Q339 : Must the Decree of Cyrus start Daniel’s Seventy Weeks?

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Q339 : Must the Decree of Cyrus start Daniel’s Seventy Weeks?

Dear brothers,

Who of you can answer this question about the date setting of the terminus ad quo of the prophecy of the 70 weeks of Daniel. I completely agree with you following Sir Robert Anderson and Harold Hoehner. And I do so already for years. But last week I came across the studies of D. L. Cooper at http://www.biblicalresearch.info. You probably have heard of him.

This was the first time I got some doubts about the starting time of the prophecy (although not too much to be weakened in my opinion that is has to be the right moment).

What upset me a bit was his reference to Isaiah 44:28 who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose'; saying of Jerusalem, 'She shall be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation shall be laid.’

And also Isaiah 45:13, I have stirred him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward," says the LORD of hosts.

Although I know the original doesn't say Cyrus in Isa. 45:13, I believe it's still about him reading the context. That's why Cooper says this is a very special prophecy 150 years before it happened. But in this prophecy he refers the rebuilding decree to Cyrus as the text reads, so the fulfillment [the start of the seventy sevens] has to be in 536 A.D., by the decree of Cyrus.

So...is there anything wrong with the fulfillment of the prophecy when it's not Cyrus who gave the decree for the rebuilding of the city but only Artaxerxes?

Can you comment on this?

Thank you very much for the blessings you share in your books, articles and studies. I really enjoy them and praise my Lord for this good food.

A339 : by Tony Garland

The famous “seventy sevens” (seventy weeks) prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27) describes a sum of 490 years which are determined for the Jews and their capital, Jerusalem.

Daniel 9:25 describes the starting point of the seventy-sevens and the period from that point until “Messiah the Prince” — Know therefore and understand, [That] from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, [There shall be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. (Dan. 9:25)

The starting point, or terminus a quo, is “the command to restore and build Jerusalem” — after which a period of 7 and 62 weeks (69 weeks together) transpire until the Messiah appears (after which he is “cut off”).

This prophecy by Gabriel presents numerous questions, many of which we can’t go into here, including:

  • When did the period start historically? Which “command” is the one that starts the clock?
  • How should “until Messiah the Prince” be understood? His birth? His baptism (beginning of His public ministry)? His presentation as king, riding on the foal of a donkey (Mat. 21:5; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:35-38; cf. Zec. 9:9)? His crucifixion?
Your question concerns the start: must the period start with the decree by Cyrus?

As Cooper notes, in Isaiah 44 we read that Cyrus will say, to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” (Isa. 44:28) which both Cooper and Arnold Fruchtenbaum view—along with other factors—as indicating that the decree of Cyrus begins the period of seventy sevens.

This author’s own view is that the decree of which Daniel is speaking is the decree of Cyrus. I believe this for five reasons. First, this is a real decree; it is in the actual form of a decree. Second, this is the one given within a year or so of the vision of the Seventy Sevens. The year Daniel received the Seventy Sevens vision was the same year Cyrus passed his decree. Third, this is the decree that is emphasized in Scripture. It was spoken of prophetically about 150 years before it happened by Isaiah in 44:28 and 45:1,13. In fact, Isaiah actually named the one would would issue this decree; he named Cyrus, at least 150 years before it ever occurred. What Isaiah prophesied is recorded in fulfillment four times: 2Chr. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4,6:Ezra 1:1-5; 6:6-12. This is clearly the decree that is emphasized in Scripture. The fourth reason why I choose the decree of Cyrus is that this decree did include the rebuilding of the city. I realize that the four passages mentioned earlier did not actually mention the rebuilding of the city but only the rebuilding of the Temple. However, if Isaiah’s prophecies are taken literally, it would have included the rebuilding of the city. For example, Isa. 44:28; 45:13 clearly mention that Cyrus would not only allow the Temple to be rebuilt, he would also allow the city to be rebuilt. Of course, it is silly to think Cyrus would allow a temple to be rebuilt and then forbid anyone to live anywhere near the Temple by not allowing the city to be rebuilt as well. The fifth reason why I think the Cyrus decree is the one of which it speaks is that it is clear from parallel pages that the Jews did rebuild the city. In fact, they rebuilt the city before Nehemiah ever came to rebuild the walls. In Hag. 1:2-4, seventy years before Nehemiah arrived, the Jews were already living in private homes in Jerusalem though the Temple itself had not as yet been rebuilt. Certainly the would not dare to rebuild Jerusalem if they did not have permission to do so. According to Ezra 4:12, the city was being built even in Ezra’s day and Ezra preceded the time of Nehemiah. . . . I realize that when our own system of chronology is compared to the Persian system of chronology, it produces an apparent 52-year gap, but this has been explained by Dr David L. Cooper in his book Messiah: His First Coming Scheduled. The details of the explanation are complex and technical . . . It can be said that the Seventy Sevens began with the issuing of the decree of Cyrus, and the first 483 years, that is the first Sixty-nine Sevens, terminated with the birth of Jesus.1
.

