Reconciling the Messianic Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 with Secular History
Issues Identified with Common Understandings – continued
Other Problems found during research
6. The High Priests succession and length of service/age Problem
Hilkiah was High Priest during the reign of Josiah. 2 Kings 22:3-4 records him as High Priest in the 18th Year of Josiah.
Azariah was the son of Hilkiah as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13-14.
Seraiah was the son of Azariah as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:13-14. He was the High Priest for at least some of the reign of Zedekiah and was killed by Nebuchadnezzar soon after the fall of Jerusalem in the 11th Year of Zedekiah according to 2 Kings 25:18.
Jehozadak was the son of Seraiah and the father of Jeshua (Joshua) as recorded in 1 Chronicles 6:14-15 and was taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. Hence Jeshua was born while in exile. There is also no mention of Jehozadak returning in the 1st year of Cyrus after the fall of Babylon, so it is reasonable to assume he died while in exile.
Jeshua (also called Joshua)
Jeshua was High Priest at the time of the first return to Judah in the first year of Cyrus. (Ezra 2:2) This fact too would indicate that his father Jehozadak died in exile with the office of High Priest passing to him. The last dated reference to Jeshua is in Ezra 5:2 where Jeshua partakes with Zerubbabel in starting to rebuild the temple. This is the 2nd Year of Darius the Great from the context and the record of Haggai 1:1-2, 12, 14. If he was at least 30 years of age on his return to Judah, he would have been at least aged 49 by the 2nd Year of Darius.
Joiakim succeeded his father, Jeshua. (Nehemiah 12:10, 12, 26). But it appears Joiakim had been succeeded by his own son by the time Nehemiah came to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes based on Nehemiah 3:1. According to Josephus[i], Joiakim was High Priest at the time that Ezra returned in the 7th Year of Artaxerxes, some 13 years earlier. Yet to be alive in the 7th Year of Artaxerxes I, Joiakim would have to be 92 years of age, highly unlikely.
This is a problem
Nehemiah 8:5-7 which is in the 7th or 8th year of Artaxerxes, records a Jeshua was there at the time when Ezra read the law. There is however a possible explanation is that this was the Jeshua the son of Azaniah mentioned in Nehemiah 10:9. Indeed, if the Jeshua in Nehemiah 8 was the High Priest it would have been strange not to mention it as a means of identifying him. In these and other Biblical accounts, individuals with the same name, living at the same time were usually identified by qualifying the name with “the son of …. ”. If this was not done, then likely the main individual of this name was dead, otherwise, readers of that time would be confused.
Eliashib, son of Joiakim, had become High Priest by the 20th year of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah 3:1 mentions that Eliashib as the High Priest when the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt [in the 20th Year of Artaxerxes] by Nehemiah. Eliashib also assisted in the rebuilding of the walls, so he would have needed to be a younger man, fit enough to do the hard labor required. In the secular solutions Eliashib would have been approaching 80 or more at this time.
This is very unlikely under the common secular solutions.
Josephus mentions Eliashib became High Priest around the end of the 7th Year of Xerxes, and this is possible under the secular solution.[ii]
Joiada, son of Eliashib, was serving as High Priest by the time of around the 33rd Year of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah 13:28 mentions Joiada the High Priest had a son who became a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. The context of Nehemiah 13:6 indicates that this was a period after Nehemiah’s return to Babylon in the 32nd Year of Artaxerxes. An unspecified time later Nehemiah had asked for another leave of absence and returned again to Jerusalem when this state of affairs was discovered. However, even to have Joiada as High Priest at this time in secular solutions would put him in his 70’s at this time.
As per Johanan, the age he would need to live too, to fit the secular chronology is unlikely.
Johanan, son of Joiada, (probably the John, in Josephus) is not mentioned concerning anything in the scriptures, other in the line of succession (Nehemiah 12:22). He is variously referred to as JehohanaFor it to be possible for Johanan and Jaddua to fill the gap left between Joiada until Alexander the Great requires them to be the firstborn son at an average of 45-year gaps and all three, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua to live will into their 80’s.
This is highly unlikely.
Jaddua, son of Johanan is mention by Josephus as the High Priest at the time of Darius the last king [of Persia], who appears to be called “Darius the Persian” in Nehemiah 12:22. If this is a correct assignment then in this solution Darius the Persian could likely be the Darius III of secular solutions.
As per Johanan, the age he would need to live too, to fit the secular chronology is unlikely.
