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CHAPTER 4

THE DYNAMIC DATE OF DELIVERANCE
5 CENTURIES AHEAD

                                           From SMR pp. 886—901, 943-946

THIS IS FROM 'THE DANIEL FILE' IN SMR,
other than the introduction

TWO SECTIONS APPEAR HERE

On Daniel 9, see scriptural indexes for SMR and the Rest, including 2011, The Christian Prescription Ch. 2.

The following, the first excerpt, is considerably lengthened from the original in SMR
and revised without change of its thrust.


1

 When was the Death of the Messiah predicted to be ?
 

Does the Bursar of our great city 'Hospital' have any data on this, on the predicted date of the death of Christ - the most important death of all time; and information on the predicted political-religious world scene, as man's 'culture' approaches its own most deserved 'death' ? Is this stored in memory, in the Biblical files ? If so two massively important elements of our verification will be at hand. First, it would enable us to be quite decisive from data alone about the Messianic necessities, if scripture is to be fulfilled (our topic). It would render the whole matter more intense - it is already immense - even arithmetically. If you like, the constraints on the prophetic system would then be awesome.

Second, it would allow us to perceive the political and economic trends, the geographic power centre, in conjunction with the religious criteria, already being fulfilled 'as if their lives depended on it', making a heavy cable out of our strong cord at the verificatory level. The first Part has to do with the days of Jesus Christ. The second Part relates to our own. Both relate to verification, both intensify verification, already present momentously.

As a matter of fact, there is a third matter of interest arising: it ratifies and reinforces yet again the Lord's Christ. Not merely is His birth, death, mode of death, reason for death, power, healing, prophetic pronouncement, authority, grace, tenderness, ransom, grace, deliciousness (Isaiah 11:10, 40:10, 61:3,10-11 for example), tribe, place of birth, resurrection (Psalm 16 where non-rotting is prescribed for David's normal Messianic target - a starkly miraculous requirement- cf. Isaiah 26:19)... all foretold. With divine omni-competence, we are also told the era of His death, the century, the decade, the exact period, through the prophet Daniel.

That the precise part of the precise century is foretold will be shown to be not reasonably contestable. That is the sort of specificity which would make Barth unhappy, Kant spit and the whole pseudo-ecclesiastical demolition squad which populates nowadays so many - but by no means all - churches, to reel. It is worth investigation. The results have a peculiar lucidity.

Christianity, it must be relevantly recalled, not merely has the data for verification gushing up like a geyser: it actually stresses the need to examine it and challenges people to do so. Is it not refreshing, a religion that deals in data rather than dabbling in the devious, or cuddling in the agnostically communal ('con'-unal at times), and/ or spinning in the activistically pushed, subjective preferences of gyrating groups!

You see this stress in John 3:11, 3:32, Acts 4:20, 2:22, 2:32, 5:32, Isaiah 48:3-8,14-15, 50:8; in John 8:46: "Which of you convicts me of sin ?" and in Isaiah 45:19-22, 46:10, 55:11, 65:6-12. "Behold, I come, in the scroll of the book it is written of me..." says the God who exalts His word above all His name, Psalm 138:2 - (Psalm 40:7 cf. Isaiah 40:10, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 26:52-54, Zech. 12:10, Micah 5:1-3, Deuteronomy 18:20, Isaiah 8:20, Proverbs 30:6, Isaiah 44:8 cf. Joyful Jottings ).You see this stress in John 3:11, 3:32, Acts 4:20, 2:22, 2:32, 5:32, Isaiah 48:3-8,14-15, 50:8; in John 8:46: "Which of you convicts me of sin ?" and in Isaiah 45:19-22, 46:10, 55:11, 65:6-12. "Behold it is written before me..." says the God who exalts His word above all His name, Psalm 138:2 - (cf. Deuteronomy 18:20, Isaiah 8:20, Proverbs 30:6, Isaiah 44:8).

In the Bible, God does not 'tolerate' investigation of His word; as King and Counsellor He demands it, both evidentially and because of what it reveals within, to the contrite (Isaiah 66:2). It is easy enough to understand: if you ignore your employer, that is one thing; if you ignore your God, that is another.
 

We have entered the Bursar's Office in this great Hospital: now let us turn up:

 

THE DANIEL FILE: PART A

THE DATE OF THE MESSIANIC BIRTH ... OR DEATH

Very well: IN PURSUIT OF VERIFICATION OF A DOCUMENT IDENTIFIED AS FROM GOD, we are now to inspect what this same document has to say on the topic noted. At this point, everything else will be irrelevant - except the historical date of birth (or death). Of course, it would be just as effective for our purposes to know the date of death. Did the document, however, which we have before us, in fact predict correctly, this date ? Can we ascertain this ? Let us then investigate the background in the book of the prophet Daniel.

In Chapter 7, we see four successive kingdoms laid out for futuristic inspection: except that the first is already, at the time of speaking, in place. They are: first, Babylon, whose king Belshazzar identifies it. It was the great kingdom which exiled Daniel personally, making him a Babylonian whiz-kid, wise-man cadet, which in turn led to his diligent insistence on honouring his God - in the process.

One could wish some more, who call themselves Christians, could be as diligent in their cadetships, or executive posts nowadays. At least in Australia, quite unlikely is any loss of their heads, even if they keep their hearts as pure as Daniel's. Heads are far more likely to be culturally commandeered than lost. Against all this, Daniel set his face; just as the King, at a crisis, set his face, reluctantly, against Daniel.

In Daniel's vision, this sovereign lion (7:4) corresponds to the head of gold, portrayed in Chapter 2. In the latter case, the king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar; by Chapter 7's era, it was Belshazzar; but in both cases, the kingdom is Babylon. So much for the kings; now for the kingdom - each kingdom being portrayed as a beast (7:17), the king representing it.

As E.J. Young points out, these four beasts, 'though differing from one another, have this in common, that each arises from the sea, i.e., represents a kingdom of human origin and nature.' (Cf. Rev. 13 where the symbolism is based upon Dan.)... Their diversity is mentioned, in order to call attention to the importance of the symbolism by which each individual kingdom is represented. In the Old Testament, Gentile nations are frequently symbolized by beasts, cf. Ezek. 29:3 ff.; Isa. 27:1; 51:9...' (The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 143).

As Young further notes, Nebuchadnezzar had been compared to lion and eagle, cf. Jeremiah 4:7, 49:19, 50:17,44, 49:22, Lamentations 4:19, Habakkuk 1:8, Ezekiel 17:3,12. The symbolism is clear; but what of the second beast, or kingdom, or empire of international and gross power ? Next in history in fact is the empire of Media-Persia. That this duality is appropriate to the context and the thought of the writer is quite apparent from Chapter 5, where Daniel, under divine inspiration and direction, in a miraculous situation (v.5) actually stated the name of that kingdom which was to succeed that of Babylon, and he did so on the very eve of its advent to power, King Belshazzar being about to lose his throne.

This kingdom is there named (5:28) as that of the Medes and the Persians. Young engages in an interesting discussion (loc. cit.) as to whether the 3 ribs found in the mouth of this animal - a bear (7:5) - indicate, as many claim, Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. This would be historically apt. He also considers however whether they portray, as Calvin held, the unsparing and insatiable nature of the bear: a view with which he rather agrees. The term translated "raised up on one side" (v. 5) is held by Keil (in his commentary on Daniel) to refer to its being poised with feet on one side raised for the purpose of going forward.

