The Coming Prince
CHAPTER V: THE ANGEL' S MESSAGE
"Seventy weeks are decreed
upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and
to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and
to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from
the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem,
unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and
two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in trou
blous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall
Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the Prince
that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and his end
thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations
are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one
week: and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and
the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come
one that maketh desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined,
shall wrath be poured out upon the desolator." Daniel 9:24-27. R.V.
(See marginal readings.)
SUCH was the message entrusted to the angel
in response to the prophet's prayer for mercies upon Judah and Jerusalem.
1. "The expression does not
in a single case apply to any person." – TREGELLES,
Daniel, p. 98. "These words are applied to the Nazarene, although
this expression is never applied to a person throughout the Bible, but
invariably denotes part of the temple, the holy of holies" –
DR. HERMAN ADLER, Sermons (Trubner, 1869).
2. "From the issuing of the decree." – TREGELLES, Daniel,
3. Not the covenant (as in A. V.: see margin). This word is rendered
covenant when Divine things are in question, and league when,
as here, an ordinary treaty is intended (C. f. ex. gr., Joshua
9:6, 7, 11, 15, 16).
To whom shall appeal be made for an interpretation of the utterance? Not
to the Jew, surely, for though himself the subject of the prophecy, and
of all men the most deeply interested in its meaning, he is bound, in rejecting
Christianity, to falsify not only history, but his own Scriptures. Nor yet
to the theologian who has prophetic theories to vindicate, and who on discovering,
perhaps, some era of seven times seventy in Israel's history, concludes
that he has solved the problem, ignoring the fact that the strange history
of that wonderful people is marked through all its course by chronological
cycles of seventy and multiples of seventy. But any man of unprejudiced
mind who will read the words with no commentary save that afforded by Scripture
itself and the history of the time, will readily admit that on certain leading
points their meaning is unequivocal and clear.
- 1. It was thus revealed that the full
meed of blessing promised to the Jews should be deferred till the close
of a period of time, described as "seventy sevens," after which Daniel's
city and people are to be established in blessing of the fullest
2. Another period composed of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks is specified
with equal certainty.
3. This second era dates from the issuing of an edict to rebuild Jerusalem,
– not the temple, but the city; for, to remove all doubt,
"the street and wall" are emphatically mentioned; and a definite
event, described as the cutting off of Messiah, marks the close of it.
4. The beginning of the week required (in addition to the sixty-nine)
to complete the seventy, is to be signalized by the making of a covenant
or treaty by a personage described as "the Prince that shall come,"
or "the coming Prince," which covenant he will violate in the middle
of the week by the suppression of the Jews' religion.
5. And therefore the complete era of seventy weeks,
and the lesser period of sixty-nine weeks, date from the same epoch.
The first question, therefore, which arises is whether history
records any event which unmistakably marks the beginning of the era.
4. If the words of verses 24 and 25 do not
themselves carry conviction that Judah and Jerusalem are the subjects
of the prophecy, the reader has but to compare them with the preceding
verses, especially 2, 7, 12, 16, 18, and 19.
5. Literally the "trench" or "scarped rampart." – TRECELLES, DanieI,
6. The personage referred to in verse 27 is not the Messiah, but the
second prince named in verse 26. The theory which has gained currency,
that the Lord made a seven years' compact with the Jews at the beginning
of His ministry, would deserve a prominent place in a cyclopaedia of
the vagaries of religious thought. We know of the old covenant, which
has been abrogated, and of the new covenant, which is everlasting; but
the extraordinary idea of a seven years' covenant between God and men
has not a shadow of foundation in the letter of Scripture, and is utterly
opposed to its spirit.
7. "The whole period of seventy weeks is divided into three successive
periods, – seven, sixty-two, one, and the last week is subdivided
into two halves. It is self-evident that since these parts, seven, sixty-two,
one, are equal to the whole, viz., seventy, it was intended that
they should be." – PUSEY, Daniel, p. 170.
