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What is the right starting point from where we are to measure the 2300 years and the period of the 70 weeks?  The prophet says: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem…” [1]

We, therefore, must start our calculation from the time a command went forth granting permission to restore and build the destroyed city of Jerusalem.

If we study the Bible and Jewish history we will discover that there were four special occasions where a Persian monarch granted Jewish captives permission to return to Judah and Jerusalem to carry out rebuilding activities.

1. The first year of Cyrus  Ezra 1 538 BC
2. The third year of Darius Ezra 6   519 BC
3. The seventh year of Artaxerxes Ezra 7 457 BC
4. The twentieth year of Artaxerxes Neh. 2 444 BC

How do we know which one of these four possibilities is the correct year to start the prophetic periods?

It is necessary to pay special attention to this question, since there is much confusion and lack of clarity concerning this point. Let us consider the facts carefully.

The Bible clearly points out that the starting point of the prophetic periods has to do with the restoration and building of Jerusalem.

For its fulfilment many people immediately think of a group of Jewish construction workers with a heap of stones and a trowel in their hands busy building and repairing the walls of Jerusalem.

In fact, that is precisely the impression that is given in the prophecy since the second part of Daniel 9:25 mentions that the street shall be built again, and the wall. So these physical activities of construction seem to play an important part in this prophecy.

Thus, soon the conclusion is drawn that the fourth possibility, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, must be the correct starting point of this time prophecy because as to this occasion the Bible clearly speaks of the building of the wall and gates of Jerusalem[2] We discover that many theologians and Bible Commentaries choose this option.

However, is this fourth possibility indeed the correct choice that will approve and fit in with all the details of the prophecy?  Are the gates and the wall particularly mentioned in the commandment that was to go forth? Street and wall are indeed referred to in the latter part of the verse explaining that the building process will be in troublous times. Although included, street and wall are not mentioned in relation to the commandment. In that connection we simply read: to restore and to build Jerusalem. Thus the question remains: Are we to interpret the commandment in such a limited way as to involve merely a pure literal restoration of the street, the wall and the gates of Jerusalem?

When we consult the prophet Isaiah as to Jerusalem’s restoration, we read: That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid… I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives…[3]

Here we have a Biblical indication that Cyrus was to build Jerusalem. Are we not bound by this simple and clear statement to choose the commandment proclaimed by Cyrus in 538 BC as the right time to start the calculation of the prophecy? We discover that several Bible commentators do so.

Remarkably, however, in Cyrus’ proclamation to the Jews to go up to Jerusalem, we do not find any particular reference to the restoration or building of the city of Jerusalem. We read that the God of heaven charged him to build the house of the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem.[4]

Yet Cyrus was the monarch who would build the city of Jerusalem and let the captives go. How are we to understand this first edict correctly?  Does it also apply to building the city?

Benson explains: It was, however, the basis of liberty to the Jews; for all the indulgences granted them afterwards by the following kings of Persia, were founded on the precedent of this great monarch. So that he might well be considered as fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘He shall build my city, he shall let go my captives,’ Isai. xlv. 13.[5]

Thus, not only the building of a house for God but building the city seems, by implication, to have also been included in this first decree.

To obtain further understanding we must first answer the question: What is meant by the expression: to restore and to build Jerusalem? Precisely what is involved? The Bible interprets itself. The best way is to search within her own pages for insight.

Concerning Jerusalem we read in the New Testament: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee…[6]

It is evident that we are to understand here by Jerusalem, the Jewish people, since not the city of Jerusalem, but the Jewish people stoned and killed the prophets. Thus Jerusalem may stand for the people of Israel. Therefore it is important to note: When Jerusalem is restored and built, the Jewish people will be re-established.

Furthermore we read: The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel… For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders…[7]

Here we understand that the city is build by the gathering of Israel’s outcasts. The bars of her gates are strengthened by God blessing her children and by the peace He provides. So, Israel’s recovery, elevation, strength and prosperity is expressed in terms of building Jerusalem and strengthening her gates by God’s providence and blessing.

We also read: Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.[8] This passage is expressed in the context of  sacrifices of a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart.[9]

If Israel is truly repentant, the walls of Jerusalem are builded by the goodness that God bestows unto Zion.

Another Psalm informs us how we are to visualize Jerusalem as a builded city: Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up… For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David… Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces… Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.[10]

Significant features of Jerusalem as a builded city were the house of the Lord and legal security. Israel’s feet stood within her gates because of God’s house and because of her judicial system - the thrones of judgment.

Note that these are no foreign thrones but thrones of the house of David. Thrones according to the law of Moses. This will make Israel a polity or city by a government of their own. Their administration of justice will bring peace and prosperity within her walls and for the sake of God’s house the good will be sought. Thus, with these characteristics, Jerusalem will be a builded city, bound firmly together as one united whole.

Biblically viewed, all these aspects make Jerusalem a firmly built city. Thus a broader view applies as to Jerusalem being restored and builded. In a Biblical context it goes beyond the literal building of streets, walls, and gates.

It includes repentance. It includes the gathering of Israel’s outcasts or the assembling of exiled Israel. It includes God’s promise of goodness and peace that He will build the walls and strengthen the bars of the gates. It includes the house of the Lord; Israel’s divinely appointed religious centre. It includes no foreign thrones but thrones of the house of David; their own national and royal judicial system, Divinely appointed according to the law of Moses.

