Tisha B’Av – 70 Years of Exile


The prophet Jeremiah (29:10) predicted that the Hashem would remember the Israelites after 70 years, “At the completion of 70 years of Babylon I (Hashem) will remember you, fulfill My (divine) good word toward you, and restore you to this place (Israel).” This enigmatic prophecy does not indicate the starting point of these 70 years nor does it specify the nature of restoration. Hence there were numerous interpretations of this prophecy which misled the kings of Babylon and Persia and may have contributed to a lack of faith of the Israelites. Even Daniel (9:2) was unsure of the meaning of this prophecy and prayed to Hashem for guidance.

Time Line

The following table lists the kings, who reigned during these 70 years, their nationality, years of rule (from creation), and role.

KingNationalityYears of RuleRole
NebuchadnezzarBabylonian3319-3363Destroyed Temple
Evil MerodachBabylonian3363-3386Son of Nebuchanezzar
BelshazzarBabylonian3386-3389Last Babylonian King
Darius IMedian3389-3390Defeated Belshazzar
CyrusPersian3390-3393Allowed Rebuilding of Temple
AhasuerusPersian3393-3407Husband of Esther
Darius IIPersian3407-3442Authorized Rebuilding of Temple

Starting Points

The following table lists important dates in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar which relate to the starting point of the 70 years and the king who reigned 70 years later. The last entry in the table, destruction of the temple is the actual starting point for the prophecy of Jeremiah

EventDate70 Years  LaterKing Event
Beginning of Reign33193389BelshazzarEnd of Babylonian Rule
Defeat of Jehoiakim33203390CyrusStart Building of Temple
Exile of Jehoiachin33273397AhasuerusFeast of Ahasuerus
Temple Destroyed33383408Darius IIAuthorized Rebuilding of Temple

(Note: A companion article on this web site “Last 4 Kings” provides detailed biographical information on Kings Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin).

Hence there several milestones in this 70 year cycle as follows:

  • End of Babylonian Rule.
  • Start Building of Second Temple.
  • Feast of Ahasuerus.
  • Rebuilding Second Temple.

End of Babylonian Rule

King Belshazzar mistakenly assumed that the 70 years started from the beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. He therefore made an elaborate feast (Daniel Chapter 5) to celebrate the apparent end of the hopes of rebuilding the temple and redemption of the Israelites. He had the audacity to bring out golden and silver vessels that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the first temple and drink from them (ibid. 5:2). In response Hashem sent a vision of fingers of a human hand writing a message on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace (ibid. 5:5).

The king summoned his wise men, necromancers, and astrologers but they could not decipher the message (ibid. 5:7-8). Then the queen suggested calling Daniel to interpret the message and the king consented (ibid. 5:11-13). Daniel rebuked the king for his arrogance (ibid. 5:22), misuse of the temple vessels, and failure to acknowledge Hashem as ruler of the world (ibid. 5:23). Then Daniel deciphered the message and told Belshazzar that his rule would end (ibid. 5:26) and his kingdom given to Media and Persia (ibid. 5:28).

On that very night, Belshazzar, the Chaldean (Babylonian) king, was assassinated (ibid. 5:30). Jossipon, a chronicle of Jewish history from Adam to the age of Titus, in Book 1 Chapter 3 explains that Belshazzar was killed by his own men. They feared Daniel’s prediction and sought to make peace with Darius, thereby securing their position. The Midrash (Song of Songs Rabbah 3:3) relates that the king was killed by his own guards, Darius and Cyrus. Belshazzar fearing an insurrection had decreed that anyone who attempted to enter the palace that night will be executed. The king had to relieve himself that night, left the palace, and was killed by his guards upon reentry to the palace. 

In an ironic divine twist of events, Belshazzar was assassinated in the year 3389 exactly 70 years from the beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Hence another prophecy of Jeremiah (25:12) was fulfilled in that the Babylonian Empire came to an end after 70 years. The verse follows, “It shall be at the completion of seventy years, I (Hashem) will visit upon the king of Babylon and his nation their iniquity … and I will make it for everlasting desolation.”

Beginning of Building Second Temple

In the year 3390, King Cyrus of Persia authorized the Israelites to begin building the second temple in Jerusalem. The Talmud Megillah 11b notes that the year 3390 is exactly 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel and placed the Judean king Jehoiakim under his control.

The verses from the book of Ezra follow:

Ezra 1:1 – “In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, at the completion of the word of Hashem from the mouth of Jeremiah, Hashem aroused the spirit of Cyrus …He issued a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also in writing, saying:  

Ezra 1:2 – “All the kingdoms of the earth, Hashem G-d of the heavens delivered to me. He commanded me to build Him a House in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.”

The enemies of the Israelites sought to cease construction of the temple by writing a letter to King Cyrus intimating that the Israelites were planning to rebel against him (Ezra 4:11-16). Consequently the king accepted their slander and issued a royal proclamation to stop all construction of the temple (ibid. 4:21). In this manner the first prediction of Jeremiah (i.e. destruction of Babylon – 25:12) was fulfilled. However the second one (29:10) of remembrance and restoration was only partially fulfilled because construction of temple had started but was not completed until 18 years later at the reign of Darius II (ibid. 4:24).

