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Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, and 1914

When the Babylonian forces penetrated Jerusalem, Zedekiah knew he was in trouble. The final Judean king, he’d double-crossed Nebuchadnezzar years before, and the Chaldean king wasn’t that nice a guy. So he tried to run away, but it was no good.

And a military force of the Chaldans went chasing after the king, and they got to overtake Zedekiah in the desert plains of Jericho; and all his own military force was scattered from his side. Then they seized the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might pronounce upon him judicial decisions. And the king of Babylon proceeded to slaughter the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also all the princes of Judah he slaughtered in Riblah. And the eyes of Zedekiah he blinded, after which the king of Babylon bound him with copper fetters and brought him to Babylon and put him in the house of custody until the day of his death.               Jer 52:8-11

This was a nasty end for Zedekiah, but not just for him. It was the end of an entire line of Judean kings that had run nearly 500 years, starting with David. And since the Jews were God’s chosen people, the end of that line marked the end of a particular expression of God’s sovereignty on earth. [And Solomon began to sit upon Jehovah’s throne as king in place of David his father …..1 Chron 29:23] Israel was never again self-ruling, (until 1948, but that doesn’t count) but was always a vassal under some power or other. During Jesus’ time, you'll recall, it was an uneasy province of Rome.

This change of rulership, represented by the last king Zedekiah, was foretold:

And as for you, O deadly wounded, wicked chieftain of Israel, whose day has come in the time of the error of [the] end, this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said, ‘Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. Put on high even what is low, and bring low even the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no [one’s] until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give [it] to him.’        Ezekiel 21:25-27

Wicked, because of entrenched disobedience to God’s law, which Israel had sworn to obey.  (Exodus 19:8) “Low” Gentile rulership would be placed “high” and “high” (God’s sovereignty) would become “low.” Not for all time, though, for one who “has the legal right” would one day inherit the kingship. This latter event is  significant. When does it take place?

The key is found in a dream related by that same Babylonian conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar, the one who brought Jewish rule to an end.

“‘Now the visions of my head upon my bed I happened to be beholding, and, look! a tree in the midst of the earth, the height of which was immense. The tree grew up and became strong, and its very height finally reached the heavens, and it was visible to the extremity of the whole earth. Its foliage was fair, and its fruit was abundant, and there was food for all on it. Under it the beast of the field would seek shade, and on its boughs the birds of the heavens would dwell, and from it all flesh would feed itself.

“‘I continued beholding in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, look! a watcher, even a holy one, coming down from the heavens themselves. He was calling out loudly, and this is what he was saying: “chop the tree down, and cut off its boughs. shake off its foliage, and scatter its fruitage. Let the beast flee from under it, and the birds from its boughs. However, leave its rootstock itself in the earth, even with a banding of iron and of copper, among the grass of the field; and with the dew of the heavens let it be wet, and with the beast let its portion be among the vegetation of the earth. Let its heart be changed from that of mankind, and let the heart of a beast be given to it, and let seven times pass over it. By the decree of watchers the thing is, and [by] the saying of holy ones the request is, to the intent that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.”          Daniel 4:10-17

Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by the dream, and wanted it explained to him, but nobody could do it until they brought to him Daniel, a Jewish exile, one of his advisors:

“At that time Daniel himself, whose name is Belteshazzar, was astonished for a moment, and his very thoughts began to frighten him.
“The king was answering and saying, ‘O Belteshazzar, do not let the dream and the interpretation themselves frighten you.’
“Belteshazzar was answering and saying, ‘O my lord, may the dream [apply] to those hating you, and its interpretation to your adversaries. “‘The tree that you beheld, that grew great and became strong and the height of which finally reached the heavens and which was visible to all the earth, and the foliage of which was fair, and the fruit of which was abundant, and on which there was food for all; under which the beasts of the field would dwell, and on the boughs of which the birds of the heavens would reside, it is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong, and your grandeur has grown great and reached to the heavens, and your rulership to the extremity of the earth.
“‘And because the king beheld a watcher, even a holy one, coming down from the heavens, who was also saying: “chop the tree down, and ruin it. However, leave its rootstock itself in the earth, but with a banding of iron and of copper, among the grass of the field, and with the dew of the heavens let it become wet, and with the beasts of the field let its portion be until seven times themselves pass over it,” this is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the Most High is that which must befall my lord the king. And you they will be driving away from men, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will come to be, and the vegetation is what they will give even to you to eat just like bulls; and with the dew of the heavens you yourself will be getting wet, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it. “‘And because they said to leave the rootstock of the tree, your kingdom will be sure to you after you know that the heavens are ruling…..All this befell Nebuchadnezzar the king.     vs. 19-26