All these particulars apply to the Jewish people and their city being restored and built as a one united civil and religious whole. 

Therefore, we cannot say that if Jerusalem’s wall was restored and built again with stones and timber, God’s plan with his city and people would have been met. Of course, this was a logical and necessary part and aspect of the prophecy, however, not of an adequate and decisive nature. No, God’s plan and purpose with His people reached far beyond that and included more essential aspects.

God projected for His people, as of old, a complete restoration of His chosen nation as a religious and constitutional state in the promised land where justice was to be administered as triumphant over evil by faithful and obedient walking in the ways of the Lord God of Israel.


Complete restoration.

When we now consider again the four possibilities for the commencement of the 2300 years and the 70 weeks, then we certainly may state that Cyrus in his proclamation has made a valuable start in favour of the Jewish people for restoration and rebuilding, particularly concerning the house of God. However this decree did not made provision for a complete civil and religious restoration of the Jewish nation. Therefore this decree indicated a limited restoration and as such it could meet only partially God’s plan and purpose.

The second possibility under king Darius in 519 BC was in fact not much more than a corroboration of what Cyrus in his proclamation had specified so that here also no complete restoration was involved.

The authorization in 457 BC, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, is, however, many sided and comprehensive. All those of the people of Israel, or of its priests and Levites in the Persian kingdom were allowed by a royal decree to go up to Jerusalem.

Ezra, being a priest and scribe,[11] was sent to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of God which was in his hand.[12] That was an extensive commission. He was not charged to investigate the situation at Jerusalem only. No, the Bible relates his mission as  to find out how things stand in Judah and Jerusalem.[13]

We could ask what was the purpose of this inquiry? Just to have a look around to see how things were and then leave the things as they were? That certainly would not have been significant and not in harmony with God’s purpose either. Ezra, being commissioned by the king, was to take action. He was charged to purchase whatsoever was needful out of the king’s treasure house.

He could even appeal to the treasurers of the whole area and everything he required was to be supplied exactly and speedily.[14]

Without doubt, Ezra received a unique mandate. The king granted him all his request.[15] All of the people of Israel, priests and Levites, were encouraged to return, and chief men were gathered to go up with him.[16] There was a contrite spirit of affliction and God was with them.[17] This decree was very comprehensive indeed. It provided for all the necessary, biblical requirements of a complete national restoration and building up of Jerusalem. Ezra was charged to appoint magistrates and judges and to teach the people the laws of God. Strict obedience was required. Justice had to be executed.[18]

This impressive decree, issued by king Artaxerxes in 457 BC, indisputably provides for the whole reconstruction of the Jewish nation as a constitutional state after divine order. This was God’s purpose with His people: a complete restoration of the Jewish society; religiously, socially and economically.

We read about this: The third decree, which was that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, recorded at large, Ezra vii. 12-26, ‘was of great solemnity and efficacy, importing no less than the restoration of the Jewish constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, providing in the first place for the re-establishment of divine worship with becoming order and magnificence, exempting the priesthood from all taxes; then, for the civil government of the people, the institution of tribunals, and the administration of justice, according to the law of Moses. This decree answers to all the characters of the prophecy, the restoring of the constitution, the rebuilding of the city, and the chronological periods distinctly specified,’ and is, no doubt, here chiefly intended… Ezra, like another Moses, became a second founder of the Jewish state; and his return with the captives to restore Jerusalem is the glorious epoch from which the seventy weeks begin... The fourth and last edict was that which the same Artaxerxes granted to Nehemiah, in the twentieth year of his reign, to repair and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Between the two edicts of the 7th and the 20th, the rebuilding had met with so much opposition and hostility, that Nehemiah had much of the fortifications to begin again.[19]

As Nehemiah learned of the enmity and reproach inflicted by the neighbouring enemies over Jerusalem and the returned exiles, he made his request to the king to be sent to build the city.

An historical source describes the opposition Ezra and his workers had to deal with while rebuilding the city:

The Samaritans annoyed the Judaeans on every possible occasion. They finally grew so bold as to make an open attack on Jerusalem. Sanballat led an army against Jerusalem, made breaches in the walls and burned the gates and many houses. The leaders of Jerusalem were not skilled in the art of war. As a result, Jerusalem was again a heap of ruins. The Temple, however, was spared since it was held sacred by the Samaritans also… For the time being, Ezra’s work seemed to have been completely undone. Judah’s very existence was in danger… But the zeal which Ezra had enkindled was not to be soon extinguished. A few men, overwhelmed by sorrow and grief over the misfortune that had befallen Jerusalem, hastened to Persia in search of aid. They counted especially upon the assistance of Nehemiah, the cup-bearer and favorite of king Artaxerxes. Hanani, a kinsman of Nehemiah, described to him the appalling desolation of the capital of which he had been an eyewitness. Nehemiah was shocked by the news.[20]

A number of commentators confirm that the third decree in 457 BC is the right starting point for the prophetic time periods.

