On The Seventy Weeks of Daniel

24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:24-26)

This remarkable prophecy is the only one in the entire Old Testament that tells us when the Messiah would appear. Modern interpreters, almost without exception, compromise the perfect accuracy of the prediction by accommodating its interpretation to agree with certain merely human historical resources. This is a grave error, for the Bible itself provides all the information that is required to demonstrate that it was fulfilled exactly as stated, to the very year!

The Occasion

The occasion of this remarkable prophecy is as follows:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:1-2)

Daniel was carried away to Babylon as a youth, and now he was an old man. In the course of his studies, he had become aware of the promise of Jeremiah, written specifically to him and the other captives in Babylon:

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon… Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon… For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:1-14)

Jeremiah alone predicts the period of time for the captivity, but says nothing about restoring the desolations of Jerusalem. However Daniel knew from another “book” that more was promised than just the return of the captives. The book of Isaiah shows that the return of the captives would be accompanied by a comprehensive restoration of national existence:

Thus saith the LORD …to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof …That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.(Isaiah 44:24-28)

Thus it is clear how Daniel “understood by books” that “the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2) were to be ended when the captives returned after seventy years. But what was explicit in Isaiah was implicit in Jeremiah. After all, what would the captives have had to look forward to, if the temple, the city, and national life were not to be restored as well? We will revisit this thought later.

Accordingly, having a promise in hand, and seeing that the time of its fulfillment was near, Daniel sought the Lord with his whole heart for its performance:

O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. (Daniel 9:16-19)

Daniel’s prayer is for the city and temple to be restored as the center of worship and of government of the Jewish nation. It is for the restoration of the people of God to their proper place, role and privileges; for it would be unthinkable for him to desire any less. This prayer was soon to be granted. But Daniel did not yet understand that the Mosaic Covenant was to be eventually superseded by a new and better covenant of international scope. No doubt he even thought of the coming days of Messiah in terms of Jewish dominance. But God was about to disabuse him of his illusions. He sent the angel Gabriel with a revelation concerning the restoration of Jerusalem, the last days of the Jewish nation, and the second desolation of Jerusalem that would follow the appearance of Messiah.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (Daniel 9:25)

Please note that the Hebrew word translated “weeks” is literally “sevens”. The word means a unit composed of seven sub-units, a heptad. It is commonly used to denote an ordinary week of days; but here it denotes a seven-year period, or heptad of years.

The seventy heptads are divided into three parts: the first of seven, the second of sixty-two, and the third of the final heptad. which is of special significance. The first seven constitute the period when the city and temple would be restored. The succeeding sixty-two cover the long age of prophetic silence from Malachi’s last word to John the Baptist. The last heptad is distinguished because it is the one in which Messiah appears and accomplishes the six things promised in verse 24 that comprise the spiritual redemption of the Israel of God:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Daniel 9:24)

What is Predicted

What are the details of the prophecy?

First, regarding the starting point of the prophecy; that there would be a “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”(v.24).

Second, that the city of Jerusalem and its temple would be restored within the first seven heptads (49 years) of the prophecy (v.25).

Third, that the Messiah would appear after 62 more heptads (434 years) had gone by (v.25).

Fourth, that shortly thereafter, in the 70th heptad (years 484 through 490) Messiah would be “cut off”(v.26a), and would thus complete all the things predicted in verse 24, within the period of seventy weeks.

And Fifth, that the city and temple would be destroyed by foreign armies some indeterminate time afterward (v. 26b).

The Starting Point

A question much debated by scholars and chronologers of Scripture is “When did the seventy weeks begin?” and the related question, “What was the commandment to which Gabriel here refers?” Scripture leaves no doubt that the decree of Cyrus in the first year of his reign is the one meant. Those who rely solely on scriptural authority will avoid the confusion that has ensnared so many!

First, there is the most intimate connection between three events: the release of the captive Jews at the end of seventy years, the restoration of the temple and its worship, and the re-building of Jerusalem. Daniel’s prophecy distinguishes the first seven weeks of his prophecy; and it so happens that all of these events took place within those 49 years. The Old Testament was also completed with the writing of Nehemiah and Malachi at the end of this period.

