Book: The Appointed Times of Jesus the Messiah

Research and Composition by Carl D. Franklin

Introduction

The seventy-week prophecy in the book of Daniel has intrigued scholars and sages down through the centuries. A succession of differing views and interpretations of this prophecy can be found in historical writings dating back to antiquity.

Dr. Gerhard F. Hasel, professor in Old Testament studies, has very aptly described the difficulties involved in attempting to interpret the true meaning of Daniel’s prophetic vision. Dr. Hasel’s survey of literature covering the various interpretations of the prophecy, entitled The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27, was published in 1976 by the Biblical Research Institute of Washington, D.C. In this publication, Dr. Hasel points out that biblical scholars rank this section of Daniel nine among the most complicated passages in Scripture. Hundreds of years of debate have failed to produce a consensus of opinion on the dates for the fulfillment of the prophecy. The only point on which scholars agree is the total number of years designated by the wording in the Hebrew text.

“The passage of Daniel 9:24-27 is a crux interpretum in OT studies. One recent writer summed up his assessment of this passage by pointing out that ‘there is no more intricate problem in Old Testament study than the interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.’… In the trackless wilderness of interpretations there is nevertheless one common denominator. There is virtually unanimous agreement among interpreters of all schools of thought that the phrase ‘seventy weeks’ or literally ‘sevens seventy’ (shabu im shib im) means 490 years” (The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27, p. 5).

There is great variation in the dates that are proposed for the historical fulfillment of the prophecy. Some scholars place the beginning of the fulfillment in 564 BC and some as late as 398 BC. Most scholars favor a beginning date of 457 BC, which falls between the two extremes.

Many churches support the year 457 BC as the beginning of the prophecy because this date agrees with the teaching that the crucifixion of Christ took place in 31 AD. This teaching may appear to fit the Gospel accounts, but it actually conflicts with the scriptural and historical evidence, which establishes 30 AD as the year of the crucifixion. According to the intercalary cycle of the Hebrew Calendar, Passover in 31 AD fell on Monday, which does not fit the chronology in the Gospel accounts. In 30 AD, however, the Passover fell on Wednesday, and an abundance of historical evidence confirms that the crucifixion took place in that year.

One factor that contributed to the erroneous dating of the year of the crucifixion was the application of an alternate intercalary cycle to the Hebrew Calendar, which made it appear that Passover fell on Wednesday in 31 AD. This alternate cycle was at first applied only to the time of Christ and the apostles. Over the years, calculations using this variant cycle were extended to 104 AD, 142 AD, 161 AD and finally 256 AD. In recent decades, however, historical records that previously were not accessible have been translated and published, making it possible to completely disprove the existence of a variant intercalary cycle during the life of Jesus or any period of years after His crucifixion. (See The Calendar of Christ and the Apostles at www.cbcg.org.)

In view of the historical facts, it is evident that the crucifixion could not have occurred in 31 AD. For those who uphold a messianic fulfillment of Daniel 9:24-27, this knowledge is a key element in the chronology of the seventy weeks. The date of the crucifixion serves as a historical marker for determining the beginning of Christ’s ministry, which signified the completion of the sixty-ninth week of the prophecy. Counting backward three and one-half years from the spring of 30 AD leads to a ministry beginning in the fall of 26 AD. This historical date provides a fixed standard for evaluating the accuracy of the various chronologies that have been proposed by scholars in their endeavor to interpret the seventy-week prophecy.

No interpretation of the seventy-week prophecy can be valid unless it gives full consideration to the chronological records that are preserved in the Scriptures. These scriptural facts cannot be ignored or glossed over by explaining them in a way that circumvents their true meaning. They must be accepted and acknowledged as the inspired words of God.

With this perspective, we will examine the evidence that is found in the books of the Old Testament. We will then explain the historical fulfillment of the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy by using the internal evidence in the Hebrew text and the chronology of the kings who reigned in the days of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah.

Part One

Understanding the Fulfillment
Of the Seventy-Week Prophecy

Major events in the unfolding of the seventy-week prophecy are recorded by a number of Old Testament writers. Jeremiah prophesied a period of seventy years of desolation in the land of Judah while the people were held captive in Babylon. The prophet Isaiah foretold the reign of a king named Cyrus who would release the captives and allow them to return to their own land to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.

The fulfillment of these prophesied events is described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra records the decree of Cyrus and the return of more than 40,000 exiles with Zerubbabel, who laid the foundation of the Temple. After construction of the Temple was interrupted for a period of time by persecution from enemies in the surrounding lands, the prophets Haggai and Zephaniah were inspired by God to stir up the people of Judah and Jerusalem to resume work on the Temple. The book of Haggai describes this time and contains a vital message from God to the remnant who were dwelling in the city of Jerusalem. The people responded to the urging of God’s prophets and, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, set to work rebuilding the Temple. A number of years after the completion of the Temple, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem as governor of Judah and led the people in rebuilding the walls of the city. Nehemiah records that his governorship began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 5:14).

In his writings, Ezra declares that he journeyed from Babylon to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:1, 8). Scholars have used this date as a chronological marker for establishing the beginning of the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. However, dating the fulfillment of the prophecy by the reign of Artaxerxes is complicated by the fact that this title was used by more than one king of Persia.

Over the decades, the three kings who used this title as a throne name— Artaxerxes I, Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III—have each found support among scholars as the Artaxerxes of Ezra seven. The general opinion of scholars today is that Ezra’s reference applies to the reign of Artaxerxes I. Some scholars dispute this opinion and identify this king as Darius I, who bore the title Artaxerxes in the century before the three kings who used it as a throne name. It was during the reign of Darius I that the Temple was completed.

Is the Artaxerxes in Ezra seven the same king as the Artaxerxes in Nehemiah’s account? By examining the chronological records in the scriptural accounts, it is possible to identify the Persian kings in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The scriptural and historical facts, like the pieces of a puzzle, provide a complete picture that enables us to understand the true chronology of the events that took place in the historical fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel nine.


The Historical Setting of the Seventy-Week Prophecy

The book of Daniel records that the seventy-week prophecy was delivered “in the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes” (Dan. 9:1). The title Darius was used by a number of Persia kings, but Daniel enables us to identify this king by recording that he began to reign at the time God’s judgment was executed upon Belshazzar, king of Babylon (Dan. 5:22-31).

Historical writings describe this event, which was accomplished by Cyrus the Great. His army invaded Babylon and slew Belshazzar on October 12, 539 BC. Cyrus gave Belshazzar’s throne to his father’s brother, Darius the Mede, while Cyrus himself reigned at Shushan.

The defeat of Babylon marked the end of the seventy years of desolation in Jerusalem and the land of Judah, which Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). The seventy years of desolation extended from 609 BC to 539 BC. Daniel records that he “understood by books” that the seventy years of desolation had come to an end. He had been reading the books of the prophets and was attempting to understand how their inspired writings applied to the events of his day. He knew of Isaiah’s prophecy that a king named Cyrus would “dry up” rivers and conquer a city by entering through “two leaved gates” that would be opened by the hand of God (Isa. 44:27; 45:1). This prophecy was fulfilled when Cyrus and his army diverted the waters of the Euphrates, which flowed through the city of Babylon, and walked down the empty riverbed into the city. As Isaiah had prophesied, the gates that had been built to bar entry by this route were unlocked and wide open.

Knowing that Isaiah’s writings included a prophecy that the same king who conquered Babylon in this manner would also issue a command to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, Daniel began to supplicate God to fulfill this part of the prophecy (Dan. 9:4-19). While he was praying, the angel Gabriel arrived with a commission from God to inform Daniel of the events that would come to pass in Jerusalem from that time to the rule of the Messiah.

Let us examine the prophecy as recorded in Daniel nine, beginning with Daniel’s supplication to God to show favor to His people and the city of Jerusalem. Verses 17-23:

“ ‘And now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and cause Your face to shine upon Your sanctuary that is desolate for the LORD’S sake. O my God, incline Your ear and hear. Open Your eyes and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name. For we do not present our supplications before You on account of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercies. O LORD, hear; O LORD, forgive; O LORD, hearken and do. Do not delay, for Your own sake, O my God; for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.’

“And while 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; yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, came to me, about the time of the evening sacrifice. And he made me to understand, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the word went forth, and I have come to declare it, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word, and understand the vision.’ ”

These words of Gabriel show that the seventy-week prophecy was given to impart understanding to Daniel. This was not a prophecy to remain sealed until the end of the age (Dan. 12:9-10). Its fulfillment would begin to take place in that very year. The following verses in Daniel nine describe the sequence of events that would come to pass during its fulfillment. Note that these events are all centered at Jerusalem and the Temple.

Seventy weeks are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city to finish the transgression and to make an end of sin, 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. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, to Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks. It shall be built again with streets and the wall, even in troublous times. And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself. And the people of the prince who shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. But his end shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate even until the consummation. And the fully determined end which is decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator” (verses 24-27).

In verse 24, the seventy-week prophecy is summed up as a whole. The following verses describe the division of the seventy weeks into three distinct periods: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks and one week. The words “weeks” and “week” in these verses are translated from the Hebrew shabua, which is a unit of time composed of seven years. These units of time, known today as heptads, were used by ancient Israel to calculate the sabbatical years. The use of shabua in the Hebrew text signifies that the seventy weeks are not literal weeks of seven days’ duration, but are each composed of seven years. Thus the three divisions of weeks in the prophecy add up to a total of 490 years.

Verse 24 states that these 490 years are “determined” for specific events to take place in the city of Jerusalem in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. The Hebrew verb that is translated “determined” may also be translated “divided” and includes the definition of “cut” or “cut off.” In modern terminology, this verb might be translated “marked out.” The basic meaning is that these prophetic “weeks” are time periods of years “cut out” by God in the course of history. The prophecy does not state whether these three periods are separated from each other by intervening years, but the Hebrew verbs do convey that potential; moreover, the historical fulfillment of the first two periods of weeks establishes that idea as factual.

The first period of seven weeks, or 49 years, was prophesied to begin with “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” That proclamation was issued by Cyrus the Great in 539 BC, which was the same year that Daniel received the vision. The vision of the seventy weeks announced the intervention of God to bring the remnant of Judah back to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple and to again dwell in the land. All these events were necessary in order for the birth of the Messiah to take place in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophets (Micah 5:2; Isa. 9:6-7).

Even before the decree was issued, the hand of God had begun to guide the course of history in the powerful kingdoms that surrounded the land of Judah. This divine intervention is recorded in the book of Esther.


How Events in the Book of Esther
Relate to the Seventy-Week Prophecy

Most scholars place the events in the book of Esther many years after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus II (the Great). According to scholars, the events that are recorded in the book of Esther did not take place until the reign of Xerxes I (485-464 BC), who was engaged in war against Greece.

To the contrary, the scriptural account of these events portrays a period of peace in the Persian Empire when it was favorable to hold an extended feast and celebrate for several months (Esther 1:1-9). Furthermore, the book of Esther records that Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, who had taken Esther into his care after the death of her parents, was among the captives who were taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jeconiah, king of Judah (Esther 2:5-7). This captivity took place in 597 BC, which was the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings 24:11-16).

Since Mordecai was born before 597 BC, he would have been well over 100 years old when the reign of Xerxes I began. This chronology is not within the realm of possibility, considering that Esther, the daughter of Mordecai’s uncle, was a young virgin in the third year of the king (Esther 1:3; 2:3, 8). As her cousin, Mordecai could not have been more than 40-45 years old. Thus the chronological records limit the dating of the events in the book of Esther to a period from the 590s BC to the 550s BC. These were the years that led to the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus II (the Great).

Scholars object to placing the time of Esther before Cyrus the Great as they believe that he was the first Persian king to reign in Shushan, which was the center of rule of the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this is the Ahasuerus who reigned from India even to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces), in those days, when King Ahasuerus sat upon the throne of his kingdom in Shushan the palace…” (Esther 1:1-2).

Contrary to the opinion of scholars, historical records of the wars of the kings of the Medes reveal that Shushan came under the dominion of the kingdom of Media during the reigns of the ancestors of Cyrus the Great. These records of Median history date to the 580s BC, more than forty years before Cyrus II conquered Babylon. At that time, the Median king, Cyaxares, was engaged in war against the kingdom of Lydia. These events are described in Olmstead’s History of the Persian Empire (page 33).

Since the road to the south was closed by the alliance with the Chaldean, who also held Susa [Shushan], Cyaxares followed the Zagros as it bends westward into the cold uplands of Armenia, where other Iranian bands had destroyed the kingdom of Haldia and introduced their own Indo- European speech. The fertile valleys of Armenia led down through the Anti-Taurus into the broad plains of Cappadocia and to the river Halys, frontier of Lydia. Five years of warfare ended in a drawn battle at the time of a solar eclipse (May 28, 585) and a peace by which the Halys remained the boundary.”

Olmstead declares that when Cyaxares attacked Lydia in the 580s BC, Susa (Shushan) was held by the Chaldean ruler of Babylon. Cyaxares had made an alliance with Babylon and had given his daughter in marriage to the Chaldean ruler. Cyaxares therefore bypassed Susa (Shushan) and set out to make war against Lydia. When the truce with Lydia was reached in 585 BC, Susa (Shushan) was apparently still ruled by Babylon.

How and when did Shushan become the palace of the Medo-Persian kings?

The works of Dr. Hugo Winckler help to shed light on this question. Dr. Winckler was able to translate the cuneiform and Parsee inscriptions of the ancient Middle East and was recognized as a leading authority of his day. His writings give much insight into the relationship between Media and Chaldea in that period of history. He reveals that when Cyaxares advanced toward Lydia through the Elamite province of Susiana, there was a strong alliance between the Medes and the Chaldeans. Cyaxares, king of Media, and Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, had together battled the Assyrians and conquered the city of Nineveh. In addition, Cyaxares had given his daughter in marriage to Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar.

