MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED, Chapter 12  


 

MESSIAH: HIS FIRST COMING SCHEDULED

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CHAPTER XII

THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY

AS ALREADY seen, Moses warned his people that, if they .n were disobedient to the Lord, He would be forced to punish them and to cast them out of their land. Especially did he exhort them to observe their Sabbaths - the sabbatic system consisting of the weekly sabbath, the sabbath of weeks, the sabbatic year, and the year of Jubilee. The general warning is found in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Jeremiah was more definite in his prediction. This is natural, because in his time the situation had developed so that he had to speak in concrete terms. One of the outstanding predictions on this point is found in chapter 25. Even before his day Isaiah, in a clear-cut manner, foretold this catastrophe (39:1-8).

The writer of II Chronicles in chapter 36:11-21 has shown us that Israel, after having turned a deafened ear to the pleadings of the prophets through a long period of years, reached the point beyond which there was no remedy.

"11 Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign; and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: 12 and he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah his God; he humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of Jehovah. 13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart against turning unto Jehovah, the God of Israel. 14 Moreover all the chiefs of the priests, and the people, trespassed very greatly after all the abominations of the nations; and they polluted the house of Jehovah which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 15 And Jehovah, the God of their fathers, sent to them by his messengers, rising up early and sending, because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: 16 but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy. "17 Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldeans, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or virgin, old man or hoary-headed: he gave them all into his hand. 18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: 21 to fulfill the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths: for as long as it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years."

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An individual or nation may persist in a rebellious course and continue to ignore the warnings from the Almighty until it reaches the point where a just and holy God can do nothing but inflict the threatened punishment. In Israel's case, as here foretold and recorded, the Lord allowed the Babylonians to come against the Chosen People, to devastate the land, and to take the flower of the nation into exile.

According to the prediction of Jeremiah (chapter 25) and the chronicler in the passage quoted above, the captivity was to continue for seventy years. This time was set, because Israel had failed to observe the sabbatic years. Hence the Lord was determined that the land should have its rest. Since this era is such an important one in the history of the nation, and since our grip on the Scriptures dealing with the momentous occurrences of the times and the prophecies uttered then is contingent upon a clear comprehension of the outstanding events, it is necessary for us to study the annals of the times very closely.

1. EVENTS OF 3520 A.H. (605 B.C.E.)

The year 3520 terminated the reign of Nabopolassar king of Babylon. The following year his son Nebuchadnezzar ascended the throne.

According to Daniel 1:1-7, Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim and besieged it. He took from the temple certain of the holy vessels and carried them to Babylon. He also carried into captivity some of the seed royal. Among them were Daniel and his immediate associates, who were placed in what would probably be termed today "The University of Babylon" for special instruction which, we may infer, prepared them for statecraft.

Some have tried to throw doubt upon Daniel's statement relative to the siege of Jerusalem in this year, inasmuch as it has not been corroborated by any extra-Biblical evidence. The critics taking this position should learn a lesson from the experience of those scholars who formerly questioned Isaiah 20, which stood throughout the centuries until modern times as a lone witness to the historicity of Sargon king of Assyria. Finally archeology brought to light his residence at Khorsabad. Since the discovery of this ancient palace proves the absolute literalness and accuracy of the Biblical account, and since these former critics have been put to silence by archeology, it behooves those who question the Scripture records

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to hold themselves in modest reserve lest they, like their predecessors, shall be confounded by further archeological evidence; It is as the late Dr. Robert Dick 'Wilson said, "No one knows enough to question for one second any statement that is found in the Hebrew text of the Scriptures."

The Babylonian captivity was foretold by Isaiah in the fateful year, 3414 A.H. (711 B.C.E.), which was the 14th year of Hezekiah. This first deportation of captives in the third year of Jehoiakim was but the beginning of the pre-announced exile in Babylon.

II. THE EVENTS OF 3521 A.H. (604 B.C.E.)

We learn from Jeremiah 25:1 that the fourth year of Jehoiakim was the first of Nebuchadnezzar. Evidently then in the preceding year he had fought against Jerusalem, not as king of Babylon, but as crown prince and leader of his father's armies.

This fourth year of Jehoiakim is one of the most important dates in all Biblical history since it synchronizes sacred chronology with profane history. Whatever we know of secular events prior to this time, especially during the monarchy, is brought into relationship with the Biblical account by means of this one statement.