Certain writers, both Christian and Jewish, have assumed that the seventy
weeks began in the first year of Darius, the date of the prophecy itself;
and thus falling into hopeless error at the very threshold of the inquiry,
all their conclusions are necessarily erroneous. The words of the angel
are unequivocal: "From the issuing of the decree to restore and build Jerusalem
unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks."
That Jerusalem was in fact rebuilt as a fortified city, is absolutely certain
and undoubted; and the only question in the matter is whether history records
the edict for its restoration.
When we turn to the book of Ezra, three several decrees of Persian kings
claim notice. The opening verses speak of that strange edict by which Cyrus
authorized the building of the temple. But here "the house of the Lord God
of Israel" is specified with such an exclusive definiteness that it can
in no way satisfy the words of Daniel. Indeed the date of that decree affords
conclusive proof that it was not the beginning of the seventy weeks. Seventy
years was the appointed duration of the servitude to Babylon. (Jeremiah
27:6-17; 28:10; 29:10) But another judgment of seventy years' "desolations"
was decreed in Zedekiah's reign, because of continued disobedience and
rebellion. As an interval of seventeen years elapsed between the date of
the servitude and the epoch of the "desolations," so by seventeen years
the second period overlapped the first. The servitude ended with the decree
of Cyrus. The desolations continued till the second year of Darius Hystaspes.
And it was the era of the desolations, and not of the servitude which
Daniel had in view.
The decree of Cyrus was the Divine fulfillment of the promise
made to the captivity in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, and in accordance
with that promise the fullest liberty was granted to the exiles to return
to Palestine. But till the era of the desolations had run its course, not
one stone was to be set upon another on Mount Moriah. And this explains
the seemingly inexplicable fact that the firman to build the temple, granted
to eager agents by Cyrus in the zenith of his power, remained in abeyance
till his death; for a few refractory Samaritans were allowed to thwart the
execution of this the most solemn edict ever issued by an Eastern despot,
an edict in respect of which a Divine sanction seemed to confirm the unalterable
will of a Medo-Persian king.
8. It was foretold in the fourth year of Jehoiakim,
i. e., the year after the servitude began (Jeremiah 25:1, 11).
9. Scripture thus distinguishes three different eras, all in part concurrent,
which have come to be spoken of as "the captivity." First, the servitude;
second, Jehoiachin's captivity; and third, the desolations. "The servitude"
began in the third year of Jehoiakim, i. e., B. C. 606, or before
1st Nisan (April) B. C. 605, and was brought to a close by the decree
of Cyrus seventy years later. "The captivity" began in the eighth year
of Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Scriptural era of his reign, i.
e., in B. C. 598; and the desolations began in his seventeenth
year, B. C. 589, and ended in the second year of Darius Hystaspes –
again a period of seventy years. See App.
1. upon the chronological questions here involved.
10. Daniel 9:2 is explicit on this point: "I, Daniel, understood by
books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah
the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations
When the years of the desolations were expired, a Divine
command was promulgated for the building of the sanctuary, and in obedience
to that command, without waiting for permission from the capital, the Jews
returned to the work in which they had so long been hindered. (Ezra 5:1,
2, 5) The wave of political excitement which had carried
Darius to the throne of
Persia, was swelled by religious fervor against the Magian idolatry.
The moment therefore was auspicious for the Israelites, whose worship of
Jehovah commanded the sympathy of the Zoroastrian faith; and when the tidings
reached the palace of their seemingly seditious action at Jerusalem, Darius
made search among the Babylonian archives of Cyrus, and finding the decree
of his predecessor, he issued on his own behalf a firman to give effect
to it. (Ezra 6)
11. "The law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth
not" (Daniel 6:12). Canon Rawlinson assumes that the temple was fifteen
or sixteen years in building, before the work was stopped by the decree
of the Artaxerxes mentioned in Ezra 4. (Five Great Mon., vol.
