The Beginning of the 490 years: 457 BC
In the year 536 B.C., 50,000 Jewish exiles, empowered by Cyrus' decree, returned to Jerusalem. Their city lay in ruins, but they began rebuilding the temple, laying its foundation and also began working on building their homes. One thing that catches the attention immediately in (Ezra 1-4) is that Ezra chapter four has a powerful message for us today. Restoration of truth is not easy! The opposition the Jews experienced while building, and the determined efforts to foil their hopes and dreams, acutely show the endurance which is needed to triumphant. Obviously Satan despised the sanctuary and a people who knew God's law just as much back then as he does now. Look at his strategies.
1. The adversaries hear the sanctuary (truth) is to be restored and gather to oppose it.
2. Step one in the opposition plan, is try to join (infiltrate) so they can manipulate and hinder the process.
3. Key argument "We seek your God as you do, and we have the same sacrifice."
However, Zerubbabel and Joshua the priest, are wise, they refuse. Too bad we were not as wise as they. The main reason we have so much confusion in our church today, is because we have allowed the adversaries of the sanctuary to help rebuild doctrine within our church.
4. If step one doesn't do the job, the opposition moves to step two, which is to try to discourage the builders, frustrate their purpose, hire counselors against them to frustrate them.
5. Step three is to lobby for legislation: they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Jerusalem to Artaxerxes, slandering them, "they are building a rebellious and evil city", "they will excite sedition"
6. Along with lobbying government to intervene, they also dig up and broadcast all former shortcomings.
7. Finally: have legislation passed to stop the work.
This is exactly the strategy being used against the people who are restoring the message of Christ's sanctuary ministry today!!! Only the last step is yet future.
Now back to the subject at hand concerning the year 457 B.C. as the accurate date for the restoration of Jerusalem prophecized in Daniel 9:25.
Here is a brief history:
Cyrus, in 536 B.C., allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, but Cyrus died in 530 B.C., he was followed by Cambyses, who was followed by False Smerdis. Smerdis reigned only half a year, long enough for his soldiers to destroy a great many temples around the empire. It would seem that the earlier progress made of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem was also ruined at this time, because, according to Haggai 2:18, in 520 BC the Israelites are again beginning work by laying the foundation of the temple. Very probably it was under Smerdis' rule that the Israelites gave up all hope of ever restoring their temple again. Haggai says, they stopped work believing "The time is not right", and he says that the temple was in "ruins".
In 522 B.C., Darius I, a fairminded ruler, goes about setting things straight again in the Persian empire. With his support and Haggai's encouragement, temple construction is resumed. From 520-515 B.C. the work went forward, and the temple was built.
Basically from 536-457 B.C. the Israelites were a struggling group of people with no real government, city or well defined country. They built themselves houses, and managed to build a temple. It wasn't until Artaxerxes came to the throne 464 B.C. that we actually see them rebuilding the city. It was during Artaxerxes reign that the adversaries appealed to legislation to stop Israel, for they were "building a rebellious and evil city".
Daniel 9: 25 reads "From the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem. . .the street shall be built again and the walls, even in troublous times"
So we see Ezra receiving his decree from Artaxerxes in 457 BC. (In the seventh year of Artaxerxes) The decree gives further help in establishing the temple, but it also gives Israel the right to self government. Up till 457 BC the leaders in Judea were no more than county commissioners. They could look after local problems but they did not have judicial or executive authority. Now they did! They could set up their own magistrates and judges to carry out their laws. Now they were recognized as a nation. This is why this decree is so important to the reestablishment of Jerusalem!
Israel must have seen this decree as a decree to rebuild Jerusalem as well for we read: "In the reign of Artaxerxes," they (adversaries) wrote to Artaxerxes that Israel should not be allowed to rebuild, "the rebellious city, finishing its walls and repairing the foundations" because (the adversaries said) Israel would rise in rebellion." (When the Bible says Artaxerxers, I believe it means Artaxerxes not Cambyses)
Artaxerxes writes back a command that is very unlike the commands of Persian kings, it seems to be uncertain, as if he's not sure he's doing the right thing:
"Now give command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me." He is making a counter command to one he made earlier and is giving only a temporary order to stop the work. He is allowing himself a way out of this law.
This probably took place between 456-454 B.C. when the Persian Governor over the (western) section of the middle east, Megabyzos, rebelled against Artaxerxes, taking his subjects with him. It's was a perfect setup for Samaria to win points with the Persian monarch and get even with Israel.
Did Artaxerxes believe the Samaritans? He seemed not sure, however the region was in rebellion and he didn't want to take chances. The kings reply was great victory for the Samaritans who went "immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop" (Ezra 4:23) While they were about it, they apparently knocked down the rebuilt sections of the wall, and burned several gates. (Neh.1:3)
Artaxerxes and Megabyzos made peace, and things settled down again. This is where Nehemiah comes into the picture. He hears the sad news that the attempts to rebuild Jerusalem were totally frustrated. He talks it over with Artaxerxes, who gives him permission to go and rebuild Jerusalem. Artaxerxes had left the option of reversing his "Cessation command" open and now that rebellion was over he allowed the work to progress once again. 444 B.C. Work once again began. This time the walls were put up successfully.
