This page assumes a basic understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teachings about 607 BCE. For more information, see 607 for Beginners and Jehovah’s Witnesses and 1914.
This page is an overview of problems found in the articles relating to 607 BCE in the June 2012 issue of Awake! and the May 2012 issue of The Watchtower. The Awake! article is part of an eight-part series about biblical prophecies; the other articles in the series are out of the scope of this discussion.* For an overview of the Watch Tower Society’s claims about 607 BCE in the October 2011 and November 2011 issues of The Watchtower, see The Watch Tower Society’s 2011 attempt to defend 607. For an overview of the claims about 607 BCE in the May 2013 issue of Awake!, see The Watch Tower Society’s 2013 attempt to defend 607.
* Part 7 of the series also mentions the “70 years” as part of a summary of the alleged prophecies from the previous parts.
As with the articles about 607 BCE that appeared in The Watchtower in 2011, the article ignores the plain wording of Jeremiah 25:12, which directly states a simple order of events:
- Seventy years will be fulfilled.
- Babylon’s king will be called to account.
The verse is not mentioned at all in the article. The article (and the entire magazine) also makes no mention of 1914. The real reason Jehovah’s Witnesses require 607 BCE to be the year in which Jerusalem was destroyed is because they believe there were exactly 2,520 years from the fall of Jerusalem until October of 1914.
- A timeline presents dates attributed by the Watch Tower Society for events relating to the fall of Babylon and release of the Jews from Babylonian exile. Apart from the assignment of 539 BCE for the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon, none of the dates in the chart are correct.
- The timeline claims that Daniel and Ezekiel were both taken to Babylon in 617 BCE. However, Daniel* was given as part of a tribute by Jehoiakim to Nebuchadnezzar in early 604 BCE, and Ezekiel was taken into exile in early 597 BCE. (For more information about the distortion of events related to Daniel by the Watch Tower Society and its supporters, see the other articles linked above.)
* The historicity of Daniel is disputed. Regardless of authenticity, the book of Daniel is written from the perspective of one of the Jews taken to Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year. For more information about the book of Daniel, see Daniel’s dreams and visions.
- The timeline claims that Jerusalem was destroyed in the 11th year of Ezekiel’s exile. Ezekiel 33:21 technically places the fall of Jerusalem in the 12th year of his exile, as the exile occurred prior to Nisan of 597 BCE.
The correct timeline:
|Jeremiah commissioned as prophet||Jeremiah 1:2||13th year of Josiah.|
|612||(summer)||Babylonia overthrows Assyrian capital, Nineveh||BM 21901||Assyrian capital moved to Harran.|
|609||(summer)||Babylonia overthrows Assyrian capital, Harran||BM 21901
|End of Assyrian Empire.
Babylon is dominant power—70 years of nations serving Babylon begins.
|605||September||Nebuchadnezzar begins ruling||Jeremiah 25:1||Nebuchadnezzar’s 1st year is Jehoiakim’s 4th year.
Jeremiah counts accession years.
|Daniel taken to Babylon||Daniel 1:1-3||Jehoiakim paid tribute to end siege.
Tribute includes ‘royal offspring and nobles’.
Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year is Jehoiakim’s 3rd year.
Daniel doesn’t count accession years.
|597||March||Ezekiel taken to Babylon||2 Kings 24:12
|The main deportation to Babylon.
11 years before fall of Jerusalem.
|594||August||Jeremiah refutes Hananiah||Jeremiah 28:1
|4th year of Zedekiah, 7 years before Jerusalem destroyed.
Jeremiah, in Jerusalem, writes to exiled Jews in Babylon.
Tells them Babylon will have 70 years of dominance.
If Jerusalem fell in 607 BCE, exile would be more than 80 years.
|Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem||2 Kings 25:8
|Jerusalem destroyed in 12th year of Ezekiel’s exile.|
|Nebuchadnezzar’s rule ends||Jeremiah 52:31
2 Kings 27:1
|Evil-Merodach began reign 37th year of Jehoiachin’s exile.|
|539||September||Babylon falls to Medes and Persians||Jeremiah 25:12
|70 years of nations serving Babylon ends.
