“VERSE 1. In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2. In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
The vision recorded in the preceding chapter was given in the third year of Belshazzar, B.C.538. In the same year, which was also the first of Darius, the events narrated in this chapter occurred. Consequently less than one year is passed over between these two chapters. Although Daniel, as prime minister of the foremost kingdom on the
face of the earth, was cumbered with cares and burdens, he did not let this deprive him of the privilege of studying into things of higher moment, even the purposes of God as revealed to his prophets. He understood by books, that is, the writings of Jeremiah, that God would accomplish seventy years in the captivity of his people. This prediction is found in Jer.25:12;29:10. The knowledge of it, and the use that was made of it, shows that Jeremiah was early regarded as a divinely inspired prophet; otherwise his writings would not have been so soon collected, and so extensively copied. Though Daniel was for a time contemporary with him, he had a copy of his works which he carried with him in his captivity; and though he was so great a prophet himself, he was not above studying carefully what God might reveal to others of his servants. Commencing the seventy years B.C.606, Daniel understood that they were now drawing to their termination: and God had even commenced the fulfilment by overthrowing the kingdom of Babylon.
“VERSE 3. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.”
Because God has promised, we are not released from the responsibility of beseeching him for the fulfilment of his word. Daniel might have reasoned in this manner: God has promised to release his people at the end of the seventy years, and he will accomplish this promise; I need not therefore concern myself at all in the matter. Daniel did not thus reason; but as the time drew near for the accomplishment of the word of the Lord, he set himself to seek the Lord with all his heart. And how earnestly he engaged in the work, even with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes! This was the year, probably, in which he was cast into the lions’ den; and the prayer of which we here have an account may have been the burden of that petition, which, regardless of the unrighteous human law which had been secured to the contrary, he offered before the Lord three times a day.
“VERSE 4. And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.”
We here have the opening of Daniel’s wonderful prayer, – a prayer expressing such humiliation and contrition of heart that one must be without feeling who can read it unmoved. He commences by acknowledging the faithfulness of God. God never fails in any of his engagements with his followers. It was not from any lack on God’s part in defending and upholding them, that the Jews were then in the furnace of captivity, but only on account of their sins.
“VERSE 5. We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: 6. Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. 8. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers because we have sinned against thee. 9. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; 10. Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11. Yes, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. 12. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. 13. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. 14. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.”
To this point Daniel’s prayer is employed in making a full and heart-broken confession of sin. He vindicates fully the course of the Lord, acknowledging their sins to be the cause of all their calamities, as God had threatened them by the prophet Moses. And he does not discriminate in favor of himself. No self-righteousness appears in his petition. And although he had suffered long for others’ sins, enduring seventy years of captivity for the wrongs of his people, himself meanwhile living a godly life, and receiving signal honors and blessings from the Lord, he brings no accusations against any one to the exclusion of others, pleads no sympathy for himself as a victim of others’ wrongs, but ranks himself in with the rest, and says, We have sinned, and unto us belongs confusion of face. And he acknowledges that they had not heeded the lessons God designed to teach them by their afflictions, by turning again unto him. An expression in the 14th verse is worthy of especial notice: “Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us.” Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil. But none may think that the Lord does not see, or that he has forgotten. His retributions will surely overtake the transgressor, against whom they are threatened, without deviation and without fail. He will watch upon the evil, and in his own good time will bring it to pass.
“VERSE 15. And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 16. O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. 17. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. 18. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. 19. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive: O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”
The prophet now pleads the honor of the Lord’s name as a reason why he desires that his petition should be granted. He refers to the fact of their deliverance from Egypt, and the great renown that had accrued to the Lord’s name for all his wonderful works manifested among them. All this would be lost, should he now abandon them to perish. Moses used the same argument in pleading for Israel. Numbers 14. Not that God is moved with motives of ambition and vainglory; but when his people are jealous for the honor of his name, when they evince their love for him by pleading with him to work, not for their own personal benefit, but for his own glory, that his name may not be reproached and blasphemed among the heathen, this is acceptable with him. Daniel then intercedes for the city of Jerusalem, called by God’s name, and his holy mountain, for which he has had such love, and beseeches him, for his mercies’ sake, to let his anger be turned away. Finally, his mind centers upon the holy sanctuary, God’s own dwelling-place upon
this earth, and he pleads that its desolations may be repaired. Daniel understood the seventy years of captivity to be near their termination. From his allusion to the sanctuary, it is evident that he so far misunderstood the important vision given him in chapter 8 as to suppose that the 2300 days, at the termination of which the sanctuary was to be cleansed, expired at the same time. This misapprehension was at once corrected when the angel came to give him further instruction in answer to his prayer, the narration of which is next given.
