The apostates argue that when Daniel said “devastations” of Jerusalem, he didn't actually mean it, and “actually” meant something different.
The word rendered in the New World Translation is a plural – devastations. Hence, some try to argue that more than one devastation was involved, a series of “devastations” of different kinds, lasting 70 years in total. That way they can strain out the possibility that Jerusalem could have remained inhabited for 20 years (with a king, priesthood, functioning temple) and yet still be experiencing some contrived sort of nominal 'devastation' because the land around it was supposedly devastated (even though, from the previous article, we can see that it wasn't).
The Bible says that the surrounding countryside of Judah was not devastated at that time. The idea that there are multiple kinds of devastation is not found in any of the prophecies of Jeremiah, nor any other prophet.
More to the point, they are reading too much into that one single word, devastations.
The word used in the original Hebrew writings for devastations is chorbâh (sometimes written as horvot). Literally, it simply means ruins, or to be in ruins. If a house has been severely damaged and abandoned, you could say it is chorbâh, or “in ruins” or “devastated”. For example, look at these scriptures in one translation where the word chorbâh is used:
: “Jerusalem, rise from the ruins [chorbâh] ! Join in the singing. The LORD has given comfort to his people; he comes to your rescue.”
: “You will rebuild those houses left in ruins [chorbâh] for years; you will be known as a builder and repairer of city walls and streets.”
: “Then they will rebuild cities that have been in ruins [chorbâh] for many generations.”
: “With kings and with counselors of the earth, Who rebuilt ruins [chorbâh] for themselves”.
: “Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live! Why should this city become a ruin [chorbâh]?”
: “My wrath and My anger were poured out and burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, so they have become a ruin and a desolation [chorbâh] as it is this day.”
: “Esau's descendants may say, "Although our nation Edom is in ruins [chorbâh], we will rebuild."
: “...raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins [chorbâh], and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.”
: “I will lay waste [chorbâh] your cities”.
Above we have picked a handful of the uses of chorbâh in the scriptures, and all usages refer the same thing, buildings destroyed, and in ruins. This is not the mere opinion of a linguist or expert, but the clear way in which the Bible consistently uses this word in various contexts. It shows us that it is more than some sort of vague concept of devastation or humiliation, for it does not ever carry such a thought in any of it's forty-two occurrences the scriptures. Not even once. In every place it means total ruins, abandonment, and complete desolation. For more information on the word, consult the a Bible concordance using Strong's number 02721.
Hence, let us see how various translations have rendered chorbâh at :
The New Living Translation: “Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years.”
The Bible in Basic English: “the making waste of Jerusalem was to be complete, that is, seventy years.”
Young's Literal Translation: “concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem -- seventy years”
God's Word translation: “The LORD had told the prophet Jeremiah that Jerusalem would remain in ruins for 70 years.”
The Good News Translation: “the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins”
New Century Version: “Jerusalem would be empty ruins for seventy years.”
Contemporary English Version: “Jerusalem will lie in ruins for seventy years.”
It is easy to see what Daniel was trying to say. According to what he had read in Jeremiah, Jerusalem would be desolated, in ruins, a waste, abandoned, for 70 full years. It really is that simple. To find out why the NWT uses the word devastations instead of ruins, see Appendix C
Interestingly, there is a word which the New World Translation renders similarly as “lying desolated”, it is shamem (or, shama). In it says King Nebuchadnezzar “carried off those remaining from the sword captive to Babylon, and they came to be servants to him and his sons until the royalty of Persia began to reign; to fulfill Jehovah’s word by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off its Sabbaths. All the days of lying desolated [shamem] it kept sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”
According to the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, the word shamem means, “to be desolated, be deflowered, be deserted”.
Let us consult the other translations again:
God's Word translation: “While it lay in ruins, the land had its 70 years of rest.”
Contemporary English translation: “Judah was an empty desert, and it stayed that way for seventy years, to make up for all the years it was not allowed to rest.”
New Life Version: “For the seventy years that the land was not being used, the Day of Rest was kept.”
New International Reader's Version: “It rested. That deserted land wasn't farmed for a full 70 years.”
New International Version (UK): “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed.”
There is no reasonable doubt about the verses we have considered so far. They could not be more plain and clear in what they say. All the land, specifically including the capital city Jerusalem, would be a ruin, a deserted land, an empty desert, resting, not being used, desolate, a wasteland, a wilderness.
There is more proof, let's go back to the prophecy of Jeremiah about this 70 year devastation. There he said “A desolate waste the whole land will become, and shall I not carry out a sheer extermination? ... Every city is left, and there is no man dwelling in them.” () “Be corrected, O Jerusalem, that my soul may not turn away disgusted from you; that I may not set you as a desolate waste, a land not inhabited.” () So we can see that the land, including “Jerusalem”, and “every city”, is to be left without an inhabitant.
Another part of the Bible, 2nd Chronicles, summarizes the whole 70 year period. There it says:
“He [Nebuchadnezzar] burned the Temple of Jehovah, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, torched its palaces, and wiped away everything that was of any beauty.
“Then he carried off everyone who was left to Babylon, where they served as slaves for him and his sons until the Medes came along and fulfilled the words of Jehovah through Jeremiah, and the land had observed its Sabbaths. For, during the seventy years that the land lay desolate, it was observing the Sabbath.
“It was in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, after the fulfillment of the words of Jehovah through the mouth of Jeremiah, that Jehovah awakened the spirit of Cyrus and commanded him to send a written proclamation throughout his kingdom that said, ‘Cyrus the king of Persia says, All the kingdoms of the earth have been given to me by Jehovah the God of heaven, and He told me to build a Temple to Him in Jerusalem in Judea. Who of you are His people? His God Jehovah is now with him, so let him return to Jerusalem!’” –
There is a smooth logical flow in the verses above. It tells us of the beginning and the end of the 70 years. First, it shows the city being destroyed and the last exiles being taken. Then when the “land lay desolate” (it is now truly desolate after Jerusalem being destroyed), it fulfilled its 70 years of Sabbath resting. The 70 years end after the Jews finally reinhabit the land.
When Daniel worked out the number of the years, he was correct. The “desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” –, New International Version