(Investigator 95, 2004 March)

 From: Salvation 1939, p. 312


The Jehovah's Witness (JW) book The New World (1942) stated:

The most recent facts show that religionists of this doomed world are gnashing their teeth because of the testimony which that ‘House of Princes' bears to the new world. (The New World, 1942, p. 104)

What was the testimony of the "House of Princes" over which religionists of this doomed world gnashed their teeth?

Time magazine reported:

Big, blue-eyed Judge Joseph Frederick Rutherford, 60, lives in a ten-room Spanish mansion, No 4440 Braeburn Road, San Diego, Calif. Last week he deeded No. 4440 Braeburn Road, an adjacent two-car garage and a pair of automobiles to King David, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, Samuel and sundry other mighties of ancient Palestine. Positive is he that they are shortly to reappear on earth. Said he, "I have purposely landscaped the place with palm and olive trees so these princes of the universe will feel at home when they come…

Judge Rutherford…in 1916 succeeded the late Charles Taze Russell of Brooklyn, founder-president of the International Bible Students Association.

Members of the organization designate themselves as Bible students. Their creed holds that Biblical prophecies govern all earthly events… An erroneous prophecy that the year 1928 would provide a cataclysm – "Nations will battle; the dead will be dung on earth" – upset considerably the Bible Students' calculations… (1930, March 31  

The San Diego Sun (1930 March 15 and 1931 January 9) stated the mansion had "all modern improvements", was worth $75,000, and the adjacent garage had a 16-cylinder Cadillac for Rutherford's exclusive use. The car would have cost about twelve times the $600 for a 1931 Ford!

The JW book, Salvation (1939) says:

At San Diego, California, there is a small piece of land, on which, in the year 1929, there was built a house, which is called and known as Beth Sarim. The Hebrew words Beth Sarim mean "House of the Princes"; and the purposes of acquiring that property and building the house was that there might be some tangible proof that there are those on earth today who fully believe God and Christ Jesus and in His kingdom, and who believe that the faithful men of old will soon be resurrected by the Lord, be back on the earth, and take charge of the visible affairs of earth. The title Beth-Sarim is vested in the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society in trust, to be used by the president of the Society and his assistants for the present, and thereafter to be for ever at the disposal of the aforementioned princes on the earth… (p. 311)  


In 1919 Judge Rutherford and his "Bible Students" promoted the public sermon Millions Now Living Will Never Die. The sermon was published as a book in 1920.

The "Millions" message was that the ancient Bible heroes would be resurrected to live on Earth in 1925. They would take over and rule the world. Everyone who supported them would get eternal life and prosperity and never be sick again:

Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews chapter eleven, to the condition of human perfection.
(Australian edition p. 93)

Based upon the argument heretofore set forth, then, that the old order of things, the old world is ending and is therefore passing away, and that the new order is coming in, and that 1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old and the beginning of reconstruction, it is reasonable to conclude that millions of people now on the earth will be still on earth in 1925. Then, based upon the promises set forth in the divine Word, we must reach the positive conclusion that millions now living will never die. (p. 101)


The "Millions" message was nonsense. It was WTS rubbish. It wasn't even in the Bible!

In 1926 the "Bible Students" increasingly deserted the cult:

The book Millions…had been widely used in the French field since 1921, and on the basis of its contents, much was expected of 1925. But when 1925 came and went without the anticipated happening coming to pass, those on the outside who had read the book made fun of the brothers…
Worse still, the faith of some of the brothers themselves was shaken. Some expected to go to heaven that year…
Unjustified hopes brought about great testings. Many gave up. (Yearbook of JWs 1980 p. 62)

Rutherford's much-criticized drinking problem began at this time, his us-versus-them anti-religion propaganda became more provocative, and his demands for loyalty and unity more vigorous.

Rutherford put the prophecies for 1925 off to 1926 and 1928 – both dates by implication rather than direct statements. This initially slowed the decline. Then in 1928 the outward flow became a torrent.

The world attendance figures for the annual Memorial or Lord's Supper demonstrate the exodus:

1919 17,961 (Your Will, 1958, pp 335, 337)
1922 32,661             "
1923 42,000             "
1924 62,696             "
1925 90,434             "
1926 89,278             "
1927 88,500 (Reference not known)
1928 17,380 (Yearbook of JWs, 1958, p. 284)
1935 63,146 (The Watchtower 1996, August 15, p. 31


The early yearbooks of JWs listed the names of their so-called "ordained ministers". Of the 256 names for 1926 some 45 were missing in 1927. Thus the most-committed followers decreased 18% in one year! At the rank-and-file level the turnover must have been tremendous!