Cumming states: This is the most important of the three decrees, because it constituted them a nation again, and corresponds with the terms of the prophecy.[21]

Furthermore he writes: The third edict, which I conceive to be the true one, is given by Artaxerxes in the seventh year of his reign… A fourth one, as has been supposed by some, was given to Nehemiah in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. But on comparing carefully the seventh chapter of Ezra, which it is important to read, where the commission is given to Ezra, with the second chapter of Nehemiah, where the commission is given to Nehemiah, you will easily perceive that the proclamation given to Ezra was a royal one, a general and a public one, and that the commission given to Nehemiah was a personal and private commission to an individual to go and carry out with great speed and vigour what Ezra had begun; and afterward we find the two working together and carrying on the rebuilding and the restoration of Jerusalem, its temple, its streets, in very troublous times, the labourers having each the trowel in one hand and the spear in the other. I therefore argue, that the commencing period was the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, as recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra.[22]

We are informed that the enemies of the returned Jewish exiles did everything they could to prevent the work of restoration. They wrote a letter to the king: Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.[23]

Some assert that the Jews had no agreement to rebuild the city and thus were doing illegal work. They point out that only when the king had given a decree to do so they were allowed to rebuild the city and no sooner. But is this a credible assertion?

Is it conceivable that a favourably minded king would authorize his  exiles to return to their country and not allow them to rebuild their residence into a safe habitation?

Is it imaginable that they are left in uncertainty, having to wait patiently as to when it would please the king to issue a special decree allowing them to start repairs?


No illegal work.

Especially in ancient times when people settle again in a destroyed place, it speaks without words for itself that one of the necessary things will be to pay attention to a safe enclosure. If this, as a matter of course, was not allowed, many would not desire to return and face such a risky, unsafe, and uncertain future.

In a country with unreliable nomads wandering about, it would not be inviting to stay in a city with destroyed walls and broken gates where every gang of robbers would have free access.

Stanley explains: In those days, rather one may say in those countries, of disorder, a city without locked gates and lofty walls was no city at all.[24]

When a king is favourably disposed towards his exiles, granting them permission to return to their home town, as was the case with the people of Israel, it would be unthinkable that they were not free to build the city in such a way as to provide protection.

Thus it is a matter of course that the returned exiles, not only, as a special royal assignment, built the house of God, but also paid attention to make their place of residence safe. Initially, it is not an acceptable thought that they were not allowed to do so until the king would give them special permission. Such was only the case when their enemies had accused them and the repairs were postponed for some time.[25] The work was stopped, not because such activities were illegal, but because the hostile opponents had, in a letter to the king, pictured the rebuilding of Jerusalem with weighty charges and accusations of rebellion against the king.[26]

Fleming comments: Ezra’s work had some early success, but when the Jews tried to strengthen Jerusalem’s defences by rebuilding the city wall, their enemies accused them of planning to rebel against Persia. They reported the matter to Artaxerxes, with the result that the king issued a decree commanding that the work stop immediately.[27]

As we have observed, it was Cyrus who permitted the exiles for the first time to return to Jerusalem in 538 BC and he would say to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built.[28] God raised him up and directed all his ways: he shall build my city and he shall let go my captives.[29]

If Cyrus would build Jerusalem, saying, Thou shalt be built, could this monarch then regard the building activities of the returned exiles as unpermissable or even declare it illegal?

From Isaiah’s clear statement we gather that to rebuild the city, the returned exiles did not have to wait many years for a special royal approval. No, delay occurred only because the enemies had accused them of rebellion.

Thus, initially, they were not, as some would have it, to postpone the building work of Jerusalem’s walls and gates until at last, nearly one hundred years later, warrant was given to Nehemiah by king Artaxerxes in 444 BC.

The mandate, given to Nehemiah, was logical and understandable because of the circumstances at that time.

As we portray the course of events we note that during the reign of Cyrus the work advanced from month to month. Soon the foundation of the temple was laid with great joy and thanksgiving to the Lord. However, some who remembered the glory of Solomon’s temple were expressing sadness. Their complaining attitude, combined with the hostility of the Samaritans, weakened the hands of the builders.

Cyrus was succeeded by his son Cambyses, and during his reign the building work was declining, mainly because of the strong and  determined opposition of the enemies.

At some favourable moments Israel’s enemies had reported bad news to the Persian kings. The Bible mentions a report to Ahasuerus,[30] however, seemingly without much success. The letter written to Artaxerxes,[31] indicated that the Jews, by building the city, were devising rebellion. Thereupon this king ordered them to cease the work, notifying that the city should not be built until he would give another commandment.[32] Thus the opponents made the Jews to cease by force and power.[33]

As to this event, Ellen White wrote: During the reign of Cambyses the work on the temple progressed slowly. And during the reign of the false Smerdis (called Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:7) the Samaritans induced the unscrupulous imposter to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to rebuild their temple and city.[34]

In the reign of king Darius search was made in the Babylonian archives and the scroll written by Cyrus was found granting the Jews permission to return to build the house of God in Jerusalem.

Thereupon Darius issued his decree that this should be carried out without delay and not be tampered with.

As a result of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah the hands of the builders were strengthened and the rebuilding of the temple was successfully completed in the sixth year of king Darius and dedicated with great joy and on the 14th day of the first month the returned exiles kept the Passover.[35]

This success, however, did not in any way mean that the hostility of the Samaritans was broken. On the contrary, every attempt to fortify the city was met with great opposition and turned down with power so the walls and gates were left in a deplorable state.