4, p. 398.) But this is entirely opposed to Scripture. The foundation
of the temple was laid in the second year of Cyrus (Ezra 3:8-11), but
no progress was made till the second year of Darius, when the foundation
was again laid, for not a stone of the house had yet been placed
(Haggai 2, 10, 15, 18). The building, once begun, was completed within
five years (Ezra 6:15). It must be borne in mind that the altar was
set up, and sacrifice was renewed immediately after the return of the
exiles (Ezra 3:3, 6).
And this is the second event which affords a possible beginning
for the seventy weeks. But though plausible arguments may be urged to
prove that, either regarded as an independent edict, or as giving practical
effect to the decree of Cyrus, the act of Darius was the epoch of the prophetic
period, the answer is clear and full, that it fails to satisfy the angel's
words. However it be accounted for, the fact remains, that though the "desolations"
were accomplished, yet neither the scope of the royal edict, nor the action
of the Jews in pursuance of that edict, went beyond the building of the
Holy Temple, whereas the prophecy foretold a decree for the building of
the city; not the street alone, but the fortifications of Jerusalem.
12. Five Great Mon., vol. 4., p. 405. But Canon
Rawlinson is wholly wrong in inferring that the known religious zeal
of Darius was the motive which led to the action of the Jews. See
Five years sufficed for the erection of the building which
served as a shrine for Judah during the five centuries which followed.
But, in striking contrast with the temple they had reared in days when the
magnificence of Solomon made gold as cheap as brass in Jerusalem, no costly
furniture adorned the second house, until the seventh year of Artaxerxes
Longimanus, when the Jews obtained a firman "to beautify the house of the
Lord." (Ezra 7:19, 27.) This letter further authorized Ezra to return to
Jerusalem with such of the Jews as desired to accompany him, and there to
restore fully the worship of the temple and the ordinances of their religion.
But this third decree makes no reference whatever to building, and it might
be passed unnoticed were it not that many writers have fixed on it as the
epoch of the prophecy. The temple had been already built long years before,
and the city was still in ruins thirteen years afterwards. The book of Ezra
therefore will be searched in vain for any mention of a "commandment to
restore and build Jerusalem." But we only need to turn to the book which
follows it in the canon of Scripture to find the record which we seek.
13. This is the epoch fixed upon by Mr. Bosanquet in
Messiah the Prince.
The book of Nehemiah opens by relating that while at Susa,
where he was cup-bearer to the great king, "an honor of no small account
in Persia," certain of his brethren arrived from Judea, and he "asked
them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity,
and concerning Jerusalem." The emigrants declared that all were "in great
affliction and reproach," "the wall of Jerusalem also was broken down, and
the gates thereof were burned with fire." (Nehemiah 1:2) The first chapter
closes with the record of Nehemiah's supplication to "the God of heaven."
The second chapter narrates how "in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year
of Artaxerxes," he was discharging the duties of his office, and as he stood
before the king his countenance betrayed his grief, and Artaxerxes called
on him to tell his trouble. "Let the king live for ever," Nehemiah answered,
"why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my
fathers' sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with
fire!" "For what dost thou make request?" the king demanded in reply.
Thereupon Nehemiah answered thus: "If it please the king, and if thy servant
have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah,
unto THE CITY of my fathers' sepulchers, THAT I MAY BUILD
IT." (Nehemiah 2:5) Artaxerxes fiated the petition, and forthwith issued
the necessary orders to give effect to it. Four months later, eager hands
were busy upon the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and before the Feast of Tabernacles
the city was once more enclosed by gates and a rampart. (Nehemiah 6:15)
14. The temple was begun in the second, and completed
in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 4:24; 6:15.).
But, it has been urged, "The decree of the twentieth year
of Artaxerxes is but an enlargement and renewal of his first decree, as
the decree of Darius confirmed that of Cyrus." If this assertion had
not the sanction of a great name, it would not deserve even a passing notice.
