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As, however, its privileges and distinctions were great, so were likewise the judgments that followed its awful apostasy. “The sin of Judah,” exclaims the prophet, “is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond.” And although, from its connexion with the coming of Christ, and for the great purposes of redemption, its punishment was to be of a different description from the other tribes, yet it was equally severe, and in a more especial way held up to the eyes of the world. Judah was
. not, like Israel, carried into captivity, and no more heard of. A short time before their calamities came upon them, when their city and beautiful temple should be laid in ruins—their most holy vessels conveyed to distant landstheir king, their princes, and people of every rank, carried away captive, and their country left a desolation—in short, when they should be treated as Israel had been treated --it pleased God to give them a distinct promise of a return, and to name the time when it should take place. It had been declared “that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh came;" and there- . fore after seventy years Judab was to return, and be restored as a tribe-though greatly diminished, and chiefly under foreign rulersuntil Christ appeared : soon after which time it was swept with the “besom of destruction," as
we see it at this day, and as it has been for nearly eighteen hundred years !
The most remarkable peculiarity attending this chronological date is, that, without offering the least violence of interpretation, it will bear to be considered as commencing and ending at two separate and distinct times; each corresponding commencement and termination including exactly the specified period of seventy years.
The undoubted and primary commencement of this period was in the 4th year of Jehoiakim, 606 B. c., when Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judea, rendered the king tributary, and took Daniel and his companions to Babylon, with part of the vessels of the temple of Jehovah, and placed them in that of Belus. (2 Chron. xxxvi. 6, 7). This origin is not only fully confirmed
7 by the voice of history, but by the corresponding termination; which, when the time arrived, in 536 B.C., was marked by Cyrus, after the taking of Babylon, proclaiming by a forma! edict liberty unto the Jews to return to their own land. And it deserves to be particularly noticed, that Cyrus was not only appointed to this work, but that he was especially named by God nearly two hundred years before he was born: this is the more remarkable, as he is the only person whom God has ever so honoured, except Josiah. (1 Kings xiii. 2.)
In the 44th chap. of Isaiah it is said, “ That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shall be built ; and to the temple, Thy foundations shall be laid.” (ver. 28.) “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.... I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price, nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Isai. xlv. 1, 13).
Accordingly, "in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.” (2 Chron. xxxvi. 22, 23; Ezra i. ii.) In virtue of this permission about 30,000 of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and perhaps 12,000 of the other tribes, with above 7,000 proselytes and servants (with
the sacred vessels), are supposed to have returned under the direction of Zerubbabel and Jeshua.
This was indisputably, therefore, one termination of the period of seventy years, as the first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar was the first commencement. But the captivity, destruction, and desolation, which were predicted concerning the nation, were not completed until eighteen years afterwards; when, after a long siege, Nebuchadnezzar took the city of Jerusalem, threw down its walls and buildings, burnt and laid in ruins its temple, carried away captive the rest of the inhabitants, and slaughtered, or took away as prisoners, the king whom he had set up and the rest of the royal family; thus fulfilling to the letter the threatening denounced to Hezekiah: “ Hear the word of the Lord of hosts : Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and all which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (Isai. xxxix. 5, 7).
This was another or second commencement from which the captivity might be dated; and exactly seventy years afterwards it was responded to by another edict of the kings of Persia, issued by Darius Hystaspes in the 4th
year of his reign, forming a second and final termination.
But as this important view of the subject is set in a clear light by the learned Dr. Prideaux, in his “Connexion between the Old and New Testaments.” (see vol. i. p. 254), I will quote his own words :
“ The publishing of this decree, about the beginning of the fourth year of Darius, which confirmed that of Cyrus in favour of the Jews, may be reckoned the thorough restoration of the Jewish state: and from the thorough destruction of it, in the burning of the city and temple of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, to this time, is just seventy years. The time falling so exactly, and the prophet Zechariah confirming it by expressing, under the fourth year of Darius, that the mourning and fasting of the Jews for the destruction of Jerusalem, and the utter driving them out of the land, on the death of Gedaliah, was then just seventy years (Zech. vii. 1), this has given a plausible handle to some for the placing of the beginning of the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, spoken of by Jeremiah, at the destruction of Jerusalem ; and the end of them, at the publication of this decree of Darius. But the Scriptures plainly tell us that these seventy years, as prophesied of by the prophet Jeremiah, began from the fourth year of Jehoiakim, and expired in the first year of