When the truce with Lydia was established in 585 BC, the alliance became threefold—with Media the leading power and Lydia and Babylon in secondary roles. As agreed in the truce, the boundary of Lydia remained intact. However, all the area of Susiana through which Cyaxares had traveled to reach Lydia came under his rule. As Susa (Shushan) was the capital of Susiana, it came under the dominion of the Medes at this time.

According to Olmstead, the date of the solar eclipse that led to the truce between Media and Lydia was May 28, 585 BC. In searching for astronomical verification of a solar eclipse visible from the Halys River region of Lydia/Cappadocia on that date, I found a NASA publication describing this eclipse in great detail. The event was a total solar eclipse that undoubtedly brought an instantaneous halt to all action on the battlefield. NASA records that the eclipse lasted 6 minutes and 4 seconds. It began around 5:45 PM, covered a total width of 271 kilometers, and was best seen at latitude 38.2N and longitude 45.0W—a grid stretching for many miles on all sides of the armies engaged in combat along the Halys River. Jupiter could be clearly seen to the immediate northwest of the eclipsed sun. By 6:45 the sun had set.

The record of this eclipse confirms May 28, 585 BC, as the date of the truce that ended five years of war between the kingdoms of Media and Lydia. This date, which falls during the period of time that has been established for the events in the book of Esther (590s to 550s BC), can be used to determine the identity of the king in the scriptural account. The three kings who ruled during this period were Cyaxares, Astyages and Cyrus II (the Great). Archaeological records of the genealogy of Cyrus the Great and Darius I enable the exact years of the reigns of these kings to be determined.

In the Cylinder of Cyrus II, found at Babylon, Cyrus the Great declares his genealogy:

I am Cyrus, king of the world, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world, son of Cambyses, the great king, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, king of the city of Anshan; great-grandson of Teispes, the great king, king of the city of Anshan.”

This record of Cyrus’s ancestry includes his great-grandfather Teispes, his grandfather Cyrus (I) and his father Cambyses (I). By comparing the genealogy of Cyrus II with the genealogy of Darius I, it is possible to link these Persian kingly names with the names used by Herodotus.

In the Behistun inscription, Darius Hystaspes (Darius I) declares his genealogy as follows: “I am Darius, the great king, king of kings, the king of Persia, the king of countries, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of Arsames, the Achaeminid.”

In three additional statements, King Darius says: “My father is Hystaspes; the father of Hystaspes was Arsames; the father of Arsames was Ariaramnes; the father of Ariaramnes was Teispes; the father of Teispes was Achaemenes.” “That is why we are called Achaemenids; from antiquity we have been noble; from antiquity has our dynasty been royal.” “Eight of my dynasty were kings before me; I am the ninth. Nine in succession we have been kings.”

The ancestry of Darius I listed from the earliest down to his father are his great-great-great grandfather Achaemenes, his great-greatgrandfather Teispes, his great-grandfather Ariaramnes, his grandfather Arsames, and his father Hystaspes.

According to the records of Cyrus II and Darius I, Teispes was a common ancestor. Below is a chart showing the synchronized genealogies of Cyrus II and Darius I. Note Herodotus’ record of the nine generations in Darius’ lineage, beginning with Sosarmus of the House of Arbacus.

As illustrated in the above chart, the Astyages of Herodotus’ account is Cambyses I, the son of Cyrus I (Cyaxares). The reign of Cyaxares (Cyrus I) extended from 624 BC to 584 BC. The third year of his reign was 621 BC, more than twenty years before the captivity of 597 BC in which Mordecai was taken to Babylon. Thus, it was not possible for Cyaxares (Cyrus I) to be the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther.

Cyrus I (Cyaxares) was succeeded by his son Cambyses I (Astyages). Cambyses I ascended to the throne in 584 BC. If Mordecai had been a young man in his twenties when he was taken captive in 597 BC, he would have been about forty years of age in the third year of Cambyses I. This fits the time frame that has been established by the chronological records in the book of Esther. The reign of his son Cyrus II (the Great) does not fit the time frame as Mordecai would have been too old to be a cousin to the young Esther. Thus, the scriptural and historical evidence points to Cambyses I as the Ahasuerus of the time of Esther.

It is evident that Cambyses I is both the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther and the Astyages of Herodotus’ account. Herodotus records that when Media made peace with Lydia in 585 BC, the Lydian princess Aryenis was given in marriage to Astyages (Cambyses I), son of Cyaxares (Cyrus I), to seal the peace between the two kingdoms. We may conclude that Aryenis is the Vashti of the book of Esther. Cambyses I removed her from being queen in 581 BC, the third year of his reign (Esther 1:3, 19). He became the husband of Esther in 577 BC, the seventh year of his reign (Esther 2:16-17).

It is possible that Vashti gave birth to Cyrus during her three years as queen. It is also possible that Cyrus was born to Esther, who was queen for many more years than Vashti. In view of the prophecies concerning Cyrus, it would seem logical to conclude that he was the son of Esther. If not, as a young prince he would nevertheless have grown up under the influence of Queen Esther, who reigned during his formative years. It is evident that he was acquainted with the history of Judah when he came to the throne, as his proclamation to rebuild Jerusalem was made in the first year of his reign.

The book of Esther does not make any reference to the birth of Cyrus. It does record the attempt of Haman to destroy the Jewish exiles before Cyrus came to the throne. This conspiracy was undoubtedly inspired by Satan to wipe out the line of Judah, from which the Messiah was prophesied to come. Knowing that such attempts would be made, God had intervened in advance by guiding the events that led to Esther being chosen by the king to replace Vashti. When Haman’s plot became known, God intervened by giving Esther wisdom in how to approach the king and by granting her favor in the eyes of the king. As a result, Haman’s murderous plot was thwarted and the evil he had desired to inflict on the Jews came back on his own head. Without the intervention of God to preserve His people, there would have been no remnant to return to the land of Judah when the proclamation was issued by Cyrus.

The book of Ezra begins with a description of the proclamation of Cyrus, which marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel nine.

Part Two

The Beginning of the Seventy Weeks
As Recorded by Ezra

In his account of Cyrus’ decree, Ezra focuses on the rebuilding of the Temple. As a descendant of the high priests, his principle concerns were the preservation of the law of God and the restoration of the Temple service. In reading the account in Ezra chapter one, it is important to remember that the decree also included the restoration of the city of Jerusalem (Isa. 44:28). This was part of the prophecy that God had given through Isaiah.

“And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the Word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might he fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. And He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel—He is the God Who is in Jerusalem” ’ ” (Ezra 1:1-3).

The first year of Cyrus II (the Great) by Persian reckoning was 539 BC. Cyrus II’s reign over Babylon extended from 539 BC to 529 BC. Despite his royal decree to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem, there was great persecution against the Jews who were engaged in the work. The conspiracy to hinder the Jews’ effort to rebuild the Temple is recorded in Ezra 4:1-5. “And when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the exile were building the temple to the LORD God of Israel, then they came to Zerubbabel and to the chief of the fathers, and said to them, ‘Let us build with you, for we seek your God, even as you. And we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.’

“But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said to them, ‘You have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God. But we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.’ Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building. And they hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

This period of persecution spanned the reigns of three kings: Cyrus II, Cambyses II and Darius I. Cambyses II, the only king who reigned between Cyrus II and Darius I, is referred to in Ezra 4:6 by the title Ahasuerus. “And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.”

The remaining verses in Ezra 4 describe the persecution that took place during the reign of Darius I. In verse 7, Darius is referred to by the title Artaxerxes.

“And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel and the rest of their companions, wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. Now the letter was written in the Syrian tongue and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this way. Then wrote Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, the judges, and the emissaries, the consuls, the officials, the Erechites, the Babylonians, Elamites of Susa, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar brought over and set in the cities of Samaria, and in the rest of the province beyond the River—and now, this is the copy of the letter which they sent to him, to Artaxerxes the king:

“ ‘Your servants the men of the province beyond the River, and so now, let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have come to Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and the evil city, and have set up its walls, and have joined the foundations. Let it be known to the king that if this city is built and the walls set up, then they will not pay toll, taxes, or custom, and you shall endanger the revenue of the kings. Now because we have eaten the salt of the palace, and it was not right for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore we have sent and notified the king, so that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers, and you shall find in the book of the records, and shall know that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition in it in the past, for which cause that city was destroyed. We notify the king that if this city is built and the walls of it set up, then you shall have no portion beyond the River’ ” (Ezra 4:7-16).

Ezra’s record of the letter that was sent to Artaxerxes (Darius I) from the Jews’ enemies demonstrates that the Jews in Jerusalem were engaged in building not only the Temple but also the walls of the city. This detailed record confirms that the decree of Cyrus included the restoration of the city of Jerusalem as well as the Temple, exactly as prophesied by Isaiah.

After receiving the letter, Artaxerxes (Darius I) ordered a search of the archives to determine whether the charges against Jerusalem were valid. Finding that there had been a history of rebellion against former kings who had gained dominion over Jerusalem, he ordered a stop to the rebuilding of the city.

“The king sent an answer to Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the rest beyond the River: ‘Peace! And now, the letter which you sent to us has been plainly read before me. And I decreed, and search has been made, and it is found that this city has risen up against kings in the past, and rebellion and revolt have been made in it. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the country beyond the River. And toll, taxes, and custom were paid to them. Now make a decree to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not built until the decree shall be given from me. And take heed that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings?’

“And when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they hurried to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them cease by force and power. Then the work of the house of God at Jerusalem ceased. So it ceased to the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (verses 17-24).

The decree of Artaxerxes (Darius I) caused all construction in Jerusalem to cease, the work on the Temple as well as the work on the wall. As no further work was done until the second year of Darius, it is evident that he had received the letter from the Jews’ enemies in the first year of his reign, which was 521 BC.

Construction on the Temple and the wall was halted from 521 to 520 BC. In 520 BC, God inspired the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir up the people to finish rebuilding the Temple, and they set to work. Their opponents immediately reported to Darius that the Jews were again building in Jerusalem and were claiming that this work was authorized by Cyrus, king of Babylon. After a search of the archives in Babylon revealed the decree of Cyrus, Darius ordered the Jews’ enemies to cease from their opposition. The rebuilding of the Temple then proceeded without interruption.

Ezra records that the Temple was completed and dedicated on Adar 3 in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6:15), which was 515 BC. Adar was the twelfth and last month of the year. Thus the Temple was set up in time for the observance of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the first month of the new year. This observance, recorded in Ezra 6:19-22, is followed by the account in Ezra seven of Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem. Note the words that begin verse one. “Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the priest the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah…” (Ezra 7:1).

This phrase reveals the chronological sequence of events, but it does not indicate the length of time that passed between these events. In reading this passage, it might appear that a very short period of time elapsed between the events in this chapter and the preceding chapter. However, similar chapter breaks can be found in the book of Ezra where the events were separated by a number of years.

Some scholars propose that the Artaxerxes of Ezra seven was Darius I. If this were the case, Ezra would have arrived in Jerusalem a few months after the completion of the Temple. This timing might appear to be logical as he brought with him many priests and Levites to serve at the Temple and many vessels for the Temple service. However, dating Ezra’s arrival to the seventh year of Darius I is contradicted by the book of Nehemiah, which records that Ezra was in Jerusalem during the year that the wall of the city was dedicated (Neh. 12:27, 36). Nehemiah’s account of the building of the wall reveals that the Temple was in service before the wall was completed (Neh. 6:10-15). The Temple was finished in the sixth year of Artaxerxes (Darius I), but Nehemiah’s work on the wall did not begin until the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 5:14). Since the building of the wall followed the restoration of the Temple, the earliest that the building of the wall could have begun is the twentieth year of Darius I. It is therefore not valid to interpret the seventh year of the Artaxerxes of Ezra seven as the seventh year of Darius I.

In order to determine the identity of the Artaxerxes who ruled Persia when Ezra made his journey to Jerusalem, we must first establish the chronology of the events in Nehemiah’s account. In his account, Nehemiah records that Ezra was present in Jerusalem for an observance of the fall festival season as well as for the dedication of the wall. The details Nehemiah provides in his account of those days make it possible to determine the period of time Ezra was in Jerusalem.

As we read Nehemiah’s account, it is important to understand that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book. Although they are now separate books, some of the accounts in the two books are similar, giving different perspectives of the same events, as in the issue of intermarriage with foreigners. This similarity is most obvious in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s accounts of the exiles who returned with Zerubbabel, as the wording in the two accounts is nearly identical. The fact that the two books record some of the same events is helpful in determining the order of events in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s accounts.

Examining the Chronological Records in The Book of Nehemiah

The events that are recorded in the book of Nehemiah begin in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh. 1:1; 2:1). In that year, Nehemiah received a report that the wall of Jerusalem was still broken down, leaving the city open to attack. The exiles who had returned to the land of Judah were in great affliction (Neh. 1:2-3). Grieved by this news, Nehemiah set himself to fast and pray, supplicating God to show mercy to His people. In his prayers, Nehemiah also asked God to grant him favor in the eyes of the king as he requested permission to leave his duties in Persia and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall (verses 5-11).

God answered Nehemiah’s prayers and moved the king to appoint him governor of Judah and to grant him all the materials that were needed for rebuilding the wall (Neh. 2:6-8). Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem in the company of the king’s guards and delivered the king’s authorization to the governors of the lands bordering Judah (verse 9). Before speaking to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, he surveyed every section of the wall of the city to assess the extent of the damage (verses 12-16).

Nehemiah chapter three records the beginning of the construction and gives a detailed list of the men who set to work on the wall, beginning with the priests who were living in Jerusalem. The fact that there were many priests in the city confirms that the building of the wall was begun after the return of Zerubbabel and the restoration of the Temple. If the priests had not been serving at the Temple and receiving tithes of the produce of the land, they would have had no means of sustenance and would not have been dwelling in the city of Jerusalem. (This fact is confirmed by Nehemiah 13:10.) Additional evidence that the Temple was in service is found in Nehemiah 6, which records Sanballat’s plot to deceive Nehemiah into seeking sanctuary at the Temple (verses 10-12).