It did indeed befall Nebuchadnezzar, and history alludes to a period of royal insanity. But the dream’s real significance doesn’t lie in Nebuchadnezzar’s own reign. It lies in the reign he interrupted. That is the real tree which was chopped down in 607 BCE, a year determined per the Bible’s own chronology. Here the purpose of the dream bears repeating: to the intent that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.” That’s too lofty a purpose to be squandered on a tyrant, no matter how big a splash he made in his day. Who does the Most High want to establish as ruler over “the kingdom of mankind” and who….hint..hint…fit’s the description as “the lowliest one of mankind?”

Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.      Matt 11:28-30

you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.”       Luke 1:31-33

Still another hint: [what more can any reader ask?] Jesus being born into the family line of David (traceable through both mother and foster-father) gives him the “legal right” to inherit that kingdom, per the Ezek 21 passage already quoted.

So the “tree” which represents God’s sovereignty is “bound,’ starting in 607 BCE, for a period of 7 times. There are various tangents one can explore to determine how long a “time” is, but we will bypass them all to simply report that some Bible versions, based on those tangents, actually translate the term time as years. (The New American Bible, A New Translation by James Moffatt, The Complete Bible—An American Translation, the Good News Bible) One time, therefore, is one year.

Nebuchadnezzar’s 7 times, therefore, are seven years, though secular history is not detailed enough to confirm this point with regard to his insanity. But with regard to God’s sovereignty, the seven years are not mere years of days, as are the ones on your calendar. They are, not years of 360 days, but years of 360 years, that is 7 x 360, or 2520 years. Is that permissible? Who says you can do that….just substitute a day for a year? Apparently, as the next two scriptures indicate, this is a sort of “prophetic rule.”

By the number of the days that you spied out the land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, you will answer for your errors forty years, as you must know what my being estranged means.       Numbers 14:34

A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you.       Ezekiel 4:6

The reader must go himself to examine the context. The point is, “day for a year” appears to be a prophetic “formula,” and as will be seen, it was used by Jehovah’s Witnesses before the event, not afterwards.
A Hebrew month consisted of 30 days, so 12 of them meant 360 days. That’s not quite enough to round out an astronomical year, so every few years an extra month, VeAdar or second Adar, was thrown in to put the calendar in sinc with the sun.

With 607 BCE as the starting point, add 2520 years, and remember that there is no zero year….go directly from 1 BCE to 1CE. You arrive at 1914 CE.

As early as 1880, Watchtower publications began drawing attention to that date. World War I commenced in that year (1914), the first time ever that the whole world went to war at the same time.

While he was sitting upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” And in answer Jesus said to them…..For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.                       Matt 24:3,7

The World, a leading New York newspaper of that time, featured this headline in its August 30, 1914 magazine section: “End of All Kingdoms in 1914”

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy….For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses], best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of traveling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’”

There is considerable evidence, then, that 1914 is a marked year in Bible prophesy, evidence drawn both from chronology and world events. So let’s not hear from any more from whiners who claim that it isn’t.


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It did indeed befall Nebuchadnezzar, and history alludes to a period of royal insanity. But the dream’s real significance doesn’t lie in Nebuchadnezzar’s own reign. It lies in the reign he interrupted.

Where in the bible contradicts, Daniels interpretation of that same dream? Why not let the bible guide you to a belief instead of you forcing it to your belief!!

tom sheepandgoats

Luis, thanks for your comment.

I didn't really understand your 2nd paragraph. If you clarify, I will respond.

The Wise Fool

You may want to take another look at Daniel 4:17 and Daniel 4:22 in the Lexicon:

I think what Luis was trying to make the objection is that Daniel 4:20-22 explicitly claims that the tree is Nebuchadnezzar. "That is the real tree..."

"...[God] gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.” That’s too lofty a purpose to be squandered on a tyrant..."

