The Commandment to Restore and to Build Jerusalem

Chapter 1—The Subject Stated

Thurman’s Chronology-This subject involves a vital issue between Mr. T. and ourselves-Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:13-Mr. T.’s position on the 69 weeks-Our position on that period-Proper use of testimony-The work of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes defined-Wherein their view differs from that hitherto held by us-The ruin of Jerusalem, from which the commandment was to restore it-The promise of God-The occasion of the prayer in Daniel 9-Jerusalem’s restoration, how connected with the events predicted by Gabriel-The restoration of Jerusalem-How many Persian decrees were there?-What constitutes the commandment of Daniel 9:25?

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troubleous times.” Daniel 9:25. CRBJ 5.1

Mr. WM. C. Thurman has recently put forth a work on chronology and prophecy, entitled, “The Sealed Book of Daniel Opened.” Among the many Biblical expositions of this new volume which conflict with our views of divine truth, there is but one point of vital importance sustained by sufficient evidence to render it worthy of serious consideration. This relates to the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem. We have ever held that this was put forth by Artaxerxes. Ezra 7. Mr. Thurman teaches that it was issued by Cyrus. Ezra 1:6. If Mr. T. is correct in this position then our views of the commencement of the 2300 days are not founded in truth. But Mr. T. insists that he unsealed the book of Daniel by discovering that the sixty-nine weeks are to be dated from the decree of Cyrus. (Compare Thurman’s Chronology, pages 48, 55, 129.) If Mr. T. is shown to be in error in this view of the commandment, then by his own confession his general theory is involved in ruin. CRBJ 5.2

Let us do justice to the argument of Mr. T. Two texts, in his judgment, establish the fact that Cyrus issued the commandment from which the sixty-nine weeks are to be dated. The following are the texts: CRBJ 6.1

“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Isaiah 44:28. CRBJ 6.2

“I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 45:13. CRBJ 6.3

These texts will be considered in their proper place. But to the view taken of them by Mr. T. there are several weighty objections. 1. It is not Cyrus, but the Lord that Isaiah represents as saying to Jerusalem, “Thou shalt be built.” 2. The commandment of Cyrus, recorded Ezra 1:6, does not authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. 3. No system of chronology, but that of Mr. T., can make the sixty-nine weeks extend from the decree of Cyrus even to the birth of our Lord. CRBJ 6.4

Mr. T., in order to extend the 483 prophetic days from the decree of Cyrus to the birth of Christ, attempts to overthrow the canon of Ptolemy that he may thus change the first year of Cyrus from B.C. 536 to B.C. 488, an alteration of 48 years. From this point, according to Mr. T.’s theory, the 483 years extend to B.C. 5, the true date of Christ’s birth. CRBJ 6.5

In accordance with the teaching of many of the most distinguished expositors of the Bible, we have as a people held that the decree of Artaxerxes, which according to the canon of Ptolemy was B.C. 457, was the true date of the sixty-nine weeks; which from this point would extend to A.D. 27, when our Lord began his ministry with the impressive declaration, “The time is fulfilled.” Mark 1:15. It is observed, therefore, that there are two different events, the birth of the Messiah, and his public manifestation to Israel, that respectively mark the termination of the sixty-nine weeks according to these two different theories. But it is not the object of this article to discuss the merits of Ptolemy’s canon, nor Mr. T.’s theory of the different periods in Daniel 9:24-27, nor even the proper event to mark the end of the sixty-nine weeks. The one question before us for consideration is, What marks the commencement of the sixty-nine weeks? CRBJ 7.1

That view of the subject is certainly the true one which embraces all the testimony, and gives to each part its proper weight and bearing. All ground of controversy ceases to exist, when the just claims of all the contending parties are fairly allowed. Truth is not partial and sectarian. It embraces within itself all the facts that have any bearing upon the subject of inquiry in every case. We have the truth concerning any doctrine of the Bible when we are able to present a divine harmony of all the scripture testimony pertaining to that subject. Why should we not recognize these facts when searching out the testimony relating to the commandment for the restoration of Jerusalem? Let us give all the facts recorded in the Bible concerning this subject their proper weight, and then accept the grand result as the truth of God. CRBJ 7.2