The prophecy issued on this one occasion is of special interest, not only to the Jew, but also to the Gentile. Here God announced that the Babylonian captivity into which Israel was to go was due to the fact that she had hardened her heart against His message as delivered by the prophets from of old. This punishment was, therefore, chastisement because of disobedience. God, being true to His character as the moral Ruler of the universe, cannot let sin and disobedience go unpunished; hence He foretold the seventy years of Babylonian exile. Following this prediction He gave the hope that at the termination of that period Israel would be brought back to her own land.

Beginning with verse 15 and running to the end of the prediction (vs. 38), we see an illustration of the principle known to Bible students as that of double reference .or the manifold' fulfillment of prophecy. As we have already seen, this psychological law, peculiar to predictive prophecy, led the speaker to use the local situation of the day as the background upon which to paint a picture of the remote future. Hence, since the forecast of Isaiah concerning Judah's being carried into captivity had begun to be fulfilled in the preceding year, God began to punish His people first and to deal with them according to the light which they have received. In the

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vision of a banquet hall Jeremiah passed the cup of God's wrath first to the king of
Jerusalem and afterwards made the other monarchs seated at the festive table drink of the same. The last to partake of it was the king of Sheshach, Babylon (vs. 26). This banquet scene is followed by a prediction of the time when God will punish all nations of the earth, which judgment, we know from other predictions, will occur at the end' of this age. This passage, therefore, is of paramount importance to both Jew and Gentile, not only because of its synchronizing sacred with secular chronology, but also because of the wonderful prediction of God's dealings with all peoples in judgment.

It was in this year that Jeremiah committed to writing his prophecies, which he had uttered during the twenty-three years of his ministry, and which began with the 13th year of Josiah's reign. The account is found in Jeremiah 36. Obedient to the Lord's command, the prophet, as he was told, committed to writing all of his predictions.

In this same fourth year of Jehoiakim, Baruch was urged not to seek great things for himself, but rather to be faithful to God. The material things of life are transitory and perishable (Jer. 45:1-5). During this same year Pharaoh-new king of Egypt was defeated at Carchemish on the Euphrates (Jer. 46:2; II Chron. 35:20-27). It was also in this year that Jeremiah uttered his cycle of prophecies concerning the nations (Jer. 46-51).
 
EVENTS OF 3522 All. (603 B.C.E.)

The fifth year of Jehoiakim, of course, was the second year of Nebuchadnezzar. At this time Daniel and his comrades had been in training for three years, since they were placed in this educational institution in 60S. The fifth year of Jehoiakim was 603 B.C.E. This very year Nebuchadnezzar had his dream of the metallic image recorded in Daniel 2:1-45.

This image, consisting of four metals, symbolized the four different world-empires; namely, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, which arise out of the earth and dominate the world-situation. The head of gold symbolized Babylon; the chest together with the arms of silver signified the Medo-Persian empire; the belly of brass foreshadowed the Grecian; the hips, thighs, and legs of iron prefigured the Roman. Corresponding exactly to this vision, the Medo-Persian empire was a dual monarchy; also the Roman empire from 285 . C.E. and onward was, as symbolized by the legs,
 
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divided into two sections. In the final state it will be in a tenfold division as signified by the ten toes.

This vision is parallel to that of the beasts which was given to Daniel 62 years later. The head of gold in the image corresponds to the lion of the beast vision; the chest and arms of silver signify the government set forth by the bear; the belly of brass answers to the power foreshadowed by the leopard; and the legs of iron symbolize the nondescript beast of the latter vision.

There are to be but four world-empires. The fourth-that signified by the legs and the nondescript beast-is of longest duration. It was founded in 754 B.C.E., continues to the present time, and will be the dom-inating factor in the end of the dispensation. This question, however, has been discussed in chapter 1.

Jehoiakim reigned for eleven years. He was placed upon the throne by Pharaoh-neco to take the place of Jehoahaz whom he dethroned (II Kings23: 31-35). He seems to have been faithful to Pharaoh as his overlord until his third year. At that time Nebuchadnezzar came up against him, as already seen from Daniel 1: 1-7, and he became subject to Babylon. For three years he was faithful to his oath of allegiance, but in his fifth year (3522 AH. which is 603 B.C.) he revolted. At that time Nebuchadnezzar bound him in chains to carry him to Babylon (II Chron. 36:6) . It seems however that Nebuchadnezzar did not carry out his intention, but rather permitted Jehoiakim to remain. on the throne. In his fifth year he broke all ties with Babylon, and, since Nebuchadnezzar was busy in the East attending to more weighty matters, God permitted bands of the Chaldeans, the Syrians, the Moabites and the Ammonites to harass Judah. It was in this year that a fast was proclaimed in Jerusalem (Jer. 36:9). This was also the year when Jehoiakim cut the scroll of Jeremiah with his penknife. When it was taken to the king, he flippantly dismissed the words of the Living God spoken by His faithful prophet through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in a most flagrant manner cut it to pieces with his penknife, and burnt it in the brazier, as if by so doing he could make null and void the Word of the Living God. At the instructions of the Lord Jeremiah dictated all of the predictions which were on the scroll to Baruch, who wrote them on another parchment. Appended to it was the further revelation of the judgment that would come upon Jehoiakim because of his defiance against God and his blasphemous act in destroying the former scroll (Jer. 36:11-32).