Young cites Montgomery's graphic depiction: "The animal then is pausing to devour a mouthful before springing again on its prey," (p. 144). The term 'arise' is taken to refer to the need to do a thorough job on its mouthful - that is, vigorously to consume the kingdom taken (upon which God had given a desolating curse -Isaiah 13:1,13-20). As Young points out, "the command is given by God, thus showing the Divine Providence overruled in the affairs of the mighty human kingdom" (p. 145). This perspective is important here.

The third empire, symbolised by a panther (Daniel 7:6), a beast of prey and prowess, speedy and agile, is the next world power and follows from the others for this reason. However in addition to the speed and agility of Alexander the Great, the historical match, we see his vigour and address.

The four wings would normally be taken as showing a special rapidity in conquest compared with the two-winged first empire, strong though those wings were - royal if you like, in terms of the initial eagle.

Was the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great in fact less regal in character? Did it flutter a little more on its way ? In reality: it had its founder die in his thirties in circumstances not of the most impressive, just as, like the panther, he showed intelligence and address on the way to this remarkably broad world victory. The four heads however are another phenomenon, nor do they for their part especially suggest intelligence, so much as quadripartite control of what, for all that, is one basic empire. This fits with the famous fourfold division after Alexander into i) four basic areas of dominion: Greece, Western Asia, Egypt and Persia; and ii) four successors of Alexander who held the remnants of power: Ptolemy, Seleucus, Philip and Antigonus.

Indeed, the division into four of the Empire is so notable a fact that this use of four in terms of heads is itself about as sure a sign as are the seven hills of Rome in symbolism for that city. Thus we are confirmed as we go, and go as we are propelled by the earlier symbolism, in conjunction with historical facts on the one hand, and on the other, internal definition of terms from the book itself, as shown above.

What then is beast number four ? It is most interesting to compare this sequence with the vertical sequence of the image of a man, in Daniel 2. It also had four divisions coming as we looked from the head downward: as gold, silver, brass... and its final division: legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay. In the case, then, of Daniel Chapter 2, the image is regarded as substantially complete, and the stone from heaven grinds it all to powder (2:34-35). The stone which grinds the kingdom, the fourth world empire, what is it ?

This stone is interpreted in terms of a divinely provided kingdom, one of total superiority to the human ones.

It is fascinating to consider the "stone" as"made without hands" as signifying that it is not an accretion, an accumulation or a development of culture or wisdom. It is, rather, an absolute impartation from heaven, in that the "God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed."In the Bible, the symbolism and explanations provided, and the usages are such that the meaning is in no doubt whatsoever. It is the kingdom of the Messiah, to which the stone refers.

In the Old Testament, we find that God claims alone to be the rock of His people. This is found, for example, in II Samuel 22:32 ("For who is a Rock, save our God!"), Psalm 62:2 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:18 - "the Rock which begat you") and Isaiah 44:8: ("Is there a God besides Me? Indeed, there is no other Rock; I know not one.")

In Deuteronomy 32:31, we find this:

"Their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges...". He and He alone is the effectual, all-consuming One, as in the image of Daniel noted above. In 1 Samuel 2:3 we find:

There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides Thee, nor is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth. For the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.

 

All this is in perfect harmony with the fact that only Christ is the Rock (1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:1-4), and requires it. It is also, however, in the same harmony with the weight, efficacy and drastic character of the intervention of this rock, in Daniel 2! Indeed, in Psalm 118:22 we see in more detail that there is indeed a stone which the builders will reject, but on whom all power and authority will rest: life will rest on Him (cf.Isaiah 28:16, Zechariah 3:9-10, Isaiah 26:4 - 'in ... the Lord is Rock of Ages', Isaiah 51:1,32:2).

This rejected (and despised - Isaiah 53) king has already been identified in some detail, as Christ, who used the imagery Himself and of Himself also, as seen in Matthew 21:44,42. Daniel 7 moreover, our actual text, in verses 13 ff., shows that God is to have His power and majesty displayed through "One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!" As to Him, says Daniel (v. 14):

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve Him. His kingdom is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away...

This of course in turn is just the language and the content in Isaiah 9 where the prodigious sign (met in Isaiah 7:11) is to embrace the embrace of a mother for a child to whom is to be given an eternal power and kingdom, One whose name rings with all the plenitude of the Almighty (Isaiah 7:10-14, 9:1-7, 11:1 etc.).

What then is that earthly and political kingdom into which Christ is to be born ? What in fact is the next, the fourth and the last in historical sequence; what kingdom is it which develops after the fourfold departments of world rule, arising from the advances of Alexander the Great ? What can stand in such historical company as a worthy successor, an in-line fellow for such friends as Babylon, Media-Persia and Macedonia, in terms of actual comparable world type dominion ?

More than that (Daniel 7:7), which empire subsequent to Alexander's and the elements which resulted from his, was distinguishable by its enormous (relative) strength ? It is like considering tennis stars. If you mention say John McEnroe and consider who would be like him now and stronger, it would not leave much scope. At that level, the very nature of the category is ultra-limited. If further, you are to look for something even more so, then you approach singularity itself. In the case before us, only Rome comes anywhere near the matter; but in fact, it fills it competently.

There was nothing quite like it for administration, roads, order, organisation and continued determination, allied with resolute efficiency, in the days of its prime; and its endurance was great. It stands revealed therefore past any rational doubt as the fourth beast. Our arithmetic on Chapter 9, shortly - for in a Bursar's Office you can expect some of that - will merely confirm what needs no confirmation. This beast certainly was "different" (Daniel 7:7).

Not only were its legions legendary - and indeed the name still carries weight distinctively at this distance! - but it had two phases relative to its mighty strength at the first. The first phase was utter dominion and the second was a time of slackening, wasting, deterioration and degeneration. That seems to fit very well with the movement within the fourth image's metal sphere, from iron, to less iron, and to clay feet, in the Chapter 2 counterpoint vision of the man; but we need not press the point here.

Again, the fourth beast had ten horns, and the feet of the image had ten toes, so the fourth division in each case is analogical. We will seek to pursue this theme of predicted kingdoms later, into the areas of our own time; but for the moment we merely wish to show that Daniel in Chapters 2 and 7, is predicting the inception of a Messianic kingdom which will grow, during an empire situation that relates to Rome. That puts the birth (and therefore the human death) of Christ into a distinct area of time; but we can do far better than that mathematically. It is merely that we should take things in order and methodically... and that this will serve excellently, for our second feature, the predictions to our own day.

Daniel 9 and the Death Day

We now turn to our arithmetical exercise - but what would you expect, with dates? Not perhaps this. In Daniel 9, verses 1-19, we find this holy man engaged in prayer, and seeking from the Lord an action in accord with the prediction of a 70 year exile, as made by Jeremiah (25:11). This exile, a punishment for prolonged national delinquency, was to be followed by a restoration of the Jews to their land, from this small sojourn of temporary discipline.

God, in reply to Daniel's prayerful entreaties, signifies to him in His vast mercy: something beyond the mere return (which came on time). The 70 year exile now served as a spring-board, a plan to span a vast period of history.