Scripture records the decree of Cyrus (2Chr. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4).

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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also [put it] in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who [ is] among you of all His people? May the LORD his God [be] with him, and let him go up!2

Notice that the decree concerns God’s “house” — the temple. A subsequent search for Cyrus' decree by King Darius states much the same, and deals explicitly with the “house of God” (stated 11 times), as restated by Darius (Ezra 6). No mention is made of the city or the walls (mentioned in Daniel 9:25)

Cooper and Fruchtenbaum are among those of the opinion that although Cyrus’ decree focuses on the temple, by implication the city would also be rebuilt (since people would live nearby and presumably attend the temple). This may be . . . but it encounters significant chronological difficulties.

The latest Cyrus’ decree has been dated by Bible chronologists is 536 B.C. The earliest Jesus is thought to have been born by Bible chronologists is 7 B.C. The gap between those dates exceeds 483 years by a significant margin. Cooper appeals to differences between the Persian and our own system of chronology in an attempt to account for the mismatch in time periods — which some find unconvincing.3

Scholars have noted four important decrees related to the rebuilding of Jerusalem4

  1. Given by Cyrus (536/538 BC) concerning the Temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; Isaiah 44:28)
  2. Given by Darius I (the Great, Hystaspis) in 521 B.C. (Ezra 6:6-12)
  3. Given by Artaxerxes I Longimanus in 457 B.C. to Ezra (Ezra 7:11-26)
  4. Given by Artaxerxes I Longimanus in 444 B.C. to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-8) — this is the one which speaks about rebuilding the city walls (in alignment with Daniel 9:25)
Note that Nehemiah states, the city . . . lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire (Ne. 2:3). Nehemiah requests that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it (Ne. 2:5). These are strange statements if the city has already been rebuilt!

This is a huge topic—one that I hope to address in more detail in the Daniel Commentarya I’m in the process of writing, which will survey the major positions on the seventy sevens and the decrees and dates involved. But, to your question: must we take the decree of Cyrus as the starting date of the seventy weeks due to the emphasis he receives in Isaiah?

It is my view that Ezra provides the key verse which helps us to see that although Cyrus began the process by allowing the Jews to return from Babylon and start work on the temple, the rebuilding of the city itself depended on a series of decrees, culminating with the one by Artaxerxes Longimanus: “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished [it], according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:14).

Ezra attributes the rebuilding to commands issued by four individuals:

  1. God
  2. Cyrus
  3. Darius
  4. Artaxerxes
Although Cyrus began the process of the return of the Jews to start work on the temple, additional decrees concerning the city itself followed after the decree of Cyrus. The emphasis placed upon Cyrus is appropriate considering his command:

  • Ended the 70 year captivity allowing the Jews to return
  • Initiated the rebuilding of the temple
  • Led to additional commands by subsequent monarchs which resulted in the rebuilding of the city and walls
In my view, this does not necessitate that the 483-year period (first 69 of the 70 sevens) begin with the decree by Cyrus.


Endnotes:

1.Ref-0011, 141
2.NKJV, 2Chr. 36:22-23
3.One of the arguments against complex schemes of resolving the period is the unlikelihood that the prophecy would have served its purpose if it relied upon highly complex subtleties. Who could have comprehended the time period to understand when Messiah was expected?
4.See http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Daniel/commentary/htm/topics/chronology.html#4.2.3.


Sources:

NKJVUnless indicated otherwise, all Scripture references are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ref-0011Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998).


Links Mentioned Above
a - See http://www.spiritandtruth.org/id/danci.htm.
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