CHAPTER 2 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - Dating the 70 Weeks of Daniel

 

The Hebrew Scriptures contain no Messianic prophecy that is simpler and more definite than this of the Seventy Weeks, and none better fitted to silence the infidel and convince the Jew. But its meaning and evidential value are lost in a bewildering maze of forced or fanciful interpretations. And this is the evil work of Christian expositors! The meaning of the language of the prophecy may be deemed matter for discussion; but no intelligent reader, whether he be Christian or Jew or Infidel, who will study it with an unbiassed mind, can entertain an honest doubt as to what it says. Echoing the words of Daniel's prayer, the angel's message told him that not seventy years, but seventy weeks of years were decreed upon his people and his holy city, before they would enter into full Divine blessing.

This era is divided into three portions, of seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week, respectively. It dates from the issuing of a decree to build Jerusalem. From that event "unto Messiah the prince" there were to be 7+ 62 weeks. And after "the sixty-two weeks" the Messiah would be "cut off." The seventieth and last week of the era would be signalised by the advent of another Prince, who would make a seven years' covenant (or treaty) with the Jews; and iii the middle of the week (i.e., after three years and a half), he would violate that treaty and suppress their Temple worship and the ordinances of their religion.

All this is so plain that any intelligent child could understand it. We must remember, however, that with the Jews in ancient times it was as natural to speak of a week of years as of a week of days. And further, that their year was one of three hundred and sixty days. Such was the year in use in Babylon, where the prophecy was given. And, moreover, it was the year by which the judgment of the "Desolations" to which the prophecy referred, was reckoned. That era dated from the day on which the city was invested; namely, the 10th Tebeth in the ninth year of Zedekiah -a day that for four and twenty centuries has been observed as a fast by the Jews in every land. And, as the Prophecy of Haggai so explicitly records, it ended on the twenty-fourth day of Chisleu in the second year of Darius Hystaspes. Now from the 10th Tebeth B.C. 589 to the 24th Chisleu, B.C. 520, was a period of 25,200 days, or seventy years of 360 days.

The first question then which claims attention relates to the "decree" to rebuild the city. And at this point most expositors proceed to discuss various recorded edicts for the return of the exiles, or for building or adorning the Temple. But if we refuse to treat Divine prophecy in the loose and careless way we read a newspaper or a novel, we shall seize upon the fact that Jerusalem was rebuilt in pursuance of an edict issued by King Artaxerxes of Persia in the twentieth year of his reign; and that history, sacred and profane, knows nothing of any other "decree" for the rebuilding of the holy city.

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King-"an office of high honour in Persia," and his Book opens by mentioning that certain Jews arrived at the Persian capital bringing him grievous tidings of the condition of Jerusalem. The second chapter narrates that, while discharging the duties of his office, the King taxed him with showing signs of private grief in the royal presence. "Why should not my countenance be sad?" he pleaded, "when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire?" "For what dost thou make request?" the King demanded; and Nehemiah answered, "That thou wouldest send me to Judah, unto the city of my father's sepulchres, that I may build it." The King thereupon authorised Nehemiah to undertake the work of restoration; and before the next Feast of Tabernacles Jerusalem was again a walled city, secured by gates and ramparts.

Our next enquiry is whether sixty-nine weeks of years, measured from the date of that edict, ended with any event to satisfy the words, "unto Messiah the Prince." And here we must remember that the Cross, and not the Incarnation, was the world's great "crisis." And while Scripture nowhere records the Saviour's birth date, the epoch of His ministry is given, 'with absolute definiteness, as occurring in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. Now (pace the "reconcilers" and expositors) "the reign of Tiberius, as beginning from the 19th Augustus A.D. 14, was as well-known a date in the time of Luke as is the reign of Queen Victoria in our own day; and no single case has ever been produced in which his regnal years were reckoned in any other manner.'

We can thus definitely fix upon Nisan A.D. 29 as the date of the first Passover of our Lord's ministry. And as His ministry ex-tended over four Passovers, it is as certain as inspired Scripture and human language can make it that the date of the Crucifixion was the Festival of Nisan, A.D. 32.

In accordance with Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem "six days before the Passover," i.e., on Friday, the 8th Nisan. Presumably He spent the Sabbath in Bethany; and in the evening, when the Sabbath was ended, there took place the supper in Martha's house. And upon the following day, the 10th Nisan, He made His "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem. No careful student of the narrative can fail to recognise that this was, both in intention and in fact, a crisis in His ministry. After the great Council of the nation had decreed His death He charged His Apostles not to make Him known; and from that time He shunned all public recognition of His Messiahship. But now He welcomed the acciamations of "the whole multitude of the disciples," and silenced the remonstrances of the Pharisees by declaring that "if these held their peace the stones would immediately cry out."

For on that day was fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion! Shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King cometh unto thee, lowly and riding upon an ass." And when the disciples raised the triumphant shout, "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord," the Saviour looked off toward the Holy City, and exclaimed, "If thou also hadst known even on this day, the things that belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes!" "Even on this day," for it was the fateful day on which the sixty-nine weeks of the Daniel prophecy expired. And it was the only occasion in all His earthly sojourn on which He was acclaimed as Messiah the Prince, the King of Israel.

There is no vagueness in Divine reckoning. As the Jewish year was regulated by the Paschal moon, we can calculate the Julian date of any Nisan. The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when the decree to restore and build Jerusalem was issued, was the 14th March, B.C. 445. And the era intervening between that day and the 10th Nisan (or 6th April), A.D. 32, was 173,880 days, or sixty-nine weeks of years, to the very day.(See Ch. x. of The Coming Prince.)
The Artaxerxes date was calculated for me by the Astronomer Royal; and the dates of the years of the Ministry will be found in various standard works upon the subject.

The scheme here unfolded was foreshadowed by Julius Africanus in his Chronography: the detailed elucidation of it is a part of my personal contribution to the interpretation of Daniel. And the result may well give food for thought both to the Christian and the Critic. The sceptical crusade of the Higher Criticism claims to have discredited the Book of Daniel as being either a pseud-epigraph or a romance. But how then can it account for the fulfilment of this particular prophecy? If someone announced that the distance, say, from the main door of St. Paul's Cathedral to some well-known rural landmark, was exactly 173,880 yards, and the statement was found to be absolutely accurate, what estimate should we form of anyone who dismissed the result as being a mere coincidence or a happy guess? Should we not brand him as either knave or fool? And unless we are to allow our respect for Professors and pundits to outweigh our reverence for God and His holy Word, this must be our estimate of those who either champion or accept the "assured results of the Higher Criticism" respecting the prophecy of Daniel.