Babylon’s king called to account.
|Daniel discerns end of 70 years||Daniel 9:1-2||During Darius the Mede’s brief tenure as governor (September/October), prior to Cyrus’ arrival in Babylon.|
|Jewish captives allowed to return to Jerusalem||Ezra 1:1, 3:1
|Cyrus issues decree in time for Jews to be in cities by 7th month (October).
Journey can be completed in 4 months.
|537||May||Temple reconstruction begins||Ezra 3:8
Against Apion I, 21
|2nd month of Cyrus’ 2nd year.|
*Grey rows show details not provided in the original chart. A more detailed timeline (PDF) of the divided monarchy and the Neo-Babylonian period is also available.
- The article selectively quotes parts of Jeremiah 25:8-11. The phrases, “I will take all the families of the north” (from verse 8) and “and against all these nations round about” (from verse 9) are omitted to make it appear that the ‘prophecy’ referred only to the Jews.
- It is claimed that “Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.”, however the correct year is 587 BCE.
- It states that “most of the survivors” were taken to Babylon, but omits the fact that most of the Jews were taken to Babylon more than 11 years prior. It further claims that they were “held captive for 70 years”, however this would mean that most Jews were actually in Babylonian exile for over 80 years. The Bible never mentions 70 years of exile.
- After noting the undisputed fact that Nebuchadnezzar existed, the article falsely states, “Nebuchadnezzar ruled from 624 to 582 B.C.E.” However, secular sources indicate that Nebuchadnezzar actually ruled from 605 BCE (accession year) until 562 BCE.
- The second ‘prophecy’ quotes the New World Translation’s rendering of Jeremiah 29:10, failing to state that in their own interpretation, the context of the verse was several years prior to the alleged beginning of the 70 years.
- The NWT refers to “seventy years at Babylon”, whereas most translations say “seventy years for Babylon”, which is consistent with the servitude of other nations to Babylon indicated at Jeremiah 25:12.
- The article claims that Cyrus released the Jews in 537 BCE, however 538 BCE is the correct year. Josephus (Against Apion 1:21) indicates that the temple foundations were laid in Cyrus’ second year (537 BCE), and Ezra 3:1, 8 indicates that the Jews returned the previous year.
- The article dishonestly quotes Ephraim Stern (“The Babylonian Gap”, Biblical Archaeology Review, 26:6, November/December 2000), who states, “From 604 B.C.E. to 538 B.C.E.—there is a complete gap in evidence suggesting occupation. In all that time, not a single town destroyed by the Babylonians was resettled.” The article claims that the “gap” “corresponds closely to Israel’s exile in Babylon.” (The actual period Stern indicates is from Nebuchadnezzar’s first regnal year until Cyrus’ first regnal year.) The article omits Stern’s further statement that, “I do not mean to imply that the country was uninhabited during the period between the Babylonian destruction and the Persian period.” Further, Stern explicitly states that “the northern part of Judah (the region of Benjamin)” was “spared this fate.” As is typical of Watch Tower Society publications, the article does not cite its source, making the statement more difficult to verify.
- The third ‘prophecy’ quotes Isaiah 13:19, 20 in reference to Babylon’s decline, with superstitious implications that the two are related.
- The section suggests that Babylon remains “without an inhabitant”, which is true of many ancient cities. However, Babylon Province has a population of over 1.5 million people, and Hillah—the modern capital of Babylon Province located near the ancient city—has a population of over 360,000 people.
- In the article’s closing paragraphs, it again claims the Bible “foretold 70 years of captivity in Babylon”. However, the Bible never mentions 70 years of captivity. Instead, the Bible refers to 70 years during which all the surrounding nations would serve Babylon, and it reports that there were various deportations from Judah to Babylon, the most prominent of which was in early 597 BCE.
