Reconciling the Messianic Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 with Secular History
Establishing Foundations for a Solution – continued (3)
G. Overview of the Events of the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther
Note that in the Date column, bold text is a date of an event mentioned, while the normal text is a date of an event calculated by the context.
|1st Year of Cyrus over Babylon||Decree of Cyrus to rebuild Temple and Jerusalem||Ezra 1:1-2
|Returnees from exile, include Mordecai, Nehemiah, at the same time as Jeshua and Zerubbabel||Ezra 2|
|7th Month, 1st Year of Cyrus over Babylon,
2nd Month, 2nd Year of Cyrus
|Sons of Israel in the cities of Judah,
Levites from 20 years of age supervise work on Temple
|Opposers attempt to halt work on Temple||Ezra 4|
|Start of Reign of Ahasuerus (Cambyses?)||Accusations against Jews at start of the reign of a King Ahasuerus||Ezra 4:6|
|Start of reign of Artaxerxes (Bardiya?)
2nd Year of Darius, King of Persia
|Accusations against Jews.
Letter to a King Artaxerxes at the start of his reign.
Work stopped until the reign of Darius the king of Persia
|Start of reign of Darius,
24th Day, 6th Month, 2nd Year of Darius,
Reference back to 1st Year Cyrus
|Letter to Darius by opposers when Haggai encouraged the restart of the building.
Decree to rebuild
|2nd Year of Darius||Permission is given to continue building Temple||Ezra 6:12|
|12th Month (Adar), 6th Year of Darius||Temple completed||Ezra 6:15|
|14th day Nisan, 1st month,
7th Year Darius?
|Passover celebrated||Ezra 6:19|
|5th Month, 7th Year of Artaxerxes||Ezra leaves Babylon to go to Jerusalem, Artaxerxes give donations for Temple and sacrifices.||Ezra 7:8|
|12th day, 1st Month, 8th Year of Artaxerxes||Ezra brings Levites and sacrifices to Jerusalem, Journey of Ezra 7 in detail.||Ezra 8:31|
|After 12th day, 1st Month, 8th Year of Artaxerxes
20th Year Artaxerxes?
|Soon after events of Ezra 7 and Ezra 8, Princes approach Ezra regarding marriages to foreign wives.
Ezra thanks God for kindness from Kings of Persia and for being able to build Temple and stone wall for Jerusalem (v9)
|20th day 9th month 8th Year?
1st day 10th month 8th Year?
To 1st day of 1st month following Year, the 9th Year?
Or 20th to 21st Year Artaxerxes?
|Ezra, chiefs of priests, Levites, and all Israel take an oath to put away foreign wives.
A Dining hall of Johanan the son of Eliashib
|20th year of Artaxerxes||Wall of Jerusalem was broken down and gates burned. (Perhaps damaged or lack of maintenance after 8th Year Artaxerxes)||Nehemiah 1:1|
|Nisan (1st Month), 20th Year Artaxerxes||Nehemiah gloomy before the King. Given permission to go to Jerusalem. The first mention of Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. Queenly consort sitting beside him.||Nehemiah 2:1|
|?5th – 6th Month, 20th Year Artaxerxes||Eliashib the High Priest, help rebuild Sheep Gate||Nehemiah 3:1|
|?5th – 6th Month, 20th Year Artaxerxes||Wall repaired to half its height. Sanballat and Tobiah||Nehemiah 4:1,3|
|20th Year Artaxerxes to 32nd Year Artaxerxes||Governor, stops Princes, etc, lending for interest||Nehemiah 5:14|
25th Day of Elul (6th month), 20th Year Artaxerxes?
|Traitors try to help Sanballat assassinate Nehemiah.
Wall repaired in 52 days
|25th Day of Elul (6th month), 20th Year Artaxerxes?
7th month, 1st Year Cyrus?
|Gates made, appoints gatekeepers, singers, and Levites, Jerusalem put in charge of Hanani (Nehemiah’s brother) who is also Hananiah the prince of the castle. Not many houses built inside Jerusalem. Return to their homes.
Genealogies of those returning. As per Ezra 2
|1st to 8th Day, 7th month.
20th Year Artaxerxes?
|Ezra reads the Law to the people,
Nehemiah is Tirshatha (Governor).
