Do the Books of Jeremiah and Daniel Disagree on Dates?


In a previous post, we introduced the idea of a Late versus Early Date for the authorship of Daniel. Proponents of the Late date suggest there in a historical error in the first verse of Daniel; Daniel labels 605 BC as the third year of Jehoiakim but Jeremiah labels it the fourth year of Jehoiakim. Is this a historical error, or is there something else going on?

When Was Daniel Written, Part 2

In the first verse of chapter 1 of the book of Daniel, the writer gives us the date for the first exile to Babylon.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it.

Daniel 1: 1

As we discussed in a previous post, Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, establishing Babylon as the dominant power in the region. Sometine after the defeat of Egypt, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem with his army and forced Jehoiakim to become a vassal. Daniel links 605 BC to the third year Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah was a prophet who was active in the years prior to the Babylonian exile, so part of Jeremiah’s active ministry as a prophet overlapped with Daniel. In chapter 25, Jeremiah wrote,

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (the same was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 25: 1-2

This passage says the fourth year of Jehoiakim coincides with the first year of Nebuchadnezzar but verse 1 of Daniel says the third year of Jehoiakim is when Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem. 

Proponents of the Late Date hypothesis for Daniel (the hypothesis that states Daniel was written as propaganda during the Maccabean Revolt) cite this as an error. They argue that Jeremiah, who was writing contemporary to the events, wrote the correct dates, but the author claiming to be Daniel, writing 400 years later, got the dates wrong. Critics claim this historical error is evidence Daniel was written later, during the Maccabean Revolt.

Since the verses in Jeremiah chapter 25 don’t specifically mention a siege by Nebuchadnezzar, one could claim Jeremiah is merely giving a prophecy in the year after the siege, but Jeremiah gives another date in a later chapter.

Of Egypt: concerning the army of Pharaoh Necoh king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah.

Jeremiah 46: 1

Here, Jeremiah says the Battle of Carchemish occurred in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. We know Nebuchadnezzar fought the Battle of Carchemish and made Jehoiakim a vassal ruler in the same year, 605 BC, so we have to conclude that Jeremiah’s fourth year of Jehoiakim is the same year as Daniel’s third year of Jehoiakim, 605 BC.

Sequence of Events: 605 BC

To help us resolve this discrepancy, we do have another source of information, the Babylonian Chronicles. They are a series of cuneiform clay tablets that record the annual highlights of the Neo-Babylonian kingdom. One tablet describes the Battle of Carchemish.

[The twenty-fir]st [year], the king of Akkad (remained) in his country. Nebuchadnezzar , his eldest son, the crown [pri]nce, [mu]stered [the army of Akkad], took leadership of his troops, marched on Car[che]mis on the banks of the Euphrates, crossed the river [to meet the army of Misir], which had its quarters at Carchemis, and [joined battle with it]. They fought, and the army of Misir beat a retreat before them; he [de]feated and destroyed it until it was completely annihilated. The Akkadian troops overtook the survivors of the army of Mi[sir who] had escaped the defeat and whom the weapons had not reached and [deci]mated them of the district of Hamath. Not one man [returned] to his country. At this time, Nebuchadnezzar conquered the entire country of Ha[ma]th. Nabopolassar reigned twenty-one years over Babylon. In the month of Ab, the eight day, he went to his destiny. In the month of Elul, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon, and in the month of Elul, the first day, he ascended the royal throne of Babylon.

Babylonian Chronicles

In this text, Akkad is another term for Babylon and Misir is Egypt. When we align these dates with the Babylonian calendar, a sequence of events begins to emerge. Nisan is then first month of the Babylonian calendar, and while the date of the battle of Carchemish is not given, we can assume it was fought around Siway, the third month since Nabopolassar died in Ab, the 5th month, after the Battle of Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon to be crowned king in Elul, the 6th month.

The Babylonian Chronicle then continues.

In the year of his accession, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Hatti. Until the month of Sebat he traveled through Hatti victoriously. In the month of Sebat, he carried Hatti’s massive tribute to Babylon. In the month of Nisan, he took the hand of Bel and of the son of Bel and celebrated the New Year’s festival.

Babylonian Chronicles

After being crowned king, Nebuchadnezzar returned to campaigning with the army. He most likely used this time to consolidate his rule of the surrounding cities. He campaigned until Sebat, the 11th month of the Babylonian calendar before returning to Babylon to celebrate Akitu, the New Year festival. Akitu is celebrated in the month of Nisan, the first month of the Babylonian year, so Akitu would mark the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s first full year as king, which would be 604 BC.