If it were maintained that the decree of the seventh year of Artaxerxes
was but "an enlargement and renewal" of his predecessors' edicts, the statement
would be strictly accurate. That decree was mainly an authority to the Jews
"to beautify the House of the Lord. which is in Jerusalem," (Ezra 7:27)
in extension of the decrees by which Cyrus and Darius permitted them to
build it. The result was to produce a gorgeous shrine in the midst
of a ruined city. The movement of the seventh of Artaxerxes was chiefly
a religious revival, (Ezra 7:10) sanctioned and subsidized by royal favor;
but the event of his twentieth year was nothing less than the restoration
of the autonomy of Judah. The execution of the work which Cyrus authorized
was stopped on the false charge which the enemies of the Jews carried to
the palace, that their object was to build not merely the Temple, but the
city. "A rebellious city" it had ever proved to each successive suzerain,
"for which cause" – they declared with truth, – its destruction
was decreed. "We certify the king" (they added) "that if this city be
builded again, and the walls thereof set up, thou shalt have
no portion on this side the river." To allow the building of the temple
was merely to accord to a conquered race the right to worship according
to the law of their God, for the religion of the Jew knows no worship apart
from the hill of Zion. It was a vastly different event when that people
were permitted to set up again the far-famed fortifications of their city,
and entrenched behind those walls, to restore under Nehemiah the old polity
of the Judges. This was a revival of the national existence of Judah,
and therefore it is fitly chosen as the epoch of the prophetic period of
the seventy weeks.
15. For a description of the ruins of the great palace
at Susa, see Mr. Wm. Kennett Loftus's Travels and Researches in Chaldea
and Susiana, chap. 28.
16. Herodotus, 3, 34.
The doubt which has been raised upon the point may serve
as an illustration of the extraordinary bias which seems to govern the interpretation
of Scripture, in consequence of which the plain meaning of words is made
to give place to the remote and the less probable. And to the same cause
must be attributed the doubt which some have suggested as to the identity
of the king here spoken of with Artaxerxes Longimanus.
17. Pusey, Daniel. p. 171. Dr. Pusey adds, "The
little colony which Ezra took with him of 1, 683 males (with women and
children some 8, 400 souls) was itself a considerable addition to those
who had before returned, and involved a rebuilding of Jerusalem.
This rebuilding of the city and reorganization of the polity, begun
by Ezra, and carried on and perfected by Nehemiah, corresponds with
the words of Daniel, 'From the going forth of a commandment to restore
and build Jerusalem'" (p. 172.) This argument is the feeblest imaginable,
and indeed this reference to the decree of the seventh year of Artaxerxes
is a great blot on Dr. Pusey's book. If an immigration of 8, 400 souls
involved a rebuilding of the city, and therefore marked the beginning
of the seventy weeks, what shall be said of the immigration of 49, 697
souls seventy-eight years before? (Ezra 2:64, 65.) Did this not involve
a rebuilding? But, Dr. Pusey goes on to say, "The term also corresponds,"
i. e., the 483 years, to the time of Christ. Here is obviously
the real ground for his fixing the date B. C. 457, or more properly
B. C. 458, as given by Prideaux, whom unfortunately Dr. Pusey has followed
at this point. With more naivete the author of the Connection
pleads that the years will not tally if any other date be assigned,
and therefore the decree of the seventh of Artaxerxes must be right!
(Prid., Con., 1., 5, B. C. 458.) Such a system of interpretation
has done much to discredit the study of prophecy altogether.
18. i. e., Euphrates. Ezra 4:16.
19. "This last is the only decree which we find recorded in Scripture
which relates to the restoring and building of the city. It must be
borne in mind that the very existence of a place as a city depended
upon such a decree; for before that any who returned from the land of
captivity went only in the condition of sojourners; it was the decree
that gave them a recognized and distinct political existence." –
TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 98.
