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607 vs. 587 BCE
concerning the 1914 doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses

Evidence for the real date of Jerusalem's destruction:

  • Early historians and kinglists:
    Dates King Name Years
    625-605 BCE Nabopolassar 21 years
    604-562 BCE Nebuchadnezzar 43 years
    561-560 BCE Awel-Marduk 2 years
    559-556 BCE Neriglissar 4 years
    556 BCE Labashi-Marduk < 1 year
    555-539 BCE Nabonidus 17 years
    1. Berossus, a 3rd century BCE historian, quoted by later historians, is one source for the reigns of the kings of the Neo-Babylonian era in the order and with the years as shown to the right (he states 9 months for Labashi-Marduk)
    2. The Royal Canon (also known as Ptolemy's Canon) offers the same information, except Labashi-Marduk is not mentioned, having reigned less than a year.
    3. The Uruk King List also agrees with Berossus though the years for Neriglissar and Nabonidus were found damaged and reconstructed.

    These king lists may have shared a common source. Since we know Nabonidus' reign ended in 539 BCE (see above) we can begin assigning dates to each reign working backwards from 539 BCE.  When we get to Nebuchadnezzar we realize his 18th year, which is the year of Jerusalem's destruction, (2 Kings 25:8, Insight vol. 2 pg. 481) would be 587 BCE.

