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DANIEL AND THE COMMAND TO “RESTORE”

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  June 19, 2012 — 3 Comments

If you study Daniel’s prophecy of Seventy Weeks, you need to consider not only the prophecy’s structure (covenantal redemption) and chronological value (weeks of years), as per our previous posts, but also the starting point for the beginning of the weeks.

When do the Seventy Weeks begin? This will determine when they end. They begin at a certain “command,” according to Daniel 9:25.

The “command” in Daniel 9:25 and reads: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem.” Initially, it would seem to refer to Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple in 538 BC. This command appears in 2 Chronicles 36:22–23 and in Ezra 1:1–4; 5:13, 17, 6:3. This is a vitally important decree impacting Israel’s history as she returns from the Babylonian captivity.

But this prophecy does not seem to start with Cyrus’ decree, as famous and as significant as it is. After all, Daniel specifically speaks of the command to “restore and build Jerusalem.” This is an important qualification to which we must give attention. [1]

Though Israel attempts half-hearted efforts to rebuild Jerusalem after Cyrus’ decree, for a long time Jerusalem remains a sparsely populated, unwalled village. But Daniel speaks of the command to “restore” (shub, return) Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). This requires that it be returned to its original integrity and grandeur “as at the first” (Jer 33:7). It was not until the middle of the fifth century BC that this is undertaken seriously. [2]

References decades after Cyrus’s decree, make abundantly clear that little was done toward rebuilding Jerusalem. Nehemiah laments that Jerusalem’s walls are “broken down” (Neh. 1:3; 2:3-5, 17; 7:4). Zechariah speaks of Jerusalem as “destroyed” in his day (Zech. 14:11), even mentioning its soon-coming rebuilding (Zech. 1:16). The enemies of the Jews warn Artaxerxes that the Jews will become a problem if they rebuild the city (Ezra 4:12-23). This explains why Ezra mentions Jerusalem’s utter affliction “even to this day” (Ezra 9:7-9, 15).

Consequently, the decree of Ezra in 457 B.C. during the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (454-424 BC), seems the best possibility. The process of diligent rebuilding climaxes in Jerusalem’s restoration. This process probably begins either in seed during the spiritual revival under Ezra (Ezra 7) or in actuality under the administration of Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1, 17-18; 6:15-16; 12:43). Several political commands prepare for the restoring of Jerusalem, as well as one divine command: “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 6:14).

Now then, what are the three periods into which the Seventy Weeks are divided?

The first period of seven weeks must indicate something, for it is set off from the two other periods. Were it not significant Daniel could speak of the sixty-nine weeks, rather than the “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Da 9:25). This seven weeks (or forty-nine years) apparently witnesses the successful conclusion of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. [3]

The second period of sixty-two weeks extends from the conclusion of Jerusalem’s rebuilding to the introduction of Israel’s Messiah at his baptism when he begins his public ministry (Da 9:25), sometime around AD 26. This interpretation is quite widely agreed upon by conservative scholars, being virtually “universal among Christian exegetes”[4] — excluding dispensationalists. I will deal with the evidence for this terminus more fully in a later post.

The third period of one week is the subject of intense controversy between dispensationalism and other conservative scholarship. I will deal with this key issue in a later post. So please do not “rapture” out of this study and allow there to be “gap” in your eschatological knowledge, otherwise you will feel like one of the “lost tribes.”



Footnotes

[1] Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:884ff.

[2] Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:884–911. J. B. Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 388ff. Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, 195ff.

[3] Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:894ff

[4] James Montgomery, Daniel, 332.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

3 responses to DANIEL AND THE COMMAND TO “RESTORE”

  1. Gerrie Malan June 19, 2012 at 6:30

    I really appreciate and value your posts, although I sometimes disagree. The starting point is something that I have battled with considerably for a time because of all the seemingly realistic teachings.

    The errors in the various calculations, however, come from the fact that every chronological system covering the period from the beginning of the Persian monarchy through the appearance of Messiah, is rooted in the works of Ptolemy. He was a heathen astronomer and writer of the second century A.D. and his record in this regard is based on estimates – therefore largely a matter of guesswork and therefore flawed. Mauro (1921) pointed out that there was no need to resort to any system of chronology, as the prophecy contained its own chronology. He stated unequivocally that the difficulties and confusion which have arisen in this regard are due to a large measure by attempts to make the prophecy conform to an incorrect chronology. The most important feature of this prophecy was the accurate indication of time (69 sevens, or 483 years) to the coming of Messiah. 27 Mauro was a lawyer by profession, who also wrote a number of books on Christian topics, pointed out that never has a specified number of time units making up a described stretch of time, been taken to mean anything but continuous or consecutive time units.
    The Bible is clear on the fact that the first 69 sevens of the 70 sevens prophecy deals with a period “from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince”. The decree in question is foretold in Isaiah 44:28, which is the one of Cyrus. If this is not so then Isaiah is not true.

    The Bible is not confused – we, those who read it, confuse it by our addiction to philosophical impressions.

  2. W. Donelsokn June 19, 2012 at 6:30

    Thank you for the fine information.
    Also thank you for the humor.
    Sadly this issue is an emotional one for many dispensationalist (as it seems so many issues are…)…so they need to lighten up and learn to learn, and even un-learn some things such as a man-made systems that filter what they will accept.
    Best wishes and keep up the fine work, WD, PhD.

  3. Daniel was right on the money. Jesus came in beginning the 70th Week and was cut off in the middle of that week. He came in right at the years prophesied. This is very important that you realize these were actual years. When he was cut off in the middle of the week He was crucified and stopped the daily sacrifices. There is 3 1/2 years yet to be fulfilled. These will be actual years just as Jesus was “cut off” in actual years. This will be the final reign of the antichrist tha John reveals through Jesus interpretation. Jesus will come to take away the rule of the antichrist and set up his 1000 year final Kingdom on earth. Then there will be a new heaven and new earth.

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