The Decree to Restore and Build Jerusalem

 

 

The decrees of Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I all contributed to the restoration and building of Jerusalem.

P. Gerard Damsteegt

The question in Daniel 9:25 of who issued the “commandment,” “word,” “decree,” or “command to restore and build Jerusalem,”1 has occupied Bible scholars for centuries. Three major interpretations have emerged about the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. The first view states that the decree was issued by the Persian King Cyrus the Great (reigned 559–530 B.C.). The second view was that King Darius I (reigned 522–486 B.C.) issued the decree. The third view associates the decree with King Artaxerxes I Longimanus (reigned 465–425 B.C.). Today most scholars hold to the first or second view; the traditional Adventist view supports the third option. There is historical and biblical evidence that the decrees of Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I all contributed to the restoration and building of Jerusalem, but that the decree of Artaxerxes I is the one that qualifies as the decree of Daniel 9:25.

 

The Contribution of Cyrus

The command to build. Biblical scholars who stress that Cyrus was the one who was responsible for the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile refer to the prophecies of Isaiah 44 and 45. In Isaiah 44:28 the Lord prophesied of Cyrus, “‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.”’” Also, in Isaiah 45:13, the Lord prophesied about Cyrus, “‘I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build My city and let My exiles go free, not for price nor reward.’”

These commentators argue that this Bible prophecy refers to Cyrus as the one who was to build Jerusalem and the one who would restore the exiles to their homeland. Both elements of building and restoring were referred to in the decree of Daniel 9:25, and Cyrus fulfilled them.

Supporters of each of the above views agree that Cyrus’ decree involved the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple. This is clearly stated in Cyrus’ proclamation in Ezra 1:2 to 4. In this passage, Cyrus acknowledged that “the Lord God of heaven . . . has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem” (vs. 2). As a result, Cyrus commanded that the exiles “go up to Jerusalem . . . and build the house of the Lord God of Israel . . . which is in Jerusalem” (vs. 3).

What is the evidence that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled by Cyrus’ issuing a decree to rebuild Jerusalem that led the returning Jewish exiles under Zerubbabel to begin the rebuilding of the city itself? Some scholars who hold that Cyrus issued the decree of Daniel 9:25 have suggested that the rebuilding of Jerusalem was postponed till the time of Ezra under King Artaxerxes I of Ezra 7, nearly a century later. If there is no biblical evidence of a rebuilding of Jerusalem prior to Ezra’s journey to Jerusalem in 457 B.C., is there any evidence from extra-biblical sources about the rebuilding of the city?

Cyrus’ decree to build Jerusalem. Some early extra-biblical Jewish sources such as the apocryphal book of 1 Esdras (second century B.C.) and the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37–circa. A.D. 100), recounting the Jewish experience during Persian times do not support the view that the building of the city had to wait till Ezra’s return to Judah. These documents start the beginning of Jerusalem’s rebuilding after the Babylonian captivity at a much earlier date.

Josephus reported that after Cyrus read Isaiah’s prophecies, “an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild their city Jerusalem, and the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant.”2

Josephus quoted Cyrus’ letter that was addressed as follows: “King Cyrus to Sisinnes and Sathrabuzanes, sendeth greeting.” It included the decree to rebuild the city and the temple: “I have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem, on the same place where it was before. I have also sent my treasurer, Mithradates, and Zerubbabel, the governor of the Jews, that they may lay the foundation of the temple.”3

The letter included a detailed account of the dimensions and composition of the temple, all of which were to be covered by the king’s revenues. In return, Cyrus expected the Jews to “pray to God for the preservation of the king and of his family that the kingdom of Persia may continue.”4 Cyrus concluded his letter, stating that those who disobeyed this policy were to be crucified and their possessions confiscated, becoming part of the king’s treasury.5

The opposition. In spite of Cyrus’ good intentions and efforts to implement plans for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple, things did not work out as he expected. In Ezra 4:1 to 5, we find the story of the opposition of the people of the land to the rebuilding efforts of the Jews. “The people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and 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” (Ezra 4:4, 5).

