The Decrees of Artaxerxes I and the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy–Part Two (Additional Resources)

[Note:  “A further criticism leveled against traditional theories of authorship as concerned the manner in which the author handled the chronology of the period mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah.  More specifically it has been urged that Ezra 4:7-24 is misplaced chronologically, since it refers to the period of Xerxes I (486-465/4 B.C.) and Artaxerxes I (464-423 B.C.), and causes confusion by introducing events in improper relationship to the time of Darius I (522-486 B.C.).  This difficulty has been resolved by Young, who has shown that the avowed purpose of Ezra was to trace the entire history of opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple.  Such opposition appeared throughout the reigns of Cyrus (Ez. 4:1-5) and Darius (Ez. 4:24; 5:1-17), and was found even in the days of Xerxes I (Ez. 4:6), culminating in the reign of Artaxerxes I (Ez. 4:7-23) when a letter of complaint was dispatched to the king, resulting in the cessation of constructional activity.  Having sketched the history of the controversy, the writer then reverted to the period of Cyrus and stated that the work ceased until the second year of Darius (Ez. 4:24), after which the topic was resumed in chapter five.  Quite clearly chronological sequence were sacrificed in the interests of outlining the history of opposition to the task of rebuilding the Temple as a separate and self-contained subject” (Introduction to the Old Testament with a comprehensive review of Old Testament studies and a special supplement on the Apocrypha, by R. K. Harrison, William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1969, 1982, p. 1139).]

[Note:  “Another mistake on the part of Pfeiffer lay in his assumption that the ‘worthless concoction’ of the chronicler made Zadok a son of Ahitub and Ezra a son of Seraiah, since the latter is said to have died when Jerusalem fell (2 Kgs. 25:18ff.), thus making Ezra at least 127 years old when he went to Jerusalem in 458 B.C.  While it is true that Ezra (7:1ff.) and 1 Chronicles (6:3ff., 50ff.) described Zadok as a son of Ahitub, the same statement occurs also in 2 Samuel 8:17.  As far as the descent of Ezra is concerned, the writer is clearly using the term ‘son’ as the equivalent of ‘descendant’ when relating Ezra to Seraiah, as was commonly the case among Semitic peoples” (Introduction to the Old Testament with a comprehensive review of Old Testament studies and a special supplement on the Apocrypha, by R. K. Harrison, William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1969, 1982, p. 1140).

[Note:  “Xerxes had been carefully groomed as successor to Darius.  If some question exists concerning the right of Darius to the throne, the line of Xerxes cannot be challenged.  He was the son of Darius by Atossa, a daughter of Cyrus.  For twelve years he served under his father as viceroy of Babylon before succeeding to the throne at the death of Darius.  The Persian form of the name Xerxes is Khashayarsha, which, in Hebrew, is rendered Ahasuerus (Ezra 4:6 and the Book of Esther” (The Old Testament History, by Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House, 1973, p. 524).]

[Note:  “Artaxerxes Longimanus (i.e., ‘the long handed’ because his right hand was reputedly longer than his left hand) had the usual problem of putting down rebellions in various parts of the realm when he became king of the Persian Empire.  The efficient governmental system of Darius had been weakened during the reign of Xerxes, with the result that rebellion was more likely to succeed.  Hystaspes, a brother of Artaxerxes, attempted to assert independent rule in Bactria, but Artaxerxes acted quickly and forcefully to re-establish his own royal authority” (The Old Testament History, by Charles F. Pfeiffer, Baker Book House, 1973, p. 529).]