When Nehemiah heard of these unfortunate circumstances of great affliction and reproach that Jerusalem’s wall was broken down and the gates burned with fire, he mourned, fasted and prayed for mercy and kindness from the king’s hand. Since Nehemiah’s great concern was Jerusalem’s deplorable state, he succeeded in his specific request to build the city.[36] No wonder that the terms of this particular decree issued by Artaxerxes in 444 BC were express in their reference to building Jerusalem and that this was paramount in the royal letters Nehemiah received.

Several Bible Commentators admit that the rebuilding of the city was included, right from the beginning when Cyrus issued his decree in 538 BC.

Carroll, considering the four decrees, writes: While the record of the Cyrus decree seems limited to the rebuilding of the Temple, the Isaiah prophecy (44:28) demands the inclusion of the building of the city. Especially must this be conceded when we read the letter sent to Artaxerxes, or the pseudo Smerdis, by the enemies of the Jews. (See Ezra 4:11-14.)  And as Darius Hystaspes, the author of the second decree, distinctly revived and ratified the Cyrus decree, which had been frustrated, this, too, would include the building of the city.

For the third decree, the evidence is stronger still, the one issued to Ezra by Artaxerxes Longimanus, 457 BC. This restores Jerusalem to a civil polity under their own laws and included the country west of the river (Ezra 7:25). There are two ideas in the prophecy, “to restore and to build,” and restoration is more important than rebuilding. The restoration of the civil polity was a necessary preliminary to the entrance of the people on their new probation of 490 years. Without it they could not be responsible. They must be under their own judges and magistrates, with powers of imprisonment, confiscation, banishment, and death, and charged with the administration of their own Mosaic law, in order to enter upon this probation or responsibility. This restoration was more essential than the building of the walls of the city, since it conferred a political status, while the walls only conferred a defense.

The fourth decree (Neh. 1-2), 445 B.C., only carries on the third as the second carried on the first. That is to say, if Artaxerxes Longi-manus confers restoration on Jerusalem, in its civil polity, in his first decree, it was but a logical outcome that the city must have walls to protect its status from the encroachment of its bitter enemies. Those 490 years of probation are determined on both the people and on the city. It does not seem that a just probation could commence until the restoration of their civil polity, under their own magistrates and judges, charged with the administration of their own Mosaic law and empowered to enforce it with penalties of confiscation, imprisonment, banishment, and death. These powers came with the restoration of the city under Ezra, and arose from a commandment going forth from Artaxerxes Longimanus, 457 B.C.[37]

Isaac Newton explains: Now the dispersed Jews became a people and city, when they first returned into a policy or body politic, and this was in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, when Ezra returned with a body of Jews from captivity, and revived the Jewish worship, and by the King’s commission created Magistrates in all the land, to judge and govern the people according to the laws of God and the king, Ezra 7. 25. [38]

With continued opposition from the very beginning, the work of the returned exiles was not easy, yet a lot was accomplished, including partial repairs of the city wall. Ellen White states: Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem was opportune. There was great need of the influence of his presence. His coming brought courage and hope to the hearts of many who had long laboured under difficulties. Since the return of the first company of exiles under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, over seventy years before, much had been accomplished. The temple had been finished, and the walls of the city had been partially repaired. Yet much remained undone. [39]

As to Ezra’s specific desire and purpose why he would return to Jerusalem, Ellen White rightly includes the rebuilding of the city:

Ezra’s faith that God would do a mighty work for His people, led him to tell Artaxerxes of his desire to return to Jerusalem to revive an interest in the study of God’s word and to assist his brethren in restoring the Holy City.[40]

How did Ezra understand the king’s decree? Gleason L. Archer explains: Yet in his understanding of the implications of that decree, Ezra himself affirmed in his solemn, penitential prayer on behalf of Israel that ‘our God has not deserted us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and  Jerusalem.’ (Ezra 9:9). To Ezra’s mind, then, the commission he received from Artaxerxes included permission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.[41]

Ezra’s return with comprehensive mandates in behalf of Israel’s restoration as a nation, caused a spiritual revival, but, on the other hand, the Jews faced bitter opposition from their enemies who thwarted their building activities.  By God’s providential care, again relief was brought by sending Nehemiah. Through this man, prepared by his residence in the Persian court for the work to which he was to be called, God purposed to bring blessing to His people in the land of their fathers. By messengers from Judah the Hebrew patriot learned that days of trial had come to Jerusalem, the chosen city. The returned exiles were suffering affliction and reproach. The temple and portions of the city had been rebuilt; but the work of restoration was hindered, the temple services were disturbed, and the people kept in constant alarm by the fact that the walls of the city were still largely in ruins.[42]

Many recognize that the gloomy report that Nehemiah received from the Judean messengers was a description of the situation as was developed during recent times. Many see a clear link with the episode described in Ezra 4:7-23.