To change the image: God gave to Daniel a divinely constructed road-map of history, concerning the future; and He used the concept of sevens as a device to depict this.

 

The Scope of the Seventy Sevens

God states the entire period to be covered by this new prediction, that of the seventy sevens. What will be accomplished in this vast time ? Various results will be obtained. They are these.
 

  • 1) Transgressions will be ended.

 

  • 2) Sacrifice will be substantially effective (no more a mere pictorial representation) and it will be effected for everlasting righteousness.

 

  • 3) The divinely given visions and prophecies will be fulfilled (Daniel 9:24).


For such a survey, there is required a starting point. Where are these sevens of years to start ? They start from a time denoted as follows: "the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem" (v.25). Now we are dealing with Daniel, set as shown around 600 B.C., and it is in this setting that we are for verification purposes, compelled to start.
 

THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE SEVENTY SEVENS

Looking down the corridors of history, from that time, when is there evidence of such a command ?

Perhaps it would be well to check on the same book, the Bible, as contains the predictions, to seek for definition and specification of the terms involved. That, after all, is what commonsensically they do in law. Check the documents as one whole.

Very well: in Ezra, we find reference to such activity as the 'starter' command of Daniel 9:25 specifies. The first such command as fits the data given, will be that chosen for reference, as it is a matter of continuing on with history, as from Daniel's side, until the specifications are met; and then counting on as shown in the prediction. Otherwise there could only be ambiguity and inadequacy of direction. Besides, when it says that from such a command, that is, as soon as it comes, the requirement is met. We have no option to wait. That is the stimulus in view; and when it has happened, to ignore it would be to ignore directions.

It would appear, for reasons to be given, that Ezra 9:9 fits the particular specifications. Here we find in scripture, the document. Here, in this scripture depicting the scene of reconstruction, on the spot, is found this crucial historical reference, as part of a prayer of Ezra himself, who, being a scribe, is rehearsing the data:

''For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but 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.''


In this, we find reference to a Persian king who:

·       1) in the setting of the action of earlier kings (it is plural), not only authorised the repair of the temple, but also

·       2) sanctioned the rebuilding of its ruins and further

·       3)  gave a wall, made provision for it, in Judah and Jerusalem.

Let us recall that the command which is the arithmetic sign-post in Daniel 9:25, is to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, and the wall is mentioned in this immediate context. There is to be in view a functional renewal, not a symbolical one, and it concerns the city, not merely the temple: the city ? Jerusalem.

Now in this document of Ezra, which we are studying, for what is the wall built, which he mentions ? What is its purpose ? Ezra 7:14 clarifies this. Is it then for the Temple ? Is this what is stated ? No, it is concordantly with the reference to "the God of Jerusalem" (7:19), to "Judah", and to administering "neighbouring peoples" with penal authority for rebels (7:14, 25-26), that this command of the Persian king is rehearsed by Ezra, in praise and gratitude to God. Security and strength in the terms of reference, the city and the nation, is involved, for function and for administration, in such a region and its peoples.

What then is the wall correlative to such functionings ? Is it one around the temple? That would be pitiably, almost playfully inadequate for such purposes.

It is necessary to remember that we are not in fact seeking to find when the wall was built at this point; but only to ascertain when it was authorised - or more precisely, Jerusalem itself. That is the criterion given by the prophet Daniel. It is from that commandment to restore, that the seventy sevens commence their ambit.

It is then, to Judah and Jerusalem that the wall relates, and Jerusalem is in Judah. The authority of the command, therefore, of Ezra 7:18, given by the king, and as seen above, incorporates the administration of the location and its securing by defence: here it would surely appear, is the first command concerning the rebuilding of the wall.

An earlier king (Cyrus) had started the process of authorisations to which Ezra compendiously referred in 9:9, and because of the plural, we understand that a subsequent king added so that the total authorisation here in view became cumulatively present, the laws of the Medes and Persians being self-perpetuating in essence.

The strictly religious command of Cyrus does not fulfil the requirement of our specification; the later command to Nehemiah does so; but it is not the first, and there could (theoretically) be twenty of them, but only the first would figure in any indication of 'the' command when capacity to function (here to build Jerusalem) fulfils it. It is like being told to turn left after passing the bank. One could interpret that clottishly to mean to turn left after passing 6 other streets first - but the direction is to turn left after the bank. To delay this, when means exist, is to disobey it.

Further, so to treat direction would make the expression, in practice, meaningless and the direction incoherent; so that it means to take the first available way of fulfilling the direction, unless otherwise advised. Sir Robert Anderson has another procedure which leads us to very nearly the same date and fits with the time of Jesus Christ (in his work, The Coming Prince), so that either way the case is covered and the prediction is confirmed as valid. However, for our purposes, and for these reasons, we will and must follow what we have before us. One last point and we may commence our calculations. If the 'wall' were merely metaphorical, in Ezra, then that would always be present for God's servants who seek Him (Ezra 8:22), and found in none but Him. Not authorisation by kings would then relate. Hence this interpretation is not the case.

How then would it be a case such as Ezra states, that God "extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia"! Indeed, God, declared Ezra, "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."  It is not as if there were intended no divine allocation of protection, with no wall, not city delimitation, protection, provision, established or distinctive demarcation; for the kings expressly are noted to have authorised this in favour! In the action of the kings, there needs to be an explicit authorisation for a specified purpose, historically enacted, for a servant to reflect on the mercy in their provisions, as here.

God is its source, but they are its course. Thus Ezra 9:9 proceeds with the wall in a literal list, State and capital alike restored into working order; and Ezra 4:12-16 in fact records earlier protest against work to complete, on no small scale, a literal wall to the city.  Again, the King specifically states the domain of his directive in 7:14,namely, that these be sent "to enquire with regard to Judah and Jerusalem regarding the Law of your God, which is to hand." The areas in view ? City and State. Law ? that of God. As the domain was specified both for city and for the State, so dominion to proceed in the Lord's name in these areas for the judicial purposes noted (7:25), was covered. Authority had so actedand Ezra in thanksgiving confirmed the issue.

As attack stopped the temple, in terms of the past, so authority in terms of the present, enabled the restoration of what was destroyed, as per claim "with regard to the law of your God," about which they had been so clear cut in the commencement of restoration of walls in part, already. Here was triumph for the things of the Lord, the city, the administration, confirmation of what was begun, all under the authority of whatever it was that God had ordained for the nation and city, its operation and its defence. The disruption failed; the construction proceeded, all according to the law of their God, this being authorised.

  • Further, in Daniel 9, it is merely indicated that the wall is to be built in troublous times, so that it is precisely such a rebuilding, as an index to the consummation, that we have.

 

 

THE PLAIN MADE MORE PLAIN
 

For the rest, it is for the command for the restoration of Jerusalem that we specifically look, relative to the initiation of Daniel's sevens: and Jerusalem as a centre of control, and jurisdictive administration is assuredly authorised here. Money is provided beyond the temple needs for whatever the royal will has indicated is to be done (Ezra 7:18) and in the end, for the will of God. Not only is Jerusalem to administer areas designated, but taxes are not to be taken from priests, an exclusion signifying a tax charter for others. Only now is the challenge of Ezra 4:12-13,15-16 overcome by the second positive charter to the Jews!

