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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Is it possible that the "devastations of Jerusalem," as spoken of at Daniel 9:2, began several years prior to its destruction, perhaps commencing with the initial exile?

At Daniel 9:1-2 we read: "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus of the seed of the Medes, who had been made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reigning I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, [namely,] seventy years."

The Hebrew word translated "devastations" at Daniel 9:2 is chorbâh. Please note that Daniel refers to "the word of Jehovah [that] had occurred to Jeremiah." This is more or less a direct reference to Jeremiah 25:11, where the same Hebrew word is used:

"And 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."

It is important that we identify exactly when the devastation of Jerusalem took place if we are to correctly understand the prophecy concerning the seventy years.

In order to understand what Daniel meant by the "devastations of Jerusalem," we need to understand what Jeremiah meant by the land becoming "a devastated place." Additionally, we must comprehend the extent or magnitude of devastation that the Hebrew word chorbâh signifies.

At this point, one thing is certain. Since the prophecy at Jeremiah 25:11 "occurred to Jeremiah . . . in the fourth year of Jehoiakim" (Jeremiah 25:1), we know for a fact that the devastation of Jerusalem did not begin with the supposed siege and captivity that critics place in Jehoiakim's third regnal year, due to a misunderstanding of Daniel 1:1. Why? Because the words, "all this land must become a devastated place," stated at Jeremiah 25:11, show that the devastation was to be a future event. This is confirmed at Jeremiah 26:9, which states that "this very city will be devastated."

Furthermore, scholars who accept present-day secular chronology cannot suggest that the seventy years of devastation (Daniel 9:2) commenced with the first Biblically-recorded exile, which occurred in the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:28), since this would account for a total, by their reckoning, of just under sixty years.

The English word devastate, the noun form of which is used at Daniel 9:2 and the adjective form at Jeremiah 25:11, is defined as: "to lay waste; ravage" (Webster's) or, "to lay waste; destroy" (American Heritage). We have already seen that the Hebrew word used in both of these instances is chorbâh.

Some critics have gone as far as to state that this word does not imply complete destruction, so as to suggest that the "devastation" began prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, the Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament by Dr. James Strong (1890), defines chorbâh as:

"a place laid waste, ruin, waste, desolation."

Similarly, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Oxford, 1959), defines chorbâh as:

"waste, desolation, ruin."

Thus, the meaning of chorbâh is closely related to the Hebrew word shâmêm, translated at 2 Chronicles 36:21 as "desolated." In fact, it is so closely related, that although the New World Bible Translation Committee opted to translate chorbâh as "devastations" (likely to preserve the subtle shade of difference between the two Hebrew words), other Bibles have translated chorbâh at Daniel 9:2 as follows:

"in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years."—Daniel 9:2, New International Version.

"in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, have understood by books the number of the years, (in that a word of Jehovah hath been unto Jeremiah the prophet,) concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem—seventy years."—Daniel 9:2, Young's Literal Translation.

Now, please note how the following Bibles translate chorbâh where it appears at Jeremiah 25:11:

"And this whole land shall be a desolation"—American Standard Version (1901)

"All this land will be a waste"—Bible in Basic English (1965)

"And this whole land shall be a waste"Green's Literal Translation (1993)

"This whole country will become a desolate wasteland"—New International Version (1984)

"And this whole land shall be a desolation"New King James Version (1984)

"This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste"New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We are beginning to get a sense of the magnitude of the devastation that was to befall Judah. But does Jeremiah anywhere specifically qualify what this devastation would entail? Jeremiah 26:9 answers:

"Why is it that you have prophesied in the name of Jehovah, saying, 'Like that in Shiloh is how this house will become, and this very city will be devastated so as to be without an inhabitant'?"—Jeremiah 26:9.

To what extent would Jerusalem be devastated? The Scriptures reveal that the city would be devastated so as to be without an inhabitant.

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, the prophet continually and consistently confirms what he had in mind when he wrote Jeremiah 25:11:

"Be corrected, O Jerusalem, that my soul may not turn away disgusted from you; that I may not set you as a desolate waste, a land not inhabited."—Jeremiah 6:7-8.

"And I will make Jerusalem piles of stones, the lair of jackals; and the cities of Judah I shall make a desolate waste, without an inhabitant."—Jeremiah 9:11.

"I saw the land, and, look! [it was] empty and waste; and into the heavens, and their light was no more. . . . I saw, and, look! there was not an earthling man, and the flying creatures of the heavens had all fled."—Jeremiah 4:23, 25.

"For this is what Jehovah has said: "A desolate waste is what the whole land will become, and shall I not carry out a sheer extermination? . . . Every city is left, and there is no man dwelling in them."—Jeremiah 4:27, 29b.

"So I shall give Zedekiah the king of Judah and his princes and the remnant of Jerusalem who are remaining over in this land and those who are dwelling in the land of Egypt. . . . And I will send against them the sword, the famine and the pestilence, until they come to their finish off the ground that I gave to them and to their forefathers."'"—Jeremiah 24:8, 10.

Furthermore, the extent of devastation, recorded at 2 Chronicles 36:19-21 as resulting from the destruction of Jerusalem, was foretold by the prophet Isaiah over 120 years in advance:

"Until the cities actually crash in ruins, to be without an inhabitant, and the houses be without earthling man, and the ground itself is ruined into a desolation; and Jehovah actually removes earthling men far away, and the deserted condition does become very extensive in the midst of the land."—Isaiah 6:11, 12.

It goes without saying that Judah was not made a "desolate wasteland" (NIV) or a "ruin and a waste" (NRSV), "without an inhabitant," at any point prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Thus, can it honestly be said that Jerusalem was devastated as a result of the initial exile?

Specifically referring to that event, historian Max I. Dimont provides the answer:

"Nebuchadnezzar took the eighteen-year-old King Jehoiachin into captivity and deported 8,000 of the country's leading citizens—all who might possibly foment another uprising. He did not sack Jerusalem at this time, or devastate the country."—Jews, God and History, 1962, p. 58.

In speaking to the "Jews that were dwelling in the land of Egypt" (Jeremiah 44:1) who fled there following the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah establishes the matter beyond all doubt:

"'You yourselves have seen all the calamity that I have brought in upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah, and here they are a devastated place this day, and in them there is no inhabitant. . . . So my rage, and my anger, was poured out and it burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they came to be a devastated place, a desolate waste, as at this day.'"—Jeremiah 44:2, 6.

The above verses show that Jeremiah's prophecy that "this land must become a devastated place" (Jeremiah 25:11) began to be fulfilled after the destruction of Jerusalem, and that it encompassed the complete desolation of the land. Daniel 9:2 confirms that this "desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years."—Daniel 9:2, NIV.


Next article: Is it not true that Jeremiah 25:18 indicates that Jerusalem and the cities of Judah had already become "a devastated place, an object of astonishment" by the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the first year of Nebuchadnezzar?

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