In Gaebelein’s commentary this logical point of view is clearly presented:

Most scholars would date the episode of vv.7-23 before 445 B.C. The forcible destruction of these recently rebuilt walls rather than the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar would then be the basis of the report made to Nehemia.[43]

Most scholars, however, do not believe that Nehemiah’s distress was caused by the condition of walls torn down 140 years before his time but rather by the episode of Ezra 4:7-23.[44]

Nevertheless, some commentators still portray Nehemiah’s grief in terms of Nebucadnezzar’s destruction of the city in 586 BC, while they indicate that Jerusalem’s walls and gates still remained in that position until the arrival of Nehemiah with the king’s decree and the building activities of the city walls and gates commenced.

Werner Kessler, and many others, however, explain that this could be hardly possible.

Kessler writes: The intense reaction with tears, mourning and fasting excludes that the report would concern the disaster of 586, that was 140 years back. A more recent misfortune should be intended here. In the book of Ezra in the ‘Aramaic Chronicle’ we came already across a report from the time of Artaxerxes, speaking of an attempt of the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The king to whom this news was sent ordered the Provincial rulers to thwart this purpose. With force the rebuilding was prevented. To this episode the report is related that the visitors disclosed to Nehemiah.[45]

In Elwell’s Commentary we read a similar explanation: One of Nehemiah’s brothers, Hanani, comes from Judah with other men and is questioned about the status of the Judean remnant as well as the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is genuinely interested in what has happened to the people who had returned to Judea with Ezra twelve years previously. The men report that the Judeans are in great trouble and disgrace because the wall of Jerusalem has been broken through in many places and the gates have been burned with fire. Hanani is not describing what happened in the days of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. when he destroyed the first temple and left the walls of the city in ruins. Nehemiah is listening to an account of how his people have attempted to reconstitute their life in the city of Jerusalem, trying to restore its walls, but the many enemies of Judea are preventing this.[46]

Clarke, in his Commentary, declares: [Neh. 1] Verse 3. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down. This must refer to the walls, which had been rebuilt after the people returned from their captivity: for it could not refer to the walls which were broken down and levelled with the dust by Nebuchadnezzar; for to hear of this could be no news to Nehemiah. [47]

Broadman’s Commentary describes it this way: Nehemiah was told that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire. His reaction to the report shows clearly that this catastrophe could not have been that perpetrated by Nebuchadrezzar over one hundred and forty years earlier. Nehemiah would scarcely have mourned for days over a situation which had been known to him all of his life. The destruction of Jerusalem related by Hanani was almost certainly a recent event.[48]

In Bruce’s Commentary the episode described in Ezra 4:7-23 is clearly pictured in the days of king Artaxerxes Longimanus, who issued his decree to Ezra in 457 BC and 13 years later his decree to Nehemiah in 444 BC.

We read: During the thirteen year interval between these stories [of Ezra and Nehemiah], however, there occurred the event described in Ezra 4:7-23. It is narrated there how that ‘in the days of Artaxerxes’ the Jews in Jerusalem engaged themselves in rebuilding the city walls, which matter was reported to King Artaxerxes by their neighbours to the north, and of how Artaxerxes responded by commanding that ‘an order be issued to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order’ (Ezr. 4:21). The northern neighbours, con-sequently, hurried to Jerusalem ‘and compelled them by force to stop’ (Ezr. 4:23), going so far, evidently, as to demolish the part of the wall which the Jews had built and set fire to the newly-constructed city gates.[49]

In Alleman & Flack’s Commentary it is suggested that when the King received the letter of complaint from Israel’s enemies, he did not have full information at hand and therefore ordered a temporary stand still of the building work. Thus we read: Lacking a complete report from the keepers of the records, Artaxerxes issued a temporary order commanding Rehum to halt the rebuilding of Jerusalem until his final decision, on the basis of more complete information, could be published in a later decree. Rehum and his Samaritan friends lost no time in enforcing the king’s order. The force and power with which they executed the royal command suggests that they destroyed some of the work of the Jews and burned whatever wooden construction had been erected in the city’s gateways. Cf., Neh. 1:3.[50]


Successful rebuilding.

The Bible clearly shows that the rebuilding of Jerusalem did not commence until Nehemiah had arrived in Judah. Nehemiah, therefore, was not the one who first started this work. No, he only finished the repairs which work had started already from the very first leave of return to Judah, but was stagnated because of hostile opposition. Thus, the work of Nehemiah was the continuation of the work commenced by Zerubbabel rebuilding the wall.[51]

There was, therefore, no need for Nehemiah to build the entire wall with all its gates anew for there were parts that were already built and only needed some repairs. There were also parts that were found to be in good order and thus were passed by. They abandoned or left areas as far as the Broad Wall,[52] or, as some Bible translations have it, they needed not to do anything to Jerusalem at the broad wall.[53]

The margin of the KJV and some other versions, render the last part of Nehemiah 3:8, and they left Jerusalem unto the broad wall.

