by Sir Robert Anderson
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The Coming Prince
Sir Robert Anderson
THE ANGEL' S MESSAGE
- "Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon
thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation
for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and
prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah
the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built
again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and
two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the
Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and his end thereof
shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.
And he shall make a firm covenant with
many for one week: and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and
the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh
desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall wrath be poured
out upon the desolator." Daniel 9:24-27. R.V. (See marginal readings.)
SUCH was the message entrusted to the angel in response to the prophet's prayer
for mercies upon Judah and Jerusalem.
1. "The expression
does not in a single case apply to any person." TREGELLES, Daniel,
p. 98. "These words are applied to the Nazarene, although this expression is
never applied to a person throughout the Bible, but invariably denotes part of the
temple, the holy of holies" DR. HERMAN ADLER, Sermons (Trubner,
2. "From the issuing
of the decree." TREGELLES, Daniel, p. 96.
3. Not the covenant
(as in A. V.: see margin). This word is rendered covenant when Divine things
are in question, and league when, as here, an ordinary treaty is intended
(C. f. ex. gr., Joshua 9:6, 7, 11, 15, 16).
To whom shall appeal be made for an interpretation of the utterance? Not to the Jew,
surely, for though himself the subject of the prophecy, and of all men the most deeply
interested in its meaning, he is bound, in rejecting Christianity, to falsify not
only history, but his own Scriptures. Nor yet to the theologian who has prophetic
theories to vindicate, and who on discovering, perhaps, some era of seven times seventy
in Israel's history, concludes that he has solved the problem, ignoring the fact
that the strange history of that wonderful people is marked through all its course
by chronological cycles of seventy and multiples of seventy. But any man of unprejudiced
mind who will read the words with no commentary save that afforded by Scripture itself
and the history of the time, will readily admit that on certain leading points their
meaning is unequivocal and clear.
1. It was thus revealed that the full meed of blessing
promised to the Jews should be deferred till the close of a period of time, described
as "seventy sevens," after which Daniel's city and people are to be established in blessing of the fullest kind.
2. Another period composed of seven weeks and sixty-two
weeks is specified with equal certainty.
3. This second era dates from the issuing of an edict
to rebuild Jerusalem, not the temple, but the city; for, to remove all doubt,
"the street and wall" are emphatically mentioned; and a definite event, described as the cutting
off of Messiah, marks the close of it.
4. The beginning of the week required (in addition to
the sixty-nine) to complete the seventy, is to be signalized by the making of a covenant
or treaty by a personage described as "the Prince that shall come," or
"the coming Prince," which covenant he will violate in the middle of the
week by the suppression of the Jews' religion.
5. And therefore the complete era of seventy
weeks, and the lesser period of sixty-nine weeks, date from the same epoch.
The first question, therefore, which arises is whether history records any event
which unmistakably marks the beginning of the era.
4. If the words of verses
24 and 25 do not themselves carry conviction that Judah and Jerusalem are the subjects
of the prophecy, the reader has but to compare them with the preceding verses, especially
2, 7, 12, 16, 18, and 19.
5. Literally the "trench"
or "scarped rampart." TRECELLES, DanieI, p. 90.
6. The personage referred
to in verse 27 is not the Messiah, but the second prince named in verse 26. The theory
which has gained currency, that the Lord made a seven years' compact with the Jews
at the beginning of His ministry, would deserve a prominent place in a cyclopaedia
of the vagaries of religious thought. We know of the old covenant, which has been
abrogated, and of the new covenant, which is everlasting; but the extraordinary idea
of a seven years' covenant between God and men has not a shadow of foundation in
the letter of Scripture, and is utterly opposed to its spirit.
7. "The whole period
of seventy weeks is divided into three successive periods, seven, sixty-two, one,
and the last week is subdivided into two halves. It is self-evident that since these
parts, seven, sixty-two, one, are equal to the whole, viz., seventy, it was
intended that they should be." PUSEY, Daniel, p. 170.
