Date of the Jewish Return to Israel

The return of the Jews to modern Israel caps one prophetic story in the Bible. When was it to happen? What Bible year from Adam must we be in now?

Background

Contrary to much popular opinion the Bible contains a clear prediction of when the Jews would return to the modern nation of Israel. Our point here is to explore the dates behind that return.

This is the most important of the Gentile dates because until this event no other Bible dates can be known with certainty.

When Jesus told his disciples that not even He himself knew when he was coming back, and then told them to watch for the sign of the fig tree, he was revealing that this was the central event that had to be witnessed before any other End-Times dates could be known.

We are setting out to explore the predicted years of the Jewish return to modern Israel. These predicted years will be known on both the Bible’s calendar, the Temple Calendar, and in modern history. This will allow our first triangulation between Biblical years and Modern years.

Even without the accurate Temple Calendar, the return of the Jews to the modern nation of Israel will be shown to be accurate to within 0.04%. Once shown, we will reverse the process and define the relationship between the Biblical and modern calendars, eventually reducing the error to zero.

Not until we have the day-for-a-year map figured out can we narrow the alignment between the ancient Temple Calendar and the modern Gregorian calendar. At that point the precision of the alignment will go from year accuracy to day accuracy.

We look to Jesus, and his words about the return of the Jews to Israel, what He called the "Fig Tree Sign." He was referencing a story in Jeremiah, a story we look to next.

Good Figs, Bad Figs

Near the end of the time of the monarchy, God spoke a word through Jeremiah, the prophet. In that word God told Jeremiah that he was now going to be dealing favorably with those who went down to Babylon, not those who stayed in Jerusalem.

The following is the relavent passage.

1After Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babel, had carried away captive Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with the craftsmen and the soldiers, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babel, Yahvah showed me, and look 2 baskets of figs were set before the house of Yahvah. 21 basket had very good figs, like the figs that are 1st ripe; and 1 basket had very bad figs, so that they could not be eaten, because they were so bad. 3Then Yahvah said to me, What do you see, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, so that they cannot be eaten because they are so bad.

4Again the word of Yahvah came to me saying, 5Yahvah the god of Israel says, Like these good figs, so I will acknowledge the exiles of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place to the land of the Chaldeans for their good. 6For I will set my eyes on them for good and not for evil, says Yahvah, and I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them and not overthrow them; and I will plant them and not pluck them up. 7And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Yahvah; and they will be my people, and I will be their god when they will return to me with their whole heart.

8And like the bad figs which cannot be eaten because they are so bad, Yahvah says, so I will deliver Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and his princes and the remnant of the people who are left in this city together with those who live in the land of Egypt; 9and I will make them a horror, an abomination and an evil thing, a disgrace in all the kingdoms of the land, to be a disgrace, a proverb, a taunt, and a curse in all the lands where I have driven them. 10And I will send after them the sword, famine, and pestilence, until I destroy them off the land which I gave to them and to their fathers. Jeremiah 24:1-10

In this passage the people of Judah are likened to figs, those who stay in Jerusalem as bad figs, those who go on to Babylon as good figs.

This may have seemed like a surprise, or harsh, to those who heard this word, indeed, various arguments were proposed to the prophets as to why God just did not work this way, but indeed, God’s plan was to send these people into exile in Babylon.

Why?

Because God keeps his word, and when he had given the Law to Moses on mount Sinai, he had said he would do this if they did not keep their side of God’s bargain with them.

Broken Law

When God had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he began to form them into an independent country. Part of doing this was to give them a Law, directly from God, that was to govern how the nation was to be.

That Law consisted of 10 base rules, called the 10 commandments, that anyone could easily learn, followed by a canon of law that governed more intricate details of the country’s legal environment.

Jesus later summarized these laws as having two parts, 1) To love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul and mind. and 2) to love your neighbor as yourself.

If the nation kept the laws found in this canon, God would keep his part of an agreement he entered into with them at mount Sinai, and that was to watch over and protect them, and among other things to allow them to stay in the land, the land promised to Abraham on oath.