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The Word of God is settled forever in the heavens (Psa. 119:89); hence what we may do to the material upon which the revelation is written does not affect the eternal Word. God watches over it to perform it as He stated to Jeremiah (
1:11, 12).

IV. EVENTS OF 3527 A.H. (598 B.C.E.)

In the seventh year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem and took 3023 Jews captive to Babylon. This information is found in Jeremiah 52:28.

V. EVENTS OF 3528 A.ll. (597 B.C.E.)

The year 597 was the 11th and last of Jehoiakim's reign. As to whether or not he met a natural death, the Scriptures are silent. There is only one reference to his decease, which is found in the form of a prediction (Jer. 22:18, 19). He passed away unlamented because he was so very wicked.*

In this year Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem, took treasures out of the house of Jehovah and from the king's palace, cut up many of the vessels of gold which Solomon had made, and sent them to Babylon. At the same time he carried captive all the princes and mighty men of valor, even ten thousand captives and all the craftsmen and the smiths. Only the poor were left in the land. (See II Kings 24: 8-17.) Ezekiel was taken captive with Jehoiachin, for in 1:1, 2 of his prophecy he tells us that he was granted a vision from God in the thirtieth year. which was the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity. It is impossible for us to know absolutely the era of which this year was the 30th. It is altogether possible that it was his age. This year also was the 12th of Nebuchadnezzar and the 4th of
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* His son mounted the throne after him. Jeremiah speaks of him as Jeconiah (J er.
22: 24). In Jeremiah 24: 1 and in I O1ronicles 3: 16 he is called also J econiah, but in II Kings 24: 6, 8 his name is given as Jehoiachin. He reigned only three months.
     Some have seen a contradiction between the statement found in II Kings 24: 8 which declares that Jeconiah was 18 years old when he began to reign, and that found in II Chronicles 36 :.9,10 which states that he was eight years old when he began to reign. There is no discrepancy between the two passages when one realizes that the point of view is entirely different with each writer. The author of Kings gave his actual age when he began to reign; namely, 18, whereas the writer of Chronicles spoke of him as "a son of eight years in his reigning or kingdom." This latter statement views the situation from the standpoint of Nebuchadnezzar, who was in his eighth year, and who was his overlord; hence he is spoken of as being "a son of eight years in the kingdom"; i. e., from the accession to power of Nebuchadnezzar. We have already seen this same idiom, peculiar to the writer of Chronicles, on two former occasions.
 
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Zedekiah. A study of Ezekiel 40: 1, which speaks of "the twenty fifth year of our captivity" as being "the 14th year after that the city was smitten," proves that Ezekiel dated his prophecies in terms of Jehoiachin's captivity which, as we have already seen, began in the year 3528 All. or 597 B.C. A glance at the following Scriptures: 1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1,17; 30:20; 31:1; 32: 1, 17; 33: 21; and 40: 1 shows that these are references to Jehoiachin's captivity. These passages become intelligible to the one who recognizes this fact.

Mordecai, who plays one of the leading parts in the book of Esther, was a cousin of Queen Esther and was one of the captives who was taken to Babylon with Jeconiah;

"There was a certain Jew in Shushan the palace, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, 6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah. whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away" (Esth. 2: 5,6). Because a forced meaning has been placed upon the facts presented in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, this passage has been distorted by commentators generally and has been interpreted as stating something that it does not say. These verses simply declare that Mordecai the Jew, the cousin of Hadassah, who became Queen Esther, wife of Darius, was taken at the time that Jeconiah was led into captivity. In order to make the book of Esther fit into the interpretation forced upon Ezra and Nehemiah, the claim is made by many that Mordecai was not taken with Jeconiah to Babylon, but rather that his great-grandfather Kish was the one who went at that time. This point will come up later.

The affirmation that "At the return of the year" King Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon and made Zedekiah king in his stead seems to indicate that Zedekiah mounted the throne on New Year's Day. This being true, Jehoiachin's three months' reign fell within the last year of his father Jehoiakim.

