Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part II

Ancient-Persian-SoildersIn my previous article Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I we learned that the most reasonable explanation of Ezra’s lineage places him as a contemporary of Darius “the Great” son of Hystaspes also known as “Artaxerxes.”  Now we will look once again at the chronology of Ezra with this perspective in mind. If Ezra was in fact a contemporary of Darius “the Great” then we should expect additional confirmation from the Old Testament record.

For those who are not familiar with the chronology of the 2nd temple era, it is worth briefly going over it once more to establish the context.  In 536 BC, Cyrus gave a decree which allowed the Judean captives to return and build the Temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 1:1-3 tells of these events.  Incidentally, for those willing to dig a little deeper, the Cyrus Cylinder found in the ruins of Babylon also offers some intriguing confirmation of Ezra’s record below.

Ezra 1:1-3  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of YHWH by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, YHWH stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia….. Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, YHWH God of heaven ….. he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem….  Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of YHWH God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

As I explained in my article The Fifth Command for the next 16 years the enemies of the Jewish people harassed them in their efforts to build the temple. In fact they did not get much further than laying some of the foundation stones.

The chart below is a summary of the Persian rulers from Cyrus to Artaxerxes I. It will provide a handy reference for those trying to figure out how the Persian kings related to the 2nd temple era chronology.
Persian Rulers

In 520 BC (2nd yr. of Darius), YHWH gave the Judean captives a divine command to restore and build Jerusalem.”  Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor, listened to the words of YHWH as witnessed by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and construction on the temple resumed. (Ezra 6:14)  Four years later, the temple was finished in the 6th year of Darius.

Now here is where modern Biblical scholarship takes a detour. Ezra 6 ends with the completion of the 2nd temple in the 6th year of Darius.(516 BC)  Ezra 7 starts with Ezra, the priest & scribe, setting off on his journey to Jerusalem in the 7th year of “Artaxerxes.”

Today, most Biblical scholars have assumed that this “Artaxerxes” is a reference to Artaxerxes I (Longimanus).  This requires them to insert a gap of about 58 years between Ezra 6 & 7. They do this despite the fact that Darius (son of Hystaspes) is in fact called “Artaxerxes” in Ezra 6:14.  Let’s take a look.

Ezra 6:14-15   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, {and} Artaxerxes king of Persia.  15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

It is imperative to note in the verses above, that it clearly states the Jewish people “builded and finished the temple according to the “commandments” of  God of Israel, Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia.  Notice it states unequivocally that the temple was finished by the 6th year of Darius. That means all the secular rulers mentioned in Ezra 6:14 must have ruled at some point previous to the 6th year of Darius.

Who then is the “and Artaxerxes” mentioned in Ezra 6:14?  It couldn’t be the “Artaxerxes” of Ezra 4:7 because this “Artaxerxes” stopped construction of the temple. Who then could it be? Many Biblical scholars have assumed, contrary to the clear context of the verse, that this “Artaxerxes” is a reference to Artaxerxes I – Longimanus.  This despite the fact that he reigned almost 60 years after the temple was completed.

Most likely the translators use a single Hebrew letter to further the “Artaxerxes Assumption.” In Hebrew, the letter waw, is often used as a conjunction but as most Hebrew lexicons explain it also has a much wider, though less common, use as well.  Below is the TWOT Hebrew lexicon explaining the use of waw.
TWOT_Hebrew_Lex_Waw1For those who read the entire excerpt you saw the waw can also be used as a “hendiadys,” i.e. two words with one meaning. Take a look at the little chart below. It shows waw as it appears in  the Hebrew text of Ezra 6:14.

Even Artaxerxes

 

Ezra 6:14-15   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, and even Artaxerxes king of Persia. 

Since there is no reasonable basis to assume the “Artaxerxes” of Ezra 6:14 was another Persian king the translators should have used waw as a hendiadys not a conjunction.  Their decision to use the waw as a conjunction was premised upon the necessity to show that Ezra was a contemporary of Artaxerxes Longimanus. There is simply no other reason to add another Persian king to the chronology of Ezra 6:14-15. I encourage you to work it out yourself.

Now take a look at the Ezra 6 and 7 in this context.  In the 6th year of Darius “even” Artaxerxes the 2nd temple is completed.  Just a few verses later it shows that the temple had been completed and Ezra decided to go up to Jerusalem and teach the people the Torah.  Ezra 7 states he received permission to go up to Jerusalem in the 7th year of “Artaxerxes.”  With what we now know, this is perfectly reasonable. No need for another Persian king and a gap of 58 years.  Ezra simply went up to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Darius also known as Artaxerxes. This confirms the Biblical evidence concerning Ezra’s lineage as we saw in Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part I. This also has far reaching implications for Bible prophecy teachers who hold to the “Artaxerxes Assumption”.