The Complete line of High Priests
The High Priest line of descent is found in Nehemiah 12:10-11, 22 which mentions the line of the high priests, namely Jeshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua as lasting down to the kingship of Darius the Persian (not Darius the Great / First).
The total time period in conventional secular and religious Biblical chronology between the 1st Year of Cyrus and Alexander the Great defeating Darius III is 538 BC to 330 BC. This totals some 208 years with only 6 High Priests. This would mean an average generation being 35 years, whereas the average generation particularly around that time was more like 20-25 years, a significantly big discrepancy. Taking the usual generation length would give approximately a maximum of 120-150 years a difference of some 58-88 years.
Of those 6, the 4th, Joiada, was already serving as High Priest around the 32nd Year of Artaxerxes I. At this time Joiada already had a relative, Tobiah the Ammonite, who, along with Sanballat, was one of the chief opposers of the Jews. On Nehemiah’s return to Judah, he chased away Tobiah. That gives approximately 109 years for the remainder of the 4th High Priest through to 6th High Priests, (equivalent to 2.5 High Priests approximately) with the first 3-4 High Priests lasting just under a 100 Years. This is a highly unlikely scenario.
Being able to fit the High Priests of the Persian period into the secular chronology based on citations in the scriptures and being a minimum of 20 years gap between birth of father and birth of son makes for very unlikely ages. This is especially true for the period after the 20th Year of Artaxerxes I.
Furthermore, the average age of a generation was typically around 20-25 years, with a likely earliest age for a first-born son (or the first that survives) being typically about 18-21 years old, not the average of 35 years required by secular chronologies.
Clearly the usual scenario does not make sense.
7. The Medo-Persian Kings Succession Problems
Ezra 4:5-7 records the following: “hiring counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus the king of Persia down till the reign of Da·riʹus the king of Persia. 6 And in the reign of A·has·u·eʹrus, at the start of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 7 Also, in the days of Ar·ta·xerxʹes, Bishʹlam, Mithʹre·dath, Tabʹe·el and the rest of his colleagues wrote to Ar·ta·xerxʹes the king of Persia”.
There were problems for the rebuilding of the temple from Cyrus to Darius the [Great] King of Persia.
- Did the problems in the reigns of Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes occur between the period of Cyrus to Darius or afterward?
- Is this Ahasuerus the same as the Ahasuerus of Esther?
- Is this Darius to be identified as Darius I (Hystapes), or a later Darius, such as Darius the Persian at/after the time of Nehemiah? (Nehemiah 12:22).
- Is this Artaxerxes the same as the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 onwards and Nehemiah?
These are all questions that require satisfactory resolution.
8. A Problem in the Comparison of the Priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel with those who signed the Covenant with Nehemiah
Nehemiah 12:1-9 records the Priests and Levites who returned to Judah with Zerubbabel in the 1st Year of Cyrus. Nehemiah 10:2-10 records the Priests and the Levites who signed the covenant in the presence of Nehemiah, who is here spoken of as the Tirshatha (Governor) which therefore likely occurred in the 20th or 21st Year of Artaxerxes. It also seems to be the same event as mentioned in Ezra 9 & 10 which occurred after the events of the 7th year of Artaxerxes recorded in Ezra 8.
|1st Year of Cyrus||20th / 21st Artaxerxes|
|Nehemiah 12:1-9||Nehemiah 10:1-13|
|With Zerubbabel and Jeshua||Nehemiah as Governor|
|Ginnethoi||Ginnethon? matches Ginnethoi|
|Meshullam? son of Ginnethon (Nehemiah 12:16)|
|Maadiah||Maaziah ? matches Maadiah|
|Bilgah||Bilgai ? matches Bilgah|
|Total: 22 of whom 12 were still alive in 20-21st year Artaxerxes||Total: 22|
|Jeshua||Jeshua son of Azaniah|
|Total: 8 of whom 4 were still there in 20th -21st year of Artaxerxes||Total:17|
|? matches = Likely the same individual, but the name has minor spelling differences, usually the addition or loss of one letter – possibly through manuscript copying errors.|
If we take the 21st year of Artaxerxes to be Artaxerxes I, then that means that 16 of 30 who returned from exile in the 1st year of Cyrus were still alive 95 years later (Cyrus 9 + Cambyses 8 + Darius 36 + Xerxes 21 + Artaxerxes 21). As they were all likely at least 20 years old to be priests that would make them a minimum of 115 years old in the 21st year of Artaxerxes I.
