This page is an overview of problems with the article about Cyrus the Great that appeared in the May 2013 issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ magazine, Awake! 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 problems in the June 2012 issue of Awake!, see The Watch Tower Society’s 2012 attempt to defend 607.
As of 2013, Awake! has featured a semi-regular piece entitled Portraits from the Past, an article that focuses on a particular historical figure. In the May 2013 issue, the subject of the segment was Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 BCE.
The first section, How Cyrus Captured Babylon, briefly addresses the method by which Cyrus gained entry to the city in order to capture it. The section refers to a separate box that says that on the night of Cyrus’ attack, Daniel told Belshazzar that “his kingdom was “finished,” that he had been “weighed in the balances””. The box ignores the obvious connection between those words and the ‘end of Babylon’s 70 years’ and the “calling to account” of Babylon’s king at Jeremiah 25:12.
Diverting attention from Daniel, the next section, Amazing Predictions, then claims that Isaiah prophesied Cyrus’ capture of Babylon 200 years prior. Actually, scholars recognise that the book of Isaiah is composed of three distinct sections, and that the ‘prophecies’ about Cyrus are part of the section by an author termed Deutero-Isaiah, responsible for chapters 40 to 54, written—unsurprisingly—around the time the events occurred.
Next follows the most dishonest section of the article, entitled A Miraculous Deliverance. It asserts falsely that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 BCE, and then asks the leading question, How long would the Jews be held?* With no regard for context, the article ‘answers’ by quoting Jeremiah 25:12—the first time the Watch Tower Society has quoted the verse since 1979.
*The fact that most of the Jews went into exile eleven years prior to Jerusalem’s destruction is ignored.
The clear manner in which the context is completely ignored shows why the verse has been neglected for so long. In addition to the fact that the verse is actually about all the nations serving Babylon with no mention of exile,† the verse also explicitly states that Babylon’s king would be ‘called to account’ (that is, “weighed in the balances”) “when seventy years have been fulfilled”.
†The fact that Jeremiah 27:8–11 indicates that serving Babylon was the way to avoid exile is also ignored.
The article’s next paragraph immediately contradicts the order of events given at Jeremiah 25:12. It acknowledges that Cyrus captured Babylon in 539 BCE (which actually ended Babylon’s 70 years), but then claims that the 70 years ended two years later. The obvious contradiction is simply ignored. This butchering of the context is even more apparent when considering Jeremiah 29:10—addressed to Jews who were in Babylon more than a decade prior to the fall of Jerusalem—which states that attention would be given to the Jews’ return only after the 70 years had already ended.
The final section, Why Should You Care? repeats the false claim that the Bible foretold a 70-year exile of the Jews—something that is never stated in the Bible. The article is certainly correct about this: Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses should care about what they are blindly accepting. It is apparent that the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses thinks so little of the intelligence of its members that they will not even check whether Jeremiah 25:12 is being taken out of context. Worse still, in most cases, that is very likely the case.