EXCERPT: Through Jeremiah, God revealed that He will restore Israel to Jerusalem after 70 years. That prediction caused Daniel to pray (Dan 9:2). The 70 years, therefore, set the stage for Daniel’s prayer and for the subsequent prophecy. Where do the 70 years fit in history?
A summary of this article is available HERE.
Daniel 9 begins with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer 25:8-14; 29:10-14). (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 THE 70 YEARS BEGAN
“When seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD” (Jer 25:11, 12, compare Jer 25:1)
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). In other words, the Medo-Persian Empire already conquered the Chaldean (Babylonian) Empire. God has already “punished” the king of Babylon (Jer 25:11, 12). That means that the 70 years have already come to an end. But when did it begin?
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. The following indicates that the 70 years were the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations:
“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 (Dan 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.