“VERSE 20. And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21. Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.”
We here have the result of Daniel’s supplication. He is suddenly interrupted by a heavenly messenger. The angel Gabriel, appearing again as he had before, in the form of a man, whom Daniel had seen in the vision at the beginning, touched him. A very important question is at this point to be determined. It is to be decided whether the vision of chapter 8 has ever been explained, and can ever be understood. The question is, To what vision does Daniel refer by the expression “the vision at the beginning”? It will be conceded by all that it is a vision of which we have some previous record, and that in that vision we shall find some mention of Gabriel. We must go back beyond this ninth chapter; for all that we have in this chapter previous to this appearance of Gabriel, is simply a record of Daniel’s prayer. Looking back, then, through previous chapters, we find mention of only three visions given to Daniel. 1. The interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar was given in a night vision. Chapter 2:19. But there is no record of any angelic agency in the matter. 2. The vision of chapter 7. This was explained to Daniel by “one of them that stood by,” probably an angel; but we have no information as to what angel, nor is there anything in that vision which needed further explanation. 3. The vision of chapter 8. Here we find some particulars which show this to
be the vision referred to. 1. Gabriel is there first brought to view by name in the book, and the only time previous to this occasion. 2. He was commanded to make Daniel understand the vision. 3. Daniel, at the conclusion, says he did not understand it, showing that Gabriel, at the conclusion of chapter 8, had not fulfilled his mission. There is no place in all the Bible where this instruction is carried out, if it be not in chapter 9. If, therefore, the vision of chapter 8 is not the one referred to, we have no record that Gabriel ever complied with the instruction given him, or that that vision has ever been explained. 4. The instruction which the angel now gives to Daniel, as we shall see from the following verses, does exactly complete what was lacking in chapter 8. These considerations prove beyond a doubt the connection between Daniel 8 and 9; and this conclusion will be still further strengthened by a consideration of the angel’s instructions.
“VERSE 22. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. 23. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved; therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.”
The manner in which Gabriel introduces himself on this occasion, shows that he has come to complete some unfulfilled mission. This can be nothing less than to carry out the instruction to make this man “understand the vision,” as recorded in chapter 8. “I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.” As the charge still rested upon him to make Daniel understand, and as he explained to Daniel in chapter 8 all that he could then bear, and yet he did not understand the vision, he now comes to resume his work and complete his mission. As soon as Daniel commenced his fervent supplication, the commandment came forth; that is, Gabriel received instruction to visit Daniel, and impart to him the requisite information. From the time it takes to read Daniel’s prayer down to the point at which Gabriel made his appearance upon the scene, the reader can judge of the speed with which this messenger was dispatched from the court of heaven to this servant of God. Now wonder that Daniel says he was caused
to fly swiftly or that Ezekiel compares the movements of these celestial beings to a flash of lightning. Eze.1:14. “Understand the matter,” he says to Daniel. What matter? – That, evidently, which he did not before understand, as stated in the last verse of chapter 8. “Consider the vision.” What vision? Not the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, nor the vision of chapter 7, for there was no difficulty with either of these; but the vision of chapter 8, in reference to which his mind was filled with doubt and astonishment. “I am come to show thee,” also said the angel. Show thee in reference to what? – Certainly in reference to something wherein he was entertaining wrong ideas, and something, at the same time, pertaining to his prayer, as it was this which had called forth Gabriel on his mission at this time. But Daniel had no difficulty in understanding what the angel told him about the ram, he-goat, and little horn, the kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Nor was he mistaken in regard to the ending of the seventy years’ captivity. But the burden of his petition was respecting the repairing of the desolations of the sanctuary, which lay in ruins; and he had undoubtedly drawn the conclusion that when the end of the seventy years’ captivity came, the time would come for the fulfilment of what the angel had said respecting the cleansing of the sanctuary at the end of the 2300 days. Now he must be set right. And this explains why at this particular time, so soon after the previous vision, instruction was sent to him. Now the seventy years of captivity were drawing to their close, and Daniel was applying to a wrong issue the instruction he had before received from the angel. He was falling into a misunderstanding, and was acting upon it; Hence he must not be suffered longer to remain ignorant of the true import of the former vision. “I am come to show thee;” “understand the matter;” “consider the vision.” Such were the words used by the very person Daniel had seen in the former vision, and to whom he had heard the command given, “Make this man to understand the vision,” and who, he knew, had never carried out that instruction. But now he appears, and says, “I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.” How could Daniel’s mind be more emphatically carried back to the vision of chapter 8, and how could the connection between that visit of the angel and this be more distinctly shown, than by such words at such a time from such a person? The considerations already presented are sufficient to show conclusively the connection between chapters 8 and 9; but this will still further appear in subsequent verses. One expression seems worthy of notice before we leave verse 23. It is the declaration of the angel to Daniel, “For thou art greatly beloved.” The angel brought this declaration direct from the courts of heaven. It expressed the state of feeling that existed there in regard to Daniel. Think of celestial beings, the highest in the universe, – the Father, the Son, the holy angels, – having such regard and esteem for a mortal man here upon earth as to authorize an angel to bear the message to him that he is greatly beloved!
