Chapter 4 consists of two parts. In the first part, pp. 66-75, which I will call part A, Furuli reviews some of the ancient secondary and tertiary sources that contain information about Neo-Babylonian kings and their reigns. In the second part, pp. 75-92, which I will call part B, he discusses six of the Biblical passages that mention a period of 70 years, claiming that they all refer to the same period—namely, a period of complete desolation of Judah and Jerusalem during the Jewish exile in Babylonia. This accords with the view of the Watchtower Society.
Furuli's presentation of the secondary and tertiary sources for the Neo-Babylonian chronology seems to be based mainly on the surveys of R. P. Dougherty in Nabonidus and Belshazzar (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929, pp. 7-10) and Ronald. H. Sack in Neriglissar—King of Babylon (Neukirchen–Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1994, pp. 1-22). Most of the ancient authors that Furuli mentions lived hundreds of years after the Neo-Babylonian era, and their writings, which are preserved only in very late copies, often give distorted royal names and regnal years. Most of these sources, therefore, are useless for chronological purposes. (See GTR4, Ch. 3, A). This can be seen in Furuli's table on page 74, in which he lists the concordant chronology for the Neo-Babylonian era given by Berossus (3rd century BCE) and Ptolemy's Royal Canon, together with the conflicting figures of Polyhistor (1st century BCE), Josephus (1st century CE), the Talmud (5th century CE), Syncellus (c. 800 CE), and, strangely, a totally corrupt kinglist from 1498 CE. Putting such distorted sources in the same table with Berossus and the Ptolemaic Canon—the two most reliable chronological sources for the Neo-Babylonian era next to the cuneiform documents themselves—suggests that the sources are equally unreliable and should not be trusted. That this is the purpose of the table is obvious from Furuli's comments on its conflicting figures:
"The spread of numbers in the table shows that different chronologies regarding the New Babylonian kings existed from old times," and "that there were many different traditions describing the New Babylonian chronology." (pp. 74, 75; emphasis added)
But this is not really what Furuli's table shows. Rather, it demonstrates to what extent figures can change through time and can be distorted by being quoted and copied time and again by various authors and copyists over a period of nearly 2000 years.
Furuli starts by stating that "the modern model of the New Babylonian and Persian chronology was not constructed on the basis of Babylonian sources, but rather on the basis of secondary or tertiary sources from other places." (p. 66) But this statement is a distortion because it suggests that the new foundation of chronology is the same as the old one. Furuli should have added that, in the latter half of the 19th century, the thousands of Babylonian cuneiform documents found in Mesopotamia that became available to scholars enabled them to construct a new foundation for Neo-Babylonian chronology directly on primary sources. Furuli has committted the fallacy known as "suppressed evidence" because his argument fails to consider relevant facts.
Berossus' Neo-Babylonian chronology, says Sack, "most closely corresponds to that of the cuneiform documents." (Sack, op. cit., p. 7) Furuli quotes this statement on page 67, but on the next page he mentions some of the mythological material and errors in Berossus' discussion of earlier Babylonian periods. The obvious purpose of this is to call into question Berossus' statements about Neo-Babylonian chronology. This is a form of ad hominem argument called "poisoning the well," in which someone presents unfavorable information (true or false) about an opponent to suggest that any claim he makes is probably false. In other words, it is an attempt to bias the audience.
The only difference between Berossus' writings and contemporary Neo-Babylonian cuneiform sources is that Berossus assigns Labashi-Marduk a reign of nine months instead of two or three. Referring to this difference, Furuli quotes Sack's statement that "it is hardly likely (in view of his overall accuracy) that Berossus could have been incorrect in his figures for the reign of this latter monarch." Sack does not mean that Berossus' figure of nine months is correct but that, in view of Berossus' overall accuracy, his original figure for Labashi-Marduk must have been correct. He holds that the figure nine is most likely a scribal error arising during manuscript transmission. He concurs with the explanation of Parker and Dubberstein that the Greek letter theta (used for number 9) is most likely a mistake for an original letter beta (used for number 2). These two letters are rather similar and could easily be confused in ancient handwritten manuscripts. Sack states:
"This position seems all the more sensible since the earliest text from the reign of Nabonidus (May 25, 556 BC) is clearly dated nearly a full month prior to the latest document bearing the name of Labashi-Marduk (June 20, 556 BC)." (R. H. Sack, op. cit., 1994, p. 7)
Furuli fails to inform the reader of Sack's clarifications.
In a further attempt to undermine confidence in Berossus' information about the Neo-Babylonian reigns, Furuli quotes Berossus' English translator Stanley Mayer Burstein, who points out that "the Babyloniaca contains a number of errors of simple fact of which, certainly, the most flagrant is the statement that Nabopolassar ruled Egypt." (p. 67) But is this error really that flagrant? Berossus does not say that Nabopolassar conquered Egypt after Necho's defeat at Harran; instead he describes the Pharaoh as a rebellious satrap "who had been posted to Egypt, Coele-Syria, and Phoenicia." Posted [or placed, tetagménos] how?
Assyria controlled Egypt in the 7th century BCE, and Ashurbanipal installed Psammetichus I (664-610 BCE) as a vassal ruler in Memphis. Under Psammetichus' long rule, Egypt gradually gained independence and finally became an ally of Assyria against Babylon. After the Babylonians finally crushed the Assyrian empire in 609 BCE (despite Egypt's assistance), the Babylonians regarded former Assyrian territories as their inheritance, even though some territories immediately started to fight for independence. From the Babylonian point of view, then, the defeated Pharaoh Necho would be regarded as a rebellious satrap because, on retreating from Harran in 609 BCE, Necho appropriated the Hattu area (Syria-Palestine) in the west. The Jewish historian Dr. Menahem Stern gives the following comments about Berossus' statement:
"From the point of view of those who regarded the neo-Babylonian empire as a continuation of the Assyrian, the conquest of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia by the Egyptian ruler might be interpreted as the rape of Babylonian territory." (M. Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Vol. I, Jerusalem: Jerusalem Academic Press, 1974, p. 59)
Furuli's discussion of Flavius Josephus' information about the Neo-Babylonian chronology is not reliable because it is partially based on an obsolete text of Josephus' works. He starts by quoting Josephus' distorted figures for the Neo-Babylonian reigns at Antiquities X,xi,1-2:
"Nabopolassar 29 years, Nebuchadnezzar 43 years, Amel-Marduk 18 years, Neriglissar 40 years." (p. 69)
Furuli got these figures from William Whiston's antiquated translation of 1737, which was based on a text that is no longer accepted as the best textual witness. Had he consulted a modern translation of Josephus' Antiquities, he would have discovered that Nabopolassar, at least, is correctly given 21—not 29—years. (See, for example, Ralph Marcus' translation in the Loeb Classical Library.)
Furuli believes that Josephus mentions the wrong figure elsewhere. Still following Whiston's obsolete translation, he states in footnote 90 on page 69:
"In Against Apion, sect. 17 [error for I,19], Nabopolassar is ascribed 29 years, but this is a quote from Berossus. Josephus does not mention Nabopolassar and the length of his reign elsewhere."