Clearly this is highly improbable.
9. A 57-year gap in the narrative between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7
The account in Ezra 6:15 gives a date of the 3rd day of the 12th Month (Adar) of the 6th Year of Darius for the completion of the Temple.
The account in Ezra 6:19 gives a date of the 14th day of the 1st month (Nisan), for the holding of the Passover (the usual date), and it is reasonable to conclude it refers to the 7th Year of Darius and would have been only 40 days later.
The account in Ezra 6:14 records that the returned Jews “built and finished [it] due to the order of the God of Israel and due to the order of Cyrus and Da·riʹus and Ar·ta·xerxʹes the king of Persia”.
As Ezra 6:14 is currently translated in the NWT and other Bible translations it indicates that Artaxerxes gave a decree to finish the Temple. At best, taking this Artaxerxes to be the secular Artaxerxes I, would mean the Temple was not completed until the 20th Year with Nehemiah, some 57 years later. Yet the Biblical account here in Ezra makes it clear the Temple was finished at the end of the 6th year and would suggest that sacrifices were instituted early in the 7th of Darius.
The account in Ezra 7:8 gives a date of the 5th month of the 7th Year but gives the King as Artaxerxes We, therefore, have a very large unexplainable gap in the narrative history. Secular history has Darius I ruling as King for another 30 years, (totalling 36 years) followed by Xerxes with 21 years followed by Artaxerxes I with the first 6 years. This means that there would be a gap of 57 years at which point Ezra would be about 130 years old. To accept that after all this time and at this unbelievably old age, Ezra only then decides to lead another return of Levites and other Jews back to Judah, even though the Temple would now have been completed a lifetime ago for most people, defies credibility. Some conclude that Darius I only ruled 6 or 7 years, that being the maximum reign year mentioned in the scriptures, but cuneiform evidence contradicts this assumption. In reality, Darius I is one of the best attested of all the Persian rulers.
Notice also the attitude of Ezra in Ezra 7:10 “For Ezʹra himself had prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do [it] and to teach in Israel regulation and justice”. Ezra wanted to teach the returned exiles the law of Jehovah. That was needed as soon as the Temple was completed and the sacrifices re-inaugurated, not after a delay of 57 years.
Clearly this is highly improbable.
10. Josephus record and succession of Persian Kings – Differences to current secular and religious solutions, and the Bible text.
According to the secular scholars, there are many problems with the accuracy of Josephus accounts in his Antiquities of the Jews. However, that does not mean we should dismiss out of hand his testimony. He gives the following record of a total of 6 Persian kings:
Josephus record about Cyrus is good. It contains many small extra points confirming the account of the Bible, as we will see later in our series.
Josephus gives a very similar account to that found in Ezra 4:7-24, but with the difference of the letter being sent to Cambyses, whereas the King after Cyrus in Ezra 4 is called Artaxerxes. See Antiquities of the Jews – Book XI, Chapter 2, para 1-2.[iii]
Darius the Great
Josephus mentions that King Darius ruled from India to Ethiopia and had 127 provinces.[iv] However, in Esther 1:1-3, this description is applied to King Ahasuerus. He also mentions Zerubbabel as governor and had a friendship with Darius, before Darius became king. [v]
Josephus records that Joacim (Joiakim) is High Priest in Xerxes 7th year. He also records Ezra as going back to Judah in Xerxes 7th year.[vi] However, Ezra 7:7 records this event as occurring in the 7th year of Artaxerxes.
Josephus also states that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt between the 25th year of Xerxes to 28th Year of Xerxes. Secular chronology only gives Xerxes a total of 21 Years. Also perhaps, more importantly, Nehemiah records the repair of the walls of Jerusalem as taking place in the 20th Year of Artaxerxes.
Also known as Cyrus according to Josephus. He also says it was Artaxerxes who married Esther, while most today identify the biblical Ahasuerus with Xerxes.[vii] Josephus identifying this Artaxerxes (Artaxerxes I of secular history) as marrying Esther, in the secular solutions could not be possible as this would mean Esther married the King of Persia some 81-82 years after the fall of Babylon. Even if Esther was not born until the return from exile, based on Mordecai being about 20 at this time, she would be in her early 60’s at the time of her marriage on this basis. This is clearly an issue.