About the attempts to interrupt the Jewish efforts to rebuild the city and the temple during the reign of Cyrus, Josephus wrote that these opponents “besought the governors, and those that had the care of such affairs, that they would interrupt the Jews, both in the rebuilding of their city, and in the building of their temple.”6 Through bribes they were successful in slowing down the rebuilding efforts during the rest of Cyrus’ reign. During this time, Cyrus was preoccupied with the affairs of his own kingdom and was unaware of the schemes of the Samaritans.

Ezra wrote that the attempts to interrupt the rebuilding efforts began under the reign of Cyrus and continued during the reign of the following two Persian kings, Ahasuerus, also named Cambyses, and Artaxerxes, also called False Smerdis, until the reign of Darius I (Ezra 4:5, 24) about eight years later.

Letter to Ahasuerus about building the city. After Cyrus’ death, his son Cambyses succeeded to the throne of Persia. Now the Jewish adversaries wrote a letter of complaint to Ahasuerus (Cambyses) and another letter to Artaxerxes (the False Smerdis), the two Persian kings who reigned during the eight-year interval between Cyrus and Darius I.

The first letter of complaint was written in the beginning of the reign of Ahasuerus (Cambyses) (Ezra 4:6). This letter was recorded by Josephus, who described how these opponents complained that the Jews “are building that rebellious and wicked city, and its market places, and setting up its walls and raising up the temple.”7 They warned Cambyses (Ahasuerus) that after the Jews finished the rebuilding, they would not be willing to pay tribute to the king because “the Jews have been rebels, and enemies to kings.”8

In response to this letter, Cambyses (Ahasuerus) issued a decree that the Jews cease the rebuilding of Jerusalem: “I give order, that the Jews shall not be permitted to build that city, lest such mischief as they used to bring upon kings be greatly augmented.”9 As a result, the regional authorities quickly went to Jerusalem “and forbade the Jews to build the city and the temple.”10 Thus the rebuilding, according to Josephus, was interrupted till the second year of Darius I.

Letter to Artaxerxes about building the city. The second letter of complaint by the Jewish adversaries used similar arguments as in the previous letter the Jewish adversaries wrote to King Ahasuerus (Cambyses). This second letter, however, was written to King Artaxerxes (the False Smerdis) (Ezra 4:7). This letter is mentioned in 1 Esdras 2. Here we find correspondence between the Jewish adversaries writing to Artaxerxes (the False Smerdis), requesting the cessation of the rebuilding activities. This letter, similar to the one in Ezra 4:11 to 16, led to the interruption of the rebuilding efforts of the city and temple before the reign of King Darius I Hystaspes (Ezra 4:8–24). There is, however, one difference. 1 Esdras 2 mentions the rebuilding of the city as well as the temple. It said that the Jews were “building that rebellious and wicked city, repairing its marketplaces and walls and laying the foundations for a temple.”11

In response, Artaxerxes (the False Smerdis) issued orders to stop the rebuilding of the city. The result was that “the building of the temple in Jerusalem ceased until the second year of reign of Darius king of the Persians.”12 The content of this letter clearly shows that the Artaxerxes (the False Smerdis) of this letter is not the Artaxerxes I from Ezra 7, because the foundations of the temple had already been laid many years prior to his reign.

Again, it is to be noted that the narrative in 1 Esdras 2 is written in a continual chronological order or sequence, as was the case with the letter of the Jewish adversaries to Cambyses. In reviewing the history of the interpretation of Ezra 4, most commentators until the nineteenth century interpreted this narrative in a continual chronological order. These commentators interpreted Ezra 4:6–23 as a record of the opposition against the Jews between the reigns of Cyrus and Darius I. They, therefore, identified the name “Ahasuerus” of Ezra 4:6 and the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7 with the Persian kings Cambyses and the False Smerdis, so named by the Greek historians.

