Reconciling the Messianic Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 with Secular History
So far, we have examined the issues and problems with current solutions in Parts 1 and 2. We have also established a base of facts and hence a framework to start from in Parts 3, 4, and 5. We have also created a hypothesis (a proposed solution) that addresses the major issues. We now need to check all the issues carefully against the suggested solution. We will also need to check if the facts, particularly those from the Bible, can easily be reconciled.
The primary touchstone of accuracy will be the Biblical account. The following solution which will be tested is based on the conclusion made in part 4 that the decree matching Daniel’s prophecy is that made by Cyrus in his first year as ruler over Babylon. As a result, we have a shortened length of the Persian Empire.
If we are to match the prophecy of 70 x 7’s by working back from 36 AD and the 69 x 7 from the appearance of Jesus as the Messiah in 29 AD, then we need to move the fall of Babylon to 456 BC from 539 BC, and place the decree of Cyrus in his first year (usually taken as 538 BC) to 455 BC. This is a very radical move. It results in a reduction of 83 years in the length of the Persian Empire.
The 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.
- Darius was followed by his son Xerxes, Xerxes was followed by his son Artaxerxes, Artaxerxes was followed by his son Darius II, not another Artaxerxes. Rather the 2nd Artaxerxes was created due to confusion with Darius also being called Artaxerxes. Soon after, the Persian Empire was taken over by Alexander the Great when he defeated Persia.
- The succession of kings as recorded by the Greek historians must be 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 Artaxerxes I (41) = (36) of Darius 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.
Examining the suggested solution will involve looking at every issue raised in parts 1 and 2 and see if (a) the solution proposed is now reasonable as workable and (b) if there is any extra evidence that might support this conclusion.
1. The Age of Mordecai and Esther, A Solution
If we understand Esther 2:5-6 that Mordecai was taken into captivity with Jehoiachin, this was 11 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. We also have to allow him a minimum of 1 year of age.
1st Year of Cyrus
The time period between the destruction of Jerusalem in the 11th year of Zedekiah and the fall of Babylon to Cyrus was 48 years.
Cyrus is understood to have ruled 9 years over Babylon, and his son Cambyses a further 8 years.
7th Year of Ahasuerus
Mordecai is mentioned as an ambassador of the Jews along with Zerubbabel by Josephus around the 6th – 7th year of Darius.[i] If Darius was Ahasuerus, then that would perhaps explain how Esther was noticed by those looking for a replacement for Vashti in the 6th year of Ahasuerus according to Esther 2:16.
If Ahasuerus is Darius the Great, then Mordecai would be a minimum of 84 years old. While this is quite old this is possible.
12th Year of Ahasuerus
As he is last mentioned in the 12th Year of Ahasuerus this would mean he reached 89 years old. A good age for those times, but not impossible. This contrasts with the current theories among secular and religious scholars that Xerxes was Ahasuerus which would mean he had to be 125 years old by this year.
However, there is a problem with this solution in that this would make Mordecai 84 years old when Esther married Darius / Ahasuerus / Artaxerxes of the solution offered. As she was Mordecai’s cousin even with a 30-year age gap (which is unlikely, but within the realms of possibility) she would be too old at 54 years of age to be considered young and beautiful in appearance (Esther 2:7).
Therefore, it requires another careful look at Esther 2:5-6. The passage reads as follows: states “A certain man, a Jew, happened to be in Shu’shan the castle, and his name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the deported people who were taken into exile with Jeconiah the king of Judah whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon took into exile. And he came to be the caretaker of Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his father’s brother, …. And at the death of her father and her mother Mordecai took her as his daughter.”
This passage can also be understood that “who” is referring to Kish, the great-grandfather of Mordecai as the one who was taken into exile from Jerusalem and that the description is to show the line of descendants to Mordecai. Interestingly the BibleHub Hebrew Interlinear reads this way (literally, i.e. in Hebrew word order) “A certain Jew there was in Shushan the citadel and whose name was Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish a Benjamite, [Kish] had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been captured with Jeconiah king of Judah whom had carried away Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.”. The word shown as “[Kish]” is “who” and the Hebrew translator understands it to be referring to Kish rather than Mordecai.
If this were the case, the fact that Mordecai is mentioned as returning to Judah with the other returnees according to Ezra 2:2 would indicate he was probably at least 20 years old.
Even with this assumption he would be 81 years old (20 + 9 +8 + 1 + 36 +7) by the 7th year of Xerxes according to secular chronology (who is commonly identified as the Ahasuerus in Esther) and hence Esther would still be too old. However, with the proposed solution he would be (20 + 9 + 8 + 1 + 7) = 45 years old. If Esther was 20 to 25 years younger, a possibility, then she would be 20 to 25 years old, exactly the right age for being chosen as a potential wife for Darius.