If they did not keep this law, then the nation would undergo punishment. The following is the relevant half chapter from Leviticus regarding the punishment they would undergo. Note the relevant chronological elements to this punishment are highlighted here in blue.

14But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15and if you despise my laws, or if your soul abhor my judgments so that you will not do all my commandments, and make my contract of no effect; 16I will also do this to you: I will visit you with terror, leprosy, scab, and the burning ague, that will consume the eyes and cause life to waste away; and you will seed your seed in vain, for your enemies will eat it. 17And I will pour out my anger against you, and you will be defeated before your enemies; those who hate you will reign over you; and you will flee when no one pursues you. 18And if, for all these things, you will not yet listen to me, then I will punish you 7 times more for your sins. 19And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your skies like iron and your land like brass; 20and your strength will be spent in vain; for your land will not yield its increase, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruits.

21And if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will bring 7 times more plagues on you according to your sins. 22I will also send wild animals against you, which will bereave you of your sons and destroy your cattle and make you few in number; and your highways will be desolate.

23And if by these things you will not be disciplined, but continue to walk contrary to me; 24then I will also walk contrary to you and will punish you yet 7 times for your sins. 25And I will bring a sword on you, which will avenge the breaking of the contract; and you will flee to your cities; I will send pestilence among you; and you will be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26And when I have broken the staff of your grain, 10 women will bake your bread in 1 oven, and they will deliver your bread by weight; and you will eat and not be satisfied.

27And if for all these things you will not listen to me but walk contrary to me, 28then I will also walk contrary to you in fury, and I even I will punish you 7 times for your sins. 29And you will eat the flesh of your sons, and you will eat the flesh of your daughters. 30And I will destroy your high places and break your idols and cast your carcasses on the carcasses of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31And I will make your cities waste and reduce your holy places to desolation, and I will not smell the savor of your sweet odors. 32And I will bring the land into desolation, and your enemies who live in it will be astonished at it. 33I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out a sword against you, and your land will be desolate and your cities waste.

34Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; even then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35As long as it lies desolate it will rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths when you lived on it. 36And as for those who are left among you, I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf will chase them; and they will flee as fleeing from the sword; and they will fall when no one pursues them. 37And they will stumble one after another, as it were from the sword, when no one pursues them; and they will have no power to stand before their enemies. 38And you will perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies will devour you. 39And those of you who are left will pine away in their iniquity in their enemies' lands; and also in the iniquity of their fathers they will pine away with them. Leviticus 26:14-39

This is the part of the law that was exercised against the Jews when Nebuchadnezzar broke through Jerusalem’s walls and burned the city to the ground.

Was God doing something against the people or the nation?

The nation. People who wanted to be under his blessings, who wanted to be "good figs" would need to go to Babylon. They could not stay in Jerusalem or its vacinity.

The picture of the Fig Tree is picked up by Jesus in the New Testament. He has more to say about what God is doing with this people more than 500 years later. We turn our attention now to the Fig Tree.

Parable of the Fig Tree

In response to an encounter with the chief priests and teachers of the law, Jesus used a fig tree to identify that these men were also figs, and that they would no longer bear any fruit. The following is the story.

12And Joshua entered into the temple of god, and put out all who were buying and selling in the temple, and he overturned the trays of the moneychangers and the stands of those who sold doves. 13And he said to them, It is written, My house will be called the house of prayer, (Isaiah 56:7) but you have made it a bandits' cave. (Jeremiah 7:11)

14And in the temple they brought to him the blind and the lame and he healed them. 15But when the high priests and the Pharisees saw the wonders that he did, and the boys who were crying aloud in the temple and saying, Hosanna to the son of David, they were displeased. 16And they said to him, Do you hear what they are saying? Joshua said to them, Yes. Have you never read, From the mouth of little children and of boys you made praise? (Psalms 8:2) 17And he left them and went outside of the city to Bethany and he lodged there.

