In the 1st year of the Median king, Ahasuerus, a Judean captive named Daniel was given a prophecy concerning events which were going to happen to his people and to the city of Jerusalem. He was told the prophecy would commence with a “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.”
Daniel 9:25 25 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.
2500 years removed from the time of Daniel, we see the history of that era in a different light than the people who lived it. How do you think they would have recognized the “commandment to restore and to build”? What would they have looked for? Whose command would they have recognized? From the perspective of the returning captives, what act would have constituted the building of Jerusalem? If we want to understand the prophecy of Daniel 9 we must understand it in the context it was given.
Today most scholars identify four possible commands which they believe qualify as a “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.”
- The decree by Cyrus in 536 BC (To rebuild the temple and Jerusalem)
- The decree by Darius (son of Hystaspes) the “Great” in 520 BC (To restart construction of the temple)
- The decree by “Artaxerxes” in his 7th year (given to Ezra to return to Jerusalem)
- The decree by “Artaxerxes” in his 21st year (granting Nehemiah permission to build the wall of Jerusalem)
Some claim the first two “commands” are disqualified because they refer to the building of the temple and have nothing to do with building Jerusalem. I would ask if building the temple was not the de facto event in building Jerusalem, what event would have constituted it? As you will see in the verses below, building the Temple was in fact “building Jerusalem”.
First, let’s look at Daniel 9:25 a little closer: Have any of you ever wondered why the verse says “restore” and “build”? A look at the origins of the word “restore” brings some insight to the verse. “Restore” is the Hebrew word shuwb and its primary meaning is to return or turn back. When Daniel 9:25 is read in this light, it offers another perspective on how the early Judeans might have understood the commandment to return (shuwb) and to build (banah) Jerusalem.
In 536 BC, Cyrus gave the initial decree that allowed the Jews to go up to Jerusalem and build the temple. The enemies of the Jews harassed them for the next 16 years, so instead of building the temple the people worked on their own houses. What some today may not realize but the enemies of the Jews knew without a doubt was that Jerusalem was nothing without the house of YHWH. To them building the Temple of YHWH was building Jerusalem.
KJVEzra 4:1-5 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto YHWH God of Israel;……… Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5 And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
According to the decree of Artaxerxes (Bardis the Magian usurper) building the temple was building Jerusalem.
Ezra 4:21-24 21 Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. 22 Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? 23 Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. 24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
There is another underlying dynamic which is not obvious with just a casual observation of these events. Even though YHWH stirred up Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build the temple, (thus ending the 70 years of Jeremiah) it was not until the 2nd year of Darius that YHWH’s divine anger ended. (See Zech 1:12-17 below) When YHWH’s anger towards the people finally ended He commanded them to return and build the temple.
KJVZechariah 1:7-17 7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of YHWH unto Zechariah, ……12 Then the angel of YHWH answered and said, O YHWH of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? 13 And YHWH answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. 14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith YHWH of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. 16 Therefore thus saith YHWH; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith YHWH of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. 17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith YHWH of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and YHWH shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.
Just to make sure the people got His point YHWH expressed similar sentiments to Haggai:
KJVHaggai 1:1-9 In the second year of Darius the king….came the word of YHWH by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel …..and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2 Thus speaketh YHWH of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that YHWH’S house should be built…. Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith YHWH of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith YHWH of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith YHWH. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith YHWH of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
The whole matter was summarized by Ezra 6:14:
KJVEzra 6:14 14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, even Artaxerxes king of Persia.
Now let’s look at Daniel 9:25 as Daniel’s people would have understood it:
KJVDaniel 9:25 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to return (shuwb) and to build (banah) Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks.
Regardless of what we believe about Daniel 9, there was only one commandment the Jewish people would have recognized. Only one command they would have acknowledged. That is the “commandment to return and to build Jerusalem” given by YHWH, proclaimed by Haggai and Zechariah and witness by Ezra 6:14.
16 Therefore thus saith YHWH; I am returned (shuwb) to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built (banah) in it, saith YHWH of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. KJVZechariah 1:16
Why have we ignored the Fifth Command?
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More Articles related to the prophecy of 70 Weeks and 2nd temple era chronology:
The “Artaxerxes” Assumption – The best kept secret of Old Testament chronology.
The Fifth Command – Why do prophecy teachers ignore it?
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I – Defining “Artaxerxes” in the context of Ezra.
Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part II – Ezra, Darius even “Artaxerxes”.
Nehemiah: The Governor– Nehemiah’s place in the 2nd temple chronology
Queen of Persia – Part I – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
Queen of Persia – Part II – Defining Esther is the context of the 2nd Temple era.
A New Testament Cipher – The key to unlocking the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks.
Ezekiel’s 13th Month– Key to understanding Biblical “time” in the 2nd Temple era
6 milestones – Seventy Weeks – Defining the purpose of the Messiah within Daniel’s 70 “weeks”.
The Messiah Factors (Part I): Decoding 13 & 14 – Symbolism of the Messiah
The Messiah Factors (Part II): The Countdown – Proving Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah promised in Daniel 9.