Certain writers, both Christian and Jewish, have assumed that the seventy weeks began
in the first year of Darius, the date of the prophecy itself; and thus falling into
hopeless error at the very threshold of the inquiry, all their conclusions are necessarily
erroneous. The words of the angel are unequivocal: "From the issuing of the
decree to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven
weeks and sixty-two weeks." That Jerusalem was in fact rebuilt as a fortified
city, is absolutely certain and undoubted; and the only question in the matter is
whether history records the edict for its restoration.
When we turn to the book of Ezra, three several decrees of Persian kings claim notice.
The opening verses speak of that strange edict by which Cyrus authorized the building
of the temple. But here "the house of the Lord God of Israel" is specified
with such an exclusive definiteness that it can in no way satisfy the words of Daniel.
Indeed the date of that decree affords conclusive proof that it was not the beginning
of the seventy weeks. Seventy years was the appointed duration of the servitude to
Babylon. (Jeremiah 27:6-17; 28:10; 29:10) But another judgment of seventy years'
"desolations" was decreed in Zedekiah's reign, because of continued disobedience and rebellion. As an interval
of seventeen years elapsed between the date of the servitude and the epoch of the
"desolations," so by seventeen years the second period overlapped the first.
The servitude ended with the decree of Cyrus. The desolations continued till the
second year of Darius Hystaspes. And it was the era of the desolations , and not of the servitude which
Daniel had in view.
The decree of Cyrus was the Divine fulfillment of the promise made to the
captivity in the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, and in accordance with that promise
the fullest liberty was granted to the exiles to return to Palestine. But till the
era of the desolations had run its course, not one stone was to be set upon another
on Mount Moriah. And this explains the seemingly inexplicable fact that the firman
to build the temple, granted to eager agents by Cyrus in the zenith of his power,
remained in abeyance till his death; for a few refractory Samaritans were allowed
to thwart the execution of this the most solemn edict ever issued by an Eastern despot,
an edict in respect of which a Divine sanction seemed to confirm the unalterable
will of a Medo-Persian king.
8. It was foretold in the
fourth year of Jehoiakim, i. e., the year after the servitude began (Jeremiah
9. Scripture thus distinguishes
three different eras, all in part concurrent, which have come to be spoken of as
"the captivity." First, the servitude; second, Jehoiachin's captivity;
and third, the desolations. "The servitude" began in the third year of
Jehoiakim, i. e., B. C. 606, or before 1st Nisan (April) B. C. 605, and was
brought to a close by the decree of Cyrus seventy years later. "The captivity"
began in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Scriptural era of his
reign, i. e., in B. C. 598; and the desolations began in his seventeenth
year, B. C. 589, and ended in the second year of Darius Hystaspes again a period
of seventy years. See App. 1. upon the chronological questions here involved.
10. Daniel 9:2 is explicit
on this point: "I, Daniel, understood by books the number of the years whereof
the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy
years in the desolations of Jerusalem."
When the years of the desolations were expired, a Divine command was promulgated
for the building of the sanctuary, and in obedience to that command, without waiting
for permission from the capital, the Jews returned to the work in which they had
so long been hindered. (Ezra 5:1, 2, 5) The
wave of political excitement which had carried Darius
to the throne of Persia, was swelled by religious fervor against the Magian idolatry.
The moment therefore
was auspicious for the Israelites, whose worship of Jehovah commanded the sympathy
of the Zoroastrian faith; and when the tidings reached the palace of their seemingly
seditious action at Jerusalem, Darius made search among the Babylonian archives of
Cyrus, and finding the decree of his predecessor, he issued on his own behalf a firman
to give effect to it. (Ezra 6)
11. "The law of the
Medes and Persians, which altereth not" (Daniel 6:12). Canon Rawlinson assumes
that the temple was fifteen or sixteen years in building, before the work was stopped
by the decree of the Artaxerxes mentioned in Ezra 4. (Five Great Mon., vol.