Many commentators want to limit the scope of Cyrus’ decree to the re-building of the temple, as if it had nothing to do with the re-building of the city of Jerusalem and its wall. Yet the Scripture could not be more explicit about the role of Cyrus in the restoration of the nation Israel. The Lord spoke these words through the prophet Isaiah, 200 years before the event:

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.(Isaiah 44:24-28)

John Gill comments on verse 28:

and shall perform all my pleasure; concerning the deliverance of the Jews from Babylon, and the encouragement of them to go up to their own land, and rebuild their city and temple…

even saying to Jerusalem, thou shalt be built; these are not the words of the Lord, as before, but of Cyrus, giving orders that Jerusalem should be built:

and to the temple, thy foundation shall be laid; with great propriety this is said, since only the foundation was laid in his time; the Jews being discouraged and hindered by their enemies from going on with the building in his reign, until the times of Darius, king of Persia. (See Ezra 1:1)

And this is not the end of it. Isaiah goes on to say:

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.

For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things… I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 45:1-13)

These Scriptures absolutely establish Cyrus as God’s agent in the release of the captives, the restoration of the temple, and the re-building of Jerusalem. It follows that the “commandment” mentioned in Daniel 9:25 refers to the decree of Cyrus in the first year of his reign, which is recorded (perhaps in summary form) in Ezra 1:1:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? 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,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1-4)

Notice, “that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled” – Jeremiah, not Isaiah. This has reference to the seventy years of Jeremiah mentioned above. This prophecy could only have been fulfilled by Cyrus in his first year.

It is objected that this decree of Cyrus says nothing about the building of the city. I answer, First, that this may well be a summary, rather than a full statement of the decree. In any case, the building of the city is implied. To what end would they re-build the temple if they could not live in the city? It was necessary, in order for Jehovah’s worship to be restored, (which was the principal thing aimed at by Cyrus) and for the temple to mean anything, that the city be re-built to accommodate such of the former captives as would reside there (priests, Levites, rulers) and worshipers at the major feasts. It should also be obvious that the treasures of silver and gold and precious stones and the priceless artwork of the temple would need to be protected. It is absurd to think that Cyrus did not intend the city to be made defensible.

Second, the words of Isaiah quoted above are explicit that Cyrus would command the building of the city. When did he do so, if not in this famous decree? Furthermore, Isaiah said that he would in some sense actually build the temple and the city. What can these words mean, if not that his personal action secured the result? For 17 years elapsed between the death of Cyrus and the completion of the temple; and at least 27 years elapsed between his death and the finishing of the wall by Nehemiah. But Scripture tells us that it was out of respect to Cyrus’ decree that the construction of the temple was begun, and then, after it had been stopped, resumed under Darius:

Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid… Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place…

Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, [even] Artaxerxes, king of Persia. (Ezra 6:1-14)

This same Darius was the one who, seventeen years later, authorized Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and oversee the restoration of the city, including, but not limited to, finishing the building of the walls. It is clear from his narrative that Nehemiah was made the highest civil authority, “the Tirshatha” in Jerusalem by the direct authority of the King Darius. He was not merely given a commission to build the walls and gates; but to set things in order so that Cyrus’ decree would be fully realized. Does anyone think that his original request to Darius only had respect to the city’s fortifications, without respect to its overall well-being? This King, like Cyrus before him, wanted the God of the Jews, whose marvelous works on the behalf of his people were a matter of public record, on his side.

Third, the Jews set about re-building the walls long before Nehemiah came to Jerusalem. He completed what they had begun. They had already laid the foundations and started construction of the walls when the temple work was suspended, as we shall now see.

The pretext made use of by Israel’s enemies in the land by which they had persuaded the King before Darius to suspend the construction of the temple was that it would be unwise for the Persian king to allow this city to be rebuilt, because it had a long history of rebellion:

Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings… therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river. (Ezra 4:12-16)

As a result of this letter, this king of Persia commanded the work to cease. It is important to remember that the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed, even by the king. The decree of Cyrus was not revoked, or even consulted – just forgotten. So, later, when once it was made known, Darius had no legal option but to support the decree.

This should be sufficient to show that there is not only no sound reason for rejecting Cyrus’ decree as the starting point of the seventy weeks; but that there is no biblical possibility whatever that another, later decree of some other Persian king was intended in Daniel’s prophecy.