Indeed, in passing, let us note an exceedingly significant fact. Already, with or without right, the people of Israel, as reflected in Ezra 4:12, are stated to have acting in this way: "They are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing its foundations."

Not satisfied with this characterisation, Rehum and company go yet further. Appealing to research to come, in Babylon, to confirm his words, the antagonist declares: Check the records! And

  • "you will find … and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed."
     

Nor resting here, he proceeds:

  • "We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River."
     

A merely temple issue ? a purely ceremonial protestation ? Scarcely could one find anything further removed. It is a sovereign and central city for a region, specified in its majesty, its history, its dangers and its need to be quashed as a power bloc focus.

Cyrus had authorised the restoration of the temple and its worship, and the Jews may have interpreted this somewhat liberally. No command however had come forth from him regarding non-religious issues.

There is again in context, perhaps an even more decisive, and incisive reality which concludes the issue very aptly. It is this. In Ezra 5:3, there is APPEAL to the DARIUS THE KING. The case is that a DECISION is sought to be wrought by his majesty, and the ISSUE is put like this to the builders of the wall, the event which provoked the Governor of the land to put the matter to the king.

  • "Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall ?" (Ezra 5:3).
     

This may be read in conjunction with Ezra 4:16 is strongly suggestive of the dual work, both religious and civic, for the CIVIC ORIENTATION ONLY had been mentioned  before in the approach to the king; and indeed it would be hard to separate them in view of the vulnerability of the temple! In any case, the point is specifically put to the King as in Ezra 4:12-16: the civic centre is the issue there; and the continuity and contextuality, the unalterability and hence integumental character of the approach to the determinations of kings in so contested and vexed a matter, one so historically potent and researched, is certain.

Further, this civic matter of the CITY is drawn out in its statements and inferences, and the commander deals with the issue again and again, in presenting the thing before the king! The issue, then,  is not a subject of doubt, in any degree, since 4:12ff. is wholly unambiguous, and an issue of civic, not merely ecclesiastical scope, put to the king. They rebuild the CITY, so what about it! This is its thrust. In Ezra 7:25, comes the finale: get on with the regional administration. Ezra goes with the proclamation personally. It is no mere word; it has Jewish feet burdened with bureaucratic power,  to enforce it. But let us pause to survey the matter more minutely first.

At first then, the response to Rehum’s protestation on the city’s power receives the royal response: WAIT! Then and therefore the building lapses until Zechariah and Haggai prophesy to the Jews in Judah and in Jerusalem in particular, so that Zerubbabel and Jeshua "rise up" and start rebuilding the temple (Ezra 5:1-2). At this, Tattenai, the governor, accosted the workers with no small antagonism! What do they do ?

The events now proceed as follows:

  • 1)  Names of the said builders of the wall and temple are taken
  • 2)  The same continue, notwithstanding this,  with the building operations under attack.
  • 3)  The regional governor writes to the central king about this issue.
  • 4)  The letter advises the king that these officials went into "the province of Judah" and challenged the building of the temple, receiving the reply that a former king, Cyrus by name, had authorised the temple rebuilding.
  • 5)  The king replies that Cyrus had indeed done so, and specifies in his command to the Governor of the region, that
    • A)  he and his officials "keep yourselves far from there" (which is not merely a temple but an urban and indeed regional matter), precluding interference on ANY CITY FRONT, so covering the area of Daniel 9’s specification for the initial command for the counting of the seventy sevens.
    • B)  they let the Jews build the temple on its site.
    • C)  they supply all needs to this purpose, as requested by the priests.
    • D)  they realise that change in the edict will result in their houses being torn down, even of those who disobey, to provide a gibbet for hanging of the offender against this provision for the Jewish people.

 

When therefore the command of Ezra 7:18 and associated directives, later again, came from Artaxerxes, carried in the person of Ezra on his mission of restoration, it was not only one SPECIFICALLY requiring an administration and secure REGIONAL base (Ezra 7:25) and basis for the performance in order of all that was required in judgment and coherence for Judah in which Jerusalem sat like a jewel, but doing so for a city which had ALREADY been far from unmindful of its walls, had been TWICE noted as engaged in the restoration of the civic surround (as in Ezra 4:13 and 5:3).

Thus, since the matter in Ezra 4:11-16 of those civic walls had been specifically mentioned to King Artaxerxes when Rehum wrote, and in this appeal the CITY ITSELF WAS THE WHOLE FOCUS of the appeal, so that on that occasion, the King in response ordered that the action cease UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE (the latter, a wise provision in a land where the laws of the Medes and Persians were not to change!), this royal edict of Ezra 7 has that as its context in continuity.

When, moreover, the later commands, vested in Ezra, from the King in power made the matter a REGIONAL government for the Jewish authorities (Ezra 7:25), and whatever it took for the purpose, this was not only clear in itself concerning the city’s place and functionality, but it consummated the procedure with regional powers specifically, with Jerusalem the centre in a contest on a topic. Restoration of the city’s jurisdictive function was ORDERED! This is then the command to which Daniel refers (9:25), the first to fulfil the specifications of that prophet.

As to the restoration, what was that topic as cited earlier ? THE BUILDING, the restoration of "the rebellious and evil city" (4:12). Now there is not merely a cover for all that raised in the past, and now at last settled by Darius, as in Ezra 7. It is not mere restoration of site, interrupted for a period specifically sanctioned as such, but now protected, though this would cover the case, in view of the site’s earlier civic specifications: it is RESTORATION OF FUNCTIONALITY as administrative centre of the region.

For what ? For Jerusalem
 

IN SUM:

Of great import, and indeed of far-reaching significance, then is this consideration. The king had been TOLD in an evocative letter, about this city restoration, and the royal responses being binding, and cumulative (the laws must not be changed), naturally the need of survey, especially to check the claims and counter-claims, not only would be made, but were made. THIS is the attested procedure (Ezra 6:1 cf. 5:17). The contested matters were as cited in the approach to the King by the Governor.  This was the issue (specific in Ezra 5:9 with 4:12-13). That is the result of all this correspondence, which has specifically included challenge to the king, on the topic of CITY WALLS, and resulted in eventual DIRECTIVES, after a pause,  on NATIONAL order and STABILITY and all required for it, IN THIS CONTEXT (Ezra 7:23ff.).

The edict with Ezra, the result of all the preliminaries and of the royal counsel in terms of these things as highlighted successively, is of an embracive, civic, cultural, judicial and regional kind. It can be nothing less therefore than the edict to rebuild Jerusalem. Moreover, one would expect to LOOK in scripture for the event specified as the commencement signal for the seventy sevens in Daniel 9, and here it is, not merely in a word, but in a whole BOOK, with one of the most famous characters in all biblical history, SPECIFICALLY AUTHORISED to carry out this command. He is even watched in detail, and his zeal in the performance attested!

From this regional centre, then, all who know their God are to be given justice and judgment in their affairs, and there is given the power of the death penalty (or banishment, confiscation of goods or imprisonment - a comprehensive protective and punitive assemblage from the King! - Ezra 7:26), for disobedience for those refusing this Jerusalem-direction. And this ? it was for a Jerusalem which already had its completed temple (Ezra 6:16), and which clearly should be something very different from a ruin in order to fulfil the king's command, that it operate as an administrative and judicial centre for the entire region for the Jews. Indeed, when rebuilding of the city walls has been on one of the preliminary skirmishes in correspondence with the King, the ONLY issue, and the city itself the entire focus, this issuance of an edict to ESTABLISH it is clear testimony to a double drama.

