We have been exploring the Branch theme in the Old Testament prophets. We saw that Jeremiah in 600 BCE continued the theme (which Isaiah began 150 years earlier) and declared that this Branch would be a King. Then, Zechariah followed predicting that the name of this Branch would be Jesus. Additionally, he foresaw that the Branch would uniquely combine the roles of King and Priest.
Daniel’s Riddle of the scheduled arrival of the Anointed One
Now to Daniel. He lived in the Babylonian exile, being a powerful official in the Babylonian and Persian governments, as well as a Hebrew prophet.
In his book, Daniel received the following message:
while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.Daniel 9:21-26
God gave a timetable for when the ‘Anointed One’ (= Christ = Messiah) would come. The timetable used a cycle of sevens. The prophecy said a countdown would begin with ‘the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’. God gave Daniel this prophecy around the year 537 BCE. But Daniel did not live to see the start of this countdown.
The Decree to Restore Jerusalem
In fact it was Nehemiah, living almost one hundred years after Daniel, who saw the start of this countdown. He was the cup-bearer to the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes and thus lived in present-day Iran. Note when he lived in the timeline above. He tells us in his book that
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.Nehemiah 2:1-6
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three daysNehemiah 2:11
So this records the “issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” that Daniel had prophesied would one day come. It occurred in the 20th year of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes. Historians recognize him as starting his reign in 465 BCE. Thus his 20th year places this decree in the year 444 BCE. God gave Daniel a sign for the start of the countdown. Almost a hundred years later, the Persian Emperor, not knowing about this prophecy of Daniel, issued this decree. The Persian emperor Artaxerxes set in motion the countdown that the prophecy said would bring the Anointed One.
Seven ‘Sevens’ and Sixty-two ‘Sevens’
The riddle given to Daniel indicated that it would take “seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’” before the revealing of the Anointed One.
What is a ‘Seven’?
Moses’ writings instituted a cycle of sevens of years. Every 7th year the land was to rest from agriculture so that the soil could replenish its nutrients. So a ‘Seven’ is a 7-year cycle. With that in mind we see that from the start the time would counted in two parts. The first part was ‘seven sevens’ or seven 7-year periods. This, 7*7=49 years, was the time it took to rebuild Jerusalem after the initial decree by the Persian Emperor. This was followed by sixty-two ‘sevens’, so the total countdown was 7*7+62*7 = 483 years. In other words, from the start, there would be 483 years until the revealing of the Anointed One.
A 360-Day year
We have to make one little calendar adjustment. As many nations did in ancient times, the prophets used a 360-day year. Different ways exist to calculate the length of a ‘year’ for a calendar. The one that Daniel used was a common Egyptian calendar of 360-days long years. So 483 ‘360-day’ years is 483*360/365.24 = 476 solar years of the International Calendar used today.
The Scheduled Arrival of the Christ
Now we can calculate when the King was prophesied to come. In going from the ‘BCE’ era to the ‘CE’ era there is only 1 year from 1BCE – 1CE (There is no ‘zero’ year). The table now summarizes the calculations.
|Start year||444 BCE (20th year of Artaxerxes)|
|Length of time||476 solar years|
|Expected arrival in International Calendar||(-444 + 476 + 1) (‘+1’ because there is no 0 CE) = 33|
|Expected year||33 CE|
Jesus of Nazareth came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey in what has become the well-known celebration of Palm Sunday. That day he announced himself and rode into Jerusalem as their King. The year was 33 CE.
The Anointed: Coming to be …?
Now notice something unique in this riddle pertaining to the coming king. Daniel had predicted after his arrival after the cycle of sevens that:
After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.Daniel 9:26
It says, quite clearly, that the Anointed One will be ‘put to death and will have nothing’. Then foreign people will destroy the sanctuary (the Jewish Temple) and the city (Jerusalem) making the place desolate. Examine the history of the Jews to see that this indeed happened. Forty years after Jesus’ crucifixion the conquering Romans burned down the Temple, destroyed Jerusalem, exiling the Jews into worldwide exile. After their exile the land went desolate. Events happened at Jesus’ coming and in 70 CE exactly as prophesied by Daniel in 537 BCE. Moses had also predicted this catastrophe in his Curses 1500 years beforehand.
Basically, only God could foresee events over these hundreds of years between Daniel, Emperor Artaxerxes, Nehemiah, Palm Sunday and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. Though they lived a hundred years apart, they declared and started the countdown that would reveal the King. About 570 years after Daniel received his message, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the King, precisely on Daniel’s schedule. Along with Zechariah’s predicting of Jesus’ name, these prophets developed a truly detailed group of predictions. God laid these out in writing long beforehand so that all can have opportunity to see God’s fingerprints at work.
[i] Dates for Artaxerxes from Dr. Harold W.Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. 1977. 176pp.