4, p. 398.) But this is entirely opposed to Scripture. The foundation of the temple
was laid in the second year of Cyrus (Ezra 3:8-11), but no progress was made till
the second year of Darius, when the foundation was again laid, for not a stone
of the house had yet been placed (Haggai 2, 10, 15, 18). The building, once begun,
was completed within five years (Ezra 6:15). It must be borne in mind that the altar
was set up, and sacrifice was renewed immediately after the return of the exiles
(Ezra 3:3, 6).
And this is the second event which affords a possible beginning for the seventy weeks.
But though plausible
arguments may be urged to prove that, either regarded as an independent edict, or
as giving practical effect to the decree of Cyrus, the act of Darius was the epoch
of the prophetic period, the answer is clear and full, that it fails to satisfy the
angel's words. However it be accounted for, the fact remains, that though the "desolations"
were accomplished, yet neither the scope of the royal edict, nor the action of the
Jews in pursuance of that edict, went beyond the building of the Holy Temple, whereas
the prophecy foretold a decree for the building of the city; not the street
alone, but the fortifications of Jerusalem.
12. Five Great Mon.,
vol. 4., p. 405. But Canon Rawlinson is wholly wrong in inferring that the known
religious zeal of Darius was the motive which led to the action of the Jews. See
Five years sufficed for the erection of the building which served as a shrine for
Judah during the five centuries which followed. But, in striking contrast with the temple they had reared in days when the
magnificence of Solomon made gold as cheap as brass in Jerusalem, no costly furniture
adorned the second house, until the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, when the
Jews obtained a firman "to beautify the house of the Lord." (Ezra 7:19,
27.) This letter further authorized Ezra to return to Jerusalem with such of the
Jews as desired to accompany him, and there to restore fully the worship of the temple
and the ordinances of their religion. But this third decree makes no reference whatever
to building, and it might be passed unnoticed were it not that many writers have
fixed on it as the epoch of the prophecy. The temple had been already built long
years before, and the city was still in ruins thirteen years afterwards. The book
of Ezra therefore will be searched in vain for any mention of a "commandment
to restore and build Jerusalem." But we only need to turn to the book which
follows it in the canon of Scripture to find the record which we seek.
13. This is the epoch fixed
upon by Mr. Bosanquet in Messiah the Prince.
The book of Nehemiah opens by relating that while at Susa, where he was cup-bearer to the great king, "an honor
of no small account in Persia," certain of his brethren arrived from Judea, and he "asked them concerning
the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem."
The emigrants declared that all were "in great affliction and reproach,"
"the wall of Jerusalem also was broken down, and the gates thereof were burned
with fire." (Nehemiah 1:2) The first chapter closes with the record of Nehemiah's
supplication to "the God of heaven." The second chapter narrates how "in
the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes," he was discharging the
duties of his office, and as he stood before the king his countenance betrayed his
grief, and Artaxerxes called on him to tell his trouble. "Let the king live
for ever," Nehemiah answered, "why should not my countenance be sad, when
the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchers, lieth waste, and the gates thereof
are burned with fire!" "For what dost thou make request?" the
king demanded in reply. Thereupon Nehemiah answered thus: "If it please the
king, and if thy servant have found favor in thy sight, that thou wouldest send
me unto Judah , unto THE CITY of my fathers' sepulchers , THAT I
MAY BUILD IT." (Nehemiah 2:5) Artaxerxes fiated the petition, and forthwith
issued the necessary orders to give effect to it. Four months later, eager hands
were busy upon the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and before the Feast of Tabernacles
the city was once more enclosed by gates and a rampart. (Nehemiah 6:15)
14. The temple was begun
in the second, and completed in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 4:24; 6:15.).
