70 years of captivity

The meaning of 70 years

70 years of captivity has a special meaning:

  1. it refers to the period of fulfilling God’s wrath on the people of Israel followed by the return of the captivity.

  2. It refers to a specific period of time before the gathering of the remnant of God’s elect at the end of the world.

70 years of Babylonian captivity

Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would invade all the nations and bring their captives to Babylon. The captives there would serve the king of Babylon 70 years. “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations…And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.(Jer 25:9,11-12)

Jeremiah prophesied to the early captives in Babylon that they should not believe in the false prophets and think of returning to Jerusalem in short period, not until after 70 years of service were accomplished. “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem…to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon…For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit (眷顧) you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” (Jer 29:1,10)

Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem in the 1st year of his reign, which was the 3rd year of King Jehoiakim. In the 11th year of the reign of King Zedekiah, Jerusalem was conquered in the 19th year of King Nebuchadnezzar (586 BC). There were altogether three times of captivity during this period. The captives were permitted to return to Jerusalem with the proclamation of Cyrus king of Persia after Babylon was conquered by Persia (539 BC). There were about 70 years of captivity from the 1st captivity to the fall of Babylon. 

70 years of affliction on God’s people before the end of the world

Daniel discovered by books of Jeremiah’s prophesy that 70 years would pass in the desolations of Jerusalem. He then pleaded with God to remember His covenant with the forefathers and bring mercy to the people of Israel. “In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem…And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.” (Dan 9:2) While he was praying for the forgiveness of sins for His people, the angel Gabriel came to give him the vision of “seventy weeks (七十個七)”, explaining the prophetic meaning of “70 years of captivity”. This is the meaning of “70 weeks”: Seventy weeks (七十個七) are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to
seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks (七個七), and threescore and two weeks (六十二個七): the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (一七): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation (供獻) to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate (那行毀壞可憎的(註:或作“使地荒涼的”)如飛而來), even until the consummation (直到所定的結局), and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (並且有忿怒傾在那行毀壞的身上(註:或作“傾在那荒涼之地”)).”
(Dan 9:24-27) Apparently, the last one week is the appointed period prior to the destruction of wickedness and the gathering of the remnant of God’s elect.

Zechariah also saw a vision in which an angel appeared and asked the Lord, “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years (70 years)(你惱恨耶路撒冷和猶大的城邑已經七十年)?” (Zech 1:12) After receiving the answer from the Lord, the angel told Zechariah, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease (我甚惱怒那安逸的列國): for I was but a little displeased (因我從前稍微惱怒我民), and they helped forward the affliction (他們就加害過分). Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem…My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.” (Zech 1:14-17) After 70 years of “captivity” of God’s people (affliction upon God’s people), a new Jerusalem shall be built for them.