Thursday, October 4, 2012
When Were Jeremiah’s 70 Years?
Some believe that Jeremiah’s 70 years refer to Babylon’s reign as the most powerful nation on earth. In 625 BC, a Chaldean governor named Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrian forces at Babylon. The victory resulted in an independent Babylon and gave Nabopolassar the notoriety of becoming the first king of the New Babylonian Empire. In 612 BC, Babylon joined forces with the Medes to defeat the Assyrians at their capital city of Nineveh. Then the Assyrians retreated westward to the city of Haran. In 609 BC, the allied forces of Babylonia and Media dealt their last, fatal blow to the Assyrian army marking Babylon’s zenith as the world’s most dominate kingdom. Seventy years later, in 539 BC, Babylon was conquered by the Persians.
That interpretation seems reasonable and I have but one objection to it. Cyrus the Great made Gubara the king of Babylon on October 29, 539 BC as a reward for his assistance in the conquest of the kingdom of the Chaldeans. The ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel began in the first regnal year of Gubara a.k.a. Darius the Mede. By accession year reckoning, that year was 538/537 BC. Daniel understood from his examination of the books that the duration of the desolations of Jerusalem was 70 years as specified by God through the prophet Jeremiah. He anticipated the completion of those seventy years and petitioned God through prayer to bring an end to the desolations of Jerusalem.
Now what exactly did Jeremiah mean by the word desolation? Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city of Jerusalem by breaking down its walls and burning all of its houses including Solomon’s palace. Before he demolished Solomon’s temple, he plundered all of its priceless treasures. Surprisingly, the Ark of the Covenant vanished. The Ark was revered as the physical embodiment of God’s presence on earth. And let’s not forget the deportations by which all Judeans, with the exception of the abject poor, were exiled in Babylon. Hence the word desolation could mean two things: abandonment by God or a land devoid of inhabitants.
If the word desolation was intended to mean abandonment by God, it is reasonable to assume that at the end of the 70 years, the manifestation of God’s presence would return. There were two seventy year periods which fit that scenario: 606-536 BC and 586-516 BC.
In 606 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and deported the best looking, most intelligent youngsters including the prophet Daniel and the three famous Hebrew children. Seventy years later Zerubbabel laid the foundation for the second temple. However, in 536 BC, there was no manifestation of God’s glory like there was when Moses erected the tabernacle or when King Solomon built the first temple.
In 586 BC, after besieging Jerusalem for 18 months, Nebuchadnezzar captured the city. Seventy years later, in 516 BC, Zerubbabel and his countrymen completed the construction of the second temple. But the Ark of the Covenant was never returned to the second temple and, more importantly, there was no evidence of the magnificent Shekinah Glory witnessed by Moses, Solomon, and their contemporaries. Furthermore, some scholars believe that Zerubbabel’s temple was completed in 515 BC, just over seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Now if the word desolation was intended to mean a land devoid of inhabitants, it is reasonable to assume that the return of Judeans to the Beautiful Land marked the end of the seventy years. The period which fits that scenario was 606-538 BC.
The first desolation of Jerusalem occurred in 606 BC when Daniel and the three Hebrew children were deported to Babylon. In 538 BC, Zerubbabel led 42,360 survivors of the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem under the edict of Cyrus the Great. There were only 68 solar years between those two events. However, the moon was the celestial body that determined time for ancient civilizations. In other words, the ancients recorded time in lunar years rather than solar years. And guess what? There were exactly 70 lunar years between 606 and 538 BC.
For the exact, to the minute calculations of the 70 lunar years, click The Messianic Seventy Weeks on the sidebar and read the introduction along with my notes which are published under comments. For clarification, click Concepts of Time.