John Gill explains: wherefore these men repaired up to it, but left that as they found it… it not wanting any repair.[54]

Poole points out that the third chapter of Nehemiah is an account of what was done and not of what was not done and left because no repair was needed. He explains: Others render it ‘they left,’ as this word commonly signifies; and so the meaning is, They omitted the building of that part of the wall, because it remained standing… But this chapter gives us an account of what they did in the building, not of what they did not, but left as they found it.[55]

The Expositor’s Bible, states: There, however – if we are to accept the generally received emendation of the text mentioned in the margin of the Revised Version – they found a bit of wall that had escaped destruction, and also probably the ‘Ephraim Gate,’ which is not named here, although it existed in the days of Nehemiah.[56]

Although parts were found in good order, it is still remarkable that Nehemiah and his workers finished the wall in fifty and two days.[57] In so short a time it would have been all but impossible even under the most favorable circumstances to rebuild the entire wall, including its many gates, had it been in the condition in which Nebuchadnezzar left it. The rapid reconstruction was due not only to the great enthusiasm of both leaders and people, but also to the progress undoubtedly made under Ezra and others before the Samaritans destroyed part of  it.[58]

Another Commentary also points out that previous building work had been done: …it is not at all improbable that the work was finished in 52 days, especially when it is remembered that previous work had been done, though abandoned, and that the walls were probably only seriously damaged and not razed to the ground…[59]

This is confirmed in The New Bible Commentary, stating: The wall did not have to be rebuilt from ground level. In many places it needed no more than extensive repairs.[60]

The Wycliffe Commentary also affirms this and explains the short building period this way: This may seem like an extremely short time; but there were thousands of zealous workmen, the wall had not been completely destroyed (it was mainly a task of repairing breaches; see 6:1), and the gate of Ephraim, which is not mentioned in chapter 3, may not even have been damaged. Nevertheless, it was indeed a tremendous accomplishment, in which the Jews’ enemies perceived the hand of God.[61]

If we consider the information at hand carefully, we conclude that there are clear indications that rebuilding activities of the city were permitted and involved in the earlier decrees, and although there was very much hostile oppression of the Samaritans, nonetheless, repairs were done accordingly.

Summarizing, we conclude that nobody needs to be in doubt as to the right starting point of the prophetic periods. The year 444 BC when Nehemiah received permission to return to Jerusalem can hardly be an adequate choice because he only finished or completed the work that had begun earlier. King Cyrus, who issued his decree in 538 BC only provided for a partial restoration. For that reason this decree was not adequate either since God intended a complete restoration for His people. Cyrus, however, laid the foundation upon which the later decrees were based. He gave the initial impetus and thus, by implication, it was prophesied that he would build the city.

The decree issued by king Darius was in fact not much more than a confirmation of the one given by Cyrus, and therefore also does not answer to the fullness of the restoration that God purposed.

The decree of king Artaxerxes given to Ezra in 457 BC was the only comprehensive document with full authority for a complete Jewish restoration - civil, ecclesiastical, judicial and educational – all  according to the wisdom and will of Israel’s God.

This decree fully matches God’s plan and purpose of restoration for His people. Thus the entire organization of the civil and social and religious life of the Jews was entrusted to Ezra by a royal decree, giving to the Jews practically the same rights and liberties which they had enjoyed under the ancient form of the direct theocracy.[62]

Thus full provision to restore and to build Jerusalem was made by this decree. From the going forth of this commandment in 457 BC we are to calculate the time prophecies of Daniel 8 and 9.

Continuing our search we will find some additional information in support of this commandment as being the right starting point.

The Jews finished the rebuilding, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes.[63]

In the sixth year of Darius, in 515 BC, the temple was completed. Artaxerxes, therefore, could only beautify God’s house and include in his commandment some directions and provisions as to the service and the offerings in the temple and its maintenance.[64]

Thus the building activities according to the commandments of the three mentioned monarchs must have had a broader application than the house of God only. This building was not limited to the Temple, for that was finished in the sixth year of Darius… This passage (6:14) directly connects Ezra with both restoration and building, and confers on this third decree additional probability as the one of the four which best meets the terms of the prophecy.[65]

The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that Ezra 6:14 does not particularly mention the temple. Therefore the work of rebuilding includes also the city of Jerusalem:

Actually in the Hebrew the words “the temple” are not in 6:14. It reads literally, They finished their building, thus speaking in general terms of the total reconstruction of Jerusalem under the decrees of the three kings. But verse 15 specifically mentions the temple.[66]

Each of the three mentioned Persian monarchs played in God’s providence a certain and specific role in the restoration of the Jewish nation, while the climax for a complete restoration that God intended for His people was reached with the going forth of Artaxerxes’ commandment in the year 457 BC. Therefore, none of the other decrees satisfy the whole intent of the prophecy in all its detail as precisely and as adequately as does this one.

Therefore, the prophetic period of 2300 years, as well as the period of the 70 weeks, should be calculated from the year 457 BC. This is not a new or recent finding.

A few centuries ago, some theologians who studied the prophecies of Daniel carefully, dated the predicted time periods mentioned in  Daniel 8:14 and 9:24-27 from this year and they concluded that either 1843 or 1844 would be a significant year.

Thus, for instance, we read: Habershon dates from the edict of Artaxerxes giving the commission to Ezra, B.C. 457 or 456, which brings the termination of the 2300 years to 1843 or 1844, in which year he calculated that the accomplishment of all the prophecies relative to the deliverance of the Jewish and Christian churches centre.[67]


Solar and Lunar Years.

