Did Israel Really Sin for 390 Years?
And I have given for you the years of their iniquity equal to the number of days: three hundred and ninety days. Then you will have borne the iniquity of the house of Yisra’ēl. When you have completed these, then you will have lain down on you right side a second time. Then you will have borne the iniquity of the house of Yehūdah forty days, a day to the year. A day to the year I have given it for you.
The answer given by by most Christian and Jewish Scholars the world over is “No, Israel did not sin for 390 years!” Many answers have been given for these words except the right answer. When you see the answer you will know that it is the right answer. Let us compare two answers, the Scriptural answer, and the usual answer given by conservative Evangelicals. This Evangelical Chronology was adopted from Edwin Thiele and Leslie McFall, and will henceforth be called the Thiele chronology.
|According to Scripture||According to Thiele|
|Exodus||1632 BC||1446 BC|
|Conquest||1592 BC||1406 BC|
|Divided Kingdom||983 BC||931 BC|
|Fall of Samaria||720 BC||722 BC|
Let us now tally up the years of sin and see which chronology agrees with 390 years. We will count only those years when scripture says that Israel was in rebellion, which in Judges and 1 Samuel is when Yahweh allowed them to be oppressed by other nations, and during the divided Kingdom when he allowed them to be oppressed by their evil kings. The first king of Israel obeyed Yahweh for 3 years (2 Chronicles 11:17), and allowed the people to attend the feasts. The last king was not as evil as the rest (2 Kings 17:2) and allowed the people to attend the feasts in Jerusalem in the first year of Hezekiah, and they did attend. Samaria fell in his 9th year, the 6th of Hezekiah. So Israel repented 5 years before the fall of Samaria. The interval of the divided kingdom, therefore, must be reduced by 8 years (
3 + 5 = 8) of time that Israel was not in rebellion. Here then is the tally of the years of Israel’s rebellion in not attending the Passover according to the two chronologies.
|Mesopotamian Oppression||8 years||8 years|
|Moabite Opression||18 years||18 years|
|Jabin of Hazor||20 years||20 years|
|Midianite Oppression||7 years||7 years|
|The evil ruler Abimelech||3 years||3 years|
|Ammonite Oppression||18 years||18 years|
|Philistines I||40 years||40 years|
|Philistines II||20 years||20 years|
|Divided Kingdom||256 years||202 years|
|Result||390 years||336 years|
The figures are generously high for the Thiele chronology, but still we see that they do not add up. Israel’s sin during the divided kingdom for the Scriptural Chronology is
983-720+1-8 = 256 years (The addition of
+1 is required for inclusive counting of the beginning and end year). For Thiele it is
931-722+1-8 = 202 years. There is also a fatal problem with the Evangelical Chronology. They overlap ALL the years of Israel’s sin before the Divided Kingdom with the years of the Judges, during which times the Scripture makes it clear Israel was not in rebellion. For this reason, the total has to be reduced by the 134 years prior to the Divided Kingdom since the Evangelicals believe Israel was righteous at the same time it was wicked. The total is then: 202 years. See my paper on the Judges to see why overlapping is not possible.
Basically the attitude taken toward Scripture when the 390 years are considered is, move on, nothing to see, nothing to figure out, nothing literal here. Or someone may suggest that Israel did not really sin 390 years, but that Israel was to be punished 390 years as the Hebrew word עֲוֹן sometimes means a punishment. This is ridiculous at least to anyone who reads the Law. The Law says the punishment will be exile from the land of Israel. If the 390 years were years of punishment by exile, then they ended long ago! One can say the same for Judah. The ESV translates עֲוֹן “punishment” to conceal the fact that the years of iniquity actually do add up to 390 because the ability to identify these years from Scripture has long been lost to followers of Thiele’s chronology. If the 40 years sin of Judah is a punishment they why can we identify 40 years during which Judah sinned independent of Israel?