Finally, the decree of Cyrus is the only one that makes sense as a starting point for the seventy weeks. Ezra gives us the four kings who reigned in Persia while this was going on in Ezra 4:5-7 [see appendix:The Four Persian Kings of Ezra 4:5-8]: the first is explicitly Cyrus. The last one is Darius Hystaspes, called “the Great”. The temple was finished in his second year. He was still in power when the wall was repaired under Nehemiah. There is no record of him making a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem; only one made for the enforcement of Cyrus’ decree after a lapse of some years:

And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid… Now therefore… Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.

Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed. Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. (Ezra 6:1-13)

Thus we read:

And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, [even] Artaxerxes king of Persia. (Ezra 6:14)

Notice the phrase, “the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius”. These are the only two commandments recorded in Scripture that relate to the restoration of Jerusalem. There was no third decree by some other Persian ruler named Artaxerxes; for, again, the work was completed under Darius. Any decree by any later Persian monarch to rebuild the city would be ludicrous, since it was already finished when Darius closed his reign! And the king called “Artaxerxes” who is mentioned in Ezra 4:7-24 is the one who caused the work to cease until he was succeeded by Darius! Obviously, he cannot be the Artaxerxes of Ezra 6:14. Hence, the word “and” must be understood as “even”. Darius is sometimes called Artaxerxes, and sometimes, Ahasuerus. Both were titles used by the Persian monarchs, as Pharaoh was used by the Egyptians, and Caesar by the Romans.

Part 1: The Restoration of Jerusalem

The first prediction concerns the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. This was Daniel’s immediate concern, and the subject of God’s promise through Jeremiah, so we should not be surprised that it receives the first place in the revelation of Gabriel to Daniel. What was the condition of Jerusalem at this time? These passages contain the principal specifics of its ruined condition:

But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. (Jeremiah 17:27)

And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire. And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. (2 Kings 25:8-10)

And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. (2 Chronicles 36:19)

The gates, the palaces, and all the great men’s houses had been burned; the wall had been broken down on all sides, and all the valuable furnishings of the houses and the temple had either been destroyed or carried off. It was a complete ruin, and would not be restored as a worshiping, functioning city without years of labor.

Add to this that Jerusalem had been uninhabited for seventy years. And now there were in Palestine less than 50,000 semi-pagan Jews, most of whom no longer spoke Hebrew, who had imbibed many of the customs and attitudes of the heathen societies of which they had been a part, who had no experience of liberty and self-government, who were ill-equipped to restore a system of government, civic order, and of worship that none of them had ever seen in action or experienced before! Many of these were going to be occupied with restoring their ancestral homes and villages scattered throughout Israel.

This was bad enough; but there were bitter and powerful enemies beside. This is hinted at in the expression “in troublous times”. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah document the opposition that the builders faced; and the book of Esther uncovers the Satanic plot that nearly succeeded to destroy the entire Jewish people worldwide, soon after the temple and the wall had been rebuilt. These were “troublous times” indeed!

The biblical history records that, despite all these obstacles, the restoration of Jerusalem did take place within the seven heptads.

Part 2: The Appearing of Messiah

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks…

The restoration of Jerusalem as a worshiping community was uppermost in Daniel’s mind; but God knew that Daniel’s ideal would never be fully realized. He had something else far better in mind, the new covenant of which Jeremiah had spoken, and a holy nation of Jews and Gentiles under the headship of Messiah. This was the real thing to be hoped for; of which Jerusalem was only a type. So the Lord not only answered Daniel’s prayer; He took this occasion to speak of things beyond Daniel’s immediate concern.

There can be no doubt about the year of Christ’s appearing, for His baptism is dated in the most specific terms in Luke’s gospel, chapter 3:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins… Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:1-3;21-22)

This is, beyond doubt, the year we call 26 AD.

Likewise, the scriptural chronology dates the decree of Cyrus at 3589 Anno Mundi. Add 69 times 7, or 483 years “to Messiah”, and we get an AM date of 4072 for the baptism of Jesus. Therefore, 26 AD is the same as 4072 AM. Subtract thirty years for the age of Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:23), and the result is 4042, the correct AM date for the birth of Christ. [In the Gregorian calendar that we use, the birth of Christ is four years too late. He was really born in the year we call 4 BC (30-26=minus 4)].

The discrepancy that puzzles so many chronologers results from accepting a dating scheme for the Persian period drawn from questionable sources outside of Scripture. There are many good reasons for rejecting the received system, which we cannot go into here; but those who are interested will find this view concisely and powerfully argued by Phillip Mauro in his book, The Wonders of Bible Chronology. It is enough for our purpose to state that any scheme which contradicts the chronology given in the inspired Scriptures must be false.

