The Branch: Sprouting Exactly in time to be … ‘cut off’

We have been exploring the Branch theme in the Old Testament prophets. We saw that Jeremiah in 600 BC continued the theme (which Isaiah began 150 years earlier) and declared that this Branch would be a King. Previously we saw that Zechariah, following from Jeremiah predicted that this Branch would be named Jesus and that he would combine the roles of King and Priest into one – something that had never happened previously in Israelite history.

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 – and a Hebrew prophet.

Daniel shown in timeline with other prophets of the Old Testament

In this 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

This is a prophecy of the ‘Anointed One’ (= Christ = Messiah) predicting when He would come. It would begin with the decree ‘to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’. Though Daniel was given and wrote this message (ca. 537 BCE) he did not live to see the start of this countdown.

The Decree to Restore Jerusalem

But Nehemiah, almost one hundred years after Daniel, saw this countdown begin. He writes 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, 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, 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?”

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 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.”

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 days

Nehemiah 2:11

This records the order “to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” that Daniel had prophesied would start the countdown. It was in the 20th year of the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes, well-known in history as starting his reign in 465 BCE. Thus his 20th year would place this decree in the year 444 BCE. Almost a hundred years after Daniel, the Persian Emperor issued his decree, starting the countdown that would bring the Christ.

Seven ‘Sevens’ and Sixty-two ‘Sevens’

Daniel’s prophecy indicated that after “seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’” the Christ would be revealed.

What is a ‘Seven’? 

In the Law of Moses there was a cycle of seven years where the land was to be rested from agricultural cultivation every seventh year. It was stated in the following way

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.

 Leviticus 25:2-4

The context of Daniel’s statement is ‘years’, so by ‘sevens’ he means these cycles of seven years. In that case the Seven ‘Sevens’ and Sixty-two ‘Sevens’ can be stated arithmetically as (7+62) * 7 = 483 years.

A 360-Day year

We have to make one little calendar adjustment. As many ancients did, the prophets used a 360 days long year. There are different ways to track a ‘year’ in a calendar. The modern one (based on solar revolution) is 365.24 days long, the Muslim one is 354 days (based on cycles of moon). The one that Daniel used was half-way at 360 days. So 483 ‘360-day’ years is 483*360/365.24 = 476 solar years.

The Scheduled Arrival of the Christ

With this information it is now fairly simple to calculate when the Christ was to arrive according to Daniel’s prophecy. 483 years with 360 days/year will give us:

483 years * 360 days/year = 173 880 days

In our modern calendar this would give us 476 solar years with 25 days left over.

(173 880/365.24219879 = 476 remainder 25).

King Artaxerxes decreed Jerusalem’s restoration:

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year…

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,

Nehemiah 2:1

Nisan 1 is in mind since it started the Jewish and Persian New Year, giving reason for the King to talk to Nehemiah in the celebration.  Nisan 1 would also mark a new moon since they used lunar months.  With modern astronomy we know when that new moon marking Nisan 1, 444 BC occurred.  Astronomical calculations place the crescent moon of Nisan 1 of the 20th year of Persian Emperor Artaxerxes at 10 PM on March 4, 444 BC in the modern calendar[[i]]. 

… to the day of Palm Sunday

Adding the 476 years of Daniel’s prophesied time to this date brings us to March 4, 33 CE, as explained above.  Adding the 25 remaining days of Daniel’s prophesied time to March 4, 33 CE, gives us March 29, 33 CE.  March 29, 33 AD, was SundayPalm Sundaythe very day that Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey, claiming to be the Christ.[ii] 

Start – Decree IssuedMarch 4, 444 BCE
Add the solar years (-444+ 476 +1)March 4, 33 CE
Add the remaining 25 days of the ‘sevens’March 4 + 25 = March 29, 33 CE
March 29, 33 CEPalm Sunday Entry of Jesus to Jerusalem

By entering Jerusalem on March 29, 33CE, mounted on a donkey, Jesus fulfilled both the prophecy of Zechariah and the prophecy of Daniel – to the day. 

The Timeline of Daniel’s prophecy of ‘sevens’ culminating in Jesus Triumphant entry

Triumphant Entry of Jesus – That Day

This is Palm Sunday, the very day we remember the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. With the assumptions that we have done above and using some basic arithmetic, we find that Daniel’s riddle of the ‘sevens’ lands us exactly on this day. This is the day that Jesus was presented as the King or Christ to the Jewish nation. We know this because Zechariah (who had predicted the name of the Christ) had also written that:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah and others who foresaw the Coming King’s Entry into Jerusalem

The long awaited King would be revealed riding into Jerusalem on a colt with an attending crowd of shouting and rejoicing people. On the day of the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem – that very same day predicted by Daniel in his riddle of the ‘sevens’ – Jesus did ride into Jerusalem on a colt. Luke records the account:

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41-44

Jesus weeps because the people did not recognize the very day predicted both by Zechariah and Daniel. But because they did not recognize this day that the Christ was revealed, something totally unexpected would happen. Daniel, in the very same passage where he gave the riddle of the ‘sevens’, predicted that:

After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.[a] 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. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’[b] In the middle of the ‘seven’[c] he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple[d] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. 

Daniel 9:26-27

Instead of taking the throne to rule, the Christ would be ‘cut off’ and would have ‘nothing’. In using this phrase ‘cut off’ (some Bibles just translate it ‘will die’) Daniel refers to ‘the Branch’, that shoot from the stump of Jesse, prophesied first long before by Isaiah, elaborated by Jeremiah, the name predicted by Zechariah and now the time and foreseen by both Daniel and Zechariah. This Branch would be ‘cut off’.  Then the city (Jerusalem) would be destroyed (which happened in 70AD).  But how would this Branch be ‘cut off’? We return to Isaiah next to see a vivid description.

[i] Dr. Harold W.Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.  1977. 176pp.

[ii] The coming Friday was Passover, and Passover was always on Nisan 14.  Nisan 14 in 33 CE was April 3.  Being 5 days before Friday April 3, Palm Sunday was March 29.

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