So the angel of Jehovah said: “O Jehovah of armies, how long will you withhold your mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with whom you have been indignant these 70 years?” (Zechariah 1:12, NWT)
1 And in the fourth year of King Darius, the word of Jehovah came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev. 2 The people of Bethel sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and his men to beg for the favor of Jehovah, 3 saying to the priests of the house of Jehovah of armies and to the prophets: “Should I weep in the fifth month and abstain from food, as I have done for so many years?”
4 The word of Jehovah of armies again came to me, saying: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and wailed in the fifth month and in the seventh month for 70 years, did you really fast for me? (Zechariah 7:1-5, NWT)
I have a copy of "Aid to Bible Understanding", WBTS, 1971, an encyclopedia of the Watchtower. On page 422 under "Darius" it says:
It is particularly with regard to the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem that Darius Hystaspis [Darius the Great, Darius I] figures in the Bible record.... it continued stopped until the second year of Darius (520/519). ... During this year the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stirred up the Jews to renew the construction ... the temple work went on to successful completion by the "sixth year of the reign of Darius" (Ezra 6:15).. by March 5/6 of 515 BCE.
All of the above dates are in agreement with Parker & Dubberstein's standard work on the chronology of the period, and present no problem to me as an evangelical.
The event recorded in Zech 1:7-12 can be dated via Parker & Dubberstein to 9th Feb 519 BC, Gregorian date; and Zech 7:1-5 can be dated to 2nd/3rd Dec 518 BC, Gregorian.
The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed at the same time as the city, Jer 52:12-14.
If the temple was destroyed in 587 BC per as the Catholic chronologist Valerius Coucke and the evangelical chronologist Rodger c. Young (cf rcyoung.org) then it is easy to understand the meaning of "these seventy years", and easy to understand why the enquirers should be asking the prophet whether it is OK to stop fasting in 518 when the temple rebuild is nearing completion.
But if the temple was destroyed in 607 BCE - as per the articles at the end of this question - then in 518 BCE, not seventy, but nearly ninety years have elapsed.
So my question is 'How do Jehovah's Witnesses explain "these seventy years" in these passages in Zechariah?'