The phrase used to describe the coming prince of this prophecy is “the Messiah”, which means “the anointed”. Accordingly, I believe that Daniel’s prophecy references the year of his baptism, of His anointing with the Holy Spirit, which was also the beginning of his public ministry. Some chronologists think that the year of Christ’s birth, or that of his crucifixion is meant, instead. But there can really be no doubt on this point; for in the terms of the prophecy, Christ appears after sixty-nine weeks, and all the redemptive work of Christ must be accomplished within the seventieth week:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Daniel 9:24)

We have seen that the sixty-nine weeks terminates with the appearing of Christ, and yet His ministry must be completed within one more week. This appearing cannot possibly be His birth, unless He commenced His public ministry as an infant.

Others, with more plausibility, explain it of His crucifixion. On this theory, He died at the end of the sixty-ninth week, and the seventieth week must have passed without any significance with respect to any of the things prophesied. Dispensationalists generally take this view, because it allows them to separate the final week from all the rest, and postulate a “parenthesis” of indeterminate length between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth; intending to support their dogma of the postponed kingdom by perverting the plain sense of the prophecy, in defiance of the rules of language and logic.

But the prophecy states that it will take seventy weeks to accomplish all the things spoken, not sixty-nine. The prophecy also seems to make a distinction between His appearing at the end of sixty-nine weeks and His cutting-off, some time “after” the sixty-nine weeks have elapsed:

And after [the first seven and the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself… (Daniel 9:26)

If the baptism of Messiah took place at the end of the sixty-ninth week, then His redemptive work and His “cutting off” must have been completed about halfway through the seventieth, which suits well with the stated terms of the prophecy. Everything is then fulfilled within the seventy heptads, as predicted.

Part 3: The Second Desolation of Jerusalem

…and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:26-27)

We now come to the most difficult part of the prophecy. For there can be no doubt that this last prophecy was fulfilled in the thoroughly documented wars of the Jews and the Romans, and the complete destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD. And yet this appears in the “seventy weeks” prophecy, which I claim ended in 33 AD or 4079 AM. How can this be reconciled?

In a word, while it is included in the “seventy weeks prophecy”, it is not included in the seventy weeks of the prophecy. If we attend to the terms of verse 24, there is nothing in it about the second desolation of the city. Notice the 6 things that are mentioned as occurring within the seventy weeks:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Daniel 9:24)

There is nothing here to suggest the second desolation of the temple. So I say that it is not in the seventy weeks of the prophecy. However, as we see in verses 26 and 27, it is in the prophecy. But it is almost an addendum, attached at the end, as something important suggested by and connected to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

Why was Jerusalem laid waste by the Romans? Because the Jews killed Jesus Christ. The mention of Messiah being “cut off” would suggest many questions to a Jewish mind like Daniel’s, “What happens next?” “How can Messiah be cut off when His kingdom lasts forever?” “Who is going to kill him?” It cannot have been out of place to anticipate such questions at this time.

Besides, this became an important part of the prophecy to the believing Jews at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction; for it is the source of the term, “the abomination of desolation” cited by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: (Matthew 24:15-16)

They heeded the warning and fled to Petra, and not a hair of their head perished, as Christ foretold, and which Eusebius records.

The conclusion is, that it is therefore erroneous to posit a hidden gap in the seventy weeks prophecy between the death of Christ and the second destruction of Jerusalem, as some have done. There is simply no need to violate the integrity and continuity of the prophecy. The seventy weeks cannot be separated: they stand as a unitary whole.

Concluding Thoughts

What a series of shocks Daniel had to endure, as God unfolded to him what would befall the Jews in the future! First, he learned from the dream of Nebuchadnezzar that there would be a succession of four Gentile empires – not just the Babylonian – before Messiah’s kingdom would finally be established (Daniel 2).

Then he was shown a vision of four beasts, in which the fourth (Rome) was a terrifying creature that became a persecuting power and “made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom”(Daniel 7:21-22).

Then he finds out that there will be another great persecuting power under the third world empire (Greece):

And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. (Daniel 8:23-24)

Then he is given this prophecy of the second desolation of Jerusalem.

