[b-hebrew] Chronology - was uncancellable meaning in hebrew verbs

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Jul 3 10:39:58 EDT 2009

Dear James,

The subject is clearly relevant for BH; so it can be discussed on this list.

We may start with the exile in Babylon. Daniel and the Chronicler say 
that Jerusalem was a desolate waste for a full 70 years, but this 
does not fit the Neo-Babylonian chronology. We should keep in mind 
that this chronology was fixed long before a single cuneiform tablet 
was unearthed - on the basis of the belief that the king list of the 
2nd century astronomer Claudius Ptolemy was correct.

In 1915 two German scholars (Neugebauer/Weidner) published an 
analysis of the astronomical Diary VAT 4956, which has more than 30 
positions of the moon and some planets in relation to particular 
stars. The tablet mentions year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar. This analysis 
showed that most of the positions fitted the year 568/67, and that 
was year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar II according to the chronology of 

Before this, in 1892, another German scholar (Strassmaier) published 
the tablet Strm Kambys 400, which also has many astronomical 
positions, and which mentions year 7 of Cambyses, which according to 
Ptolemy would be 523/22. Comparing these two tablets with the Bible 
indicates that at least one of the three sources  give wrong 
information. The tablets allow for only about 50 years for the exile, 
while the Bible has 70. The usual way to proceed has been, 1) either 
to reject the witness of the Bible, or 2) to try to reinterpret the 
texts of the Bible.

I approached the issue from a different angle. I made a careful 
analysis of the passages in the Bible, and found that they, 
linguistically speaking, were perfectly clear, and no one would have 
tried to give them an alternative interpretation if the person did 
not have a particular agenda. Then I started to look at the 
Babylonian evidence with fresh eyes. The very backbone of the 
Neo-Babylonian chronology is VAT 4956. Interestingly no one has 
published a new analysis of it since 1915 (Sachs/Hunger published an 
English translation and transliteration in 1988, but no analysis). I 
made digital photographs of this tablet in Berlin, and analyzed it 
sign for sign (about 600) from a philological, linguistic and 
astronomical point of view (87 pages with this analysis is found in 
one of my books). My conclusion is that the positions of the moon 
better fit the year 588/87 than 568/67, and that would fit the 
70-year chronology.

I have also visited the British Museum and read dated business 
tablets. And the dates of about 90 such tablets argues in favor of 
the view that the Neo-Babylonian Empire lasted longer than most 
scholars today believe. In one chapter I also discuss twelve persons 
that may have been kings in the Neo-Babylonian Empire, but are not 
mentioned by Ptolemy (the evidence for this is by no means 
conclusive, but should be considered). My conclusion, therefore, is 
that the cuneiform evidence does not definitely contradict a 70-year 
exile when Jerusalem was a desolate waste. But it is possible to 
interpret it in a way that conforms with Daniel and the Chronicler.

Then to Assyria. As a matter of fact, the royal inscriptions of 
Assyria exaggerates the victories of the kings and by and large are 
propaganda. The books of kings on the other hand have a completely 
different quality. The kings of Judah down to Sidkia can be followed, 
and their years of reign are mentioned. The chronology of Judah is 
between 30 and 40 years longer than the chronology of Assyria, and 
the two chronologies cannot be conformed. And as usual when sources 
differ, the Bible is the looser; the Assyrian chronology is accepted 
and the Biblical chronology is rejected. When I made a thorough study 
of the situation, I found something that even makes the situation 
ridiculous and laughable: The Assyrian chronology hinges on the 
interpretation of one single datum!  Only astronomical information 
connected with a particular year of a particular king or official can 
be used to make an absolute chronology. Only once is such information 
available for Assyria; a solar eclipse is reported in the limmu (his 
one year as official) of Bur Sagale. This is viewed to be the solar 
eclipse of 15 June 763 B.C.E. However, there are at least 8 other 
solar eclipses that can fit the data. So, the Neo-Assyrian chronology 
has a very weak foundation, but most people are not aware of that.

This was a sketch, and there are hundreds of other interesting 
details that can be used to question the traditional chronology.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Hi Rolf,
>That sounds interesting. Lately I've been interested in calendars 
>and chronology. Can you summarise what you've found in a short 
>email? It might make for an interesting discussion.
>James Christian

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