Jun 15 2013

Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the date being verified by a lunar eclipse

There has been a vigorous debate among biblical scholars in recent decades about the year Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple. As archaeology has shed more light on the ancient kingdoms of Mesopotamia, in this case Babylon, some very distinguished scholars have written detailed treatises supporting the year 587 BCE, and a few have suggested the previous year 588 BCE for the destruction. However, since I give more weight to the biblical text and chronology than to Assyrian records, I do not find the arguments for the Temple being destroyed in 587 BCE or 588 BCE convincing. Explained below are the reasons why I accept 586 BCE as the correct date for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar.

The Bible, in two separate citations (2 Kings 25:8 and Jeremiah 52:12), records that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in his nineteenth regnal year, where it is assumed that the biblical scribes who recorded 2 Kings and Jeremiah used the accession year and regnal accounting system of Babylon for the start of the regnal counting for the Babylonian king (i.e., with regnal years beginning in the Hebrew month Nisan). [footnote 1]

Nebuchadnezzar inherited the throne of Babylon after the Battle of Carchemish, which most scholars agree happened in May/June 605 BCE. The year of the Battle of Carchemish can be located as occurring in 605 BCE by the lunar eclipse that occurred on April 22, 621 BCE, in the fifth year of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon. That eclipse means that the timeline of Nabopolassar’s reign is as follows:

November 626 BCE – Nabopolassar crowned king, accession year begins
Nisan (March/April) 625 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 1 begins
Nisan 624 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 2 begins
Nisan 623 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 3 begins
Nisan 622 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 4 begins
Nisan 621 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 5 begins
April 22, 621 BCE – lunar eclipse in 5th year of Nabopolassar
Nisan 620 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 6 begins
Nisan 619 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 7 begins
Nisan 618 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 8 begins
Nisan 617 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 9 begins
Nisan 616 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 10 begins
Nisan 615 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 11 begins
Nisan 614 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 12 begins
Nisan 613 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 13 begins
Nisan 612 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 14 begins
Nisan 611 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 15 begins
Nisan 610 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 16 begins
Nisan 609 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 17 begins
Nisan 608 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 18 begins
Nisan 607 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 19 begins
Nisan 606 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 20 begins
Nisan 605 BCE – Nabopolassar’s Year 21 begins
August 605 BCE – Nabopolassar dies in his twenty-first regnal year [BM 22047 (96-4-9, 152)]
September 605 BCE – Nebuchadnezzar crowned in Babylon, accession year begins

Upon the death of his father Nabopolassar, which most scholars agree happened in July/August 605 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon. Biblical scribes considered his first regnal year as beginning in the first Nisan that followed the battle (the Nisan that occurred in March/April 604 BCE), and so his first nineteen regnal years align as follows:

609 BCE
Josiah killed at Megiddo by Egyptians in summer 609 BCE, Jehoahaz becomes king
Jehoahaz’s accession year begins July/August 609 BCE
Jehoahaz’s Year 1 begins in Tishri (September) 609 BCE
Jehoahaz deposed by pharaoh Necho in 609 BCE after a three-month reign
Jehoiakim appointed king by pharaoh Necho in late 609 BCE, accession year begins
Jehoiakim becomes vassal of Egypt

608 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 1 begins in Tishri 608 BCE

607 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 2 begins in Tishri 607 BCE

606 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 3 begins in Tishri 606 BCE

605 BCE
Battle of Carchemish sometime between April and August 605 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s forces besiege Jerusalem between April and August in 605 BCE during his western
campaign, capture Jehoiakim (and Daniel), takes vessels from Temple (Daniel 1:1-2),
Jehoiakim becomes vassel of Babylon for three years (three New-Year Days) until 601 BCE
Death of Nabopolassar in Babylon in August 605 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II becomes king, crowned
king in Babylon in September 605 BCE, accession year begins
Jehoiakim’s Year 4 begins in Tishri (September) 605 BCE

604 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 1 begins in Nisan (March/April) 604 BCE
Jeremiah the prophet receives word concerning the people of Jerusalem in the fourth regnal year
of Jehoiakim and the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:1)
Jehoiakim’s Year 5 begins in Tishri 604 BCE

603 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 2 begins in Nisan 603 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 6 begins in Tishri 603 BCE

602 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 3 begins in Nisan 602 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 7 begins in Tishri 602 BCE

601 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 4 begins in Nisan 601 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Egypt fails, Jehoiakim becomes vassal of Egypt
Jehoiakim’s Year 8 begins in Tishri 601 BCE