This statement, too, is wrong. Against Apion I,19, like Antiquities X,xi,1, assigns Nabopolassar 21 years, according to all modern textual editions of Against Apion.*
* Excursion: The best textual editions of Josephus' Against Apion are those of Benedictus Niese in Flavii Iosephi Opera, Vol. V (Berlin: Weidmann, 1889), Samuel Adrianus Naber in Flavii Iosephi Opera Omnia, Vol. VI (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1896), H. St. J. Thackeray in Josephus (= Vol. 38:1 in the Loeb Classical Library, London: William Heinemann, and New York: G. P. Putnamn's Sons, 1926), and Théodore Reinach & Léon Blum, Flavius Josèphe Contre Apion (Paris: Société d'Èdition "Les Belles Lettres," 1930). William Whiston's translation was based on manuscripts that go back to one from the 12th century preserved in Florenz, Codex Laurentianus plut. lxix 22, usually referred to as L. Although this is the oldest preserved Greek manuscript of Against Apion, the best textual witness of Josephus' excerpts from Berossus in I,19 is Eusebius' quotations from Josephus' Against Apion in his Preparation for the Gospel, Book IX, Chapter XL, and also in the Armenian version of his Chronicle, 24,29 and 25,5. Both works give Nabopolassar 21 years. This figure is further supported by the Latin translation ("Lat.") of Against Apion made in the 6th century. (C. Boysen, Flavii Iosephi Opera ex Versione Latina Antiqua VI:II [= Vol. XXXVII in the Vienna Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum], 1898, p. 30. See also the comments on the textual witnesses by Alfred von Gutschmid in his "Vorlesungen über Josephus' Bücher," published in Kleine Schriften [ed. by Franz Rühl], Band 4, Leipzig, 1893, pp. 500, 501). Josephus' Antiquities X,xi,1 clearly gives Nabopolassar a reign of 21 years. The figure 29 given in Codex Laurentianus (L) from the 12th century (on which all later manuscripts are based) is, therefore, demonstrably a late distortion that is corrected in all modern textual editions of Against Apion and Antiquities. (See also the comments by Thackeray, op. cit., pp. xviii, xix.)
At the end of page 69, Furuli quotes two widely separated sections from Against Apion. The first is taken from Against Apion I,19 (§§ 131,132), in which Josephus is referred to as saying that, according to Berossus,
"[Nabopolassar] sent his son Nabuchodonosor with a large army to Egypt and to our country, on hearing that these people had revolted, and how he defeated them all, burnt the temple at Jerusalem, dislodged and transported our entire population to Babylon, with the result that the city lay desolate for seventy years until the time of Cyrus, king of Persia."
The remarkable thing about this statement is that it places the burning of the temple in the reign of Nabopolassar. But it actually took place 18 years later during the 18th year of his son and successor Nebuchadnezzar. The result is that Josephus, who here regards the 70 years as a period of desolation, starts the period in the last year of Nabopolassar (i.e., in 605 BCE). Furuli is quoting from Thackeray's translation in the Loeb Classical Library and, in a footnote at the bottom of the page, quotes Thackeray: "The burning of the temple, not mentioned in the extract which follows, is presumably interpolated by Josephus, and erroneously placed in the reign of Nabopolassar." Clearly, Josephus' application of the 70 years in this passage is based on a serious distortion of his sources. He seems to have confused events concerning Jerusalem in the last year of Nabopolassar's reign with events in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign.
Furuli's next quotation, which he places directly after the first, is taken from Against Apion I,21 (§ 154), and begins:
"This statement is both correct and in accordance with our books."
This might give a reader the impression that Josephus is still speaking of the 70-year-long desolate state of Jerusalem in Furuli's preceding quotation. But, as stated above, the two quotations are from widely separated sections. Josephus is referring to his lengthy quotation from Berossus in the immediately preceding section (I,20, §§ 146-153), in which Berossus gives the length of all the Neo-Babylonian kings from Nebuchadnezzar to Nabonidus: Nebuchadnezzar 43 years, Awel-Marduk 2 years, Neriglissar 4 years, Labashi-Marduk 9 months, and Nabonidus 17 years. It is this chronology Josephus refers to when he immediately goes on to say that it "is both correct and in accordance with our books." (Against Apion I,21, § 154) He then explains why it is correct:
"For in the latter [the Scriptures] it is recorded that Nabuchodonosor in the eighteenth year of his reign devastated our temple, that for fifty years it ceased to exist, that in the second year of the reign of Cyrus the foundations were laid, and lastly that in the second year of the reign of Darius it was completed."
According to Berossus' figures, there were ca. 49 years from Nebuchadnezzar's 18th year until the end of Nabonidus' reign. Because the foundation of the temple was laid in the 2nd year of Cyrus (Ezra 3:8), Josephus' statement that the temple had been desolate for "fifty years" is in agreement with Berossus' chronology. (For the textual evidence supporting the figure 50 in Against Apion, see GTR4, Ch. 7, A-3, ftn. 30.)
It is obvious that Josephus, in his works, repeatedly presents confusing and erroneous statements about the Neo-Babylonian reigns and conflicting explanations of the period of Jerusalem's desolation. It is only in his latest discussion, in which he quotes Berossus' figures, that his statements can be shown to roughly agree with reliable historical sources.
How important are the writings of Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century CE) for the chronology established for the Neo-Babylonian era? Furuli assigns them a decisive role:
"One of the most important sources for the present New Babylonian chronology is Claudius Ptolemy (2nd century C.E.). As one author expressed it: 'The data from the Almagest provide the backbone for all modern chronology of antiquity'." (p. 70)
The author quoted is Professor Otto Neugebauer, who until his death in 1990 was a leading authority on the astronomical cuneiform tablets. What did he mean? Did he mean that the ancient astronomical observations that Claudius Ptolemy presented in Almagest still are the principal or perhaps even the sole basis for the absolute chronology scholars have established for the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods? As will be demonstrated below, definitely not.
Recurring themes in Furuli's book are (1) that the Neo-Babylonian and Persian chronology builds on the writings of Claudius Ptolemy, (2) that Claudius Ptolemy was a fraud who falsified the ancient observations he used, and (3) that, therefore, the chronology established for those ancient periods is false. As early as page 13, Furuli claims:
"The modern view of the chronology of the old world builds on the writings of Claudius Ptolemy. Twenty-five years ago the geophysicist R. R. Newton argued that Ptolemy was a fraud because he claimed he made observations when instead he made calculations backwards in time."
But Furuli's thesis is a straw man, an argument without substance. No informed scholar today holds that the writings of Claudius Ptolemy are now the basis of the chronology established for the Ancient Near East. True, Parker and Dubberstein stated half a century ago that they had used the Ptolemaic Canon and some other classical sources as a general basis for their Babylonian chronology. But they went on to explain that they checked, confirmed, and improved this chronology by using Babylonian cuneiform texts such as chronicles, kinglists, economic texts, and astronomical tablets. (PD, 1956, p. 10)
Furthermore, Claudius Ptolemy did not originally create the Ptolemaic Canon—he merely reproduced an existing list of kings. As Professor Neugebauer (the author quoted by Furuli) once pointed out, the common name of the kinglist, "Ptolemy's Canon," is a misnomer. This has been known for a long time. F. X. Kugler and Eduard Meyer, for example, pointed out long ago that the list had been in use for centuries before Ptolemy. (For additional details and documentation about this, see GTR4, Ch. 3, A-2.)
Strangely, but apparently unknowingly, Furuli accepts this, in contradiction to his strawman arguments. In the Introduction, he notes that the Ptolemaic scheme "fits perfectly with the theoretical eclipse scheme of Saros cycles and intercalary months" (pp. 13, 14), that is, the chronology of the cuneiform tablets from the Seleucid era (312-64 BCE) that list dates at 18-year intervals for earlier periods. In a later discussion of a group of such Saros texts, Furuli points out (p. 97) that the group of tablets he refers to gives an unbroken series of dates at 18-year intervals from year 31 of Darius I (491 BCE) down into the Seleucid era. He notes that the chronology of these tablets, if correct, would rule out his Oslo Chronology (with its Darius/Xerxes co-regency and its 51-year reign of Artaxerxes I). The chronology of the 18-year texts, Furuli admits, is the same as that of Ptolemy's Canon:
"It is quite clear that Ptolemy did not invent his chronology of kings, but that he built on an already accepted chronology. This chronology was evidently the one the scribe(s) of the Saros tablets used." (p. 98)
The question, then, is: Because the chronology of Ptolemy's Canon for the Neo-Babylonian and Persian eras existed hundreds of years before Claudius Ptolemy, how can Furuli claim that "the modern view of the chronology of the old world builds on the writings of Claudius Ptolemy"? This claim is not true today, and Furuli knows it. Obviously, Ptolemy inherited his chronology from earlier generations of scholars, although he might have added to it by updating it to his own time, as scholars had done before him and as others continued to do after him. (GTR4, p. 94, note 12 with reference) Of course, this fact makes Furuli's attempt to bias his readers against Ptolemy's Canon irrelevant to the the question of chronology.