V1. EVENTS OF 3532 A.H. (593 B.C.E.)

In this year Ezekiel received his call. This was the fifth year of Jehoiachin's captivity and the 30th year of the era mentioned in verse 1 of his prophecy. When he received his commission he was instructed by the Lord to lie upon his left side for 390 days, symbolizing 390 years of the iniquity of the house of Israel. Following this, he was to lie upon his right side for 40 days which, in the same manner, represented 40 years of the sins of the house of

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Judah. It is rather difficult to understand the exact import of this language so as to determine what 390 years are here indicated. Some interpreters have considered that it refers to the 390 years which followed the disruption of the kingdom. This is a possible interpretation, but I shall not be dogmatic concerning it. When did the 40 years of Judah's iniquity begin and terminate? Some have seen the initial date of this period in the 13th year of King Josiah, i. e., 626 B.C. and its terminal year as the 10th year of Zedekiah, 587 B.C. This also is a possible interpretation. But in view of the inconclusiveness of the evidence I shall pass this prediction by without any further comment.*

VII. THE EVENTS OF 3533 All. (592 B.C.E.)

In this year, the sixth of Jehoiachin's captivity, Ezekiel was transported in the visions of God from Babylonia to Jerusalem and was shown the idolatrous practices which were being carried on in the temple at Jerusalem (Ezek. 8:1f).

VIII. THE EVENTS OF 3534 AH. (591 B.C.E.)

In this year, the seventh of Jehoiachin's captivity, the elders of Israel came to the prophet to inquire of the Lord concerning some matter which is not mentioned here. He would not give the desired information, but pronounced a judgment upon the nation and made a prediction concerning purging it of all wickedness. (See chapter 20:33-39.)

IX. THE EVENTS OF 3536 All. (589 B.C.E.)

This is the year in which Ezekiel received a vision concerning the boiling caldron, which symbolized graphically the judgments of God that would come upon Jerusalem and the Hebrew people. This vision was granted Ezekiel in the 9th year of Jehoiachin's captivity, which was the 8th of Zedekiah's reign. In it the siege of Jerusalem was depicted. The date of this vision was exactly one year prior to its fulfillment. This is the beginning of the period of indignation mentioned in Zechariah 7:1-12, which  terminated with the second year of Darius Hystaspes in 3005 AH. (520 B.C.).

X. THE EVENTS OF 3537 AH. (588 B.C.E.)

This is the year when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, namely, the 9th year of Zedekiah (II Kings 25:1; Jer. 39:1; 52: 4). This date was ever remembered in Israel. During this
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'*For a discussion of the year-day theory see chapter XXI.

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year, the 10th year of Jehoiachin's captivity, Ezekiel foretold the 40 years' desolation of Egypt (Ezek. 29:1-12).

XI. THE EVENTS OF 3538 All. (587 B.C.E.)

This year was the 10th of Zedekiah, the 11th of Jehoiachin' s captivity, and the 18th of Nebuchadnezzar. It was also the 2nd year of the siege of Jerusalem and the 40th year of Jeremiah's ministry. In this very year Jeremiah purchased his uncle's field (Jer. 32:1-12). At this time Nebuchadnezzar took 832 people into captivity from Jerusalem (Jer. 52:29). In the same year Ezekiel uttered his prophecy against Tyre (Ezek. 26-28). He also spoke the prediction against Egypt (Ezek. 30: 20), when he gave the one found in chapter 31.

XII. THE EVENTS OF 3539 All. (586 B.C.E.)

This was the 11th year of Zedekiah, the 12th of Jehoiachin's captivity, and the 19th year of Nebuchadnezzar. On the 9th day of the 4th month the famine prevailed and a breach was made in the wall (II Kings 25:1-7; Jer. 39:2; 52:4-7). Then on the 7th day of the 5th month the temple was burned and the city walls were thrown down.

We learn from II Kings 25: 18-21 that shortly after the 7th day of the 5th month, Seraiah, the high priest and father of Jehozadak (I Chron. 6:1-15) and Ezra (Ezra 7:1-5), was brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah and executed (II Kings 25: 21 ; Jer. 1:3). Two months later Gedaliah, who had been appointed governor of the land by Nebuchadnezzar, was slain (II Kings 25:25; Jer. 41:1).

According to Ezekiel 33:21, the news reached the exiles in captivity concerning the fall of the city on the 5th day of the 10th month of the 12th year of Ezekiel's captivity. This was the 12th year of Jehoiachin's captivity and the 11th year of Zedekiah's reign. This report is in perfect harmony with all the facts, for we know that the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon or vice versa, as we learn from Ezra 7, consumed about 4 months.