Today, instead of a continual chronological reading of the Book of Ezra and Ezra chapter 4, commentators generally follow a thematic arrangement of the order of events in Ezra 4 that assumes that Ezra 4 reports all opposition against the rebuilding efforts covering a period of more than 70 years from Cyrus till the Artaxerxes I Longimanus of Ezra 7 (457 B.C.), instead a period of about 8 years from Cyrus till Artaxerxes, the False Smerdis, of 522 B.C. This thematic interpretation assumes that the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4 is the same as King Artaxerxes I of Ezra 7. The problem with this view is that events are out of order: king Artaxerxes in Ezra 4 issues a decree to cease the rebuilding of Jerusalem while later in Ezra 7, king Artaxerxes issues a decree to begin restoring and building Jerusalem. Furthermore, for Artaxerxes to call a halt to the rebuilding of Jerusalem in chapter 4, while the same king and his counselors early in his reign in Ezra 7 issued a royal decree for the rebuilding of the city is very problematic because the laws of the Medes and Persians were unchangeable (Esther 1:19; Daniel 6:14–16). In addition, there are significant differences between Artaxerxes’ letter in Ezra 4 and Artaxerxes’ letter in Ezra 7 that make it difficult to assume that they are written by the same king.

An often-cited objection against the chronological order of events in Ezra 4 has been that the Samaritans identified the Jews who were rebuilding Jerusalem as “‘the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations’” (Ezra 4:12, NASB). This has been seen as evidence that it referred to the Jews who had returned under Ezra to Palestine in 457 B.C., which means that the letter by the Samaritans was sent to Artaxerxes I.

The phrase “‘from you have come to us,’” however, does not necessarily mean that the Jews came from Artaxerxes I. It could also be a general statement that referred to the Jews who had come from Persia during the first and largest Jewish migration under King Cyrus. It should be kept in mind that the local population had been conspiring against the Jewish exiles ever since their return during the reign of Cyrus (vs. 5).

In summary, there is solid evidence that Ezra 4:4 to 23 depicts the events between Cyrus and Darius I that provides biblical evidence of a rebuilding of Jerusalem by the Jews during that period. Then the account of Ezra 4:4 to 23 reveals that the Jews who returned during the first exodus from Babylon “are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations” (vs. 12). This means that a chronological order of events in Ezra 4 would be in full harmony with the chronological accounts of 1 Esdras 2 and Josephus’ Antiquities XI, ii.

If, however, one accepts a thematic interpretation of Ezra 4, assigning the events in Ezra 4:4 to 23 to King Xerxes and King Artaxerxes I, then there is no biblical evidence for building the city from the time of Cyrus till Darius I onward. It is no wonder that scholars supporting the thematic interpretation of Ezra 4 do not refer to Persian history as described in 1 Esdras 2 and Josephus, Antiquities, XI, ii.

Early Adventist commentators, including Ellen G. White, also interpreted the continual chronological order of the opposition harassments in Ezra 4 and mentioned that the Samaritans persuaded the False Smerdis, called Artaxerxes in Ezra 4, to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to rebuild their temple and city. Ellen White also held that in the Book of Ezra there were two kings named Artaxerxes. The first Artaxerxes in Ezra 4 was the False Smerdis (522 B.C.), the second Artaxerxes was Artaxerxes I Longimanus (465–425 B.C.) in Ezra 6 to 8.13

In response to the question if Cyrus contributed to a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, research shows that Cyrus issued a decree that gave the returning Jews the permission to do just that. This means that Cyrus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that he would issue a decree to build Jerusalem.

