Treasures from Gods Word: Jehovah Will Render to Each One According to His Works

Jeremiah 39:4-7 – Zedekiah suffered the consequences of disobeying Jehovah

While it is true that Zedekiah suffered terrible consequences personally, we should also not forget that he was responsible for terrible consequences coming upon the remaining Israelites who obeyed him instead of Jeremiah. Blindly following those in authority has its own consequences, even in small things. For instance, obeying the governing body’s request to put their personal name and address on the letters sent to the Russian authorities could backfire on any witnesses who at a later date need to obtain a visa to visit Russia for business or pleasure reasons. As Christians we need to take individual responsibility for all of our decisions, and not just blindly hand over our decision-making to a body of men who may or may not have our individual best interests at heart.

Digging for Spiritual Gems (Jeremiah 39 -43)

Jeremiah 43:6,7 – What is the significance of the events described in these verses? (it-1 463 par. 4)

The reference states in part, “Hence the count of the 70 years of desolation must have begun [bold ours] about October 1, 607 B.C.E., ending in 537 B.C.E. By the seventh month of this latter year the first repatriated Jews arrived back in Judah, 70 years from the start of the full desolation of the land.—2 Chronicles 36:21-23; Ezra 3:1.”

The dates in this reference do not match the chronology of the period accepted by historians. We find a clue for the difference in the previous paragraph of the reference (par. 3) where it states: The length of this period is fixed by God’s own decree concerning Judah, that “all this land must become a devastated place, an object of astonishment, and these nations will have to serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”—Jeremiah 25:8-11.

The Bible prophecy does not allow [bold ours] for the application of the 70-year period to any time other than that between the desolation of Judah, accompanying Jerusalem’s destruction, and the return of the Jewish exiles to their homeland as a result of Cyrus’ decree. It clearly specifies [bold ours] that the 70 years would be years of devastation of the land of Judah.

As always, context is the key. In Jeremiah 25:8-11 the seventy years is the period of time the nations will have to serve the king of Babylon, not the length of time during which the land of Israel and Judah would be devastated. Jeremiah 25:12 (part of the context) confirms that by saying when the period of seventy years (servitude by the nations including Israel and Judah, Egypt, Tyre, Sidon, and others) is complete, Jehovah would call to account the king of Babylon and his nation for their error. It would not be the completion of the error of Israel.

We also need to check the tenses. The phrase ‘will have to’ or ‘shall’ is in the perfect (present) tense, so Judah and the other nations were already under the Babylonian domination, and would have to continue ‘serving the king of Babylon’ until the completion of 70 years, whereas ‘all this land must become a devastated place’ is in the future tense, thereby showing the time of devastation had not yet begun. Therefore the devastation of Judah cannot be the exact same period of time as the servitude to Babylon as it was future, while the servitude was already in progress.

When was Babylon called to account?  Daniel 5:26-28 gives the answer in the record of events of the night of when Babylon fell: ‘I have numbered the days of your kingdom and finished it, … you have been weighed in the balances and found deficient, … your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.’  Using the generally accepted date of mid-October 539 BC[1] for the fall of Babylon we can add back 70 years which takes us to 609 BC.  The destruction was foretold because the Israelites did not obey (Jeremiah 25:8) and Jeremiah 27:7 stated they would ‘serve Babylon until their (Babylon’s) time comes’.

Did anything significant happen in 610\609 BC? [2] Yes, it seems that the shift of the World Power from the Bible’s point of view, from Assyria to Babylon, took place when Nabopalassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar took Harran, the last remaining city of Assyria, and broke its power.  Within little over a year, in 608 BC, Assyria’s last King Ashur-uballit III was killed and Assyria ceased to exist as a separate nation.

This means that the claim that “The Bible prophecy does not allow for the application of the 70 year period to any time other” is patently wrong. It also is very wrong to claim “It clearly specifies that the 70 years would be years of devastation of the land of Judah”.

Does Daniel 9:2 require the claimed understanding?

No. Daniel discerned from Jeremiah when the devastations (note: plural devastations, rather than singular devastation) would end, not what would mark their beginning. According to Jeremiah 25:18 the nations and Jerusalem and Judah were already a devastated place (Jeremiah 36:1,2,9, 21-23, 27-32[3]). The Bible record indicates Jerusalem was a devastated place by the 4th or 5th year of Jehoiakim, (1st or 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar) likely as a result of the siege of Jerusalem in the 4th year of Jehoiakim.  This is before Jerusalem’s devastation in Jehoiakim’s 11th year, and Jehoiachin’s exile 3 months later, and the final devastation in the 11th year of Zedekiah. It therefore makes sense to understand Daniel 9:2 ‘for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem’ as referring to more occasions than just the final destruction of Jerusalem in Year 11 of Zedekiah.

In light of the above, how can we understand 2 Chronicles 36:20, 21?

This passage was written as a summary of past events rather than prophecy of future events. It highlights how, because of doing what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes and rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar on the part of all the last three kings of Judah: Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, and the people rejecting Jehovah’s prophets, Jehovah finally allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and kill the majority of those remaining in Judah. The rest were taken to Babylon until its capture by the Persians to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecies, and to pay off ignored Sabbaths until the completion of 70 years (servitude to Babylon).