This is one of the highest pinnacles of glory to which mortals can attain. Abraham reached another, when it could be said of him that he was the “friend of God;” and Enoch another, when it could be said of him that he “walked with God.” Can we arrive at any such attainments? God is no respecter of persons; but he is a respecter of character. If in virtue and godliness we could equal these eminent men, we could move the divine love to equal depths. We, too, could be greatly beloved, – could be friends of God, and could walk with him. And we must be in our generation what they were in theirs. There is a figure used in reference to the last church which denotes the closest union with God: “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Rev.3:20. To sup with the Lord denotes an intimacy equal to being greatly beloved by him, walking with him, or being his friend. How desirable a position! Alas for the evils of our nature, which cut us off from this communion! Oh for grace to overcome these! that we may enjoy this spiritual union here, and finally enter the glories of his presence at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
“VERSE 24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
Such are the first words the angel utters to Daniel, toward imparting to him that instruction which he came to give. Why does he thus abruptly introduce a period of time? We must again refer to the vision of chapter 8. We have seen that Daniel, at the close of that chapter, says that he did not understand the vision. Some portions of that vision were at the time very clearly explained. It could not have been these portions which he did not understand. We therefore inquire what it was which Daniel did not understand, or, in other words, what part of the vision was there left unexplained. In that vision four prominent things are brought to view: (1) The Ram; (2) The He-goat; (3) The Little Horn; (4) The period of the 2300 days. The symbols of the ram, the he-goat, and the little horn were explained. Nothing, however, was said respecting the time. This must therefore have been the point which he did not understand; and as without this the other portions of the vision were of no avail, he could well say, while the application of this period was left in obscurity, that he did not understand the vision. If this view of the subject is correct, we should naturally expect, when the angel completed his explanation of the vision, that he would commence with the very point which had been omitted: namely, the time. And this we find to be true in fact. After citing Daniel’s attention back to the former vision in the most direct and emphatic manner, and assuring him that he had now come forth to give him understanding in the matter, he commences upon the very point there omitted, and says, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” But how does this language show any connection with the 2300 days, or throw any light upon that period? We answer: The language cannot be intelligibly referred to anything else: for the word here rendered determined signifies “cut off;” and no period is given in the vision here referred to from which the seventy weeks could be cut off but the 2300 days of
the previous vision. How direct and natural, then, is the connection. Daniel’s attention is fixed upon the 2300 days, which he did not understand, by the angel’s directing him to the former vision; and he says, “Seventy weeks are cut off.” Cut off from what? – The 2300 days, most assuredly.