But, it has been urged, "The decree of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes is but
an enlargement and renewal of his first decree, as the decree of Darius confirmed
that of Cyrus." If this assertion had not the sanction of a great name, it would not deserve
even a passing notice. If it were maintained that the decree of the seventh year
of Artaxerxes was but "an enlargement and renewal" of his predecessors'
edicts, the statement would be strictly accurate. That decree was mainly an authority
to the Jews "to beautify the House of the Lord. which is in Jerusalem,"
(Ezra 7:27) in extension of the decrees by which Cyrus and Darius permitted them
to build it. The result was to produce a gorgeous shrine in the midst of a
ruined city. The movement of the seventh of Artaxerxes was chiefly a religious revival,
(Ezra 7:10) sanctioned and subsidized by royal favor; but the event of his twentieth
year was nothing less than the restoration of the autonomy of Judah. The execution
of the work which Cyrus authorized was stopped on the false charge which the enemies
of the Jews carried to the palace, that their object was to build not merely the
Temple, but the city . "A rebellious city" it had ever proved to
each successive suzerain, "for which cause" they declared with truth,
its destruction was decreed. "We certify the king" (they added) "that
if this city be builded again , and the walls thereof set up , thou shalt
have no portion on this side the river." To allow the building of the temple was merely to accord to a conquered race
the right to worship according to the law of their God, for the religion of the Jew
knows no worship apart from the hill of Zion. It was a vastly different event when
that people were permitted to set up again the far-famed fortifications of their
city, and entrenched behind those walls, to restore under Nehemiah the old polity
of the Judges. This was a revival of the national existence of Judah, and therefore it is
fitly chosen as the epoch of the prophetic period of the seventy weeks.
15. For a description of
the ruins of the great palace at Susa, see Mr. Wm. Kennett Loftus's Travels and
Researches in Chaldea and Susiana, chap. 28.
16. Herodotus, 3,
The doubt which has been raised upon the point may serve as an illustration of the
extraordinary bias which seems to govern the interpretation of Scripture, in consequence
of which the plain meaning of words is made to give place to the remote and the less
probable. And to the same cause must be attributed the doubt which some have suggested
as to the identity of the king here spoken of with Artaxerxes Longimanus.
17. Pusey, Daniel.
p. 171. Dr. Pusey adds, "The little colony which Ezra took with him of 1, 683
males (with women and children some 8, 400 souls) was itself a considerable addition
to those who had before returned, and involved a rebuilding of Jerusalem.
This rebuilding of the city and reorganization of the polity, begun by Ezra, and
carried on and perfected by Nehemiah, corresponds with the words of Daniel, 'From
the going forth of a commandment to restore and build Jerusalem'" (p. 172.)
This argument is the feeblest imaginable, and indeed this reference to the decree
of the seventh year of Artaxerxes is a great blot on Dr. Pusey's book. If an immigration
of 8, 400 souls involved a rebuilding of the city, and therefore marked the beginning
of the seventy weeks, what shall be said of the immigration of 49, 697 souls seventy-eight
years before? (Ezra 2:64, 65.) Did this not involve a rebuilding? But, Dr. Pusey
goes on to say, "The term also corresponds," i. e., the 483
years, to the time of Christ. Here is obviously the real ground for his fixing the
date B. C. 457, or more properly B. C. 458, as given by Prideaux, whom unfortunately
Dr. Pusey has followed at this point. With more naivete the author of the
Connection pleads that the years will not tally if any other date be assigned,
and therefore the decree of the seventh of Artaxerxes must be right! (Prid., Con.,
1., 5, B. C. 458.) Such a system of interpretation has done much to discredit the
study of prophecy altogether.
18. i. e., Euphrates.
19. "This last is the
only decree which we find recorded in Scripture which relates to the restoring and
building of the city. It must be borne in mind that the very existence of a place
as a city depended upon such a decree; for before that any who returned from
the land of captivity went only in the condition of sojourners; it was the decree
that gave them a recognized and distinct political existence." TREGELLES,
Daniel, p. 98.