When Furuli speaks of "the writings of Claudius Ptolemy" as the basis of the chronology of the old world, he reveals a remarkable ignorance of the contents of these writings. Of Ptolemy's greatest and best known work, for example, Furuli says,
"his work Almagest (Ptolemy's canon) has tables showing Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Greek kings together with the years of their reigns." (p. 70)
Almagest contains no such things. Strangely, Furuli seems to believe that Almagest is identical to Ptolemy's Canon. In Almagest, a work originally published in 13 volumes, Ptolemy summed up all the astronomical and mathematical knowledge of his time. How Furuli can confuse Almagest with Ptolemy's Canon, a chronological table covering about a page (GTR4, Ch. 3, A-2), is puzzling.
True, the dates of events and ancient observations found in Almagest agree with the chronology of the Canon and, like the Canon, it dates events from the beginning of the so-called "Nabonassar Era" (747 BCE). But Almagest never contained the Ptolemaic Canon with its chronological tables. This kinglist was included in another work by Claudius Ptolemy known as the Handy Tables.
Furuli discusses at length (pp. 70-73) Professor Robert R. Newton's claim that Claudius Ptolemy was a fraud, concluding that this is a problem because "researchers since the Middle ages … have viewed Ptolemy's historical and chronological statements as truth and nothing but the truth. This is the reason why Ptolemy's statements are the very backbone of the modern New Babylonian chronology." (p. 73) But Furuli admits that the chronology of Ptolemy's Canon existed hundreds of years before Ptolemy, so how can accusations against Ptolemy be a problem? Whether he was a fraud or not is irrelevant to the evaluation of the reliability of the Ptolemaic Canon, which also, and more correctly, is called the Royal Canon. (See GTR4, Ch. 3, A-2, ftn. 21.) For a discussion of the nature of Ptolemy's "fraud," see the essay "Professor Robert R. Newton, 'Ptolemy's Canon,' and 'The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy'," published on this web site: http://user.tninet.se/~oof408u/fkf/english/newtpol.htm
So what about Neugebauer's statement that "the data from the Almagest provide the backbone for all modern chronology of antiquity?" The answer is that Furuli quotes it out of context. It appears in Neugebauer's work, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, Part Three (Berlin/Heidelberg,/New York: Springer-Verlag, 1975, p. 1071), in a section in which Neugebauer describes "The Foundations of Historical Chronology." In this section, he uses the word "modern" in the broader sense (i.e., the period since the breakthrough of modern astronomy in the 16th century). In the very next sentence, Neugebauer mentions the "modern scholars" who he says used Ptolemy's dates as a basis for their chronology: Copernicus (1473-1543), Scaliger (1540-1609), Kepler (1571-1630), and Newton (1643-1727).
Neugebauer's statement, then, refers to the situation that has prevailed during the past 400 years. But he further explains that, more recently, securely established chronological data of ancient observations have been obtained from the "great wealth of observational records assembled in Babylonia during the last three or four centuries B.C." These data have enabled scholars to check the Canon and confirm its reliability. (Neugebauer, pp. 1072, 1073)
Some years earlier, in a review of A. J. Sachs (ed.), Late Babylonian Astronomical and Related Texts (LBAT) (1955), Neugebauer emphasized the importance of the Babylonian astronomical texts for the Mesopotamian chronology. Of their value for establishing the chronology of the Seleucid era, for example, he explained:
"Since planetary and lunar data of such variety and abundance define the date of a text with absolute accuracy—lunar positions with respect to fixed stars do not even allow 24 hours of uncertainty which is otherwise involved in lunar dates—we have here records of Seleucid history which are far more reliable than any other historical source material at our disposal." (Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, Vol. 52, Berlin, 1957, p. 133)
A similar confirmation of the Ptolemaic chronology has been established for earlier periods. The editor of the above-mentioned work, Professor Abraham J. Sachs, who was a leading authority on the astronomical texts and also a close friend and colleague of Neugebauer, explains how the cuneiform sources have provided an independent confirmation of Ptolemy's kinglist back to its very beginning, thus establishing the absolute chronology of the Babylonian, Persian, and Seleucid eras. In the statement quoted below, Sachs speaks of Ptolemy's kinglist as "Theon's royal list" because it has traditionally been held that the mathematichian Theon (4th century CE) included the kinglist in his revision of Ptolemy's Handy Tablets. This view has recently been questioned, so "Theon's royal list" could be as much a misnomer as is "Ptolemy's Canon." (Cf. Dr. Leo Depuydt in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies, Vol. 47, 1995, p. 104) Apart from this detail, Sachs makes the following comparison between the kinglist and the cuneiform sources:
"The absolute chronology of the Babylonian first group of kings is easy to establish because, as has been mentioned, Ptolemy quotes the report of an eclipse in the time of king Mardokempados. Even more important, this absolute chronology has been independently confirmed by cuneiform texts from Babylon which contain astronomical observations. These number more than 1000 pieces of day-to-day astronomical observations of positions and phases of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, beginning around 650 B.C. and continuing, in increaingly dense numbers, into the first century before the beginning of our era. Thanks to these astronomical diaries, numerous overlaps with the royal list in Theon's Handy Tables have been established, always in agreement. In other cases, the lengths of the reigns of individual kings in Theon's royal list can be confirmed by the careful study of the dates given in contemporaneous economic and administrative texts found in Babylonia; this is possible because for parts of the period covered by the royal list, we have so many of these texts that they average out to one every few days. In this way – namely, by using Theon's royal list, Babylonian astronomical diaries, and Babylonian dated tablets—one is able to establish with confidence the absolute chronology back to the middle of the eighth century B.C., i.e. the reign of king Nabonassar of Babylon." (A. J. Sachs, "Absolute dating from Mesopotamian records," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Ser. A, Vol. 26, 1971, p. 20; emphasis added)
As Professor Sachs points out in this statement, the Royal Canon has been gradually replaced in recent times as the foundation of ancient chronology by the many native sources from Babylonia, in particular by the great number of astronomical cuneiform documents, which provide "numerous overlaps" with the Royal Canon, "always in agreement," thereby replacing it at these many points. The earlier role of the Royal Canon as the foundation of ancient chronology has dwindled to a fraction of the period it covers. At some points, it is still needed as a trusted complement because of its proven reliability. Depuydt, a renowned Egyptologist and specialist on ancient chronology who has been examining the history and reliability of the Royal Canon for a long time, aptly describes the shifting foundation of the chronology of antiquity:
"To the extant that the Canon's veracity is proven as the foundation of first millennium B.C.E. chronology, to that extent the Canon will also become superfluous as a foundation. And even more remarkably, to the extent that its veracity is not proven, for those parts it remains fundamental to first millennium B.C.E. chronology." (Leo Depuydt, "The Shifting Foundation of Ancient Chronology," forthcoming in Acts of European Association of Archaeologists, Meeting VIII)
It is a remarkable fact that Ptolemy's kinglist has never been shown to be wrong. Depuydt emphasizes this in the article quoted above:
"Is there any chance that the Canon is false? For four centuries now, the Canon has been put through countless contacts with countless individual sources. To my knowledge, no one has ever found any serious reason to suspect that the Canon is not true. A kind of common sense about the Canon's veracity has therefore grown over the centuries. This common sense guarantees, in my opinion, that the Canon will remain fundamental to ancient chronology."