Daniel 9:24 said they would be rebuilt in troublous times and they definitely had trouble.
Is 457 B.C. the right date? Is it the starting point of the great time prophecies? As I've said before, it makes sense to me. Coupled with the fulfilment of the Messiah coming 483 years later, being cut off in the midst of the final week of the 490 year prophecy, causing ceremonial sacrifices to cease. To me there is no question. The beginning point for the "seventy weeks", according to the historical-Messianic interpretation, is the "going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:25). The 69 weeks or 483 years, takes us to the anointing of Messiah the Prince, at His baptism in 27 A.D. in the 15th year of the Roman emperor Tiberius (Luke 3:5)
Messiah is "cut off" for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:8) in the midst of the "week" or after three and a half years, 31 A.D. Then, at the end of the 490 years allotted to Israel, we see them launch their attack against Christians (against Christ) with the stoning of Stephen. Thus ends the "time given to Israel" as a nation (though as individuals God sees neither Jew nor Gentile, all who come to Him in sincere faith are His children)
In 457 B.C. they did not have calendars like we have. This fact can give room for doubts and arguments on the exactness of the date. Different nations used different ways to figure the years of the kings' reigns.
Ezra 7:7-8 tells us the decree was issued in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I. The seventh year of Artaxerxes I is relatively sure as being in 458/457.
(Remember years run backward in B.C.)
That means the seventh year of Artaxerxes started in the fall of 458 and ran through to the summer of 457.
Several historians say that the seventh year of Artaxerxes extended from the fall of 458 to the fall of 457 B.C. or 458/457.
Ezra returned to Palestine in 457 B.C.
Ezra's journey to Jerusalem began in Nisan and ended in Ab of 457 B.C. (Ezra 7:8-9). Thus, according to our months, Ezra's trip lasted from April to late July 457 B.C.
The decree of Artaxerxes I went into effect after Ezra's arrival in Palestine in the early fall—or late summer—of 457 B.C. This was "the going forth" of the decree recoded in Daniel 9:25-26.
Yes, there is much debate concerning the new moons and additional months to even out the 365 and 1/4 day year. So how can we be sure "the seventh year of Artaxerxes" fits into 457 B.C. date?
Historians compare many things in history to make up a historical calendar we can relate to. One of the more reliable ways is to compare the Egyptian calendar with the Ptolemy's Canon or history record. The Egyptian's did not adjust their calendar. They had exactly 365 days in each year and didn't seem to worry if the calendar got ahead of the stars. Sir Isaac Newton studying these historical evidence concluded that Ezra took the Artaxerxes' decree to Jerusalem in 457 B.C. This was placed in the margin of the King James Version in 1701.
Now people question the accuracy, but there are numerous details of events and places and people named in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that add evidence to the date.
If Gabriel himself said that Jesus would be anointed exactly 483 years later, who am I to argue whether the decree came out in 456, 457 or 458, just because I don't have the mathamatical skill to pin it down exactly. I believe there is enough evidence to prove to anyone who wants to believe that this prophecy of the 490 years spans the time from when Artaxerxes gave the command to restore Jerusalem, until Jesus came to fulfill His ministry on earth. And yes, I believe that the Messiah the Prince, is the Messiah Jesus Christ! The Messiah did not set up the abomination, the prince who was to come did that. Israel had a choice and they accepted another prince in the place of the true Messiah, when they said they had no king but Caesar. They crucified Jesus who alone could save them, and turned themselves over to Rome who would destroy them.
Daniel 9 deals with the time period in which the earthly sanctuary would be the center of worship. Daniel chapters 8 and 7 continue the story of Jesus and His sanctuary ministry, but now it is in heaven. It also continues the story of the growth of the other prince--Rome who emerges as Papal Rome, the one who opposes the true sanctuary, Christianized, but nevertheless still Rome. Papal Rome reached up against the Prince of heaven and usurped the "daily" -- replaced Christ's work in the heavenly sanctuary with its own system of indulgences, confessionals, Eucharist and penance. Papal Rome exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host, and tried to take the daily away from Him and cast truth down to the ground. And yes, this false system will be judged as portrayed in chapter 7. There is only One High Priest and that is Jesus. There is only One way to salvation and that is through Jesus. There is only One Mediator and that is Jesus, (earthly priests and apparitions of Mary, and dead saints can not be our mediators, only Jesus). In the judgment the saints (those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus Rev. 14:12) will be vindicated. Judgment was made in favor of the saints. But the beast and those who bear his mark will be destroyed. The judgment message is a message like that of John — repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
It's a message from Ezekiel:18.30-32 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.
One thing that stands out clear in studying 457 B.C.from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah is the fact that opposition to God's work is the norm in this world. Whenever truth is being promoted we will find many Tobiahs, Sanballats, and Gershems who will oppose and try to frustrate. There will be Eliashids and Shemaiahs within our own congregations who will counsel us against God's will. But the message in Ezra and Nehemiah is to move forward in complete trust in the Lord: To dedicate oneself fully to God and obey His will no matter what the opposition.