Proof may be called for that the word rendered determined signifies to cut off. An abundance can be given. The Hebrew word thus translated is nehhtak. This word Gesenius, in his Hebrew Lexicon, defines as follows: “Properly, to cut off; tropically, to divide; and so to determine, to decree.” In the Chaldoe-Rabbinic Dictionary of Stockius, the word nehhtak is thus defined: “Scidit, abscidit, conscidit, inscidit, exscidit – to cut, to cut away, to cut to pieces, to cut or engrave, to cut off.” Mercerus in his Thesaurus furnishes a specimen of Rabbinical usage in the phrase, hhatikah shel basar, “a piece of flesh,” or “a cut of flesh.” He translates the word as it occurs in Dan.9:24, by “praecisa est,” is cut off. In the literal version of Arias Montanus, it is translated ‘decisa est,” is cut off; in the marginal reading which is grammatically correct, it is rendered by the plural, “decisae sunt,” are cut off. In the Latin version of Junius and Tremellius, nehhtak (the passive of hhathak) is rendered “decisae sunt,” are cut off. Again, in Theodotion’s Greek version of Daniel (which is the version used in the Vatican copy of the Septuagint, as being the most faithful), it is rendered by (sunetmethesan), were cut off; and in the Venetian copy by (tetmentai), have been cut. The idea of cutting off is preserved in the Vulgate, where the phrase is “abbreviatae sunt,” are shortened. “Thus Chaldaic and Rabbinical authority, and that of the earliest versions, the Septuagint and Vulgate, give the single signification of cutting off, to this verb.” “Hengstenberg, who enters into a critical examination of the original text, says, ‘But the very use of the word, which does not elsewhere occur, while others much more frequently used were at hand if Daniel had wished to express the idea of determination, and of which he has elsewhere, and even in this portion availed himself, seems to argue that the word stands from regard to its original meaning, and represents the seventy weeks in contrast with a determination of time (en platei) as a period cut off from subsequent duration, and accurately limited.'” – Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. II, p. 301. Washington, 1839. Why, then, it may be asked, did our translators render the word determined, when it so obviously means cut off? The answer is, They doubtless overlooked the connection between the eighth and ninth chapters, and considering it improper to render it cut off, when nothing was given from which the seventy weeks could be cut off, they gave the word its tropical instead of its literal meaning. But, as we have seen, the construction, the context, and the connection require the literal meaning, and render any other inadmissible. Seventy weeks, then, or 490 days of the 2300, were cut off upon, or allotted to, Jerusalem and the Jews; and the events which were to be consummated within that period are briefly stated. The transgression was to be finished; that is, the Jewish people were to fill up the cup of their iniquity, which they did in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. An end of sins, or of sin- offerings, was to be made. This took place when the great offering was made on Calvary. Reconciliation for iniquity was to be provided. This was made by the sacrificial death of the Son of God. Everlasting righteousness was to be brought in; the righteousness which our Lord manifested in his sinless life. The vision and the prophecy were to be sealed up, or made sure. By the events given to transpire in the seventy weeks, the prophecy is tested. By this the application of the whole vision is determined. If the events of this period are accurately fulfilled, the prophecy is of God, and will all be accomplished; and if these seventy weeks are fulfilled as weeks of years, then the 2300 days, of which these are a part, are so many years. Thus the events of the seventy weeks furnish a key to the whole vision. And the “most holy” was to be anointed.
“VERSE 25. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The angel now gives to Daniel the event which is to mark the commencement of the seventy weeks. They were to date from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. And not only is the event given which was to determine the time of the commencement of this period, but those events also which were to transpire at its close. Thus a double test is provided by which to try the application of this prophecy. But more than this, the period of seventy weeks is divided into three grand divisions, and one of these is again divided, and the intermediate events are given which were to mark the termination of each one of these divisions. If, now, we can find a date which will harmonize with all these events, we have, beyond a doubt, the true application; for none but that which is correct could meet and fulfil so many conditions. Let the reader take in at one view the points of harmony to be made, that he may be the better prepared to guard against a false application. First, we are to find, at the commencement of the period, a commandment going forth to restore and build Jerusalem. To this work or restoration seven weeks are allotted. As we reach the end of this first division, seven weeks from the commencement, we are to find, secondly, Jerusalem, in its material aspect restored, the work of building the street and the wall fully accomplished. From this point sixty-two weeks are measured off; and as we reach the termination of this division, sixty-nine weeks from the beginning, we are to see, thirdly, the manifestation before the world of the Messiah the Prince. One week more is given us, completing the seventy. Fourthly, in the midst of this week the Messiah is to be cut off, and to cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease; and, fifthly, when the last week of that period which was allotted to the Jews as the time during which they were to be the special people of God, expires, we naturally look for the going forth of the blessing and work of God to other people. We now inquire for the initial date which will harmonize with all these particulars. The command respecting Jerusalem was to include more than mere building. There was to be restoration; and by this we must understand all the forms and regulations of civil, political, and judicial society. When did such a command go forth? At the time these words were spoken to Daniel, Jerusalem lay in complete and utter desolation, and had thus been lying for seventy years.
