Seventy Years of Captivity
Jeremiah predicts seventy years of Babylonian captivity for Judah as judgment for persistent sin, and warns the neighboring nations as well of judgment at the hands of Babylon. In chapters 26-29, his message meets opposition from false prophets, priests, and the people. (The Reformation Bible)
Some scholars think the round number of “seventy years” represents the period from 605 to 538 B.C. These are the years between the time Judah became a Babylonian vassal state and the beginning of Judah’s return from exile as allowed by Cyrus of Persia.
This message for all the people of Judah came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah. This was the year when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began his reign.
This was 605 b.c., an important year in world history and Biblical history. In world history the Egyptians were overwhelmed at Carchemish in modern Turkey, near the Syrian border. The Babylonian armies chased the fleeing Egyptians south. In Biblical history Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem but had to leave quickly because his father died and it was the first year of his reign in Babylon. It’s possible that this prophecy came between the two events.
2 Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, 3 “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the Lord has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened.
4 “Again and again the Lord has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention. 5 Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. Only then will I let you live in this land that the Lord gave to you and your ancestors forever. 6 Do not provoke my anger by worshiping idols you made with your own hands. Then I will not harm you.’
7 “But you would not listen to me,” says the Lord. “You made me furious by worshiping idols you made with your own hands, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. 8 And now the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me, 9 I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy.
“Nebuchadnezzar, my deputy,” or in other translations, “my servant”: “It was not so much that God’s pleasure was on King Nebuchadnezzar but that as the Lord’s instrument he was to execute the divine plan for Judah and the nations. He was unconsciously doing God’s will by devoting whole populations to destruction.”
–Charles L. Feinberg
I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. 10 I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. 11 This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
As the daughter of a farmer, I find this explanation for “seventy years” interesting:
2 Chronicles 36:20-21 (NIV)
He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
Leviticus 25:3-5 teaches that the land was to lie fallow every seventh year. The people had disobeyed this law. God makes it up to the land, so to speak.
12 “Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the Lord.
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were God’s servant in carrying out His judgment against Judah, and they would be judged by their evil deeds and works of their own hands. They served God’s purpose, but it did not excuse or justify their destructive actions.
“I will make the country of the Babylonians a wasteland forever. 13 I will bring upon them all the terrors I have promised in this book—all the penalties announced by Jeremiah against the nations. 14 Many nations and great kings will enslave the Babylonians, just as they enslaved my people. I will punish them in proportion to the suffering they cause my people.”
The Cup of the Lord’s Anger
15 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled to the brim with my anger, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink from it. 16 When they drink from it, they will stagger, crazed by the warfare I will send against them.”
17 So I took the cup of anger from the Lord and made all the nations drink from it—every nation to which the Lord sent me. 18 I went to Jerusalem and the other towns of Judah, and their kings and officials drank from the cup. From that day until this, they have been a desolate ruin, an object of horror, contempt, and cursing.
God’s judgment is first visited upon his chosen people, and then upon Judah’s enemies.
19 I gave the cup to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials, and all his people, 20 along with all the foreigners living in that land. I also gave it to all the kings of the land of Uz and the kings of the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and what remains of Ashdod. 21 Then I gave the cup to the nations of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, 22 and the kings of Tyre and Sidon, and the kings of the regions across the sea. 23 I gave it to Dedan, Tema, and Buz, and to the people who live in distant places. 24 I gave it to the kings of Arabia, the kings of the nomadic tribes of the desert, 25 and to the kings of Zimri, Elam, and Media. 26 And I gave it to the kings of the northern countries, far and near, one after the other—all the kingdoms of the world. And finally, the king of Babylon himself drank from the cup of the Lord’s anger.
27 Then the Lord said to me, “Now tell them, ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: Drink from this cup of my anger. Get drunk and vomit; fall to rise no more, for I am sending terrible wars against you.’ 28 And if they refuse to accept the cup, tell them, ‘The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: You have no choice but to drink from it. 29 I have begun to punish Jerusalem, the city that bears my name. Now should I let you go unpunished?
While judgment would begin among God’s people (see verse 18 above), it would in no way finish there. The judgment of God’s people was a certain prophecy of coming judgment upon the nations.
No, you will not escape disaster. I will call for war against all the nations of the earth. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!’
30 “Now prophesy all these things, and say to them,
“‘The Lord will roar against his own land
from his holy dwelling in heaven.
He will shout like those who tread grapes;
he will shout against everyone on earth.
31 His cry of judgment will reach the ends of the earth,
for the Lord will bring his case against all the nations.
He will judge all the people of the earth,
slaughtering the wicked with the sword.
I, the Lord, have spoken!’”
32 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“Look! Disaster will fall upon nation after nation!
A great whirlwind of fury is rising
from the most distant corners of the earth!”
33 In that day those the Lord has slaughtered will fill the earth from one end to the other. No one will mourn for them or gather up their bodies to bury them. They will be scattered on the ground like manure.
The destruction is almost beyond comprehension. But this is a prophecy, spoken in advance, and as such it gives nations time to repent.
34 Weep and moan, you evil shepherds!
Roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock!
The time of your slaughter has arrived;
you will fall and shatter like a fragile vase.
35 You will find no place to hide;
there will be no way to escape.
36 Listen to the frantic cries of the shepherds.
The leaders of the flock are wailing in despair,
for the Lord is ruining their pastures.
37 Peaceful meadows will be turned into a wasteland
by the Lord’s fierce anger.
38 He has left his den like a strong lion seeking its prey,
The Lord is pictured as a lion. Four years ago on a family vacation I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to two of our granddaughters, then ages 4 and 7. They learned to love Aslan!
and their land will be made desolate
by the sword of the enemy
and the Lord’s fierce anger.
HERE is Kendall Payne and “Aslan.” She says, “After re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis as an adult, I fell in love with Aslan all over again.”
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.