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When reading literature about the Babylonian the destruction of Jerusalem I always wonder which year it took place. Some books says 586 B.CE. and some says 587 B.CE. Is this because one don't know? Or is there some other reason? If one don't know, what are the arguments for one or the other of these dates?

I also know the Jehovah's Witnesses say it was in 607 and if someone has anything to say about the facts that contradict this year I would love to hear it.

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    You are ascribing a quote to the Jehovah's Witnesses; could you attribute that quote? – Mark C. Wallace Aug 4 '15 at 15:13
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    I think that is pretty well known. But adding a source for it won't hurt. Added a link to an article that supports 607 B.CE. – Niclas Nilsson Dec 5 '15 at 10:52
  • Links have a tendency to break. It would be better if you added the quote in directly. – Spencer Sep 19 '18 at 14:10
  • Some books says 586 B.CE. and some says 587 B.CE. Is this because one don't know? Or is there some other reason? - It's because years begins at different times for different peoples.. – Lucian Jul 29 at 3:25
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Wikipedia - Siege of Jerusalem

All of the contemporary records, whether Hebrew or otherwise, rely on regnal dating systems. There are two points of confusion, particularly when dating the reigns of Israelite or Jewish kings: which calendar is used and when does the first year start. I'll try to clarify farther down using Queen Elizabeth II as an example.

Religious or Secular Year?

The Hebrew historians used two different calendars and, to some extent, continue to do so today. Some historians used the religious calendar, which starts in the spring with the first month, Nisan. Passover is Nisan 14. Some historians used the secular calendar, which starts in the fall with the seventh month, Tishri. Rosh Hashanah ("New Year") or Yom Teruah ("Day of Trumpets") is Tishri 1.

Regardless of which calendar was used, Nisan was the "first month" and Tishri the "seventh month". In similar fashion, whether we use the calendar year (January - December) or an arbitrary fiscal year (July - June), January is still January and July is still July.

Unlike the British, the historians of the Bible always started the year at one of these two points: Nisan 1 or Tishri 1. British historians start the regnal year with the date of accession. For Queen Elizabeth II, then, the British regnal year starts on 6 Feb every year.

Accession or Non-Accession?

Some historians used an "accession" regnal year. From the date of ascension to the last day of the year, the regent served the "accession" year. The first day of the calendar year following that began the regent's first year.

Other historians used a "non-accession" regnal year. From the date of ascension to the last day of the year, the regent served the first year. The first day of the calendar year following that began the regent's second year.

Applied to Queen Elizabeth II

Let's put this in perspective of a modern calendar with Queen Elizabeth's reign. We'll presume two calendars: the calendar year (roughly equivalent to the religious year) and the fiscal year (starting on July 1, roughly equivalent to the secular year).

  • By accession counting in the religious year (Jan - Dec):
    • 6 Feb 1952 - 31 Dec 1952 was her accession year.
    • 1 Jan 1953 - 31 Dec 1953 was her first year.
    • 5 Aug 2015 occurs during her 63rd year.
  • By accession counting in the secular year (Jul - Jun):
    • 6 Feb 1952 - 30 Jun 1952 was her accession year.
    • 1 Jul 1952 - 30 Jun 1953 was her first year.
    • 5 Aug 2015 occurs during her 64th year.
  • By non-accession counting in the religious year (Jan - Dec):
    • 6 Feb 1952 - 31 Dec 1952 was her first year.
    • 1 Jan 1952 - 31 Dec 1953 was her second year.
    • 5 Aug 2015 occurs during her 64th year.
  • By non-accession counting in the secular year (Jul - Jun):
    • 6 Feb 1952 - 30 Jun 1952 was her first year.
    • 1 Jul 1952 - 30 Jun 1953 was her second year.
    • 5 Aug 2015 occurs during her 65th year.

Confused Yet?

This is the source of the confusion. While the historians gave us some clues by lining up the reign of the monarch in the Northern Kingdom with the reign of the monarch in the Southern Kingdom, the Northern Kingdom no longer existed by the time of the second siege of Jerusalem. Historians have done their best to line up the reigns of the monarchs of the Southern Kingdom with the reigns of kings from other kingdoms, such as Babylon. Whenever they try to do this, they still have to examine all the information in order to answer those two questions: "Accession or Non-accession?" "Nisan or Tishri?"

Take another look at the Wikipedia article at the top of this answer. Thiele is assuming an accession year count where Albright does not. They both agree that the year started on Tishri 1.

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Source from wikipedia

There has been some debate as to when the second siege of Jerusalem took place. Though there is no dispute that Jerusalem fell the second time in the summer month of Tammuz (Jeremiah 52:6), William F. Albright dates the end of Zedekiah's reign (and the fall of Jerusalem) to 587 BC, whereas Edwin R. Thiele offers 586 BC.[10]

Thiele's reckoning is based on the presentation of Zedekiah's reign on an accession basis, which was used for most but not all of the kings of Judah. In that case, the year that Zedekiah came to the throne would be his zeroth year; his first full year would be 597/596 BC, and his eleventh year, the year Jerusalem fell, would be 587/586 BC. Since Judah's regnal years were counted from Tishri in autumn, this would place the end of his reign and the capture of Jerusalem in the summer of 586 BC.[10][11]

