Biblical Archaeology

Astronomical diary VAT 4956

This tablet can set the exact date of the destruction of Jerusalem


       Tablet VAT 4956 is an astronomical diary that records 13 lunar observations, and 15 planetary. It details the position of the moon and the planets in regard of certain stars and constellations, indicating the days and the months throughout the year 37 of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon; and the astronomical observations recorded in this tablet, can only correspond to the year 567 BC.

       The fact of isolating a single observation in order to attribute the tablet to some other year would be naive and useless; the astronomers point out that an identical combination of astronomical positions repeats only every 40,000 years, so the observations recorded could only coincide with the astronomical sky of tens thousands of years before.

       The lunar eclipse in the 15th day of the third month, described on 14th line of the obverse side of the tablet, took place, according to modern calculations, in July 4th of 567 BC; this eclipse started in the evening and could not be seen from Babylon. The Babylonian astronomer computed it on the base of the eclipse cycle called Saros1), and then wrote “atalű Sin”, or “calculated lunar eclipse”, and “Sa Lu”, or “unseen because of the weather”, perhaps because the sky was cloudy.

         1) The Word Saros means eclipse in Chaldean language. A Saros covers a period of 6585.32 days; 223 synodic months, nearly 18 years, after which the same solar and lunar eclipses repeat. In one Saros, there is a succession of 13 total moon eclipses and 15 partial; and 12 total solar eclipses, 16 annular and 15 partial. The synodic month is the time the moon takes to make one complete revolution around the Earth and return to the same conjunction point, taking the Sun for reference. The synodic month is of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds.


       This tablet definitely confirms that the year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign corresponds to 567 BC in our calendar, and since the destruction of Jerusalem took place in the 19th year of his reign, that is, 17 years before 567 BC, Jerusalem was undoubtedly destroyed in 586 BC.

Why do some historians argue that the destruction of Jerusalem was in 587?

       This dating comes from the interpretation of Jeremiah’s words. He says: “The word that came from Yahuh to Jeremiah, in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. This was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar”. (Jeremiah 32:1) And calculate that the year of 37 Nebuchadnezzar was the 568 BC.

But if the 568 was the year of 37 Nebuchadnezzar, the year 18 was 587.

37-18 = 19;  568 +19 = 587


Why can we say that this calculation is mistaken?

       In the first place, because Jeremiah does not speak in this verse of the destruction of Jerusalem, but of the siege of the city, as may be understood by reading in full the verses 1 and 2 in Chapter 32, which say: “The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahuh, in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. This was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, and at that time the forces of the king of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem”. This fact is also confirmed on the 2nd book of Kings, Chapter 25 and verses 1 and 2, which read: “The tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and all his army, came against Jerusalem; he camped against it and put a fence around the city, which was besieged in the eleventh year of Zedekiah”. So Jerusalem was besieged for a whole year before it was conquered and destroyed.

       Jeremiah confirms this fact when he writes: “On the tenth day of the fifth month of the nineteenth year (ordinal number, NdR) of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came the captain of the guard Nebuzaradan and in the presence of the king of Babylon in Jerusalem, burned the House of Yahuh and the house of the king along with all the houses in Jerusalem. Any big house burst into flames and all the walls around Jerusalem were thrown down by the Chaldean army, which was under the captain of the guard”. (Jeremiah 52:12...14) Another thing to consider is that in the words of Jeremiah, the 19th year is an ordinal number, for this reason  the complete years were only 18.


       Besides, as we can see on NASA’s image, the eclipse of July 4th indicated in tablet VAT 4956, did not take place in 568 BC, but in 567 BC.



Therefore the correct calculation of the year in which Jerusalem was destroyed must be as follows:

       If 567 BC was the year 37 of Nebuchadnezzar, the 19th year (18 complete years) was 586 BC.

37-18 = 19, 567 +19 = 586

Therefore Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.