By Sir Robert Anderson
NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FIRST INVASION OF JUDEA
THE opening statement of the Book of Daniel is here selected for special notice for two reasons. First, because the attack upon it would be serious, if sustained. And secondly and chiefly, because it is a typical specimen of the methods of the critics; and the inquiry may convince the reader of their unfitness to deal with any question of evidence. I am not here laying down the law, but seeking to afford materials to enable the reader to form his own opinion.
Dan. i. I reads: "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem and besieged it." The German rationalists denounce this statement as a blunder. Their humble disciples, the English sceptics, accept their conclusion and blindly reproduce their arguments. Dr. Driver (more suo) takes a middle course and brands it as "doubtful" (Daniel, pp. xlviii and 2). I propose to show that the statement is historically accurate, and that its accuracy is established by the strict test of chronology.
A reference to Rawlinson's Five Great Monarchies (vol. iii. 488-494), and to Clinton's Fasti Hellenici, will show how thoroughly consistent the sacred history of this period appears to the mind of an historian or a chronologer, and how completely it harmonises with the history of Berosus. Jerusalem was first taken by the Chaldeans in the third year of Jehoiakim. His fourth year was current with the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. xxv. i). This accords with the statement of Berosus that Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition took place before his actual accession (Josephus, Apion, i. 19). Then follows the statement quoted at p. 27, ante. But here we must distinguish between the narrative of Josephus, which is full of errors, and his quotation from Berosus, which is consistent and definite. Dr. Driver tells us that on this expedition, when Nebuchadnezzar reached Carchemish, he was confronted by the Egyptian army, and defeated it; and that then, on hearing of his father's death, he hastened home across the desert. That German rationalists should have fallen into such a grotesque blunder as this, is proof of the blind malignity of their iconoclastic zeal that English scholars should adopt it is proof that they have not brought an independent judgment to bear on this controversy. What Berosus says is that when Nebuchadnezzar heard of his father's death, "he set the affairs of Egypt and the other countries in order, and committed the captives he had taken from the Jews, and the Phenicians, and Syrians, and of the nations belonging to Egypt, to some of his friends, while he went in haste over the desert to Babylon." Will the critics tell us how he could have had Jewish captives if he had not invaded Judea; how he could have reached Egypt without marching through Palestine; how he could have returned to Babylon over the desert if he had set out from Carchemish on the Euphrates?
One error leads to another, and so Dr. Driver has to impugn also the accuracy of Jer. xlvi. 2 (which states that the battle of Carchemish was in Jehoiakim's fourth year), and further, to cook the chronology of Jehoiakim's reign by making his regnal years date from Tishri (p. xlix.)- a blunder that the Mishma exposes. (Treatise, Rosh Hashanah.) The regnal years of Jewish kings are always reckoned from Nisan.
According to the Canon of Ptolemy, the reign of Nebuchadnezzar dates from B.C. 604: i.e. his accession was in the year beginning the 1st Thoth (which fell in January), B.C. 604. But the Captivity began in Nebuchadnezzar's eighth year (cf. Ezek. i. 2, and 2 Kings xxiv. 12); and in the thirty-seventh year of the Captivity Nebuchadnezzar's successor was on the throne (2 Kings xxv. 27). This, however, gives Nebuchadnezzar a reign of at least forty-four years, whereas according to the canon (and Berosus confirms it) he reigned only forty-three years. It follows, therefore, that Scripture antedates his reign and computes it from B.C. 605. (Clinton, F. H., vol. i. p. 367.) This might be explained by the fact that the Jews acknowledged him as suzerain from that date. But it has been overlooked that it is accounted for by the Mishna rule of computing regnal years from Nisan to Nisan. In B.C. 604, the first Nisan fell on the 1st April, and according to the Mishna rule the king's second year would begin on that day, no matter how recently he had ascended the throne. Therefore the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. xxv. i) was the year beginning Nisan B.C. 605; and the third year of Jehoiakim, in which Jerusalem was taken and the Servitude began, was the year beginning Nisan B.C. 6o6. This result is confirmed by Clinton, who fixes the summer of B.C. 6o6 as the date of Nebuchadnezzar's first expedition. And it is strikingly confirmed also by a statement in Daniel which is the basis of one of the quibbles of the critics: Daniel was kept three years in training before he was admitted to the king's presence, and yet he interpreted the king's dream in his second year (Dan. i. 5, 18; ii. i). The explanation is simple. While the Jews in Palestine computed Nebuchadnezzar's reign in their own way, Daniel, a citizen of Babylon and a courtier, of course accepted the reckoning in use around him. But as the prophet was exiled in B.C. 6o6, his three years' probation ended in B.C. 603, whereas the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, reckoned from his actual accession, extended to the early months of B.C. 602.
B.C. 561, and the thirty-seventh year of the Captivity was then current (2 Kings xxv. 27). Therefore the Captivity dated from the year Nisan 598 to Nisan 597. But this was (according to Jewish reckoning) the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings xxiv. 12). His reign, therefore, dated from the year Nisan 605 to Nisan 604. And the first siege of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Servitude was in the preceding year, 606-605. But seventy years was the appointed duration of the Servitude (not the Captivity, see p. 21, ante). And the Servitude ended in the first year of Cyrus, B.C. 536. It must therefore have begun in B.C. 606 (the third year of Jehoiakim), as the Book of Daniel records. That date, therefore, is the pivot on which the whole chronology turns. On what ground then does Dr. Driver impugn it? Will it be believed that the only ground suggested is that 2 Kings xxiv. r, which so definitely confirms Daniel, does not specify the particular year intended, and that Jeremiah xxv. and xxxvi. are silent with regard to the invasion of that year.
Let me examine this. I open Jer. xxv. to find these words: "The word that came to Jeremiah . . . in the fourth year of Jehoiakim . . that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon." Now Jeremiah had been a prophet for more than twenty years, yet till the fourth year of Jehoiakim he never mentions Nebuchadnezzar; but in that year he fixes a date by reference to his reign.
How is this to be explained? The explanation is obvious, namely that by the capture of Jerusalem, the year before, as recorded in Dan. I. I, and 2 Chron. xxxvi. 6, 7, Nebuchadnezzar had become suzerain. And yet Professor Driver tells us that "the invasion of Judea by Nebuchadnezzar, and the three years' submission of Jehoiakim, are certainly to be placed after Jehoiakim's fourth year - most probably indeed, towards the close of his reign" (Daniel, p. 2).
I now turn to Jer. xxxvi. This chapter records prophecies of the fourth and fifth year of Jehoiakim (vers. i and 9), and it is true that they do not mention an invasion before these years. But the critic has overlooked chapter xxxv. This chapter belongs to the same group as the chapter which follows it, and should of course be assigned to a date not later than the fourth year of the king. And in this chapter (verse ii) the presence of the Rechabites in Jerusalem is accounted for by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar's invasion had driven them from their homes. This chapter also thus affords signal confirmation of Daniel. The critics therefore hold, of course, that it belongs to the close of Jehoiakim's reign. And if we ask, Why should the history be turned upside down in this way? they answer, Because the prophecies of the earlier years of his reign are silent as to this invasion! This is a typical illustration of their logic and their methods.
I will only add that the silence of a witness is a familiar problem with the man of affairs, who will sometimes account for it in a manner that may seem strange to the student at his desk. It may be due, not to ignorance of the event in question, but to the fact that that event was prominently present to the minds of all concerned.