Hezekiah and Josiah were righteous kings, so we have to seek the 40 years from Manasseh, Amon, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. Amon ruled 2 years, Jehoahaz parts of 2 years, Jehoiakim 11, and Jehoiachin just 3 months in the 11th year of Jehoiakim. The total would be 15 years. This leaves 25 years in the reign of Manasseh, dating from the first part of his reign 697-672. Here is the math:
Manasseh x (from the first part of his reign before repenting)
Jehoahaz 2 (3 month reign breaks over two years)
Jehoiachin 0 (in the 11th year of Jehoiakim)
Total x + 15
x + 15 = 40
- 15 = -15
x + 0 = 25
x = 25
Thirteen of the 40 years are counted during three reigns, as shown above. Josiah was killed in the summer of 609 BC and Jehoahaz was installed on the throne of Judah by the king of Egypt. Since this was before Tishri 1, the partial year is counted as 1 year. Jehoiakim had a long accession year marked א. In 597 BC we find the termination of Jehoiakim’s 11 years and the 3 months rule of Jehoiachin. This is counted as the 13th year. How do we know not to count the reign of Zedekiah who was installed by the king of Babylon in 597 BC? The prophecy was given in 593 BC before the end of Zedekiah’s reign, and it is called the 5th year of the exile of king Jehoiachin (Ezekiel 1:2). This should be equated with the 5th year of the exile of Judah for 70 years (cf. Jeremiah 29:10) since in the letter the exiles with Jehoiachin have the 70 years applied to them. The 40 years are the sum of years of sin for Judah taken to the end point where the exile begins in 597 BC. It must be this way. For if we were to count the five years of exile up to 593 BC, the date of the prophecy, the years would be too many. Also the sabbatic year principle would be broken. The exile was based on 70 broken sabbatic years, and these all fall into the 390 years of sin for Israel and the 40 years of sin for Judah. If we counted past the start of the exile to 593, then we would be compelled to take 5 years out of the reign of Manasseh, removing a sabbatic year from the count. It may be admitted that the text is not explicit where the end point of the count is taken. This is because Yahweh is the one who gave the number, and as a test he expects us to figure out which years he is talking about. The commencement of the exile is the reasonable endpoint for taking the sum, as this is also where the summation of broken sabbatical years ends. Why stop counting in 597? One may as well ask why start counting 70 years in 597 even though the Temple was not to be destroyed till 587 BC, ten years later? Once can make any number of subjective suggestions. Subjectivity is put to rest when we find that the Scriptural numbers go together only one way. It is then discovered where the end point is.
Tradition says that the exile was 604 to 535 BC, according to Jeremiah 25:11. But this period of time pertains to Babylon. It is not called the exile. Further, Babylon is to become an everlasting desolation at the end of the period. In 539 BC Persia overthrew Babylon, but did not destroy the city or lay waste to the land. They took it intact. 604 to 539 was 3.5 to 4 years less than 70 years. The other 3.5 years are explained in Revelation. The 535 BC date is a fiction of many bible chronologers who wished to complete the 70 years. They assigned the first year of Cyrus to this date, even though there is not a shred of evidence that it was the first year of Cyrus, a first year of Cyrus, or a first year of anything. If they had read the Scripture, they would have discovered that Jeremiah 29:10 pertains to 597 BC and that this 70 years is called the exile by Ezekiel. Further, they should have read Isaiah 45:4 and found that Cyrus is a surname (KJV), which is to say a family name, and in the case of Persia a throne name. The first year of Cambyses was 529/528 BC. This is where the 70 years end. Furthermore, Isaiah says that “Cyrus” will take Egypt. This was done by Cambyses in 525 BC. It does not matter that Ptolemy called this king Cambyses. According to the throne name, surname, and the Scripture, he is Cyrus. This is where the real first year is obtained from history, as mentioned in Ezra. Nor does the Cyrus Cylinder prove that the Jews returned under the king historians have dubbed Cyrus the Great, but which Scripture calls Darius the Mede. The cylinder does not mention the Jews by name, but only a policy of restoring the temples of foreign nations. There is no evidence this policy was actually applied to the Jews until later. We may conclude that tradition is very good at reading things into archaeological findings that simply are not there. Interpretations are subjective, but the numbers only work out one way. Dating from 604 BC is much less the exile than tradition supposes. Hardly anyone, except Daniel and his friends, was exiled. The era is not called the exile. Ezekiel 33:21 says,
In the 12th year of our exile (לְגָלוּתֵנוּ). He calls the period of time “our exile.” He repeats the same in Ezekiel 40:1. Twenty-five years after 597 BC, he is still counting. Was the letter in Jeremiah 29 a lie? Is Jeremiah 29:10 a lie? If they returned in 535, it is a lie. If they did not return 70 years from 597, when Jehoiachin was exiled, then it is a lie.