However, even under the suggested solution, with Xerxes as co-ruler of Darius for 16 years, the common identification of Xerxes as the Ahasuerus would still leave Esther at 41 years of age in Xerxes 7th year (if we put her birth in the 3rd Year of Cyrus). Even allowing for an unlikely 30 year age gap between her cousin Mordecai and Esther would leave her at 31 years of age.
Is there any evidence of Mordecai in cuneiform records? Yes, there is.
“Mar-duk-ka” (the Babylonian equivalent name of Mordecai) is found as an “administrative superintendent [ii] who worked under Darius I at least from his years 17 to 32, exactly the same time period we expect to find Mordecai working for the Persian administration based on the Bible account. [iii]. Mardukka was a high official who performed some works as an accountant: Mardukka the accountant [marriš] has received (R140)[iv]; Hirirukka wrote (the tablet), the receipt from Mardukka he received (PT 1), and royal scribe. Two tablets prove that Mardukka was an important administrative superintendent and not a mere official of Darius’ Palace. For example, a high official wrote: Tell Mardukka, Mirinza spoke as follows (PF 1858) and in another tablet (Amherst 258) Mardukka is described as a translator and royal scribe (sepīru) attached to Uštanu’s retinue, the governor of Babylon and Beyond the River.” [v]
A solution: Yes.
2. The Age of Ezra, A Solution
As Seraiah (the father of Ezra) was put to death by Nebuchadnezzar soon after Jerusalem’s destruction, this means Ezra would have to have been born before that time, the 11th year of Zedekiah, 18th Regnal Year of Nebuchadnezzar. For evaluation purposes we will assume at this time Ezra was 1 year old.
1st Year of Cyrus
The time period between the destruction of Jerusalem in the 11th year of Zedekiah and the fall of Babylon to Cyrus was 48 years.[vi]
7th Year of Artaxerxes
Under conventional chronology, the period from the fall of Babylon to Cyrus to the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes (I), consists of the following: Cyrus, 9 years, + Cambyses, 8 years, + Darius the Great I, 36 years, + Xerxes, 21 years + Artaxerxes I, 7 Years. This (1 + 48 + 9 + 8 + 36 + 21 + 7) totals 130 years, a highly improbable age.
If the Artaxerxes of scripture (Nehemiah 12) was referring to the King known as Darius the Great[vii], it would be 1 + 48 + 9 + 8 + 7 = 73 which is certainly possible.
20th Year of Artaxerxes
Furthermore Nehemiah 12:26-27,31-33 gives the last reference to Ezra and shows Ezra at the inauguration of the wall of Jerusalem in the 20th Year of Artaxerxes. Under the conventional chronology this extends his 130 years to an impossible 143 years.
If the Artaxerxes of Nehemiah 12 was Darius the Great[viii] as per the suggested solution, it would be 73+13 = 86 years, which is just about within the borders of possibility.
A solution: Yes
3. The Age of Nehemiah, A Solution
Fall of Babylon to Cyrus
Ezra 2:2 contains the first mention of Nehemiah when relating those who left Babylon to return to Judah. He is mentioned in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and Mordecai amongst others. Nehemiah 7:7 is almost identical to Ezra 2:2. It is also highly unlikely he was a youngster at this time, because all those he is mentioned along with were adults and all were likely over 30 years of age. Conservatively, therefore, we can assign Nehemiah an age of 20 years at the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, but it could have been at least 10 years or more, higher.
20th Year of Artaxerxes
In Nehemiah 12:26-27, Nehemiah is mention as Governor in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua [serving as a High Priest] and Ezra. This was at the time of the inauguration of the wall of Jerusalem. This was the 20th Year of Artaxerxes according to Nehemiah 1:1 and Nehemiah 2:1. If we accept that Darius I is also called Artaxerxes from Ezra 7 onwards and in Nehemiah (especially from his 7th year of reign), under this solution, the time period of Nehemiah becomes sensible. Before the fall of Babylon, 20 years minimum, + Cyrus, 9 years, + Cambyses, 8 years, + Darius the Great I or Artaxerxes, 20th year. Thus 20 + 9 + 8 + 20 = 57 years old.
32nd Year of Artaxerxes
Nehemiah 13:6 then records that Nehemiah had returned to serving the king in the 32nd Year of Artaxerxes, the King of Babylon, after serving 12 years as Governor. By this time, he would still only be 69, definitely a possibility. The account records that sometime later after this he returned to Jerusalem to sort out the issue with Tobiah the Ammonite being allowed to have a large dining hall in the Temple by Eliashib the High Priest.
We, therefore, have Nehemiah’s age according to the solution as 57 + 12 + ? = 69 + years. Even if this was 5 years later, he would still be 74 years old. This is definitely reasonable.
A solution: Yes
4. “7 weeks also 62 weeks”, A Solution
You may remember that under the generally accepted solution, this splitting into 7 x 7’s and 62 x7’s seems to have no relevance or possible fulfillment. Very interestingly, however, if, we take the understanding of Ezra 6:14 as saying “Darius, even Artaxerxes”[ix] and hence, the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 onwards and the book of Nehemiah is now understood to be Darius (I)[x] then 49 years would take us from Cyrus 1st year as follows: Cyrus 9 years + Cambyses 8 years + Darius 32 years = 49.
