Where do we find the 70 years of Babylonian captivity in history?

The Daniel 9 prophecy was received in the year after Babylon was conquered by Cyrus (9:1).  Daniel knew that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years.  These 70 years were from 609 BC to 539 BC.  Daniel also knew that God promised to restore Israel to Jerusalem after those 70 years (Dan 9:2).  These things caused him to pray for His people and for Jerusalem.

Daniel
Daniel reading the prophets

Daniel 9 opens with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem will be desolated for a period of 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14).  He then prayed earnestly and interceded with God concerning the tragic condition of His backslidden and disobedient people, and for the desolation of Jerusalem and the sanctuary (verses 3-19).  In this way, the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer.

When did the 70 years start? 

Jeremiah wrote:

When seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD” (Jer. 25:11, 12, compare v1)

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received “in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 9:1).  It was, therefore, received soon after the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Chaldean (Babylonian) Empire.  The king of Babylon was already punished.  This means that the 70 years has already come to an end.  But when did it start?

Jerusalem was finally destroyed in BC 586.  However, that was not the start of Jeremiah’s 70 years.  The 70 years were not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation, but the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations, as indicated by the following:

“I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them … these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:9, 11).

“For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).

Judah came under the Babylonian heel in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1), but Babylon’s ruling of nations actually dates from the overthrow of Assyria a few years earlier.  After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC (to the allied forces of the Medes and Babylonians), the Assyrian king Ashuruballit established his government at Harran. This city fell to the Babylonians in 610 BC, and Assyria was finally obliterated when Ashuruballit failed to recapture it in 609 BC.  Seventy years later—in 539 BC—Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus.  It is, therefore, possible to count the seventy years from 609 BC to 539 BC.

Articles in this series

1.    Summary of all Daniel 9 articles
2.   Introduction
3.   When will the Messiah Appear? – Discussion of punctuation
4.   Daniel 9 does not describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel.
5.   Where do we find Jeremiah’s 70 years in history?
6.   With which decree do the 490 years begin?
7.   Daniel’s prayer is part of the prophecy.
8.  
Daniel 9 extends God’s covenant with Israel.
9.   
Who confirms the covenant in week 70?
10.
What is the real sequence of events?
11.
The 490 years came to an end when they stoned Stephen.
12.
Nehemiah gives context to Daniel 9.

13. List of articles
Four interpretations of Daniel 9:
      Liberal-critical interpretation

     Consistent Symbolical Interpretation
     Dispensationalism and Daniel 9
     Historical Messianic Interpretation

Daniel 9 24-27 promises the Messiah within 500 years.

Excerpt: The essence of the Daniel 9 24-27 prophecy is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem, and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  While both the Liberal-Critical and Dispensational interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27 substantially remove Jesus from the prophecy, the Historical-Messianic interpretation finds the fulfillment of this prophecy in Christ; 2000 years ago. This confirms that God knows the future precisely, conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah, and affirms the truthfulness of the Bible.


490 years
Seventy Weeks of years

To summarize the messianic-historical interpretation, the decree of Artaxerxes in 478/7 restored Jerusalem to the Jews.  In AD 26 or 27, 483 years later, Jesus was baptized.  Three or four years later, in AD 30 or 31, He was crucified.   Another approximately three or four years later, in AD 33 or 34, the exclusive role which Israel played in the plan of God came to an end.  The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the middle of” these seven years.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.

This interpretation has been dominant over the centuries, but has, in recent centuries, been replaced by the Liberal Critical and the Dispensational views of Daniel.

DANIEL 9:24 GOALS

The fulfillment of the goals is discussed in When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?  In summary:

The first two goals, namely “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins do not mean that a complete and utter end will be made of sin.  In the context of the prophecy these goals given to Israel to fulfill.  They were to show their loyalty to God when the Messiah appears.  But Israel failed.

According to the New Testament the third and fourth goals—“to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”—were fulfilled by Christ’s death.

The fifth goal—“to seal up the vision and prophecy”—is understood as that the events of the final week, particularly the Cross, would validate the Old Testament promises of the coming Messiah.