On page 92, Furuli gives a summary of the secondary and tertiary sources he has presented:
"In opposition to the Bible, Berossus, Polyhistor, Ptolemy and Syncellus II make room for only about 50 years of exile with the country laying desolate, while Josephus, the Talmud, Syncellus I, and Antiquitatum all agree on 70 years."
This is a strange summary. True, the chronologies of Berossus and Ptolemy both indicate that Jerusalem lay desolate for 48 years, whereas the figures of Syncellus II indicate 50 years. But the figures of Polyhistor indicate a desolation period of 58 years. And the claim that "Josephus, the Talmud, Syncellus I, and Antiquitatum all agree on 70 years" is almost totally wrong:
(1) Josephus' figures in Antiquities. X.xi.1-2 imply that Jerusalem lay desolate for 100 years. True, at some other places Josephus assigns 70 years to the period, but in one of them, as we saw, he dates the desolation of Jerusalem to the 21st year of Nabopolassar. And, in his final statement about the period, he says that the desolation lasted for 50 years.
(2) The Talmud does not support Furuli. The figures he quotes from it—45 regnal years for Nebuchadnezzar, 23 for Amel-Marduk, and no figures for the remaining kings—do not indicate any 70-year period. The chronological treatise in the Talmud known as Seder Olam, in fact, states that Judah lay desolate for only 52 years. This treatise is one of the oldest parts of the Talmud, supposedly written by Rabbi Yose in the 3rd century CE. (C. Milikowsky, Seder Olam, Vol. 2, University Microfilm International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981, pp. 535, 543)
(3) The figures that Furuli quotes from the late kinglist Antiquitatum assign 30 years of reign to Nebuchadnezzar, 3 to Amel-Marduk, 6 to Nergal-shar-ussur, and none to Labashi-Marduk and Nabonidus. These figures do not point to any 70-year period, either.
(4) The figures of Syncellus I indicate a 67-year period of desolation.
Furuli's statement that these four sources "all agree on 70 years," then, is demonstrably false.
Furuli begins this section by stating that "the one who connects a particular number with the exile, is the prophet Jeremiah." (p. 75) Earlier, on page 15, Furuli claimed that "some of the texts unambiguously say that Jerusalem was a desolate waste during these 70 years." And on page 17 he stated that "the Bible … says unambiguously that Jerusalem and the land of Judah were a desolate waste without inhabitants for a full 70 years."
But this is not what Jeremiah says. The prophet directly applies the 70 years to the length of Babylon's dominion over the nations, not to the length of the desolation of Jerusalem and the Jewish exile. This is in remarkable agreement with the established facts of history. Babylon's supremacy in the Near East began with the final shattering of Assyrian power in 610/609 BCE and ended with the fall of Babylon 70 years later in 539 BCE, exactly as Jeremiah had stated:
"these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years."—Jeremiah 25:11 (NIV)
"When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come back to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place."— Jeremiah 29:10 (NIV)
These texts clearly apply the 70-year period to Babylon, not to Jerusalem. Furuli even admits this, stating that "the text does not say explicitly that it refers to an exile for the Jewish nation. If we make a grammatical analysis in 25:11, we find that 'these nations' is the grammatical subject, and in 29:10, 'Babylon' is the patient, that is, the nation that should experience the period of 70 years." (p. 75)
Attempting to evade this undesirable conclusion, Furuli turns to the 70-year passages at Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21, stating that "the writers of Daniel and 2 Chronicles understood the words of Jeremiah to imply a 70-year exile for the Jewish nation." After quoting the New International Version (NIV) for these two texts, he claims:
"As the analysis below shows, the words of Daniel and the Chronicler are unambiguous. They show definitely that Daniel and the Chronicler understood Jeremiah to prophesy about a 70-year period for the Jewish people when the land was desolate." (p. 76)
Because Daniel and the Chronicler lived after the end of the exile, they knew its real length and "could interpret Jeremiah's words correctly," Furuli argues. Then he states:
"A fundamental principle of interpretation which is universally accepted, is to interpret an ambiguous passage in the light of an unambiguous passage. In our case we have two unambiguous passages, namely, Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:21, which apply the 70 years of the desolate condition to Jerusalem. To start with the seemingly ambiguous words of Jeremiah 25:10 is to turn the matter upside down, because the mentioned principle is abandoned." (p. 76)
The principle of interpretation Furuli refers to is correct. But does Furuli correctly use it? Is it really true that the passages at Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:21 are unambiguous, whereas the statements of Jeremiah are ambiguous? A critical examination of Furuli's linguistic analyses of the passages reveals that the opposite is true. To start with the brief references to Jeremiah in Daniel and 2 Chronicles, as Furuli does, is really to "turn the matter upside down" and abandon "the mentioned principle." This will be shown in the following discussion.
In his discussion of Daniel 9:2, Furuli first presents a transliteration of the text, accompanied by a word-for-word translation. It is followed by a fluent translation, which turns out to be the Watchtower Society's New World Translation (NWT, Vol. V, 1960; the rendering is the same in the revised 1984 edition). According to this version, Daniel "discerned by the books the number of years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, [namely,] 70 years."
This rendering might have been changed in a new, not-yet-published, revised edition of the NWT. In the revised Swedish edition of the NWT published in 2003, the text has been changed to say that Daniel "discerned in the books the number of years which according to the word of Jehovah, that had come to Jeremiah the prophet, would be completed concerning the desolate state of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years."
Note in particular that the phrase "for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem" has been changed to read "be completed concerning the desolate state of Jerusalem." This brings the rendering of the text in close agreement with that of the Danish linguist quoted below.
Although Furuli repeatedly claims that Daniel unambiguously states that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years, he feels the statement needs to be explained. He says:
"A paraphrase of the central part of Daniel 9:2 could be: 'God gave Jerusalem as a devastated city 70 years to fill.' There is no ambiguity in the Hebrew words." (p. 77)
But if Daniel's statement is as clear and unambiguous as Furuli claims, why does he feel it needs an exposition in the form of a paraphrase? Furuli's paraphrase, in fact, gives the text a meaning that neither follows from his grammatical analysis nor is obvious in the translation he quoted.
The fact is that neither Jeremiah nor Daniel say that God "gave Jerusalem … 70 years to fill," nor does Daniel say that "the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years," as NIV renders the clause. Both examples are paraphrases (cf. GTR4, Ch. 5, C-3) aimed at giving the text a specific interpretation. Another paraphrase, based on a careful grammatical analysis of the text, points to a different understanding. The well-known Hebrew scholar and Bible commentator Dr. Edward J. Young translates the last part of the passage as "to complete with respect to the desolations of Jerusalem seventy years," adding:
"The thought may be paraphrased: 'With respect to the desolation of Jerusalem, 70 years must be completed'." (E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1949, pp. 183, 184)
In view of Daniel's reference to and dependence on the statements of Jeremiah (25:12; 29:10-12), the text could as well be understood to mean that, with respect to the desolate state of Jerusalem, the predicted 70 years of Babylonian dominion must be completed before the exiles could return to Jerusalem to bring its desolation to an end. The grammar clearly allows this meaning. There is no reason to believe that Daniel reinterpreted the clear statements of Jeremiah, as is required by Furuli's interpretation of the text.
It is obvious that Daniel links the 70 years to the desolate state of Jerusalem. The whole discussion in GTR4, Ch. 5, C is based on this. But the fact that Daniel links or ties the one period to the other is not the same as equating or identifying the one with the other. To link and to equate are two different things.