607 BCE was also mentioned in the May issue of The Watchtower—Study Edition of 2012, in a section entitled Prophecies Fulfilfilled on Time Inspire Faith (pages 18–19).
The third paragraph of the section grossly distorts the context of Jeremiah 25:11-12 and Jeremiah 29:10:
First, let us look back to the seventh century B.C.E. “In the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, the king of Judah,” the word of the Great Timekeeper “occurred to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah.” (Jer. 25:1) Jehovah foretold the devastation of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jews from the land of Judah to Babylon. There they would “serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Babylonian armies destroyed Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., and Jews from Judah were indeed deported to Babylon. But what was to happen at the end of 70 years? Jeremiah prophesied: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.’” (Jer. 25:11, 12; 29:10) This prophecy was fulfilled right on time—in 537 B.C.E. after the Medes and Persians freed the Jews from Babylon.
The article selectively quotes “serve the king of Babylon seventy years” from Jeremiah 25:11, but dishonestly applies the statement to “Jews from the land of Judah”, whereas the actual passage states that it was “all these nations round about” (verse 8) that would “serve” Babylon, with no mention of exile. The “nations” in question are even more clearly indicated in verses 17 to 26. The “fourth year of Jehoiakim” was actually 605 BCE, which was also Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year, 18 years prior to the fall of Jerusalem, as confirmed by Jeremiah 52:29. Whilst the Jews and all the other surrounding nations were already subject to Babylon at that time, it was 8 years before the primary exile of the Jews, and nearly 2 decades before Jerusalem’s destruction. Also ignored is the fact that exile is indicated at Jeremiah 27:8-11 as a ‘punishment’ for nations that refused to serve Babylon, rather than the means by which “all these nations” would “serve” Babylon.
The article then asks, “But what was to happen at the end of 70 years?” Jeremiah 25:12, which states that Babylon’s 70 years would end with the judgement of Babylon’s king, is cited but not quoted. Instead, the article misapplies Jeremiah 29:10, claiming that the 70 years ended 2 years after the judgement of Babylon’s king. As mentioned in the section above, the Watch Tower Society’s interpretation of this verse completely ignores the context of the chapter. Even worse, the fact that this verse is misused is even more evident in the 2013 revision of the New World Translation, which more clearly states that attention would be given to the return of the Jews to Jerusalem only after the 70 years had already ended. Whilst the New World Translation‘s rendering of that verse still incorrectly says “at Babylon”, it would clearly be redundant to “turn attention” to “bringing you back to this place” only after they had already returned.
The article then claims that the Jews were released from Babylon in 537 BCE, whereas the first 3 chapters of Ezra suggest nothing other than that the Jews were back “in their cities” by the seventh month of Cyrus’ first regnal year (October 538 BCE), with no indication of an intervening year. Comparison of Ezra with Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews further confirms that the Jews returned in 538 BCE, and that temple reconstruction began in May of the following year.
The next paragraph of the article makes claims about “another prophecy involving God’s people of ancient times”, vaguely referring to the ‘70 weeks’ at Daniel 9:24-27, and incorrectly setting the scene as “two years before the Jews left Babylon”. The article claims that Medo-Persia’s king gave “the order to rebuild Jerusalem” in 455 BCE (dogmatically asserting that the “order to rebuild Jerusalem” ‘must’ refer to a specific decree by Artaxerxes I), and that Jesus was baptised “exactly 483 years later” in 29 CE.
There are various problems with this. Firstly, the action by Artaxerxes I to which they allude actually occurred in his 20th year. Artaxerxes I began to reign in 465 BCE, and his 20th year was 445 BCE. Also, according to Nehemiah 2:7–8, Artaxerxes only gave Nehemiah permission to repair Jerusalem’s walls rather than an ‘order to rebuild Jerusalem’. Additionally, despite the dogmatic assertion that Jesus was baptised in 29 CE, the reference to Tiberius’ 15th year at Luke 3:1 would actually allow for Jesus’ baptism to occur in either 28 CE or 29 CE.