Summary: We might think that the 70 years Judah spent in exile is a long time for the people to be under the anger of God. However the post exile events and interactions between God and His people demonstrates that God graciously limited His punishment to only 70 years. God is a forgiving God.

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Jexit: Judah Comes Home

The 70 Year Limit

A sermon on Ezra 6:13-18

The last time we looked at what was happening to the returned Exiles it was the 7th December 518BC. And Zechariah was talking with the Jews about the fact that the Lord was giving them the opportunity to move forward.

The past, and all the brokenness and sin that was there … it was dealt with.

The rebuilding of the temple was a sign of the future.

The problems which came because of enemies who wanted to frustrate … they were now finished.

The attitude of fasting and mourning because of their time in exile … could become a time of joy and feasting.

The Lord was telling them to move forward.

So they kept on working and focussing on the temple.

And then one day it happened. The temple was complete.

Ezra 6:13-18 (read)

In the text the temple is finished is on the 3rd Day of Adar, in the 6th year of King Darius.

Which is the 12th March 515BC

Let’s read another text which tells us when the temple was destroyed.

8 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.

2 Kings 25:8-10

That event took place 7th Day, 5th Month, 19th Year … with is basically July 586BC

By my reckoning that is pretty close to 70 years … from 586 – 515.

After 70 years of being a ruin.

After 70 years of lack of functionality.

After 70 years of not functioning at full capacity … so sacrifice was happening, but it was just a small aspect of the whole purpose of the temple.

But today on the 3rd Day of Adar, in the 6th year of King Darius the temple is now fully functional.

It took 70 years.

Is that 70 years significant? Indeed it is.

8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: ‘Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them.

11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

Jeremiah 25:8-9, 11

Let me put it out there that there is a little bit of an issue here regarding arithmetic.

Jeremiah says that the country will serve Babylon for 70 years.

But we know that Babylon was destroyed by Cyrus in 539BC. It is now 515BC so the Jews haven’t served Babylon for about 24 years.

So let me explain what is happening.

We need to think about how the Bible works

… and how prophecy works.

… and the thinking behind the words of Jeremiah.

For Jeremiah the 70 year focus is on when Babylon came to power, and when they stopped being in power.

Specifically as this rule physically impacted the land of Israel.

In terms of conquering Israel Babylon came to power in 609BC … they stopped being in power in 539BC … so 70 years.

As soon as they came into power the Babylonians made Judah a vassal state - this means that Judah basically had a puppet for a king. Babylon was calling all the shots.

And already in 605BC Nebuchadnezzar was sending people into exile - that was when Daniel and his friends ended up in Babylon.

So Jeremiah sees the rule of Babylon as a fulfilment of the 70 years.

But, the fact that the temple takes 70 years to rebuild is also significant.

Zechariah picks up on the significance.

1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.

We saw last week that this was only two years before the temple was being rebuilt.

4 Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5 ‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?

Zechariah 7:1, 4-5

There are two blocks of 70 years.

One is the rule of the Babylonians as it directly impacts the land of Israel.

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