Traditional Bible Chronology is not a solution. It is a subjective conjecture based on assumed dates, which could be other dates, and arbitrary guesses as to what equates to what. It was put together without fully comprehending the precise statements in Scripture, some of which contradict it, and then accepted into tradition, where it obtains its own inertia. It owes its continued existence in tradition to the fact that it is confusing. By virtue of being confusion, it hides the real solution, which is not confusing, and which points to facts and truths that some traditionalists would rather ignore, because they have accepted false doctrines concerning Messiah and the Law and the Prophets, and they do not want them challenged. The problem is that the typical chronologist does occasionally stumble onto the beginning of the pathway to the right answer only to dismiss it and go off onto a dead end because his doctrine says the right path is the wrong way.
Now let us find out where the other 25 years of sin are to go with the 13 years of the three kings, and the 2 years of Amon. There is space in Manasseh’s reign for exactly 25 years of sin, no more, no less, and not because we computed
x = 25. It is because there are 25 years between the beginning of his reign, and his exile to Babylon. After this he repented of his sin, and was pardoned and restored to his throne.
In 672 Assyria invaded Judea in the 10th year of Esarhadon, and took Manasseh captive to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). In his distress, Manasseh repented and then served Yahweh the rest of his years. So Yahweh restored him to the throne in 671. In the same campaign, Esarhaddon deported the remnant of Ephraim fulfilling the Isaiah 7:8 prophecy of 65 years dating from the 4th year of Ahaz! This locks in the 25 years of sin for Judah during the reign of Manasseh. The other 15 years of sin add to the 25 and make 40, up to the time of the Babylonian exile in 597 BC. Since we have actually found the 40 years for the sin of Judah, it follows automatically that the 390 years of sin for Israel exist in their history, and have to be found on the same principles.
The problem with most Evangelicals is that they have become spiritually blind. They believe a chronology which overlaps all the years of sin with years of righteousness for the period of the Judges. This is why the numbers don’t add up. Did we see years of sin overlapping years of righteousness in the case of the 40 years for Judah above? They impute years of Sin for years of Righteousness. Of course most Christians are not aware of this. But not having the full truth in the first place, they have allowed certain men to pervert it and then hand it down to their leaders as the traditional truth. The incorrect chronology is then printed in all the bible notes. And since it is confusing, imprecise, and leaves a host of contradictions inside and outside the Scripture, biblical chronology is shoved aside as irrelevant and unspiritual, and those noticing the problems are told to shut up because Dr. Edwin Thiele (Ph.D., University of Chicago), figured it all out. And of course the Assyrian Chronology he learned in Chicago is more accurate than Biblical chronology, despite the fact that the contradictions in Assyrian Archaeological Chronology are well known and well proven. That is, they are well known to Assyriologists.
But by Yahweh’s grace, the Biblical numbers actually do work out. There are actually 390 years to be found simply by noting the periods of time that Scripture says Israel was in sin, and then adding them up. Likewise for the 40 years of the sin of Judah. Those numbers are not wasted dead ends. For that is how the world perceives biblical chronology, as a mass of unrelated numbers. That a Biblical Chronology exists is a miracle. What other nation has such a precise list of dates for antiquity? But the Almighty graciously has preserved it, and used it to illustrate spiritual truth, and has meant the ciphers and puzzles to be pondered and figured out. But Christianity is withering under the withering attack of Higher Critics, and Atheists and humanists, who every day say Scripture contradicts itself! It is time for Christians to take up the weapon lovingly provided for a time such as this in the overall Chronology, a weapon that no single author of Scripture could forge, but only the Spirit of the Almighty in working with the authors, to put the exact right ciphers into the text, and to make sure they were solvable by hints and clues, and then making sure the evidence is available to confirm the solution.