"On a sudden, however, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah,
a man of Jewish descent, cup-bearer to the king, received a commission
to rebuild the city with all possible expedition. The cause of this
change in the Persian politics is to be sought, not so much in the personal
influence of the Jewish cup-bearer, as in the foreign history of the
times. The power of Persia had received a fatal blow in the victory
obtained at Cnidos by Conon, the Athenian admiral. The great king was
obliged to submit to a humiliating peace, among the articles of which
were the abandonment of the maritime towns, and a stipulation that the
Persian army should not approach within three days' journey of the sea.
Jerusalem, being about this distance from the coast, and standing so
near the line of communication with Egypt, became a post of the utmost
importance." – MILMAN, Hist. Jews (3rd Ed.), 1.,
The question remains, whether the date of this edict can
be accurately ascertained. And here a most striking fact claims notice.
In the sacred narrative the date of the event which marked the beginning
of the seventy weeks is fixed only by reference to the regnal era of a Persian
king. Therefore we must needs turn to secular history to ascertain the epoch,
and history dates from this very period. Herodotus, "the father of
history," was the contemporary of Artaxerxes, and visited the Persian court.
Thucydides, "the prince of historians," also was his contemporary. In the
great battles of Marathon and Salamis, the history of Persia had become
interwoven with events in Greece, by which its chronology can be ascertained
and tested; and the chief chronological eras of antiquity were current at
the time. No element is wanting, therefore, to enable us with accuracy
and certainty to fix the date of Nehemiah's edict.
20. Artaxerxes I. reigned forty years, from 465 to
425. He is mentioned by Herodotus once (6. 98), by Thucydides frequently.
Both writers were his contemporaries. There is every reason to believe
that he was the king who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem, and sanctioned
the restoration of the fortifications." – RAWLINSON, Herodotus,
vol. 4., p. 217.
True it is that in ordinary history the mention of "the twentieth
year of Artaxerxes" would leave in doubt whether the era of his reign were
reckoned from his actual accession, or from his father's death; but
the narrative of Nehemiah removes all ambiguity upon this score. The murder
of Xerxes and the beginning of the usurper Artabanus's seven months' reign
was in July B.C. 465; the accession of Artaxerxes was in February B.C. 464;
One or other of these dates, therefore, must be the epoch of Artaxerxes'
reign. But as Nehemiah mentions the Chisleu (November) of one year, and
the following Nisan (March) as being both in the same year of his master's
reign, it is obvious that, as might be expected from an official of the
court, he reckons from the time of the king's accession de jure,
that is from July B.C. 465. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes therefore began
in July B.C. 446, and the commandment to rebuild
Jerusalem was given in the Nisan following. The epoch of the prophetic
cycle is thus definitely fixed as in the Jewish month Nisan of the year
21. The year in which he is said to have recited his
writings at the Olympic games, was the very year of Nehemiah's mission.
22. The era of the Olympiads began B. C. 776; the era of Rome (A. U.
C.) B. C. 753; and the era of Nabonassar, B. C. 747.
23. The seven months of Artabanus were by some added
to the last year of Xerxes, and by others were included in the reign
of Artaxerxes." – CLINTON, Fasti Hellenici, vol. 2., p.
24. It has been shown already that the accession of Xerxes is determined
to the beginning of 485 B. C. His twentieth year was completed in the
beginning of 465 B. C., and his death would happen in the beginning
of the Archonship of Lysitheus. The seven months of Artabanus, completing
the twenty-one years, would bring down the accession of Artaxerxes (after
the removal of Artabanus) to the beginning of 464, in the year of Nabonassar
284, where it is placed by the canon. Note b: "We may place the
death of Xerxes in the first month of that Archon (i. e., of
Lysitheus), July B. C. 465, and the succession of Artaxerxes in the
eighth month, February B. C. 464." – CLINTON, Fasti Hellenici,
vol. 2., p. 380.
25. See Appendix 2., Note A, on the chronology
of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus.