Almost all early Bible chronology ties in with secular history at the year 539 B.C., in which year the fall of Babylon to Darius and Cyrus of the Medes and the Persians occurred. In late years several cuneiform tablets have been discovered pertaining to the fall of Babylon which peg both Biblical and secular historic dates. The one tablet known as the “Nabunaid Chronicle” gives the date for the fall of Babylon which specialists have ascertained as being October 12-13, 539 B.C., Julian Calendar, or October 6-7, 539 B.C., according to our present Gregorian Calendar.* This tablet also says that Cyrus made his triumphant entry into Babylon 16 days after its fall to his army. Thus his accession year commenced in October, 539 B.C. However, in another cuneiform tablet called “Strassmaier, Cyrus No. 11” Cyrus’ first regnal year is mentioned and was determined to have begun March 17-18, 538 B.C., and to have concluded March 4-5, 537 B.C.* It was in this first regnal year of Cyrus that he issued his decree to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. (Ezra 1:1) The decree may have been made in late 538 B.C. or before March 4-5, 537 B.C.
23 In either case this would have given sufficient time for the large party of 49,897 Jews to organize their expedition and to make their long four-month journey from Babylon to Jerusalem to get there by September 29-30, 537 B.C., the first of the seventh Jewish month, to build their altar to Jehovah as recorded at Ezra 3:1-3. Inasmuch as September 29-30, 537 B.C., officially ends the seventy years of desolation as recorded at 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21, so the beginning of the desolation of the land must have officially begun to be counted after September 21-22, 607 B.C., the first of the seventh Jewish month in 607 B.C., which is the beginning point for the counting of the 2,520 years.
Hereafter the Jewish dates referred to in the Scriptures will be adapted to our modern Gregorian calendar system of dating. Jewish days always begin after 6 p.m. The conversions have been made with the aid of Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. to A.D. 45, by Parker and Dubberstein of the University of Chicago, 1942 edition.
History of the Persian Empire, by Olmstead, 1948, p. 50; also Light From The Ancient Past, by Finegan, 1946. p. 190.
Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C.-A.D. 45, by Parker and Dubberstein, 1942, pp. 11, 27.