The restoration, pointed to in the future, must be its restoration from this desolation. We then inquire, When and how was Jerusalem restored after the seventy years’ captivity? There are but four events which can be taken as answering to the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. These are, (1) The decree of Cyrus for the rebuilding of the house of God, B.C.536 (Ezra1:1-4); (2) The decree of Darius for the prosecution of that work, which had been hindered, B.C.519 (Ezra6:1-12); (3) The decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra, B.C.457 (Ezra7); and (4) The commission to Nehemiah from the same king in his twentieth year, B.C.444. Nehemiah 2. Dating from the first two of these decrees, the seventy weeks, being weeks of years, 1 490 years in all, would fall many years short of reaching even to the Christian era; besides, these decrees had reference principally to the restoration of the temple and the temple-worship of the Jews, and not to the restoration of their civil state and polity, all of which must be included in the expression, “To restore and to build Jerusalem.” These made a commencement of the work. They were preliminary to what was afterward accomplished. But of themselves they were altogether insufficient, both in their dates and in their nature, to meet the requirements of the prophecy; ———- 1 The explanation of these prophetic periods is based on what is called the “year-day principle;” that is, making each day stand for a year, according to the Scriptural rule for the application of symbolic time. Eze.4:6; Num.14:34. That the time in these visions of Daniel 8 and 9 is symbolic is evident from the nature and scope of the prophecy. The question calling out the answers on this point was, “How long the vision?” The vision, reckoning from 538 B.C. to our own time, sweeps over a period more than 2400 years in length. But if the 2300 days of the vision are literal days, we have a period of only a little over six years and a half for the duration of the kingdoms and the transaction of the great events brought to view, which is absurd! The year-day principle numbers among its supporters such names as Augustine, Tichonius, Primasius, Andreas, the venerable Bede, Ambrosius, Ansbertus, Berengaud, and Bruno Astensis, besides the leading modern expositors. (See Elliott’s “Horae Apocalypticae,” Vol. III, p. 241; and “The Sanctuary and Its Cleansing,” pp. 45-52.) But what is more conclusive than all else is the fact that the prophecies have actually been fulfilled on this principle, – a demonstration of its correctness from which there is no appeal. This will be found in the prophecy of the seventy weeks throughout, and all the prophetic periods of Daniel 7 and 12, and Revelation 9, 12, and 13.
and thus failing in every respect, they cannot be brought into the controversy as marking the point from which the seventy weeks are to date. The only question now lies between the decrees which were granted to Ezra and to Nehemiah respectively. The facts between which we are to decide here are briefly these: In 457 B.C., a decree was granted to Ezra by the Persian emperor Artaxerxes Longimanus to go up to Jerusalem with as many of his people as were minded to go with him. The commission granted him an unlimited amount of treasure, to beautify the house of God, to procure offerings for its service, and to do whatever else might seem good unto him. It empowered him to ordain laws, set magistrates and judges, and execute punishment even unto death; in other words, to restore the Jewish state, civil and ecclesiastical, according to the law of God and the ancient customs of that people. Inspiration has seen fit to preserve this decree; and a full and accurate copy of it is given in the seventh chapter of the book of Ezra. In the original, this decree is given, not in Hebrew, like the rest of the book of Ezra, but in the Chaldaic (or Eastern Aramaic), the language then used at Babylon; and thus we are furnished with the original document by virtue of which Ezra was authorized to restore and build Jerusalem. Thirteen years after this, in the twentieth year of the same king, B.C.444, Nehemiah sought and obtained permission to go up to Jerusalem. Nehemiah 2. Permission was granted him, but we have no evidence that it was anything more than verbal. It pertained to him individually, nothing being said about others going up with him. The king asked him how long a journey he wished to make, and when he would return. He received letters to the governors beyond the river to help him on his way to Judea, and an order to the keeper of the king’s forest for timber for beams, etc. When he arrived at Jerusalem, he found rulers and priests, nobles and people, already engaged in the work of building Jerusalem. Neh.2:16. These were, of course, acting under the decree given to Ezra thirteen years before. And finally, Nehemiah, having
arrived at Jerusalem, finished the work he came to accomplish, in fifty-two days. Neh.6:15. Now which of these commissions, Ezra’s or Nehemiah’s, constitutes the decree for the restoration of Jerusalem, from which the seventy weeks are to be dated? It hardly seems that there can be any question on this point.