In GTR4, Ch. 5, C-3, ftn. 33, the following literal translation of Daniel 9:2 is quoted, based on a detailed grammatical analysis of the text by a Danish colleague of mine, who is a professional linguistic scholar with an intimate knowledge of Biblical Hebrew:
"In his [Darius'] first regnal year, I, Daniel, ascertained, in the writings, that the number of years, which according to the word of JHWH to Jeremiah the prophet would be completely fulfilled, with respect to the desolate state of Jerusalem, were seventy years."
The linguist ended his analysis of Daniel's statement by making the following precise distinction:
"This statement in no way proves that Jerusalem itself would lay desolate for 70 years, only that this time period would be fulfilled before the city could be freed and rebuilt."
Other knowledgeable and careful Hebraists have made the same distinction. In a lengthy comment about Daniel 9:2, Professor Carl F. Keil pointed to the dependence of the wording of Daniel 9:2 on Jeremiah 25:9-12 and explained:
"With lemal'ot (to fulfil) the contents of the words of Jehovah, as given by Jeremiah, are introduced. lechorbot does not stand for the accusative: to cause to be complete the desolation of Jerusalem (Hitzig), but le signifies in respect of, with regard to. This expression does not lean on Jer. xxix. 10 (Kran.), but on Jer. xxv. 12 ('when seventy years are accomplished'). charabôt, properly, desolated places, ruins, here a desolated condition. Jerusalem did not certainly lie in ruins for seventy years; the word is not thus to be interpreted, but is chosen partly with reference to the words of Jer. xxv. 9, 11. Yet the desolation began with the first taking of Jerusalem, and the deportation of Daniel and his companions and a part of the sacred vessels of the temple, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (606 [error for 605] B.C.).
Consequently, in the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede over the kingdom of the Chaldeans the seventy years prophesied of by Jeremiah were now full, the period of the desolation of Jerusalem determined by God was almost expired." (C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. IX, pp. 321-322; emphasis added)
Keil, one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of the 19th century, regarded this as a fully possible understanding of the text and quite in harmony with the grammar of Daniel 9:2. The explanation presented in GTR4 is, in fact, almost identical to Keil's.
Thus, Furuli's repeated claim that Daniel unambiguously states that Jerusalem was desolate for 70 years does not follow from his own grammatical analysis. Nor does it agree with the observations of careful Hebraists and linguistic scholars.
Furuli begins by presenting a transliteration of 2 Chronicles 36:21, accompanied by a word-for-word translation and followed by the NWT rendering of the text:
"21 to fulfill Jehovah's words by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years."
Note that this verse starts with a subordinate clause and, more specifically, with a purpose clause: "to fulfill ...". What event would fulfill "Jehovah's words by the mouth of Jeremiah?" To know this it is necessary to examine the main or principal clause. But Furuli ignores the main clause, which is found in verse 20. This verse says:
"20 Furthermore, he [Nebuchadnezzar] 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;"
The verse reflects the prophecies of Jeremiah about the servitude. The writer of Chronicles clearly has the prediction at Jeremiah 27:7 in mind:
"And all the nations shall serve him, and his son, and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes."
After the fall of Assyria in 610/609 BCE, all the nations in the Near East were destined to serve the Babylonian king, his son, and his grandson as vassals. As Jeremiah explains in the next verse (27:8), the nation that refused to serve the king of Babylon was to be destroyed. The Bible as well as secular history show that after the battle at Carchemish in 605 BCE Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the nations of the Hattu area (Syria-Palestine) and forced them to become tribute-paying vassals.
But the kings of Judah revolted and threw off the Babylonian yoke, which finally, two decades after the initial conquest, brought about the predicted destruction of their land and capital. The Jewish servitude, therefore, came to mean less than 20 years of vassal service interrupted by repeated rebellions. The rest of their servitude, about 49 years, had to be spent in exile in Babylonia.
In his allusion to Jeremiah 27:7, the Chronicler does not mention "all the nations" but focuses only on the Jewish remnant that had been brought captive to Babylon after the desolation of Jerusalem. Until when would they have to serve the king of Babylon? As Jeremiah had said, "until the time of his own land comes," which the Chronicler, who wrote after the fulfillment, could make specific—"until the royalty of Persia began to reign"—that is, until 539 BCE. The Persian conquest of Babylon brought the 70 years of servitude to an end, in fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, as the Chronicler goes on to point out in the next verse—the verse quoted and discussed by Furuli out of context:
"21 to fulfill Jehovah's words by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years."
Which of "Jehovah's words by the mouth of Jeremiah" were fulfilled by the termination of the servitude through the Persian takeover in 539 BCE? It cannot have been the words in the middle of the verse—"until the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolate it kept sabbath"—because these statements are found nowhere in the book of Jeremiah. They are actually references to Leviticus 26:34, 35. If, for a moment, we disregard these interposed statements, the Chronicler's explanation of Jeremiah's 70-year prophecy becomes clear:
"they came to be servants to him and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign; to fulfill (lemallôt) Jehovah's words by the mouth of Jeremiah, … to fulfill (lemallôt) seventy years."
The obvious meaning is that the cessation of the servitude under Babylon by the Persian takeover in 539 BCE fulfilled the 70-year prophecy of Jeremiah. The Chronicler does not reinterpret Jeremiah's statements to mean 70 years of desolation for Jerusalem, as Furuli claims. On the contrary, he sticks very closely to Jeremiah's description of the 70 years as a period of servitude under Babylon, and he ends this period with the fall of Babylon, exactly as Jeremiah had predicted at Jeremiah 25:12 and 27:7.
Why, then, did the Chronicler insert the statements from Leviticus 26:34, 35 about the sabbath rest of the land? Evidently because they explained why the land of the Jews finally had been depopulated and left completely desolated. According to Leviticus 26, this would be the ultimate punishment for their impenitent transgressions of the law, including the statute about the sabbath rest of the land. Jehovah said he would "lay the land desolate" and let the Jews be scattered "among the nations." (Leviticus 26:32, 33) This would make it possible for the land to enjoy its sabbaths:
"Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths."—Leviticus 26:34, NASB.
The Chronicler's statement that the Jewish remnant in Babylon (in their "enemies' land") came to be servants to the kings of Babylon "until (ad) the royalty of Persia began to reign," then, also implied that they served these Babylonian kings "until (ad) the land had paid off its sabbaths. All the days of lying desolate it kept sabbath." (2 Chronicles 36:21) As noted above, the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem and the final deportation of "those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon" (v. 20) occurred about two decades after the servitude of "all the nations" had begun. The desolated state of the land, therefore, did not last 70 years but somewhat less than 50 years.
Strictly speaking, the desolation of the land did not cease until the exiles had returned to Judah in the late summer or early autumn (Ezra 3:1) of (most likely) 538 BCE (GTR4, Ch. 3, note 2). So we must conclude that either the exiles in some way continued to serve the king of Babylon until 538 or that the sabbath rest of the land ended in 539 BCE.
The first option seems impossible to defend. How could the exiles have continued to serve the king of Babylon for another year after the fall of the empire and the dethronement of the king in 539 BCE? Is it possible, then, that the sabbath rest of the land ended in 539 BCE?
It is quite possible that the Chronicler did not regard the year of the return (538 BCE) as the last year of the sabbath rest of the land. It is important to observe that, according to the directions at Leviticus 25:4, 5, the land should have complete rest during a sabbatical year:
"You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your untrimmed vines."