However, it is still needful to show that Cyrus issued the very decree of Daniel 9:25. Keep in mind that Daniel’s decree is part of the 70-weeks prophecy, which stipulates that from the “‘the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks’” (9:25). This means that there are a total of 69 prophetic weeks from the issuing of the decree to build Jerusalem till the coming of the Messiah. These 69 prophetic weeks amount to 69 x 7 = 483 prophetic days. Using the historicist hermeneutic that employs the year-day principle that a prophetic day is an actual solar year, most Protestants have used since the Reformation to explain the time element in apocalyptic prophecy, we arrive at a period of 483 years from the time of the issuing the decree till the appearance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. If we accept that the proclamation of Cyrus’ decree took place c. 537 B.C. we find that the appearance of Jesus Christ as Messiah would be 483 years later which comes to the year 54 B.C. This is more than 50 years before the birth of Christ. It becomes clear that Cyrus’ decree circa. 537 to build Jerusalem does not qualify to be the decree of Daniel 9:25.

 

The Contribution of Darius I Hystaspes

Darius’ decree to build Jerusalem. After the death of Cyrus, his son Cambyses ruled Persia, followed by the short reign of Artaxerxes, the False Smerdis, the usurper to the Persian throne. After defeating the False Smerdis, Darius I Hystaspes became king of Persia. Josephus mentioned that there was an old friendship between Darius and Zerubbabel, governor over the Jewish exiles who had returned to Jerusalem. In the first year of Darius’ reign, Zerubbabel visited the king. During this visit, Zerubbabel reminded King Darius I of a vow he made as a private citizen that if he became king he would “rebuild Jerusalem, and to build therein the temple of God, as also to restore the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged, and carried to Babylon.”14 Accordingly, Darius wrote to the toparchs and governors requesting them to assist Zerubbabel with continuing the building of the temple. He also sent “letters to those rulers that were in Syria and Phoenicia to cut down and carry cedar trees from Lebanon to Jerusalem, and to assist him in building the city.”15

Josephus concluded his comments on Darius with the following: “and all that Cyrus intended to do before him, relating to the restoration of Jerusalem, Darius also ordained should be done accordingly.”16

The Book of 1 Esdras affirms this story.17 From this it is clear that soon after Darius became king of Persia, he unknowingly revived Cyrus’ command regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Following Darius’ orders, the building activities were resumed. These efforts prospered under the ministry of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and the political and spiritual leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 5:1, 2).

The opposition. Soon, however, there was another attempt to interfere with the rebuilding. Several Persian officials in charge of the area visited the city and demanded to know who had authorized the rebuilding activities. The Jews stressed that all they were building had originally been authorized by the decree of Cyrus. Tattenai, the Persian governor, wrote a letter to Darius, asking him to see if indeed Cyrus issued such a decree (Ezra 5:7–17).

Darius’ affirmation of Cyrus’ decree to build Jerusalem. Upon investigation, Darius discovered that indeed Cyrus had issued a decree, giving the returning exiles permission to rebuild. As a result, in about 520/519 B.C., Darius issued his own decree that affirmed Cyrus’ decree and emphasized that the building of the temple should be paid out of the king’s treasury as well as all the expenses of the sacrifices. The king stressed that no one should interfere with this building process. It was his desire that the Jewish priests “‘may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons’” (Ezra 6:10).

He concluded his decree by stating that whoever would alter this edict, “‘let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this’” (Ezra 6:11). The temple was finished in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius (vs. 15), about 516 B.C.

The above events are also described in 1 Esdras 6 and 7. In addition, Josephus wrote that the Persian authorities contacted Darius and “accused the Jews how they fortified the city, and built the temple.”18 These Persian authorities asked Darius to investigate whether these matters had been authorized. The Jewish exiles became very concerned about this matter. Josephus wrote: “The Jews were now under terror, and afraid lest the king should change his resolution as to the building of Jerusalem, and of the temple.”19 At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the Jewish exiles to be “of good cheer, and to expect no discouragement from the Persians, for that God foretold this to them”20 This had a positive effect and “they applied themselves earnestly to building, and did not intermit one day.”21

When Darius received the letter from the Persian authorities who showed him “the epistle of Cambyses [Ahasuerus of Ezra 4:6], wherein he forbade them to build the temple,” Darius made an investigation into the royal records.22 Upon locating Cyrus’ decree permitting the Jews to build the temple, Darius wrote a letter instructing the Persian officials to assist the Jews with the building of the temple, and to pay for the temple sacrifices from the taxes collected in their regions.23

One observes that Josephus’ account is very similar to that of Ezra 4 and 1 Esdras, except he mentioned that the rebuilding of the city was also in progress.

