Jehovah, Enforcer of Prophecy
MEN interpret events to try to make prophecy. Some have made forecasts, but they have been very vague and sketchy, unable to give details. None have proved to be wholly accurate and reliable. In many instances, those who have believed in and followed their prophecies have experienced disastrous results.
Only Jehovah can make true prophecy, for he has a perfect understanding, not only of the mind of man and all the factors, animate and inanimate, that bear upon events, but also of the other essentials, namely, the ability and power to move all these things to bring about the fulfillment of his prophecy. Jehovah utters prophecies so that his people may know his purposes. He then backs up his word with all his mighty invisible angelic organization and with his irresistible holy spirit or active force; so he sees to it that prophecy is enforced to come true. He works out his good purpose, and never violates any of his righteous principles in doing so.
JUDGMENT ENFORCED ON JERUSALEM
To warn ancient Jerusalem, and for our benefit today, Jehovah by his prophets foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of Judah and gave details concerning it. Exactly on time he used the king of a world power as an instrument to enforce these prophecies. In previous issues we have discussed why this judgment was determined and how it began to be enforced by the siege of Jerusalem. Finally, the Babylonian army entered Jerusalem on the ninth day of the fourth month, in the eleventh year of King Zedekiah of Judah. On the tenth day of the fifth month, Ab (August 2-3, 607 B.C.E.) , they completely destroyed the temple, the royal palace and the walls of the city. Jeremiah, an eyewitness, tells us that the Babylonians broke up the copper pillars of the temple and the gigantic copper basin, the “molten sea.” They also took the utensils of copper, silver and gold. As for the golden ark of the covenant that contained the two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, it had seemingly disappeared already, so that it did not fall into pagan hands.—Jer. 52:12-14, 17-23.
God also enforced his judgment on the unfaithful priesthood of the defiled temple, as foretold at Ezekiel 9:6-8. “The chief of the bodyguard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest and the three doorkeepers, and from the city he took one court official that happened to be commissioner over the men of war, and seven men of those having access to the king, who were found in the city, and the secretary of the chief of the army, the one mustering the people of the land, and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the midst of the city. . . . And these the king of Babylon proceeded to strike down and to put them to death in Riblah in the land of Hamath. Thus Judah went into exile from off its soil.”—Jer. 52:24-27.
The executioners were cruel, hanging some of the Jewish princes by just their hand. They raped the women right in Zion itself. They slaughtered King Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes and deported him to Babylon, where he died. This act against the king was like stifling those who had respect for the royal line of David: “The very breath of our nostrils, the anointed one of Jehovah, has been captured in their large pit, the one of whom we have said: ‘In his shade we shall live among the nations.’”—Lam. 4:20.
COVENANT WITH DAVID CONTINUES IN FORCE
Though Jehovah enforced this judgment exactly as foretold, he did not forget his unbreakable covenant with David. He providentially preserved one of the royal line through whom the promised Shiloh could come. It was Jehoiachin, a nephew of Zedekiah, who had been taken into captivity in 617 B.C.E. Jehoiachin had sons at Babylon, Shealtiel, Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah. Of these sons, Shealtiel was reckoned as the father of Zerubbabel, who became governor of Judah under Persia and who rebuilt the temple at restored Jerusalem.—1 Chron. 3:15-19; Ezra 3:2, 8; Matt. 1:12; Luke 3:27.
Likewise, when the high priest Seraiah was put to death Jehovah saw to it that his son Jehozadak was spared and taken into exile to Babylon. (1 Chron. 6:14, 15) He had a son named Jeshua (or, Joshua; LXX, Jesus). Joshua was the one who cooperated with Zerubbabel in rebuilding the temple at the restored Jerusalem. In this way neither the line of the house of David nor the Aaronic family line of high priests was broken, but continued on until Jesus Christ appeared on the scene.—Ezra 3:2; Neh. 12:26; Hag. 1:1; Zech. 3:1; Luke 3:1, 2.
Nebuzar-adan, the chief of the bodyguard, let some of the lowly people of the land remain as vinedressers and compulsory laborers. He appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan. (2 Ki. 25:12, 22) But Jehovah had said that he would “make Jerusalem piles of stones, the lair of jackals,” and the cities of Judah “a desolate waste, without an inhabitant.” (Jer. 9:11; 4:7; 6:8; 26:9; 32:43; 33:10, 12; Zech. 7:5, 14) How would he enforce this?
