Reconciling the Messianic Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 with Secular History
Establishing Foundations for a Solution – continued (2)
E. Checking the Starting Point
For the starting point we need to match the prophecy in Daniel 9:25 with a word or commandment that matches the requirements.
The candidate decrees in chronological order are as follows:
E.1. Ezra 1:1-2: 1st Year of Cyrus
“And in the first year of Cyrus the king of Persia, that Jehovah’s word from the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, Jehovah roused the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia so that he caused a cry to pass through all his realm, and also in writing, saying:
2 “This is what Cyrus the king of Persia has said, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth Jehovah the God of the heavens has given me, and he himself has commissioned me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever there is among YOU of all his people, may his God prove to be with him. So let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of Jehovah the God of Israel—he is the [true] God—which was in Jerusalem. 4 As for anyone that is left from all the places where he is residing as an alien, let the men of his place assist him with silver and with gold and with goods and with domestic animals along with the voluntary offering for the house of the [true] God, which was in Jerusalem”.
Note that there was both a word from Jehovah via his spirit to rouse Cyrus and a command from Cyrus to rebuild the Temple.
E.2. Haggai 1:1-2: 2nd Year of Darius
Haggai 1:1-2 indicates that in “the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of Jehovah occurred by means of Haggai the prophet ….”. This resulted in the Jews restarting the rebuilding of the Temple, and opposers writing to Darius I in an attempt to stop the work.
Here was a word from Jehovah via his prophet Haggai to restart the lapsed rebuilding of the Temple.
E.3. Ezra 6:6-12: 2nd Year of Darius
Ezra 6:6-12 records the resulting reply by Darius the Great to the Governor opposing them. “Now Tatʹte·nai the governor beyond the River, Sheʹthar-bozʹe·nai and their colleagues, the lesser governors that are beyond the River, keep YOUR distance from there. 7 Let the work on that house of God alone. The governor of the Jews and the older men of the Jews will rebuild that house of God upon its place. 8 And by me an order has been put through as to what YOU will do with these older men of the Jews, for rebuilding that house of God; and from the royal treasury of the tax beyond the River the expense will promptly be given to these able-bodied men without cessation.”.
This records the word of Darius the King to opposers to leave the Jews alone, so that they may continue to rebuild the Temple.
E.4. Nehemiah 2:1-7: 20th Year of Artaxerxes
“And it came about in the month Niʹsan, in the twentieth year of Ar·ta·xerxʹes the king, that wine was before him, and I as usual took up the wine and gave it to the king. But never had I happened to be gloomy before him. 2 So the king said to me: “Why is your face gloomy when you yourself are not sick? This is nothing but a gloominess of heart.” At this I became very much afraid.
3 Then I said to the king: “Let the king himself live to time indefinite! Why should not my face become gloomy when the city, the house of the burial places of my forefathers, is devastated, and its very gates have been eaten up with fire?” 4 In turn the king said to me: “What is this that you are seeking to secure?” At once I prayed to the God of the heavens. 5 After that I said to the king: “If to the king it does seem good, and if your servant seems good before you, that you would send me to Judah, to the city of the burial places of my forefathers, that I may rebuild it.” 6 At this the king said to me, as his queenly consort was sitting beside him: “How long will your journey come to be and when will you return?” So it seemed good before the king that he should send me, when I gave him the appointed time.
7 And I went on to say to the king: “If to the king it does seem good, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the River, that they may let me pass until I come to Judah; 8 also a letter to Aʹsaph the keeper of the park that belongs to the king, that he may give me trees to build with timber the gates of the Castle that belongs to the house, and for the wall of the city and for the house into which I am to enter.” So the king gave [them] to me, according to the good hand of my God upon me”.
This records the word of Artaxerxes the King for the governors beyond the river to supply materials for the walls of Jerusalem.
E.5. Resolving the dilemma of the “going forth of the word”
The question that needs to be answered is as to which of the three “words” best fits or fulfills the criteria of the prophecy of Daniel 9:25 which says “And you should know and have the insight [that] from the going forth of [the] word to restore/return to and to rebuild Jerusalem until Mes·siʹah [the] Leader”.
