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According to this scripture, the full "going forth of the commandment to restore and to build," dates from this decree of Artaxerxes. And this decree went forth “in the seyenth year of Artaxerxes the king." Ezra 7:7. What year was this seventh year of Artaxerxes

a date so important to fix to a certainty?

The great chronological standard for the kings of the ancient empires is the canon, or historical rule, of Ptolemy. Ptolemy was a Greek historian, geographer, and astronomer, who lived in the temple of Serapis, near Alexandria, Egypt. From ancient records he prepared a chronological table of the kings of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome (carrying the Roman list to his own time, which was the second century after Christ). Along with his list of kings and the years of their succession, Ptolemy compiled a record of ancient observations of eclipses. In such and such a year of a king, for instance, on a given day of the month, an eclipse of the sun or moon would be recorded. Astronomers have worked out these observations, and verified them. The learned Dr. William Hales said:

“To the authenticity of these copies of Ptolemy's canon, the strongest testimony is given by their exact agreement throughout, with above twenty dates and computations of eclipses in Ptolemy's Almagest."Chronology,Vol. I, p. 166.

Thus, says James B. Lindsay, an English chronologist, "a foundation is laid for chronology sure as the stars.” So the sun and the stars, the divinely appointed timekeepers, bear their witness to the accuracy of the historical record.

We thank God for this, as we desire to know if we may depend upon Ptolemy's canon to help us fix to a certainty the seventh year of Artaxerxes.

According to Ptolemy, Artaxerxes succeeded to the throne in the two hundred and eighty-fourth year of the canon. In modern reckoning, this two hundred and eighty-fourth year runs from Dec. 17, 465 B. C., to Dec. 17, 464 B. C.

The canon does not tell at what part of the year a king succeeded to the throne; it only deals with whole years. The question is, to be exact, Did Artaxerxes come to the throne in December, 465 B. C., or at some time in the year 464 B. c.? At what season of the year did the king take the throne? Some historians, dealing with the matter roughly, date the succession from the year 465. But in dealing with divine prophecy, we require certainty upon which to base the reckoning of the seventh year of Artaxerxes, from which date the prophetic period

runs.

And in God's providence we do have certainty. Of all the kings of Assyria, Babylon, and Medo-Persia, in Ptolemy's long list, there is but one concerning whose succession the Scriptures give us the very time of the year — and that one is Artaxerxes. The one case in which we need to know to a certainty the season of the year, in order to fix an important date in prophecy, is the one case in which Inspiration gives exactly the particulars. Who cannot see the hand of God in this?

The combined record of Neh. 1:1; 2:1 and Ezra 7:7-9,* shows that Artaxerxes came to the throne between the fifth month of the Jewish year and the ninth month,— roughly, between August and December, — or in the autumn. The Bible gives one part of the record, and Ptolemy's canon gives another part; and by the combined record we know that Artaxerxes came to the throne late in the year 464 B. C., and thus the seventh year of his reign would be 457 B. C. This is the date fixed by other sources of reliable chronology also, Sir Isaac Newton having worked out several lines of evidence from ancient authorities, in each case reaching the year 464 B. c. as the first of Artaxerxes, which makes the seventh to be 457 B. C.

* These texts show that the king came to the throne in the autumn, so that the actual years of his reign would run from autumn to autumn. Neh. 1:1 begins the record : “In the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year." Neh. 2:1 continues : “ It came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. Thus it is plain that in the monthly calendar of the king's actual reign the month Chisleu came first in order, and then Nisan. Chisleu was the ninth month of the Jewish sacred year, roughly, December. Nisan is the first month, April. And these months, December, April, — in that order.

came in the first year of the king, of course, the same as in his twentieth year. And in the same year also came the fifth month, August ; for Ezra 7: 7-9 shows that the first and fifth months — in that order — also fell in the same year of his reign. Then we know of a certainty that his reign brgan somewhere between August and December, that is, in the autumn. The first year of Artaxerxes was from the latter part of 464 B. c. to the latter part of 463, and the seventh year, as readily counted off, would be from near the end of 458 to near the end of 457. Under the commission to Ezra, the people began to go up to Jerusalem in the spring of that year. 457 B. c. (in the first month, or April), and they “ came to Jerusalem in the fifth month” (August). Ezra 7:8, 9. Ezra and his associates soon thereafter “ delivered the king's commissions unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God." Ezra 8:36. With this delivery of the commissions to the king's officers, the commandment to restore and to build had, most certainly, fully gone forth. And from this date, 457 B. C., extends the great prophetic period.

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In the seventh year of Artaxerxes the commandment went forth to restore and to build Jerusalem, and this event fixes the beginning of the 2300 years, as also of the 490 years cut off from it upon the Jewish people.

That year, 457 B. C., therefore, is a date of profound importance. It stands like the golden milestone in the ancient Forum at Rome, from which ran out all the measurements of distance to the ends of the empire. From this date, 457 B. C., run out the golden threads of time prophecy that touch events in the earthly life and the heavenly ministry of Jesus that are of deepest eternal interest to all mankind today.

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