Jeremiah, who was also allowed to remain with the people there, reports that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama of the royal offspring came with a group of men and assassinated Gedaliah, and fled out of Judah to Ammon. The remaining leaders of the people asked Jeremiah to pray for Jehovah’s counsel, and received advice to stay in the land of Judah as servants of King Nebuchadnezzar. But they rejected this counsel and went down to Egypt, taking along with them Jeremiah and Baruch his secretary. They took up dwelling in Egypt in Tahpanhes, Migdol and Noph (Memphis) and in the land of Pathros. (Jer. 41:1 to 44:1) But they could not escape God’s judgment there, for Jehovah told them that he would also give Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt into the hand of his enemies.—Jer. 44:2-30; compare Ezekiel 29:17-20; 30:22-26.
WILD ANIMALS ONLY INHABITANTS FOR SEVENTY YEARS
By this move of the people in the middle of the seventh month, Tishri or Ethanim, which would be near the Gregorian calendar date of October 1, 607 B.C.E., the land of Judah was left completely desolate, without human inhabitant or domestic animal. The timing of the enforcement of Jehovah’s prophecy here is remarkable. For it was in this seventh month Ethanim, on the tenth day, the day of atonement, that the trumpet was blown in a Jubilee year to “proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants.” It began a sabbath year for the God-given land. (Lev. 25:8-22) So exactly at the appropriate time of the year an uninterrupted run of sabbath years began, in compensation for all the sabbath years that the disobedient Israelites had failed to keep. The land was to enjoy, figuratively, a perfect number of sabbath years—seventy, during which time it was to be utterly desolate, without human inhabitant, a place to be shunned like a haunted place by passers-by. The record written later on, a testimony to Jehovah’s ability to enforce his word, reads:
“So he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, . . . And he proceeded to burn the house of the true God and pull down the wall of Jerusalem; . . . 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; 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.”—2 Chron. 36:17-23; compare also Daniel 9:1, 2.
The Jewish secular historian, Flavius Josephus, of the first century of our Common Era, corroborates the Bible account, writing about Jerusalem’s desolation:
He [the Chaldean historian Berosus in the third century B.C.E.] gives us a catalogue of the posterity of Noah, who adds the years of their chronology, from Noah himself to Nabulassar king of the Babylonians and Chaldeans, with an account of this king’s exploits. He tells us that he sent his son Nabuchodonosor with a mighty army into Egypt and Judea where, upon his being informed of a revolt, he reduced the people to subjection, set fire to our temple at Jerusalem, and carried off our whole nation in captivity to Babylon. After this our city lay desolate during an interval of seventy years, till the days of Cyrus, King of Persia.—Book 1, section 36, of To Epaphroditus on the Antiquities of the Jews in Answer to Apion.
And such was the end of the nation of the Hebrews; 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, King of Babylon and Chaldea. Now as to Shalmaneser, he removed the Israelites out of their country, and placed therein the nation of Cutheans who had formerly belonged to the interior 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, 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.—Book 10, chapter 9, last paragraph, of Antiquities of the Jews, edition by Whiston.
So just when did the foretold seventy years of the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah begin to count? Not in 626 B.C.E., the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, for there was no captivity of Jews in Babylon then. Even in his ninth year, 620 B.C.E., Jehoiakim merely became tributary to the king of Babylon. In the eleventh year of his reign, in 618 B.C.E., he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who came up against him.a Shortly before the end of Jehoiakim’s eleventh year his son and successor, Jehoiachin, who reigned only three months and ten days, went out in self-surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, who was besieging the city. It was on Nisan 1, 617 B.C.E., (in the spring) that the first regnal year began for Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, whom Nebuchadnezzar made king of Jerusalem in place of Jehoiachin. (2 Ki. 24:12-18) This, then, was not the desolation but only the captivity of comparatively few, namely, 3,023 Jews with their wives and families.—Jer. 52:28.
WHEN DESOLATION BEGAN AND ENDED
Certainly, when King Jehoiakim was in open revolt against Nebuchadnezzar and, later on, when Zedekiah broke his oath and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar in the last part of his reign, the nation could not be said to be captive to Babylon. Thus the seventy years of unbroken captivity to Babylon did not begin until 607 B.C.E., in the month Ethanim, when the land was left completely desolate when its remaining inhabitants went down to Egypt. Then the Jews as a nation went into exile at Babylon, without a king at Jerusalem. This exile was for an uninterrupted period of seventy years. (Dan. 9:1, 2) The seven hundred and forty-five Jews taken into exile, as mentioned at Jeremiah 52:30, were not taken from the desolated land of Judah, but were captured later when Nebuchadnezzar, as Jehovah’s symbolic cup, made nations that bordered on the land of Judah drink the bitter potion of being violently conquered.—Jer. 25:17-29.
