We’re in a series on the subject of Daniel’s 70th week. In the opening of Daniel chapter 9, we see Daniel seeking God in prayer about Jeremiah’s prophecy that said the Jewish exiles living in Babylon would return to Jerusalem after 70 years. Right in the middle of praying about a prophecy concerning the number 70, the angel Gabriel appeared before him with a message about another prophecy concerning the number 70! Did you know the number 70 appears in the Bible numerous times? Indeed, it’s an important number. In this post, we’re going to dig into the spiritual significance of the number 70! It will surprise you! Keep reading!
DANIEL’S 70TH WEEK
By Karen Thompson
Second in a Five-Part Series
The Number 70
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Dan. 9:1–3).
At the time of Daniel’s prayer, he along with thousands of other Jewish people had been living in Babylon for 70 years. Daniel had been reading and praying about the prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy that said the Lord would bring the exiles in Babylon back to Jerusalem after 70 years: “For thus says the Lord: after seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:10). By Daniel’s calculation, the 70-year exile had been completed, and so he’s lifting this matter up to God in prayer.
Why Exiled for 70 Years?
Seventy years. Why did God choose a time period of 70 years for the Jews to be exiled? Why not 50 or 100? One reason the Lord determined 70 years of exile for the Jews is because of their disobedience to a Mosaic law that said every seventh year the land was to remain uncultivated to give the land a rest. This law had long been neglected. Seventy years to be exact. There was no excuse to disobey this law because God had always miraculously provided a bumper crop every sixth year so all of Israel could take the seventh year off. In 2nd Chronicles chapter 36, it talks about how the purpose of the 70-year judgment was for “resting the land”: “And them that had escaped from the sword carried he [King Nebuchadnezzar] away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years ” (2 Chron. 36:20–21).
The Significance of the Number 70
There is even more significance to the number 70 than just Sabbath rests. We need to take a deep dive into this number to examine its relevance. Let’s look at what E. W. Bullinger had to say about the number 70 in his book, “Number in Scripture.”
“Seventy is another combination of two of the perfect numbers, seven and ten—seven being the number of spiritual perfection and ten of ordinal perfection. Contrasted together, the significance of these two numbers is clear; and when united, we have a union of their respective meanings, viz., spiritual perfection, plus ordinal perfection, or the perfection of spiritual order. As compared with the sum of two numbers, the product exhibits the significance of each in an intensified form. Hence 7 x 10 signifies perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and significance. Both spirit and order are greatly emphasized.”
Let’s look at the places where the number 70 stands out in significance.
Jewish tradition tells us there were 70 nations after the flood. The number of 70 nations is based on the ethnological list in Genesis chapter 10 where Noah’s grandsons are listed. The 70 grandsons were the ancestors of nations with unique languages. After the flood, the descendants of Noah and his three sons settled together in the land of Shinar (Iraq). They all lived together, disobeying God’s command to spread out over the earth. To solve the problem, God confounded their languages so they couldn’t understand each other, forcing them to separate into groups (or families) that understood each other. These groups (families) with their unique languages were the foundation of the 70 nations.
70 Souls Went Down to Egypt
We see another ethnological list in Genesis chapter 46 where we read how Jacob and his sons and their families went down to Egypt: “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six; and the sons of Joseph, which were born him in Egypt, were two souls: all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten ” (Gen. 46:26). These seventy souls grew into the nation of Israel.
70 Elders With Moses on the Mountain
After the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up 12 pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel (Exo. 24:4); he then offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. Moses read the covenant to the people, and they all agreed to be obedient to all that God said. After that, the Lord told Moses to “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu [Aaron’s sons], and seventy of Israel’s elders, and worship at a distance.” Aaron and his two sons, along with 70 elders, worshiped on the mountainside. The Lord told Moses to come up higher on the mountain. That’s when the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Exo. 24:1). In this scenario, there are certain numbers at play: 1, 3, 12, 70. One is for Moses, three is for Aaron and his two sons, twelve is for the tribes of Israel, and seventy is for the elders. Keep these numbers in mind; we’ll see this pattern again.
