454 BC: The Seventy Weeks Begin Nehemiah 2:1-8

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by asterisktom, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. asterisktom

    asterisktom
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    454 BC: The Seventy Weeks Begin
    Nehemiah 2:1-8

    "... in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes ... I said to the king, 'If it pleases the king ... I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it.'

    "So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time;'".

    I am going to leave for previous (and future) articles most of the background and proofs for this particular date and incident as the starting point for the famous Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27. I want this piece to be relatively short and to the point, but we must first touch lightly on the who's, when's and why's.

    Well, I say "touch lightly" now but watch me - as this article progresses - forget what I just wrote and launch right into those intriguing pronouns. In a way I can't help it, because, after so many page-turning, mouse-clicking years, I laboured with the same hands-in-the-air exasperation that maybe many of you may still have.

    But about five years ago certain details just clicked in place. And in the last year or so - reading this new edition of Ussher's Annals of the World (almost finished), coupled with the notes of the editors, Larry and Marion Pierce - these details have - to my satisfaction, at least - been greatly confirmed. None of those thrilling details have un-clicked out of place.

    Okay. Let's get to these questions first.

    Why this decree?
    Why this particular ruler?
    Why this date?
    Why is this so important?
     
  2. asterisktom

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    454 BC: The Seventy Weeks Artaxerxes Gives the "Word"

    454 BC: The Seventy Weeks
    Artaxerxes Gives the "Word"

    There is an interesting, oft-overlooked significance to that word, and a wealth of meaning that connects both Testaments. But I need to first tackle some preliminaries. Some of these were already touched upon yesterday in my response to a reader. The first question is...

    Why this Decree? Wrong Question!
    There are several possible decrees. How can we settle on the one that would fit the wording of Daniel 9:25? Some have said that it needs to be an official decree, like Cyrus's. That is what a decree is, after all; an official, royal, public proclamation. Not a private, or semi-private permission like that of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah.

    But the problem is that Daniel 9:25 doesn't specifically refer to a decree at all. Instead of the usual word for decree - and one that is more or less semantically limited to that narrow definition - we have a very significant word instead - "word" (Hebrew, DVR)! This word, in the eighteen places in the Bible it is used in this particular form more often than not refer to communications that are not decrees. 1

    Some interesting points of usage of DVR: Daniel 9 is the only prophetic passage - or book - that uses the word. A third of all the uses (6 out of 18) are from Esther, one of them being the tipsy king's summon for Vashti to show herself for the amusement of his guests. On the other end of the scale, some of the references are to God, to His commandments. 2

    Why this Commandment? A much better question.
    The main reason why this commandment of Artaxerxes (Neh. 2) fits is that the details fit. Daniel 9:25 speaks of rebuilding the city - not the temple - and the permission of Nehemiah deals with this as well, Neh. 2:5, 8. Ezra's edict as recorded in Ezra 1:1 - 4 makes no mention of building the city. So, to be concise:

    Ezra's edict makes no mention of rebuilding the city, just the temple.
    Gabriel, in Dan. 9:25, mentions only the city being rebuilt, not the temple.
    The two don't match.

    The permission by Artaxerxes Longimannus, Neh. 2, certainly does match.
    It matches precisely in detail.
    It matches perfectly in timing.

    Well, it didn't always match perfectly in the timing - and it may not match in your study Bible notes - but that was the fault of more recent historians 3 and certain Study Bible editors. But more on that next time.

    The next article is:
    The History of an Error: Bad Dates Can Lead to Bad Theology.


    Notes
    1. (Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies, "command" p.87 - 88, "word" p.488)

    2. Among the Jewish teachers the word has often been referred to the Messiah, Christ, the "Servant" of the latter chapters of Isaiah. We see this even in the Bible. See David's prayer concerning the temple, using this very word: 2 Sam. 7:21 and 1 Chron. 17:19, two verses referring to the same prayer sentence. One translates the word as "word", the other as "servant".

    3. The following is from J.P. Burns (emphasis added):
    "The date which stands in our Bibles for the 20th year of Artaxerxes is B.C. 446. This makes the commencement of his reign B.C. 465; but the date fixed by the best and most nearly contemporary historian will put the matter in a different light. Thucydides mentions that the accession of Artaxerxes had taken place before the flight of Themistocles. This authorizes us to adopt Ussher's date and to place the commencement of the reign 473 or 474 B.C. This would give the date of 454 or 455 B.C. as his twentieth year and the date of the commission."
     