600 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 5 begins in Nisan 600 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 9 begins in Tishri 600 BCE

599 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 6 begins in Nisan 599 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 10 begins in Tishri 599 BCE

598 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 7 begins in Nisan 598 BCE
3,023 Jews exiled from Judah (Jeremiah 52:28), Jerusalem besieged in 598 BCE
Jehoiakim’s Year 11 begins in Tishri (September) 598 BCE, he dies in December 598 BCE
Jehoiachin becomes king in December 598 BCE

597 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 8 begins in Nisan (March 21) 597 BCE
Jehoiachin, his mother, his princes, and his servants go out to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar in late March 597 BCE (2 Kings 24:12,14-15)
Jehoiachin deposed, Zedekiah made king and begins his accession year in late March 597 BCE
Jehoiachin, Ezekiel, and 7,000 Jews deported after Passover 597 BCE [footnote 2]
Zedekiah’s Year 1 begins in Tishri 597 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 1 in captivity begins Tishri 597 BCE [footnote 3]

596 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 9 begins in Nisan 596 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 2 begins in Tishri 596 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 2 in captivity begins Tishri 596 BCE

595 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 10 begins in Nisan 595 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 3 begins in Tishri 595 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 3 in captivity begins Tishri 595 BCE

594 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 11 begins in Nisan 594 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 4 begins in Tishri 594 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 4 in captivity begins Tishri 594 BCE

593 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 12 begins in Nisan 593 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 5 begins in Tishri 593 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 5 in captivity begins Tishri 593 BCE

592 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 13 begins in Nisan 592 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 6 begins in Tishri 592 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 6 in captivity begins Tishri 592 BCE

591 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 14 begins in Nisan 591 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 7 begins in Tishri 591 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 7 in captivity begins Tishri 591 BCE

590 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 15 begins in Nisan 590 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 8 begins in Tishri 590 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 8 in captivity begins Tishri 590 BCE

589 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 16 begins in Nisan 589 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 9 begins in Tishri 589 BCE (2 Kings 25:25)
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 9 in captivity begins Tishri 589 BCE

588 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem in tenth month (Ezek. 24:1) in January 588 BCE
(some scholars place the beginning of the siege in late December, 589 BCE)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 17 begins in Nisan 588 BCE
Zedekiah’s Year 10 begins in Tishri 588 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 10 in captivity begins Tishri 588 BCE

587 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 18 begins in Nisan 587 BCE
832 Jews exiled from Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:29)
Zedekiah’s Year 11 begins in Tishri 587 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 11 in captivity begins Tishri 587 BCE

586 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 19 begins in Nisan (March/April) 586 BCE
Temple destroyed in Ab (July/August) 586 BCE
Zedekiah flees Jerusalem, reign ends, taken to Babylon (August) 586 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 12 in captivity begins Tishri 586 BCE

585 BCE
Ezekiel learns of Temple destruction in (January) 585 BCE (Ezek. 33:21)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 20 begins in Nisan (March/April) 585 BCE
1st Passover since Temple destroyed 585 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 13 in captivity begins Tishri 585 BCE

584 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 21 begins in Nisan 584 BCE
2nd Passover since Temple destroyed 584 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 14 in captivity begins Tishri 584 BCE

583 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 22 begins in Nisan 583 BCE
3rd Passover since Temple destroyed 583 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 15 in captivity begins Tishri 583 BCE

582 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 23 begins in Nisan 582 BCE
745 Jews exiled from Judah (Jeremiah 52:30)
4th Passover since Temple destroyed 582 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 16 in captivity begins Tishri 582 BCE

581 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 24 begins in Nisan 581 BCE
5th Passover since Temple destroyed 581 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 17 in captivity begins Tishri 581 BCE

580 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 25 begins in Nisan 580 BCE
6th Passover since Temple destroyed 580 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 18 in captivity begins Tishri 580 BCE

579 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 26 begins in Nisan 579 BCE
7th Passover since Temple destroyed 579 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 19 in captivity begins Tishri 579 BCE

578 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 27 begins in Nisan 578 BCE
8th Passover since Temple destroyed 578 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 20 in captivity begins Tishri 578 BCE

577 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 28 begins in Nisan 577 BCE
9th Passover since Temple destroyed 577 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 21 in captivity begins Tishri 577 BCE

576 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 29 begins in Nisan 576 BCE
10th Passover since Temple destroyed 576 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 22 in captivity begins Tishri 576 BCE