"On a sudden, however, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah, a man
of Jewish descent, cup-bearer to the king, received a commission to rebuild the city
with all possible expedition. The cause of this change in the Persian politics is
to be sought, not so much in the personal influence of the Jewish cup-bearer, as
in the foreign history of the times. The power of Persia had received a fatal blow
in the victory obtained at Cnidos by Conon, the Athenian admiral. The great king
was obliged to submit to a humiliating peace, among the articles of which were the
abandonment of the maritime towns, and a stipulation that the Persian army should
not approach within three days' journey of the sea. Jerusalem, being about this distance
from the coast, and standing so near the line of communication with Egypt, became
a post of the utmost importance." MILMAN, Hist. Jews (3rd Ed.),
The question remains, whether the date of this edict can be accurately ascertained.
And here a most striking fact claims notice. In the sacred narrative the date of
the event which marked the beginning of the seventy weeks is fixed only by reference
to the regnal era of a Persian king. Therefore we must needs turn to secular history
to ascertain the epoch, and history dates from this very period. Herodotus,
"the father of history," was the contemporary of Artaxerxes, and visited
the Persian court. Thucydides, "the prince of historians," also was his contemporary.
In the great battles of Marathon and Salamis, the history of Persia had become interwoven
with events in Greece, by which its chronology can be ascertained and tested; and
the chief chronological eras of antiquity were current at the time. No element is wanting, therefore, to enable us with accuracy
and certainty to fix the date of Nehemiah's edict.
20. Artaxerxes I. reigned
forty years, from 465 to 425. He is mentioned by Herodotus once (6. 98), by Thucydides
frequently. Both writers were his contemporaries. There is every reason to believe
that he was the king who sent Ezra and Nehemiah to Jerusalem, and sanctioned the
restoration of the fortifications." RAWLINSON, Herodotus, vol. 4.,
True it is that in ordinary history the mention of "the twentieth year of Artaxerxes"
would leave in doubt whether the era of his reign were reckoned from his actual accession,
or from his father's death; but the narrative of Nehemiah removes all ambiguity upon this score. The murder
of Xerxes and the beginning of the usurper Artabanus's seven months' reign was in
July B.C. 465; the accession of Artaxerxes was in February B.C. 464; One or other of these dates, therefore, must be the epoch
of Artaxerxes' reign. But as Nehemiah mentions the Chisleu (November) of one year,
and the following Nisan (March) as being both in the same year of his master's reign,
it is obvious that, as might be expected from an official of the court, he reckons
from the time of the king's accession de jure, that is from July B.C. 465.
The twentieth year of Artaxerxes therefore
began in July B.C. 446, and the commandment to rebuild
Jerusalem was given in the Nisan following. The epoch of the prophetic cycle
is thus definitely fixed as in the Jewish month Nisan of the year B.C. 445.
21. The year in which he
is said to have recited his writings at the Olympic games, was the very year of Nehemiah's
22. The era of the Olympiads
began B. C. 776; the era of Rome (A. U. C.) B. C. 753; and the era of Nabonassar,
B. C. 747.
23. The seven months of
Artabanus were by some added to the last year of Xerxes, and by others were included
in the reign of Artaxerxes." CLINTON, Fasti Hellenici, vol. 2., p.
24. It has been shown already
that the accession of Xerxes is determined to the beginning of 485 B. C. His twentieth
year was completed in the beginning of 465 B. C., and his death would happen in the
beginning of the Archonship of Lysitheus. The seven months of Artabanus, completing
the twenty-one years, would bring down the accession of Artaxerxes (after the removal
of Artabanus) to the beginning of 464, in the year of Nabonassar 284, where it is
placed by the canon. Note b: "We may place the death of Xerxes in the
first month of that Archon (i. e., of Lysitheus), July B. C. 465, and the
succession of Artaxerxes in the eighth month, February B. C. 464." CLINTON,
Fasti Hellenici, vol. 2., p. 380.
25. See Appendix 2., Note
A, on the chronology of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus.
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