Although, as we have seen, the prophecy intimates the commandment that provides for a complete restoration of people and city, some still hold that Nehemiah’s successful work could not be passed by, since his activities literally comply with the expression: to restore and to build Jerusalem. That was exactly what he did, and with the help of God, so gloriously accomplished. Therefore, many insist that the royal admission given to Nehemiah in 444 BC must be taken into account for the commencement of the prophecy.

However, it is not possible to bring the prophesied events in harmony with the historical calendar when the year 444 BC is used as starting point. A repeated difference of 13 years will occur when the details of the prophecy are tried to be calculated. To remove this difficulty a special way of calculation has been suggested.

In ancient times when periods or certain events are calculated, mostly solar years were used, however, sometimes also lunar years were made use of.

Since 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes pass from new moon to new moon, the Hebrew or Jewish lunar year counted 354 days, 8 hours and 48 minutes, a total of about 11 days less than the solar year.

It is, however, rather inconsistent as to a uniform calculation of the prophecy as a whole, to partly insert lunar years. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that when the period from 444 BC up to Christ[68] is calculated in lunar years, one has, in order to come in harmony with solar years, to add 444 times 11 days; a total of about 4884 days. When we calculate this in years: 4884 divided by 365, we end up with a total of 13 years.

In order to match solar years these 13 years must be added to the 444 lunar years which gives a total of 444 + 13 = 457 years. Thus we find that 444 lunar years equal 457 solar years.

This is precisely the number of years BC when the commandment for a complete restoration went forth and was given to Ezra by king Artaxerxes in his seventh year. Thus the work of Nehemiah is linked up this way with Ezra’s work.

E. M. Zerr explains: It is thought by some that the work of Nehemiah could not figure in the question of the beginning time, but the reference to the rebuilding of the streets undoubtedly connects the work of that great reformer with it. And since the work of Ezra and others had to do with the temple and the services so vitally connected with Jerusalem, we may well include that also in the subject. But there is a difference of 13 years between the work of Ezra and that of Nehemiah. If each of the men is used as a beginning point, will they both come out at the one time, that of the beginning of the public work of Christ? Yes, the apparent difficulty is clarified by remembering that in those times both the lunar and solar years were used. The solar year contains some 11 or 12 more days than the lunar, hence if the beginning point of Ezra be taken, using solar years, there will be enough extra days to make up for the 13 years between that and the work of Nehemiah, using the lunar year from his date. The work of Ezra began in the year 457 BC which is to be regarded as the beginning of the 70-week time prophecy now under consideration.[69]

This possibility, to include in this way also Nehemiah’s year in the calculation of the prophecy, may not quite satisfy everybody.

Since, however, it is remarkable that in this way the beginning point of both Ezra and Nehemiah can be used with the same result, it is worth mentioning and it may appease those who insist that Nehemiah’s year should be incorporated.


[This is a partial translation from the Dutch booklet entitled: Geschiedkundig Panorama (Historical Panorama) written by Pastor Jan Voerman, Geesbrug, Netherlands.]

click here for an illustrated pdf

[1] Daniel 9:25.

[2] Nehemiah 1-4.  Cf., 2:5-9, 17-20; 4:6. Nehemiah’s royal mission cannot be denied. It was official. He received royal letters for the governors and a royal letter for the keeper of the king’s forest to obtain timber for the gates and for the wall of the city.

[3] Isaiah 44:28; 45:13.

[4] Ezra 1:1-3.

[5] Benson, Joseph, The Holy Bible, London, John Mason, Vol. IV, 3319.

[6] Matthew 23:37.

[7] Psalm 147:2, 13, 14.

[8] Psalm 51:18.

[9] Psalm 51:17.

[10] Psalms 122:3, 4, 5, 7, 9.

[11] Ezra 7:12.

[12] Ezra 7:13, 14.

[13] The New English Bible, Ezra 7:14.

[14] Ezra 7:21

[15] Ezra 7:6

[16] Ezra 7:13, 28.

[17] Ezra 8:21; 9:5; 10:1.

[18] Ezra 7:25, 26.

[19] Benson, 3319.

[20] Goldin, Hyman E, Universal History of Israel, Hebrew Publ., New York, 1935, Vol., I, 253, 254.

[21] Cumming, John,  Sabbath Morning Readings, The Book of Daniel, London, Arthur Hal, Virtue & Co.,1860, 163.

[22] Cumming, John, Prophetic Studies, Lectures on the book of Daniel, Philadelphia, Lindsay & Blakiston, 1855, 384, 386.

[23] Ezra 4:12.

[24] Stanley, Arthur Penrhyn, Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, London, John Murray, 1906, 111.

[25] Ezra 4:21-23.

[26] Ezra 4:13-16.

[27] Fleming, Don, The AMG Concise-Bible Commentary, AMG Publ., Chattanooga, 1994, 166.

[28] Isaiah 44:28.

[29] Isaiah 45:13.

[30] Ezra 4:6. The succession of the different Persian kings up to Nehemiah’s time is: Cyrus the Great, 559-530. Cambyses, 530-522. Gaumata or pseudo Smerdis, (522). Darius Hystaspes, 522-486. Xerxes I, 486-465. Artaxerxes I, Longimanus, 464-425.

Although there is a linguistic problem, still many hold the Biblically called king Ahasuerus to be Cambyses. Others think it was Xerxes.    