1. The grant to Nehemiah cannot be called a decree. It was necessary that a Persian decree should be put in writing, and signed by the king. Dan.6:8. Such was the document given to Ezra; but Nehemiah had nothing of the kind, his commission being only verbal. If it be said that the letters given him constitute the decree, then the decree was issued, not to Nehemiah, but to the governors beyond the river; besides, these would constitute a series of decrees, and not one decree, as the prophecy contemplates.
2. The occasion of Nehemiah’s petition to the king for permission to go up to Jerusalem was the report which certain ones, returning, had brought from thence, that those in the province were in great affliction and reproach, also that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates thereof burned with fire. Nehemiah 1. Whose work were these walls and gates that were broken down and burned with fire? – Evidently the work of Ezra and his associates; for it cannot for a moment be supposed that the utter destruction of the city by Nebuchadnezzar, one hundred and forty-four years previous to that time, would have been reported to Nehemiah as a matter of news, nor that he would have considered it, as he evidently did, a fresh misfortune, calling for a fresh expression of grief. A decree, therefore, authorizing the building of these, had gone forth previous to the grant to Nehemiah.
3. If any should contend that Nehemiah’s commission must be a decree, because the object of his request was that he might build the city, it is sufficient to reply, as shown above, that gates and walls had been built previous to his going up; besides, the work of building which he went to perform was accomplished in fifty-two days; whereas, the prophecy allows for the building of the city, seven weeks, or fifty-nine years.
4. There was nothing granted to Nehemiah which was not embraced in the decree to Ezra; while the latter had all the forms and conditions of a decree, and was vastly more ample in its provisions.
5. It is evident from the prayer of Ezra, as recorded in chapter 9:9 of his book, that he considered himself fully empowered to proceed with the building of the city and the wall; and it is evident that he understood, further, that the conditional prophecies concerning his people were then fulfilled, from the closing words of that prayer, in which he says, “Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldst not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?”
6. Reckoning from the commission to Nehemiah, B.C.444, the dates throughout are entirely disarranged; for from that point the troublesome times which were to attend the building of the street and wall did not last seven weeks, or forty-nine years. Reckoning from that date, the sixty-nine weeks, or 483 years, which were to extend to the Messiah the Prince, bring us to A.D.40; but Jesus was baptized of John in Jordan, and the voice of the Father was heard from heaven declaring him his Son, in<*> A.D.27, thirteen years before. According to this calculation, the midst of the last or seventieth week, which is marked by the crucifixion, is placed in A.D.44, but the crucifixion took place in A.D.31, thirteen years previous. And lastly, the seventy weeks, or 490 years, dating from the twentieth of Artaxerxes, extend to A.D.47, with absolutely nothing to mark their termination. Hence if that be the year, and the grant to Nehemiah the event, from which to reckon, the prophecy has proved a failure. As it is, it only proves that theory a failure which dates the seventy weeks from Nehemiah’s commission in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes.
7. Will these dates harmonize if we reckon from the decree to Ezra? Let us see. In this case, 457 B.C. is our starting- point. Forty-nine years were allotted to the building of the city and the wall. On this point, Prideaux (Connexion, Vol. I, p.322) says: “In the fifteenth year of Darius Nothus ended the first seven weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. For then the restoration of the church and state of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea was fully finished, in that last act of reformation which is recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Nehemiah, from the twenty-third verse to the end of the chapter, just forty-nine years after it had been commenced by Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus.” This was B.C.408. So far we find harmony. Let us apply the measuring-rod of the prophecy still further. Sixty-nine weeks, or 483 years, were to extend to Messiah the Prince. Dating from B.C.457, they end in A.D.27. And what event then occurred?1 Luke thus informs us: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” Luke3:21,22. After this, Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled.” Mark1:14,15. The time here mentioned must have been some specific, definite, and predicted period; but no prophetic period can be found then terminating, except the sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy of Daniel, which were to extend to the Messiah the Prince. The Messiah had now come; and with his own lips he announced the termination of that period which was to be marked by his manifestation.1 ———- 1 There is abundance of authority for A.D.27 as the date of Christ’s baptism. See “Sacred Chronology,” by S. Bliss; “New International Encyclopedia.” art. “Jesus Christ;” “Chronological Synopsis of the Four Gospels,” by Dr. Karl Wieseler, p.183.