18In the morning, as he returned to the city, he became hungry. 19And he saw a fig tree on the roadside, and he came to it and found nothing on it except leaves; and he said to it, Let there not be fruit on you again forever. And shortly, the fig tree withered.

20When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, How is it that the fig tree has withered so soon? 21Joshua answered and said to them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you will perform a deed not only like this with the fig tree, but you will even say to this mountain, Be removed, fall into the sea, and it will be done. 22And everything that you will ask in prayer and believe, you will receive.

23When Joshua came to the temple the high priests and the elders of the people came up to him while he was teaching and said to him, By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you this authority? 24Joshua answered and said to them, I will also ask you a word, and if you tell me then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Where is the baptism of John from? Is it from the skies or from men? And they reasoned with themselves saying, If we should say, From the skies, he will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? 26And if we should say, From men, we are afraid of the people for all of them regard John as a prophet. 27So they answered and said to him, We do not know. Joshua said to them, Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

28What do you think? A man had 2 sons, and he came to the 1st and said to him, My son, go and work today in the vineyard. 29He answered and said, I do not want to, but later he regretted and went. 30And he came to the other and said to him likewise. And he answered and said, Here I am my master, yet he did not go. 31Which of these 2 did the will of his father? They said to him, The 1st. Joshua said to them, Truly I say to you, that even the tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede you into the kingdom of god. 32For John came to you in a righteous way, and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; but you, even though you saw, did not repent, so that later you may believe him. Matthew 21:12-32

This parable is a picture of what God is doing with the "fig tree", that from that day forward it would not bear fruit.

A new day was dawning in the affairs of God with mankind, and the fig tree would no longer bear fruit. Who was going to be bearing fruit? In a veiled reference, Jesus told us that "this mountain" ie: the place where one could come to meet with God, was going "into the sea" which is a word picture for the "nations" at large.

Unlike the word to Jeremiah, when God had intended to put his good figs in Babylon, now the tree of figs, ie: the Jewish religion, would no longer bear any fruit at all. From Jeremiah’s word picture, only Babylon, would be bearing fruit, ie: the gentile nations were to now bear fruit.

Paul, who wrote much of the new testament, has much to say about this same process, that the reason for this is so that Salvation can come to the Gentiles, (ie: the non-Jew) and Paul hoped for this process to lead to some of the Jews being saved.Romans 11:1 If for no other reason, than because of shear envy.

God was about to start a new thing, and the fruit that the father longed for would not be found in the Jews. It would be found somewhere else, among the non-Jewish nations. "In the seas". But, the place of this fruit, it turns out, is not as important as the nature of this fruit.

In an encounter with the woman at the well, who was aware of a traditional argument that raged between Samaria and Jerusalem, as the place of true worship, Jesus explained what that fruit was.

19Then the woman said to him, My master I see that you are a prophet. 20Our forefathers worshiped on this mountain, and you say the place where men must worship is in Jerusalem. 21Joshua said to her, Woman, believe me, the time is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will they worship the father. 22You worship what you do not know but we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the time is coming and it is here when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and in truth, for the father also desires worshippers such as these. 24For god is spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:19-24

The temple system at Temple Mount in Jerusalem was no longer going to bear fruit for God. Fruit for God would come from those who worshiped him in Spirit and Truth. What Spirit? The Holy Spirit, which would be given in ever increasing amounts at Pentecost.Acts 2:1

Was this the end of the story? No more fruit from the Jews? Yes, but this is not the end of what Jesus had to say about the fig tree. In a much longer passage dealing with the end of the age, Jesus tells us something more about the fig tree, that it is the primary sign regarding the end of the age.

32Learn a parable from the fig tree. As soon as its branches become tender and bring forth leaves, you know that summer is coming. 33So even you, when you see all these things, know that it has arrived at the door. 34Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away, until all these things happen. Matthew 24:32-34

What does it mean for a fig tree to bud? The end of the time away from Jerusalem, the start of which was in Jeremiah’s time, would herald the soon end of the age. In fact that set of events would encompass the life span of the people who are alive to see it.

