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?  Exactly 70 lunar years occurred between 606 and 538 BC.

[There were 68 solar yrs between 7 PM, Nov 1, 606 BC and 7 PM, Nov 1, 538 BC.  Those 68 solar yrs are the equivalent of 70 lunar yrs + 30 days, 10 hrs & 48 min.  Counting back 30 days, 10 hrs & 48 min from 7 PM, Nov 1, 538 BC brings us to 8:12 AM, Oct 2, 538 BC.  There were exactly 70 lunar yrs between 7 PM, Nov 1, 606 BC and 8:12 AM, Oct 2, 538 BC.  Mathematics: solar yr = 365.2425; lunar yr = 354.372; 68 x 365.2425 / 354.372 = 70.085926 lunar yrs; .085926 lunar yrs = 30.45 days (.085926 x 354.372); .45 days = 10.8 hrs (.45 x 24); .8 hrs = 48 min (.8 x 60)]


  1. For the story of the desolations of Jerusalem, click Babylon on the sidebar.

  2. For a description of the Shekinah Glory witnessed by Solomon & his contemporaries, click The Holy of Holies on the sidebar.

  3. Scriptural references: Jeremiah 25:8-12; Jeremiah 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:20-21; Daniel 9:1-2

  4. Cyrus appointed Gubara king of Babylon. For that story, click Conquest of Babylon on the sidebar.

  5. Other scriptural references: 606 BC: Daniel 1:1-6; 538 BC: Ezra 1:1, 3:1; 536 BC: Ezra 3:8-13; 516 BC: Ezra 6:15-22 (verse 19 refers to Nisan as the first month e.g. Judah’s religious calendar celebrated a spring New Year; Judah’s civil calendar celebrated a fall New Year)

  6. Judah’s sacred calendar celebrated New Year’s Day on Nisan 1. The first day of Nisan fell in late March or early April on the Gregorian calendar. Hence Nisan 1 can be equated with April 1 on our modern calendar.

  7. 538 BC was the date that Judeans returned from their captivity in Babylon according to most historians. Daniel used accession year reckoning, based on a spring new year, to record the angel Gabriel’s appearance and Cyrus’ command to release the captives. Both the Babylonian calendar and Judah’s sacred calendar recognized New Year’s Day in the spring. Gubara a.k.a. Darius the Mede captured Babylon on October 12, 539 BC on behalf of his benefactor Cyrus the Great. On October 29, 539 BC, Cyrus installed Gubara as his client king. That made Gubara’s accession year between October 29, 539 BC and April 1, 538 BC. Hence his first regnal year was from April 1, 538 BC to April 1, 537 BC. Ezra applied the same regnal year reckoning to Cyrus who was emperor of Persia and Gubara’s overlord. According to the Book of Ezra, the exiles were settled in Judah by October, 538 BC. Scriptural references: Ezra 1:1, 3:1; Daniel 9:1. For clarification, type “accession year reckoning” into my search bar.

  8. It is appropriate that there were 70 solar years between 609 & 539 BC. Why? Because the Babylonians considered the sun and the seasons in their determination of time. In the sixth century BC, they discovered a 19 year cycle in which 7 years had an extra month. That cycle matched up almost perfectly with 19 solar years. Click Concepts of Time on the sidebar.

  9. Some believe that Nebuchadnezzar was king rather than prince regent at the time of the first deportation, making 605 BC the year when Daniel was exiled. Furthermore, many believe Daniel’s regnal year reckoning was based on Judah’s civil calendar rather than their sacred calendar. That would place the exiles in Jerusalem in April, 537 BC rather than October, 538 BC. Notably, if Daniel was deported on May 1, 605 BC at 7 PM and Zerubbabel arrived in Jerusalem on April 1, 537 BC at 8:12 AM, there would be exactly 70 lunar years between the two events.