By Sir Robert Anderson
THE FULFILMENT OF THE VISION OF THE "WEEKS"
IN view of the proofs adduced in the preceding chapter, it may now be accepted as a demonstrated fact that the unit of the prophetic era of the seventy weeks is the luni-solar year of the ancient world. Our next inquiry must be directed to ascertaining the epoch of that era.
The language of the vision is simple and clear: "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks." Here at least we might suppose that no question could arise. But with Professor Driver, following the lead of the wildest and worst of the foreign sceptical expositors, "the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem" becomes the prophecy that Jerusalem would be rebuilt;
"Messiah, the Prince" becomes "Cyrus, King of Persia;" and by a false punctuation which divides the sentence in the middle, the sixty-two weeks become the period for which the city was to be restored. I appeal to the reader to reject this nightmare system of interpretation, and to follow the early fathers and the best of the modern expositors in accepting the words in their plain and natural meaning.
What then was the "commandment," or edict, or firman to build Jerusalem? The Book of Ezra records three several decrees of Persian kings, relating to the Jews. The opening verses record the edict of Cyrus, which authorised the return of the exiles. But this decree mentioned only the temple and not the city; and moreover it referred to the era of the Servitude, and not of the Desolations, which later era it was that Daniel had in view. The sixth chapter records a decree issued by Darius Hystaspis to confirm the decree of Cyrus, but this in no way extended the scope of the earlier edict. The seventh chapter records a third decree, issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus in his seventh year, but this again related merely to the temple and its worship. The Book of Ezra therefore will be searched in vain for what we seek, but the book which follows it gives it fully and explicitly.
The Book of Neherniah opens by relating that while at Susa, where he was in attendance as cupbearer to the king, "an honour of no small account in Persia," he learned from certain of his brethren who had just arrived from Judea that the Jews there were "in great affliction and reproach;" "the wall of Jerusalem also was broken down, and the gates thereof were burned with fire."' The next chapter relates that while discharging the duties of his high office, Artaxerxes noticed his distress, and called for an explanation of it. "Let the king live for ever," Nehemiah answered, "why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire?" " For what dost thou make request?" the king demanded. To which Nehemiah answered, "That thou wouldest send me unto Judab, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, THAT I MAY BUILD IT." Artaxerxes forthwith granted the petition, and issued an edict to give effect to it. This occurred in the beginning of the Jewish year; and before the Feast of Tabernacles, in the seventh month, Jerusalem was once more a city, enclosed by gates and ramparts.
Of course there must have been many streets of inhabited houses in Jerusalem ever since the first return of the exiles. But, as Dr. Tregelles justly says, "the very existence of the place as a city depended upon such a decree" as that of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. Once, at an earlier period, work which the Jews were executing under the decree of Cyrus had been stopped on the false charge that its design was to restore the city. "A rebellious city" it had ever proved, the local officials declared in reporting to the king; and they added, "If this cily be builded, and the walls thereof again, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river." The edict of Cyrus was in keeping with the general policy of toleration, to which the inscriptions bear testimony: it was a wholly different matter to allow the conquered race to set up again the famous fortifications of Jerusalem, and to restore under Nehemiah the old polity of the Judges. This was a revival of the political existence of Judah; and therefore no doubt it was that the event was divinely chosen as the beginning of the prophetic era of the seventy weeks. It is certain, moreover, that this edict of Artaxerxes is the only "commandment to restore and build Jerusalem" recorded in history, and that under this "command-ment" Jerusalem was in fact rebuilt. Unless, therefore, the nightmare system of interpretation must prevail, we may accept it, not as a plausible theory or a happy guess, but as a definite fact, that the seventy weeks are to be computed from the date of the issuing of this decree. The date of it is expressly recorded by Nehemiah. It was made in the beginning of the Jewish year in the twentieth year of the king's reign. And the Julian date of the first Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes is the 14th March B.C.
Here let me quote the words of the vision once again. "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks. And after the threescore and two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off." If, therefore, the vision be a Divine prophecy, an era of" sixty-nine weeks," that is, of 483 prophetic years, reckoned from the 14th March B.C. 445, should close with the public presentation and death of "Messiah the Prince."
No student of the Gospels can fail to see that the Lord's last visit to Jerusalem was not only in fact but in intention the crisis of His ministry. From the time that the accredited leaders of the nation had rejected His Messianic claims, He had avoided all public recognition of those claims. But now His testimony had been fully given, and the purpose of His entry into the capital was to openly proclaim His Messiahship and to receive His doom. Even His apostles themselves had again and again been charged that they should not make Him known; but now He accepted the acclamations of "the whole multitude of the disciples." And when the Pharisees protested, He silenced them with the indignant rebuke, "I tell you that if these should hold their peace the stones would immediately cry out." These words can only mean that the divinely appointed time had arrived for the public announcement of His Messiahship, and that the Divine purpose could not be thwarted.
The full significance of the words which follow is lost in our Authorised Version. As the cry was raised by His disciples, "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord," He looked off towards the Holy City and exclaimed, "If thou also hadst known, even ON THIS DAY, the things that belong to thy peace - but now they are hid from thine eyes ! " The nation had already rejected Him, but this was the fateful day when their decision must be irrevocable. And we are expressly told that it was the fulfilment of the prophecy, "Shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King cometh unto thee." It was the only occasion on which His kingly claims were publicly announced. And no other day in all His ministry will satisfy the words of Daniel's vision.
And the date of that first "Palm Sunday" can be ascertained with certainty. No year in the whole field of ancient history is more definitely indicated than that of the beginning of our Lord's public ministry. According to the Evangelist it was "the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar." Now "the reign of Tiberius, as beginning from 19th August, A.D. 14, was as well known a date in the time of Luke as the reign of Queen Victoria is in our own day." The Evangelist, moreover, with a prophetic anticipation of the perverseness of expositors and "reconcilers," goes on to name six prominent public men as holding specified positions in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, and each one of these is known to have actually held the position thus assigned to him in the year in question. As, therefore, the first Passover of the Lord's ministry was that of Nisan, A.D. 29, the date of the Passion is thus fixed by Scripture itself. For it is no longer necessary to offer proof that the crucifixion took place at the fourth Passover of the ministry. According to the Jewish custom, our Lord went up to Jerusalem on the 8th Nisan,2 which, as we know, fell that year upon a Friday. And having spent the Sabbath at Bethany, He entered the Holy City the following day, as recorded in the Gospels.
The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32.1 What then was the length of the period intervening be-tween the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and this public advent of" Messiah the Prince "- between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL WAS EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173,880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS.
From B.C. 445 to AD. 32 is 476 years 273,740 days (476 X 365)+116 days for leap years. And from 14th March to 6th April (reckoned inclusively according to Jewish practice) is 24 days. But 173,740+116+24=173,880. And 69 X 7X 360= 173,880.
It must be borne in mind here that in reckoning years from B.C. to A.D. one year must always be omitted; for, of course, the interval between B.C. I and A.D. 1 is not two years but one year. In fact B.C. 1 ought to be called B.C. 0; and it is so described by astronomers, with whom B.C. 445 is - 444 (see App. V., p. 274, 75ost). And again, as the Julian year is 11m. 20.46 s., or about the 129th part of a day, longer than the mean solar year, the Julian calendar has three leap years too many in every four centuries. This error is corrected by the Gregorian reform, which reckons three secular years out of four as common years. For instance, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were common years, and 2000 will be a leap year.