The choice is between:
- Jehovah through Cyrus in his 1st Year, see Ezra 1
- Jehovah through Haggai in Darius 2nd Year see Haggai 1
- Darius I in his 2nd Year see Ezra 6
- Artaxerxes in his 20th Year, see Nehemiah 2
E.5.1. Did the decree of Cyrus include to rebuild Jerusalem?
In our examination of the context of Daniel 9:24-27 we found that there was an indication of a link between the end of the devastations of Jerusalem and the beginning of the rebuilding of Jerusalem prophesied. The decree of Cyrus either happened the same year that Daniel was given this prophecy or the year after. Therefore, strong weight to the decree of Cyrus fulfilling this requirement is given by the context of Daniel 9.
It appears the decree of Cyrus did include being able to rebuild Jerusalem. Rebuilding the Temple and putting the returned treasures back inside the Temple would have been dangerous if no wall for security and no houses to house inhabitants to man the walls and gates were built. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that while not categorically stated, the decree did include the city. Furthermore, the main focus of the narrative is the Temple, with details of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem treated as incidental for the most part.
Ezra 4:16 refers to a King Artaxerxes who ruled before the king thought to be Darius the Great and identified as Darius the King of Persia in that scripture. The accusation against the Jews said in part: “We are making known to the king that, if that city should be rebuilt and its walls be finished, you also will certainly have no share beyond the River”. The result was recorded in Ezra 4:20 “It was then that the work on the house of God, which was in Jerusalem, stopped; and it continued stopped until the second year of the reign of Da·riʹus the king of Persia”.
Notice how opposers focused on the rebuilding of the city and the walls as the excuse to get the work on the Temple stopped. If they had only complained about the Temple rebuilding, the King would have been unlikely to stop the work on both Temple and the city of Jerusalem. As the narrative naturally concentrated on the story of the Temple rebuilding, nothing is mentioned specifically about the city. It is also not logical that the focus of the complaint against the city rebuilding would be ignored by the King and just the work on the Temple stopped.
It should also be noted that in the letter of complaint by opposers recorded in Ezra 4:11-16 they do not raise the issue that only permission to rebuild the Temple was given and no permission was given for the city. Surely, they would have raised the issue if that was the case. Instead, they had to resort to scaremongering that the King might lose his tax revenue from the area of Judah and that the Jews might become emboldened to rebel if allowed to continue.
Ezra 5:2 records how they restarted rebuilding the Temple in the 2nd Year of Darius. “2 It was then that Ze·rubʹba·bel the son of She·alʹti·el and Jeshʹu·a the son of Je·hozʹa·dak got up and started to rebuild the house of God, which was in Jerusalem; and with them there were God’s prophets giving them aid”.
Haggai 1:1-4 confirms this. “In the second year of Da·riʹus the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of Jehovah occurred by means of Hagʹgai the prophet to Ze·rubʹba·bel the son of She·alʹti·el, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Je·hozʹa·dak the high priest, saying:
2 “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘As regards this people, they have said: “The time has not come, the time of the house of Jehovah, for [it] to be built.”’”
3 And the word of Jehovah continued to come by means of Hagʹgai the prophet, saying: 4 “Is it the time for YOU yourselves to dwell in YOUR paneled houses, while this house is waste?”.
However, as mentioned above, it was likely all building in Jerusalem had been stopped as well. Therefore, when Haggai says that the Jews were dwelling in paneled houses, in the context of Ezra 4 it seems likely that most of these houses referred to, were actually outside Jerusalem.
Indeed, Haggai is talking to all the returned Jewish exiles, not just those who may have been in Jerusalem, which he does not specifically mention. As the Jews were unlikely to have felt safe enough to panel their houses if there were no walls or at least some protection around Jerusalem, the logical conclusion we can make is that this referred to houses built in other small walled towns, where their decorating investment would have some protection.
Another question is, did there need to be a later permission than Cyrus to rebuild the temple and city? Not according to Daniel 6:8 “Now, O king, may you establish the statute and sign the writing, in order for [it] not to be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which is not annulled”. The Law of the Medes and Persians could not be changed. We have confirmation of this in Esther 8:8. This explains why Haggai and Zechariah were confident that with the start of the reign of a new King, Darius, they could urge the returned Jews to restart the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem.
This is a prime candidate.