[31] The term hšwrš could mean Cambyses and rthšst, pseudo Smerdis. (The Anchor Bible, Ezra Nehemia, Double Day, New York, 1965, 34.) Hence, this Artaxerxes was not Longimanus, who had  favoured the Jews, but the one known as Gaumata, or pseudo Smerdis, who seized the Persian throne in 522 while Cambyses was enroute home from Egypt and committed suicide when the bad news reached him. The usurper, however, did not even reign one full year for he was killed by Darius who became the new Persian king. Others, who think that Ahasuerus is Xerxes, point out that Longimanus is meant. Because he first favoured the Jews, they explain his change in attitude in terms of his unreliable character. Moreover the united efforts of Israel’s enemies to discredit the Jews, using weighty accusations, may not have been easy to put aside unnoticed. Whether the episode of Ezra 4:7-23 is placed during the reign of Gaumata, the pseudo Smerdis, or during  the reign of Artaxerxes I, Longimanus, does not alter the fact that before the fourth decree was given to Nehemiah in 444, building activities on the walls and gates of Jerusalem were exercised in response to the earlier decrees.

[32] Ezra 4:21

[33] Ezra 4::23.

[34] Prophets and Kings, Pacific Press, Mountain View, 1943, 572, 573.

[35] Ezra 6:15-19.

[36] Nehemiah 2:5.

[37] B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation of the English Bible, Daniel and the Inter-Biblical Period, Nashville, Broadman Press, 1947, 110, 111.

[38] Isaac Newton, The Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse, Printland Publ., Hyderabad, India, 1998, 131, 132.

[39] White, Prophets and Kings, 618.

[40] Ibid., 609, 610.

[41] Frank E. Gaebelein, General Ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan, Publ., House, Grand Rapids, MI., 1985, 114. Others see in this expression “a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem” only a metaphorical reference to divine care. However, the building of the walls was a paramount concern among Ezra and his workers and it seems logical that reference to it is made here that God has opened the way to accomplish this urgent project.

[42] White, Prophets and Kings, 628, 629.

[43] Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol., 4, 634.

[44] Ibid., 681.

[45] Kessler, Werner, Die Botschaft des Alten Testaments, Gottes Mitarbeiter am Wiederaufbau, Calwer Verlag Stuttgart, 1971, Band 12, IV, 87. (If not otherwise indicated, translations are my own.)

[46] Elwell, Walter, A, ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1989, 313.

[47] Clarke, Adam, The Holy Bible… with a Commentary and Critical Notes, The Methodist Book Concern, New York, Cincinnati , no year, Vol., II, Joshua-Esther, 763.

[48] Allen, Clifton J, General Ed., The Broadman Bible Commentary, Broadman Press, Nashville, 1970, Vol., III, 1 Samuel-Nehemiah, 471.

[49] Bruce, F. F., General Ed., The International Bible Commentary, Guideposts, Carmel, New York, 1986, New Edition, 497.

[50] Alleman, Herbert, C, & Flack, Elmer, E, Ed., Old Testament Commentary, The Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1962, 467.

[51] Morgan, Campbell, G, An Exposition of the Whole Bible, Fleming H. Revell, London, Glasgow, 1959, 191.

[52] Cf., Gaebelein, op. cit.,  696.

[53] Bijbel, Nieuwe Vertaling, Amsterdam, 1953,  Nehemia 3:8. The Living Bible, says: Repairs were not needed from there to the Broad Wall.

[54] Gill, John, Gill’s Commentary, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1980, Reprint, Vol., II, Judges to Psalm 22, 557.

[55] Poole, Matthew, A Commentary on the Holy Bible, The Banner of Truth Trust, London, 1962, Vol., I, Genesis to Job, 886, 887.

[56] Robertson Nicoll, W, The Expositor’s Bible, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Vol., II, Samuel-Job, 644.

[57] Nehemiah 6:15.

[58] Nichol, Francis, D, The Seventh Day Adventist Bible Commentary, Review & Herald, Washington, DC, 1977, Vol., 3, 392.

[59] Gore, Charles; Goudge, Henry Leighton; Guillaume, Alfred, ed.,   A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London, 1928, 298. 

[60] Davidson, F, ed., The New Bible Commentary, The Inter –Varsity Fellowship, London, 1965, 375, 376.

[61] Pfeiffer, Charles, F, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Moody Press, Chicago, 1977, 440.

[62] Kretzmann, Paul E, Popular Commentary of the Bible, Concordia Publ., House, St. Louis, Mo, 1923, Vol., I, Genesis to Esther, 757.

[63] Ezra 6:14. Some regard the name Artaxerxes in this text as a scribal error but there is no reason to accept that.

[64] Ezra 7:17-23, 27.

[65] Carroll, 111.

[66] Walvoord, John F; Zuck, Roy B. ed., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, Victor Books, SP Publ., USA 1985, 664. (Emphasis present.)

[67] Henry and Scott, The Family Commentary on the Holy Bible, Martin and Johnson, New York, 1856, Vol., II, 230.

[68] It is admitted that the coming of Christ as the promised Messiah is the central theme of the prophecy under discussion.

[69]Zerr, E. M. Bible Commentary, Cogdill Foundation Publ., Marion, Indiana, 1955, Vol., 4, 254, 255.

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