The restoration of the Jews to the modern nation of Israel is the sign of the fig tree and the marker to be used regarding all other things surrounding the time at the end of the age.

How long?

If the Parable of the Fig Tree is a picture of the time that the Jews are away from their native land, and that time away was proscribed by the law, the exact length away from the land is probably also found in the law. As we looked at earlier, the relavent expression was "seven times". This was the period that would transpire before the kingdom would be allowed to return.

How long was that?

When the nation sent 12 spies to look over the land, the spies spent 40 days, the nation paid a price of 40 years, a day for a man being a year for the nation.Numbers 14:34

The passage in Leviticus gave the answer, using the same formula, only it is saying that instead of 40 days as the reference base for punishment, the reference base is the number of days in "seven times" or "seven years". That number of days, at the rate of one day per year, is the number of years they would be away from their land.

Understand what that time interval means. If the spys had been in the land 10 weeks the nation would have been punished 70 years. If the spies had been spying 6 months, the nation would have been punished 180 years. If the spies had taken 1 year, the punishment for the nation? 360 years. In this case the punishment is for "seven times", suggesting 7 years of spying, or sinning, and also suggesting 2550 years of punishment.

We compute this number of years by looking at the number of days found in seven years on a calendar. Recall that the shape of the calendar was 6 common years of 360 days, plus a Sabbath year of 390 days, so (360 * 6) + 390 = 2550 days are in "seven times". But, since the nation is being punished, not a person, this period is not 2550 days, but 2550 years.

Support from the Book of Daniel

Note that this formula is seen again in the Book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar starts ruling the Jews, through his vassal, Jehoiakim. Once he is the ultimate earthly king over the Jews, he starts having dreams from God, regarding this same 7 year formula.Daniel 4:23 In this case since the king is a man, he spends 7 years eating grass, away from his royal residence and court. But, since the Jews are not a man, but a nation, it will play out just like in the wilderness of Sinai, one year for each of these days, or 2550 years.

Support from the Book of Ezekiel

This formula is also found in Ezekiel, where the prophet is told to lie on his side, 390 days, one day for each of the years of the sins of Israel, and then 40 days, one day for each of the years of the sins of Judah. With Ezekiel day is equivalent to one year for the country. Ezekiel 4:5-10

End of Punishment

In all these cases, as with the original passage in Leviticus, this was a temporary punishment period for the nation, and it would come to an end at the appointed time.

This is the time Jesus said to be watching for. It is both a sign that we are a generation from the end of the entire "age" itself, and that many other events recorded in the Bible are about to take place.

Why did Jesus say to look for this sign, rather than, say, looking for a date? Because even in Jesus’ time, the distance in time from his time to the end of the Jew’s biblical chronology was not accurately known. Reconstruction of the calendar and placement on the calendar was the only way to get down to day accuracy, which is what you’re currently reading through how to do.

The date of the departure to Babylon is hard to establish, what, of all the events of last 10 years of the Jewish kingdom, is the one we should use for the date?

For a first pass, and so we can check that our work is not totally departed from tradition, we turn our attention now to a rough cut.

A Rough Cut at Timing the Return

God did not drive out the Jews from their land in one day, in fact we’ve already mentioned that the first attack from Babylon happened in 10390 and that the city finally fell in 10409. This spanned a period of 20 years.

This same 20 year period was following the 20 year pattern it took to gain independence from Israel (10000 through 10019).

We would expect that at this end of the age, the same pattern would repeat, with 20 years being taken to restore the Jews to their ancient lands.

Consider that the Jews began the process of restoration to their ancient lands in 1948, and it was more or less complete by mid 1967 with their taking over of the old city of Jerusalem in the 6 Day War. 1948 through 1967 is 20 years.

Most study bibles place the fall of Jerusalem sometime around 585 BC, on our modern calendar, without a year zero. 585 BC + 2550 + 1 for the missing zero, is 1966. This is off by 1 year, or 1 part in 2550 years. Expressed as a percent, this is only off by 0.04%. Not a bad approximation of what God said he was going to do. Twenty years earlier on both ends works the right direction too, 1947 at this end, 605 BC or so at the ancient end.