According to Josephus, this Darius was the successor to Artaxerxes and the last king of Persia, defeated by Alexander the Great.[viii]
Alexander the Great
After the death of Alexander the Great, Jaddua the High Priest died and Onias his son became High Priest.[xi]
This record on initial examination most clearly does not match the current secular chronology and gives different Kings for important events as who Esther married, and who was King when Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt. While Josephus writing some 300-400 years later is not considered as reliable as the Bible, which was a contemporary record of events, nonetheless it is food for thought.
Issues to be addressed if possible
11. The problem of the Apocrypha naming of Persian Kings in 1 & 2 Esdras
Esdras 3:1-3 reads “Now King Darius made a great feast unto all his subjects and unto all that were born in his house and unto all the princes of Media and of Persia, and to all the satraps and captains and governors that were under him, from India to Ethiopia, in the hundred twenty and seven provinces”.
This is almost identical to the opening verses of Esther 1:1-3 which read: ”Now it came about in the days of Ahasuerus, that is the Ahasuerus who was ruling as king from India to Ethiopia, [over] a hundred and twenty-seven jurisdictional districts …. In the third year of his reigning he held a banquet for all his princes and his servants, the military force of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of the jurisdictional districts before himself”.
Esther 13:1 (Apocrypha) reads “Now this is the copy of the letter: The great king Artaxerxes writeth these things to the princes of a hundred and seven and twenty provinces from India unto Ethiopia and to the governors that are set under them.”. There is also similar wording in Esther 16:1.
These passages in Apocryphal Esther give Artaxerxes as the king instead of Ahasuerus as the king of Esther. Also, Apocryphal Esdras identifies King Darius acting in an identical manner to King Ahasuerus in Esther. Also, to be noted is the fact that there was more than one Ahasuerus, as he is identified as “the Ahasuerus who was ruling as king from India to Ethiopia, over 127 jurisdictional districts.”
Issues to be addressed if possible
12. The Septuagint (LXX) Evidence
In the Septuagint version of the Book of Esther, we find the King is named Artaxerxes rather than Ahasuerus.
For example, Esther 1:1 reads “In the second year of the reign of Artaxerxes the great king, on the first day of Nisan, Mardochaeus the son of Jarius,” …. “And it came to pass after these things in the days of Artaxerxes, (this Artaxerxes ruled over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India)”.
In the Septuagint book of Ezra, we find “Assuerus” instead of Ahasuerus of the Masoretic text, and “Arthasastha” instead of the Artaxerxes of the Masoretic text. However, these differences in English are solely between the Greek version of the name and the Hebrew version of the name.
The account in Ezra 4:6-7 mentions “And in the reign of Assuerus, even in the beginning of his reign, they wrote a letter against the inhabitants of Juda and Jerusalem. And in the days of Arthasastha, Tabeel wrote peaceably to Mithradates and to the rest of his fellow-servants: the tribute-gatherer wrote to Arthasastha king of the Persians a writing in the Syrian tongue”.
The Septuagint for Ezra 7:1 contains Arthasastha instead of Artaxerxes of the Masoretic text and reads “Now after these things, in the reign of Arthasastha king of the Persians, came up Esdras the son of Saraias,”
The same is true of Nehemiah 2:1 which reads “And it came to pass in the month Nisan of the twentieth year of king Arthasastha, that the wine was before me:”.
The Septuagint version of Ezra uses Darius in the same places as the Masoretic text.
For example, Ezra 4:24 reads “Then ceased the work of the house of God in Jerusalem, and it was at a stand until the second year of the reign of Darius king of the Persians.” (Septuagint version).
In the Septuagint books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Arthasastha is consistently equivalent to Artaxerxes and Assuerus consistently equivalent to Ahasuerus. However, Septuagint Esther, probably translated by a different translator to the translator of Ezra and Nehemiah, consistently has Artaxerxes instead of Ahasuerus in the Masoretic text. Darius is found consistently in both Septuagint and Masoretic texts.
Issues to be addressed if possible
13. Secular Inscription Issues to be resolved
A3Pa inscription reads: “The great king Artaxerxes [III], the king of kings, the king of countries, the king of this earth, says: I am the son of king Artaxerxes [II Mnemon]. Artaxerxes was the son of king Darius [II Nothus]. Darius was the son of king Artaxerxes [I]. Artaxerxes was the son of king Xerxes. Xerxes was the son of king Darius [the Great]. Darius was the son of a man named Hystaspes. Hystaspes was a son of a man named Arsames, the Achaemenid.”[xii]
This inscription would indicate that there were two Artaxerxes after Darius II. This needs verification that this translation is ‘as is’ without interpolations that should be in [brackets]. Notice also the interpretations given assigning the secular numbering of the kings in [brackets] e.g. [II Mnemon] as they are not in the original text, the numbering being a modern historian assignment to make identification clearer.