Now the question is, did anything of significance happen in the 32nd Year of Darius (I)?
Nehemiah had been Governor of Judah for 12 years, from the 20th year of Artaxerxes/Darius. His first task was overseeing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Next, he oversaw the reestablishment of Jerusalem as a habitable city. Finally, in the 32nd year of Artaxerxes he left Judah and returned to the King’s personal service.
Nehemiah 7:4 indicates there were either no houses or very few built within Jerusalem until after the rebuilding of the walls which was done in the 20th year of Artaxerxes (or Darius I). Nehemiah 11 shows lots were cast to populate Jerusalem after the rebuilding of the walls. This would not have been necessary if Jerusalem already had sufficient houses and was already well populated.
This would account for the period of 7 times 7 mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. It would also match the time period and prophecy of Daniel 9:25b “She will return and be actually rebuilt, with a public square and moat, but in the straits of the times.” Those straits of the times would match one of three possibilities:
- The full period of 49 years starting from the fall of Babylon to the 32nd Year of Artaxerxes/Darius, which makes the fullest and best sense.
- Another possibility is from the completion of the rebuilding of the Temple in the 6th year of Darius/Artaxerxes to the 32nd Year of Artaxerxes/Darius
- The most unlikely and the much shorter time period from the 20th to the 32nd year of Artaxerxes when Nehemiah was Governor and oversaw the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls and the increase of houses and population within Jerusalem.
In doing so they would bring the 7 sevens (49 years) to a fitting conclusion under the scenario that Darius I was the Artaxerxes of the later events of Ezra 7 onwards and the events of Nehemiah.
A solution: Yes
5. Understanding Daniel 11:1-2, A Solution
Perhaps the simplest way to identify a solution is to ascertain who was the richest Persian King?
From what historical records survive this appears to have been Xerxes. Darius the Great, his father had instituted regular taxation and built up considerable wealth. Xerxes continued with this and in the 6th year of his reign launched a massive campaign against Persia. This lasted for two years, although hostilities continued for another 10 years. This matches the description in Daniel 11:2 “the fourth one will amass greater riches than all [others]. And as soon as he has become strong in his riches, he will rouse up everything against the kingdom of Greece.”
This would mean that the remaining three kings would have to be identified with Cambyses II, Bardiya/Smerdis, and Darius the Great.
Was Xerxes therefore to be the last king of Persia as some have claimed? There is nothing in the text in Hebrew that limits the Kings to four. Daniel was simply told that after Cyrus there would be three more Kings and the fourth would be the richest and would stir up all against the Kingdom of Greece. The text neither states nor implies that there could not be a fifth (secularly known as Artaxerxes I) and indeed a sixth King (known as Darius II), merely that they are not stated as part of the narrative because they are not important.
According to the Greek historian Arrian (writing of and serving the Roman Empire) Alexander set out to conquer Persia as an act of revenge for past wrongs. Alexander addresses this in his letter to Darius stating:
“Your ancestors came into Macedonia and the rest of Greece and treated us ill, without any previous injury from us. I, having been appointed commander and chief of the Greek, and wishing to take revenge on the Persians, crossed over into Asia, hostilities being begun by you”.[xi]
Under our solution that would have been about 60-61 years previously. This is short enough for memories of the events to be recounted by Greeks to Alexander. Under the existing secular chronology this period would be over 135 years, and hence memories would have faded through the generations.
A solution: Yes
We will continue in examining solutions for outstanding issues in the next part, part 7 of our series.
[i] http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapter 4 v 9
[ii] R.T. HALLOCK– Persepolis Fortification Tablets in: Oriental Institute Publications 92 (Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 102,138,165,178,233,248,286,340,353,441,489,511,725. https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/oip92.pdf
[iii] G.G. CAMERON– Persepolis Treasury Tablets in: Oriental Institute Publications 65 (The University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 83. https://oi.uchicago.edu/research/publications/oip/oip-65-persepolis-treasury-tablets
[iv] J.E. CHARLES; M.W. STOLPER – Fortification Texts Sold at the Auction of the Erlenmeyer Collection in: Arta 2006 vol.1, pp. 14-15, http://www.achemenet.com/pdf/arta/2006.001.Jones-Stolper.pdf
[vi] See the series of articles “A Journey of Discovery Through Time”. https://beroeans.net/2019/06/12/a-journey-of-discovery-through-time-an-introduction-part-1/
[vii] An explanation justifying this option in terms of King’s names is later in this series.
[viii] An explanation justifying this option in terms of King’s names is later in this series.
[ix] See this use of “waw” in Nehemiah 7:2 ‘Hananiah, that is Hananiah the commander’ and Ezra 4:17 ‘Greetings, and now’.
[x] An explanation justifying this option in terms of King’s names is later in this document.