The modern solar year can also be used for this approximation, ( 365 * 7) + 1 = 2556, which avoids the issue of biblical calendar, but puts the error at the up-side, with 585 BC as the start year, the ending year is now six years later, 1972. Not quite as close to actual as with the biblical year, but OK for certain uses. This is still 6 parts in 2550, or about 0.24% error, again, not bad at all. Even a 2% error would be a great answer, and that would be a 51 year error.

The error in this approximation comes from two areas, first, the use of the right calendar, the modern Solar calendar of about 365.25 days per year will also work in this approximation, especially when sharing with groups not versed in issues of calendar. The other source of error comes at the start. Those dates in the study bibles are themselves not in agreement, nor are they particularly accurate. God, we presume, kept his word. Mankind just has not tracked it well.

We now turn our attention to turning this formula upside down, and using it to define the chronological relationship between the biblical times and the present. In other words, to drive the error to 0.0%.

Details of Getting the Date of the Return to Jerusalem Right

We previously looked at the approximate alignment between the ancient dates and the modern dates corresponding to the loss and of restoration of Jerusalem to the Jews. We want to look at this again, but with a higher degree of accuracy and we want to define the calendar relationship between the present and the biblical account through the results of our study.

Note that there is no way this could be done until after this sign had actually happened in world history. This is important. This is why Jesus said to watch for this particular sign. Once we’ve seen it happen, we can begin to unlock many, many, other prophesies which are based within the calendar.

What this approach does is rely on God’s keeping his promise, to do exactly what he said he would do, to the exact year he said he was going to do it. When we rely this way on God, we can squash out tolerance errors from the mixed up calendars of the early Roman period and squash out reporting errors from the historians who wrote their reports in an era without the precise scientific bent of today.

There are various candidate events within the 20 year fall and the 20 year return of the Jews to modern Israel. The "right choice" is hard to be certain of at this point in the story. It will gather strength as more and more collateral dates fall in line.

Our choice here for tracking this time is going to be king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The reason for this choice is many sided. This king was the first Gentile king over the Jews since Pharaoh had ruled the nation before the time of the Exodus. The issue of Gentile rule pervades the New Testament text which deals with this issue, as we saw, the "mountain into the seas" was Jesus’ word picture for this, the first time this happened was when Jehoiakim becomes king Nebuchadnezzar’s vassal.

As we’ve already shown, Nebuchadnezzar’s first year of rule over Judah was 10391. If God kept his promise, to the year, the last year of Gentile rule over the kingdom of Judah would be the 2550th year after this year, or the year 12940 from Adam.

This time around, unlike the rough cut, we are going to define, that the last year of Gentile rule over the kingdom of Judah must be the year 12940. Note that Nebuchadnezzar had attacked the year before and taken some captives to Babylon, including the Prophet Daniel. So we would look for the Jews of Israel attacking something or someone a year earlier too, in 12939.

Since Nebuchadnezzar was messing around like this in the affairs of the Jews, his working rule probably started late in the year 10390, so the year 12940 is also probably not a full year, loosing as many days as were granted at the end of 10390.

When we look at the history of the modern nation of Israel, our two candidate modern years for the 12940th year from Adam are 1948 and 1949. 1948 is interesting because it was May 14, 1948 that the state was declared. More so than 1948, the modern year 1949 has more interesting events:

  • It was in 1949 that the first Israeli elections where held, with 440,000 voters, indicating national sovereignty.

  • It was in 1949 that Israel was admitted to the United Nations.

  • It was in 1949 when the armistice agreements were signed between the combatants in the war of independence.

The year we are going to pick for our purposes here is 1949, ie: that the year 1949 on the modern Gregorian calendar is roughly aligned with the year 12940 on the biblical calendar from Adam. This choice also aligns the year we’d expect the Jews to attack something or someone for independence to be the events of 1948 or the biblical year 12939 from Adam.