Rutherford halted the disintegration by advertising for new recruits via radio and by telling remaining followers their salvation depended on them publicly distributing WTS tracts, booklets and books.

Also the Beth Sarim property was purchased in 1926 and the house built in 1929.

Rutherford presented Beth Sarim to his cult as evidence the princes were still coming and that eternal life without sickness or poverty still lay just ahead.


Beth Sarim included 100 acres of land. The deed, published in the cult's magazine The Golden Age, said in part:

Both the grantor and the grantee are fully persuaded from the Bible testimony which is the word of Jehovah God and from extraneous evidence that God's Kingdom is now in the course of establishment and that it will result beneficially for the peoples of earth; that the governing power and authority will be invisible to men but that the kingdom of God will have visible representatives on the earth who will have charge of the affairs of the nations under supervision of the invisible ruler, Christ. That among those who will be thus the faithful representatives and visible governors of the world will be David, who was once King over Israel; and Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jepthai, and Joseph, formerly ruler of Egypt, and Samuel the prophet and other faithful men named with approval in the Bible at Hebrews 11th. chapter.

…the said Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society shall hold the title perpetually in trust for…the men above named.
(The Golden Age 1930, March 19)



The Messenger, a JW newspaper, stated:

Dr. A.G. Eckols [a follower of Rutherford], of San Diego, urged him to make the city his permanent home; and in the latter part of 1929 some brethren, out of their own personal funds, arranged for the erection of Beth-Sarim…

Before Judge Rutherford would accept and use the home, he insisted upon writing the deed that it shall forever be held in trust by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society for the use of the Lord's work in the earth, with the expectation that in due time Abraham, Melchisedec, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah or some others of the patriarchs or prophets of olden times will appear and will be glad to use this home which has been prepared for one or more of them… (July 25, 1931, pp 6 & 8)  

The current official JW history book says:
Brother Rutherford had a severe case of pneumonia after his release from unjust imprisonment in 1919. Thereafter, he had only one good lung. In the 1920's, under a doctor's treatment, he went to San Diego, California, and the doctor urged him to spend as much time as possible there. From 1929 on, Brother Rutherford spent the winters working at a San Diego residence he had named Beth-Sarim. Beth-Sarim was built with funds that were a direct contribution for that purpose. The deed, which was published in full in "The Golden Age" of March 19, 1930, conveyed this property to J. F. Rutherford and thereafter to the Watch Tower Society.
(JWs – Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, 1993, p. 76)

Edward Gruss in Jehovah's Witnesses Their Monuments To False Prophecy cites inside sources that Beth Sarim was also built, "to get the drunken and declining Rutherford out of Brooklyn."


In 1931 the arrival of the princes was so near that infants would still be children when they arrived:

Brother and sister Balko are in charge of Beth-Sarim… They have two children, a little girl now nearly two years old, and a little boy about six months. Beth-Sarim being "the house of the princes," and, as we confidently expect, to be occupied and used by some of the princes in the earth, it seemed quite appropriate that these children who are growing up there should be named in harmony with these scriptures.

Hence the little girl is named Princess Bonnie Balko, and the little boy Prince Joseph Barak Balko. We know from the scriptures that both Joseph and Barak will be among the princes, and since there are some women also mentioned amongst these faithful ones it is hoped that these two little ones may grow up at Beth-Sarim to be with the rulers of the earth and live forever to the glory of Jehovah's name... It might be that this little prince and princess would be stenographers or office children or clerks about the place, or perform some other duty that will be necessary in the Kingdom. (The Messenger, 1931, July 30, p. 2)

The claim that the two infants would still be "children" when the princes arrived was not inadvertent error. Four years later, in 1935, Rutherford wrote that "universal war", i.e. Armageddon, was only "months" away:

During the past fifteen years Jehovah's witnesses have been giving this testimony to the nations… The Scriptural evidence and the physical facts strongly indicate that such witness work is now almost done…
During the few remaining months until the breaking of that universal cataclysm the powers that rule the nations of the earth will continue to make treaties…
(Universal War Near, 1935, pp 26 & 27)


The princes did not return and the WTS sold Beth Sarim in 1948.