Further, since the walls already, long before, in Ezra 4:12-13 are specified in terms of the description "finishing its walls", said of the CITY, doubtless no little work had already been done upon them!

The first item in this dramatic sequence ? The city is to be established. The second ? the drama of the long-range missile type of prediction, not this time the 70 units of years of exile as predicted by Jeremiah for the recalcitrant people, but the 70 SEVENS for the completion of prophecy and fulfilments noted in Daniel 9, to bring us to the very end, this NOW BEGINS.

One can almost see the stately head of the slowly rising predictive historic missile rising from its appointed silo, gathering speed as it goes, on its long mission, first to demarcate the death date of the Messiah, and then the whole gamut of things specified in Daniel 9:24. The COMMENCEMENT has come, silo doors lie open, the at first leisurely rising is watched in awe in view of the eventual date destination: the MESSIAH.

Surely this is one of the most dramatic moments in predictive history, as well as civic, and small wonder such space is accorded it in Ezra, right down to the most specialised details, and the most precise coverage of the processes leading to it!

In that this is all royally screened and screeded, Jerusalem is authorised as a command post, regional centre and place of judgment, by imperial decree, and so acknowledged by Ezra, in God's name, himself on the location in person, edict bearer, we have come to the point of our interest, the commencement date for the spiritual and national saga, the culmination events which shower light on the whole history of the world, and its significance.
 

·       Indeed, the history of this world has significance, and it is about

  • its Creator and His creature, man,
  • His liberties accorded yes and given, though He be Lord, to man, and
  • man’s misuse of these,
  • His redemption and its data and details, that no one could possibly miss them to whom the word has come,
  • the Christ the centre of that significance, being Lord of love as well as Lord of law,
  • merciful in His own Person,
  • and showing and decreeing mercy for men, for one to the other, and for any who come to Him, for each of these (as in Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 52-55).

It is here then that we locate this vastly significant, and this relevant command, coming after the consummation of the temple, specifically restoring to Jerusalem its hegemony over Judah and funds for whatever was necessary for the divine purpose.
 

We must then hasten to discover the date of this royal directive.

The date of this edict of the King is noted in J. Barton Payne's Encyclopedia of Prophecy, p. 387, as 458 B.C.. (Ezra 7:7 specifies the year of the reign with happy scriptural adequacy for this purpose.)
 
 

THE PREDICTED TIME OF MESSIAH, THE PRINCE ...

Our task is now relatively simple. Allowing for the fact that there is no O B.C. : we find that 62 + 7 sevens (the term is seven rather than week, stressing the sevenfold increment from the original 70 year exile) of the total 70 7's, or 483 years are to pass. The 70 7's were to bring in all these final matters and their preliminaries; but the 69 of them were to bring in the Messiah... ("until Messiah the prince"- Daniel 9:25)! This then takes us from the provided starting point, the command to rebuild Jerusalem, at 458 B.C. to the year 26 A.D.. Then is Messiah the prince.

 

His Age at The Start of His Ministry

The Messiah, meaning the 'anointed one for the purpose', would in fact gain His symbolic priestly anointing, and it would occur at the start of His ministry. John the Baptist who supplied the human side, was not symbolically washing away the sins that were not there (Matthew 3:15)... for this special priest who had come to the age specified for priests. That ? it was the minimum of 30, the age given for Jesus (Luke 3:23, cf. Numbers 4:3). Thus John protested:

I have need to be baptised by You, and do You come to me ? Matthew 3:13.

Indeed the text states that John would have hindered Christ in His design of baptism. After all it was John who designated Jesus Christ as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It is scarcely for John, whose sins Christ must take, to be the imperfect instrument for that Christ who, as sin bearer, can have no sin; for there is need of the blemishless sacrifice so often required by Moses. This was symbolically expressive of the righteousness required in a sacrifice for sin. It was, as Isaiah says, for our sin He was offered, and He was for all that accounted as receiving retribution from God. Isaiah contrasts, in Chapter 53, the misapprehension with the fact. On the one hand is the blind attribution of sin to the Messiah; but on the other, is the actual innocence, and the effective bearing of sin for the guilty.

Thus it was that John bent to the will that Christ be baptised, despite his objection: it was to fulfil all righteousness (Matthew 2:15), not to cleanse, that the baptism was performed. The new light altered John's objection, based on his own sinfulness, and the purity of Christ. If the Messiah wished to undergo the priestly anointing, or baptism of consecration, so be it. That was about as well known as exhaust mufflers in our day. It required no introduction.

As Jay Adams points out in his little book, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism, pp. 16 ff., John never changed his mind about Christ's inability to receive the 'baptism of John', that is, one to repentance; for there was nothing of which to repent, for the Son of God. A new consideration entered, and in that perspective, John found himself able to baptise. To be a priest, Adams notes, required that a man be 30, that he be called of God, as Aaron was, and Christ was, and that he be sprinkled with water (Numbers 8:6-7). This was the one remaining item for this extraordinary priesthood, surpassing but not minimising the requirements, one sensitive to fulfilling all righteousness, the point which made John see that he could after all, baptise Christ.

Adams also notes that when Jesus cleansed the temple (Matthew 21:12), He exercised the authority of a priest; and that when asked by what authority he was acting, He asked his attackers (Matthew 21:24-25) what they thought of the baptism of John, which Christ had! So far from abrogating the law, as He said (Matthew 5:17-19), Christ explicitly was bent on fulfilling it. This, and this alone, fulfils it, in this case.

Thus John proceeded to baptise, but not with his own specific baptism, rather with that authorised for such a One as the sinless Jesus Christ. The voice from heaven (Matthew 3:16-17) attested the reality of the act, making celestial the confirmation of the Messianic role which John the Baptist had specifically acknowledged, and incidentally, further confirming that this call was indeed of God! Thus Luke goes on at once from the baptism to the age... about 30. We may do well to take it that there was little delay, then; but in any case, the approximation is there.

 

The Date of the Death of Messiah the Prince

1) Using the Prophetic Base

This was the dramatic initiation of the direct Messianic ministry, as distinct from preparation for it. Chronologically, the fact is that from the various feasts noted in the gospels, it is normally taken that the ministry lasted 3 years. This therefore takes us in a way simply heightened by the baptism, to around A.D. 29 to 30, depending on the exact months in view. It is now necessary to consider precisely the Death of the Messiah in this chronological setting of the prophet Daniel, so enabling the comparison of the prediction with the evidence of the actual event.

You will observe that since seventy weeks were in view, and 69 had passed (Daniel 9:25) when we come to the Messiah, then the question must be asked: how long after the 69 which bring us to the Messiah, is His death to occur ? After these weeks, He comes ? When ?

Verse 27 mentions a residual week, or seven to which we must therefore attend. THIS week could be called the Messianic week, since He, though 'cut off', does not cease as God to dominate proceedings (cf. pp. 560 ff. supra).

For the Messiah as we have noticed, there is not only suffering but triumph; there is only apparent weakness, there IS fulfilment of plan, and Psalm 2, for example makes the vindication of His power, place and authority clear. God does not cease to be God because of His love.