The sixth goal— “to anoint the most Holy” —refers to heaven itself.  Christ’s death was a great victory over evil, and as we read in Revelation 5 and 12, Satan was cast out of heaven as a result (Rev. 12:5, 7-9).

A GOOD FIT

While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems.  It recommends itself as the most adequate of the major interpretations.  The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative uncertainty of the chronology of the life of Christ and the events of the early church appears to be insignificant.

RELIABILITY OF DANIEL

The essence of Daniel 9 24-27 is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity), and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).

Liberal scholars suppose that Daniel was compiled in the second century BC, as history written in the form of prophecy, but the events predicted by Daniel 9 24-27 were fulfilled more than 100 years later.  Copies of Daniel have been available to the Qumran sect (Dead Sea Scrolls) more than 100 years before the crucifixion.  The accurate fulfill­ment of the prophecy is therefore compelling support for the argument that Daniel is true prophecy written in the 6th century BC.

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree.  Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the Christ-events of 2000 years ago.  This prophecy particularly points to His death:

(1) The nature of that death—murdered (cut off)
(2) His experience in that death—abandoned and rejected (not for himself), and
(3) The results of His death—atonement and everlasting righteousness

SUPPORTS OUR FAITH

A person who accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.  Daniel 9 24-27 confirms that God knows the future precisely.  It conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.

It affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events.  This gives confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes.  The things that we read about in the Bible are really true.  There is a wonderful future ahead of us.

MEANS TO AN END

Daniel did not pray for a messiah or for the goals in verse 24.  He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple.  But the prophecy includes a Messiah and the goals because that was Jerusalem’s purpose.  Jerusalem was to be rebuilt to receive the Messiah.  490 years were awarded to Israel to fulfill the goals in 9:24 through the Messiah,.  Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.  The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end.  To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.

ISRAEL FAILED

Daniel must have been very sad to hear that the Messiah would be killed and the city would again be destroyed.  In his prayer, he confessed that the destruction of Jerusalem in his time was the result of disobedience.  He must have realized that the prophesied destruction would also be the result of more disobedience.  And there is no mention of another restoration or reconstruction in the prophecy.  The prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolation and destruction.

If the Jews did not confirm their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the persecution of His Spirit-filled representatives, but rather accepted Jesus after His death, history would have been very different.

ISAIAH 53

The emphasis upon the Messiah and His experience ranks this passage alongside the other great Messianic prophecies of the OT that point to Him as the suffering servant of God (Ps 22. Isa. 53).  Daniel 9 24-27 complements Isaiah 53 by specifying when the Man of sorrow will arrive.  The following is an extract from Isaiah 53:

2 … He has no appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  3 He was despised and forsaken A man of sorrows … 5 He was pierced through for our transgressions … 6 … the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  7 He was … afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth … 8 By oppression … He was taken away; … He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 … He was with a rich man in His death … He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 11  … the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. … He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Consider some parallels between Daniel 9 24-27 and Isaiah 53:

In both, the main character is “cut off”.  In Isaiah, He is the man of sorrows (v3, 8).

Both refer to the atonement.  One of the goals of the seventy weeks is “to make atonement for iniquity” (v24) while “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Is. 53:6).  He Himself bore the sin of many (Is. 53:11).

In both this Person has a relationship with “the many”.  In Isaiah “the many” are justified (v11) and in Daniel, He confirms a strong covenant with “the many” (v27).

CONCLUSION

There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed in Daniel 9 and in Isaiah 53.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary 2000 years ago.   We are all sinners and do not deserve to live.  Through Him, through faith, we are justified from our sin.

ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

(1) The 490 years extend God’s covenant with Israel.
(2)
When did the 490 years begin?

(3) Who is the Messiah, who is cut off?
(4)
Who is “he” who confirms the covenant (9:27)?
(5)
When are the Seven Last Years?
(6)
What event puts a stop to sacrifice (9:27)?
(7)
What is the complete destruction in verse 27?
(8)
What is the essence of the Daniel 9 prophecy? – CURRENT ARTICLE

See also:
Summary of all Daniel 9 articles
Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9