In summary, Darius did not add anything to Cyrus’ decree about the rebuilding of the city and the temple. Darius was responsible for restarting the interrupted rebuilding process by his decree that basically reaffirmed the decree of Cyrus. Darius’ decree was responsible for restarting the interrupted rebuilding process.

However, it must still be determined that Darius I’s decree could be considered the decree mentioned in Daniel 9:25. We will use again the historicist hermeneutic that uses the year-day principle most Protestants have used since the Reformation to calculate the appearance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. If we assume that the proclamation of Darius I’s decree took place citca. 520 B.C., we will find that the appearance of Jesus Christ as Messiah took place 483 years later which would be the year 37 B.C. This is more than 30 years before the birth of Christ. Again, it is obvious that Darius I’s decree circa. 520 B.C. to rebuild Jerusalem does not qualify to be the

 

The Contribution of Artaxerxes I Longimanus

Artaxerxes’ decree to restore and build Jerusalem. The last Persian king who issued a command related to Jerusalem was Artaxerxes I Longimanus. In his seventh year, Artaxerxes I issued a decree about the Jews in a letter to Ezra, a priest and “skilled scribe in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6). This decree is the third such related to the rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem. Analyzing this decree, one observes that it went further than the previous decrees by providing religious and political liberty to the Jews.

First, the decree provides financial assistance to the priests and those involved in the religious services and granted their ancient privileges by removing all obstacles to their work. The decree says, “we inform you that it shall not be lawful to impose tax, tribute, or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God” (Ezra 7:24).

Second, the decree also restores a certain amount of political and judicial freedom to the Jews by giving Ezra the liberty to appoint civil officers to rule the people beyond the river with the Jewish law code. The decree states, “‘and you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them’” (Ezra 7:25).

Third, the decree specifies Artaxerxes’ continued commitment to improving the appearance of the temple. Ezra writes that God had put it in the king’s heart “to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:27).

The resulting decree restored religious and political freedom, until both the temple and the city would be fully finished. Thus, Ezra could state about the impact of King Artaxerxes’ commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, “He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9).

These events in the history of Artaxerxes I are also recorded in 1 Esdras 8. Josephus also recounts a similar history. However, Josephus assigns this decree to King Xerxes, the son of Darius I.24 It is clear that Josephus confused Artaxerxes I with Xerxes. If he would have placed these events under Artaxerxes I, the history would have been identical.

The opposition. Ezra’s rebuilding efforts too faced challenges. After 13 years of labor, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I, the Jewish adversaries once again succeeded in interrupting the work of rebuilding the city. At that time Nehemiah, the king’s cupbearer, met some Jews from Jerusalem who had just arrived in Shushan, the Persian capital. When he inquired about the condition of the Jewish exiles in Judah, he received a bad report: The Jews are “‘in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire’” (Neh. 1:3).

This news so deeply affected Nehemiah that the king noticed it. When the king asked Nehemiah what troubled him, he responded, “‘Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?’” (Neh. 2:3).

Then King Artaxerxes I asked Nehemiah if he had any requests. Nehemiah petitioned the king to send him “‘to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it’” (Neh. 2:5). He also requested the king to give him letters of safe passage “‘for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah’”” (vs. 7). He also asked for a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest “‘that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy’” (vs. 8). The king granted his requests, and Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem without difficulty.

As soon as Nehemiah arrived in Judah, he “viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire” (Neh. 2:13). Then he quickly designed plans to finish the rebuilding of the walls of the city. In spite of strong opposition, he with the concerted effort of the loyal Jews, completed the rebuilding of the walls in only 52 days (6:15).