The inscription also needs verification to ensure that the inscription is not a modern fake nor indeed an ancient fake or non-contemporary inscription. Fake antiquities, in the form of authentic artifacts, but faked inscriptions or faked artifacts with inscriptions are a growing problem in the archaeological world. With some items, it has also been proven that they were faked in historic times, so multiple witnesses to an event or fact and from different independent sources are to be preferred.
Commonly, inscriptions with missing parts of the text [lacunae] are completed using existing understanding. Despite this vital clarification, only a few translations of cuneiform tablets and inscriptions show interpolations in [brackets], the majority do not. This results in a potentially misleading text as the basis of the interpolations needs to be highly reliable in the first place so that it can be an accurate interpolation instead of conjecture. Otherwise, this can lead to circular reasoning, where an inscription is interpreted according to perceived understanding and then is used to supposedly verify that perceived understanding, which it cannot be allowed to do. Perhaps more importantly, in addition, most inscriptions and tablets have lacunae [damaged parts] due to age and state of preservation. Therefore, an accurate translation without an [interpolation] is a rarity.
At the time of writing (early 2020) from the only information found available to be examined, this inscription appears at face value to be genuine. If true, then this would, therefore, seem to confirm the secular line of kings at least to Artaxerxes III, only leaving Darius III and Artaxerxes IV to be accounted for. However, it is not possible to confirm it with any cuneiform tablets at this time, and perhaps more importantly the inscription is not dated. The date the inscription was made is not easily verifiable as none is included in the inscription itself and could, therefore, be a later inscription based on erroneous data, or a more modern fake. Fake inscriptions and cuneiform tablets have been around since the late 1700s at least when Archaeology in its infant form started to gain popularity and acceptance. It is therefore questionable as to how much trust one can put in this inscription and the handful similar to it.
Issues to be addressed if possible
Please see Series Appendix for Cuneiform Tablets availability for the Persian Empire.
So far we have identified at least 12 major issues with current secular and religious chronology. There are doubtless more perhaps smaller issues as well.
From all these problems, we can see that something is seriously wrong with the current secular and religious understandings regarding Daniel 9:24-27. Given the importance of this prophecy in giving evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and that Bible Prophecy can be relied upon, the whole integrity of the Bible message comes under scrutiny. We, therefore, cannot afford to ignore these very real issues, without making a serious attempt to clarify what the Bible message actually is, and how or if history can be reconciled to it.
To attempt to address these issues, Part 3 & 4 in this series will examine the chronological foundations for accepting that Jesus Christ was indeed the promised Messiah. This will include a closer look at Daniel 9:24-27. In doing so we will then endeavour to establish a framework within which we will need to work, which in turn will guide us and give us requirements for our solution. Part 5 will continue with an overview of events in the relevant Bible books and a focused examination of various aspects of the Biblical accounts. We will then conclude this part by formulating a suggested solution.
We can then go on to examine in Parts 6 and 7 whether the suggested solution can be reconciled with the Biblical data and the issues we had identified in Parts 1 and 2. In doing so we will examine how we can understand the facts we have from the Bible and other sources, without having ignored irrefutable evidence and how they can fit in with our framework.
Part 8 will contain a short summary of key issues still outstanding and how we can resolve them.
To be continued in Part 3 ….
For a larger and downloadable version of this chart please see https://drive.google.com/open?id=1gtFKQRMOmOt1qTRtsiH5FOImAy7JbWIm
[i] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 5 v 1
[ii] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 5 v 2,5
[iii] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 2 v 1-2
[iv] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 3 v 1-2
[v] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 4 v 1-7
[vi] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 5 v 2
[vii] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 6 v 1-13
[viii] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 7 v 2
[ix] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 8 v 4
[x] For an evaluation of the existence of more than one Sanballat please examine the paper https://academia.edu/resource/work/9821128 , Archaeology and Texts in the Persian Period: Focus on Sanballat, by Jan Duseck.
[xi] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 8 v 7
“Ancient Persian lexicon and the texts of the Achaemenid inscriptions transliterated and translated with special reference to their recent re-examination,” by Herbert Cushing Tolman, 1908. p.42-43 of book (not pdf) Contains Transliteration and translation. https://archive.org/details/cu31924026893150/page/n10/mode/2up