Thus Christ did not cease to be God, and His actions, though apparently disturbed or even disrupted, were in fact wholly sovereign and wholly planned even in seeming disaster (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:8, Acts 2:23-24, Psalm 22:14,20,22-27,30-31). The Bible is not shy on this point. As Peter declaims:

He (Christ) being delivered by the carefully planned intention and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it(Acts 2:23-24),

and he goes on from this start, to note of this once buried Christ that His flesh did not rot (Acts 2:31). It would take another religion to change these things; they are central in significance, centrally affirmed on central occasions in the midst of multiplied predictive and prophecies and notations of fulfilment.

In Daniel 9, the Messianic week, the one which follows the 69 of the 70 which lead to Him, has much action. We read:

He shall confirm the covenant with many for one seven: but in the middle of the seven, He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering (Daniel 9:27).

It goes on to describe the counter-force, the Satanic representation, and his abominations, just as Christ said before His departure from this earth:

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me (John 14:30).

His specific acts of abomination are further referred to by Jesus Christ, as noted in Matthew 24:15.

To revert to Daniel, how was there a fulfilment of this "making the sacrifice to cease" ? He "caused it to rest", the Hebrew tells us. It ceased in other words to have divine sanction, just as predicted in Psalm 40:6-8:

Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire; mine ears Thou hast opened; burnt offering and sin offering Thou didst not require. Then I said: "behold in the volume of the book it is written of Me, I delight to do thy will, O my God..."

 

There, to use the terminology of Hebrews, God takes away the one that He may establish the other (Hebrews 10:9). Animal sacrifices had served their pictorial time, and the actual Redeemer was to come and pay the price, the ransom (Matthew 20:28, cf. Hosea 13:14, Psalm 49:7,15, Isaiah 53:10) as He expressed it, to redeem of His lost and fallen people, every one who should receive Him (John 1:1-14, cf. Isaiah 53:10, 55:3). There had, then, to be an end to the animal sacrificial system (cf. Isaiah 66:3), engineered in the Temple in the forms or patterns of God, as given to Moses (cf. Hebrews 8:11), when the time should come (cf. Psalm 102:13,20-21).

Here in Daniel 9, it is set in chronological sequence. The concept is not new, but firmly established in scripture. It had to happen. What Daniel is quite explicitly doing is giving it the time frame.

God, as we have seen, puts immense importance on the accuracy and adequacy of HIS predictions; they are part of His identikit. It is ridiculous and wholly unbiblical to ridicule the precision of God's word, the accuracy of its fulfilments and the propriety of considering both: God insists on accuracy in prophetic pre-coverage of coming events, as part of His signature, as it were (see Isaiah 41, 43, 48). He not merely notes this distinctive of His, He challenges false hearts in the people, and false gods in their worship, to do the same, telling them that in their waywardness they could not compete, for the people were merely deluded in their multiplied backslidings, fantasies and rebelliousness.

How He chides them, for this kind of folly; and it is not uncommon in some churches today, which appear too sophisticated to look at 'little things', such as what God actually says (a disinclination shared by Satan when he sought to seduce Eve)! But what does He say ?

“Let them bring forth and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things what they were, that we may consider them - and know the latter end of them: or declare the things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter
[now listen to this] that we may know that you are gods; yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing
(Isaiah 41:22-24).

It is then wholly appropriate to give careful attention to this time frame, given by Daniel for such an epochal event as the death of the Messiah, as foretold by Isaiah, a sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53). How often we may marvel at God's prediction of Christ's birthplace at Bethlehem (Micah 5:1-4)! How seldom we seem to marvel at the wonder of His presentation of the time of the Messiahship, the time of His death indeed! We are now ready to consider this seventieth Messianic week, the one that follows His arrival on the scene; and the action which was to come after that. It is in the midst of the residual seven, the seventieth seven then, that the sacrifice IS TO be "caused to rest", that animal sacrifice is to be SET ASIDE, finished, given its completion notice: in fact, REPLACED BY WHAT MUST OF NECESSITY NOW BE IN PLACE, THE SACRIFICIAL DEATH OF THE MESSIAH, JUST ANNOUNCED BY THE PROPHET.

Do you not see it ? : If the Messiah is to be the Lamb of God to put away sin, and is so frequently predicted; and if, when this happens, He is to replace animal sacrifices, then when He is so sacrificed, the old sacrifices must be set aside, put to rest. It is not pragmatic, expedient or the like: it is a quite necessary consequence, something that could not be otherwise, with divine constraints from the Word of God.

It follows then that there could be no puncture of Holiness by the cessation following upon Messiah's sacrificial death; merely a following on of what God Himself has caused, as we have seen in His predestinated presentation of Christ as Lamb. It is Christ therefore who 'caused to rest' these sacrifices. When ? There is the question. When ? That is a perfectly right query here, for the whole conspectus of Daniel 9 is set in a chronological sequence, one indeed which begins in the wholly historical 70 year preliminary, in turn predicted by Jeremiah, one fulfilled in historical and actual exile in Babylon.

The Bible tells the answer to this with marvellous simplicity: it is in the midst of the seventieth, the residual seven, the one into which the Messiah must penetrate in that He arrives on the scene as Messiah, after the 69 sevens. What then is the midst of a seven ? One would not feel baffled at that, but tend to reply simply: something very close to, or of the order of 3˝ years. With decimals these days, which can be computed to millions of places, we should not be too concerned that God chooses to use a 'half' in His conceptual, historical network of explanation here.

What then is 3+ years from A.D. 26 ? It depends of course on the month, but it would appear, without more concern, to be around 29 or 30 A.D., which of course is the normal death date attributed to Christ in the flesh.
 

2) The Date Of The Death Of Messiah The Prince, As In Fact It Happened

How is such a date determined in history as distinct from prophecy ? In fact, for many reasons (*1), B.C. 4 is normally chosen as Christ's birth date in history, and as already noticed, the age of about thirty is attributed in Luke (3:23) to Christ at the commencement of His ministry. Since there is no year nought, we move to A.D. 26 for this commencement, and as also already detailed, the ministry of Christ is from internal scriptural evidence of events noted, normally set at around three years (*1).

 

THE CRUCIAL COMPARISON OF THESE DATES

You end, in history, as in the half a millenium-old prediction, at the same place, both for Christ's ministry and for His death. Half a seven on from A.D. 26, yielding 29 or 30, and around 3 plus years from A.D. 26, on the historical criteria, and the Biblical indications of the actual length of His Ministry. The coincidence is over a vast period, involves countless variables, and is perfect. It fulfils not only the prediction; but the prediction that predictions would be right! That is a self-imposed test that God gave for the better deliverance of men from the delusion that God is not there or does not care. He has cared enough to say and also enough to do, and further, to do what He said He would do, not only in fulfilling in fact the prophecy, but the coming to save, to which it referred. Let us however return to the dates, as such.

What is evidenced in history is precisely what was indicated in the independent chronological sequences, expressly provided as such, by the prophet Daniel. The historical and prophetic dates match to perfection. The period of Jesus Christ was undoubtedly correctly and closely indicated hundreds of years before it happened. A finger of destiny is present, alerting any who would care, to note that this is the very precise period of history, in all of its thousands of years, when this should happen; or, as the apostle Paul put it, He came in the fulness of time (Galatians 4:4).

