Michael Avioz, «When Was the First Temple Destroyed, According to the Bible?», Vol. 84 (2003) 562-565
This article deals with the contradiction between 2 Kgs 25 and Jer 52 regarding the date on which the First Temple was destroyed. Comparing the descriptions of the destruction in Kings and in Jeremiah shows that the two descriptions were borrowed from a common third source. In our view, this common third source is better preserved in Jeremiah 52 than in 2 Kings 25. We therefore deduce that Jeremiah 52 preserves the more exact date of the Temple’s destruction: the tenth of Ab. This claim is based on the fact that the description of the destruction in Kings is in any case truncated, and is therefore likely that it contains the textual corruptions as opposed to Jeremiah.
When was the first Temple destroyed, according to the Bible? We find two contradictory answers to this question, one in 2 Kgs 25,7-8, and the other in Jer 52,121.
2 Kgs 25,8-9
|In the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan… burned the house||In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan… burned the house|
This problem is connected to the larger issue of the relationship between the destruction narrative in 2 Kgs 25 and that in Jer 52. This article will suggest a solution to this problem, after examining the different textual witnesses to Kings and to Jeremiah, and the different attempts scholars have made to resolve the contradiction.
1. Textual Solutions
According to one group of scholars, differences between the Kings version and the Jeremiah version regarding the date of the Temple’s destruction derive from a textual corruption2. According to one approach, the earliest text gave the date as the seventh, and later copyists of Jeremiah accidentally omitted part of the letter shin, and read ayin in its stead. The text of Kings had the abbreviation bet-shin for the word "on the seventh", and read instead bet-ayin, "on the tenth." Another approach sees the source of the error as the copying of bet-zayin (on the seventh) instead of bet-yod (on the tenth).
Skinner explains that "[T]he Hebrews marked their numbers by letters [...] there is great similarity between many of the letters in their alphabet"3.
These proposals assume that the textual corruption occurred when the modern Hebrew alphabet was in use, and are not relevant to paleo-Hebrew. There is no concrete evidence in textual witnesses or manuscripts for Skinner’s proposal.
2. Chronological Solutions
Some scholars, who dealt with the chronology of the monarchic period, recorded both of the dates mentioned without coming down on one side or the other4.