  3. amilltruth

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    sorry asterisk, from reading your other posts we are in agreement with the dates, maybe not the decrees, but 456-457 IS the start date, 444bc doesnt even make sense, all someone needs is a calculator to see it is silly to even use that date.
     
    #3 amilltruth, Dec 14, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2009
  4. asterisktom

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    Sounds good. I can live with disagreement:thumbs:

    I do have two more posts coming up on this (explaining on the date and decree) and then I am done on the posting of articles (on this topic). But I still welcome any discussion on this. I believe it is an important topic.
     
    #4 asterisktom, Dec 15, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2009
  5. asterisktom

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    History of an Error: Wrong dates can lead to Bad Theology

    This post is necessary background to understanding a certain error that has crept into modern eschatology. A seemingly trivial point actually has profound Christological application. But before we get to the application,the error has to be corrected.

    However if you don't care at all about dates - whether they are right or wrong - than feel free to skip this article altogether. I have just one more article after this.

    History of an Error
    Wrong dates can lead to Bad Theology


    They don't usually. But in the case of Archbishop William Ussher and his dates that did happen. Or at least, let us say, it needlessly obfuscated an already complicated problem. However, as we shall see, the original obfuscation started happening thousands of years before Ussher.

    But first the more recent boo-boo: In 1701, thanks to a well-meaning scholar, Church of England's Bishop William Lloyd, the English Bible began to be side-noted with dates. These dates were based on Ussher's chronology of a half-century earlier. Throughout the Bible Lloyd faithfully followed Ussher dates - - - except where he didn't. Case in point is the passage that describes, as I have (hopefully) already proven, the permission that starts the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. This is Nehemiah 2. Ussher sets this permission that Artaxerxes grants to Nehemiah as 454BC. However Lloyd sets the date at 445BC.

    This error has both a fruit and a root.
    The fruit is that more recent Bible editions - most famously, that of C.I. Scofield - followed this innovation of Lloyd's. And many other reference Bibles and authors have since followed Scofield's lead. This date is now the most common one put forth for the permission in Nehemiah 2. The result is that, given the math ...

    490 - 445 - 1 = 44 AD,

    or, shaving off the last week,

    482 - 445 - 1 = 36 AD,

    the end point is clearly beyond the usually accepted time for Christ's earthly ministry.

    This needlessly causes scholars to look elsewhere for the starting point of the seventy weeks; usually either Ezra 7 (same king, earlier date) or Ezra 1 (earlier king, Cyrus, much earlier date). More on the unsuitability of Cyrus is found here.

    The ones who settle on Cyrus are then forced to part what God has joined together - the seventy weeks - contrary to any Scriptural example or precept. This is where the unscriptural gap is introduced, and stop-watch chronology. Sir Robert Anderson, knowing that the math did not add up, added an innovation of his own: a 360-day year! Though the Jews did use months of 30 days, never do we read of a year of 360 days, nor of larger spans of time entirely made up of these artificial - and fictional - units of time. But Anderson needed to tweak the dates to finesse the endpoint to the time of Christ's earthly ministry.

    The Root came much earlier.
    I wrote "needlessly" above because that is exactly what all this is. This brings me back to the original, root mistake that happened well over two thousand years ago.

    Once again we have a very careful historian, like Ussher. And once again we have a later generation of less careful historians covering up the tracks of the first; to the point where the testimony of the first - Thucydides, a contemporary of the actual events he writes - is discounted, or even forgotten, in the shuffle of time.
     
  6. asterisktom

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    Themistocles Meets Artaxerxes, 473 BC
    An old Greek Admiral meets a young Persian King


    And why is this important?

    This, along with another piece of historical evidence (more on that below), helps us to fix the real date of the beginning of the famous Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9. And knowing this beginning leads us precisely to the end of those Seventy Weeks. So, hang on, we will start with uninspired (but carefully researched) history, and we will end up at the culmination of those powerful spiritual blessings promised by Gabriel to the greatly beloved Daniel.