Nehemiah’s list of the builders of the wall also shows that goldsmiths, apothecaries and merchants were dwelling in Jerusalem (Neh. 3:8, 32). These were not the poor of the land whom Nebuchadnezzar had left behind when he carried the people of Judah captive to Babylon (II Kings 25:8- 12). Thus there is an abundance of evidence to confirm that the building of the wall took place after the return of Zerubbabel and the exiles.

As recorded in the book of Ezra, the return of Zerubbabel took place in the year that the proclamation of Cyrus was issued, which was 539 BC. Cyrus appointed Zerubbabel governor of Judah and commissioned him to rebuild the Temple. The materials that were needed were ordered upon his arrival in Jerusalem, and the laying of the foundation began in the spring of 538 BC.

The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah show that Zerubbabel was still serving as governor of Judah in 515 BC when the Temple was completed (Hag. 1:1, 14; 2:1-4; Zech. 4:9). It is evident that Zerubbabel’s years as governor extended for a period of time after the completion of the Temple, as Nehemiah records that tithes were brought to the Temple storehouses “in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah” (Neh. 12:47). The order of the two names in this record confirms that Nehemiah’s governorship followed that of Zerubbabel.

The scriptural account gives no indication that an interim of years passed between Zerubbabel’s governorship and Nehemiah’s governorship. To the contrary, other records in the book of Nehemiah indicate that there was no lapse of time between the two. Let us examine the account in Nehemiah 12, which records the names of the high priests who served at Jerusalem from the beginning of the return under Zerubbabel (see Supplement One, p. 186).

The first high priest to serve after the return from exile was Joshua (spelled Jeshua in Nehemiah 12:1). Joshua, who is named in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, returned with Zerubbabel and served as high priest during Zerubbabel’s years as governor (Neh. 7:7; Ezra 3:8; 5:2; Hag. 1:1; 2:4). As high priests served until death, the number of years that each one served may be estimated by using the generational difference, which is 30- 35 years. By this calculation, Joshua would have served until about 505 BC. He was succeeded by his son Joiakim.

Nehemiah 12 lists the names of the priests who served with Joshua (verses 1-7) and the names of their sons, the next generation of priests, who served with Joshua’s son Joiakim (verses 12-21). These records are most significant in view of Nehemiah’s closing words in this passage. “These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe” (Neh. 12:26).

There is no mistaking the identity of the three who are named in this verse. Although the names Nehemiah and Ezra can be found in reference to other individuals in the scriptural accounts, the titles that accompany the names in this record are explicit and establish beyond any doubt that Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the governor were contemporary with Joiakim and the priests who served during his high priesthood. A comparison of the names of the priests in verses 8 and 9 with the names in verses 24 and 25 verifies that some of the priests who served with Joshua continued to serve during the priesthood of Joiakim. Other verses in Nehemiah’s account reveal that some of the priests who served with Joiakim continued to serve in the high priesthood of his son Eliashib. This overlapping of priests from one high priesthood to the next is due to the fact that the priests began serving when they were thirty years old whereas the high priests were about twice that age when they took office. (The high priesthood was passed from father to son upon the death of the high priest who held the office.) Like some of the priests who served with Joiakim, Ezra and Nehemiah lived to see the high priesthood of Joiakim’s son Eliashib (Neh. 13:28).

These scriptural records leave no room to place Ezra or Nehemiah in the reign of Artaxerxes I or any king who followed him. None of the priests who had outlived Joshua to serve under Joiakim would have lived to see the seventh year of Artaxerxes I. The fact that a number of them were alive in the days of Nehemiah limits the events in his book to a period extending from the high priesthood of Joiakim to the high priesthood of Eliashib.

The scriptural accounts indicate that Nehemiah came to Jerusalem shortly after Joiakim’s high priesthood began, which would place Nehemiah’s arrival about 500 BC (based on the estimated time of Joshua’s death). Historical records of the reigns of the Persian kings reveal that Darius I, during whose reign the Temple was completed, was still ruling Persia at this time. In fact, the twentieth year of his reign was 502 BC, which coincides with the time frame that has been established by the scriptural accounts. It is therefore evident that Darius I is the Artaxerxes of the book of Nehemiah. Darius I, the king who appointed Nehemiah governor of Judah, remained on the throne during the entire twelve years of Nehemiah’s governorship, which extended from 502 BC to 490 BC.

During his years as governor, Nehemiah succeeded in accomplishing his mission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The subversive devices of Sanballat and his cohorts, which continued through all the years of building, had hindered the workers but failed to stop the work (Neh. 4).

Nehemiah 6 records the last attempts of Sanballat to prevent the completion of the construction. At that time, the wall was finished but the gates were not yet in place (verse 1). Sanballat immediately set about to keep Jerusalem from being enclosed. He knew that the gates could be closed and locked to keep him and his companions out. The people of Jerusalem had been open to his influence for many years, and he did not want to lose his position of power.

Sanballat made four attempts to draw Nehemiah away from the work, but Nehemiah was wise to his devices and declined to meet with him (verses 2-4). Sanballat then threatened to make accusations against Nehemiah to the king. Nehemiah responded that these accusations had been invented in Sanballat’s own mind (verses 5-9). Nehemiah refused to be intimidated even by a threat against his life (verses 10-12). He did not allow any of Sanballat’s conspiracies to interfere with the work of setting up the gates. The work continued, and fifty-two days from the time that the wall was finished, all the gates were in place (verses 1, 15). The account states that the work was completed on Elul 25 but does not specify the year. It could not have been later than the tenth year of Nehemiah’s governorship as in his eleventh and twelfth years Elul 25 fell on the weekly Sabbath.

Nehemiah seven records that when the gates were in place, Hanani and Hananiah were put in charge of the city and entrusted with overseeing the opening and closing of the gates. They were also responsible for setting watches to ensure the safety of the inhabitants (verses 1-3).

As the end of Nehemiah’s governorship approached, the Temple was in service and the city was protected by a secure wall, but the restoration of Jerusalem was not yet complete. The houses that were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and his army had not been rebuilt. Nehemiah 7 describes the condition of Jerusalem. “And the city was large and great, but the people in it were few, and the houses not built” (verse 4).

At this time, God inspired Nehemiah to take a census of the people by genealogy for the purpose of resettling a portion of them in the city of Jerusalem. “And my God put into my heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, so that they might be counted by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who came up at the first…” (verse 5).

The remaining verses in Nehemiah seven record the family names of the exiles who had returned with Zerubbabel, and the number from each family. The total number of exiles was 42,360. Many in this number were aged when they returned from exile (Ezra 3:12) and had died in the years of Zerubbabel’s governorship. Others, who were younger at the time of their return, had married and added new descendants to their family lines.

When the census was complete, one tenth of the people who were dwelling in cities throughout the land of Judah were selected by lot to become inhabitants of Jerusalem. This event is described in Nehemiah 11, verses 1-2. “And the rulers of the people lived at Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine parts in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to live at Jerusalem.”

In listing those who dwelt in Jerusalem, Nehemiah records that Seraiah, who had served in the high priesthood of Joshua, was “the ruler of the house of God” (verse 11). His name is also listed in the record of the covenant that was made by the people (Neh. 10:2). These records add to the evidence that limits the events in the book of Nehemiah to a few decades after the high priesthood of Joshua.

When those who were selected to dwell in Jerusalem had built their houses, the restoration of the city was complete. This event was the final act in the fulfillment of Cyrus’ proclamation as prophesied by Isaiah. “[I am the LORD] Who makes the word of His servant sure, and makes good the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘She shall have people;’… Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and shall do all My pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built;” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid” ’ ” (Isa. 44:26, 28).

When Nehemiah returned to the king at the end of his governorship, the first division of the seventy-week prophecy was complete. The fulfillment of the “seven weeks” (seven heptads, which equates to 7 x 7 years) had begun in the first year of Cyrus and had ended in the thirty-second year of Darius I, which was the year that Nehemiah’s governorship ended. This period of time extended from 539 BC to 490 BC, which is exactly 49 years. The following chart illustrates the sequence of events that took place in the fulfillment of the 49 years.

A number of years after the end of Nehemiah’s governorship, Ezra made his journey to Jerusalem with a large company of priests, Levites and Nethinim for the Temple service. What were the circumstances that moved Ezra to bring these priests and assistants to Jerusalem at that time? The answer is revealed in Nehemiah’s account of the decadence that the people of Jerusalem fell into after he left. The sins of the people are recorded in Nehemiah 13.

“And before this, Eliashib the priest, who was set over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for himself a large room where they formerly laid the grain offering, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the offerings of the priests. But in all this time I was not at Jerusalem, for in the thirtysecond year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon, I came to the king. And after some days I asked permission to leave the king.

“And I came to Jerusalem and understood the evil which Eliashib did for Tobiah in preparing him a room in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me very much. And I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded, and they cleansed the rooms. And there I brought again the vessels of the house of God with the grain offering and the frankincense. And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them; for the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had gone back, each one to his field” (verses 4-10).

This passage in Nehemiah’s account shows that the Levites and singers were not carrying out their duties at the Temple. They had been forced to leave because the people had stopped bringing tithes to the Temple. The following passage confirms that the worship of God at the Temple had ceased and the Temple was no longer in service: “And I contended with the rulers and said, ‘Why is the house of God forsaken?’ And I gathered them together and set them in their place. And all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil into the treasuries” (verses 11-12).

Nehemiah contended with the rulers because it was their responsibility to oversee the collection of the tithes from the people. After ensuring that the Temple storehouses would be replenished, he gathered the Levites and singers together and set them in their places at the Temple. Since they could not remain at the Temple to serve unless they were receiving their daily portions of the tithes, Nehemiah put faithful men in charge of the storehouses to distribute the portions. “And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah. And next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute to their brethren” (verse 13).

Nehemiah’s account of the forsaking of the Temple service shows the deplorable condition that had come about during his absence. He does not specify the number of years that had passed since his governorship ended, but it is evident that it was a relatively short period of years as Hanan, a descendant of Mattaniah, was among the Levites appointed over the storehouses. Hanan’s grandfather Mattaniah is listed among the Levites who served in the high priesthood of Joshua (Neh. 12:8). This places Hanan in the generation of Levites who began serving in the last years of Joiakim and continued to serve in the high priesthood of Eliashib. The account of the falling away indicates that Eliashib held the office of high priest when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem although this is not specifically stated. (Even before he held the office, the title was applied to his name to distinguish him from other priests in the scriptural accounts who were named Eliashib. See Nehemiah 3:1, 20 and Ezra 10:24, 27, 36.)

The above verses in Nehemiah 13 describe the steps that Nehemiah took to restore the worship of God at the Temple. His account of the restoration of the Temple service reveals the reason for the entourage that Ezra brought to Jerusalem. Ezra records that he assembled a large number of priests to travel with him to the land of Judah (Ezra 8:1-14). When a roll call showed that no Levites were among the number, he sent a request to the chief men in Babylon to provide Levites and Nethinim to accompany him to Jerusalem (verses 15-17). Ezra’s purpose was to bring a good number of faithful priests and assistants to ensure that the daily performance of the Temple service would continue throughout the year.

The account in Ezra eight records that Ezra also brought vessels for the Temple service, which were weighed into the hand of Meremoth by the priests who had carried them to Jerusalem (verses 26-34). Meremoth is listed in Nehemiah 12:3 as one of the priests who had served in the days of Joshua. Verse 15 shows that he continued to serve in the days of Joiakim, as did his son. (Meremoth, in verse 3, and Meraioth, in verse 15, are translated from the same Hebrew word (Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, page 599).

After delivering the vessels to the priests at the Temple, Ezra delivered the commissions he had received from the king to the governors of the adjoining lands (Ezra 8:36). These commissions are described in Ezra 7:21- 24. The governors responded to the king’s commands by furnishing all the supplies that were needed for performing the Temple service.

The final chapters in the book of Ezra cover the issue of intermarriage with foreign wives. Ezra nine records the report that Ezra received from the princes of Judah, and the astonishment that struck him when he learned that this grievous sin had been committed by a great number of the people, including many of the rulers (verses 1-2). Overcome with grief, he tore his clothing and pulled out his hair (verse 3). After recovering from the shock of their blatant disobedience to God’s commands, he fell to his knees and prayed, confessing to God the great sin of the remnant who had been delivered from captivity (verses 5-15). Too ashamed to enter the house of God, Ezra wept and prayed outside in plain view of the people. The response of the crowd who gathered around him shows that many of the people had begun to repent of their sin. “Now while Ezra prayed, and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there gathered to him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children, for the people wept with a great weeping” (Ezra 10:1).

The following verses in Ezra 10 record the words of Shechaniah, a priest of the line of Elam. As a priest, he understood that the sin of intermarriage was a matter for the high priesthood to resolve. The high priest Eliashib, whose own grandson was guilty of intermarriage, had failed in his responsibility to enforce the commands of God. Although Ezra did not hold the office of high priest, he was a descendant of the high priests. The sin of intermarriage needed to be corrected, and Ezra was the one to whom the responsibility had fallen.

“And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, answered and said to Ezra, ‘We have been unfaithful to our God and have married strange women from the people of the land. Yet now there is hope for Israel concerning this thing. And now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the women, and such as have been born of them, according to the counsel of the LORD, and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God. And let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter belongs to you. We also will be with you. Be of good courage and do it.’ Then Ezra arose and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel to swear that they would do according to this word. And they swore” (Ezra 10:2-5).