The verse is just saying that God puts whoever He wants to put in charge. This is what Romans 13:1-5 would later echo in a different manner.

Furthermore, Daniel 4:28 says that all of this happened to Nebuchadnezzar. As much as you could claim Jesus was humble and lowly, He never ate grass like cattle (Daniel 4:25), which would be pretty lowly indeed.

I do not think that it is wise to ignore what the Bible actually says to give it another meaning which you like better, but that's just me.

tom sheepandgoats

I admit to an air of "solving a puzzle" here, but there are enough buzzwords and "buzzconcepts" in the dream to make an examination of it irresistible to the serious Bible student, who discerns the meaning of words, phrases, and doings by examining how the same word, phrase or doing is used elsewhere in the scriptures. JWs approach Bible study with the underpinning notion that the verses therein are not a hodgepodge of disjointed thoughts but are placed there with a purpose. This view is not at all shared by most critics, who thereby miss the Bible's import.

God's sovereignty as expressed toward mankind is a key Bible theme. Several threads of it enticingly intersect in this dream of Nebuchadnezzar's. On the purely physical level is a several hundred year old line of earthly kings that begins with David and ends with Zedekiah. It ends at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the recipient of the dream. Often foreign kings are described as agents of God to chastise his people; this is true of no one more than Nebuchadnezzar. There is also the Jewish expectation of a messiah who would reestablish that line, and drive out foreign powers. In the first century CE, that meant the Romans.

Then there is a greater fulfillment of God's rulership over mankind, something merely hinted at by that line of Davidic kings. There is, in Jesus, a messiah who, when his rule would commence, would result in God's will being done “on earth, as it is in heaven.” Apparently, God's purpose in providing a messiah is to do more than simply re-establish a political nation.

There is the dream's stated purpose of people knowing the Most High puts over the “kingdom of mankind”....certainly a term more embracing than just Israel of that day...whoever he chooses. Surely this somehow coincides with God's purpose of bringing righteous rule to earth by means of his son. In the dream, God hands that kingdom to the lowliest of mankind.....sure, that finds initial fulfillment with Nebuchadnezzar, who was brought low.....but there is also Jesus, to whom God will ultimately hand the kingdom of mankind. He is also lowly, unforgivably lowly in the eyes of those expecting a Roman vanquishing messiah, a king riding into town on an ass's colt, a king not resisting as he is led to slaughter. Moreover, though born of David's line, and thus having legal right to rule, he is born into neither power, wealth, nor priviledge.

When the dream is given, to whom it is given, the stated purpose of the dream....students of the Bible 'smell' key biblical concepts swirling around in this dream and they strive to connect the dots. It's all silly nonsense to the critics, but it's irresistibly enticing to those who care about seeing God's will come about on earth, as in heaven. They throw themselves into it. They are like Dr Richard Kimble, affirming to Tommy Lee Jones:

“Do you remember when I said I didn't kill my wife and you said you didn't care?

“Yeah, yeah” answers Tommy, “I'm not here to solve puzzles.”

“Well I am,” Kimble responds. “And I just found a big piece.”

That's how Jehovah's Witnesses feel about this dream. It's a big piece to the overall picture of God's sovereignty. But, like Tommy, not everyone cares. To them, the dream is just another haphazard fable in the Bible. We think it's there for a purpose.

Buttressing our confidence is the fact that the interpretation we offer resulted in accurately foretold events, as the New York World article attests. As you know, critics common charge that Bible prophesy is merely history written after the fact. Plainly that is not the case here.

The Wise Fool

One of the things I really respect about the JW's is that they tend to spend some time studying the Bible. So I think that is great, and I think it is even fair to look for relations across the Scripture. For the sake of the argument, I even would be happy to say that this passage of Daniel was placed there for a purpose. However, I do not think it needs to be stitched together into other passages to communicate that purpose, and furthermore doing so is hazardous and can cast suspicion on you when those ties do not seem correct. You do not want to veer off into making connections which do not actually exist, like John Nash in "A Beautiful Mind" (as long as we are using movie references).

The World's article's headline is the "End of All Kingdoms in 1914," yet not all kingdoms ended then. For example, the kingdom (sultanate) of Oman continued through 1914 unscathed, and continues to this day.