In the same year in the 12th month and on the first day, Ezekiel uttered his lamentation against Pharaoh and Egypt, foretelling the desolation that would come to the land (Ezek. 32:1). Later in the month he pronounced a further judgment against Egypt (vs. 17).

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XIII. THE EVENTS OF 3543 A.H. (582 B.C.E.)

In 582 B.C.E. Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's forces, carried 745 souls from Judah into captivity. This was four years after the final overthrow of the city. Thus in the three expeditions of the 7th, 18th, and 23rd years of Nebuchadnezzar there was a total of 4600 persons deported to Babylon. This number does not, of course, include those taken in the third year of Jehoiakim and in the 8th year of N ebuchadnezzar (Jer. 52:28-30).

XIV. THE EVENTS OF 3552 All. (573 B.C.E.)

In the year 573 B.C.E., which was the 25th of Jehoiachin's captivity, and which was the 14th after the smiting of the city, Ezekiel was granted a wonderful vision of the city of Jerusalem as it will be during the great kingdom age in the future, together with the glory of the land under the reign of Messiah. (This vision is found in Ezek. 40-48.)

XV. THE EVENTS OF 3554 All. (571 B.C.E.)

Two years later, in 571 B.C.E., which was the 27th year of Jehoiachin' s captivity, Ezekiel prophesied that Nebuchadnezzar would receive Egypt as his wages for the service which he had rendered to the Lord against Tyre (Ezek. 29:17).

XV1. THE EVENTS OF 3564 All. (561 B.C.E.)

From 570 B.C.E. to 561 there is a blank of nine years, during which nothing is recorded as having transpired. Some commentators, however, feel that it was within this period that Nebuchadnezzar experienced his seven years of insanity. The year 561 B.C.E. was the 37th year of Jehoiachin's captivity and the accession year of Evil-merodach, the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar to the throne of Babylon (II Kings 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34).

XVI1. THE EVENTS OF 3584 All. (541 B.C.E.)

After the first year of Evil-merodach the Scriptures are silent on the events for the next 19 years. In Daniel 7:1, however, we have a record of the vision which was granted to Daniel concerning the four beasts emblematic of the four world-empires (Dan. 7).

XVIII. THE EVENTS OF 3586 A.H. (539 B.C.E.) Two years later, that is, 539 B.C.E., which was the third year of Belshazzar, Daniel had his vision of the ram and he-goat, which
 
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prediction foretold the conflict between Persia and Greece. This record is found in Daniel 8.

XIX. THE EVENTS OF 3587 All. (538 B.C.E.)

Daniel 5 gives us the picture of the fall of Babylon in the year 538 and the passing of world-dominion from Babylon to the Medo-Persian empire. While it is difficult from our sources to get at the exact facts concerning the fall of Babylon and the details about the principal actors at that time, there is no necessity for our attempting to find a contradiction between the Biblical record and profane history.

XX. THE EVENTS OF 3589 A.H. (536 B.C.E.)

According to Daniel 5:30, 31, when Belshazzar the Chaldean king was feasting with a thousand of his lords he was slain and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of 62. According to Martin Anstey, "The length of the reign of Darius the Median is not stated in Scripture, nor is Darius himself mentioned in profane literature under that name, except in Josephus, but it is clear from Daniel 6: 28 that he was succeeded by Cyrus, and from II Chronicles 36:20-23 that the 1st year of Cyrus was the 70th and last of the 70 years' captivity which began in the 3rd year of Jehoiakim, B.C. 605. Hence, whatever may be the number and the names of the monarchs between Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, and whatever may be the number of years that each monarch reigned, we know that the first year of Cyrus was the year B.C. 536, and we may provisionaIly accept the received dates derived from secular history as given by E. A W. Budge in the British Museum Guide:

561 Evil-merodach
559 Nergal-sharezer (Neriglissar)
556 Labashi-marduk
555 Nabonidus
538 Conquest of
Babylon by Cyrus.

adding thereto the name of Belshazzar as Co-Rex with his father Nabonidus, B.C.S41-539 and the name of Darius the Mede as Rex B.C. 538 and 537, with Cyrus as Co-Rex during these two years, and making Cyrus sole King on the death of Darius the Mede, B.C.536." The year 3589 A.H. (536 B.C.E.) was the last of the 70 years of exile and the first year of the sole-rexship of Cyrus. This date is most important in the reckoning of chronology, for a correct understanding of the entire chronological scheme is dependent upon our interpretation of the facts of this year. But these matters come up for discussion in the next chapter.

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