Most Christians have a general inability to solve Biblical ciphers because they do not seriously try to interpret Scripture with Scripture. Therefore they are dying and retreating when they should be fighting and winning the battle. They only say they take Scripture seriously, and then take whatever surface interpretation strikes them without serious thought. And then they listen to false teachers instead (and read false translations). For example, in Exodus 12:40 they think that Israel was 430 years in Egypt instead of the true figure of 210 years, and they do not realize that the 430 year figure dates from Abraham’s departure from Ur. They read Genesis 11:26 and think that Abraham was born when Terah was 70, or Genesis 5:32 and think that Shem was born when Noah was 500. They read 1 Kings 6:1 and think that there were only 480 years from the Exodus to Solomon’s 4th year. They read the cipher in 2 Samuel 15:7 forty years, and think it must be revised to four years (cf. NAS vs. ESV). They read the cipher in 2 Chronicles 22:2, where it says
a son of forty two years and they change it to 22 years. They read the cipher in 2 Chronicles 16:1,
the thirty-sixth year and they think it is an error.
But by the Almighty’s grace we have the answers. And if the reader can endure the explanation of the answers, which is a lot of work, the reward is worth it.
|Genesis 5:31||500th Yr = 1st Shem||The most important son is listed first, not the first born. Shem was 100 years old 2 years after the flood. Noah was 600 years old during the flood.|
|Genesis 11:26||70th Yr = 1st Abram||The most important son is listed first, not the first born. Terah died the same year Abram was 75 (Confirmed by NT).|
|Genesis 15:13||400 years in Egypt||400 years is the total time his seed, starting with Isaac would be afflicted (confirmed by NT).|
|Exodus 12:40||430 years in Egypt||430 dates from Ur (confirmed by NT).|
|1 Samuel 13:1||Saul reigned 2 years||He reigned 40 (confirmed by NT).|
|1 Kings 6:1||Interval of 480 years||480 years omits 134 years of oppressions by other nations. Confirmed by Acts 13:20.|
|Ezekiel 4:5 cipher #1||390 years date from the Division of the kingdom to 5th year of Exile when sum was given.|
|Ezekiel 4:5 cipher #2||390 year actual sum of sin years.|
The “going out of Egypt” refers to the celebration of the Passover when Israel was obeying the Almighty. Now usually some phrases mean one thing, but when they are a cipher they mean something else. For example Ahaziah is called a
son of forty two years in 2 Chronicles 22:2, and a
son of twenty-two years in 2 Kings 8:26. Translators thinking that 2 Chronicles 22:2 is an error change it to 22. But the number 42 is a cipher for the dynasty of Omri. Ahaziah was descended from Omri. Omri had overthrown the previous king 42 years before. The cipher points to the unfitness of Ahaziah for the throne of Judah. Ordinarily the phrase “son of x years” indicates age, but we see that it has an extraordinary sense which can be understood, but which it can only be detected that it does have another sense if one knows all the facts surrounding the case, and that Ahaziah could not be 42 years old. Rather than being too quick to charge the Scripture with error the possibility of the cipher must be checked first.
Now if Scripture has ciphers to be solved, then he who assumes he knows the answer from the “plain reading” is going to be deceived. We know a cipher by the fact that the plain reading leads to unsolvable contradictions. We know a cipher by the fact that its solution actually fits when the unexpected meaning is detected. One may have to solve several ciphers before additional facts confirm the solution. But, those who “know” the traditional answer will not listen long enough or seek hard enough to solve the ciphers and confirm the real solution. And that is precisely why these ciphers are in the text. It is to put off those who only want to follow human traditions, and who fear traditions, and are too lazy to do the real work of finding out what is true and false. In fact, they will not even believe that the Almighty would be so “unkind” as to put a cipher in Scripture, and leave the ultimate answer to be sought out and computed by putting all the facts and figures together. But you see, the Almighty is testing people, to see how much they will really seek him.
So which is it going to be, tradition or grace. Tradition leads to death. Tradition allows the enemies of God’s people to exploit them and win the argument, because the tradition comes from Israel’s enemies to begin with: Assyria.
I should point out that in Ezekiel 4:5 is a two for one deal. By the grace of Messiah the 390 year era serves not only for the actual sin of Israel, but it also gives the total time from the beginning of the Divided Kingdom to the date of the Prophecy (983 BC to 593 BC). It is a wheel within a wheel. This serves as a check and confirmation of the correct reckoning of the Kings of Israel and Judah.
As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel.
ESV Ezekiel 1:16