The sabbatical years were reckoned on a Tishri-to-Tishri basis. (Leviticus 25:9) The Jewish remnant that returned in 538 BCE arrived late in the summer or early in the autumn, well before the month of Tishri (as is clearly indicated at Ezra 3:1), which began on September 16/17 that year (PD, p. 29). Because they needed food for the winter, it seems likely that they immediately started making preparations to obtain food. They could harvest olives and fruits such as grapes from untrimmed vines. Grapes were valuable food because they were dried as raisins and used as winter food. Thus, if it is correct that they harvested food upon their return (which seems likely), the last year of sabbath (complete) rest for the land cannot have been 538 but must have been the year that had ended immediately before Tishri 1 of 539 BCE. This could explain why the Chronicler ends the sabbath rest of the land and the servitude of the exiles at the same time (i.e., when the Persian kingdom came to power in the autumn of 539 BCE).
Furuli, of course, disagrees with the discussion above. His thesis is that the period of the desolation and sabbath rest of the land were identical to the 70-year period of Jeremiah. In his analysis, he is trying to force the Chronicler's statements to conform to this theory.
This seems to be the reason why he argues that the Hebrew preposition ad in the clause, "until (ad) the land had paid off its sabbaths" ... "is better rendered while than as until." (p. 79) This allows him to reconstruct the verse as two parallels that say:
"in order to fill the words spoken by Jeremiah, while the land kept sabbath.
in order to fill seventy years, it kept sabbath while it was desolate."
"As a lingust I know by experience that language is ambiguous. But the words of Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:21 are remarkably clear and unambiguous."
It is difficult to see how this is true even of Furuli's retranslation and reconstruction of the verse. As stated earlier, his analysis of verse 21 ignores the contextual connection with verse 20, in which we find the same preposition ad used in the clause "until (ad) the royalty of Persia began to reign." Because both clauses with ad are aimed at explaining when the servitude ended, the translation of ad as "until" is the most natural in both verses. To render ad as "while" in verse 20, for example, would make it say that the Jewish remnant became servants of the king of Babylon "while the royalty of Persia began to reign," a statement that is not only historically false but nonsensical.
Most translations, therefore, render the preposition ad as "until" in both clauses. There are none, as far as I know, that render it "while" in the passage. The reason is not only that this is excluded by the context but also by the fact that ad seldom takes the meaning "while." (The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon,1978, p. 725)
Furuli's attempt to assign the meaning "while" to ad is a case of the fallacies of argumentation known as "special pleading" and "assuming the conclusion." For his argument to work, he needs ad to mean "while;" otherwise his entire Oslo chronology falls apart.
In his discussion of Jeremiah 25:9-12, Furuli focuses on verse 11, which says:
"And all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years."—Jer. 25:11 (NIV)
As was pointed out earlier, Furuli starts his discussion of the 70-year prophecy by admitting that Jeremiah applies the 70 years to Babylon, not to Jerusalem. As he states on page 75:
"If we make a grammatical analysis in 25:11, we find that 'these nations' is the grammatical subject, and in 29:10, 'Babylon' is the patient, that is, the nation that should experience the period of 70 years."
Having concluded (falsely, as has been shown above) that Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:21 unambiguously state that Judah and Jerusalem lay desolate for 70 years, Furuli realizes that the meaning of Jeremiah 25:11 has to be changed to be brought into agreement with his conclusion.
The clause "these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years" is very clear in Hebrew:
weâbdû haggôyîm hâêlleh et-melech bâbel šivîm šânâh
and-will-serve-they the-nations these king [of] Babel seventy year
As Furuli points out (p. 82), the particle et before melech bâbel ("king of Babel") is a marker indicating that melech bâbel is the object. The word order is typical in Hebrew: verb-subject-object. There are no grammatical problems with the clause. It simply and unambiguously says that "these nations will serve the king of Babel seventy years." Furuli, too, admits that "this is the most natural translation." (p. 84) How, then, can Furuli force it to say something else?
Furuli first claims that "the subject ('these nations') is vague and unspecified." Actually, it is not. It simply refers back to "all these nations round about" referred to in verse 9. Furuli goes on to state that the subject in the clause might not be "these nations" in verse 11 but "this land" (Judah) and "its inhabitants" in verse 9. Verse 11, therefore, really says that it is only the inhabitants of Judah, not "these nations," that will serve the king of Babylon 70 years. How, then, is the occurrence of "these nations" in the clause to be explained? Furuli suggests that they might be part of the object, the king of Babel, who "would be a specification of" these nations. The clause could then be translated:
"and they will serve these nations, the king of Babel, seventy years" (p. 84)
Furuli also suggests that the particle et might not here be used as an object marker but as a preposition with the meaning "with." Based on this explanation, the clause could even be translated:
"and they will serve these nations together with the king of Babel seventy years" (p. 84)
These reconstructions are not supported by any Bible translations. Not only are they far-fetched, they are refuted by the wider context. The prediction that the nations surrounding Judah would serve the king of Babylon is repeated in Jeremiah 27:7 in a way that is impossible to misunderstand:
"And all the nations must serve him and his son and his grandson until the time even of his own land comes."
The immediate context of the verse proves conclusively that "the nations" referred to include all the non-Jewish nations in the Near East. Furuli's linguistic acrobatics, therefore, are unnecessary, mistaken, and another case of special pleading.
Furuli attempts to marshall support from the Septuagint version (LXX), stating that "we know that the Septuagint translators who worked with the book of Jeremiah in the third or second century B.C.E. used a different Vorlage than that of the Masoretic text [MT], perhaps a shortened form of the book." (Furuli, p. 84)
But this is not something "we know." It is a theory suggested by some scholars, but there is no consensus about it. It has become popular because it is supposedly supported by a very fragmentary piece of a Hebrew scroll found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), 4QJerb. The fragment contains parts of Jeremiah 9:22-10:21; 43:3-9, and 50:4-6. It partially follows LXX only at Jeremiah 10 by omitting verses 6-8 and inserting verse 9 in the middle of verse 5. It also contains several MT readings and also some unique readings. For these reasons, it cannot be said that this fragment reflects the Vorlage of LXX—if there ever was such a thing. As argued by M. Margaliot ("Jeremiah X 1-16: a re-examination," Vetus Testamentum, Vol. XXX, Fasc. 3, 1980, pp. 295-308), there are strong reasons to believe that the LXX variations at chapter 10 are secondary and that MT here has the superior and authentic text.
Interestingly, the five fragments of Jeremiah found among the Dead Sea Scrolls together contain parts of 29 of the 52 chapters of the book. These mainly follow MT (with some deviations), and this is also true of the preserved parts of chapter 25 (verses 7-8, 15-17, and 24-26). (See David L. Washburn, A Catalog of Biblical Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002, pp. 128-133)
The LXX rendering of Jeremiah 25:11 makes the Jews servants among the nations for 70 years:
"And all the land shall be a desolation; and they shall serve among the nations seventy years."
Strangely, the LXX leaves out all references to Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar in Jeremiah 25:1-12. This creates a problem because when Jehoiakim had read and burned the scroll containing the prophecy a few months after it had been given, he asked Jeremiah, also according to Jer-LXX:
"Why is it that you have written on it, saying: 'The king of Babylon will come without fail and will certainly bring this land to ruin and cause man and beast to cease from it?" (Jeremiah 36:29)
Evidently the original scroll contained references to the king of Babylon, which strongly indicates that Jer-MT rather than Jer-LXX represents the original text of Jeremiah 25:1-12.
For additional comments about the LXX version of Jeremiah, see GTR4, Ch. 5, A, ftn. 8.
Jeremiah 29:10 explicitly states that the 70 years refer to Babylon, not Jerusalem:
"This is what the LORD says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon [lebâbel] I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place [i.e., to Jerusalem]." (NIV)
Furuli notes that most Bible translations render the preposition le as "to" or "for" and that only a very few (usually older) translations render it as "at" or "in." (Furuli, p. 85) Of the latter, he mentions six: NWT, KJV, Harkavy, Spurrell, Lamsa, and the Swedish Church Bible of 1917.