The text in the magazine which you quote says that JW's "have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914." Now, if you would be so kind, please point to the prophesy which says that the Day of Wrath would be anything like WWI. I can tell you that there are many prophesies in the OT regarding the Day of Wrath, and I can't seem to jam them into WWI, nor use them to explain how the world continues for nearly 100 years now in similar circumstances, knowing times of peace and times of war, going through WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the baby boom, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the technological revolution, the near elimination of small pox (and very close to eradicating polio), making it to the moon, an international space station, etc., etc.

The JW prophesy was that 1914 marked the end, the end(!), of the time of the Gentiles. (Reference N.H. Barbour & C. T. Russell, The Three Worlds, 1877, page 67.) As in, the JW prophesy was made in reference to Luke 21:24:

They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. NIV

Now maybe you think that I just have a misunderstanding, and that God really meant decades upon decades of intermittent wrath interspersed with great accomplishments as opposed to a "Day of Wrath." That is OK. I just thought you might want to know what the view was of someone looking from the outside in was, because from the outside, it does not add up.

tom sheepandgoats

I see that taking you on cinematographically is no less challenging than doing so biblically.

We do indeed study, stitch and analyze Daniel 4, and not Daniel 4 only, but all the rest of the book. In fact, really, all the rest of the Bible, we have interpretations on most of it. We re-examine and readjust them from time to time, usually with just a bit of tweaking, but sometimes significantly. Any such adjustments provoke howls from religious'll see them a lot on the internet...who portray it as “flip-flopping.” But surely they are from the Tebow school of faith, who expect discernment to be delivered, as if by Santa with toys, as complete revelations with no assembly required.

The World magazine was a secular magazine, it wasn't ours. It was a bit like today's New York Times magazine, and I include it just for historical context. Even today, when we routinely read of unspeakable atrocities and say “been there, done that,” WWI still ranks as a big event. At the time, it was much more so, the first time in history that the whole world (except for Oman) was at war at the same time. It made enough impression on the editors that they linked it with JW proclamations about the end of the Gentile times in 1914. They made the connection, we didn't. Nevertheless, most of our people did think the end of the Gentile times would be the end of human rule on earth, but when 1915 came we stopped thinking that way. (a flip-flop)

We've puzzled out, we think, that the “times of the Gentiles” are those times that God's sovereignty has had no direct representation on earth. It did until the fall of the Davidic line of king at Nebuchadnezzar's hand, it did with the coming of Christ to kingdom power in heaven in 1914, but the time in between are the “times of the Gentiles.” Now, I freely admit it sounds silly to link a specific year with the fulfillment of events in heaven, as we have with 1914, but we've held that position for a long time, drawing upon both prophesies (such as the Dan 4 dream) and current historical events. I attempted to draw some analogies here, if you're interested.

You point to undeniable advances in technology and health. Since they are undeniable, I won't deny them. Why would I want to? Yet, is there not great irony in....I mean, with all of the highly educated, proficient people around, you'd almost think they'd be able to get together to curb self-destructive tendencies that threaten to tank the entire planet. Answering one secular humanist blogger who asked “Why do you want to think that everything's getting worse and worse? What is it about that view that does it for you?” I answered, “It helps me to explain why the doomsday clock is at 5 minutes to midnight and not 10AM. It helps me to explain why Newsweek runs a cover story: "Apocalypse Now.....What The @#$! is Next?" It helps me to explain why Economist runs the cover story "World on the Edge." It helps me to explain why top finance people can crash the entire worldwide economy, bringing misery to millions, if not billions of people, without anyone at all held accountable.”

With regard to rulership, our central premise is that man is not capable of ruling himself. And that, once an experiment in human self-rule has run it's course, God's sovereignty will be re-established over the earth, as was meant to be from way back in Eden days. And that the beginnings of that heavenly government have already been established, as described above.

The Wise Fool

Well, thanks for the discussion, Tom.

I've got other disagreements with what you've put up here, such as about a doomsday clock, but maybe we'll tackle that at a different time. ;-)

I do have a couple closing questions for you which I would love to see your opinion on:

With the metaphorical clock in the region of 5 minutes until midnight, are you more accepting of what is happening around you, less accepting of it, or indifferent to it altogether, and why?