The Mathematical Message that is Not Merely Mathematical

There is then a mathematical message. Not merely is this a verification of scripture, in its precise claim about the death date for the Messiah: it is also a profound presentation, via the scope of an historical incident (the Jewish 70 year exile) as a base, of the entire history leading to the crucifixion of Christ. With the Jews' exilic rebuke as the base, it enlarges the scale (almost as if it were a graph) to show the scope of history till the reproof of Christ (Isaiah 53:4-5,9). Then they would more fatally fail to heed the Lord; and this reproof they thereby would administer to God; and in Christ their reproof would not be for His sins, but on account of their own (Isaiah 49:7, 53:4). He was rebuked by those for whom He would offer Himself as ransom; and by them as He did it! Though the many would not receive Him, so that the ransom would not be paid; yet it was available.

God on the scene was this time not merely rejected (as before the exile by the nation as a whole), but murdered in the sacrificial form He had provided. Indeed, at their hands as Daniel said (9:26), "there is nothing for Him." Indeed, the prophecy spreads further, beyond the antichrist. Though this does not here concern us, its sovereign sweep continues like an uninterrupted view...

The quality of these words and concepts is that of a sovereign who is sovereign not merely over a nation or empire, but over history; they comport perfectly and precisely with the statuesque beauty of meaningful power seen in Daniel 2, where the 'stone' is to smash the rotten kingdoms and fill the earth with itself. There is in the midst of the scientifically accurate coverage of history, room for pathos - of the Messiah (9:25-26) twice mentioned, it says: "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself..." - and this is "Messiah the Prince".

Here is the masterpiece of abbreviated composition relying, it seems, heavily on Isaiah 52-3. The one anointed to be King is to be cut off; the One who fills the criteria of Daniel 2, as we have seen in tracing the Messiah earlier, is to be 'cut off', a term applicable to sinners removed from the people. This is to be 'not for Himself'. One might have thought that One cut off - anyone indeed 'cut off' - judicially extradited from the living hearth of his people - would have something to answer for. Not in this One: it is NOT for Himself that this judgment occurs. He is innocent. The judgment of those who judged Him therefore is guilty, and the guilt is the guilt of regicide, the despatch, in rejection, of the Prince of Peace as Isaiah calls Him (Isaiah 9:6).

With what result then ? Not of 'peace'. With rest, for the nation ? No, for (Isaiah 11:10) His rest shall be 'glorious', and this, with Him, is rejected. It is a personal, not a pill-popping matter. What then shall befall the nation: restlessness, and not peace, for their peace is despatched. But what of those who refuse His sacrifice, though they be not Jews: the same in this, that their peace is gone, their Prince of life itself as Peter puts it (Acts 3:14), in full accord with the Old Testament scriptures; and a denuded spiritual life, without God, awaits them.

Yet Daniel has more: "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself" may be rendered literally, like this: "there is not for Him" (cf.Ch. 9 below). Isaiah has already made clear in 53, the message of iniquitous rejection of the wholly righteous Christ; and it is clear from the term 'Messiah', in this context of sacrifice for sins, that this element in here. Another aspect of the literal translation, however, is simply that He is left ... as far as it is humanly possible to render to Him, desolate: NOTHING is the reward of men to HIM.

Nothing of life is their reward for so treating Him and His help: nullity is their friendship and their honour. Outer darkness is their consignment for Him. Exclusion from their lives, is their response... to God. God being in human form, their response has a certain desolation of life built into it: to give that to Him, is to exhibit that in oneself.

Guilt is not for Him, though the cutting off would suggest it: the Messiahship is negated by the people. Thus they say, Not you for us! and in that sense, it is not for Him. As far as they are concerned, place in biological format on earth is not for Him: it is ALL negated (*2). Even notorious criminal Barabbus is preferred to Him!

Thus this simple, single sentence in Daniel 9, 'there is not for Him', gives one perfect description, in the form of the very love and sacrificial suffering of God of what hell is. When men are so to be cut off - let us be clear, because they rejected Christ (John 15:21-23, 3:18-19) - then they gain what He bore: there is not to them. They are still there; but there is not for them.

Hell is first of all a negation. What could have been, the beauty even in exchange for the ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3) of sin, the experience of the resplendent truth and torrential peace (Amos 5:24, Isaiah 48:18) of the fearful majesty of the everlasting God, in whose image we are meekly made: this is not for the unrepentant sinner. Meanwhile, in stark moral splendour, of the marvellous Messiah, Daniel writes: There is not to Him: humanly, negation is His lot.

With such stakes, and with such a Person in such a place, is it surprising that the date of His death is announced hundreds of years ahead ? Nor yet is it surprising, but rather further verification, that the nature of the death is so presented, with such depth and restraint, such eloquence and such simplicity; with a profundity which moves effortlessly through the depths. From our point of view it is staggering and sovereignly fitting verification (and this, the manner of it is still further verification, for it fits in style with such a sovereign as God who wrote it); but from another point of view it is a terrible warning of the solemn significance of it.

It is also a regal mockery of all those little 'Christs', those 'other Messiahs' like Barth's and Bultmann's and those of the sects, and those cryptic christs of the evolutionists, who cannot speak aright or act aright or accomplish very much at all. Not such is God's Messiah, who in creation, logic and history, in prophecy, personality and power is self-attesting; and the evidence is rising to our feet like grass in a sunlit and fertile valley. It is everywhere. One feels like John, who doubted if the whole world could contain the testimonies of Jesus Christ.
 
 

2

We turn now to the birth aspect, as it figures
in the arithmetical prophecy's fulfilment

 
 
BIRTH DATE confirmation: from SMR pp. 943ff.

 

Extension 2 : The Date of Birth (and Death) of Jesus Christ on Earth

The date for the birth of Christ appears with monotonous seeming regularity to be set at 4 B.C.. Certainly, this is the overwhelming choice for the death of King Herod. Let us then examine some of the more salient evidence.

First, let it be noted that discernible data are of much importance in this field. Thus the astronomical data will be mentioned first. If, after all, a great and notable celestial event sufficient both to kindle the imaginations of the 'wise men' and rekindle them were to occur, it might seem likely we would have some other evidence of it in the world of astronomy.

Thus the Chinese datum for B.C. 5, intepreted by Clark, Parkinson and Stephenson in their article in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1977, Vol. 18, No. 4, is of great value. Whether it be a comet with a tail or an impressive and radiant nova they are not sure, from the word used, but this they do declare: "only the most spectacular events would arouse sufficient interest to be recorded".

What makes this event the more interesting here is the further Korean entry, concerning another sighting, this time for B.C. 4, each event evidently rather early in the year. Now these sightings could relate to the beginning and end of the journey of the wise men who, as they said, had sighted the Star in the East, through which they proceeded in search of the new king. This they did with such impact that Herod undertook, on seeing himself avoided on their return to the East, to kill children under two, in a vain attempt to net for destruction, this 'new born king'. His famous infanticide has a relation to our date quest which requires further thought.