Alexander Harkavy's edition from 1939 contains the Hebrew text together with an English translation. Furuli does not seem to have noticed that Harkavy states in the preface that the English translation is the Authorized Version, that is, the KJV. George Lamsa's translation has been strongly criticized because of its heavy dependence on the KJV. Also in Jeremiah, chapter 29, he almost slavishly follows KJV. His "at Babylon," therefore, means nothing. I have not been able to check Helen Spurrell's translation. It was published in London in 1885, not 1985, as Furuli’ Bibliography erroneously shows, so it is not a modern translation.
The Swedish Church Bible of 1917 has recently been "replaced" by two new translations, Bibel-2000 and Folkbibeln (1998). Both have "for Babylon" at Jeremiah 29:10. In answer to my questions, the translators of both translations emphasized that lebâbel at Jeremiah 29:10 means "for Babylon" not "at" or "in" Babylon. Remarkably, even the new revised Swedish edition of the NWT has changed the earlier "in Babylon" in the 1992 edition to "for Babylon" in the 2003 edition.
Because the rendering "for Babylon" contradicts the theory that the 70 years refer to the period of Jerusalem's desolation, Furuli needs to defend the notably infrequent rendering "at" or "in" Babylon. He even claims that the preposition "for" gives the 70 years "a fuzzy meaning:"
"If 'for' is chosen, the result is fuzziness, because the number 70 then looses all specific meaning. There is no particular event marking their beginning nor their end, and the focus is wrong as well, because it is on Babylon rather than on the Jews." (p. 86)
This is an incredible statement and another example of Furuli's special pleading. It is difficult to believe that Furuli is totally ignorant of the fact that both the beginning and the end of Babylon's supremacy in the Near East were marked by revolutionary events—the beginning by the final crushing of the Assyrian empire and the end by the fall of Babylon itself in 539 BCE. Surely he must know that, according to secular chronology, exactly 70 years passed between these two events. Modern authorities on the history of this period agree that the definite end of Assyria occurred in 610/609 BCE. In GTR4, Ch. 5, G-2, for example, four leading scholars were quoted to this effect: viz. Professor John Bright and three leading Assyriologists, Donald J. Wiseman, M. A. Dandamaev, and Stefan Zawadski. It would be easy to multiply the number. Another example is Professor Klas R.Veenhof, who comments about the end of Assyria on pages 275 and 276 of his book Geschichte des Alten Orients bis zur Zeit Alexanders des Grossen (Göttingen, 2001). He describes how the last king of Assyria, Assuruballit II, after the destruction of the capital Nineveh in 612 BCE, retreated to the provincial capital Harran, the last Assyrian stronghold, where he succeeded in holding out for another three years, supported by Egypt. Veenhof writes:
"It was to no advantage that Egypt supported Assyria; the Babylonian and Median armies took the city in 610 B.C., and in the following year  they warded off their last defensive attempt. Therewith a great empire was dissolved." (Translated from German)
Realizing that the year 609 marks the natural starting point of the "seventy years for Babylon," Professor Jack Finegan writes on pages 177 and 178 in the revised edition of his well-known Handbook of Biblical Chronology (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998):
"In Jeremiah 29:10 the promise of the Lord is to bring the people back ’when seventy years are completed for Babylon.’ In the history of the ancient Orient the defeat in 609 B.C. of Ashur-uballit II, ruler in the western city of Haran of the last remnant of the Assyrian empire, by Nabopolassar of Babylon, marked the end of that empire and the rise to power of the Babylonian empire (§430). Then in 539 Cyrus the Persian marched in victory into Babylon (§329) and the seventy years of Babylon and the seventy years of Jewish captivity were ’completed’ (709 [printing error for 609] - 539 = 70)."
Certainly, no one aquainted with Neo-Babylonian history can honestly claim that the 70 years "for Babylon" have a "fuzzy meaning" because no particular events mark the beginning and end of the period.
Furuli next points out that "the Septuagint has the dative form babylôni" but with "the most natural meaning being 'at Babylon'." The statement reveals a surprising ignorance of ancient Greek. As every Greek scholar will point out, the natural meaning of the dative form babylôni is "for Babylon." It is an exact, literal translation of the original Hebrew lebâbel, which definitely means ”for Babel” in this text, as will be discussed below. True, at Jeremiah 29:22 (LXX 36:22) the dative form babylôni is used in the local sense, ”in Babel,” but we may notice that it is preceded by the Greek preposition en, ”in,” to make this clear:
"And from them a malediction will certainly be taken on the part of the entire body of exiles of Judah that is in Babylon (en babylôni)"
Furuli further refers to the rendering of the Latin Vulgate, in Babylone, which means, as he correctly explains, "in Babylon." This translation most probably influenced the KJV of 1611, which in turn has influenced several other earlier translations. The point is that all translations derived from or influenced by the Vulgate, such as the KJV, are not independent sources.
The preposition le is the most common preposition in the Hebrew Old Testament. According to a recent count, it occurs 20,725 times, 1352 of which are found in the book of Jeremiah. (Ernst Jenni, Die hebräischen Prepositionen. Band 3: Die Präposition Lamed, Stuttgart, etc.: Verlag Kohlhammer, 2000, p. 17) What does it mean at Jeremiah 29:10? Since the first edition of my book on the Gentile times (GTR) was published in 1983, this question has been asked of dozens of qualified Hebraists around the world. I contacted some and so did some of my correspondents. Although some of the Hebraists explained that le in a few expressions has a local sense ("in, at"), in most cases it does not, and they unanimously reject this meaning at Jeremiah 29:10. Some of them are quoted in GTR4 (Ch. 5, B-2).
Furuli disagrees with their view. He believes that because le is used in a local sense in some expressions at a few places it is likely used in this sense also in Jeremiah 29:10. He argues:
"Can it really be used in the local sense 'at'? It certainly can, and The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew lists about 30 examples of this meaning, one of which is Numbers 11:10, 'each man at (le) the entrance of his tent'. So, in each case when le is used, it is the context that must decide its meaning. For example, in Jeremiah 51:2 the phrase lebâbel means 'to Babylon', because the preceding verb is 'to send'. But lirûshâlâm [the letters li at the beginning of the word is a contraction of le+yod] in Jeremiah 3:17 in the clause, 'all the nations will gather in Jerusalem' has the local meaning 'in Jerusalem', and the same is true with the phrase lîhûdâ in Jeremiah 40:11 in the clause, 'the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah'." (p. 86)
Well and good, but do these examples allow lebâbel at Jeremiah 29:10 to be translated "in" or "at Babylon"? Is this really a likely translation? Is it even a possible one? This question was sent to Professor Ernst Jenni in Basel, Switzerland, who is undoubtedly the leading authority today on Hebrew prepositions. So far, he has written three volumes on three of the Hebrew prepositions, be (beth), ke (kaph), and le (lamed). In Die hebräischen Prepositionen. Band 3: Die Präposition Lamed (Stuttgart, etc.: Verlag Kohlhammer, 2000), he devotes 350 pages to the examination of le. His answer of October 1, 2003 was:
"As I recently have received an inquiry from Germany concerning Jer 29,10 (likewise in connection with a theory of Jehovah's Witnesses), I can answer you relatively quickly.
My treatment of this passage is found in the Lamed-book p. 109 (heading 4363). The rendering in all modern commentaries and translations is 'for Babel' (Babel as world power, not city or land); this is clear from the language as well as also from the context.
