In 539 BCE Daniel seems to suggest (Daniel 9:2) that he understood the desolation of Jerusalem to last 70 years.

in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. - NIV

2 Chronicles 36:20-23 seems to suggest a similar 70 years of desolation.

However, history points to a 587 BCE fall of Jerusalem so 70 years would not have yet elapsed?

Is it possible this is not what Daniel/Ezra(?) are saying (i.e. NIV and some other translations have taken liberty to paraphrase), but instead that they were expecting that Jeremiah's 70 years of captivity started around 605 BCE when Babylon began attacking Kingdom of Judah, so now he's expecting for the desolation to end and the rebuilding to begin?


4 Answers 4


How to calculate the 70 years of Babylonian servitude?

2 Kings 24:1-2

1 During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled.

2 The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets.

So before the first captive in 605BC, Judah was already a vassal of Babylon for three years. The Babylonian servitude started in 608BC, until the fall of Babylon in 539BC, total 70 years.

However, I don't think Daniel perceived the seventy years was Babylonian servitude. Daniel 9:2 read

in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. (NIV)

It clearly stated the seventy years referred to the desolation of Jerusalem. Although there are a few opinions about how this is counted. I only believe in one, that is from the destruction of the temple to the completion and dedication of the 2nd temple, i.e. from 586BC to 516BC. For there is nothing more significant than the temple which represents the Lord presence.


There were three campaigns by Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem:

  1. 605 BC (Dan 1:1-3), when the prophet Daniel and a host of the Judean nobility was taken captive and deported. At this time, the Judean kings effectively lost their Independence and because of their rebellion, we later punished by Nebuchadnezzar.

  2. 597 BC Jehoichin and Ezekiel taken captive

  3. 586 BC - final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple during the final year of Zedekiah. Jerusalem was not immediately abandoned but less than a year later, Gedaliah was assassinated and the remaining Jews who fled to Egypt.

There are actually three distinct 70 year prophecies in the Bible:

70 Years of Isaiah

Isa 23:15, 17, predicts that the city of Tyre would be “forgotten” for 70 years after which, it would return to its previous “promiscuous” way. The known history of Tyre can be stated briefly as: Nebuchadnezzar began a 13-year siege of Tyre in about 575 BC which ended in about 562 BC but Tyre resumed its sovereignty soon after Cyrus became sole ruler of Persia (about 537 BC). It was again captured and destroyed by Alexander in 332 BC. In 315 BC the city was again placed under siege by the Macedonian general Antigonus and captured the following year. In 126 BC Tyre gained its independence from the Seleucid Empire but became a Roman province in 64 BC.

Isa 23:15 specifically makes this 70-year period “the span of a king” – that of the duration of the Babylonian empire. During the Babylonian domination period, Tyre was conquered and became a minor city. Following the collapse of Babylon, Tyre was made a satrapy in the Medo-Persian Empire. Thus, Isa 23 is part of a series of prophecies about how Babylon would dominate the whole area, including (in this case) Tyre.

70 Years of Jeremiah

There are two prophecies of Jeremiah which are possibly the same prophecy. Both Jer 25:11, 12 and Jer 29:10 predict that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years, during which the land would become waste. This was fulfilled beginning in 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar captured many of the nobility in the first Judean campaign. Two more campaigns followed in 597 BC (where another 10,000 captives were taken), and the final in 586 BC that destroyed the city. In Oct 539 BC Cyrus defeated the Babylonian kingdom. His first regnal year began in Sep 538 BC and he issued the decree recorded in Ezra 1 in early 537 BC. It was also during this first regnal year that Daniel 9 is recorded and refers directly to the prophecies of Jeremiah and the 70 years. The decree went into effect when the Jews organised themselves and departed Babylon (Ezra 1) probably in 536 BC, 70 years (by inclusive reckoning) after the first captivity of Judah.

2 Chron 36:21 also quotes Jeremiah’s 70 years and says that “the land enjoyed its Sabbath rests all the time of its desolation.” This suggests that the 70 years was to make up for previous years when the 7th year of Sabbath rest was not observed making a total of about 490 previous years – about the total time of the Israelite monarchy from Saul to Zedekiah. Daniel 9:2 also refers to Jeremiah’s 70 years of captivity. In Dan 9:2, Daniel says that the 70 years would be the duration of the city’s “desolation”, a reference to the fact that Jews had been held captive by Babylon for almost 70 years. The subsequent prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is couched in terms that are seven times greater than the 70 years of Jeremiah.

70 Years of Zechariah

Zechariah 1:12 & 7:5 appears to allude to another 70 years during which the temple remained unbuilt. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 586 BC, and later, Zerubbabel and Haggai supervised the completion and rededication in 515 BC, about 70 years later, in the second year of Darius, Zech 1:1, 7, or perhaps the fourth year, Zech 7:1.


Thus, Daniel appears to date his 70 years "desolation" of Jerusalem from his own capture and deportation to Babylon in the "the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah", Dan 1:1.