Finally, he is given a sketch of the bloody centuries of incessant wars among the Gentile powers that surrounded Israel, with yet more details about Antiochus Epiphanes, his persecutions and his desecrations of the temple (Daniel 11).

But among all these dire revelations were found the precious promises of God’s over-ruling providence and the eventual triumph of His kingdom.

Appendix: The Four Persian Kings of Ezra 4:5-8

4 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. 6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 7 And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue. 8 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king… (Ezra 4:4-8)

In verses 5-7, four successive kings of Medo-Persia are distinguished. The first, Cyrus, was the founder of the Empire, and the one who gave commandment in his first year as sole king that the Jews be released and Jerusalem and its temple be rebuilt. He reigned from 3589 to 3596 AM.

The second mentioned is Darius, the one who authorized the resumption of construction after his predecessor had halted it at the request of Israel’s enemies in the land. He was the fourth in order, for it is said that:

Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.(vvs. 4-5)

So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (v.24)

This was Darius the Great, also called Hystaspes, who reigned from 3605 to 3641 AM. He was the king in power when the temple and the city were rebuilt during the first seven of the “seventy weeks” prophecy of Daniel:

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (Daniel 9:25)

Between Cyrus and Darius, two kings reigned. It is important to understand that Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, and Xerxes are titles – not personal names (just as Pharaoh and Caesar were titles given to many rulers of Egypt and Rome) – so they are not very helpful for identifying the particular persons designated by them. But history tells us that the successor of Cyrus was Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, who reigned until 3603 AM. He must therefore be the “Ahasuerus” mentioned in verse 6. At the time Ezra wrote, this would have been the title associated with him. He received accusations against the Jews, but would not halt the work which his father, Cyrus, had lawfully decreed. The laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed (Daniel 6:8; Esther 1:17).

The next king was an imposter, called “Pseudo-Smerdis”, who reigned less than a year, in 3605. Cambyses had secretly murdered the real Smerdis, his brother and rival. This left an opportunity for an imposter to appear and challenge Cambyses for the throne. He was successful for seven months, until Darius assassinated him. No doubt the enemies of the Jews saw an opportunity for their anti-Jew agenda when Cambyses died, and they successfully pressed their suit with the new king, as recorded in verses 7-24:

And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia…

Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.

Then sent the king an answer…

The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein… Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

This letter and its reply were mainly concerned with the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s fortifications. Accordingly, the building of the wall was suspended until much later, when Nehemiah appeared.

But the building of the temple only ceased for a little while before the Jews determined to go on with the work. After all, the decree of Cyrus was still in force, for the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed. Besides, they were sure it was God’s work, and that it would finally succeed. We have the record of this in Ezra 5:1-3:

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. (Ezra 5:1-3)

Then they were challenged by the authorities, and here is the answer that they gave:

We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up. But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon. But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place. Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished. (Ezra 5:11-16)

These authorities requested verification of the Jews’ story, and it was found to be true, when a copy of Cyrus’ decree was discovered. Darius accordingly authorized the resumption of the work in these words:

Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.

Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed. (Ezra 6:7-12)

Thus the work went on and prospered until the temple was finished:

Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, [even] Artaxerxes, king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. (Ezra 6:13-15)

In the second year of Darius (3606), the work officially resumed, and in 3609 the Jews celebrated the temple’s completion:

And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat, And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:21-22)

Darius is here called “the King of Assyria”. Israel lay in that part of the Persian empire that had formerly been the Assyrian Empire; but which had been taken over, first by Babylon, then by the Medes and Persians. Darius had many titles. He is called “Artaxerxes” again in Ezra 7:1, “King of Kings” in 7:12, “King of Babylon” in Nehemiah 13:6. He is also called “Ahasuerus” in the book of Esther, as Anstey abundantly proves:

“That the Ahasuerus of Esther is Darius Hystaspes and no other – although as Kitto says, “Almost every Medo-Persian King from Cyaxares I (B.C. 611-571) to Artaxerxes III Ochus (B.C. 358-338), has in turn been advanced as the Ahasuerus of Esther ” – is abundantly clear, and would never have been doubted but for the mis-dating of the events of the Persian period, and the mistaken notion that the same Persian monarch could not be described by two or three different names.

