11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 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.
Jeremiah 25:11 - 12
ESV - 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
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My understanding is that the length of seventy years was meant as punishment corresponding to the number of times that the people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin had neglected to obey the "Sabbath year" provision of the Law (Leviticus 25:2-7), in which they had been commanded by God to allow the land to lie fallow (that is, uncultivated) every seventh year. This commandment had apparently gone unobserved for 490 years (from the time of Israel's occupancy of Canaan following the exodus from Egypt, to the beginning of the Babylonian exile), during which seventy years that should have been Sabbath years had not been treated as such.
Why would the captivity last 70 years? (Jeremiah 25:11–12) For just one reason that God decided on 70 years was that the land might enjoy the rest that the Israelis had denied it (2 Chronicles 36:20-21 and Leviticus 25:3-5). The Jews had been ignoring the law of the sabbatical year for almost 500 years!
The captivity lasted 70 years to correspond to the years the Sabbath years were not observed. Jeremiah 25:11, 12 and Jeremiah 29:10, as well as II Chronicles 36:20, 21 specify the land will enjoy her Sabbaths during the 70-year Babylonian captivity. The word of the Lord in Leviticus 26:34, 35 is also clear on this, and Daniel well understood Jeremiah’s prophecy, Daniel 9:2. Jeremiah’s prophecy was in the 4th year of Jehoiakim a year after Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem in Jehoiakim’s 3rd year. Daniel, his three friends, and others were taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, Daniel 1:1, 3. Seventy years later Cyrus issued his decree for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, II Chronicles 36:22, 23, Ezra 1:1-4. Of interest, is that Daniel 1:1 speaks of articles of the house of God being taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and Ezra 1:7 speaks of Cyrus bringing out those same articles to be returned to Jerusalem. Ezekiel 4:1-6 adds to the discussion of the 70 years of captivity. Ezekiel was told to portray Jerusalem on a clay tablet and to act out a siege against it. Then he was to lie on his left side for 390 days for the years of Israel’s iniquity, after which he was to lie on his right side for 40 days for the years of Judah’s iniquity. The iniquity was the failure of Israel to observe the Sabbaths. The play-acting by Ezekiel was to ‘rest on his side’ as if to experience the Sabbath rest. Ezekiel’s resting was to demonstrate the violation by both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah in not observing the Sabbath years. The numbers 390 days and 40 days of Ezekiel 4:5 totaling 430 years have puzzled many interpreters. Many consider it as chronological information, i.e., the time period from Rehoboam to captivity. But the year count does not match as the time period is 490 years. In his article, “Did the Babylonian Captivity Really Last 70 Years?” Brian Keating showed that Israel did not observe 70 Sabbath years. He calculated how many Sabbath years were in the 430 total years. He also figured that the years of Jubilee which were observed every 49 years had to be included, Leviticus 25:10, 11. Theoretically, in each cycle there are 49 years. Starting with the year of Jubilee, there would be eight Sabbath years in each cycle: 1st, 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, 42nd, 49th. 430 years divided by 49-year groups make 8 cycles with 38 years left over. 8 groups multiplied by 8 Sabbaths make 64 Sabbath years. The 38 left-over years have 6 Sabbaths: 1st, 7th, 14th 21st, 28th, 35th. Adding 64 to 6 is a total of 70 Sabbath years. The captivity lasting 70 years was for each Sabbath year that both kingdoms of Israel failed to observe. The land would rest one way or another, and since Israel failed on their part to do it, God would give it the rest it deserved and needed.
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