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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Do the words at Zechariah 1:7, 12 indicate that by 519 B.C.E. the seventy years of desolation had not yet been fulfilled? If so, might this suggest that the seventy-year period began in or around 589 B.C.E.?

At Zechariah 1:7 we read:

"On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, that is, the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of Jehovah occurred to Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo the prophet."

Using 539 B.C.E. as a pivotal date establishes the "twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month" of the "second year of Darius" as February 9, 519 B.C.E. on the Gregorian calendar. It should be noted that the Darius spoken of at Zechariah 1:7 is the Persian king Darius I (also known as Darius the Great, or Darius Hystaspes), and not Darius the Mede ("the son of Ahasuerus of the seed of the Medes."—Daniel 9:1) who took administrative control of Babylon following its conquest by Cyrus the Great.

Zechariah continues in verse 12:

"So the angel of Jehovah answered and said: 'O Jehovah of armies, how long will you yourself not show mercy to Jerusalem and to the cities of Judah, whom you have denounced these seventy years?'"

From the angel's use of the words "these seventy years" (New World Translation), it might appear to some that toward the conclusion of the seventy years the angel is asking Jehovah how much longer Jerusalem must lie desolate. (Compare with "those seventy years" as used by the following translations: Amplified Bible, Living Bible, King James Version, Modern King James Version, Darby Version, and Green's Literal Translation.) Those who recognize and admit that the Biblical evidence indicates that the seventy years of desolation commenced after the destruction of Jerusalem, but who are unable to reconcile the twenty or so missing years (according to presently-accepted secular chronology), have advanced the theory that the "seventy years" ran up to the completion of the reconstructed temple in Jerusalem. Somehow, they reason that up until this time the land of Judah was still considered "desolate."

This, of course, was not the case. At Jeremiah 29:10, Jehovah reassured the Jewish exiles that after seventy (not forty-eight or fifty) years had been fulfilled at Babylon, they would be permitted to return to their homeland:

"For this is what Jehovah has said, 'In accord with the fulfilling of seventy years at Babylon I shall turn my attention to you people, and I will establish toward you my good word in bringing you back to this place.'"

The Bible elsewhere reports that the seventy years ran "until the royalty of Persia began to reign" (2 Chronicles 36:20). Cyrus' decree, made in "the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia," (Ezra 1:1-4) or 538/7 B.C.E., released the Jews from servitude to Babylon, permitting them to return to Judah to rebuild their cities. Thus, in 537 B.C.E., a total of 49,897 Jews made the expedition back to their homeland (Ezra 2:64), and "when the seventh month arrived the sons of Israel were in [their] cities."—Ezra 3:1.

Yes, the fact that the Persian king Darius I is ruling at this time, as stated in Zechariah 1:7, establishes that the seventy years ended as much as twenty years earlier, when, in the first year of Darius the Mede, Daniel correctly discerned that their completion was approaching.—Daniel 9:2.

To suggest that the seventy year period ran from 589 B.C.E. to 519 B.C.E. (or 587/6 B.C.E. to 516 B.C.E.), whether speaking in terms of servitude or desolation, or both, is completely without foundation, and contradicts both Scripture and well-established history. This subject is discussed further, with details as to what the angel was speaking of, in Chapter 8: Mercy to the Persecuted But Judgment to the Persecutors of the Watchtower Society publication Paradise Restored To Mankind – By Theocracy!, pp. 130-3).


Next article: Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.E., but the Jewish captives did not return to their homeland until 537 B.C.E. Therefore, how could it be said that the Jews served "the king of Babylon" for seventy years if the king of Babylon was conquered two years earlier?

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