In 1954 Federick W Franz, then vice president of the WTS, was cross-examined in a Scottish court about Beth Sarim:

Q.-    What has become of the mansion?
A.-    It has been sold.
Q.-    Why?
A.-    Because it was there, and the prophets had not yet come back to occupy it, to make use of it, and the Society had no use for it at the time, it was in charge of a caretaker, and it was causing expense, and our understanding of the Scriptures opened up more, and more concerning the Princes, which will include those prophets, and so the property was sold as serving no present purpose.
Q.- Am I right that it was at one time forecast that in 1925 Abraham and other Prophets would come back to earth?
A.-    They were expected to come back approximately then.
Q.-    But they did not come?
A.-    No.
Q.-    It was published, was it not, to the body of Jehovah's Witnesses that that was to be expected in 1925?
A.-    Yes.
Q.-    But that was wrong?
A.-    Yes, and Judge Rutherford.
(Walsh vs. The Minister of Labour and National Service, 1954, p.120)



In 1925 Rutherford had written:

It does not seem unreasonable, therefore, to think that twenty five years, possibly more, will pass before the awakening of the dead shall begin. (The Watch Tower 1925, February 15, p. 58)

When Rutherford wrote this, the emphasis was still on the realization of prophecy in the 1920s. A standard WTS procedure, however, is to promote several dates simultaneously so that when one date fails there's another "carrot on the stick".

"Twenty five years" terminated in 1950.

The JW leaders often give their failed dates alternative importance – they pretend the date was right but the precise expectation wrong. That's what they also did in 1950 regarding the princes.

F W Franz addressed 82,600 JWs at their 1950 convention in New York. The official WTS assembly report says:

Brother Franz aroused and quickened the interest of his audience by asking: "Would this international assembly be interested to know that HERE, TONIGHT, in our midst, there are a number of prospective PRINCES OF THE NEW EARTH?"

A tremendous and sustained clapping of hands and shouting for joy assured the speaker that nothing at the moment interested them more.

Franz then outlined a new interpretation. The "princes" are Jehovah's Witness overseers  the guys in charge of individual congregations. Some of these overseers would survive Armageddon and help to rule the post-Armageddon "new world". The Bible heroes would still be resurrected but after Armageddon.

A 16-year-old JW in the audience re-called the occasion years later:

…Yankee Stadium in August, 1950, where the Witnesses were reminded of the old belief that God's faithful – Abraham, Joseph, David – would rise from the dead before the end of the world. This aroused tremendous expectations, which were heightened by the speaker, F. W. Franz, when he suggested that among those gathered together were the "Princes of the New Earth."

The spectators were roused to tears by the prevailing excitement, expecting to see these biblical figures. Some stood up; others rushed to the entrance near the speakers' stand, where they would have a better view. The speaker quieted the crowd and … assured them that they were the new princes, those who had turned their backs on a world slated for doom and who must persevere in going forward to build the New Jerusalem.

Forward, indeed. This was, in fact, a denial of a previously cherished and defended belief, couched so as to make conventioneers feel that something had been added unto, not taken away from, them. David didn't pop out of the dugout, and Solomon didn't surface on the speaking stand; but Franz had thrilled his audience nonetheless. (I myself was irritated – though I applauded as fervently as anyone else; I had a distinct sense of having been had, and I felt guilt as a consequence. And I wondered how many coronaries Franz had occasioned by his initial provocative remarks. And from some of the mutterings I heard as I left the Stadium that night, I deduced that others were irritated as well…)
(B G Harrison, 1978, Visions of Glory, chapter 8)



The post-Armageddon New World failed to arrive many times after 1950. Failed dates include 1975, the 1970s, "within our twentieth century", and for the period called "this generation".

The princes – by the pre-1950 definition – are still awaited by JWs.

Every time Armageddon doesn't come the arrival of the princes fails again and lots of other stuff fails too.


In 1942 JWs believed:

…those faithful men of old may be expected back from the dead any day now. The Scriptures give good reason to believe that it shall be shortly before Armageddon breaks. (The New World, 1942, p. 104)

The ancient Bible heroes didn't come, nor did Armageddon. Although the WTS held the title of Beth Sarim "perpetually in trust" it was a trust betrayed in 1948 when the place was sold.

Rutherford had wanted to be buried at Beth Sarim. The San Diego County Planning Commission refused. The JW leaders claimed:

…this…discloses the depth of meanness resorted to by religionists to satisfy their vindictiveness even on lifeless bones. It furnishes a perfect example of those ensnared by religion. They have foolishly thrown away all worthiness of life merely for the brief satisfaction of spite. (Consolation 1942, May 27, p. 5)

Had the authorities allowed a cemetery at Beth Sarim it might have been difficult to sell the property. But JW leaders weren't grateful and didn't apologize for the above outburst.

Indeed JW leaders never apologize – not for their false predictions, not for the false "Millions" message, not for anything. Theirs is the one right religion and to apologize is inconsistent with being right. An article of theirs titled Only One Right Religion says:

That remaining one right religion is that of Jehovah's witnesses. It is not conceited for us to say that.
(The Watchtower 1955, February 15, p.124)

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