When would the desolation end? In 537 B.C.E., when King Cyrus of Persia released the Jewish remnant and they left Babylon and began to repopulate the land of Judah. This date can be established by use of the records of secular history. The period of desolation of the land of Judah began seventy years earlier, in 607 B.C.E. No settlers were brought in by Nebuchadnezzar to occupy the land of Judah, as had been done by the king of Assyria in the land of Samaria when he captured that land. Jehovah enforced his prophecy by miraculous means and the land of Judah was kept a complete desolation, that it might rest the foretold seventy years.—2 Chron. 36:21-23.
Ezekiel, over in Babylonia, heard about the destruction, evidently before Nebuchadnezzar’s troops arrived back victorious, in the eleventh year of his exile in Babylon. He says: “At length it occurred in the twelfth year [by a certain calculation], in the tenth month, on the fifth day of the month of our exile, that there came to me the escaped one from Jerusalem, saying: ‘The city has been struck down!’” (Ezek. 33:21) From then on, Ezekiel could prophesy about the coming restoration at the end of the seventy years of desolation.—Ezek. 36:1 to 37:28.
Though Jehovah enforced his prophecy, was this something of joy to him and to his faithful prophet Jeremiah? No. He inspired Jeremiah to write the Bible book called Lamentations, describing the sad state of Jerusalem:
“O how she has come to sit solitary, the city that was abundant with people! How she has become like a widow, she that was populous among the nations! . . . Her adversaries have become the head. . . . Because Jehovah himself has brought grief to her on account of the abundance of her transgressions, her own children have walked captive before the adversary. And from the daughter [city] of Zion there goes out all her splendor.”—Lam. 1:1-6, 17; 2:13; 5:16-22.
But this regrettable state of the people who had God’s name upon them and who suffered because of their sins against Jehovah did not in any way cancel Jehovah’s covenant nor make him unhappy with his purposes. It is true that in 607 B.C.E. the adversaries of Zion became “the head.” “Jehovah’s throne” in Zion had been overturned. The typical or miniature kingdom of God had passed away. No longer was there any typical kingdom of God on earth to block the Gentile or non-Jewish nations in their way to full world domination. By God’s permission they had complete sway.
GOD’S KINGDOM NOT FOREVER OVERTURNED
Why was Jehovah God not unhappy? Because, though these uninterrupted “times of the Gentiles” or “appointed times of the nations” set in at the desolation of Judah in the seventh Jewish month of 607 B.C.E., they would last only until Shiloh, the One who has the legal right to the overturned kingdom of God, should come and God should give to him the crown, the royal turban, and the scepter, to rule in the midst of the Gentiles, the worldly nations who are his enemies. But when would the enthronement of the royal Son of David be? The heavenly King of Eternity had set the time. He foretold it and had it recorded in his inspired Word. He would certainly enforce it. The next issue of The Watchtower will consider the length of the “times of the Gentiles.”—Gen. 49:10; Luke 21:24; Ezek. 21:25-27; Ps. 110:1-6.
In their days the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel had seen many former prophecies of Jehovah come true, and they had complete confidence in the ability of Jehovah to foretell events and to enforce his words of prophecy. Therefore the prophecies, many of which these very men were inspired to write, concerning the One who had the legal right and concerning his coming to exercise kingship upon Jehovah’s throne, were even more sure for the apostles and early Christians, for they had a record of and even witnessed the fulfillment of many of the prophecies of these prophets. Peter expressed this confidence: “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”—2 Pet. 1:19.
Since the days of the apostles, nineteen centuries have passed and we can be yet more sure than the first-century Christians, for multitudinous prophecies have since been fulfilled. The One whose legal right it is will take world domination completely out of the hands of the nations and hold it permanently for the blessing of all families of the earth. For we must remember, as Peter went on to say: “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” The all-wise Giver of prophecy is also the all-powerful Enforcer of it.—2 Pet. 1:20, 21.
a This was in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, which ran from Nisan 1, 618 B.C.E., to Adar 29, 617 B.C.E. (spring to spring). His ninth year had begun (on Nisan 1, 617 B.C.E.) by the time Jehoiachin and the other Jewish captives were taken away.—2 Chron. 36:9, 10.