  • Thank you for the thoughtful explanation. Daniel specifically mentions 70 years of desolation for Jerusalem, which as you pointed out history indicates was ~48 years (587-536). The years of captivity looks to be 70, but the desolation is a smaller piece of that. I'm trying to reconcile these statements.
    – Julian
    May 30, 2021 at 17:25
  • In Jer, 52:28-30 [NASB], the prophet tells us of three instances when Jews were taken captive to Babylon, in the 7th, 18th & 23rd years of Nebuchadnezzar. From other records, we learn that in Neb's 7th year, included within the 3023 Jews, were King Jehoiachin & Ezekiel. Subsequently, in the 18th year, Daniel was included amongst 832 other persons. Another 745 Jews were then taken in Neb's 23rd year. The question then arises "When did Nebuchadnezzar's reign start and end?" which has not been ascertained with 'absolute' certainty, which is why I count back from the more certain 538/7 BC. May 30, 2021 at 18:47

Why did Daniel interpret the 70 years of Babylonian servitude to be the same length of desolation?

From my studies, it would appear that history is at fault with it's 587/6 BC dating for the destruction of Jerusalem's 1st temple (Solomon's temple). And, if one was to go with the 'rabbinic tradition' then one is talking later still, i.e. around 423 BC. But, this is based on the erroneous belief that Daniel's '70 Weeks Prophecy' Dan, 9:24-27 of 490 years, refers to the time between the destruction of the 1st & 2nd temples, which has no basis in fact.

  • "Attempts have been made to reinterpret the historical evidence, to agree with the 'rabbinic tradition'. The reinterpretation of the Greek, Babylonian and Persian sources, that is required to support the traditional dating, has been achieved only in parts and has not yet been achieved in it's entirety. Similar problems face other attempts to revise dating ( such as those of Peter James and David Rohl) and mainstream scholarship rejects such approaches. Where and how the Gregorian, or Julian calendric differential gets factored in, remains another argument entirely.

    The 'Babylonian Chronicles' are known to be lacking in certain regnal years ascribed to some kings, besides disagreeing in other places with the ancient Egyptian records, outlining the regnal years of eight successive Persian kings, preserved in the 'Third book of Manetho'"

    See 'Critics of academic dating:- Wikipedia-Missing years (Jewish Calendar).

To get to the true historical dating for the 1st destruction of Jerusalem and it's temple one only needs to count backwards from the ABSOLUTE date of 539 BC, when Babylon was subsequently desolated by the Medes & Persians, led by Cyrus the Great. It was in the following year, of 538 BC, the 1st year of Darius the Mede (the Median half of the Medes & Persians), when Daniel made his observation, from the books..."the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely seventy years." Dan, 9:1,2 [NASB]

To obtain a more complete answer to your question, please see the following link and my answer here to a related question.

  • Sorry the link was supposed to come up in blue, for you to just click on and I have not been able to figure out why it didn't. You can always go to my user name and see my A. to the Q. "When was Isaiah 45:13 fulfilled? if clicking on above doesn't work. May 29, 2021 at 23:50
  • 1
    I think that there is actualy a far simpler way to determine who is write and wrong with this doctrine. It says that in the final week of the prophecy, in the middle of the week, the messiah will be cutoff (ie Jesus crucifixion). It is very easy then to count backwards from A.D 31/34 (depending on which calendar you are using) and you will arrive at the correct start date! So count back approx 69.5 weeks from Jesus death (prophetic weeks btw)
    – Adam
    May 30, 2021 at 10:28
  • 1
    another opption...count back 70 weeks from the stoning of Stephen and you should also arrive at about the date of the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. The reference i used for counting back from Jesus death in middle of 69.5th week is Daniel 9:27 "And he will confirm a covenant with many for one week,i but in the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" Jesus ended the sacrificial system by dying on the cross for all sin. This was the point of the old sanctuary service. After Jesus had paid the ultimate price, the sanctuary service was no longer needed.
    – Adam
    May 30, 2021 at 10:29
  • 1
    updated the link to your other post for easier use May 31, 2021 at 4:24
  • 1
    @Hold To The Rod-Thank you for doing that. Copying & pasting and the like, has not come easy to me, mainly because I hardly ever try to do it. I really should keep notes as I hate to have to keep googling up on same, or worse still, pester my wife over and over. May 31, 2021 at 4:59

I think the question may be confusing two of the 70 year prophecies.

There is a prophecy that 70 years were allocated to Babylon, after which it would be punished for invading. That was 609 BC - 539 BC when the Achaemenids took over.

In 538, Cyrus issues a decree that captive populations can return, and so Daniel starts investigating what the scriptures say about the desolation:

Jeremiah 29:10 (KJV 1900)

10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

But the desolation does not come to an end with Cyrus issuing a decree -- there were three proclamations of the same decree, by Cyrus, by Darius the Great, and by Artaxerxes.

It was the decree of Darius, who not only reiterated the decree of Cyrus but also collected some of the gold and treasures that were taken from the Temple and returned them, that triggered the end of the desolation. When did it happen?

Haggai 2:18–19 (KJV 1900)

Consider now from this day and upward,
From the four and twentieth day of the ninth month,
Even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider it.
Is the seed yet in the barn?
Yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, 
  and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, 
  hath not brought forth:
From this day will I bless you.

Haggai issued this prophecy "In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius" (Haggai 2.10). Darius came to power in 522 BC so that would be the ninth month of 520 BC. This is when the desolation ends and the blessings begin.

This would point to 589 BC as the start of the desolation (as inclusive counting was used, in which a portion of a year counted as a whole year, and the desolation lasted into the ninth month of 520). This is the start of the last siege of Jerusalem by Babylon. The walls of Jerusalem were breached in the fourth month of 587 BC, about a year and a half after the siege began.

2 Kings 25:8–9 (KJV 1900)

8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: 9 And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.

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