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truth through the ages, and evidently it took all strength from him. Daniel closes the account of this vision with the words, "I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it." Verse 27.
But the angel had been commanded, "Make this man to understand the vision;" and soon after, as recorded in the next chapter, possibly within a year,*- Gabriel appeared to the prophet with the words:
"O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. . . . Therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." Dan. 9: 22, 23.
Thereupon the angel began to deal with the matter of time in the prophecy, the very feature of the vision of the eighth chapter that he had not yet made Daniel understand. Therefore the vision of the 2300 years must be the topic.
First of all, the angel said that a short period was to be cut off from the long period, and allotted to the Jewish people; this short period was to reach to the coming of the promised Messiah and the filling up of the measure of Jerusalem's transgressions. The angel's own words are:
"Seventy weeks [490 days, prophetic time, or 490 literal years] are determined [cut off, as the word means] upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal
The dates placed in the margin of the King James Version indicate a period of fifteen years between the eighth and ninth chapters of Daniel. This was because in former days it was thought that Belshazzar was the Bible name of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, who reigned seventeen years. In that case, from the third year" of his reign, when the prophecy of Daniel 8 was given, to the "first year of Darius," who succeeded him, when the angel appeared again to Daniel, would be fifteen years. But the unearthing of the buried records of Babylonia during the last half century, reveals the fact that Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, associated with him on the throne as king for a few years before the fall of Babylon. The third year of his reign may very likely have been the last year; and Darius immediately followed Belshazzar. The explanation of the ninth chapter might have been within a few weeks or months following the vision of chapter 8, and probably
up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy." Verse 24.
This 490-year period "cut off" was to cover the history of the people of Jerusalem until that city had filled out the measure of its transgression. The only prophetic period from which this 490 years can properly be said to be "cut off" is, assuredly, the longer period of 2300 years, which stretches far onward to "the time of the end." The 490 years and the 2300 years, then, must begin at the same time.
It was the time period that the angel Gabriel was yet to explain; and he begins the explanation by showing that the first 490 years of it would reach to the days of the Messiah. Then he gives the event that marks the beginning of the 490 years, which event must necessarily mark the beginning of the 2300 years as well.
This is what he was commissioned to make Daniel "understand" when first the vision of the 2300 years was given. Now he tells him to "understand" it:
"Know therefore and understand, 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: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." Dan. 9:25, 26.
The date of the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem is the date, therefore, from which the great prophetic measuring line runs; the first 490 years of it to reach to the time and work of the Messiah, at the first advent, the full 2300 years running on to mark the time when the judgment hour in heaven opens. Once the startingpoint is fixed, all the events of the long period must follow exactly as scheduled in the time-table of divine prophecy.
Date of the Commencement to Restore Jerusalem
There were several commands issued concerning the restoration of Jerusalem after the Babylonish captivity. Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes Longimanus each issued such a decree. Which one answers to the language of the prophecy as "the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem"?
The decree of Artaxerxes was most comprehensive (Ezra 7), authorizing the full restoration of the civil and religious administration of Jerusalem and Judea. And Inspiration specifically sums up all the decrees as completed only in that of Artaxerxes, which thus constituted "the commandment:"
"They builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia." Ezra 6: 14.
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 seventh year of Artaxerxes the king." Ezra 7:7.
What year was this seventh year of Artaxerxes 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