[Note:  “King of Persia; ascended the throne in 465 B.C., and died in 425 B.C. In the Persian name Artakhshathra (“he whose empire is perfected”) the “thr” (written with a special sign in Persian) is pronounced with a hissing sound, and is therefore represented in other languages by a sibilant.  Thus in Babylonian, Artakshatsu, Artakhshassu, and numerous variations; in Susic, Irtakshashsha; Egyptian, Artakhshasha; Hebrew, and (that is, Artakhshasta); in Greek, Αρταζήσσης (inscription in Tralles’ “Corpus Inscriptionum Græearum,” 2919), and by assimilation with the name Xerxes Αρταζήρζης and Αρτοζήρζης.  According to the chronographic lists of the Babylonians and of the Ptolemaic Canon, Artaxerxes I reigned forty-one years, which includes the short reign of his son Xerxes II, murdered after a reign of six weeks.  Some Greek authorities give him only forty years; thus Diodorus, xi. 69, xii. 64. (Concerning the chronology, compare Meyer, “Forschungen zur Alten Geschichte,” 1899, ii. 482.)  From this period many dated archives are extant, found throughout Babylonia, but particularly in Nippur, by the expedition of the University of Pennsylvania (published by Hilprecht and Clay, “The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania,” vol. ix., 1898).  But there are no archeological remains of the reign of Artaxerxes I with the exception of a single inscription on a building in Susa and an alabaster vase in Paris which bears his name in Persian, Susian, Babylonian cuneiform, and in hieroglyphs.  All information concerning him is derived from the accounts of Greek writers, especially the fragments of Ctesias, and from the statements of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Josephus wrongfully claims that the Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the Book of Esther is this Artaxerxes I, and also that the Artaxerxes of Ezra and Nehemiah is Xerxes” (Jewish Encyclopedia, “Artaxerxes I (surnamed Longimanus—‘Long-Hand’),” by Richard Gottheil and Eduard Meyer, 1906, p. 145).]

[Note:  “1.1-4:  Cyrus’ decree.  His first year at Babylon was 538 B.C., and his proclamation seemed the fulfilment of Jer. 29:10 (2 Chr. 36:21) under divine direction (Is. 44.28; 45:1-3).  2-3:  In his inscription Cyrus shows interest in restoring temples.  To him the Lord is the local deity of Jerusalem (6.12), whose temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar (5.12)” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press, 1962, 1973, footnote, p. 573).]

[Note:  “In December 446, Nehemiah’s brother Hanani (see 7:2) brings sad news of the colony in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4:23).  Nehemiah holds the trusted position of king’s cup-bearer at the Persian court, at the time resident in the winter capital of Susa” (Eerdmans handbook to the Bible, Edited by David Alexander and Pat Alexander, Lion Pub., 1973, “Nehemiah,” sec. 1-2, “Nehemiah Returns to Jerusalem,” p. 309.)]

[Note:  “In the years before the turn of the century Sir Robert Anderson, a lay theologian and Bible teacher in Great Britain, could not agree with Germany’s “higher critics,” who attacked the accuracy and dating of many Old Testament documents….  Sir Robert took each statement of Scripture and sorted out the dates involved.  The salient aspects of this interpretation are included on the chart with these the critical elements.

“Weeks.  The word shabua, and literally means “seven.”  The Jews used this term for weeks and also for a ‘Sabbath of years’ or seven years (see Gen. 29:27; 2 Chron. 36:21).  Using the Hebrew religious year, Anderson determined that a period of 490 years was divided into two separate time periods:  69 weeks (or 173, 880 days) and 1 week (or 2, 520 days).  When did the count-down begin?  And when did this fit period of 69 weeks end?

“Dating.  Three decrees made the Jews’ return to Palestine possible.  The first, issued by Cyrus in 538 B.C., had to do with the rebuilding of the house of God (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1).  The second, issued by Darius I 521 B.C., also related to the temple (Ezra 6:3-8).  The only decree that was concerned with the rebuilding Jerusalem itself was issued in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:1)” (The Teacher’s Commentary, by Lawrence O. Richards, Victor Books, 1988, pp. 446-447).]

[Note:  “Partly because of problems already alluded to and partly for other reasons, the statement in Ezr. 7:7 that dates the movement of Ezra from Babylon to the year 458 (the seventh year of Artaxerxes) has often been questioned.  Since Nehemiah, whose arrival in Jerusalem is commonly dated to 444 B.C. (Neh. 1:1; 2:1), seem to know nothing of Ezra or his work before ch. 8, many have argued that the chronology of the two is confused or possibly reversed.  Support for placing Ezra later than 458 is gained from Ezra 9:9 with its reference to a wall already in existence, as well as from Ezr. 4:12f. with its reference to the wall and opposition in the days of Artaxerxes prior to Ezra’s coming” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans Pub., 1982, Vol. 2, Sec. F, “Date of Ezra’s Coming to Jerusalem,” p. 266).]  

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