Ezra’s account of Shechaniah’s words is significant in that it links the events in Ezra 10 with the covenant that is recorded in Nehemiah 9 and 10. The date of the covenant is recorded in the first verse of Nehemiah 9. “And on the twenty-fourth day of this month, the children of Israel were gathered with fasting and with sackcloth, and with earth upon them.”

The covenant was made on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month—two days after the last holy day of the fall festival season. The observance of the holy days is recorded in Nehemiah 8. On the first holy day, the Feast of Trumpets, Ezra began to read the Book of the Law to the people (verses 2-3). It is evident that God’s commands concerning intermarriage were read to them because the people wept after hearing the law (verses 8- 9). They were forbidden to weep on that day, however, as it was a day for rejoicing (verses 9-12). They then began to rejoice and continued to rejoice for the remaining days of the festival season (verses 13-18).

After the festival season had ended, they gathered together to confess their sins. Nehemiah nine records their repentance and the prayers of the Levites for God’s mercy to be showed to His people. “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (verse 2).

The sin of intermarriage was foremost in the minds of the people at this time. Many who had intermarried had already put away their foreign wives, but the process of separation was not yet complete. This fact is demonstrated by the use of the imperfective verb in the Hebrew text. The imperfective form is used for action that is in progress.

The Book of the Law was read on that day, and the people continued to confess as they learned of other commands they had violated (verse 3). The Levites led the people in the worship of God (verses 4-5). As in former times of national repentance, the great mercy of God was extolled in prayer, beginning with the deliverance of His people from their bondage in Egypt (verses 6-12). The prayer of the Levites described the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai and the sustenance that God had provided during the forty years in the wilderness (verses 13-21). Their prayers also recounted the victories that God had given His people in order that they might inherit the land (verses 22-25), and the disobedience and rebellion of the people when they had enjoyed the abundance of the land for many years (verses 26-31).

After praising God for His great mercies despite their many transgressions against His laws, the Levites appealed to Him to extend mercy once more as they pledged to be faithful in keeping His commandments. The last verse in Nehemiah nine records the initiation of the covenant to which they bound themselves by an oath. “And because of all this we are making a sure covenant and writing it, and our princes, Levites, and priests are sealing it” (verse 38).

This is the covenant that is described in the account in Ezra 10 of Shechaniah’s words, which encouraged Ezra to take action to resolve the problem of intermarriage. The oath that Ezra bound upon the people is the oath of the covenant that is recorded in Nehemiah 10.

“And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all those who had separated from the people of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters (everyone who had knowledge, and who had understanding), they have joined with their brethren, their nobles, and have entered into a curse and into an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe to do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; and that we would not give our daughters to the people of the land nor take their daughters for our sons” (verses 28-30).

These verses in Nehemiah’s account record the pledge of the people to obey God’s command forbidding intermarriage. However, the account in the book of Ezra makes it clear that the oath of the covenant was a pledge not only to refrain from future intermarriage but also to separate from foreign wives in existing marriages (Ezra 10:2-5).

The book of Ezra describes the process of separation, which took three months to complete. Although the covenant was made in the seventh month, the process of separation did not begin until the first day of the tenth month (Ezra 10:16). The reason for the delay is that after the fall festival season ended, the rains began and continued through the eighth and ninth months (verses 9 and 13). These two months were the time for planting barley and wheat for the next year’s harvest. By the tenth month, the planting was finished and the process of separation could begin. To aid in understanding the events that are recorded in the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah concerning the issue of intermarriage, a harmony of the two separate accounts is presented below.

The Prayer of the Levites
Nehemiah 9:4-37

“And Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Chenani stood upon the stairs of the Levites and cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God. And the Levites, Jeshua, and Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said: ‘Stand up and bless the LORD your God forever and ever. And blessed be Your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. You, even You, are LORD alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of the heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things upon it, the seas and all in them, and You preserve them all. And the host of heaven worships You. You are the LORD, the God Who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name of Abraham, and found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it to his seed. And You have performed Your words, for You are righteous.

“ ‘And You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders upon Pharaoh and upon all his servants and upon all the people of his land, for You knew that they were acting arrogantly against them. So You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day. And You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea upon the dry land. And their pursuers You hurled into the deep, like a stone into the mighty waters. And You led them in the day by a pillar of cloud, and in the night by a pillar of fire to give them light in the way in which they should go. And You came down on Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them just ordinances and laws of truth, good statutes and commandments. And You made known to them Your holy Sabbath and provided them commandments, statutes, and a law, by the hand of Moses Your servant. And You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst. And You told them that they should go in to possess the land which You had lifted up your hand to give them.

“ ‘But they and our fathers acted proudly and hardened their necks, and did not hearken to Your commandments. And they refused to obey; neither were they mindful of Your wonders which You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage. But You are a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and did not forsake them. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, “This is your god who brought you up out of Egypt,” and had worked great provocations, yet You in Your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from before them by day to lead them in the way, nor the pillar of fire by night to show them light and the way in which they should go.

“ ‘You also gave Your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth, and gave them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years You sustained them in the wilderness. They lacked nothing; their clothes did not become old, and their feet did not swell. And You gave them kingdoms and people, and divided them into districts. And they possessed the land of Sihon, and the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og, king of Bashan. And You multiplied their children like the stars of the heavens and brought them into the land concerning which You said to their fathers that they should go in to possess it. And the children went in and possessed the land, and You subdued the people of the land before them, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, so that they might do with them as they would. And they took strong cities and a rich land, and possessed houses full of all goods, wells already dug, vineyards and olive groves, and fruit trees in abundance. And they ate and were filled, and became fat, and delighted themselves in Your great goodness.

“ ‘But they were disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your law behind their backs. And they killed Your prophets who testified against them to turn them to You, and they worked great provocations. Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, who troubled them. And in the time of their trouble, they cried to You, and You heard from heaven. And according to Your manifold mercies, You gave them deliverers, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest, they did evil again before You. Therefore, You left them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had rule over them. Yet when they returned and cried to You, You heard from heaven. And many times You delivered them according to Your mercies, and testified against them that You might bring them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not hearken to Your commandments, but sinned against Your ordinances (which if a man do, he shall live in them), and presented a stubborn shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet for many years You had patience with them, and admonished them by Your spirit, through Your prophets, but they would not give ear. And You gave them into the hand of the people of the lands. But in Your great mercies, You did not completely destroy them nor forsake them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.

“ ‘Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, Who keeps covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before You that has come upon us, on our kings, on our rulers, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all Your people since the time of the kings of Assyria to this day. But You are just in all that is brought upon us, for You have dealt truthfully, but we have done wickedly. And our kings, our rulers, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Your law, nor hearkened to Your commandments and Your warnings with which You testified against them. They have not served You in their kingdom, and in Your great goodness which You gave them, and in the large and rich land which You gave before them, neither did they turn from their evil ways. Behold, we are servants this day. And the land that You gave to our fathers to eat its fruit, and its goodness, behold, we are servants in it. And it yields much increase to the kings whom You have set over us because of our sins. And they are ruling over our bodies and over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And because of all this we are making a sure covenant and writing it, and our princes, Levites, and priests are sealing it.’ ”

The Separation From Foreign Wives
Ezra 10:7-17

“And they made a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the children of the captivity to gather themselves unto Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the rulers and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and he himself separated from the congregation of the exiles. Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves to Jerusalem within the three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month. And all the people sat in the street before the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and because of the great rain.

“And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, ‘You have been unfaithful, and have married strange women to increase the guilt of Israel. Now confess to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His pleasure. And separate yourselves from the people of the land and from the foreign women.’ Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, ‘As you have said, so we must do. But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand outside. And the work is not of one or two days, for we have transgressed greatly in this matter. Let our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all those who have married strange women in our cities, come at set times, and with them the elders of every city and its judges, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter has turned from us.’

“Only Jonathan the son of Asahel and Jahaziah the son of Tikvah made a stand against this. And Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite supported them. And the children of the captivity did so. And Ezra the priest, with certain heads of the fathers, after the house of their fathers, and all of them by their names, were separated. And they sat down in the first day of the tenth month to examine the matter. And they were finished with all the men who had married foreign women by the first day of the first month.”

The separation of those who had intermarried from their foreign wives brought a resolution to the existing problem, and the oath of the priests and the people to refrain from future intermarriages ensured that they would not slip back into this sin.

The sin of intermarriage was not the only issue that needed to be resolved. The sin of Sabbath-breaking had also set in after Nehemiah’s governorship ended. The account in Nehemiah 13 records that the people of Judah had fallen into the practices of the people in the neighboring lands and were laboring on the Sabbath day. They were not only working in their fields but also hauling their produce to Jerusalem to sell on the Sabbath day. The people of Jerusalem were buying their wares as well as those of the foreign merchants who came to the city.

“In those days I saw in Judah some treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain, and loading donkeys and also wine, grapes, and figs, and all kinds of burdens which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I admonished them on the day in which they sold food. And men of Tyre dwelt therein, who brought fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah and in Jerusalem.

“And I contended with the nobles of Judah and said to them, ‘What evil thing is this that you do and defile the Sabbath day? Did not your fathers do this, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by defiling the Sabbath.’

“And it came to pass when the evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut and that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I set some of my servants at the gates, so that there should be no burden brought in on the Sabbath day. And the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods stayed the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. And I warned them and said to them, ‘Why do you stay around the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.’ From that time on they did not come any more on the Sabbath” (Neh. 13:15-21).

The grievous sin of buying and selling on the Sabbath threatened to bring the wrath of God upon the people of Jerusalem and Judah. It was vital that the problem be corrected. What was needed was a pledge by the people to obey the law of God by refraining from buying and selling on the Sabbath day. This pledge is recorded in the account of the covenant in Nehemiah 10. “And if the people of the land should bring goods or any food on the Sabbath day to sell it, that we would not buy it from them on the Sabbath or on a holy day, and that we would forego the seventh year’s produce and the exacting of every debt” (verse 31).

In correcting the sin of Sabbath-breaking, Nehemiah commanded the Levites to cleanse themselves and to sanctify the Sabbath day by keeping the gates barred to merchants from the surrounding lands. “And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the Sabbath day” (Neh. 13:22).

This passage ties in with the account of the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, which reveals that the priests and Levites purified not only themselves but also the gates and the wall, which had been defiled by the trafficking of merchants on the Sabbath day. As the people had pledged to obey God by observing the Sabbath day, they also were purified at this time. All these purifications are recorded in the account of the dedication of the wall in Nehemiah 12. “And the priests and the Levites purified themselves. And they purified the people, and the gates, and the wall” (verse 30).

In his account of the dedication of the wall, Nehemiah records that the procession of the priests was headed by Ezra the scribe (verse 36). Many of the priests who participated in the ceremonies at the dedication of the wall are listed in earlier verses in Nehemiah 12. Those who had begun to serve in the days of Joshua include Jeremiah, who is listed in verses 1 and 12; Ezra (not the same as Ezra the scribe), who is listed in verses 1 and 13; Miniamin, who is listed in verses 5 and 17; and Shemaiah, who is listed in verses 6 and 18. Those who began serving in the high priesthood of Joiakim include Hananiah, who is listed in verse 12; Ezra’s son Meshullam, who is listed in verse 13; Jehohanan, who is listed in verse 13; Uzzi, who is listed in verse 19; and Nethaneel, who is listed in verse 21.

A number of these priests are also listed in the account of the covenant in Nehemiah 10. Azariah, who is listed among the priests at the dedication of the wall (Neh. 12:33) was also present at the sealing of the covenant (Neh. 10:2). Other priests who were present at both the sealing of the covenant and the dedication of the wall include Jeremiah, Meshullam, Shemaiah and Hananiah (Neh. 10: 2, 7, 8, 23). It is therefore evident that the two events took place within the same time frame.

It is significant that Nehemiah’s account of the dedication of the wall records the appointment of overseers for the Temple storehouses. This record removes any doubt as to the time of the dedication of the wall. “And at that time some were chosen over the rooms for the treasuries, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions appointed by the law for the priests and Levites, for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites who served” (Neh. 12:44).

The appointments over the storehouses are also described in the account in Nehemiah 13 of the restoration of the Temple service (verses 10-13). The fact that the appointments were part of the restoration of the Temple service clearly demonstrates that the dedication of the wall did not take place during Nehemiah’s governorship but during his second visit to Jerusalem.

The book of Nehemiah places both the sealing of the covenant and the dedication of the wall during the time of Nehemiah’s second visit to Jerusalem. Since Ezra was in Jerusalem at the time of both events, it is evident that his visit coincided with Nehemiah’s return. As the book of Nehemiah records that a number of priests who had served in the high priesthood of Joshua were still living at that time, it could not have been during the reign of Artaxerxes I. (The priests who had served with Joshua were at least in their 20s in 539 BC and would have been in their late 90s by the first year of Artaxerxes I, which was 464 BC. By his seventh year, even the youngest priest would have been more than one hundred years old.) Thus, the scriptural records limit the time of Ezra’s visit to a period of two decades after the end of Nehemiah’s governorship in 490 BC, which places Ezra’s visit no later than 470 BC.

Nehemiah’s twelve years of governorship in Jerusalem ended four years before the death of Darius I. Darius I was succeeded by Xerxes I, who reigned from 485 BC to 464 BC. The reign of Xerxes I extended for two decades, spanning the time limit that the scriptural records establish for Ezra’s visit to Jerusalem (no later than 470 BC). It is therefore evident that Ezra made his journey during the reign of Xerxes I. The fact that Ezra dates his journey to the seventh year of the king enables us to determine that his visit took place in 478 BC.

The Historical Setting of Ezra’s Journey to Jerusalem

Scholars have traditionally argued that Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem could not have taken place during the reign of Xerxes I as it was a time of war. Xerxes, son of Darius I, was continuing the war that his father had begun against the Greek city states. In 492 BC, six years before Xerxes took the throne, Darius I had invaded Greece and succeeded in subduing Thrace and Macedonia. His second invasion, however, ended in defeat at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, and his army returned to Persia.

