When Did Jerusalem Fall? -- By: Rodger C. Young

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 47:1 (Mar 2004)
Article: When Did Jerusalem Fall?
Author: Rodger C. Young


When Did Jerusalem Fall?

Rodger C. Young

[Rodger Young resides at 1115 Gasswood Lane, St. Louis, MO 63132]

The Babylonian records describing the destruction of Jerusalem by the army of Nebuchadnezzar have not been found. As a consequence, all dates for that event must be derived from the scriptural record, as tied to the last events prior to the destruction that are described in the Babylonian archives. These are the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC and the initial capture of the city and its ruler Jehoiachin in the spring of 597 BC.1 The time between the earlier of these two events and the final destruction of Jerusalem was less than twenty years. Since the period is fairly well documented in the Scriptures, it might be expected that it would not be difficult to establish the year in which the city was destroyed and the Babylonian Exile began.

Such, however, has not been the case. Although the Scriptures state that the end came in the fourth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, scholars are divided on whether this refers to 586 BC or 587 BC. Jeremy Hughes listed eleven scholars who preferred the first date and eleven who preferred the second.2 Edwin Thiele was among those preferring 586, and this seems to be the date most widely used in the popular literature. However, to Hughes’s list of those favoring 587 should be added the names of Donald Wiseman and Kenneth Kitchen.3

The present study offers no new insight into the Babylonian records that established the last fixed dates before the fall of Jerusalem. Neither does it offer any significant new exegesis of the individual texts that bear on the problem. If the reader cares to skip the analysis and jump forward to the conclusions at the end of the article, he will see that the deductions there use the same principles of Nisan versus Tishri starting months and accession versus non-accession counting that were laid out by Coucke and Thiele, and which all others since them have had to use if they were to construct a reasonable chronology for the kings of Judah and Israel.

The main contribution of the present paper is in a different area. It introduces analytical methods from a field that might seem to have little to do with matters of history or biblical interpretation. What is offered here is a means of analyzing and organizing complex sets of ideas that are related to each other in such a way that the assumptions made for one idea have consequences for the other ideas in the set. Although the application of this methodology will be new t...

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