Feast of Ahasuerus

Ahasuerus made an elaborate banquet in the 3rd year of his reign (Esther 1:3). The Talmud (Megillah 11b) asks, “What prompted Ahasuerus to make a banquet at this time and not earlier?” The Talmud (ibid.) answers that Ahasuerus felt that his kingdom was secure because the 70 years predicted by Jeremiah had passed and the Israelites were not redeemed. He calculated the beginning of the 70 years from the exile of King Jehoiachin in 3327. In that year Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:11) and exiled the king, the royal family, his servants, officers, and warriors (ibid. 12). In addition he exiled all of Jerusalem, its officers, craftsmen, and sentries, a total of 10,000 people leaving only the poorest of the land (ibid. 14). In fact the book of Esther (2:6) mentions that Mordecai was part of this exile. In this manner Nebuchadnezzar felt that there was little chance of future rebellion.       

The Talmud (ibid.) notes that although the exile occurred in the year 3327 this feast occurred in the year 3395 which is 2 years short of the 70 years. The Talmud explains that Ahasuerus counted partial years of the reigns of the previous years as full years to complete the 2 missing years.    

Rebuilding of Second Temple

King Darius II gave the order to start rebuilding the temple during the second year of his reign. This corresponds to 70 years after the destruction of the first temple, as predicted by Jeremiah (i.e. 3338 +70 =3408). The verses in Ezra confirm this rebuilding:

4:24 – “Then the work of the House of G-d, which was in Jerusalem, was stopped. It was suspended until the second year of the reign of Darius, the king of Persia.”

6:15 – “The completion of this House was on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.”

The destruction of the temple occurred in the 19th year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar 3319 + 19 = 3338). The verse states (2 Kings 25:8-9), “In the 5th month (Av), on the 7th of the month, of the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia), Nebuzaradan, chief executioner, servant of the king of Babylonia, came to Jerusalem. He burnt the house of Hashem, the king’s palace, all of the houses of Jerusalem, and all of the houses of the dignitaries.” The burning of the temple persisted until the 10th of this month (Jeremiah 52:12-13). 

The 70 year period also corresponds to the number of years that the Israelites neglected the Sabbatical (שמיטה) and Jubilee (יובל) years. The Torah alludes to these 70 years in Leviticus 26:34-35) with Rashi on the latter verse calculating the 70 years. Strikingly, the verse in 2 Chronicles 36:21 explicitly links the 70 years to this neglect, “To fulfill the word of Hashem in the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land was appeased for its Sabbaths for all the days of its desolation. It rested until the completion of seventy years.” Rashi on this verse similarly calculates the 70 years in terms of this neglect.    

Darius II Son of Esther

It is interesting to note that scripture does not indicate that Darius II was the son of Esther. Rashi, based upon the Midrash, states that Darius II was the son of Esther (Ezra 1:1 and 4:24). Perhaps the sages of the great assembly and Ezra who compiled the later scriptures did not wish to offend the Persian government and therefore did not mention the mother of Darius.


When the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 3b-4a) discusses Darius II it does not state that Darius was the son of Esther.  On the contrary the Talmud cites the following examples to show that Darius was not Jewish:

  • Selfish motives – Darius permitted the rebuilding of the temple in order that the Israelites will pray for the lives of the king and his children (Ezra 6:10).
  • Construction of temple – Darius ordered the construction of the temple with marble and wood (Ezra 6:4). The Talmud (ibid. 4a) explains that he intended that the wood be exposed to facilitate burning of the temple in the event that the Israelites rebelled against his rule. By contrast when Solomon built the temple he covered it with plaster.
  • Immorality – Darius may have had relations with his pet dog that he treated affectionately.

The Talmud does not attempt to reconcile its view with some of the opinions in the Midrash below that Darius II was the son of Esther.


The Midrash presents conflicting views about the lineage of Darius II. In Leviticus Rabbah 13:5 the Midrash compares the 4 kingdoms, (i.e. Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome) that subjugated the Israelites between the destruction of the 2 temples, to non-kosher animals that possess one sign of kashrut, either chewing the cud or a split hoof (Leviticus 11:4-7). The Midrash compares the kingdom of Media-Persia to the hyrax which has one sign of kashrut. It states that Darius II was the son of Esther, who by analogy had only one sign of kashrut, meaning that his father Ahasuerus was not Jewish but his mother was Jewish.

However another Midrash (Esther Rabbah 8:3) commenting on Esther 4:4 provides conflicting views based upon Esther’s terrified reaction to Haman’s decree of genocide. According to one view she miscarried and never conceived again. According to the opposing view she had relations with Ahasuerus with a cloth to protect against birth. After Ahasuerus ordered the hanging of Haman and his sons she removed the cloth and gave birth to Darius II. 

Tosafot (Rosh Hashanah 3b) opines that Darius was the son of Esther based upon the Midrash.  


This article examined the prophecy of 70 years of exile as predicted by Jeremiah and highlighted the significant events during those years.  Each of these turning points is related to an occurrence 70 years earlier compounding the mystery of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

In addition to providing an historical context for the story of Purim, this analysis shows how difficult it is to connect historical events to prophecy, especially when approaching the prophecies of the messiah.        

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