Notes on the Book of Daniel: Chapter 9, Part 2

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem's Walls by Gustave Doré // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls

Gustave Doré

v. 25: Here he starts to break down the 70 x 7.  I think the time must begin with the restoration of the walls under Nehemiah rather than with the return of the captives and the building of the temple, which mark the end of Jeremiah’s “70 years” prophecy.  Note that the text says, specifically, “walls” of Jerusalem and mentions the troublesome times in which they were built, which fits the account of Nehemiah’s time.  See Nehemiah 4:1-3, 16-23.  As Barnes points out, these were two very separate events.  In Ezra 1:2-3, Cyrus commands only that the Hebrew temple be restored.  In Ezra 4:12, the enemies of Israel report to a subsequent Persian king (Artaxerxes I) that work on the walls of Jerusalem has begun, but this is a lie designed to make the Jews look rebellious and dangerous. (I cannot find any point in Ezra where any trustworthy voice, i.e., a faithful Jew within the narrative, or the narrator himself, says that work on the walls had actually begun.) Artaxerxes then issues a specific command for all building to stop.  Later, after Darius Hystaspis takes the throne, a new decree is issued wherein the initial decree of Cyrus to build the temple is honored.  However, it is only in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:2-8) that the command to rebuild the city and walls is given.  Therefore the counting of these weeks should begin on the date that this command “to restore and build Jerusalem” goes forth: 444 B.C.

So the time of the dream is broken into three periods: “7 weeks” and “62 weeks” and “1 week.”  The beginning of the first period is marked by the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the end of the second period is marked by the arrival of the Messiah. I think one could assume that the end of the first period and the beginning of the second period would be marked by the completion of work on the city of Jerusalem and its walls (Nehemiah 12:27) which was in 408 B.C. (Nehemiah 6:15 states that work on the walls was completed in 52 days, but I think the final dedication would work just as well to denote the official end of the project.  After all, that is what a dedication symbolizes, in part.) According to the dates I have given, then, the actual time between the command to restore Jerusalem and the completion of the work is 36 years (as opposed to “7 weeks” of years or 7×7=49 years).  Still, this is remarkably close when one considers that such ancient dates are almost always disputed due to the carelessly chronicled, or revisionist-style histories which some ancient courts kept; even where ancient chroniclers were consistent and careful, modern attempts to match ancient chronicles with our present timeline can be foiled by the scant availability of ancient timelines and the difficulty of deciding how any ancient timeline should correspond to our own method of counting time.  I think this is convincingly demonstrated in the dispute concerning the date of Christ’s birth.  There are arguments, based on events[2] measured by the Roman timeline, that place the birth of Christ before the year “zero” of our present timeline.  And yet we still say that the battle of Hastings took place 1,066 years after the birth of Christ, when in fact it may have taken place 1,070 years after the birth of Christ.  Now, should some later civilization attempt to calculate the actual time of the battle of Hastings, relative to whatever subjective method of counting time they may have, they may be off by four years if they begin counting at our officially marked year “zero.”  Thus, here in Daniel, I think we can expect there to be some reasonable mismatch of dates.  When the scope of the dream is nearly 500 years, I don’t think being ten or even twenty years off the mark is significant enough to discount any given interpretation.

One also has to consider the significance of the numerology.  Often our methods of keeping time are slightly different, depending upon what we mean to communicate.  For instance, it may be honestly said that Jesus Christ was dead for three days; this is in spite of the fact that, if three days is exactly 72 hours, Jesus was not dead for exactly three days since he actually died Friday afternoon and was resurrected Sunday morning.  Still, from a certain perspective, one could honestly say that Jesus was dead three days, and, in so saying, attach the significance of the number three to Jesus Christ and his death.


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