By the 'local meaning' a distinction is to be made between where? ('in, at') and where to? (local directional 'to, towards'). The basic meaning of l is 'with reference to', and with a following local specification it can be understood as local or local-directional only in certain adverbial expressions (e.g., Num. 11,10 [Clines DCH IV, 481b] 'at the entrance', cf. Lamed pp. 256, 260, heading 8151). At Jer. 51,2 l is a personal dative ('and send to Babel [as personified world power] winnowers, who will winnow it and empty its land' (Lamed pp. 84f., 94)). On Jer. 3,17 'to Jerusalem' (local terminative), everything necessary is in Lamed pp. 256, 270 and ZAH 1, 1988, 107-111.
On the translations: LXX has with babylôni unambiguously a dative ('for Babylon'). Only Vulgata has, to be sure, in Babylone, 'in Babylon', thus King James Version 'at Babylon', and so probably also the New World Translation. I hope to have served you with these informations and remain with kind regards,
[Translated from the German. Emphasis added.]
In view of this specific and authoritative information, Furuli's arguments for a local meaning of le at Jeremiah 29:10 can be safely dismissed.
That the 70-year texts at Zechariah 1:12 and 7:5 refer to a period different from the one in Jeremiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles is demonstrated in detail in GTR4, Ch. 5, E-F. There is no need to repeat the argumentation here; most readers have access to this work. Furuli's attempt to equate the 70 years in Zechariah with the 70 years of Jeremiah, Daniel, and the Chronicler evades the real problem.
According to Zechariah 1:12, Jerusalem and the citites of Judah had been denounced for "these seventy years." If this denunciation ended when the Jews returned from the exile after the fall of Babylon, as Furuli holds, why does our text show that the cities still were being denounced in the second year of Darius, 520/519 BCE? Furuli has no explanation for this, and he prefers not to comment on the problem.
The same holds true of Zechariah 7:4, 5. How can the 70 years of fasting have ended in 537 BCE, as Furuli claims, when our text clearly shows that these fasts were still being held in the fourth year of Darius, 518/517 BCE? Furuli again ignores the problem. He just refers to the fact that the Hebrew verbs for "denounce," "fast," and "mourn" are all in the Hebrew perfect, stating that, "There is nothing in the verbs themselves which demands that the 70 years were still continuing at speech time." (p. 88) True, but they do not demand the opposite, either. The verb forms in the passage prove nothing.
But the context does. It clearly shows that the cities were still being denounced "at speech time," in 519 BCE, and that the fasts were still being held "at speech time," in 517 BCE, about 70 years after the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 589-587 BCE. That is why this question was raised in 519 BCE: Why is Jehovah still angry at Jerusalem and the cities? (Zechariah 1:7-12) And that is also why this question was raised in 517 BCE: Shall we continue to hold these fasts? (Zechariah 7:1-12) Furuli's interpretation (which echoes the Watchtower Society's) implies that the denunciation of the cities and the keeping of the fasts had been going on for about 90—not 70—years, directly contradicting the statements in the book of Zechariah.
In note 126 on page 91, Furuli indicates that his theory of a 70-year-long desolation period for Jerusalem is supported by archaeological findings. He quotes from an article written by Ephraim Stern, "The Babylonian Gap," in Biblical Archaeology Review (Vol. 26:6, 2000, pp. 45-51, 76). Stern points out:
"For roughly half a century—from 604 B.C.E. to 538 B.C.E.—there is a complete gap in evidence suggesting occupation." (pp. 46-47)
This would indicate a gap of about 68 years. But Furuli fails to explain that the destruction that Stern dates to 604 BCE is the one caused by the Babylonian armies at their first capture of Judah and the surrounding nations in Nebuchadnezzar's accession and first regnal years. This is evidently the destruction that Jeremiah, too, refers to at 25:18 and which he, too, dates to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar in 25:1. Evidently the country was widely devastated by the Babylonian army on its first swing through Judah. (See the comments on this in GTR4, Ch. 5, A-1, ftn. 10.) Of the destruction of Jerusalem 18 years later—which Stern dates to 586 BCE—Stern writes: "The evidence of this destruction is widely confirmed in Jerusalem excavations." (p. 46) A careful examination of Stern's article shows that there is nothing in it that supports Furuli's views of the 70 years. This is also true of Stern’s more recent article on the same subject, "The Babylonian Gap: The Archaeological Reality," published in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (JSOT), Vol. 28:3 (2004), pp. 273-277.
In the last few pages of chapter 4, Furuli describes his approach to the Biblical prophecies on the 70 years as "different." Different how? It is different, he says, because he allows the Bible to take precedence over secular historical sources. He attempts to show this by comparing his approach with the discussion of the 70 years written by the Seventh Day Adventist scholar Ross E. Winkle. Furuli brings up Winkle's discussion, he says, because he is the only scholar known to him who uses a linguistic approach to the 70-year passages:
"The only person I am aware of who has discussed the prophecies of the exile from a linguistic point of view and in a scholarly way is a scholar writing in an Adventist periodical." (p. 89)
This is a gross overstatement. I have many commentaries and articles that discuss these passages from a linguistic point of view. Nevertheless, Winkle's discussion is excellent. It was published in 1987 in the scholarly SDA publication Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS,Vols. 25:2 and 25:3). As a subscriber to that journal, I read Winkle's articles in 1987 and was surprised to find out how remarkably similar most of his observations and conclusions were to my own, published four years earlier in GTR1. (See the comments on this in GTR4, Ch. 5, G-2, ftn. 57.)
Furuli explains that the difference between Winkle's approach and his own is that Winkle "interprets the words of Daniel and the Chronicler in the light of his understanding of the traditional chronology. I, on the other hand, start with the words of Daniel and the Chronicler, which I argue are unambiguous, and choose the understanding of Jeremiah 25 and 29 which accords with the words of Daniel and the Chronicler: the traditional chronology is not taken into account at all." (p. 90) Furuli then makes some comments about Winkle's analysis of 2 Chronicles 36:20-22, concluding that it is "forced" and "unnatural" because his basis "is a faith in the traditional chronology." (p. 91)
This is not a fair description of either Winkle's approach or of Furuli's own. In this review of the first four chapters of Furuli's book, we have seen a number of insurmountable difficulties that his Oslo Chronology creates not only with respect to the extra-Biblical historical sources but also with the Bible itself.
The amount of evidence against Furuli's revised chronology provided by the cuneiform documents—in particular the astronomical tablets—is enormous. Furuli's attempts to explain away this evidence are of no avail. His idea that most, if not all, of the astronomical data recorded on the tablets might have been retrocalculated in a later period is demonstrably false. Furuli's final, desperate theory that the Seleucid astronomers—and there were many—systematically redated almost the whole astronomical archive inherited from earlier generations of scholars is divorced from reality.
With respect to the Biblical passages on the 70 years, we have seen to what extremes Furuli has been forced to go in his attempts to bring them in agreement with his theory. He has been unable to prove his repeated claim that the 70-year passages in Daniel and 2 Chronicles unambiguously state that Jerusalem was desolate for 70 years. His linguistic interpretation of 2 Chronicles 36:21 is misconstrued because he ignores the main clause in verse 20, which plainly makes the servitude end at the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BCE. Furuli's linguistic rerenderings of the passages in Jeremiah are no better. To reconcile Jeremiah 25:11 with his theory, he admits that he must discard "the most natural translation" of the verse. And to bring Jeremiah 29:10 into agreement with his theory, he must reject the near-universal rendering "for Babylon" in favor of the unsupportable "in Babylon" or "at Babylon"—translations rejected by all competent modern Hebraists.
Furuli's approach, then, is not Biblical but sectarian. As a conservative Jehovah's
Witness scholar, he is prepared to go to any length to force the Biblical
passages and the historical sources into agreement with the Watchtower
Society's Gentile times chronology—a chronology that is the foundation
cornerstone of the movement's claim to God-given authority. As I have amply
documented in this review, this sectarian agenda forces Furuli to invent
incredible explanations of the relevant sources, Biblical as well as