70 Elders to Help Moses Govern the People
In Numbers chapter 16, we see the Israelites complaining to Moses about having to eat manna every day. They wanted meat to eat, and so they complained bitterly. This caused Moses to cry out to God saying, “I am not able to carry all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me” (v. 14). So the Lord told Moses to get 70 men who were elders of Israel. He would anoint them with the same anointing that was on Moses. They would help Moses carry the burden of governing. (Num. 11:16)
70 Men Form the Great Sanhedrin
The Great Sanhedrin functioned as the supreme court of ancient Israel. It was made up of 70 men plus the high priest.
70 Disciples Sent Out
Jesus sent out seventy disciples to minister to and prepare the towns ahead of His visit to those towns: “Now after this the Lord chose and appointed seventy others and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every town and place where He Himself was about to come (visit)” (Luke 10:1).
Did you know there are a total of 70 parables? Subtracting the repeats, there are 37 in Matthew; 1 in Mark; 21 in Luke; and 11 in John!
70 in a Level of Access
I told you to keep in mind the numbers 1, 3, 12, and 70. We saw those numbers when the Lord called Moses to the mountain. Before going up the mountain, Moses made an altar and erected 12 pillars for the tribes of Israel at the base of the mountain (the heads of the 12 tribes were present symbolically). Then Moses took Aaron and his two sons along with 70 elders up on the mountain side. They were to worship the Lord at a distance on the mountainside. But Moses was invited to come up high on the mountain. Moses is 1, Aaron and his two sons are 3, the pillars representing the heads of the tribes of Israel are 12, and the elders are 70.
We see these same numbers concerning Jesus and those who followed Him. Jesus called 12 apostles to Himself (Luke 6:13). Out of those 12, He chose Peter, James, and John to pray with Him on the mountain (Luke 9:28). We see the number 70 when He appointed 70 disciples to minister ahead of His visit in the towns (Luke 10:1). Jesus is 1, Peter, James, and John are 3, the apostles are 12, and the appointed disciples are the 70.
These numbers seem to indicate levels of access or intimacy. When it came to Moses, his inner circle included his brother, Aaron, and his two sons. With Jesus, His inner circle included Peter, James, and John. The other apostles were not in His inner circle of three, but they were closer in relationship than the 70.
I’m sure there’s more to be gleaned from these numbers, but the thing I want you to see is that numbers in the Bible are important. Certain numbers and patterns appear deliberately because they have significance and meaning. Skipping past them would be a mistake. If we want to see the whole picture, we must discern their significance.
The Number 70 in the Story of Esther
Now let’s look at the story of Esther; you’ll see the number 70 shows up in some fascinating ways. As we’ve already discussed, after the flood, the people were forced to disseminate throughout the earth, and as a result, 70 nations emerged from the scattered groups. Thus the number 70 represents the Gentile nations. And in the book of Esther, this number 70 representing Gentile nations is used in a dramatic way to signify the end of Gentile persecution and rule over the Jewish people. In fact, the book of Esther is a type and shadow of Gentile rule over Jerusalem and the Jewish people coming to an end.
The book of Esther tells us the Persian King Ahasuerus promoted a man called Haman in his kingdom. After King Ahasuerus, Haman was the man in charge of the Persian Empire. Haman used this position of authority to scheme and manipulate the king into making a decree to have all the Jews in his kingdom destroyed. It is through the story of this wicked Haman that the number 70 is used to signify Gentile rule over Israel coming to an end. Oral tradition says Jeremiah’s prophesied 70-year judgment came to an end on the day Haman, enemy to the Jews, died. And not only that, the day Haman was promoted to power by King Ahasuerus to the day that he died totaled 70 days! And, ironically, the account of Haman’s rise to power to the time of his death is told in 70 verses of scripture in Esther!
After Haman’s death, Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, was promoted in his place. Thus the book of Esther is an Old Testament type of Gentile rule over Israel coming to an end and Israel being promoted to her God-ordained place. In the book of Esther, the number 70 is used to signify Gentile rule over Israel coming to an end. When we study Daniel’s 70 weeks, we’ll see again how the number 70 is used to signify Gentile rule over Israel coming to an end upon the completion of Daniel’s 70th week!
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