This assertion still has some tolerance issues that we need to address, the biggest source is the difference in lengths between the modern Gregorian calendar and the biblical calendar. We don’t know if the year 1949 overlaps in any meaningful way with the biblical year 12940.

If 1949 is 12940, then we can also make general claims about each successive year. The following charts the relationship for every ten years from this point in history through the early part of the 21st century.

Modern Year Biblical Year
1949 12940
1959 12950
1969 12960
1979 12970
1989 12980
1999 12990
2009 13000

Note, that the year 1998 is 12989, 1999 is 12990, 2000 is 12991 and 2001 is 12992.

For millenium buffs, recall that Adam’s first year is year 1, so the end of Adam’s first century was 100. All centuries and thus all milleniums end after a year ending in ’00, so, the millennium at our part of the age ends at the end of the year 13000 after Adam, or at roughly the end of the year 2009 Gregorian. The year 2010 is the start of a new millennium on God’s calendar, starting with Adam, and also, starting with the Exodus from Egypt, the first year out being 9501 from Adam.

This choice of year alignment has some supporting details which we turn our attention to now.

Support For Our 1949 = 12940 choice

There are other events in the fall of the kingdom of Judah which have specific years recorded for them. They also have repetitions 2550 years later with the restoration of the nation.

Note that by choosing 12940 to be 1949, it makes 1950 as the first full year of Israeli sovereignty, this is unusual by modern standards, but it fits the biblical pattern we’ve been following all along.

The most interesting supporting set of dates are the various captive groups recorded in Jeremiah.

In the 7th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he hauled 3023 people to Babylon.Jeremiah 52:28-57 The 7th full year of the modern nation of Israel’s sovereign reign, 1956, a war was fought. Do these two align?

Yes.

These people probably did not leave for Babylon voluntarily, it was probably the result of a military operation of some sort. Ditto, the Arab-Israeli war of 1956.

Similarly, in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign he hauled away 832 people. The 18th full year of Israel’s sovereignty is 1967, the year of the Six Day War.

Strangely, Jeremiah records a third wave of refugees in the 23rd year which does not align with a specific war. The 23rd year would be 1972, and it was not until late in 1973 that Israel fought the Yom Kippur War. This one is interesting because the surprise attack on Israel’s highest holy day was warned about by the leader of Egypt for at least a year.

This last case is special, either indicating that we’ve got some math error, or that there is something else going on. We’ll need to wait until much later in the story to explain why the delay before this war started.

Conflicts

The choice of modern year to ancient year mapping has some conflicts that need some elaboration. The most troubling of these is the date of the fall of Jerusalem. This is given to us explicitly as the 11th year, 4th month, 9th day of the reign of Zedekiah,Jeremiah 39:1 Jeremiah 52:5 which is 10409 after Adam.

If we take this date forward" verse=" by 2550 years exactly, we get the date 12959/9/4, which for our purposes here is just the year 12959 from Adam, or 1968 on the table we developed earlier.

This is a year after the Israeli army took the old city of Jerusalem in 1967.

We are also told that the siege starts in Zedekiah’s 9th, year, 10th month, and 10th day.Jeremiah 39:1 Jeremiah 52:4 As a date this is 10407/10/10. The 2550th anniversary of this date is 12957/10/10. For our purposes here the year in question maps to 1966, a year earlier than Israel actually took Jerusalem back.

These two events appear to be a straddle around an indicated year of 12958 or 1967. Each off by one year on either side of the indicated year, 1967. Why would this be so? Because the technology of war appears to have changed, the time it took then was about a year and a half. In 1967 it took less than a week, to take not only Jerusalem, but the rest of the west bank lands.

Since they are each off by one year in the wrong direction, we will assume that they cancel each other out, at least for our purposes in establishing the year we should be choosing as aligning with ancient years.

Implications

Anyone paying attention to this story should have noticed that we are now about 3 years short of a new biblical millennium. There is much the Bible has to say about this impending year, first from the perspective of the Jewish chronology, and then from an absolute perspective of God’s dealing with mankind.

Phil Stone, Updated 2016-11-04