Why would he make such a broad sweep as that for children of two and under ? Presumably because he felt and wished to be rid of a threat, just as he killed members of his own family, his son indeed just before his death. Why would such an age, two years, be relevant to such an aim as this ? It might relate to

  • a) the length of the journey since the first astral observation by the men from the East - Ramsay considering many months might be involved in their preparation and passage;
  • b) the time from the arrival of the travellers, to Herod's discovery that they had avoided him on their return; and
  • c) a desire for a 'safe' and liberal interpretation of the original sighting's date, so that nothing would escape his net1, and his paranoid seeming pursuit of royal 'peace' might be fulfilled.


This would suggest - since the wise men may well initially have truthfully told him of the date of their astral observation - that they might have been travelling for a good year, to make two seem to have any significance at all! If so, then their first sighting - if it accords with the Chinese one of B.C. 5 - would be around a year before their second sighting, mentioned by Matthew (2:10). That would fit with the Korean sighting on the one hand, and Herod's two year net on the other.

If then there is evidence for a B.C. 4 birth-date for Christ, and we look to see objective astronomical sightings which would both confirm this experimentally, as it were, and help confirm any matters of doubt on the date also: such sightings would be of great assistance. We are now ready to turn to the death date of Herod evidence.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, having noted Herod's death in B.C. 4, goes on to consider the attribution by Josephus the historian, of an eclipse of the moon to a date shortly before his death. One has been calculated as visible in Palestine on March 12, B.C. 4. Now this is just a little before the date of the Korean 'star' sighting, which appears, according to the article, to be either March 23 or 31, B.C. 4. If then, the eclipse came some little time before Herod died, and the wise men were on their way back shortly after it, with the stellar occurrence impacting on them, and this were March 23; then there would be a time for Herod to discover their escape without any relaying to him of the news of the new king, and stung by this, to react ... amply, and to live a short time thereafter. If as the writers of the article suggest, the date of the sighting were February, then the time would be somewhat longer.

Thus it would be that Herod interviewed these wise men at some time perhaps in February or March, and that they then left and made their way to Bethlehem, at which, in due time they arrived. Only later were they warned (Matthew 2:12). Meanwhile, Herod, sick, or made more sick, experienced the rigours of his loathsome disease and horrible end, perhaps in April B.C. 4, though strong argument was made by Sir Robert Anderson for a date some months later, in his work, The Coming Prince (pp. 258-260). The events match the data exceedingly well.

The astronomical writers cited note that the Korean report has less reliability than the Chinese one at this time, and that in fact the Korean date has a day name that does not occur for the month in question. It is for this reason that suggestions are made as to what the date in fact was. What would seem the more clear is that they at least had the year right, this being a more serious error than that of month or day.

With this caveat, we cannot be too certain of the exact date in B.C. 4 for the Korean sighting; but what appears certain is the illustrious character of the B.C. 5 sighting which sent the astronomers off on their journey, and which correlates so magnificently with the death of Herod, following illness, which may have begun before or after their visit. Whether therefore the scenario is comparatively 'tight' with Herod passing away not many weeks after the visit, or leisurely, with an error in the Korean day or month record; or whether Herod in fact died as Anderson maintains later in that year, the Jewish year with its Passover being shortly to follow: the astronomical evidence is strikingly in favour of the B.C. 4 dating of the birth of Christ.

Other data suggesting this follow. They include Luke's reference to the date of Cyrenius rule in the region of Syria, which gives a further index to the birth date.

Sir William Ramsay, having discovered (Archeology and the New Testament, Unger, p.65) Middle Eastern inscriptions relating to a former governorship for Cyrenius (Luke 2:2), set the time for its inception, as by 8 B.C.. If then Herod's death is 4 B.C., we are in the area, 7-4, of the birth. Dr. Zumpt of Berlin had indeed earlier argued for a B.C. 4 inception of Cyrenius' rule. The Korean sighting together with the Chinese one, with this, also moves us towards B.C. 4 as the date most harmonious. The reason for Herod's act confirming the Chinese dating in B.C. 5 is both apt and objective, and the journey itself taking time, we are constrained with considerable force to the normally accepted date of B.C. 4.

Again, the reference, early in Jesus Christ's ministry, to the temple of Herod as being in process of construction for 46 years, fits with B.C. 4, for this reason. A starting date of B.C. 20 (Unger) would with the first year's completion, number one, take us to A.D. 26, and Luke 3:23 gives Jesus' approximate age at the commencement of His ministry - around 30. Depending on slight variables of dating, it is is the area.

Moreover, as J.D. Davis points out in his Dictionary of the Bible, the fifteenth year of Tiberias (another landmark, Luke 3:1), if taken from the time when he was associated with Augustus in rule - during A.D. 11-12, brings us also to A.D. 26. Luke 3:1,3,21 show this as the time Jesus commenced His ministry.

The astronomical evidence and the proximity to the death of Herod both are important in this survey. If again, Jesus were about 30 when the temple building program was, as stated, 46, then its commencement would pre-date His birth by 16 years, again giving us B.C. 4. (Luke 4:23). But what time after the A.D. 26 starting point brings us to the crucifixion ?

With the four Passovers (three certain, a fourth 'highly probable'-Davis) of His ministy, we find that the available data will take us to a Ministry for Jesus Christ of 3 years plus the temptation (following His baptism) and the further time before the first Passover.

W.P. Armstrong, in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, notes that John 4:35 attests some 9 months since the Passover (of 2:13) and finds it out of all plausibility for the Galilean ministry to have lasted only 3 months, hence taking it that the next Passover, noted in John 6, must in fact be two years from that referred to in John 2. Certainly, in that period, there is a steadily growing, grandly acknowledged and majestic quiet authority, one belligerently resisted by vested religious interests and challenged with some care, tested, surveyed in a way extraordinarily difficult to reconcile with a period of weeks, and hence verificatory of this concept.

Thus there is a sense of consolidated kingdom and at times meditated resistance found in the John 5:1 feast, the confrontation of John 5, the Galilean feeding of the 5000 and all the extraordinary popularity and immense and gathering impact discernible as one reads, say in Matthew, the account of this Galilean ministry: Matthew 4:12 - 13:53. Armstrong considers it impossible that the grain, standing ripe at the time of the Sabbath controversy (Matthew 12:1) be fitted into one season with the rest of the Galilean ministry. Indeed, before the Passover to come, as noted in John 6, there was intervening the feeding of the 5000, evidently on Spring grass (John 6:4,10) of a mere 3 months. With all that had preceded, there would not be the same state of the grain in the midst of the ministry and at the end; nor would the seasons reverse.

Further, three passovers are mentioned in John, and a fourth is probable in John 5: if this be a Passover, then both the season of the year and the Sabbath controversy would harmonise with the account of the other gospels. The evidence therefore admits of little movement.

Any natural taking of events, not performed in jets and with microphones, advance billing and itineraries and not unhallowed by haste, would certainly need to reckon with a very considerable period for the enormous variety and gathering impact of the multitude of events described, so that it is once again, a fair and reasonable taking of the evidence to agree with the normal attribution - of 3 years plus some addition, for the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is easy to take key episodes and cardinal events, but the building up, the spreading of illumination, the settling of minds, the digestion of significances, the overcoming of settled and odious opposition, these things take time.

A murder date for Christ, around 30 A.D. is indicated. (Cf. Davis Bible Dict. 4th. Edition Revised, p. 402.)