To Cyrus belongs the high honor of having been designated by name by the God of Heaven, many years before his birth, as one that should act an important part in the restoration of Jerusalem. The commandment of the God of Heaven came to him, and from him issued authority that embraced an essential part of the work. Such of the Jews as pleased were authorized to return to Jerusalem, and were empowered to rebuild the temple. This laid the foundation of the entire work, and naturally drew after it all that followed. But this did not cover all the ground. It was an important part of that commandment by which Jerusalem was restored, but it was not all. Sixteen years after this edict of Cyrus, Darius renewed its grant of power. Ezra 6. Let Darius have due credit. He did not put forth the first part of the commandment for the restoration of Jerusalem, and he did not finish out that great edict by giving ample authority for the complete accomplishment of the work. But to the edict of Cyrus he added his own authority when it was greatly needed, and at the same time enlarged the power already given to the Jews. It would be unjust to allow Darius the credit of granting all the power under which the people of God restored their ancient city; it would be equally wrong to deny due credit for that renewal and enlargement of power already given, which was the work of this king. Yet each of these errors has had its adherents. CRBJ 8.1

Next in order in this work came Artaxerxes, who completed the grant of power which Cyrus began, and Darius renewed and enlarged. A portion of the commandment for the restoration of Jerusalem was issued by the first of these kings; the second added to this; and the third completed this important commandment by endowing Ezra with all needed authority for the complete restoration of Jerusalem. Ezra 7. After this, nothing in the form of a decree was ever issued from the Persian court relating to this matter. CRBJ 9.1

To Cyrus belongs the honor of taking the first steps toward the restoration of Jerusalem, by allowing the Jews to return, and by giving them authority to rebuild the temple; but the credit of the whole commandment does not belong to him. Darius enlarged the authority given by Cyrus, but he left it incomplete. Artaxerxes finished the commandment for the restoration of Jerusalem by clothing Ezra with full power to do whatsoever should be proper in his sight, and to enforce the law of God with adequate penalties. The credit of the whole work belongs to no one of these monarchs; but to the first, the honor of making the first grant of power to the Jews, and of establishing the precedent in their behalf; to the second, of interposing his authority in maintaining what Cyrus had enacted when that act was called in question; to the last, the honor of rendering that commandment complete, and of sending forth with it a competent man to have it carried into effect. The commandment was complete when Artaxerxes gave his edict into the hands of Ezra. It WENT FORTH IN ITS COMPLETE FORM when Ezra, under its ample power, began to enforce the law of God with all its strictness in Jerusalem. CRBJ 9.2

This argument, therefore, will vindicate the seventh of Artaxerxes, B.C. 457, as the date of the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem; but it differs from the view hitherto held by us in that we gave the credit of the entire commandment to Artaxerxes; whereas it is evident that Cyrus and Darius each framed a portion of the great edict, and that Artaxerxes completed this memorable grant of power. In accordance with these facts we find that the commandment is spoken of, first, as the commandment of the God of Heaven; second, as THE COMMANDMENT [singular] of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the three kings of Persia through whose successive acts the entire legal authority necessary for the complete restoration of Jerusalem was granted. Ezra 6:14. This grand edict, being the starting-point of the 2300 days, may be compared to a monument set up by the providence of God from which to measure off that most important prophetic period. Cyrus laid the foundation of this monument; Darius added to the structure, and Artaxerxes rendered it complete. The book of Ezra may be termed the history of the several acts which constitute the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, and of the going forth of that commandment in its complete form in the commencement of the work of Ezra. Such are the views maintained in this article; let us now come to particulars. CRBJ 10.1

THE GOING FORTH of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem marks the commencement of Daniel’s sixty-nine prophetic weeks. It embraces in its purpose a two-fold object: 1. The RESTORATION of Jerusalem. 2. The REBUILDING of that city. These are named according to their relative importance, rather than to the order of their fulfillment. To rightly understand the work that was to be accomplished by this commandment, it is necessary to call to mind the condition of Jerusalem at the time when Gabriel made this visit to the prophet, B.C. 538. The death of good king Josiah, who was slain in the battle of Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, B.C. 610, may be said to mark the close of Jewish independence. 2 Kings 23; 2 Chronicles 35. The people of the land then made Jehoaz, his wicked son, king in his stead; but at the end of three months he was deposed by the king of Egypt, who called at Jerusalem for this purpose on his return from warring against the king of Assyria at the river Euphrates. Jerusalem thus became subject to the king of Egypt, B.C. 610. Then Pharaoh-nechoh made Jehoiakim king in his brother’s stead, “and put the land to a tribute of an hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold.” 2 Kings 23:31-37; 2 Chronicles 36:1-5. But in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, his master Pharaoh-nechoh was overthrown in battle near the Euphrates, and the power of Egypt was broken by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Jeremiah 46. By virtue of this occurrence Jehoiakim became the vassal of the king of Babylon, and Jerusalem became subject to that monarch. This was B.C. 605. Then Nebuchadnezzar came up to Jerusalem and received the formal submission of Jehoiakim and his oath of allegiance. Three years he observed this oath, rendering the stipulated tribute. Then, under the influence of evil men, for he did that which was wicked in the sight of the Lord, he rebelled against the king of Babylon. After three years of this rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar came up against him in Jehoiakim’s eleventh year, and carried him to Babylon with part of the vessels of the house of God, and with the first body of Jewish captives that was ever transported to that city. 2 Chronicles 36:5,6; Jeremiah 52:28. See Bliss Sacred Chronology, pp. 125-127. Nebuchadnezzar did not at this time destroy the city, nor did he even expel the family of David from the throne. He allowed Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, to reign for a few months, when he, too, having done wickedly in the sight of the Lord, and having begun a rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, that monarch took Jerusalem by siege, and carried him to Babylon with the vessels of the house of God, and with a large body of Jewish captives. The king of Babylon did not even at this time destroy the city of Jerusalem, nor did he dethrone the family of David. CRBJ 10.2

