An increasingly common assessment of the Second Temple period posits a widespread belief, even among Jews living in Judea, that Israel remained in a state of ongoing exile long after the sixth-century return from exile following the decree of Cyrus. This essay evaluates that claim in relation to the reception of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last for seventy years. The texts that reflect on the prophecy of seventy years do not adopt exegetical strategies that greatly extend the length of the exile, as if the return under Cyrus were not the “real return from exile.” This is true even in Daniel, where the literal fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of a seventy-year exile and Daniel’s penitent preparation for that fulfillment serve as a starting point and a model for reflecting on another hoped-for experience of God’s mercy at the end of seventy weeks of years. Though the texts that refer to Jeremiah’s prediction of a seventy-year exile do not handle the seventy years in a completely uniform way, the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy is placed firmly in the past, reflecting the belief that the exile had ended. Not all the texts examined regard the period following the seventy-year exile as a time of unremitting punishment. Texts that do assess the period following the exile in negative terms do not view that period as an extension of exile. Rather, the literal fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would come to an end inspires hope that the God who was faithful to keep his promise would also keep his promise of an ultimate restoration that would far outstrip the initial jubilee (Dan 9:25), “the brief moment of favor” (Ezra 9:8) that had brought the exile to an end.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.