575 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 30 begins in Nisan 575 BCE
11th Passover since Temple destroyed 575 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 23 in captivity begins Tishri 575 BCE

574 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 31 begins in Nisan 574 BCE
12th Passover since Temple destroyed 574 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 24 in captivity begins Tishri 574 BCE

573 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 32 begins in Nisan 573 BCE
13th Passover since Temple destroyed 573 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 25 in captivity begins Tishri 573 BCE

572 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 33 begins in Nisan 572 BCE
14th Passover since Temple destroyed 572 BCE (Ezek. 40:1) [footnote 4]
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 26 in captivity begins Tishri 571 BCE

571 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 34 begins in Nisan 571 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 27 in captivity begins Tishri 571 BCE

570 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 35 begins in Nisan 570 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 28 in captivity begins Tishri 570 BCE

569 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 36 begins in Nisan 569 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 29 in captivity begins Tishri 569 BCE

568 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 37 begins in Nisan 568 BCE
Lunar eclipse on July 4 in Nebuchadnezzar’s thirty-seventh year
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 30 in captivity begins Tishri 568 BCE

567 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 38 begins in Nisan 567 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 31 in captivity begins Tishri 567 BCE

566 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 39 begins in Nisan 566 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 32 in captivity begins Tishri 566 BCE

565 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 40 begins in Nisan 565 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 33 in captivity begins Tishri 565 BCE

564 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 41 begins in Nisan 564 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 34 in captivity begins Tishri 564 BCE

563 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 42 begins in Nisan 563 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 35 in captivity begins Tishri 563 BCE

562 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar’s Year 43 begins in Nisan 562 BCE
Nebuchadnezzar dies 562 BCE
Evil-Merodach’s Accession Year begins 562 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 36 in captivity begins Tishri 562 BCE

561 BCE
Evil-Merodach’s Year 1 begins in Nisan 561 BCE
Jehoiachin/Ezekiel’s Year 37 in captivity begins Tishri 561 BCE (2 Kings 25:27)

560 BCE
Evil-Merodach frees Jehoiachin in twelfth month (February/March) 560 BCE (Jer. 52:31)
Evil-Merodach’s Year 2 begins in Nisan 560 BCE

In the scenario above, the seventh regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar would have spanned 598/597 BCE, aligning with the seventh year that D. J. Wiseman proposed [footnote 5], based on his reading of the Babylonian Chronicles, as the regnal year when Nebuchadnezzar began the siege of Jerusalem and captured Jehoiachin, his analysis based on secular Assyrian records alone. However, according to the biblical text, the surrender of Jehoiachin took place in the eighth regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar, occurring just after the Babylonian New Year in 597 BCE.

Apparently, the Babylonian scribe who recorded those events lumped all of the events (the siege and capture of Jerusalem ending with the surrender of the king) into the seventh regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar, although the sequence of events spanned the last days of his seventh regnal year and the first days of his eighth regnal year, both occurring in the year 597 BCE. The destruction of the Temple would have occurred twelve years later, in the month of Ab in the nineteenth regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar, which corresponds to the year 586 BCE (as shown in the tabulation of events in relation to their Gregorian years displayed in the listing above).

So, I don’t agree with the hypothesized 587 BCE or 588 BCE dates for the destruction of the Temple since the math doesn’t fit the biblical specifications in the biblical books of 2 Kings, Jeremiah, and Daniel, and it contradicts the astronomically verified date for the Battle of Carchemish using Babylonian regnal reckoning. I propose that the year 586 BCE is the correct year for the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians.

1. The same end result is obtained if Tishri is assumed instead of Nisan, with Tishri 605 BCE used for determining the first regnal year of Nebuchadnezzar.
2. The number of Jews exiled from Jerusalem and Judah needs more study to reconcile the numbers given in Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 24. The seemingly contradictory numbers are accurate, of course, but what they are telling us is yet to be completely understood.
3. Ezekiel apparently counted the years of captivity of Jehoiachin (and the Jewish nation) in the same way that regnal years had been counted in Judah, using the civil calendar that began in Tishri, and thus he began the numbering of the years in captivity with the first Tishri in Babylon, making Tishri 586 BCE mark the beginning of Year 1 in captivity (royal accounting).
4. Ezekiel apparently calculated the years since the destruction of the Temple using the sacred calendar, which began in Nisan, thus using the number of Passovers that could not be observed for numbering the years since the destruction (priestly accounting).
5. D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldean Kings in the British Museum (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956).

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