When Xerxes I came to the throne in 485 BC, he continued his father’s policy of aggression toward the Greeks. In 480 BC, Xerxes demanded total submission of all Greek states. Subsequently, with an army of 180,000 men, he attacked Greece from the north through Thrace and Macedonia. The Greek army retreated to the pass of Thermopylae and took up defensive positions. The Persian army, however, was victorious, and obliterated three hundred Spartans and seven hundred Thespians. The Persians occupied Attica and proceeded to destroy the city of Athens.

Later that year, the tide began to shift in favor of the Greeks. After an indecisive battle with the Persian fleet, the Greek fleet retreated to the Saronic Gulf. When the Persians received intelligence that the Greek fleet was about to escape their entrapment by night, the Persian fleet rushed into the gulf, became entangled in the narrows and was soundly defeated by the Greek fleet in the Battle of Salamis. This defeat in 480 BC made it impossible for Xerxes to continue the conflict, and he returned to Sardis with a third of the army. Direct conduct of the war was transferred to his general, Mardonius.

By 479 BC, Mardonius was on the march south. Again the Persians met with disaster. The Persian army was attacked at Plataea by an allied army of Greek states led by the Spartan general Pausanias and was soundly defeated. Mardonius was killed and the Persian army retreated. The Battle of Plataea in late August of 479 BC was the last Persian invasion of the Greek peninsula.

Shortly before this decisive battle, the Greeks launched a fleet against the Persians on the Isle of Samos, which is situated north of the Isle of Patmos off the coast of Turkey. The Persians fled to Cape Mycale on the Ionian coast, beached their ships and took up defensive positions. The Greeks attacked, destroying the main Persian forces in Ionia as well as the Mediterranean fleet. This battle brought an end to Persian rule over Greek Ionia.

The decisive battles of Plataea and Mycale, which took place concurrently in August of 479 BC, forced Xerxes to withdraw from his war with Greece and tarnished his image as head of the Medo-Persian Empire. Unrest had already been building in the empire due to the heavy taxation that had been imposed to support the king’s army. News of their defeat sparked even more discontent. To stabilize the situation and minimize the threat of insurrection in his provinces, Xerxes enlisted the support of ethnic groups that were known to be loyal, including the Jewish population. While serving as viceroy in Babylon before his reign, Xerxes had become well acquainted with the Jews. He therefore enlisted the aid of Ezra, who was highly respected among both Jews and Persians. This was the reason for Ezra’s visit to Jerusalem in the spring of 478 BC, a few months after the end of the war.

The need for support and stability in his outlying provinces led Xerxes to delegate broad powers to Ezra not only in the land of Judah but in all the lands beyond the Euphrates that were part of his dominion. This act was providential in that it turned the tables against the corrupting influences of the inhabitants of the lands that surrounded Judah. Instead of drawing the people of Judah away from the laws of God, the other nations were required to learn and to practice His laws. In fact, obedience to the laws and commandments of God was enforced by the king’s ordinance (Ezra 7:25-26). These measures served to restrain the evil influences that had led to intermarriage, Sabbath-breaking and forsaking the worship of God at the Temple— all the sins listed in Nehemiah 13—which had required the intervention of Nehemiah and Ezra. The correction of these sins brought the people of Judah back into covenant with God and thereby preserved the remnant from which the Messiah was prophesied to come.

To encourage continuing obedience by the people, Ezra brought to Jerusalem copies of the Book of the Law and faithful priests who would read the words and teach the meaning to the people. He also promoted the continuation of the Temple service by bringing Levites and others to assist the priests in carrying out God’s commands for sacrifices and offerings. That is the purpose for which Ezra led his entourage of about 2,000 priests, Levites, Nethinim, singers and porters to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Xerxes I.

Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem took place twelve years after the completion of the first division of the seventy-week prophecy, and approximately seventy years before the beginning of the second division of the prophecy. The 62 weeks, or 434 years, began in the fall of 409 BC and ended in the fall of 26 AD with the beginning of Christ’s ministry.

Part Three

Understanding the Chronology
of the Sixty-Two Weeks

Many biblical scholars and theologians teach that the 62 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy ended in 27 AD. This chronology is based on counting backward 3½ years from a crucifixion in the spring of 31 AD. However, a crucifixion in 31 AD is contradicted by the Gospel accounts and by the intercalary cycle of the Hebrew Calendar (see Introduction). The Gospel writers reveal that the Passover fell on Wednesday in the year that Christ was crucified; but according to the Hebrew Calendar, the Passover of 31 AD fell on Monday, which eliminates any possibility that the crucifixion occurred in that year. The only years during Christ’s ministry in which the Passover fell on Wednesday were 27 AD and 30 AD. Since 27 AD was in the early phase of His ministry, it is excluded as a possibility, leaving 30 AD as the only historically valid date for the crucifixion. Many other scriptural and historical records confirm that the Passover of 30 AD fell on Wednesday, April 5.

In addition to the error of dating the crucifixion to 31AD, some commit a second error in calculating the 62 weeks. Instead of counting backward from the crucifixion to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, they include His ministry in the 62 weeks and date the end to His crucifixion on the Passover day.

In dating the end of the 62 weeks to the Passover season, they overlook the fact that the 70 weeks of Daniel nine are sabbatical cycles (heptads) which run from fall to fall. Thus the Hebrew text rules out dating the 62 weeks to the spring of the year. Furthermore, the prophecy in Daniel nine states that the Messiah would be “cut off” after the 62 weeks—not during (verse 26). The Hebrew preposition that is translated “after” does not allow the “cutting off” to be linked to the 62 weeks. Below is an illustration of the meaning of this Hebrew preposition as diagrammed by Waltke in An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. (His diagram includes a number of Hebrew prepositions, but this illustration is limited to the one used in Daniel 9:26.) The spelling of the preposition is found in Owens’ Analytical Key to the Old Testament.

The line and the space between the circle and the preposition represent a space of time between the preposition and its object, ruling out any link between the ending of the 62 weeks and the Messiah’s being “cut off,” which occurred after 62 weeks.

Jesus’ Ministry Began in the Fall of 26 AD
At the Beginning of a Jubilee Year

In addition to the above evidence in the Hebrew text, the prophecy states that the 62 weeks would end with “the coming of an anointed one” (see Owens, Dan. 9:25)—not with His being “cut off.”

Although a Jubilee year begins in the fall on the Day of Atonement, Jesus did not publicly announced Himself as the Anointed One until well after the Jubilee year had begun. Rather, His proclamation coincided with His public reading of the prophecy of Isaiah 61 at the synagogue in Nazareth during the Jubilee year 26/27 AD:

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and according to His custom, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And there was given Him the book of the prophet Isaiah; and when He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; for this reason, He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal those who are brokenhearted, to proclaim pardon to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth in deliverance those who have been crushed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ And after rolling up the scroll and delivering it to the attendant, He sat down; and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. Then He began to say to them, ‘Today, this scripture is being fulfilled in your ears’ ” (Luke 4:16-21).

Jesus’ baptism and forty-day fast and temptation were the key events that marked the actual beginning of His ministry in 26/27 AD, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the exact time that the Messiah would come: “Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, to Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks [the first segment of 49 years], and sixty-two weeks [the second segment of 434 years]” (Dan. 9:25).

As each of the 62 weeks was a heptad composed of seven sabbatical years, this division of Daniel’s prophecy extended over a period of 434 years (62 x 7 = 434). Counting backward from the fall of 26 AD, we can determine that the 434 years began in the fall of 409 BC. (One year must be subtracted when calculating from AD to BC.)

Unlike the first division of 49 years, which was a period of restoration after seventy years of desolation, the second division of 434 years was a period of judgment marked by invasion and foreign domination after the people and the priests fell back into sin. Ezra’s visit to Jerusalem in 478 BC had helped to reinforce and complete the reforms that Nehemiah had begun, but the repentance of the people at that time did not end the pattern of disobedience that had stained the history of Israel since their Exodus from Egypt.


The Book of Malachi and John the Baptist

God’s warnings to His people—and especially the priests who had violated His laws—are recorded in the book of Malachi, which pronounced a curse upon those who failed to take heed and repent of their evil ways (Mal. 1:6-8; 2:1-3).

However, God also inspired Malachi to commend the faithful priests—the descendants of Levi/Aaron, depicting John the Baptist’s father Zacharias: “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness…” (Mal. 2:6). Luke records that Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth “were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Luke 1:6).

At the same time, Malachi was inspired to prophesy about their priestly son, John the Baptist: “The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips. He walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and turned away many from iniquity, for the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and the people should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 2:6-7).

God inspired Malachi to add several specific prophecies directly concerning John the Baptist, revealing that he would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah: “ ‘Behold, I will send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, Whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in Whom you delight. Behold, He comes,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 3:1)

This prophecy was fulfilled more than four centuries later when John the Baptist prepared the way for the prophesied Messiah and brought many in Judea to repentance: “Now in those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths” ’ ” (Matt. 3:1-3).


A Future Elijah—John the Baptist

The book of Malachi ends with a prophecy of a future Elijah who would turn the hearts of the people to the commandments that God had delivered to Moses for all their generations: “Remember the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with utter destruction” (Mal. 4:4-6).

The angel Gabriel announced to Zacharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would have a son, John the Baptist, who would come in the power of Elijah. “Fear not, Zacharias, because your supplication has been heard; and your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son to you, and you shall call his name John. And he shall be a joy and exultation to you; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great before the Lord. And he shall never drink wine or strong drink in any form, but he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).

There is no question that John the Baptist fulfilled Gabriel’s promise. In the beginning of His ministry, Jesus Himself declared that John the Baptist was fulfilling the role of the Elijah prophesied by Malachi. After Peter, James and John witnessed the vision on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus fully explained that John the Baptist was, indeed, the Elijah that was to come:

“Now as they were descending from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of man has risen from the dead.’ Then His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Elijah shall indeed come first and restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him; but they did to him whatever they desired. In like manner also, the Son of man is about to suffer from them.’ Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them about John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:9-13).

In doing so, Jesus also emphasized that John’s ministry was founded upon the Law and the Prophets: “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:13-15).

Jesus’ use of the phrase “all the prophets and the law” includes the book of Malachi and signifies the completion of the Old Testament Scriptures as prophesied by Isaiah: “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples…. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:16, 20).

The process of binding and sealing was begun in the days of Ezra when the Old Testament Scriptures were “bound up” or compiled—with the exception of the book of Malachi, which had not yet been written. The book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was added later by the Sopherim and the entire collection of Scriptures was canonized, or “sealed.” These Scriptures were divided into three categories: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. In its general sense, the term “the Law” is not restricted to the Book of the Law, but may also apply to the Prophets (Isa. 30:9-10). Thus, the sealing of “the Law” refers to the complete collection of Scriptures.

The canonization or “sealing” of the Scriptures was a major historical event. It could not take place until the book of Malachi was written with its prophecies concerning John the Baptist as the one who would herald the Messiah. Thus, a timeline is established between the sealing of the Scriptures and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The context of the prophecy concerning the sealing confirms this connection:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among My disciples…. To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them…. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; they who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them the light has shined” (Isa. 8:16, 20; 9:2).

Although the book of Malachi is dated to the 400s BC, there is no historical record of the specific year that it was written. In view of Isaiah’s prophecies, there is sound scriptural basis for concluding that the book of Malachi was written in 409 BC and marked the beginning of the sixty-two weeks (434 years). Since the book of Malachi contains a prophecy of the ministry of John the Baptist, which took place at the end of the 434 years (26 AD), it is fitting that God would inspire it to be written at the beginning of the 434 years, in 409 BC. The title of the book itself points to the work of John the Baptist as the one who would herald the promised Messiah. The name Malachi means “my messenger.” The book begins with a call to repentance and ends with the prophecy of the messenger who would come in the spirit of Elijah to turn the hearts of the people back to their God. The Messiah Himself declared that this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist.

There is additional support in Scripture for dating the prophecy of Malachi to the beginning of the sixty-two weeks. Malachi’s prophecy was, in effect, a decree from God: “Behold, I will send My messenger…” (Mal. 3:1). As this decree was fulfilled at the end of the sixty-two weeks, a parallel is established with the fulfillment of the first segment of the seventy weeks, which began with a decree and ended with the fulfillment of that decree. This parallelism is illustrated below.

First segment: The seven weeks began with the decree of Cyrus and ended with the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah, which completed the fulfillment of the decree.

Second segment: The sixty-two weeks began with the decree of God in the book of Malachi—“Behold, I will send My messenger”—and ended with its fulfillment through the ministry of John the Baptist and the appearance of the Messiah.

The book of Malachi reveals that the time span between the end of the seven weeks in 490 BC and the beginning of the sixty-two weeks in 409 BC was a period of increasing corruption within the priesthood after it was restored by Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi’s message is directed to a priesthood that had lost its reverence for God and defiled His altar by sacrificing diseased and defective animals (Mal. 1:6-8, 12-14). This is the decadent condition that moved God to issue His warnings in the book of Malachi at the beginning of the sixty-two weeks. The failure of the priests and the people to heed these warnings and repent led God to forsake His Temple in Jerusalem and allow the city to be overrun by foreign armies many times during the sixty-two weeks, or 434 years, which extended from 409 BC to 26 AD.

As the book of Malachi is the last of the Old Testament writings, there are no scriptural records of the battles that were waged by these foreign armies during the 434 years. There are, however, the visions that are recorded in the book of Daniel which describe the last years of the Medo- Persian Empire and the rise of Alexander the Great, who died at the height of his power and left his empire to be divided by his four generals. Using the records of ancient history, we can reconstruct these and other events that took place during the second division of the seventy weeks.

