The Signs of the Times (26): 70 Years

editor - 16 December 2018

“…In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes [a Mede by descent], who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 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. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes…”
Daniel 9:1-3 (NIV)

Apparently there was no reason at all for Daniel to not take the number 70 in this passage literally. It would have been easy for him not to take it literally by thinking for example: 70=7×10. Seven is the number of divine perfection and 10 is the number of perfect order, the complete cycle, as seen in the 10 commandments, the 10 verses of the Lord’s Prayer, the 10 percent (tithe) that Israel gave to the Lord, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the 10 kingdoms of the antichrist, the land of the 10 nations that Abraham is given in Genesis 15, the 10 acts of rebellion of Israel in the wilderness, the 10 ‘I am’ statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John, etc.

So Daniel could have thought: when God’s timing is perfect and fulfilled, and the time cycle of God’s specifications is full, then we will return from the Babylonian captivity. And Daniel could have been thinking: but will it be after literally and exactly 70 years? He also could have thought: what kind of years is the prophet Jeremiah talking about? Seventy astronomical years of 365 + 1/4 day, or 70 calendar years of 360 days? And he could have thought: when did these 70 years start? Did it start in the first year of the Exile when we arrived in Babylon, or on the day of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and of Solomon’s Temple?

But there’s nothing written about these kind of reflections in Daniel 9. Evidently, it’s perfectly clear to him. He just takes this number 70 literally, and apparently he knows from which moment onwards he should start counting. Seventy years is seventy years. And now it’s almost time, Daniel suddenly realizes. And what does he do? He starts praying!

He doesn’t think: ‘Now we’ll see what will happen! I’ll just keep counting down the remaining days, I’ll let the clock tick until it reaches the 70 years and then we’ll see what will happen. We’ll probably return to Israel in one way or another. How will the Lord do this? Because that’s how it was foretold and that’s how it will happen, even regardless of what we will be doing to make it happen.’

No, Daniel does not believe in this kind of calculating timetable eschatology. He simply accepts the written Word of God, the prophecy given to Jeremiah, and he starts praying and pleading with the Lord. He humbles himself and confesses his sins and the sins of his people.

Those were the terms set by the Lord. Leviticus 26:40-42 says: “But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward Me, which made Me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember My Covenant with Jacob and My Covenant with Isaac and My Covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.”

God is faithful to Himself and to the everlasting covenants He has made with Israel. He is faithful even up to this present day and will be faithful in the future as well.

The Signs of the Times
Many people are afraid of the future. Will the turmoil in the world lead to World War III? Or is there still hope? What do the ancient prophecies of the Bible teach us? Are we at the beginning of the end of this world? Or are we approaching a new beginning? Could Israel be a sign of hope? In this new series Rev. Willem Glashouwer looks at 52 of the many signs of the times that are mentioned in the Bible. The English edition of ‘The Signs of the Times’ will be published by Christians for Israel International in the coming months.

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