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Old Testament History Revised - Jeremiah's Eclipse

Dec 7, 2007
Thales of Miletus

Consider the astronomer Thales of Miletus. Thales is credited by the peers in his age with predicting a solar eclipse that stopped the war between the nations of Lydia and Media. Apparently, Lydia and Media were engaged in battle when a solar eclipse occurred. These nations, who were worshippers of heavenly bodies, realized that the solar eclipse could be a potentially "bad" omen so they negotiated an end to the military engagement. Conventional chronologists dated this eclipse to the year 585 B.C. This date is only a year different than the date proposed by conventional chronologists for the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. Since Lydia (modern day Turkey) is in the same part of the world as Jerusalem, was the eclipse described by Thales that stopped the war between Lydia and Media also visible in Jerusalem near the time of Nebuchadnezzar's siege? If it was visible in Jerusalem was this eclipse documented in the Bible?

The solar eclipse in Turkey (Lydia) in 585 B.C. was visible over Israel. No other solar eclipses occurred in Turkey or Israel from 558 B.C. until 634 B.C. Therefore this eclipse could have been seen in Israel and was the only eclipse that could have been seen in Israel during this time. So does the Bible mention a solar eclipse near the period of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar? I believe it does.

Consider the following verses (Jeremiah 6:4-5):

"Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! For the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out. Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces." Many theologians believe that this verse describes a conversation among the generals of Nebuchadnezzar on the day they were to attack Jerusalem. These theologians believe that Nebuchadnezzar's forces were preparing to attack at noon and found that their attack had been extended until the end of the day so that they would have to continue their attack at night. I have a different interpretation. I believe these verses describe a solar eclipse. I believe that the forces of Nebuchadnezzar began to attack at noon when a solar eclipse occurred. His generals realized that a very "bad" omen was occurring in the sky (maybe because of some angry god) and so they exclaimed "Woe to us" and they stopped the attack. (It is interesting that the forces of Lydia and Media reacted similarly during the same eclipse that was predicted by Thales.) Also note that the characteristics of a solar eclipse, the day going down and the distortion of shadows, are mentioned in the verse to clarify that the solar event took place. The generals of Nebuchadnezzar then attacked at night to avoid the possibility that another solar eclipse could occur and impede their attack.

The wording of the verse also points to the uniqueness of the event. Notice the phrase "the shadows of the evening are stretched out". This is the only place in the entire Bible this description is used of shadows. There are two different verses used by Solomon to describe the appearance of shadows as the night turned to day, Song of Solomon 2:17 and 4:6: "Until the day break and the shadows flee away...". Literally the phrase "the shadows flee away" means the shadows disappeared which is a reasonable way to describe the phenomena of the sun transforming night into day. The phrase "the shadows of evening are stretched out" from the book of Jeremiah is better translated "shadows of evening were distorted". During a solar eclipse the appearance of shadows exhibit many strange behaviors. As the sun approaches eclipse, the shadows of trees appear to have many crescent outlines, shadows appears to race across the ground and shadows lengthen. I believe this is what Jeremiah was describing when he wrote "the shadows of evening are stretched out".

If this was a solar eclipse why didn't Jeremiah write "the day became night at noon"? I believe this was a special type of eclipse, an annular eclipse. A total solar eclipse will result in total darkness for some area on Earth, however an annular eclipse will not. So what is an annular eclipse? It is an eclipse where only about 97% of the area of the Sun is eclipsed. Total darkness doesn't occur; however the brightness of the sun is diminished like it went behind a cloud. Therefore, the description of the solar eclipse in Jeremiah 6:4-5 is consistent with the description of an annular solar eclipse.

Finding the Eclipse of Thales

If the eclipse in Jeremiah 6:4-5 is an annular eclipse and it is the same eclipse described by Thales of Miletus then it can't be the eclipse that occurred in 585 B.C. Why? That eclipse was a total solar eclipse.

So which eclipse is it? According to the timeline I propose in my book "The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate", the destruction of Jerusalem happens very near 390 B.C. rather than the year 586 B.C. as many historians claim. The closest solar eclipse over Israel in the time frame I proposed took place on August 14, 393 B.C. and it was an annular eclipse.

While a solar eclipse provides very useful information when it comes to dating an event it appears that God provides even more clarification to remove all doubt as to which solar eclipse he is referring to (Jeremiah 15:9): "She that hath born seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it is yet day..." Notice that it is much clearer in this verse that a solar eclipse has taken place : "...her sun is gone down while it is yet day...". Also, can you imagine a woman that has her own "sun"? What kind of woman is this? If you read the twelfth chapter in the book of Revelations a woman in the sky has been associated with Israel and her name is Virgo. Is it possible that Jeremiah is referring to the constellation Virgo? According to this verse Virgo has bore "seven". I mention elsewhere in my book, "The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate" that the sign in the sky described in Revelation 12:3 regarding the celestial sign of the dragon with seven crowns was the constellation Hydra and seven bodies (sun, moon and five planets) located in the sky during a solar eclipse. Is it possible that Jeremiah 15:9 is describing a similar celestial sign? A solar eclipse occurred over Israel on August 14, 393 B.C. During this solar eclipse the constellation Virgo is in the middle of the sky and seven celestial bodies, the sun and the moon and five planets, would have been in the sky. Therefore, I believe Jeremiah 15:9 is a description of the appearance of the sky during the solar eclipse that occurs at the beginning of the final siege that Nebuchadnezzar conducted on Jerusalem, the solar eclipse that Thales predicted and the solar eclipse that stopped the war between Lydia and Media.
About the Author
My name is Darren Thompson and I am a chemical engineer that has worked in the rocket propulsion industry for over 15 years. I hold 10 patents and am the author of over 20 papers in rocket propellant development. I have written two books, "The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate" and "Why the Bible is Historically Accurate (2nd Edition)" which are available at amazon.com or lulu.com. You can check out my book website at The Fourth Day.
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