Major Events in the Fulfillment of the Sixty-two Weeks
(409 BC – 26 AD)

The sixty-two weeks, or 434 years, began in 409 BC, which was the sixteenth year of Darius II. Upon his death in the spring of 404 BC, his son Artaxerxes II (Mnemon) took the throne. During his reign the stability of the empire was threatened by major insurrections. A rebellion by his brother Cyrus had to be crushed. Then an insurrection by Datames, the governor of Cappadocia in Asia Minor, spread to the western satrapies (366-360 BC) before it was stopped. As a result, Egypt became more or less independent.

Artaxerxes II ruled until his death in 359 BC and was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes III. Although Artaxerxes III was able to restore royal authority over the satraps, the empire was greatly weakened. Upon his death in 339 BC, Arses took the throne and reigned from 338 to 336 BC. He was followed by Darius III, the last of the Medo-Persian kings, who died while being pursued by Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Darius III had attempted to turn back the army of Alexander but was defeated at the battles of Granicus (334 BC), Issus (333 BC) and Gaugamela near Arbela (331 BC). As prophesied in Daniel 8, no king of Medo-Persia was able to stand against the overpowering force of Alexander’s army.

“And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat came from the west, over the face of all the earth, and did not touch the ground. And the he-goat had a notable horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran at him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and struck the ram and shattered his two horns. And there was no power in the ram to stand before him. But he threw him down to the ground and stamped upon him. And none could deliver the ram out of his hand” (Dan. 8:5-7).

Alexander began his conquest of Medo-Persia in 334 BC. As foretold in Daniel’s vision, he fought fiercely and with amazing speed. With an army of 35,000 men, he crossed the Dardanelles and defeated the armies of the Persians. After capturing Sardis and the coastal cities of Ionia, he advanced eastward into Caria and Lycia before turning inland.

His army was reunited with the forces of his general, Parmenio, at Gordium and went on to Ancyra. They then turned southeast, passing through the Taurus Mountains to capture Tarsus, capital of Cilicia. Victorious in every battle with the Persians, they advanced toward Soli on the coast and then eastward through the Amanus Mountains to the Syrian coast.

In 333 BC, Darius III approached the rear of Alexander’s army but was defeated in a stunning cavalry attack at Issus. Darius was forced to retreat after losing 110,000 of his men. Alexander chose not to pursue Darius and instead headed south into Phoenicia where he laid siege to Tyre, which fell in July, 332 BC. He went on to take Acco and two other Egyptian cities which surrendered without a battle. Gaza resisted but fell in September, 332 BC, after a siege of one month. It was during the siege of Gaza that Alexander met with the High Priest Jaddua, known as Simon the Just (see Supplement One. p. 186), who read the prophecies of Alexander’s conquests in the book of Daniel. Alexander was so impressed that he did not disturb the Temple in Jerusalem.

Alexander went on to defeat the Nabateans before wintering in Egypt. In the spring of 331 BC he returned to Tyre. From there he advanced to Damascus and then to cities on the Euphrates and the Tigris before shattering the army of Darius III at Gaugamela in October, 331 BC. Alexander then captured Arbela and seized a large amount of treasure from the Persians. Babylon and Susa surrendered to him, but Persepolis resisted and was looted and burned.

In the spring of 330 BC, Alexander pursued Darius III through Media where Darius was murdered by the satrap Bessus. In 329 BC Alexander conquered Bactria and in 328 BC triumphed over the Iranians. These victories completed his conquest of the Medo-Persian Empire.

Alexander, however, was not ready to exchange his sword for the throne. The desire to conquer, which had driven him during his seven years on the battlefield, was still burning within him. He longed for new challenges and new territories to conquer. An opportunity came in 327 BC when he was invited to India to do battle against Porus. At the Battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC, he defeated Porus and then continued eastward to the Hyphasis River. When his troops refused to advance any farther to the east, he turned southward and followed the Hydaspes and Indus rivers, reaching the Indian Ocean in 325 BC. His fleet explored the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean on the way back to Persia while Alexander and his army returned through the Desert of Gedrosia. Alexander arrived at Susa in 324 BC, and after a short stay went on to Babylon. He died in Babylon on June 13, 323 BC, after falling ill with a fever. Alexander had ruled Medo-Persia for only seven years before his death at the age of thirty-two.

As prophesied by Daniel, the death of Alexander led to the division of the empire into four parts (Dan. 8:8, 22). It did not pass to his heir but to his generals (Dan. 11:4). Although there were four, only two played a major role in the fulfillment of the 434 years: Seleucus, who founded the Seleucid line of Syria; and Ptolemy, who founded the Ptolemaic line of Egypt. The descendants of these two generals became “the king of the north” and the “king of the south,” whose battles are described in the detailed prophecy in Daniel 11. This prophecy, which extends down through the ages to the time of the end, foretold major events that took place in Jerusalem and Judea during the fulfillment of the 434 years. Verse 16 describes the invasion and desolation of Judea at the hand of the king of the north. This prophecy was fulfilled by Antiochus III (the Great) of Syria during a war with Ptolemy V of Egypt. The prophecy of a “raiser of taxes” in verse 20 was fulfilled when Seleucus IV of Syria sent Heliodorus to plunder the Temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophecy in verse 21 of a “vile person” was fulfilled in type by Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) who polluted the Temple in 167 BC causing the sacrifices to cease. Ultimately, this prophecy refers to the Antichrist at the time of the end (verses 35-36), of which Antiochus was only a forerunner. (See Part Four for an explanation of the detailed prophecy of Daniel 11, p 180.)

While the kings of Syria and Egypt were draining their resources in continuous warfare, Rome was steadily growing in power. In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey took control of Judea and left in charge the Maccabean high priest Hyrcanus and Antipater, a civil advisor. Judea was also placed under the supervision of the governor of Syria. By 40 BC, the Romans had made Herod king of Judea. Thus, Jesus was born into a nation dominated by the Roman Empire and carried out His ministry under the oppressive hand of Herod (Luke 13:31-32).

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry marked the completion of the second division of the seventy-week prophecy, the “sixty-two weeks” of Daniel 9:25. The following chart illustrates major events that took place in the fulfillment of these sixty-two weeks, or 434 years. The fulfillment of the 62 prophetic weeks began in the fall of 409 BC and ended with the beginning of Christ’s ministry in the fall of 26 AD.


The Fulfillment of the 434 Years — 409 BC-26 AD

SIXTEENTH YEAR OF DARIUS II 409 DAN 9:25
ARTAXERXES II MNEMON BEGINS REIGN 404  
ARTAXERXES III BEGINS REIGN 358  
ARSES BEGINS REIGN 338  
DARIUS III BEGINS REIGN 335  
ALEXANDER BEGINS CONQUEST OF MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE 334 DAN 8:2-7
DEATH OF DARIUS III; ALEXANDER RULES MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE 330 DAN 8:7; 11:3
END OF ALEXANDER’S EMPIRE 323 DAN 8:21-22
EMPIRE DIVIDED BY FOUR GENERALS: PTOLEMY—EGYPT, PALESTINE, PART OF ASIA MINOR SELEUCUS—SYRIA, ARMENIA, LAND EAST OF EUPHRATES LYSIMACHUS—BITHYNIA, THRACE, MYSIA CASSANDER—MACEDONIA, GREECE 323 DAN 11:4
ANTIOCHUS IV (EPIPHANES) OF SYRIA INVADES JERUSALEM 169 I Macc. 1:17-29
BEGINNING OF MACCABEAN REVOLT 168  
TEMPLE DEFILED, DAILY SACRIFICES CEASE ON 15TH KISLEV (WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6) 167 I Macc. 1:45-47
TEMPLE CLEANSED, DAILY SACRIFICES RENEWED ON 8TH TEBETH (FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25) 164 I Macc. 6:1-16
END OF MACCABEAN LINE 137  
POMPEY’S SIEGE OF JERUSALEM 63  
RISE OF HEROD TO POWER 40  
BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST 5 BC LUKE 1
BIRTH OF JESUS 5 BC MIC 5:2; ISA 9:6-7
JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MINISTRY BEGINS 26 AD MATT 3
JESUS’ MINISTRY BEGINS 26 AD* ISA 9:1-2; LUKE 4:14-15
*25/26 AD was a sabbatical year; 26/27 AD was a year of jubilee    

It is significant that Jesus began to reveal Himself as the Messiah during a jubilee year. The scriptural passage which He selected for His opening message in the synagogue at Nazareth has traditionally been reserved by the Jews for the Day of Atonement, and to this day is acknowledged to be a direct reference to the proclamation of a jubilee. However, Jesus read this passage on the Day of Pentecost—a mini-jubilee within a jubilee year. In Appendix Four of his publication The Star of Bethleham, Dr. Ernest L. Martin emphasizes the obvious connection of Luke 4:16 with the year of jubilee: “These terms that Jesus was using in His discourse at the synagogue at Nazareth were those associated with Sabbatical Years (and with the Jubilee which was a type of Sabbatical Year)….”

Dr. Martin also discusses the Jubilee in his book The Teachings of Pentecost:

“Back in Leviticus 25 we read of the Jubilee. It is most interesting to read what would happen every 50th year: ‘And you shall number seven sabbaths of years unto you, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto you forty and nine years. Then shall you cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall you make the trumpet sound throughout all your land’ (Leviticus 25:8-9).

“Immediately someone would say this is the Day of Atonement, this is not Pentecost. You would be correct…. What is this year of Jubilee all about…? ‘And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family’ (Leviticus 25:10).”

Jesus’ reading of Isaiah’s prophecy includes the words “to set at liberty” and “the acceptable year of the Lord”—both of which are direct references to a jubilee. The exegete Albert Vanhoye wrote the following about Luke 4:16 in an essay titled The Jubilee Year in the Gospel of Luke, in which he dogmatically states that Jesus was proclaiming a jubilee:

Saint Luke is not the only evangelist who records Jesus’ visit to Nazareth “where he had been brought up” (Luke 4:16). Saint Mark and Saint Matthew also refer to this episode, although without mentioning the name of the town, referred to simply as “his home town” (Mark 6:1; Matt. 13:54). There are, however, several differences between the story told by Luke and those of Mark and Matthew. We have already implicitly indicated one, when we observed that Luke is the only one who gives the contents of Jesus’ preaching. The other two evangelists limit themselves to saying that Jesus “began to teach in the synagogue” (Mark 6:2; cf. Matt. 13:54); but they do not say what he taught. Luke, on the other hand, tells how Jesus “stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: The spirit of the Lord has been given to me…!” (Luke 4:16-18; Isa. 61:1). Very significantly, the last line of Isaiah read by Jesus says: “to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor” (Luke 4:19; Isa. 61:2), and immediately afterwards Jesus’ message was a declaration that precisely “this text” was being fulfilled on that day. The expression of Isaiah 61:2, “year of the Lord’s favor,” clearly refers to the prescriptions in the Book of Leviticus on the jubilee year (Lev. 25:10-13). Therefore at Nazareth, Jesus was proclaiming a Jubilee year.

Historical records in the works of Josephus provide additional evidence that Jesus’ ministry began during a Jubilee. In Book XIV, Chapter XV, Paragraph 14, Josephus states that Herod’s attack on Jerusalem took place in the third year after his coronation at Rome:

When the rigour of winter was over, Herod removed his army, and came near to Jerusalem, and pitched his camp hard by the city. Now this was the third year since he had been made king at Rome; and as he removed his camp, and came near that part of the wall where it could be most easily assaulted, he pitched that camp before the temple, intending to make his attacks in the same manner as did Pompey. So he encompassed the place with three bulwarks, and erected towers, and employed a great many hands about the work, and cut down the trees that were round about the city; and when he had appointed proper persons to oversee the works, even while the army lay before the city, he himself went to Samaria, to complete his marriage, and to take to wife the daughter of Alexander, the son of Aristobulus; for he had betrothed her already, as I have before related.

The Romans made Herod king of Jerusalem in 40 BC. By Roman count “the third year since he [Herod] had been made king at Rome” was 38 BC. In Book XV, Chapter 1, Paragraph 2, Josephus reveals that the battle for Jerusalem occurred in the spring of a sabbatical year:

At this time Herod, now he had got Jerusalem under his power, carried off all the royal ornaments, and spoiled the wealthy men of what they had gotten; and when, by these means, he had heaped together a great quantity of silver and gold, he gave it all to Antony, and his friends that were about him. He also slew forty-five of the principal men of Antigonus’s party, and set guards at the gates of the city, that nothing might be carried out together with their dead bodies. They also searched the dead, and whatever was found, either of silver or gold, or other treasure, it was carried to the king; nor was there any end of the miseries he brought upon them; and this distress was in part occasioned by the covetousness of the prince regent, who was still in want of more, and in part by the sabbatic year, which was still going on, and forced the country to lie still uncultivated, since we are forbidden to sow our land in that year.

The events discussed by Josephus occurred in the spring of 38 BC, a sabbatical year that began on Atonement of 39 BC and extended to Atonement of 38 BC. A chart of sabbatical cycles from Herod’s battle for Jerusalem down to the ministry of Christ will demonstrate that 25/26 AD was a sabbatical year. This chronology adds historical support to the scriptural evidence in Luke 4:16-18 that the following year, 26/27 AD, which was the first year of Jesus’ ministry, was a Jubilee.

The Gospel accounts reveal that during His ministry, which began in the fall of 26 AD, Jesus experienced far more persecution from the Jewish religious leaders than from the Roman authorities. In fact, the laws of Rome prevented the Jewish officials of His day from putting Him to death. To accomplish their purpose, they brought false charges of political crimes against Him, knowing that Rome imposed the death penalty for such crimes. They succeeded in convincing the Roman authorities of His guilt by hiring false witnesses to testify against Him. Their evil plot led to His crucifixion on the Passover day in 30 AD.

The crucifixion of Jesus in 30 AD fulfilled the prophecy in Daniel 9:26 that the Messiah would be cut off after the completion of the sixtytwo weeks. Let us examine this verse and the following verse in Daniel nine, which describes the fulfillment of the third division of the seventyweek prophecy.