Artaxerxes I’s affirmation of the time of the Messiah. Finally, we need to determine if Artaxerxes I’s decree can be considered as the decree of Daniel 9:25. Using the historicist hermeneutic, we indeed are able to predict the time when Jesus Christ became the Messiah. If we accept that the proclamation of Artaxerxes I’s decree took place at the beginning of the seventieth week, in 457 B.C., we find that the appearance of Jesus Christ as Messiah took place 483 years later—at the end of the 69th week, which would be in the year A.D. 27. This is exactly the year that Jesus of Nazareth became the Messiah. In that year which was the 15th year of Emperor Tiberius, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the river Jordan (Luke 3:1–3, 20. 21). At the time of His baptism, Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38), the Anointed, which is Jesus the Christ (Greek), the Anointed. This confirms that the decree of Artaxerxes I issued in 457 B.C. to rebuild Jerusalem qualifies to be the decree of Daniel 9:25.

 

Conclusion

It is clear that each of the Persian kings, Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I contributed to a decree to restore and build Jerusalem. The extra-biblical evidence provided by 1 Esdras and Josephus shows that the decrees of both Cyrus and Darius I involve a command to rebuild Jerusalem.

In addition, the chronological reading of the order of events in Ezra 4 affirms that the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem during the reigns of Cyrus and Darius I, showing that this rebuilding was the result of the decree of Cyrus. This evidence confirms that in the Book of Ezra there were two kings with the name Artaxerxes. The Artaxerxes of Ezra 4 is the False Smerdis, and the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 is Artaxerxes I Longimanus. The thematic reading of Ezra 4 and the Book of Ezra with only one king Artaxerxes who in Ezra 4 first decrees to cease the rebuilding of Jerusalem and later on in Ezra 7 issues a decree to begin rebuilding the city conflicts with the fact that the laws of the Medes and Persians are unchangeable (Dan 6:14-17).

However, which decree issued by these three kings is the decree of Daniel 9:25 has to be evaluated in the context of the 70-week time prophecy of Daniel 9:25. In the light of the historicist hermeneutic that a prophetic day is a solar year, the 69 prophetic weeks or 483 prophetic days are 483 solar years that cover the time period from the issuing of the decree of Daniel 9:25 until the time of the Messiah. It is only the third decree under Artaxerxes I issued in 457 B.C. that gives the correct calculation that reaches to the time of the appearing of Jesus as the Messiah. When we take the beginning of the issuing of the decree of Daniel 9:25 in 457 B.C. and add 483 years, we arrive in the year A.D. 27, when Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit to become the Messiah or Jesus Christ. If one makes calculations based on the decrees of rebuilding Jerusalem by Cyrus and Darius I Hystaspes, which were issued respectively circa. 537 B.C. and circa. 520 B.C., it leads to a time of 50 and 30 years prior to the appearing of the Messiah.

There is historical and biblical evidence that the decrees of Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I all contributed to the restoration and building of Jerusalem, but the decree of Artaxerxes I is the only one that qualifies to fulfill the prophecy that there are 69 prophetic weeks from the issuing of the decree of Daniel 9:25 to restore and build Jerusalem that reach until A.D. 27, the very year that Jesus became Messiah.

 

P. Gerard Damsteegt, DTh, now retired, served as an Associate Professor in the Department of Church History at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, U.S.A.

 

NOTES AND REFERENCES

1. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references in this article are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.

2. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, in Josephus Complete Works (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1960), Book XI, chap. i, section 2.

3. Josephus, Antiquities, XI, I , 3.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., XI, ii, 1.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., XI, ii, 2.

10. Ibid.

11. 1 Esdras 2:18.

12. 1 Esdras 2:30.

13. Prophets and Kings, 572.

14. Josephus, Antiquities, XI, iii, 7.

15. Ibid, X I, iii, 8.

16. Ibid.

17. 1 Esdras 3–6.

18. Josephus, Antiquities, XI, iv, 6.

19. Ibid., XI, iv, 5.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. Ibid., XI, iv, 6.

23. Ibid., XI, iv, 7.

24. Ibid., XI, v, 1, 2.