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    I have two minor issues with this answer: 1) I personally don't like to see answers that are nothing more than text quoted directly from today's wikipedia page on the subject, and 2) Its actually tough enough to follow that I could use a summarization. – T.E.D. Sep 18 '13 at 13:52
  • I was afraid if I summarise it, I will conclude some important information. Anyway next time I will post the answer in my onw way, not quoated. @T.E.D. – moudiz Sep 18 '13 at 14:17
  • You can edit your answer and do both. I assure you, if you do not correctly summarize due to missing some important detail or nuance, someone here will point it out to you. :-) – T.E.D. Sep 18 '13 at 14:25
  • I down-voted this answer because it is simply a cut and paste from wikipedia, (it does not even bother to remove the meaningless wiki footnotes) with no additional sources, citations, verifications or analysis. This site is not a place to simply cut and paste from wiki, nor should wiki be allowed to become the de-facto source for all historical information. – user2590 Sep 19 '13 at 5:31
  • @Vector I will re write it on my own way, I am still new here. – moudiz Sep 19 '13 at 6:00
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The date of the destruction of Jerusalem is critically important for Jehovah's Witnesses, and it is critical it is 607 BC. From that they get the date 1914 AD, which underpins their whole theology. In 1914 AD they claim that Jesus returned invisibly, and a few years after that Jesus declared that only the Jehovah's Witness organisation was acceptable to him and Jehovah God. If 607 BC is wrong, then Jesus didn't return in 1914 AD, and so he didn't declare the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society the only religious organisation acceptable to Jehovah God, and so the Jehovah's Witness organisation has made an outrageous porkie-pie.

IN 1968 Carl Olof Jonsson was knocking on doors as a Jehovah's Witness in Sweden. In a conversation he was challenged to examine for himself the claim of the organisation that Jerusalem had been destroyed in 607 BC, and it was pointed out to him that historians marked that event as having occurred in either 587 or 586 BC.

His very thorough investigation on the subject lead finally to him being disfellowshipped. You can read about his correspondence with Brooklyn HQ of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and you can read the whole of his book, "The Gentile Times Reconsidered", which is an expansion of his investigations into the date of the destruction of Jerusalem all on his website here:-

http://kristenfrihet.se/english/epage.htm

As for whether it was destroyed 586 or 587 BC, you need to go to the website of the great chronologist Rodger C Young which is here:-

www.rcyoung.org

  • Rodger claims that only 587 BC can satisfy all the data, in his paper "When did Jerusalem fall?"

As for the Jehovah's Witness above who says that Babylon was captured by Cyrus in 539 BC and released the Jews to go back in 537/8 and 70 years before 537/8 is 607/8... that is all true, and there was a beginning of the captivity about 605 BC. This is the besieging which is referred to in Daniel 1 verse 1. Then there were more taken into captivity in 598 BC. Ezekiel was taken at this time to Babylon. But the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple were later still.

But you need to compare like with like. The Captivity started before the destruction of the city and Temple. Ezekiel 40:1 refers to Ezekiel being taken into captivity several years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

What is more the Temple was finally rebuilt much later than 537/8 BC, it was finally completed in the sixth year of Darius the king (Ezra 6:15) which is 517/6 BC. And 70 years before 517 is 587 BC. So the captivity was 70 years starting about 605 BC; and being without a Temple was also 70 years, starting 587 BC and ending 517 or 516 BC - a different 70 year period. The Temple was destroyed the same time as the city of Jerusalem, when the rule of Zedekiah was terminated, 587 BC.

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No one questions the date of Cyrus' conquest of Babylon: 539 b.c.e., nor his release of the Jews in 537 or 538.

Four different Bible writers say the Jews were in captivity 70 years:

  • Jeremiah 25:11;
  • Daniel 9:2;
  • 2 Chronicles 36:21;
  • Zechariah 1:12.

70 years before 537/38 would be 607/608. The 'scholars' who are stuck on 587 or 586 are relying on a Latin copy of an Armenian script translated from a lost Greek record written by Eusebius who quotes a timeline of Babylonian kings written down 200 years after the fact by a Babylonian priest named Berossus (the same Berossus who wrote about dog-headed horses and fish who walked upright and spoke).

You can read more about biblical derived chronology here.

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    welcome to History SE, please consider add other sources as well to your answer, bible had many historical events in itself, but we can't say it is a history book. – CsBalazsHungary Mar 1 '15 at 8:08
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    @CsBalazsHungary Re "Scholars..are relying.." etc. No scholars are not relying on any flimsy evidence at all. See Carl Olof Jonsson 14 minimum different lines of evidence on his website linked in my reply. – Andrew Shanks Nov 22 '18 at 8:18
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I have done extensive review of the available information from the internet on the time when Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and I believe the information is well documented and properly presented such that a layman like myself could confidently assert that Jerusalem was originally captured by the Babylonians in 607 BC. There is now a preponderance of evidence to support this assertion and the literature is well documented with compelling evidence in support of this assertion. In addition much research has uncovered additional to conclusively prove that this date should be accepted as the date this unfortunate and tragic event befell the unfortunate Israelites of that time Should you have supporting information to prove otherwise, I would welcome your response.

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    Um, if there is a preponderance of evidence, can you provide some? – Semaphore Dec 4 '15 at 21:22
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    Sorry, -1. Please post some of this abundant evidence and I'll revoke the downvote. – Felix Goldberg Apr 23 '16 at 6:26

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