    Themistocles Seeks Protection from Artaxerxes.
    This famous Greek grand-admiral, war hero of the Battle of Salamis, suffered a radical change of fortune. At the time of the betrayal of the Spartan hero, Pausanias, Themistocles, rightly or wrongly, was also implicated of treason toward the very nation-state that he protected. And, having learned of the death penalty meted out to Pausanius - he was actually walled in in the very temple where he sought refuge! - Themistocles decided to not wait for a similar fate. He journeyed to Persia for refuge. Having fought valiantly against the father, Xerxes, he sought protection of the son, Artaxerxes.

    Themistocles Meets Artaxerxes, not Xerxes.
    First, the passage from Thucydides. Themistocles escaped across the Aegean to Ephesus. The history continues...

    "He then travelled inland with one of the Persians living on the coast and sent a letter Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, who had recently come to the throne."


    The fugitive Greek hero, Thucydides goes on, proclaims to Artaxerxes that, although he fought against his father when he invaded Greece, yet since that time he has done much good, thus deserving the protection from the new Persian monarch. The candidness of this letter, and the evident character of the writer, makes a favourable impression on Artaxerxes. He not only protects him from his prosecuting fellow Greeks; he rewards him greatly, making him a "person of importance".

    Side Note: The fact that it was Artaxerxes - and not Xerxes - that Themistocles meets becomes buried by the next generation of historians. But that topic is for a later article. But, very quickly, one reason for the mistake among the less-careful writers is simply confusing two similar names. In the same way today, I have had students who confuse Martin Luther with Martin Luther King! With apologies to Mark Twain: The difference between the right name and almost the right name is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

    Back to our main topic:


    An Eclipse helps to fix the date.

    Although this relatively late period of Greek history (in which we have Themistocles's flight) is fairly accurately settled in history (that is, there is no serious controversy as to the dates), one more event transpires that is absolutely ironclad: a near-total eclipse of the sun on August 3rd, 431 BC, at the very beginning of the Peloponnesian War.

    Why is this ironclad? There is no slop factor involved. Eclipses can be both predicted as future certainties and corroborated as historical events. Such is the case with the eclipse of 431 BC that Thucydides describes. The NASA website describes this account of Thucydides as the "[o]ldest European record of a verifiable solar eclipse (annular)"

    How does this relate to the first event, the flight of Themistocles? They are both reported in the famous History of the Peloponnesian War of Thucydides, a carefully calibrated account that relates all events described (except the very early history of the first chapters) according to a unified chronological frame of reference.

    To know the date of the solar eclipse, 431 BC (modernly verified by NASA, for those who require such proof) is to know, by reading the History, the date of the flight of Themistocles, 473 BC. To know that date is to know also the beginning of the reign of Artaxerxes, which happened just a short while before this, 474 or 473 BC.

    The Biblical Proof, the Centerpiece
    And, once we know the beginning date, we only need to add twenty years to bring us to 454 BC and Nehemiah 2:1:

    "Now it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes ... "

    The passage continues to describe Nehemiah's petition to the king, and his permission, to rebuild "the city of [his] fathers' tombs." Neh. 1:1- 8

    This is where the Seventy Weeks begins. They end at AD 37, with the Gospel going to the Gentiles (Peter's vision, the Conversion of Cornelius the Centurion).


    The Times of Messiah: The Final Week

    That (AD 37) is where the seventy weeks ends, the Gospel going out to the Gentiles. However, if we go back three and a half years in time we come right to Calvary, where our Messiah was offered up for our sins, where He was...

    "...cut off, but not for Himself.", Dan. 9:26

    This last seven-year period- the last week of Daniel's Seventy - is the same one foretold by Gabriel in Daniel 9:27.

    "And He [Christ, not Antichrist!] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [30 - 37 AD];
    But in the middle of the week [at the Cross] He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering."

    This has nothing to do with Antichrist.
    It has everything to do with our Messiah.


    His sacrifice will put an end to all other other sacrifices.
    His cry, "It is finished!" will announce that truth.
    The ripping apart - from God's end - of the Temple veil proclaims the closing of the old, and the opening of a new, access to God.

    Why, then, has this date been so often contested?
    I still need to cover why, if this date is so easy to discern as I seem to insist, why is it so controversial and contested now in our times? It seems the reason is the authorities who wrote a century or so after Thucydides. They were already confusing Xerxes with Artaxerxes, and were asserting, thus, that it was Xerxes whom Themistocles met, not his son Artaxerxes. Here is where the hitch came in. And this is why that authoritative-seeming date is found in many of our Study Bibles.
     
    #6 asterisktom, Dec 15, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2009

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