In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign was 605 BC. This was the year of the first deportation of Judaic captives back to Babylon. I say back to Babylon because the great founder of the Israelites, Abraham, was a Chaldean by birth. As Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees, so the Jews are sent back to the land of their forefather.
This is the year that Daniel, among others, was carried to Babylon as a captive.
1 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;
2 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.[Daniel 9:1-2]
The first year of Darius was 538 BC. This was the year that Babylon fell to the empire of the Medes and Persians. Daniel had been living as a captive for 68 years.
11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.[Jeremiah 25:11-12]
Judah was to serve Babylon for Seventy Years. After Seventy Years, God would judge Babylon.
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. [Jeremiah 29:10]
Here God promises that after these Seventy years in Babylon, that He would visit them and cause them to return to the land of Judah.
Why Seventy Years?
20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:
21 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 Chronicles 36:20-21]
The land was to rest for seventy years, each year representing a seven year period in which the land was not allowed to lay fallow. This signifies a period of 490 years in which they did not allow the land to keep its seventh year sabbath rest. For the Scripture says,
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord.
3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord:thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.
5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land.[Leviticus 25:1-5]
God warned them that if they failed to obey His Voice and keep His commandments, He would remove them from the land and have them carried into foreign lands as slaves.
34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it. [Leviticus 26:34-35]
So the Seventy Years of captivity in Babylon, represents 490 years of disobeying His commandments and not allowing the land to have its sabbaths unto the Lord.
We will see this 490 years shortly in the prophecy given to Daniel. Seeing the time of the end of the captivity was at hand, Daniel set himself to pray for the people of Israel and their restoration to the land. He asked God to forgive them for their rebellion against Him and their violation of the covenant. Gabriel is sent to give Daniel a further word concerning his people and their city, Jerusalem.