Here, again, is indisputable harmony. But further, the Messiah was to confirm the convenant with many for one week. This would be the last week of the seventy, or the last seven years of the 490. In the midst of the week, the prophecy informs us, he should cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease. These Jewish ordinances, pointing to the death of Christ, could cease only at the cross; and there they did virtually come to an end, though the outward observance was kept up till the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D.70. After threescore and two weeks, according to the record, the Messiah was to be cut off. It is the same as if it had read: And after threescore and two weeks, in the midst of the seventieth week, shall Messiah be cut off, and cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease. Now, as the word midst here means middle, according to an abundance of authority which we might produce if necessary, the crucifixion is definitely located in the middle of the seventieth week. It now becomes an important point to determine in what year the crucifixion took place. The following evidence is sufficient to be considered absolutely decisive on this question. It is not to be questioned that our Saviour attended every Passover that occurred during his public ministry; and we have mention of only four such occasions previous to his crucifixion. These are found in the following passages: John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 13:1. At the last-mentioned Passover he was crucified. From facts already established, let us then see ———- sanctioned by any public Acts or Rescripts till the first German Synod, in the time of Carolomannus, Duke of the Franks, which, in the preface, was said to be assembled ‘Anno ab incarnatione Dom. 742, 11 Calendus Maii.’ But it was not established till the time of Pope Eugenius IV, A.D.1431, who ordered this era to be used in the public Registers: according to Mariana and others.” – Hales’ Chronology, Vol.I, pp.83, 84. (See also “Life of Our Lord,” by S. J Andrews.) The Christian era had become so well established before the mistake above referred to was discovered, that no change in the reckoning has been attempted. It makes no material difference, as it does not interfere at all with the calculation of dates. If the era commenced with the actual year of Christ’s birth, the number of years B.C. in any case would be four years less, and the years A.D. four years more. To illustrate: If we have a period of twenty years, one half before and the other half since the Christian era, we say that it commenced B.C.10 and ended A.D.10. But if we place the era back to the real point of Christ’s birth, there would be no change of either terminus of the period, but we should then say that it commenced B.C.6 and ended A.D.14; that is, four years would be taken from the figures B.C. and added to those of A.D. Some have so far misapprehended this subject as to claim that the current year should have four years added to it, to denote the real year of the Christian era. This would be true, if the reckoning began from the actual date of Christ’s birth. But this is not the case; the starting-point is between three and four years later.
where this would locate the crucifixion. As he began his ministry in the autumn of A.D.27, his first Passover would occur the following spring, A.D.28; his second, A.D.29; his third, A.D.30; and his fourth and last, A.D.31. This gives us three years and a half for his public ministry, and corresponds exactly to the prophecy that he should be cut off in the midst, or middle, of the seventieth week. As that week of years commenced in the autumn of A.D.27, the middle of the week would occur three and one half years later, in the spring of 31, where the crucifixion took place. Dr. Hales quotes Eusebius, A.D.300, as saying: “It is recorded in history that the whole time of our Saviour’s teaching and working miracles was three years and a half, which is the half of a week [of years]. This, John the evangelist will represent to those who critically attend to his Gospel.” Of the unnatural darkness which occurred at the crucifixion, Hales, Vol.I, pp.69,70, thus speaks: “Hence it appears that the darkness which ‘overspread the whole land of Judea’ at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion was preternatural, ‘from the sixth until the ninth hour,’ or from noon till three in the afternoon, in its duration, and also in its time, about full moon, when the moon could not possibly eclipse the sun. The time it happened, and the fact itself, are recorded in a curious and valuable passage of a respectable Roman Consul, Aurelius Cassiodorius Senator, about A.D.514: ‘In the consulate of Tiberius Caesar Aug. V and AElius Sejanus (U.C.784, A.D.31), our Lord Jesus Christ suffered, on the 8th of the calends of April (25th March), when there happened such an eclipse of the sun as was never before nor since.’ “In this year, and in this day, agree also the Council of Cesarea, A.D.196 or 198, the Alexandrian Chronicle, Maximus Monachus, Nicephorus Constantinus, Cedrenus; and in this year, but on different days, concur Eusebius and Epiphanius, followed by Kepler, Bucher, Patinus, and Petavius, some reckoning it the 10th of the calends of April, others the 13th.” (See on chapter 11:22.) Here, then, are thirteen credible authorities locating the crucifixion of Christ in the spring of A.D.31. We may therefore