  • Nabonidus No. 18 & Nabonidus No. 8 (the Hillah stele)
    These are royal inscriptions, originals from Nabonidus' reign.  The first indicates the dedication of his daughter as a priestess to the god Sin.  It includes astronomical data (a lunar eclipse) that can be dated to 554 BCE.  The Royal Chronicle was found describing the same event (dedication of his daughter) dated to his 2nd year.  The Hillah stele describes a dream he had a year earlier (which would be 555 BCE) in which he indicates Harran had been lying in ruins for 54 years, which would be since 609 BCE.  According to the Babylonian Chronicle 3 (BM21901) Harran was captured in the 16th year of Nabopolassar, which mean his 16th year is 609 BCE.  These sources combined are in agreement with the kinglists and the dates shown above.  They reinforce the finding that Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year, when Jerusalem was destroyed, was 587 BCE.
  • Nabonidus No. 24 (the Adad-guppi' stele) & Nabonidus Chronicle (BM35382)
    The Adad-guppi' stele is a grave inscription written by Nabonidus for his mother who died in his 9th year of reign.  It lists the same king names and lengths of reign as do the kinglists previously mentioned, though skipping Labashi-Marduk who reigned less than a year.  The Nabonidus Chronicle says in Nabonidus' 6th year Cyrus defeated Ecbatana, which the WTS correctly dates to 550 BCE (See Insight vol. 2 pg. 611)  This would make for a 17-year reign of Nabonidus, ending in 539 BCE.  Working backwards with the information from these two sources as we did with the kinglists, we arrive at the same conclusion: Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year and Jerusalem's destruction were in 587 BCE.
  • Econominc-administrative and legal documents
    Tens of thousands of original business documents from the Neo-Babylonian era have been unearthed, dating to every year of every king, often hundreds per year.  These documents confirm the names of the kings as well as the length of their reigns, sometimes to the day.  They are in complete agreement with the chart above, and if Nabonidus' last year was 539 BCE, this evidence points to 587 BCE as the year of Jerusalem's destruction, Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year.
  • Prospographical evidence (study of relationship of people within a certain context)
    Headship of the Egibi firm, based on thousands of business documents indicates Nabu-ahhe-iddina, became head of the firm for 38 years, from Nebuchadnezzar's 23rd year - Nabonidus' 12th year.  Then Itti-Marduk-balatu, became head of the firm for 23 years from Nabonidus' 12th year to Darius I's 1st year (which the WTS and scholars agree was 521 BCE).  If we count back from 521 BCE the duration of their headship, 61 years, we arrive at 582 BCE as Nebuchadnezzar's 23rd year, which makes his 18th year, when Jerusalem was destroyed, 587 BCE.
    Additional evidence comes in the form of reasonable lifespans.  Most lived 70, or possibly 80 years. (Psalms 90:10)  But if Jerusalem was really destroyed in 607 BCE, that would make the Jews who had seen the old temple and were working on the new temple in 520 BCE (Haggai 2:1-4) in their 90's and 100's!  Adad-guppi mentioned above is already said to have died at about 101 years old.  Stretching this period by 20 years would have made her 121 years old.  There are other similar examples of people who would be unreasonable old and even working if 607 BCE were accepted over 587 BCE as the date of Jerusalem's destruction.  See for another example Insight vol. 2 pg. 457 about Nabonidus.
  • Chronological interlocking joints (evidence to prove no gaps/time passed between reigns of king, aka interregnum)
    • Babylonian Chronicle 5 says that after Nabopolassar's 21 years, Nebuchadnezzar took the throne
    • Documents BM30254, AO8561, YBC4038, NBC4897 & the Bible (2 Kings 24:12; 25:27) all link the end of Nebuchadnezzar's 43 year reign with the start of Awel-Marduk's reign.
    • Document NBC4897 just mentioned goes on to link the end of Awel-Marduk's 2 years with the start of Neriglissar's reign.
    • Document YBC4012 & the Hillah stele link the end of Neriglissar's reign to the start of Labashi-Marduk's reign.
    • The Hillah stele also mentions that the end of Labashi-Marduk's reign was followed by Nabonidus' reign.  Additionally, there is a court case mentioned in Nabonidus No. 13 about a slave sold in Neriglissar's 1st year.  The case resolved in Nabonidus' accession-year.  It's more likely this represents a period of 3.5 years than 23.5 years were a 20 year interregnum inserted.
    • BM35382 links the end of Nabonidus' reign with the start of Cyrus' reign.  CT 56:219, 57:52.3, 57:56 & SAKF165 all refer to the first few years of Cyrus' reign and reference at least the previous king's "year 17."  YOS XIX:94 tells of offerings to Ishtar in Babylon during Nabonidus' 17th year.  A hint that this reign was almost over, since the goddess had been moved from Uruk, probably in advance of and to protect her from Cyrus' invasion.  Later returned to Uruk by Cyrus.
  • Synchronism with the contemporary Egyptian chronology
    The chronology of the 26th dynasty of Egypt, known as the Saite period, has been independently established from the Neo-Babylonian.  The names and lengths of reign of the first four pharaohs of this dynasty are known to us by inscriptions of ancient grave stele.  The last two are known to us by the writings of the historians Herodotus and Manetho.  They're confirmed by the papyrus Rylands IX (Petition of Petiese) and the Demotic Chronicle.  Psammetichus III's reign was brief, terminated by the conquest of Egypt by Persian king Cambyses II.  It's agreed by scholars and the WTS that this happened in 525 BCE.  (See Insight vol. 1 pg. 698-699)  By working backwards, as we did for the Babylonian kings, we can date the reign of each pharaoh of this dynasty. Pharaoh Name Years Dates