Both the City of Jerusalem and the Temple started to be rebuilt as per the word of Cyrus, and Jehovah rousing Cyrus. Further once the city and Temple started to be rebuilt how could there be a future command to rebuild and restore, when the command had already been given. Any future words or command would have to have been to rebuild the partially rebuilt Temple and partially rebuilt the city of Jerusalem.
E.5.2. Could it be the word of God via Haggai recorded in Haggai 1:1-2?
Haggai 1:1-2 tells us about “the word of Jehovah” that “occurred by means of Haggai the Prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the Governor of Judah and to Joshua [Jeshua] the son of Jehozadak the high priest”. In Haggai 1:8 the Jews are told to get some lumber, “and build the house [the Temple], that I may take pleasure in it and I may be glorified Jehovah has said”. There is no mention of rebuilding anything, just getting on with the job that had previously been started, but now lapsed.
Therefore, this word of Jehovah would not seem to qualify as a starting point.
E.5.3. Could it be the Order of Darius I recorded in Ezra 6:6-7?
Ezra 6:6-12 records the Order by Darius to the opposers not to interfere with the Temple rebuilding and in fact to assist with Tax revenues and supply of animals for the sacrifices. If the text is examined carefully, we find that in his 2nd year of Kingship, Darius merely gave the order to the opposers, not a command to the Jews to rebuild the Temple.
Additionally, the order was that the opposers instead of being able to stop the work on the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, instead they were to help. Verse 7 reads “Let the work on that house of God alone”, i.e. allow it to continue. The account does not say “The Jews should return to Judah and rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem.”
Therefore, this order of Darius (I) cannot qualify as a starting point.
E.5.4. Is not the decree of Artaxerxes for Nehemiah a good or better candidate?
This is the favorite candidate for many, as the time frame is close to that required, at least in terms of secular history chronology. However, that does not automatically make it the correct candidate.
The account in Nehemiah 2 indeed mentions the need to rebuild Jerusalem, but a very important point to note is that it was a request made by Nehemiah, something he wanted to put right. The rebuilding was not the idea of the King or an order given by the King, Artaxerxes.
The account also shows the King merely evaluated and then acceded to his request. No decree is mentioned, Nehemiah was just given permission and authority to personally go and oversee the completion of work for which permission had already been given (by Cyrus). A work that had started previously, but had been stopped, restarted, and faded out again.
There are several important points to note from the scriptural record.
- In Daniel 9:25 Daniel was told the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem would go forth. But Jerusalem would be rebuilt with a square and a moat but in the straits of the times. There was little than a year between Nehemiah getting permission from Artaxerxes to rebuild the wall and its completion. It was not a period equal to “the straits of the times”.
- In Zechariah 4:9 Jehovah says to prophet Zechariah “The very hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, [see Ezra 3:10, 2nd year of return] and his own hands will finish it.” Zerubbabel, therefore, saw the Temple completed in the 6th Year of Darius.
- In the account of Nehemiah 2 to 4 only the walls and gates are mentioned, not the Temple.
- In Nehemiah 6:10-11 when opposers try to trick Nehemiah into meeting in the Temple and suggest its doors could be closed to protect him overnight, he rejects it on the basis of “who is there like me who could enter into the Temple and live?” This would indicate the Temple was complete and functioning and hence a sacred place, where non-Priests could and should be put to death for entering.
The word of Artaxerxes (I?) therefore cannot qualify as a starting point.
We have examined the four candidates for the “word or command going forth” and found that the Bible text alone makes the decree of Cyrus in his 1st Year the relevant time for the starting of the 70 sevens. Is there additional scriptural and historical evidence that this was indeed the case? Please consider the following:
E.6. Isaiah’s Prophecy in Isaiah 44:28
Furthermore, and far more importantly, the scriptures prophesied the following in Isaiah 44:28. There Isaiah foretold who it would be: “the One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and all that I delight in he will completely carry out’; even in [my] saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘You will have your foundation laid.’” .
This would indicate that Jehovah had already chosen Cyrus to be the one to give the word to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.
E.7. Isaiah’s Prophecy in Isaiah 58:12
Isaiah 58:12 reads “And at your instance men will certainly build up the places devastated a long time; you will raise up even the foundations of continuous generations. And you will actually be called the repairer of [the] gap, the restorer of roadways by which to dwell”.
