Recall the two part question left unanswered, i.e. why 70 years, and who would God choose to rescue His people from Babylon?
Let’s begin by examining the time period of 70 years. We learned that when the Israelites entered the Promised Land God had instructed them to work the land for 6 years and let the land rest every 7th year. But Israel disobeyed, and required chastisement.
“Therefore He (God) brought against them (Judah) the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword…And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him (Nebuchadnezzar)…until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” 2 Chronicles 36:17, 20-21
The above passage explains the significance of the 70 years and confirms that the events described were to fulfill the word of Jeremiah spoken many years before Judah was deported to Babylon.
Thus, Israel did not honor the Sabbath of the land for 70 Sabbaths, or 490 years. They were to be in bondage one year for every Sabbath they did not honor.
“Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon…for their iniquity…So I will bring on that land all My words… which Jeremiah has prophesied…” Jeremiah 25:12-13
Note again God’s absolute sovereignty when He proclaims in advance ‘I will punish’ and ‘I will bring…’
The passage from 2 Chronicles also reveals that the king God appointed to overcome the king of Babylon and rescue His people was the king of Persia.
And just as Assyria was punished for their treatment of Israel, so it would be for Babylon.
The prophet Isaiah provided much greater detail about the future Persian king who would free the Jews and overthrow Babylon 150 years before he was born.
“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb. ‘I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone…who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers…who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure,” saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built, and to the temple, your foundation shall be laid.”’” Isaiah 44:24, 26, 28
A marvelous fact about Cyrus was that he was called by name by God many years before the Jews went to Babylon.
And so it was.
“Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him…to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut…For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name…though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:1, 4
And as would be expected, history confirmed God’s ‘I will’ prophecies.
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mount of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia… ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: all the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me.’”
Near the end of the 70 year captivity, the Medes and Persians would rescue the Jews and grant them permission to return to Judah and rebuild the temple. Such was done in 538 BC.
Thus Cyrus freed the Jewish people. Note also that Cyrus acknowledged that God had given him the right to rule all the kingdoms of the earth. Little did he know time that Alexander was lurking right around the corner foreordained by God to overthrow the kingdom of the Medes and Persians in accordance with His predetermined, sovereign time.
How incomprehensible is the sovereignty of God!
Who other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can document world history in great detail before it happens?
Such sovereignty is in full display even today, although perhaps, unrecognized.
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