Jerusalem & the Hebrew Prophet vs. Jewish skeptic (Pt 3)

Previously, I argued that Ezekiel had foreseen the Jewish exile and subsequent loss of sovereignty in the land of Israel 606 BCE -> 537 BCE -> 1948 CE as he prophetically lay on his side for 430 days.  This addressed Sam Harris’s demand that the Biblical prophets foretell something specific for our time.

The Prophetic Timetable for Jerusalem

This same sequence also holds true for the city of Jerusalem and the Kotel (Temple site) – it is just shifted from the above dates.  To see this we need to know some details of Jewish history.  The Jewish Kingdom of Judah lost its independence to the Babylonians in 606/605 BCE when it became subject to Babylonia, and the first wave of deportations to Babylon occurred.  Daniel was in this group of exiles.  This started the countdown for Jeremiah’s 70 year exile.  However it was not until the failed revolt a few years later that the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, destroying and burning both the city and the First Temple.  The accepted date for this is 586 BCE.  This started the exile and desolation of Jerusalem proper.

The Jerusalem Temple – also desolate for 70 years

The Jews returned under the Persian Emperor Cyrus’s Edict in 537 BCE that fulfilled the 70 years of exile that Jeremiah had predicted.  But after returning they were not able (because of lack of interest and local opposition) to rebuild their temple.  That work was not begun in earnest until 520 BCE under the promptings of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.  The Second Temple was finally inaugurated in 516 BCE.  So from 586 BCE to 516 BCE the Temple was also desolate for 70 years.  The length of time was the same as that of the formal exile, but the start and end dates were shifted over 19 years.

Jerusalem in 1967

I suggested that the re-birth of Israel in 1948 was the conclusion to Ezekiel’s prophesy but this did not include Jerusalem.  In the 1948 war of Independence Israel did not get Jerusalem as it was not able to hold the city of Jerusalem or the Kotel and it was lost to Jordan.  It was later, in the six-day war of 1967, that Jerusalem with the Kotel was regained by Israel.

Applying the same prophetic timetable that we had used for Israel but now using Jerusalem dates (destroyed 586BCE, Temple rebuilt 516BCE, regained 1967CE) we get the following result:

586BCE + [70+(360*7)]*360/365.24 + 1 => 1967CE [1]

Ezekiel foretells the dispersal and re-gathering to Jerusalem, as a frame-shift of the schedule of Israel proper
Ezekiel foretells the dispersal and re-gathering to Jerusalem, as a frame-shift of the schedule of Israel proper

In other words, the prophetic schedule given by Ezekiel (and Leviticus) can shift so that Jerusalem also fits the prophetic timetable of national exile.  The dates of 586 BCE (destruction of Jerusalem & First Temple) -> 516 BCE (restoration of 2nd Temple) -> 1967 CE (return of Jerusalem & Kotel to Israel) matches the predictions of Ezekiel exactly as the dates of 606/05 BCE (first exile of Israelites to Babylon; Kingdom of Judah under Babylonian power) -> 537 BCE (first Jewish return from exile under Cyrus) -> 1948 CE (re-birth of modern Israel).  Both sets of events follow the same intervals and thus both are fulfilled with Ezekiel’s drama of lying on his side.  As the saying goes, Ezekiel “killed two birds with one stone”.

Coincidence or Prophecy?

So what are we to make of this?  On the one hand it does not hurt to be cautious.  If you look long and hard enough you can match some sequence of numbers matching different historical events.  For example, the interval of 2300 days is prominent in Daniel 8.  World War II was very close to being 2300 days long.  Is it possible that WWII is a ‘fulfillment’ of Daniel’s 2300 days because of the close match?  We would  see this as a coincidence since the context of Daniel 8 does not fit WWII.  Why would we treat Ezekiel’s prophecy differently?

The Persistent Theme of Dispersal and Re-gathering

Ezekiel’s ‘lying on his sides’ prophecy is not being matched with any event that ‘fits’ but with his explanation of it. Here is what Ezekiel wrote that the 430 days on his side meant:

I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. (Ezekiel 4:5) ….

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations. (Ezekiel 5:8)…

and a third [of the Jews] I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword (Ezekiel 5:12b)

To then assign a meaning of 430 years of exile and punishment for Israel and Jerusalem is not assigning any meaning to the prophecy, but the meaning that the prophet himself put on it.  This prophecy of exile and punishment is part of an overarching theme that runs through the Torah and Tanakh – this theme of a dispersion and a re-gathering of the Jews.  It starts with Moses and continues through other books of the Old Testament including Isaiah. and Ezekiel’s vision of Dry Bones.

This ensures that we are not just grabbing any set of numbers presented in Ezekiel and looking for any set of events that matches these numbers.  Moses and Ezekiel (along with Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a few others) together develop a consistent theme with some remarkably precise elements within that theme.   Ezekiel matches modern-day Israeli events with a precise and measurable chronology.  I know of no other writings, modern or ancient, that does this in a remotely comparable way.

[1] As in the previous timetable there were 430 years of exile, 70 of which were paid in the initial exile but the remainder (430-70=360) multiplied by 7 as per Leviticus.  This is the ‘[70+(360*7)]’ part of the calculation.  We, like before and like in Daniel, convert to 360 day years (the ‘360/365.24’ factor).  The ‘+1’ because there is no year 0 in going from BCE->CE.  These factors are exactly the same as used in the previous calculation of the exile of Israel.  What is different now is that we start with 586 BCE rather than 606 BCE since we are starting from the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple.  586 BCE is like -586 so the whole equation become -586 + [70+(360*7)]*360/365.24 = 1967, which corresponds to 1967 CE.

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