This prophecy of Isaiah was saying that Jehovah would instigate the building up of places devastated long ago. This could be referring to God moving Cyrus to carry out his wishes. However, it is more likely referring to God inspiring his prophets like Haggai and Zechariah to motivate the Jews to get the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem moving once again. God could also have ensured that Nehemiah got the message from Judah about the state of the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was God-fearing (Nehemiah 1:5-11) and was in a highly important position, being in charge of the safety of the King. That position enabled him to ask for and be granted permission to repair the walls. In this way, also God being responsible for this, would rightly be called “the repairer of the gap”.
E.8. Ezekiel’s Prophecy in Ezekiel 36:35-36
“And people will certainly say: “That land yonder which was laid desolate has become like the garden of Eʹden, and the cities that were a waste and that were laid desolate and that were torn down are fortified; they have become inhabited.” 36 And the nations that will be left remaining round about YOU will have to know that I myself, Jehovah, have built the things torn down, I have planted what has been laid desolate. I myself, Jehovah, have spoken and I have done [it]”.
This scripture also tells us that Jehovah would be behind the rebuilding that would take place.
E.9. Jeremiah’s Prophecy in Jeremiah 33:2-11
“4 For this is what Jehovah the God of Israel has said concerning the houses of this city and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah that are pulled down on account of the siege ramparts and on account of the sword. …. 7 And I will bring back the captives of Judah and the captives of Israel, and I will build them just as at the start …. 11They will be bringing a thanksgiving offering into the house of Jehovah, for I shall bring back the captives of the land just as at the start,’ Jehovah has said.”
Notice Jehovah said that he would bring back the captives, and he would build the houses and implies the rebuilding of the Temple.
E.10. Daniels Prayer for forgiveness on behalf of the Jewish Exiles in Daniel 9:3-21
“16O Jehovah, according to all your acts of righteousness, please, may your anger and your rage turn back from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain; for, because of our sins and because of the errors of our forefathers, Jerusalem and your people are an object of reproach to all those round about us.”
Here in verse 16 Daniel prays for Jehovah’s “rage to be turn back from your city Jerusalem”, which includes the wall.
17 And now listen, O our God, to the prayer of your servant and to his entreaties and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolated, for the sake of Jehovah.
Here in verse 17 Daniel prays for Jehovah to turn his face or favor “to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolated”, the Temple.
While Daniel was yet praying for these things and asking Jehovah “Do not delay for your own sake” (v19), the Angel Gabriel came to Daniel and proceeded to give him the prophecy of 70 sevens. Why would Jehovah, therefore, delay another 20 years to the 2nd Year of Darius the Persian or even worse for Daniel, and another 57 years on top of that (totaling 77 years) till the 20th year of Artaxerxes I (years based on secular dating), neither dates of which Daniel could live to see? Yet the order by Cyrus was either made that very year (1st Year of Darius the Mede) or the next year (if the 1st year of Cyrus counted from the death of Darius the Mede rather than the fall of Babylon) at which Daniel would be alive to see and hear the answer to his prayer.
Moreover, Daniel had been able to discern that the time for fulfilling the devastations (note the plural) of Jerusalem for seventy years had arrived. The period of devastations would not have stopped if the rebuilding was not allowed to start.
E.11. Josephus applied Cyrus’ decree to the city of Jerusalem
Josephus, who lived in the first century AD, leaves us in no doubt that Cyrus’ decree mandated the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, not just the Temple: [i]
“In the first year of Cyrus, … God stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia:- “Thus saith Cyrus the king; Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the inhabited earth, I believe he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the prophets, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judaea.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book XI, Chapter 1, para 1) [ii].
“This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies … Accordingly when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book XI. Chapter 1, para 2) [iii].
“When Cyrus had said this to the Israelites, the rulers of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with the Levites and priests, went in haste to Jerusalem, yet did many of them stay in Babylon … so they performed their vows to God, and offered the sacrifices that had been accustomed of old time; I mean this upon the rebuilding of their city, and the revival of the ancient practices relating to their worship … Cyrus also sent an epistle to the governors that were in Syria, the contents whereof here follow:- … I have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book XI. Chapter 1, para 3) [iv].