Part Four

Major Events in the Fulfillment of the Seven Years

The third and last division of the prophecy is the seventieth week, which represents a period of seven years. This period is separated from the second division of the prophecy by an indeterminate span of time. The events described in verse 26 of Daniel nine take place between the second division of 62 weeks and the third division of one week. The events in verse 27 take place during this final “week” of seven years.

And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself. And the people of the prince who shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. But his end shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he [the prince who invades Judea] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate even until the consummation. And the fully determined end which is decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator” (verses 24-27).

These verses describe a time of war leading up to a covenant, or treaty, that will be established at the beginning of the seventieth week, or seven years. Midway through this seven-year period the treaty will be broken, and the abomination that brings desolation will be set up in the Temple of God at Jerusalem. The daily sacrifices, which apparently will be instituted at the beginning of the seven years, will cease at this time. All these events are described in the prophecy in Daniel 11.


Events to be Fulfilled by the Future Antichrist
Daniel 11:21-45 and 12:1-4

Keep in mind that much of this lengthy prophecy has already been fulfilled in type by the Syrian dictator Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC). Many of the details of the passage apply only to the time of Antiochus and to his desecration of the Temple in 167 BC; yet the passage also serves as a foreshadowing of the coming Antichrist and the “abomination of desolation.” In particular, verses 36-45 (and parts of chapter 12) bring the prophecy into the modern era, dealing specifically with the coming Antichrist.

“And a contemptible one [Antiochus/the future Antichrist or king of the North] shall stand up in his [Seleucus, Antiochus’s brother] place, and they shall not give to him the majesty of the kingdom [Antiochus had no legitimate claim to it]; but he will come in a time of peace and seize the kingdom by flatteries [seductive speech]. And the overflowing forces will be swept from before him [he will sweep away all opposition], and they will be broken, and also the prince of the covenant [with whom he has an alliance].

“And after the league is made with him he shall work deceitfully [secretly building a power base], for he shall come up and shall become strong with a small force. He shall enter peaceably, even into the rich places of the realm. And he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers. He shall distribute among them the prey, spoil and riches. And he shall devise his plots against the strongholds, but only for a time.

“And he shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the south [Ptolemy VI of Egypt/a future league of Muslim nations] with a great army. And the king of the south shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he [Ptolemy] shall not stand, for they shall devise plots against him. Yea, those who eat his food [his most trusted companions] shall destroy him, and his army shall be swept away. And many shall fall down slain. And both these kings’ hearts shall be to do evil, and they shall speak lies to each other at the same table [both will break the terms of the treaty they make]. But it shall not succeed, for still the end remains yet for the time appointed.

“And he [Antiochus/the Antichrist] shall return to his land with great riches. And his heart shall be against the holy covenant [Antiochus hated the Jews’ way of life based on the Scriptures—as will the coming Antichrist]. And he shall take action against it [initially, in 169 BC, Antiochus set up a garrison in Jerusalem and persecuted the Jews], and he shall return to his land. At the time appointed he [Antiochus] shall return and come against the south [Egypt]. But it shall not be in the latter time as it was in the former [when he had victory], for the ships of Kittim [the western coastlands of Rome] shall come against him [Antiochus]. And he shall be cowed [by the Romans] and return, and [in his rage of defeat] have indignation against the holy covenant. And he shall do his pleasure; he shall even return and have regard to [be in league with] those [apostate Jews] who forsake the holy covenant.

“And forces from him will stand up on his part, and they will profane the sanctuary [Antiochus defiled the Temple by sacrificing swine on the altar], even the stronghold, and shall take away the daily sacrifice [the Antichrist will do this as well—Dan. 9:27], and they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate. [This was fulfilled in type in 167 BC when Antiochus placed an idolatrous bust of his god Zeus in the holy place; the coming Antichrist will apparently seat himself in the Temple “as God” (II Thess. 2:3-4), thus fulfilling Jesus’ warning of a coming “abomination of desolation.”] And he will corrupt by flattery those [apostate Jews] who do evil against the [holy] covenant, but the people who know their God shall be strong and do exploits [a reference to the Maccabean resistance movement].

“And those who are wise among the people shall cause many to understand; yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by exile, and spoil, many days [in the struggle for independence from Syrian rule; perhaps, as well, a reference to the coming Great Tribulation of Matthew 24:21]. Now when they stumble, they shall be helped with a little help, but many will join themselves unto them with flatteries. And some of those who understand shall fall, to refine and to purify them, and to make white, to the time of the end, because it [the ultimate, final fulfillment of the prophecy] is yet even for the appointed time [of the latter days].”

From this point, Daniel shifts away from Antiochus and begins to prophecy specifically concerning a future “king of the north”—the Antichrist.

“And the king [of the north, the Antichrist, the “prince” of Daniel 9:26-27] shall do according to his will. And he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god [just as Paul warned, he will sit in the Temple proclaiming himself to be God], and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods [manifesting that he is the Antichrist], and shall prosper until the indignation be accomplished [until the end of the seven-year period], for that which is decreed [prophesied] shall be done. He will not regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god, for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his place he shall honor the god of forces [the strongest fortresses]; and a god whom his fathers did not know shall he honor with gold and silver, and with precious stones and costly things. So he shall deal against the fortresses of the strongest with a strange [foreign] god, whom he shall acknowledge; and shall increase with glory. He shall cause them to rule over many and shall divide the land for a price.

“And at the time of the end, the king of the south [a confederacy of Arab nations] shall push at [attack] him. And the king of the north [the Antichrist, the “beast” of Revelation 13] shall come against him like a whirlwind with chariots and with horsemen and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries [war will spread throughout the Middle East] and shall overflow and sweep through. He shall also enter into the glorious land [of Israel], and many countries shall be overthrown. But these shall escape out of his hand: Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon [Jordan]. And he shall stretch out his hand also upon the countries. And the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt. And the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. But tidings [of opposition] out of the east and out of the north [from the northeast—a massive Asian alliance led by Russia and China] shall alarm him. Then he will go forth with great fury to destroy and to utterly annihilate many [nuclear war]. And he shall plant his royal tents [his headquarters] between the seas in the glorious holy mountain [in Jerusalem]. Yet he shall come to his end [Christ will return to fight and defeat him], and none shall help him” (Dan. 11:21-45).

The prophecy of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:27 reveals that it will not be removed “until the consummation.” The cataclysmic events that will take place at the time of the “consummation” are described in Matthew 24. The word “end” in Matthew 24:3 is translated from the Greek sunteleia and refers to the consummation of the plan of God for the end time. Thus, the Gospel of Matthew confirms that the events of the final 7 years will take place in the future.

In revealing to His disciples the events that will take place at the consummation, Jesus stated that the “abomination of desolation” will bring unprecedented suffering upon Jerusalem and the land of Israel—the Jewish “State of Israel” and the modern-day descendant nations of Israel. “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (the one who reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains…. For then shall there be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be again. And if those days were not limited, there would no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be limited” (Matt. 24:15-16, 21-22). This is the time of suffering described in Daniel 11:33.

Daniel continues in chapter 12 with this amazing prophecy:

“And at that time [of the end of the age, the archangel] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands for [in defense of] the children of your people [Israel]. And there shall be a time of trouble [the Great Tribulation], such as never was since there was a nation even until that time. And at that time your people [Israel] shall be delivered [by Christ’s direct intervention]—every one who shall be found written in the book. And [at the time of Jesus’ return, at the first resurrection] many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever. But you, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:1-4).

The terrible suffering that the Antichrist brings upon the people of Israel will be followed by a series of ominous astronomical events which will terrify the people of all nations. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matt. 24:29).

After these heavenly signs, the return of Christ will be announced by a piercing trumpet blast that will be heard around the world. As He descends, the clouds that encircle Him will glow with the brilliant light of His glory. He will send His angels to gather His saints. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:30-31).

The saints, who will be transformed to immortality, will rise to meet Him and will join Him in executing God’s judgment upon all those who have given themselves to evil. “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He crowns the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory.... Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand to execute vengeance upon the nations and punishments upon the people, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with iron bands, to carry out upon them the judgment writtenthis honor have all His saints. O praise the LORD!” (Psa. 149:4-9).

The book of Revelation amplifies this time of judgment, which will culminate with the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1). The seventh plague will cause an earthquake of enormous magnitude, “such as was not since men were on the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great” (Rev. 16:18). The earthquake will bring down Babylon the Great (verse 19), which represents the powerful religious, political and financial systems that underpin the business and commerce of this world (Rev. 18:1-3, 11-19).

The fall of Babylon the Great will signal the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth under the rulership of Jesus Christ. “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty has reigned’ ” (Rev. 19:6).

After His coronation as King of kings, Christ will lead His army of the resurrected saints into battle against the armies of the world, who will gather in the Valley of Megiddo (Armageddon) near the city of Jerusalem. The Antichrist, called the “beast” in the book of Revelation, will be slain along with his chief accomplice, a religious leader called the “false prophet.” “And I saw heaven open; and behold, a white horse; and He Who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He does judge and make war…. And He was clothed with a garment dipped in blood; and His name is The Word of God. And the armies in heaven were following Him on white horses; and they were clothed in fine linen, white and pure…. And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war with Him Who sits on the horse, and with His army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet who worked miracles in his presence, by which he had deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. Those two were cast alive into the lake of fire, which burns with brimstone; and the rest were killed by the sword of Him Who sits on the horse, even the sword that goes out of His mouth; and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:11, 13-14, 19-21).

The victory of Jesus Christ at Armageddon will be followed by a thousand years of rulership over all nations of the world. During this time, Satan will be bound and held in restraint so that he cannot deceive the nations. “Then I saw an angel descending from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a great chain in his hand. And he took hold of the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. Then he cast him into the abyss, and locked him up, and sealed the abyss over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer until the thousand years were fulfilled; and after that it is ordained that he be loosed for a short time” (Rev. 20:1-3).

The saints who have been transformed to immortality in the first resurrection will be granted rulership with Christ during the thousand years. “And I saw thrones; and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them; and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and those who did not worship the beast, or his image, and did not receive the mark in their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years…. Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4, 6).

Unlike the resurrection that is described in Ezekiel 37, which will be a restoration of the flesh to temporary physical life, the first resurrection will impart immortality to those who attain it. This is the superior resurrection that Paul describes in his epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 11:35). Paul’s words in this epistle concerning the trials that the saints of old experienced reveal that endurance is required to attain to the first resurrection. Whatever trials God allows to befall His saints, He has promised that His grace is sufficient. It is therefore a matter of faith on the part of each one that God calls to trust Him and rely on Him for strength to endure.

As we anticipate the calamitous events that will soon come to pass, let us hold fast to the faith that He has given us through His Word. Let us remain steadfast in every trial, fixing our eyes on the hope that He has set before us, that we may be counted among the faithful saints who will have part in the resurrection to immortality.


Supplement One

The following reconstruction of the line of high priests is based on extant records, with a focus on specific references in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

As noted in this reconstruction, Manasseh, one of three sons of Joiada, married the daughter of Governor Sanballat of Samaria. Although Manasseh was the rightful heir to the office of high priest, the office passed to his younger brother Jonathan because he apostatized to Samaria.


Supplement Two


The Invasion of Judea by Antiochus Epiphanes
A Chronology of Events (169-164 BC)

169 BC Antiochus pushes north from Egypt and invades Jerusalem in the autumn; two years pass (I Macc. 1:17-29).
167 BC Mysarch is sent by Antiochus Epiphanes to attack and occupy Jerusalem; the statue of Jupiter is set up on the altar of the Temple on December 6 (I Macc. 1:45-47). The Temple has been defiled and the daily sacrifices stop; three years pass.
164 BC On December 25 the Temple is cleansed and the daily sacrifices are reinstituted (I Macc. 6:1-16).

Supplement Three


The Historical Setting of the Prophecy of Daniel Eight

The year is 539 BC. Daniel is in Babylon. Belshazzar is in the third year of his reign as king of Babylon, but his days are numbered. The Babylonian Empire is about to be conquered by Cyrus the Great, who will establish the Medo-Persian Empire in its place. Cyrus will soon issue his famous emancipation act initiating the return of Zerubbabel and the exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2:2).

The angel Gabriel appears to Daniel in the palace at Babylon and transports him in a vision to the Persian palace at Shushan in the province of Elam by the river Ulai. Shushan (also known as Susa) was about 200 miles due east of Babylon. The royal road began there and extended all the way to Sardis, a little northeast of Ephesus.


Gabriel Foretells the Rise of the Medo-Persian Empire—Daniel 8:2-4

“And I saw in the vision, and it came to pass when I looked, I was at Shushan the palace, which is in the province of Elam. And in the vision I looked, and I was by the river Ulai. Then I lifted up my eyes, and looked. And behold, a ram [the symbol of Persia, verse 20] stood before the river [Ulai, now known as the Karun River, located in the extreme southwest section of Iran] having two horns [Media and Persia, verse 20], and the two horns were high, but one was higher than the other [Cyrus, king of Persia, became greater than his father, Astyages, king of Media], and the higher one came up last [Cyrus began joint reign with his father in 558 BC; Cyrus’ sole reign began in 539 BC]. I saw the ram pushing westward and northward and southward, and no beast could stand before him, nor any that could deliver out of his hand. But he did according to his will and became great [Cyrus the Great].”

Cyrus, king of Anshan (also known as Pasargadae, a city of ancient Persia lying approximately 50 miles northwest of ancient Persepolis), pushed northwestward in 550 BC from this realm, conquering Ecbatana (also called Achmetha or Hamadan), the ancient capital of the Medes. He then pushed westward toward Asia Minor. Four years later, in 546 BC, Cyrus defeated Croesus, the last king of Lydia, bringing Asia Minor under the rule of the Persians. Seven years later, in 539 BC, Cyrus marched southward and conquered Babylon. Jerusalem was also brought under the control of the Medo-Persian Empire and remained so for the next two centuries.