A closer examination of verses 20-22 reveals the following:

Verse 20 says: ‘Furthermore he carried off those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon, and they came to be servants to him (fulfilling the servitude) and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign (when Babylon fell, not on the return of the exiles to Judah 2 years later);

Verse 21 states: ‘to fulfill Jehovah’s word by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its Sabbaths. All the days of lying desolated it kept Sabbath, to fulfill (complete) 70 years.’ The writer of Chronicles (Ezra) is commenting on the reason why they had to serve Babylon. It was twofold, (1) to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecies and (2) for the land to pay off its Sabbaths as required by Leviticus 26:34[4]. This paying off of its Sabbaths would be fulfilled or completed at the end of the 70 years. What 70 years? Jeremiah 25:13 says ‘when 70 years have been fulfilled (completed), I will call to account the King of Babylon and that nation’. So the 70 year period ended with the calling to account of the King of Babylon, not a return to Judah. The passage of scripture does not say ‘desolated 70 years’. (see Jeremiah 42:7-22)

Was a specific time period required to pay of the Sabbath’s? If so, on what basis should it be calculated? The construction and wording of the passage does not require that the Sabbath keeping period was required to be 70 years. However taking 70 years as the requirement, between 987 and 587 (the beginning of the reign of Rehoboam and the final destruction of Jerusalem) are 400 years and 8 Jubilee cycles which equates to 64 years and this assumes the Sabbath years were ignored for every single one of these years. It is therefore not possible to calculate the exact number of years that needed to be paid off, nor is there any convenient start period mentioned in scripture to match either 70 or 50 missed Sabbath years. Would this not indicate that the paying off of Sabbaths was not a specific payback, but rather sufficient time elapsed during the period of desolation to pay back what was owed?

As a final point, it could be argued that there is more significance in having a length of 50 years desolation than 70 years. With a length of 50 years of desolation the significance of their release and return to Judah in the Jubilee Year (50th) of exile would not be lost on the Jews who were returning, having served a full cycle of Sabbath years in exile.

Gods Kingdom Rules (kr chap 12 para 16-23) Organized to Serve the God of Peace

Paragraph 17 contains a ploy typical of the organization. It asks ‘What has been the result of the continuing training that Jehovah’s organization has provided?’ Now you would expect an answer such as: The quality of the shepherding of the elders has improved. Or: The training has assisted the elders to better balance the demands of their families and the congregation and helped the flock get needed assistance.  Instead the answer provided is ‘Today, the Christian congregation has thousands of qualified brothers who serve as spiritual shepherds.’  Is there a link between training and the numbers of qualified brothers? No link that is demonstrated. They could have lowered the qualification standards to increase the numbers. Alternatively the growth in elders could just be proportional to the increase in the total number of witnesses. Or maybe more actually participate in shepherding. A politician-like answer that sounds good, but doesn’t answer the question.

Paragraph 18 makes another claim that cannot be substantiated. “Christian elders have been put in place by Jehovah through our King, Jesus”. No mechanism to support this process is provided, yet a reader would infer (inference is a dangerous thing) that somehow Jesus chooses each elder and Jehovah ratifies the appointment. So how well are these elders, allegedly put in place by Jesus who can read hearts, doing in leading ‘God’s sheep through the most critical time in human history’? As the child sexual abuse scandal surfacing in many countries would indicate, (including some elders as perpetrators), not too well. Would Jesus appoint KGB[5] agents and paedophile’s as elders. Of course not, yet that is what has happened. We only have to check the organization’s literature for examples of the first category. The newspapers, etc, can confirm the latter. Any ex-elder can vouch for the fact that a major factor in determining someone’s suitability to be appointed is the amount of hours they put in the field ministry, rather than Christian qualities.

Paragraph 22, referring to Jehovah and the congregation, states that “His righteous standards do not differ from congregations in one country to congregations in another. .. they are the same for all the congregations” The first sentence about Jehovah is true, but not the latter about the congregation. In some lands like the UK and Australia, an elder sending a child to university would be removed from serving, yet in other lands such as some countries in Latin America, elders will send a child to university and remain an elder. In Mexico in the late 1950’s and 1960’s brothers used to obtain a document that stated they had done military training and were now members of the reserve forces.[6] Other countries would disfellowship a witness for such actions. In Chile, once a year the national flag has to be raised for a day outside all public buildings like kingdom halls to avoid fines. At least 2 kingdom halls seem to have done it frequently.

http://www.jw-archive.org/post/98449456338/kingdom-halls-in-chile-are-forced-to-fly-the#sthash.JGtrsf4u.dpbs

http://www.jw-archive.org/post/98948145418/kingdom-hall-of-jehovahs-witnesses-with-flag-in#sthash.0S7n8Ne1.dpbs

The same standards for all congregations? That does not seem true.

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[1] According to the Nabonidus Chronicle the Fall of Babylon was on the 16th day of Tasritu (Babylonian), (Hebrew – Tishri) equivalent to 13th October.

[2] When quoting secular chronology dates at this time period in history we need to be careful in stating dates categorically as there is rarely a full consensus on a particular event occurring in a particular year. In this document I have used popular secular chronology for non-biblical events unless otherwise stated.

[3] In the 4th year of Jehoiakim, Jehovah told Jeremiah to take a roll and write all the words of prophecy he had been given down to that time. In the 5th year these words were read aloud to all the people gathered at the temple.  The princes and the king then had it read to them and as it was read it was burnt. Jeremiah was then commanded to take another roll and rewrite all the prophecies that had been burnt.  He also added more prophecies.

[4] See prophecy in Leviticus 26:34 where Israel would be desolated to pay off its Sabbaths, if they ignored Jehovah’s law, but no time period was specified.

[5] Yearbook 2008 p134 para 1

[6] Crisis of Conscience by Raymond Franz p149-155.