E.12. The earliest reference to and calculation of Daniel’s Prophecy
The earliest historical reference found is that of the Essenes. The Essenes were a Jewish sect and are perhaps best known for their main community at Qumran and the authors of the Dead Sea scrolls. The relevant Dead Sea Scrolls are dated to around 150BC in the Testament of Levi and Pseudo-Ezekiel Document (4Q384-390).
“The Essenes began Daniel’s seventy weeks at the return from the Exile, which they dated in Anno Mundi 3430, and that they therefore expected the period of seventy weeks or 490 years to expire in A.M. 3920, which meant for them between 3 B.C. and A.D. 2. Consequently, their hopes of the coming of the Messiah of Israel (the Son of David) were concentrated on the preceding 7 years, the last week, after the 69 weeks. Their interpretation of the seventy weeks is first found in the Testament of Levi and the Pseudo-Ezekiel Document (4 Q 384–390), which probably means that it was worked out before 146 B.C.” [v]
This means that the earliest known written evidence about Daniel’s prophecy was based on the return from exile, which is most likely to be identified with the proclamation of Cyrus.
We, therefore, have no option but to conclude that the decree in the 1st year of Cyrus fulfilled both the prophecy of Isaiah 44 and Daniel 9. Therefore, the 1st Year of Cyrus has to be our Biblically established starting point.
This raises many serious issues.
- If the 69 weeks is to start in the 1st Year of Cyrus, then 539 BC or 538 BC is far too early a date for that 1st Year (and the fall of Babylon).
- It needs to be around 455 BC to match the appearance of Jesus which we established was in 29 AD. This is a difference of some 82-84 years.
- This would indicate that the current secular chronology of the Persian Empire has to be seriously incorrect.[vi]
- Also, perhaps significantly, on closer investigation there is very little hard archaeological or historical evidence for some of the later Kings of Persia who supposedly ruled closer to the fall of the Persian Empire to Alexander the Great.[vii]
F. Interim Conclusion
The secular Persian Chronology as currently held must be wrong if we have understood Daniel’s prophecy and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah correctly as Jesus was the only person in history who could fulfill the prophecies about the Messiah.
For further Biblical and historical proof as to why Jesus was the only person in history who fulfilled and will ever be able to fulfill the prophecies and legally claim to be the Messiah, please see the article “How can we prove when Jesus became King?”[viii]
We will now go on to examine other items that can help us understand the chronology as provided in the scriptures.
To be continued in Part 5 ….
[i] Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus (Late 1st Century Historian) Book XI, Chapter 1, paragraph 4. http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf
[ii] Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus (Late 1st Century Historian) Book XI, Chapter 1, paragraph 1. http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf
[iii] Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus (Late 1st Century Historian) Book XI, Chapter 1, paragraph 2. http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf
[iv] Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus (Late 1st Century Historian) Book XI, Chapter 1, paragraph 3. http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf
[v] Quote obtained from “Is Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy Messianic? Part 1” by J Paul Tanner, Bibliotheca Sacra 166(April-June 2009):181-200”. See pg 2&3 of PDF Downloadable: https://www.dts.edu/download/publications/bibliotheca/DTS-Is%20Daniel’s%20Seventy-Weeks%20Prophecy%20Messianic.pdf
For a more complete discussion of the evidence see Roger Beckwith, “Daniel 9 and the Date of Messiah’s Coming in Essene, Hellenistic, Pharisaic, Zealot and Early Christian Computation,” Revue de Qumran 10 (December 1981): 521–42. https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/24607004.pdf?seq=1
[vi] 82-84 years, because Cyrus 1st Year (over Babylon) could be understood to be either 539 BC or 538 BC in secular chronology, depending on whether the short reign of Darius the Mede adjusts the view of the start of Cyrus 1st Year. It certainly was not Cyrus 1st Year of reigning over Medo-Persia. That was some 22 years earlier.
[vii] Some problematical reasons with the certainty of assigning inscriptions and tablets to a particular King with the same name and hence giving rise to this conclusion will be highlighted in a later part of this series.
[viii] See the article “How can we prove when Jesus became King?”. Available on this site. https://beroeans.net/2017/12/07/how-can-we-prove-when-jesus-became-king/