    Psammetichus I 54 years 664-610 BCE
    Necho II 15 years 610-595 BCE
    Psammetichus II 6 years 595-589 BCE
    Apries (Hophra) 19 years 589-570 BCE
    Amasis 44 years 570-526 BCE
    Psammetichus III < 1 year 526-525 BCE
    Consider some WTS dates that conflict with the Egyptian chronology because of the inserted 20 year period in history to make Jerusalem destroyed in 607 BCE instead of 587 BCE:
    • Pharoah Necho killed Josiah (2 Kings 23:29) in 629 BCE per WTS (see Insight vol. 2 pg. 118 & 483) but this is 19 years before Necho began his rule.  609 BCE is the correct date.
    • Nebuchadnezzar defeats Necho in the 4th year of Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 46:2) in 625 BCE per WTS (see Insight vol. 2 pg 483) still well before Necho's rule.  605 BCE is the correct date.
    • Prophecy of Hophra (Apries) being given into the hands of his enemies, as Zedekiah was into Nebuchadnezzar's, (Jeremiah 44:30) was written shortly after Jerusalem's destruction to Jews who fled to Egypt. (Jeremiah 44:1)  Can not be shortly after 607 BCE (WTS dating of destruction), because Hophra had not become king until 589 BCE.
    • Document BM33041 describes in Nebuchadnezzar's 37th year his campaign against Amasis, in 588 BCE per WTS. (see Insight vol. 1 pg. 698)  That can not be, because Apries was ruling then, not Amasis.  568 BCE is the correct date.
  • Astronomical Data from Nebuchadnezzar's Reign
    • VAT4956: This copy of an ancient tablet contains about 30 precise astronomical observations starting from "year 37 of Nebukadnezar, king of Babylon".  Five different planets are mentioned.  Saturn alone only appears in any given position once every 29.5 years.  All these detailed observations combined unquestionably date these events to 568/67 BCE.  That makes Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year and Jerusalem's destruction 587 BCE.
    • LBAT1419: A lunar eclipse tablet detailing the following: (1) "14th [year of] Nebukadnezar, month 6 (Ululu = Aug/Sep) which was omitted at sunrise" - dated to September 15, 591 BCE shortly before 6am.  (2) "32nd [year of] Nebukadnezar, month 6, which was omitted.  At 35° (meaning 2 hours 20 minutes) before sunset" - dated to September 25, 573 BCE in the afternoon.  These dates would mean his 18th year was 587 BCE.
    • LBAT1420 & LBAT1421: Containing over two dozen eclipses, these tablets do not mention Nebuchadnezzar by name.  But the years of the king are legible for most of the eclipses.  The king years mentioned and the astronomical dating of all the eclipses match perfectly to the accepted reign of 604-562 BCE for Nebuchadnezzar.  These tablets alone offers evidence that Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year was 587 BCE.
  • Babylonian Chronology before Neo-Babylonian era
    The Neo-Babylonian era, coinciding with Babylon's role as an empire, began with Nabopolassar in 625 BC. (see chart above)  An attempt to insert 20 years into that era, as is required to date Jerusalem's destruction to 607 BCE instead of 587 BCE, would push it back 20 years into conflict with the dates for the kings of the previous era (see chart right).  Evidence for the dates of the reigns of two kings before Nabopolassar will only strengthen the argument against that attempt to move the "neo" era back and against 607 BCE: King Name Years Dates
    Shamashshumukin 20 years 668-648 BCE
    Kandalanu 22 years 647-626 BCE
    Start of the Neo-Babylonian era with king Nabopolassar in 625 BCE.  (see chart above)
    • BM32312 & BM86379 (The Akitu Chronicle): The first tablet records positions of Mercury and Saturn on the "27th" of a month.  They can be firmly dated to the 27th of the Babylonian month Adaru in 651 BCE.  It also records events of a battle in Hiritu between Babylon and Assyria in which Babylon was heavily defeated.  The second tablet mentions the same battle on the 27th of Adaru and equates it with king Shamashshumukin's 16th year, in agreement with the accepted dates for the reign of the king as shown in the chart.
    • BM76738 + BM76813 (The Saturn Tablet):  Contain many observations of the slow-moving planet Saturn.  The king's name was partly damaged, but obviously refers to Kandalanu.  This is confirmed by the facts that the observations for the king's years 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 & 13 are easily dated to the 647-634 BCE, in agreement with the dates assigned to the first 14 years of his reign as shown in the chart.
    • LBAT1417: Describes computed lunar eclipses: (1) Eclipse in "Accession year Shamash-shum-ukin..." dated to May 2, 668 BCE about 9am.  (2) Eclipse in 18th year Shamashshumukin dated to May 13, 650 BCE a little after 4pm.  (3) Eclipse in "[year] 16 Kandalanu [in month] Simanu..." dated to May 23, 632 BCE right before midnight.  All these detailed eclipses were matched and the years they occurred in confirm the dating of the reign of these two kings as shown in the chart.
    All this evidence means these kings dates are firm, and moving them back to make room for moving back Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar is not a viable option.  Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year can not be 607 BCE.

When was Jerusalem destroyed?  587 BCE!