When we lay out the sequence of events for the year 605 BC, it looks like this:

605 BC

NisanMarch-AprilBeginning of Year (Nisan)
SiwanMay-JuneBattle of Carchemish
AbJuly-AugustNabopollassar dies
ElulAugust-SeptemberNebuchadnezzar returns to Babylon and is crowned king
TesritSeptember-OctoberAlternate beginning of Jewish year
ArahsamnuOctober-NovemberNebuchadnezzar campaigns in Hatti with the army
SebatJanuary-FebruaryNebuchadnezzar returns to Babylon.
Nissan 604 BCMarch-AprilNebuchadnezzar celebrates Akitu
Year 605 BC

Accession-Year Chronology

As we discussed in a previous post, there are two systems for counting the years of a ruler, the accession-year system and the non-accession-year system. In the accession-year, the year a king ascends to the throne is counted as year zero, and the first year of his reign starts with the following New Year. In the non-regnal system, the year the king ascends to the throne is counted as year one and year two starts with the following New Year.

In the Babylonian Chronicles, 605 BC is counted as year zero and 604 BC is counted as year one, so the Babylonians used the accession-year system. We also know from the books of Chronicles, that the kingdom of Judah also used the accession-year system. So when Daniel says 605 BC is the third year of Jehoiakim but doesn’t give a year for Nebuchadnezzar, he’s using the Babylonian regnal system, because it is Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year, or year zero.

But why does Jeremiah say 605 BC was the fourth year of Jehoiakim and the first year of Nebuchadnezzar? One explanation is Jeremiah as using the non-accession systems of counting years, effectively adding one year to the reigns of both Jehoiakim and Nebuchadnezzar. This is certainly possible, but would be a little strange because we know Judah used the accession-year system for official chronology.

Tishri New Year

There is another possible explanation. In the Jewish calendar there were two different starts to the new year. One was Tishri (Tesrit), what is now the seventh month and the other is Nisan. Tishri marked the beginning of the agricultural year, the historical start of the new year, but after the exodus from Egypt, the start of the new year was changed to Nisan, in remembrance of Passover.

Edwin Thiele, who wrote the definitive text on the chronology of the Jewish monarchies, argued Jeremiah was using Tishri as the new year. Which explanation is the correct one? It ultimately depends on when Nebuchadnezzar brought his army to Jerusalem. If we look at the sequence of events for 605 BC, there are two possible times. The first is after the defeat of the Egyptian Army at Carchemish. If Carchemish was fought in the month of Siwan, which is reasonable, Nebuchadnezzar has two months before his father dies and he had to return to Babylon. We know that Nebuchadnezzar pursued the Egyptian Army to Hamath and fought another battle, destroying the fleeing forces. He could have used that opportunity to consolidate his rule over the surrounding nations, including Judah, before having to return to Babylon in Elul.

After he was crowned king in the month of Elul, Nebuchadnezzar returned to the army and campaigned until the month of Sebat, 5 months later. Since Tishri immediately follows Elul, any battles he fought after Tishri would be in his first year as king under the Tishri new year, non-accession year. This would also be the fourth year of Jehoiakim, which also started in Tishri.


So there are two possible explanation why the dates in Daniel 1 differ for the first exile differ from the dates in Jeremiah. In the first explanation, Daniel is using the accession year system and Jeremiah is using the non-accession year system. In the second explanation, both Daniel and Jeremiah are using the non-accession year system, but Jeremiah counts the new year starting in the month of Tishri but Daniel doesn’t start the new year until the month of Nissan.

Neither the Babylonian chronicles nor the Bible tell us which month Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and deposed Jehoiakim, so there is no way to tell for sure. Either explanation provides a logical and reasonable reason for the difference and is consistent with the known historical record. Overall the difference in the date does not provide conclusive proof of a historical error in Daniel so it does not support a late date authorship. Alternatively, evangelical scholars have argued that Daniel’s knowledge of the correct Babylonian dating technique (accession year with new year starting in Nissan) is evidence of an early date for Daniel.

When we update our chart of early versus late date arguments, it looks like this:

Daniel could not predict the future.God can predict the future.
Daniel 1 contradicts dates found in Jeremiah and this is evidence of a historical errorDaniel and Jeremiah use different dating systems, both which are attested to in the historical record.
Late versus Early Dates for Daniel: The Arguments

Previous: When was Daniel Written and Why Does it Matter?

External Links: The Babylonian Chronicles (ABC) translation at

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