If you have another post which already has the answer, feel free to point me there. Or if you want to turn the answer into a post, I am cool with that too. Or, if instead, you can answer that pretty quickly, a simple reply here would be great as well.

tom sheepandgoats

Sorry, WF, but I don't understand the question. Are you asking do I agree with their assessment? Or how their assessment affects my daily life? Or something else?

The doomsday clock is an assessment from experts in the field. Is the situation really as dire as they say? Somewhat like global warming, it's accepted by some, pooh-poohed by others. My own opinion, not having any especial expertise, is immaterial. But it would be much nicer if conditions were such that no one ever dreamed of setting a doomsday clock or warning of an overcooked earth.

I don't have a pre-made post on the doomsday clock, per se, but it's addressed here in a roundabout way:

The Wise Fool

Sorry for being a little too vague. I meant:

If you see that the politics, climate, etc. are going the wrong way, do you accept it because you know God is about ready to strike the clock at 12, or are you instead motivated to try to change things for the better, or are you essentially apathetic about it - only caring about the coming Salvation? And why?

Does that make better sense now?

tom sheepandgoats

Yes it does. Do we roll up our sleeves and get busy fixing things, or do we kick back, smile, and dream of the Great Day, gloating that it will be For Only Us? Is that the gist of your question? The answer is neither.

You must remember that most of us became Witnesses because of realizing man does not have the wisdom to rule himself. We look to God's rulership, anticipated by the Lord's prayer, to bring God's will “on earth as it is in heaven” when it replaces this failing system of human rule. Therefore, expecting Jehovah's Witnesses to embrace human efforts of reform of is a bit like expecting conservatives to embrace big government, liberals to embrace laissez faire. They're contradictions in terms, all of them.

That said, I'm not sure why propagating Witness beliefs in itself ought not be seen as fixing things, on the 'one brick at a time' model. It's well known that Witness beliefs instill beneficial traits as honesty, industriousness, and healthy living, often upon people who lacked them before. Our preaching results in a people who pay into police services as much as anyone else, yet draw upon it less. Who pay into social and welfare systems as much as anyone else, yet draw up them less. Same with health services. In fact, we likely pay into these services more, as you don't find tax frauds among us. We eliminate racism. Beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses benefit those they touch. Spreading them, in itself, is helping solve world problems.

Surely working toward a more peaceful world counts as helping to fix things. Why Jehovah's Witnesses' neutral stand toward all wars isn’t praised the world over, I'll never know. Whereas time and again war has demonstrated it can pit members of the same religion against each other, JWs have withstood the tsunami of nationalism. I's hard to argue with this...if people followed the JW model here, war would cease, for under no circumstances will they take up arms against fellow humans. How can that not be a benefit?

Also, Witness beliefs impart hope and small matter in the struggle to uplift humanity. After all, whenever the causes of endemic misery are listed, “hopelessness” is always chief among them. Note here that JWs are unsurpassed at imparting purpose in life: (agnosticism ranks lowest for conveying purpose, atheism only marginally better):

This is aid of the “teach a man to fish” variety. People who benefit thus are often able to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” despite the most disadvantaged conditions. Surely a group that can inspire that should be valued.

Nobody does everything. You can't grouse that the Cancer Foundation isn't doing anything about global warming. we specialize as does everyone else. But the ministry of Jehovah's Witnesses confers enough benefit to rank it up there with the best of charitable and reforming causes. Not that we especially do it for the sake of reforming the just has that effect, one block at a time. We do it for the sake of preparing folk for what we see as mankind's real hope, God's Kingdom. Whatever values we impart are values that the new system of things will run on. As it turns out, those values help folk in the here and now, as well.

Even those who don't care for our ministry will concede we're not lazy about it. We're not self-serving. We're not merely putting a God smiley face on what we'd be doing anyway. We work hard at it. We organize it, and it's resulted in an unparallelled, unified, in-depth understanding worldwide of God's purposes, not to mention substantial practical benefits here and now.

The Wise Fool

That was long enough to be worthy of a separate post, I think. :-)

Anyway, thanks for answering my questions. As I mentioned before in one comment stream, we may be more similar than you realize, even if we have different perspectives of the glass which contains half of its volume of a liquid. ;-)

And, to the extent that you give purpose, hope, and positive reform to peoples' lives, I wish you the best of luck! (I would say I'd pray for your cause, but I'm sure that would seem a little hollow coming from me.)

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