Those of you who have the heart of a Berean, I encourage you to search this out for yourselves. For those of you too proud or stubborn to look, I humbly ask you to reconsider. The uncomfortable implications of this can no longer be ignored as too much is at stake.

 

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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.

 

 Editing for this article was provided by Bradley Rohr at:
PES

 

 

17 thoughts on “Ezra: Priest & Scribe – Part II

  1. Pingback: The “Artaxerxes” Assumption | The 13th Enumeration

  2. Pingback: The Fifth Command | The 13th Enumeration

  3. Pingback: Queen of Persia – Part I | The 13th Enumeration

  4. Doug Drake

    Hey Bill.
    Its Doug from clay tablets.
    I was nominated for an award and part of the process was to nominate 11 others. I think they have to be word press sites, so I don’t know if you qualify. Just thought I would throw your name in the hat. I think its just a process for getting recognition and spreading the word about your blog.
    I have a little time so I think I am going to dive into some of your material for the next hour.
    I pray the Lord will continue to inspire you and give you insight and knowledge.

    Here’s the link with details of the award.

    http://ddclaywriter.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/liebster-award-doing-the-dirty-work/

    Reply
  5. Marci

    Who was the Artexerxes discussed in Ezra 4:6-23? Is this also Darius the Great or Cambysses? Also, the Jews in the NT refer, when talking to Jesus, that it took 46 years for the temple to be rebuilt (Jn 2:20). How did they arrive at this 46 years? It doesn’t match any dates I’m currently aware of.
    Thanks for your input!
    Marci

    Reply
    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi Marci,

      The table in the post above gives a breakdown of the Persian kings as they relate to the Biblical record. The table is based on a reasonable chronological reading of the text.

      Regarding the 46 years of Herod, please see the following link: The Chronology of the OT This PDF gives most of the dateable events in the scripture in chronological format. What you are looking for is on page 8 with a dotted red circle around it. I hope it helps:)

      Warm Regards,
      William Struse

      Reply
      1. Marci

        That certainly does help! What an amazing chart! Did you make it? This will help a great deal in many ways as I continue preparations for my Bible study on history and the Bible. If it’s yours, would it be alright if I decided to use it as a hand-out for those interested?

        Thanks so much!
        -Marci

        Reply
        1. William Struse Post author

          Thanks Marci! Yes, I made the chart, it took several years to finish. By all means use it and share it, that is what it is for. I only ask that it not be sold.

          Regards,
          William Struse

          Reply
  6. Pingback: Nehemiah: The Governor | The 13th Enumeration

  7. Pingback: Open Letter to Prophecy Teachers – RE: Daniel 9 | The 13th Enumeration

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  10. Jonn Mooney

    As you have correctly stated, the name Artaxerxes is also a “title” (as is Ahasuerus) and many Persian kings used it including “false Smerdis” who also issues a commandment.

    Unfortunately for him however, his commandment was that the Temple project should stop. Now, while his commandment wasn’t a positive one it was still a commandment nonetheless and the Jews obeyed it.

    The confusion with false Smerdis’ identity was eliminated by simply using the title “Artaxerxes” to refer to him. This is why you see “Artaxerxes” mentioned in the list of those who issued commandments, it wasn’t Longimanus, or Darius the Great… it was false Smerdis.

    Jonn

    Reply
    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi John,

      Thank you for commenting. It is always nice to get feedback.

      Regarding the identity of the Artaxerxes of Ezra 6:14, the text states clearly that the Jews, “builded and they prospered”. It goes on to say 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.” According to the text, those listed gave commands which “builded and finished” the temple. I really don’t see any context for a belief that a command by Bardis/Smerdis (Ezra 4:7), which stopped construction of the temple could have been a reference to the Artaxerxes of Ezra 6:14.

      Ezra 6:14-15 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, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

      Regards,
      William Struse

      Reply
  11. Pingback: The Messiah Factors (Part I): Decoding 13 & 14 | The 13th Enumeration

  12. Lawrence

    Scanned this quickly. It seems to be very good essay. http://biblechronologybooks.com/ Especially Exile and Return and Daniel books.

    Relatively deep material, but chronology too important to leave to scholars. Most of this Longimanus thing, I believe, relates to scholars need for Daniel to be history and not prophecy.

    Gene believed the latter. How about you? Could Daniel have written about things before they happened? or was he writing history?

    Reply

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