See ALIEN RESIDENT.
See NUMBER, NUMERAL.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus the Mede, the prophet Daniel discerned from the prophecy of Jeremiah that the time for the release of the Jews from Babylon and their return to Jerusalem was near. Daniel then diligently sought Jehovah in prayer, in harmony with Jeremiah’s words: “‘And you will certainly call me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will actually seek me and find me, for you will search for me with all your heart. And I will let myself be found by you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. . . . ‘And I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to go into exile.’”—Jer. 29:10-14; Dan. 9:1-4.
While Daniel was praying, Jehovah sent his angel Gabriel with a prophecy that nearly all Bible commentators accept as Messianic, though there are many variations in their understanding of it. Gabriel said:
“There are seventy weeks that have been determined upon your people and upon your holy city, in order to terminate the transgression, and to finish off sin, and to make atonement for error, and to bring in righteousness for times indefinite, and to imprint a seal upon vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. And you should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks. She will return and be actually rebuilt, with a public square and moat, but in the straits of the times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah will be cut off, with nothing for himself. And the city and the holy place the people of a leader that is coming will bring to their ruin. And the end of it will be by the flood. And until the end there will be war; what is decided upon is desolations. And he must keep the covenant in force for the many for one week; and at the half of the week he will cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease. And upon the wing of disgusting things there will be the one causing desolation; and until an extermination, the very thing decided upon will go pouring out also upon the one lying desolate.”—Dan. 9:24-27.
A MESSIANIC PROPHECY
It is quite evident that this prophecy is a “jewel” in the matter of identifying the Messiah. It is of the utmost importance to determine the time of the beginning of the seventy weeks, as well as their length. If these were literal weeks of seven days each, either the prophecy failed to be fulfilled, which is an impossibility (Isa. 55:10, 11; Heb. 6:18), or else the Messiah came more than twenty-four centuries ago, in the days of the Persian Empire, and was not identified. In the latter case, the other scores of qualifications specified in the Bible for the Messiah were not met or fulfilled. So it is evident that the seventy weeks were symbolic of a much longer time. Certainly the events described in the prophecy were of such a nature that they could not have occurred in a literal seventy weeks or a little more than a year and four months. The majority of Bible scholars agree that the “weeks” of the prophecy are weeks of years. Some translations read “seventy weeks of years” (AT, Mo, RS); the German Jewish translation edited by Dr. Zunz also employs the expression.
BEGINNING OF THE ‘SEVENTY WEEKS’
As to the beginning of the seventy weeks, Nehemiah records a decree by King Artaxerxes of Persia, in the twentieth year of his rule, in the month Nisan, for rebuilding the wall and the city of Jerusalem. (Neh. 2:1, 5, 7, 8) In his calculations as to the reign of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah apparently used a calendar year beginning with the month Tishri (September–October, as does the Jews’ present civil calendar) and ended with the month Elul (August-September) as the twelfth month. Whether this was his own reckoning or the manner of reckoning employed by the Persian kings is not known.
Some may object to the above statement and may point to Nehemiah 7:73, where Nehemiah speaks of Israel as being gathered in their cities in the seventh month (the monthly order here being based on a Nisan-to-Nisan year). But Nehemiah was here copying from “the book of genealogical enrollment of those who came up at the first” with Zerubbabel, in 537 B.C.E. (Neh. 7:5) Again, Nehemiah describes the celebration of the Festival of Booths in his time as taking place in the seventh month. (Neh. 8:9, 13-18) This was only fitting because the account says that they found what Jehovah commanded “written in the law,” and in that law, at Leviticus 23:39-43, it says that the Festival of Booths was to be in the “seventh month” (that is, of the sacred calendar, running from Nisan to Nisan).
However, as evidence indicating that Nehemiah may have used the fall-to-fall reckoning for the king’s reign, we can compare Nehemiah 1:1-3 with 2:1-8. In the first passage he tells of receiving the bad news about Jerusalem’s condition, in Chislev (third month in the civil calendar and ninth in the sacred calendar) in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year. In the second, he presents his request to the king and receives his commission in the month Nisan (seventh in the civil calendar and first in the sacred), but still in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. So Nehemiah was obviously not counting the years of Artaxerxes’ reign on a Nisan-to-Nisan basis.
Beginning of Artaxerxes’ reign
To establish the time (in Gregorian calendar reckoning) for the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, we go back to his father and predecessor Xerxes, who began to reign in December, 486 B.C.E. Xerxes’ twelfth year ran from sometime in 475 B.C.E. to sometime in 474 B.C.E. It is possible that Xerxes lived beyond his twelfth regnal year. If Xerxes is the Ahasuerus of the Bible, a comparison of Esther 3:7 and 9:1, 32–Es 10:3 may tend to show that he did. However, there is no absolute proof that Xerxes lived into a thirteenth regnal year. Artaxerxes succeeded him in 474 B.C.E., as other historical evidence indicates.—See ARTAXERXES No. 3.
The time of giving the decree for rebuilding Jerusalem in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year would accordingly be 455 B.C.E., that is, by Nehemiah’s apparent reckoning, running from Tishri (September-October) 456 B.C.E. to Elul (August-September), 455 B.C.E.
For an illustration of this method of reckoning: With our present (Gregorian) calendar (January through December), if a ruler died in December 1970, and his successor began to rule in the same month, we would say the first year of the successor and the last year of his predecessor was 1970, the year that began eleven months previously, in January, although both events took place near the end of the calendar year. In that way the entire year 1970 would be attributed to both rulers, whereas the latter man ruled for only one month of the year. Evidently this is the case in the rules of Xerxes and Artaxerxes, the year running from Tishri 475 to Elul 474 B.C.E. being counted as both the last year of Xerxes and the first year of Artaxerxes, according to the method of reckoning herein discussed. This method is what chronologers refer to as a “non-accession year” reckoning.
Time of year for beginning of ‘seventy weeks’
The time of the year in 455 B.C.E. that the ‘seventy weeks’ would begin to count would not be before Nehemiah and those with him arrived in Jerusalem. We find similar instances in the Scriptures. For example: The decree of Cyrus for the liberation of the Jews from Babylon was a signal that the seventy years’ desolation of Jerusalem was about to end. But the actual termination point of that seventy years was not before Zerubbabel and his entourage actually arrived in Jerusalem.