“This is (that) Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia over 127 provinces” (Esther 1:1). Darius Hystaspes invaded and conquered India B.C. 506 (Herodotus, Books 3 and 4). Darius inherited the conquests of his predecessor Cambyses, in Egypt and Ethiopia; all Egypt submitted to Cambyses in the 5th year of his reign, B.C. 525, and he subdued the Ethiopians (Herodotus, Book 3).

“And King Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land and upon the Isles of the Sea” (Esther 10:1). The Fleet of Darius took Samos, Chios and Lesbos, and the rest of the Islands, in the year B.C. 496 (Herodotus, Book 6). Herodotus gives a list of the nations which paid tribute to Darius Hystaspes in his history, Book 3, Chapters 89-97. These include Egypt and India, the Island of Cyprus and the Islands of the Erythraean Sea. After adding up the total, Herodotus says, “Later on in his reign the sum was increased by the tribute of the Islands and of the nations of Europe as far as Thessaly” (Herodotus, Book 3, Chap. 96). Amongst the peoples who paid no settled tribute, but brought gifts to Darius Hystaspes, he mentions “The Ethiopians bordering upon Egypt, who were reduced by Cambyses” (Herodotus, Book 3, Chap. 97).

Susa or Shushan was built by Darius Hystaspes (Pliny vi, 27) or rather embellished with magnificent palaces by him (Elian, De Animal. xiii, 59). It was there that he resided and kept all his treasures (Herodotus, v, 49).

Thucydides (Book 1) and Plato (Menexenus) tell us that Darius Hystaspes subdued all the Islands in the Aegean Sea, and Diodorus Siculus (Book 12) tells us that they were all lost again by his son Xerxes before the 12th year of his reign, but it was after the 12th year of the reign of Ahasuerus that he imposed his tribute upon the Isles, and the successors of Xerxes held none of them except Clazomene and Cyprus (Xenophon, Hellenics, Book 5).

From all which it is clear that the Ahasuerus of Esther cannot be Xerxes, in fact that he can be none other than Darius Hystaspes, for his predecessors Cyrus and Cambyses never took tribute but only received presents. Polyenus (Stratagem, Book 7) says Darius was the first that ever imposed a tribute upon the people. For this reason Herodotus tells us (Book 3, Chap. 89) the Persians called Cyrus a father, and Cambyses a master, but Darius kapylon, a huckster, “for Darius looked to making a gain in everything.”

Evidently Haman knew the weakness of his master, when he offered to pay him 10,000 talents of silver for his pogrom or massacre of the Jews (Esther 3:9). Esther touches the same spring when she hints at the damage which the King’s revenue would suffer if the pogram were carried into effect (Esther 7:4). And in Esther 10:1 we have the direct mention of the fact that “he laid a tribute upon the land and upon the Isles of the Sea.”

In the Apocryphal Books the Ahasuerus of Esther, and the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7:1, are both identified with Darius Hystaspes. In 1 Esdras 3:1-2, we read, “Now when Darius reigned he made a great feast unto all his subjects and unto all his household, and unto all the princes of Media and Persia, and to all the governors and captains, and lieutenants that were under him, from India to Ethiopia, in the 127 provinces.” This is word for word from Esther 1:1-3, with the name Ahasuerus replaced by the name Darius who is afterwards identified with Darius Hystaspes, in whose sixth year the Temple was completed (1 Esdras 6:5; Ezra 6:15).

In the Rest of the chapters of the Book of Esther, and in the LXX. through-out, Ahasuerus is everywhere called Artaxerxes. It was Artaxerxes whom Bigthan and Teresh sought to lay hands on (Rest of Esther 12:1-2). It was the great King Artaxerxes who wrote “to the princes and governors who were under him from India unto Ethiopia, in 127 provinces (Rest of Esther 13:1).

Archbishop Ussher was a profoundly well read scholar, and he identifies Darius Hystaspes with Artaxerxes, and with Ahasuerus, and this is in entire agreement with everything contained in the Old Testament, and with all trustworthy ancient testimony.

But since Scaliger, the first modern Chronologer, introduced the new fangled notion that Ahasuerus must be Xerxes, most modern scholars have adopted his error, which rests on no more substantial ground than that of philological conjecture and supposed congruity of character…”

The reader is directed to Philip Mauro’s small book, The Wonders of Bible Chronology for a summary of Martin Anstey’s chronology; and in particular, of the errors of the received chronology in dating the Persian period.

Howard Douglas King

Revised September 16, 2014

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