The Festival of Booths celebrated.
|24th Day of 7th month, 20th Year Artaxerxes?||Separate themselves from foreign wives||Nehemiah 9:1|
|?7th Month, 20th Year Artaxerxes||2nd Covenant made by returned exiles||Nehemiah 10|
|?7th Month, 20th Year Artaxerxes||Lots drawn to live in Jerusalem||Nehemiah 11|
|1st Year Cyrus to at least
20th Year Artaxerxes
|A brief overview from the return with Zerubbabel and Jeshua to celebrations after completion of the wall.||Nehemiah 12|
|20th Year of Artaxerxes? (by reference to Nehemiah 2-7)
32nd Year of Artaxerxes
after 32nd Year of Artaxerxes
|Reading of the Law on day of celebrations of finishing repairs of the wall.
Before finishing off the wall, a problem with Eliashib
Nehemiah returns to Artaxerxes
Nehemiah later asks for a leave of absence
|3rd Year Ahasuerus||Ahasuerus ruling from India to Ethiopia, 127 jurisdictional districts,
six-month Banquet held,
7 Princes with access to the King
|Esther 1:3, Esther 9:30
|6th Year Ahasuerus
10th month (Tebeth), 7th Year Ahasuerus
|Search for beautiful women, 1-year preparation.
Esther was taken to King (7th year), plot discovered by Mordecai
|13th day, 1st Month (Nisan), 12th Year of Ahasuerus
13th day– 12th Month (Adar), 12th Year of Ahasuerus
|Haman plots against Jews,
Haman sends out a letter in King’s name on 13th day of 1st month, arranging the destruction of Jews on 13th day of 12th Month
|Esther informed, fasts for three days||Esther 4|
|Esther goes into King uncalled.
Banquet was arranged.
Mordecai paraded by Haman
Esther 5:4 Esther 6:10
|Haman exposed and hanged||Esther 7:6,8,10|
|23rd day, 3rd Month (Sivan), 12th Year Ahasuerus
13th – 14th day, 12th month (Adar), 12th Year Ahasuerus
|Arrangements made for Jews to defend themselves.
Jews defend themselves.
|13th or later Year of Ahasuerus||Ahasuerus puts forced labor upon land and isles of the sea,
Mordecai 2nd to Ahasuerus.
H. Persian Kings – Personal Names or Throne Names?
All the names of the Persian Kings we use derive from a Greek or Latin form.
|English (Greek)||Persian||Hebrew||Herodotus||Persian Meaning|
|Cyrus (Kyros)||Kourosh – Kurus||Koresh||Like the Sun or He who bestows care|
|Darius (Dareios)||Dareyavesh – Darayavaus||Doer||Doer of Good|
|Xerxes (Xerxes)||Khshyarsha – (shyr-Shah = lion king) (Xsayarsa)||Warrior||Ruling over heroes|
|Ahasuerus (Latin)||Xsya.arsan||Ahasveros||Hero among Kings – Chief of Rulers|
|Artaxerxes||Artaxsaca||Artahsasta||Great Warrior||Whose rule is through truth -King of Justice|
It, therefore, appears they are all throne names rather than personal names, similar to the Egyptian throne name of Pharaoh – meaning “Great House”. This could, therefore, mean that these names could be applied to more than one King, and potentially one King could be called by two or more of these titles. An important point to note is that the cuneiform tablets rarely identify which Artaxerxes or Darius it is with another name or nickname such as Mnemon, so unless they contain other names such as officials that appear commonly and hence their period of being in office can be estimated, then the tablets have to be allocated by scholars mainly by guesswork.
I. Are the periods of the prophecy days, weeks, or years?
The actual Hebrew text has the word for seven(s), which means seven, but can mean a week depending on the context. Given that the prophecy does not make sense if it reads 70 weeks, without interpretation, many translations do not put “week(s)” but put “seven(s)”. The prophecy is actually easier to understand if we say as in v27,” and at the half of the seven he will cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease”. We are able to ascertain that the length of Jesus’ ministry was three and a half years from the Gospel accounts. We can therefore automatically understand the seven to be referring to years, rather than reading “weeks” and then having to remember to convert it to “years”, or not being sure if it is interpretation to understand years for each day without a good basis.
The 70th period of sevens, with sacrifice and gift offering to cease halfway through (3.5 years), appears to correspond to Jesus’ death. His ransom sacrifice, once for all time, thereby rendered the sacrifices at the Herodian temple as invalid and no longer needed. The shadow as portrayed by the annual entry into the Most Holy was fulfilled and no longer required (Hebrews 10:1-4). We should also remember that at Jesus’ death the curtain of the Most Holy was rent in two (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38). The fact that the Jews of the first century continued to make sacrifices and gifts up until during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans is irrelevant. God no longer required the sacrifices once Christ gave his life for mankind. The end of the complete 70 sevens (or weeks) of years, 3.5 years later would then correspond with the opening up of the hope to be sons of God to the Gentiles in 36 AD. At this time the nation of Israel ceased to be God’s Kingdom of priests and a holy nation. After this time, only individual Jews who became Christians would be counted as part of this Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation, alongside Gentiles who became Christians.
Conclusion: the period meant by seven means seven years giving a total of 490 years, 70 times seven split into the following periods:
- Seven sevens = 49 years
- Sixty-two sevens = 434 years
- In force for seven = 7 years
- At the half of the seven, gift offering to cease = 3.5 years.
There have been some suggestions that the years were prophetic years of 360 days. This assumes there is such a thing as a prophetic year. It is difficult to find any solid evidence of this in the scriptures.
There have also been suggestions that the period was a leap lunar year in days rather than the normal lunar years. Again, there is no solid evidence for this. Besides, the normal Jewish lunar calendar aligns itself with the Julian calendar every 19 years, so over a long period such as 490 years there would be no distortion of the length in calendar years as we count them today.
Examining other more fanciful lengths of the year/period of Daniels prophecy are outside the scope of this series.
J. Identifying marks of Kings found in scripture
|Scripture||Characteristic or event or fact||Bible King||Secular King, with supporting facts|
|Daniel 6:6||120 jurisdictional districts||Darius the Mede||Darius the Mede could have been the throne name for any one of several candidates. But no such King is recognized by most secular scholars.|
|Esther 1:10, 14
|7 princes closest to him of Persia and Media.
The king and his 7 counselors
|These statements agree with what history does record about Darius the Great.
According to Herodotus, Darius was one of 7 nobles serving Cambyses II. As he retained his companions, it is reasonable to accept that Darius continued the arrangement.
This similar description would also match Darius the Great.
|127 jurisdictional districts from India to Ethiopia.||Ahasuerus||The fact that Esther 1:1 identifies Ahasuerus as the king ruling over 127 jurisdictional districts implies it was an identifying mark of the king. As noted above Darius the Mede only had 120 jurisdictional districts.
The Persian empire reached its largest area under Darius the Great, reaching India in his 6th year and was already ruling to Ethiopia (as the region of the far south of Egypt was often called). It shrank under his successors. Therefore, this characteristic best matches Darius the Great.
|Esther 1:3-4||Banquet for 6 months for Princes, Nobles, Army, Servants||Ahasuerus 3rd year of his reign.||Darius was fighting rebellions for most of the first two years of his reign. (522-521)[i]. His 3rd year would have been the first opportunity to celebrate his accession and thank those who supported him.|
|Esther 2:16||Esther was taken to King 10th month Tebet, 7th Year||Ahasuerus||Darius then undertook a campaign to Egypt in the late 3rd (520) and into the 4th year of his reign (519) against rebellion there regaining Egypt in the 4th-5th (519-518) year of his reign.
In the 8th year he embarked on a campaign to capture Central Asia for two years (516-515). After a year he campaigned against Scythia 10th (513)? And then Greece (511-510) 12th – 13th. He, therefore, had a break in the 6th and 7th years sufficient to institute and complete the search for a new wife. This would therefore well match Darius the Great.
|Esther 2:21-23||A plot against King uncovered and reported||Ahasuerus||All Kings from Darius onwards were plotted against, even by their sons, so it could fit any of the Kings including Darius the Great.|
|Esther 3:7,9,12-13||A plot hatched against Jews and a date set for their destruction.
Haman bribes the King with 10,000 silver talents.
Instructions sent by couriers.
|Ahasuerus||The Postal service was instituted by Darius the Great, so the Ahasuerus of Esther could not have been a Persian king before Darius, such as Cambyses, who is likely the Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6.|
|Esther 8:10||“Send written documents by the hand of the couriers on horses, riding post-horses used in the royal service, sons of speedy mares”||Ahasuerus||As for Esther 3:7,9,12-13.|
|Esther 10:1||“Forced labor on land and isles of the sea”||Ahasuerus||Most of the Greek Islands were under Darius’ control by his 12th year. Darius instituted Empire-wide taxation in money or goods or services. Darius also instituted a large building program of roads, canals, palaces, temples, often with forced labor. The Islands were lost by Xerxes his son and most never regained. The best match is therefore Darius the Great.|
|Ezra 4:5-7||The biblical succession of Persian Kings:
|Order of kings||The succession Order of Kings according to secular sources was:
Smerdis / Bardiya,
|Ezra 6:6,8-9,10,12 and
Ezra 7:12,15,21, 23
|Comparison of communications by Darius (Ezra 6) and Artaxerxes (Ezra 7)||6:6 Beyond the River.
6:12 Let it be done promptly
6:10 The God of Heaven
6:10 Praying for the life of the King and his sons
6:8-9 from the royal treasury of the tax beyond the River the expense will be promptly be given.
|7:21 beyond the river
7:21 it be done promptly
7:12 The God of Heaven
7:23 no wrath against the Kings realm and his sons
7:15 to bring the silver and the gold that the King and his counselors have voluntarily given to the God of Israel.
The similarity in speech and attitude would indicate that Darius of Ezra 6 and Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 are the same person.
|Ezra 7||Switch of the naming of Kings||Darius 6th year, followed by
Artaxerxes 7th year
|Ezra’s account talks of Darius (the Great) in chapter 6, at the completion of the building of the Temple. If Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 is not Darius, we have a gap of 30 years for Darius, 21 years of Xerxes, and the first 6 years of Artaxerxes between these events, totaling 57 years.|
Based on the above data the following possible solution has been created.
A Proposed Solution
- The Kings in the account of Ezra 4:5-7 are as follows: Cyrus, Cambyses is called Ahasuerus, and Bardiya/Smerdis is called Artaxerxes, followed by Darius (1 or the Great). The Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes here are not the same as Darius and Artaxerxes mentioned later in Ezra and Nehemiah nor the Ahasuerus of Esther.
- There cannot be a 57-year gap between the events of Ezra 6 and Ezra 7.
- Ahasuerus of Esther and Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 onwards are referring to Darius I (the Great)
- The succession of kings as recorded by the Greek historians are incorrect. Perhaps one or more Kings of Persia were duplicated by the Greek historians either by mistake, confusing the same King when referred to under a different throne name, or to lengthen their own Greek history for propaganda reasons. A possible example of duplication may be Darius I as Artaxerxes I.
- There should be no requirement for unattested duplicates of Alexander of Greece or duplicates of Johanan and Jaddua serving as high priests as the existing secular and religious solutions require. This is important as there is no historical evidence for more than one individual for any of these named persons. [ii]
Review of status in our investigation
Given all the issues we have found, we need to eliminate different scenarios that do not give a satisfactory answer to all the issues found between the Bible account and current secular understandings and also issues caused by current understandings with the Biblical account.
We then have to see if our conclusions give reasonable or plausible answers for all the many problems and discrepancies, we have raised in Parts 1 & 2. Having established an outline framework with which to work, we are now in a better position to examine if our proposed solution will meet all the criteria and solve all or most of our problems. Of course, in doing so we may have to come to very different conclusions to the existing secular and religious understandings of the Jewish and Persian history for this period.
These requirements will be addressed in Part 6, 7, and 8 of this series as we evaluate solutions for each of our problems within the parameters of our outline framework we have established.
To be continued in Part 6 ….
[i] The commonly accepted year dates of secular chronology are given so as to enable easy reader confirmation.
[ii] There appears to be some evidence for more than one Sanballat although others dispute this. This will be dealt with in the final part of our series – Part 8
Can you please give a reference for where Josephus stated this and also a scripture that states that there was a 70 year exile starting in the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar.
Thank you for sharing your research. We are enjoying this series.