With the fall of Babylon, the conquests of the Persian ram were complete. In less than twelve years, Cyrus had gained an empire that stretched from the Aegean Sea on the west to the Indus River Valley of India on the east. He controlled the most important trade routes in the world.

Gabriel Foretells the Fall of the Medo/Persian Empire— Daniel 8:5-7

“And as I was considering, behold, a he-goat [Alexander, verse 21] came from the west, over the face of all the earth [conquered the entire civilized world], and did not touch the ground. And the he-goat had a notable horn [Alexander, the first king, verse 21] between his eyes. And he came to the ram [Medo-Persia, verse 20] that had two horns [the kings of Media and Persia, verse 20], which I had seen standing before the river, and ran at him in the fury of his power. And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and struck the ram [attacked Medo- Persia] and shattered his two horns. And there was no power in the ram to stand before him. But he threw him down to the ground and stamped upon him [completely defeated the Medo-Persians]. And none could deliver the ram out of his hand.”

Alexander, a young Macedonian of the lineage of the ancient Amalekites, was only twenty-five when he began his conquest of the Medo- Persian Empire. As foretold in the vision of Daniel 8, he fought fiercely and with amazing speed. His conquests began in 334 BC when he crossed the Dardanelles with 35,000 men and routed the armies of the Persians. After capturing Sardis, he went on to take the coastal cities of Ionia. He advanced eastward into Caria and Lycia and then turned inland, victorious in every battle with the Persians.

At Gordium his army was reunited with the forces of his general Parmenio. They marched to Ancyra and then turned southeast, passing through the Taurus Mountains to Tarsus, capital of Cilicia. Undefeated, they marched toward Soli on the coast and then eastward through the Amanus Mountains to the Syrian coast.

By 333 BC, Darius III had reached Issus to Alexander’s rear. A daring cavalry attack by Alexander killed 110,000 of the Persian army, forcing Darius to retreat. Instead of pursuing Darius, Alexander headed south into Phoenicia where he laid siege to Tyre for seven months, conquering it in July of 332 BC. He then proceeded toward Egypt. Acco surrendered without a fight, as did two other cities, but Alexander met fierce resistance at Gaza. A siege of one month ended with the capture of Gaza in September of 332 BC. (It was during the siege of Gaza in 332 BC that Alexander met with the High Priest Jaddua, known as Simon the Just.)

Alexander went on to defeat the Nabateans before wintering in Egypt. In the spring of 331 BC he returned to Tyre. From there he marched to Damascus and then to cities on the Euphrates and the Tigris before shattering the army of Darius III at Gaugamela on October 1, 331 BC. Alexander went on to Arbela where he seized a great deal of treasure from the Persians. Babylon and Susa surrendered without a fight. Persepolis, however, resisted and was subsequently looted and burned to the ground. In the spring of 330 BC Alexander pursued Darius III through Media (where Darius was murdered by the satrap Bessus). In 329 BC Alexander went on to conquer Bactria, and in 328 BC defeated the Iranians. These victories completed his conquest of the Medo-Persian Empire.

In 327 BC Alexander was invited to India to battle with Porus, whom he defeated in 326 BC at the Battle of Hydaspes. Alexander continued eastward as far as the Hyphasis River where his troops refused to advance farther. He then followed the Hydaspes and Indus Rivers southward, reaching the Indian Ocean in 325 BC. His fleet explored the coastal regions of the Indian Ocean on the way back to Persia while Alexander and his army returned through the Desert of Gedrosia. He arrived at Susa in 324 BC and remained there a while before going on to Babylon. Alexander died at Babylon in 323 BC after falling ill with a fever.


Gabriel Foretells the End of Alexander’s Reign—Daniel 8:8

“Then the he-goat [Alexander] became very great. And when he was strong, the great horn was broken [he died at the height of power]….” Alexander’s rule over Medo-Persia, which had begun in 330 BC, lasted for only seven years. His reign was cut short by his death in Babylon on June 13, 323 BC, at the young age of thirty-two.

Alexander’s Empire Divided by Four Generals

“And in its place there came up the appearance of four horns [Alexander’s generals] toward the four winds of the heavens.”

Upon the death of Alexander, joint rule was established under the regency of Craterus and Perdiccas on behalf of Philip III Arrhidaeus (Alexander’s half-brother) and the newborn son of Alexander and Roxana (Alexander's Persian wife). Perdiccas, who soon gained sole power, appointed Alexander’s generals as satraps over various parts of the empire. When Perdiccas was assassinated in 321 BC, the generals began to compete for supremacy, and turmoil gripped the empire for the next two decades. After the Battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, the empire was split into four regions with Seleucus ruling Mesopotamia and Persia, Ptolemy ruling Egypt and Palestine, Cassander ruling Macedon and Greece, and Lysimachus ruling Thrace and Bithynia.

Only two of the four who divided Alexander’s empire emerged as powers which shaped the history of the ancient Mediterranean region. These two notable ones became “the king of the south” and the “king of the north”; their wars and intrigues are described in the detailed prophecy in Daniel 11.


The Two “Notable Ones” of Daniel 11


The King of the South: Ptolemy I Soter—
King of Egypt (305-283 BC)

“And the king of the south [Ptolemy I Soter] shall be strong. And one of his princes [Seleucus I Nicator], even he [Seleucus] shall overcome him [Ptolemy] and have dominion. His kingdom shall be a great kingdom [Syria, Babylon and Media]” (Dan. 11:5).


The King of the South Makes a League With the King of the North


Ptolemy II Philadelphus—King of Egypt (285-246 BC)

“And after some years [63 years] they [Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt and Antiochus I Theos of Syria] shall join themselves together [form a league], for the king’s daughter of the south [Berenice II, daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus] shall come to the king of the north [Antiochus II Theos] to make an alliance. But she shall not keep her position of power. Nor shall he [Ptolemy II Philadelphus] stand, nor his authority. But she shall be given up [Berenice II and her infant son were murdered]—with those who brought her in, and he who begat her, and he who made her strong in these times” (verse 6).


The King of the South Attacks the King of the North


Ptolemy III Euergetes—(Benefactor) King of Egypt (246-221 BC)

“But out of a branch of her roots [Berenice II’s father, Ptolemy II Philadelphus] one shall stand up [Ptolemy III Euergetes (Benefactor), brother of Berenice II] in his place [in the stead of her father], who shall come against the army of the king of the north [Seleucus II Callinicus, son of Antiochus II] and shall enter into his stronghold And he shall act against them and shall prevail. And he shall also carry their gods captives with their molten images into Egypt, and with their precious vessels of silver and of gold [the Third Syrian War, or the War of Berenice II, 246-241 BC]. And he shall refrain from attacking the king of the north for some years [Seleucus II died in 226 BC]. So the king of the north shall come into the kingdom of the king of the south, but shall return into his own land” (verses 7-9).


The King of the North Retaliates—Daniel 11:10-19


Antiochus III, the Great—King of Syria (223-187 BC)

But his sons [Antiochus III and Seleucus III, the sons of Seleucus II] shall mobilize and shall gather a multitude of great forces. And one of them [Antiochus III] shall certainly come and overflow, and pass through [the first Palestinian campaign of Antiochus III]. And he [Ptolemy IV Philopater] will carry on [return to Egypt] and do battle, even to his fortress [raising an army of seventy-thousand men]” (verse 10).

“And the king of the south [Ptolemy IV Philopater] shall be in a rage and shall come out and fight with him [Antiochus III], even with the king of the north who will raise a great multitude, but the multitude shall be given into his hand [Ptolemy IV’s]” (verse 11).

“And the multitude shall be carried away, and his [Ptolemy IV’s] heart shall be lifted up. And he [Ptolemy IV] shall cast down tens of thousands [at the Battle of Raphia, 217 BC], but he shall not prevail” (verse 12).

“For the king of the north [Antiochus III] shall return [Antiochus III renewed the war twelve years later in 205 BC] and shall send out a multitude greater than the former, and at the end of some years [two years after renewing the war] shall come with a great army and with much equipment” (verse 13).

“And in those times there shall stand up [Antiochus III allied himself with Philip of Macedon and conquered Phoenicia and Syria] many against the king of the south [Ptolemy V Epiphanes, a child]. Also, the violent among your people [literally, sons of the oppressors: i.e., apostate Jews who defied laws and justice] shall rise up to establish the vision [of a free and independent Judah], but they shall fall [at the hand of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, for they indirectly helped to establish Antiochus IV through their support of his father, Antiochus III]” (verse 14).

“So the king of the north [Antiochus III] shall come, and cast up a siege mound, and take a fortified city. And the forces of the south [Ptolemy V] shall not hold out, nor his chosen people [who fled], nor shall there be any strength to withstand” (verse 15).

“But he [Antiochus III] who comes against him [Ptolemy V] shall do according to his own will, and none shall stand before him. And he [Antiochus III] shall stand in the glorious land [Palestine], with destructive power in his hand [foreshadowing his son, Antiochus IV, who continued his destructive ways]” (verse 16).

“He [Antiochus III] also shall set his face to enter with the strength of all his kingdom, and shall make an agreement with him; so he shall do [Antiochus III made a treaty with Ptolemy V]. And he shall give him [Ptolemy V, who was only age 12] the daughter of women [Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus III, who was only 11 years of age] to destroy the kingdom, but she shall not stand by his side [she sided with her husband], nor be for him [her father, Antiochus III]” (verse 17).

“After this he [Antiochus III] shall turn his face to the isles [the coastlands or maritime countries of Asia Minor] and shall capture many. But a prince [the Roman General Lucius Scipio] shall put an end to his [Antiochus III’s] insolence; and will turn his insolence back upon him” (verse 18).

“Then he [Antiochus III] shall turn his face to the fortresses of his own land. But he shall stumble and fall, and shall not be found [Antiochus III was defeated by General Scipio and was killed at the temple of Belus in 187 BC]” (verse 19).


The King of the North Plunders the Temple in Jerusalem—Daniel 11:20


Seleucus IV Philopater—King of Syria (187-175 BC)

“Then shall stand up in his [Antiochus III’s] place one who will send out an exacter of taxes [his son Seleucus IV, brother of Antiochus IV] in the glory of the kingdom [the land of Palestine]. But within a few days he shall be destroyed [Seleucus was poisoned by his tax collector Heliodorus], not in anger, nor in battle” (Dan. 11:20).

During the twelve years that Seleucus IV reigned, the empire gradually regained strength. Seleucus IV sent Heliodorus, his exactor or tax collector, to “pass through the glorious land (cp. vv. 16, 41; 8.9) … [and] plunder the temple…. See 2 Macc. 3.4” (Bullinger, The Companion Bible, p. 1203). Not long afterward, Seleucus died at the hands of Heliodorus, and the throne passed to his brother, Antiochus IV. It was Antiochus IV who invaded Jerusalem and polluted the Temple in 167 BC, causing the daily sacrifices to cease. As noted earlier, Antiochus IV was a type of the coming Antichrist. His defilement of the Temple was only a forerunner of the prophesied “abomination of desolation.”

The rise and fall of the Antichrist are also discussed in Daniel 8, which provides additional insight into the events that will take place in Jerusalem and the Middle East in the years leading to the return of Christ.

Daniel 8:9-26

“And out of one of them [one of the four divisions of Alexander’s empire, verse 8] came forth a little horn [the Antichrist], which became very great, toward the south and toward the east and toward the glorious land [the land of Israel]. And it became great, even to the host of heaven. And it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and trampled upon them. Yea, he magnified himself, even to the Prince of the host, and the daily sacrifice [at a future temple in Jerusalem] was taken away by him, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. And the host was given to it together with the daily sacrifice because of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground. And it practiced and prospered” (Dan. 8:9-12).

Daniel 8:9 states that the Antichrist will expand south toward the Persian Gulf, east toward India and west toward the nation of Israel, thus indicating that he rises from the north. This conclusion is supported by the prophecy in Daniel 11 concerning the king of the north who will rise at the time of the end. As in Daniel 11, the prophecy in Daniel 8 describes him as skilled in the use of subtlety and pretense.

“And in the latter time of their kingdom [the time of the end], when the transgressors have come to the full, a king, fierce of countenance [mighty presence] and understanding dark sentences [skilled in dissimulation], shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power [Satan will empower him]. And he shall destroy marvelously, and shall prosper [succeed] and do his own will, and destroy the mighty and the holy people [bringing the Great Tribulation upon the people of Israel]. And also through his cunning he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand. And he shall magnify himself in his heart, and in time of security shall destroy many. He also shall stand up against the Prince of princes [Christ, the King of kings]. But he shall be broken without a human hand [not by human strength, but by divine power]. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true. But you shall shut up the vision, for it belongs to many days to come [the time of the end]” (Dan. 8:23-26).

The prophecies of both Daniel 8 and Daniel 11 reveal that the Antichrist will come to power in the years immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ and will fight against Christ at His coming. The future fulfillment of the two prophecies is also confirmed by Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 concerning the “abomination that brings desolation.” These words were spoken two centuries after the invasion of Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, leaving no room to identify him as the “little horn” of Daniel eight—except in type. Indeed, the pollution of the Temple by Antiochus IV in 167 BC was a foreshadowing of the devastation that will take place in Jerusalem at the hands of the future Antichrist. The terrible distress that will strike the people of Israel when he sets up the “abomination of desolation” will surpass the holocaust that the Jews suffered during World War II.

“For then shall there be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be again” (Matt. 24:21).

At this time of indescribable suffering, Christ will return to deliver the remnant of Israel. He will reign in Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords, and all will acknowledge Him as the Messiah. That is the glorious future that lies beyond the prophecies of the end-time Antichrist.

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