set this down as a fixed date, as the most cautious or the most skeptical could require nothing more conclusive. This being in the middle of the last week, we have simply to reckon backward three and a half years to find where sixty-nine of the weeks ended, and forward from that point three and a half years, we find ourselves in the autumn of A.D.27, where, as we have seen, the sixty-nine weeks ended, and Christ commenced his public ministry. And going from the crucifixion forward three and a half years, we are brought to the autumn of A.D.34, as the grand terminating point of the whole period of the seventy weeks. This date is marked by the martyrdom of Stephen, the formal rejection of the gospel of Christ by the Jewish Sanhedrin in the persecution of his disciples, and the turning of the apostles to the Gentiles. And these are just the events which one would expect to take place when that specified period which was cut off for the Jews, and allotted to them as a peculiar people, should fully expire. A word respecting the date of the seventh of Artaxerxes, when the decree for restoring Jerusalem was given to Ezra, and the array of evidence on this point is complete. Was the seventh of Artaxerxes B.C.457? For all those who can appreciate the force of facts, the following testimony will be sufficient here:- “The Bible gives the data for a complete system of chronology, extending from the creation to the birth of Cyrus – a clearly ascertained date. From this period downward we have the undisputed canon of Ptolemy, and the undoubted era of Nabonassar, extending below our vulgar era. At the point where inspired chronology leaves us, this canon of undoubted accuracy commences. And thus the whole arch is spanned. It is by the canon of Ptolemy that the great prophetical period of seventy weeks is fixed. This canon is demonstrated by the concurrent agreement of more than twenty eclipses. This date we cannot change from B.C.457, without first demonstrating the inaccuracy of Ptolemy’s
canon. To do this it would be necessary to show that the large number of eclipses by which its accuracy has been repeatedly demonstrated have not been correctly computed; and such a result would unsettle every chronological date, and leave the settlement of epochs and the adjustment of eras entirely at the mercy of every dreamer, so that chronology would be of no more value than mere guesswork. As the seventy weeks must terminate in A.D.34 unless the seventh of Artaxerxes is wrongly fixed, and as that cannot be changed without some evidence to that effect, we inquire, What evidence marked that termination? The time when the apostles turned to the Gentiles harmonizes with that date better than any other which has been named. And the crucifixion in A.D.31, in the midst of the last week, is sustained by a mass of testimony which cannot be easily invalidated.” – Advent Herald. From the facts above set forth, we see that, reckoning the seventy weeks from the decree given to Ezra in the seventh of Artaxerxes, B.C.457, there is the most perfect harmony throughout. The important and definite events of the manifestation of the Messiah at the baptism, the commencement of his public ministry, the crucifixion, and the turning away from the Jews to the Gentiles, with the proclamation of the new covenant, all come in in their exact place, and like a bright galaxy of blazing orbs of light, cluster round to set their seal to the prophecy, and make it sure. It is thus evident that the decree of Ezra in the seventh of Artaxerxes, B.C.457, is the point from which to date the seventy weeks. That was the going forth of the decree in the sense of the prophecy. The two previous decrees were preparatory and preliminary to this; and indeed they are regarded by Ezra as parts of it, the three being taken as one great whole. For in Ezra 6:14, we read: “And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes, king of Persia.” It will be noticed that the decrees of these three kings are spoken of as one, – “the commandment [margin, “decree,” singular number] of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes,” showing that they are all reckoned as a unit, the different decrees being but the successive steps by which the work was accomplished. And this decree could not be said to have “gone forth,” as intended by the prophecy, till the last permission which the prophecy required was embodied in the decree, and clothed with the authority of the empire. This point was reached in the grant given to Ezra, but not before. Here the decree assumed the proportions, and covered the ground, demanded by the prophecy, and from this point its “going forth” must be dated. s
(From the book Daniel and Revelation by U.Smith written in the 1800s. Please note that counting has been done to the best of their ability at that time. That the date can be off with a year or two doesn’t change the prophecy or the accuracy of it, as it has been hard to track the exact dates for events taken place so long ago. There are discussions that Christ died in the year 30 and not 31, or in the year 32. )