Trusting that the people had learned something of his power and of their own weakness, and that they were made wiser by the things they had suffered, Nebuchadnezzar took Zedekiah, another member of the royal family, and having exacted an oath of allegiance, placed him upon the throne. But Zedekiah “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel. Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen.... They mocked the messengers of God and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36. CRBJ 12.1

Then came up the king of Babylon, and after a terrible siege from the ninth year of Zedekiah to the eleventh, the city was taken in consequence of famine; for it seems to have been otherwise almost impregnable. Then Nebuchadnezzar put to the sword without distinction of age or sex, a large part of the people of Jerusalem. He burned the house of God, and the king’s house, and all the houses of the great men, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and he broke down all the walls of Jerusalem round about. Those that escaped from the sword he led away captive in Babylon. 2 Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 52. Thus Jerusalem was utterly blotted out of existence. Nor was this terrible destruction of all that gave visible existence to the city the full measure of the calamity that had come upon it. It had not merely ceased to exist, but its right ever to exist again, was, in the estimation of the kings of Babylon, forfeited by the treason and rebellion of its inhabitants, and all its peculiar privileges as the great central point of the worship of God upon the earth, forever extinguished. CRBJ 13.1

One only hope was left, and this was found in the prophetic word. The Most High had promised that after seventy years of Babylonian servitude he would interpose for the deliverance of his people; and he even called by name, Cyrus, the king of Persia, as the one that should lay the foundation of that great work, and set in motion that train of events which should accomplish their complete restoration. Jeremiah 25; 29; Isaiah 13; 44:21-28; 45. CRBJ 13.2

From the time of its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem lay in ruins down to the time of the memorable visit of the angel to the prophet, and even for a considerable space afterward. Daniel 9. At the time of that visit, the kingdom of Babylon having been subjugated by the Medes and Persians, the Jews had changed masters, but the city of Jerusalem remained unchanged in its condition of utter desolation. The conquest of Babylon, and the accession of Darius and Cyrus to supreme power, being particularly marked in the scriptures of the prophets as the time when God should begin to deliver his people, in the first year of the reign of Darius, B.C. 538, Daniel attentively reads the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the seventy years of Jerusalem’s desolation, and then by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes, he pours out his soul in behalf of the holy mountain of his God. Daniel 9. CRBJ 14.1

This prayer of the prophet is made the occasion of the visit of Gabriel; but other matters more important than the restoration of Jerusalem itself, are made the principal theme of this interview. Thus the coming of the great Messiah to perform his predicted work, his sacrificial death, and the time of each of these events, as also the key to the proper reckoning of the 2300 days, and the prediction concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and its desolation till the consummation, are all embraced in this wonderful discourse of the angel. The restoration of Jerusalem which was the burden of the prophet’s prayer, has just this connection with the events predicted by the angel, viz., that the going forth of the commandment for that restoration is the starting point of the sixty-nine weeks which extend to the mission of the great Messiah, and of the seventy weeks which embrace all the events of that mission. CRBJ 14.2

“Know therefore,” said the angel, “and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troubleous times.” Daniel 9:25. CRBJ 15.1

The language of the angel is remarkably definite. Jerusalem is to be restored as well as rebuilt. Not only shall the temple be rebuilt, and the houses of the people once more cover that holy mountain, but the rights, privileges, laws and worship, that once distinguished Jerusalem shall be re-established, and idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, and marriages with heathen, shall be prohibited by the civil authority and punished by adequate penalties. This is properly implied in the restoring of the city, as distinguished from its rebuilding. And we shall find these very powers granted in “the commandment” and exercised by those to whom its execution was intrusted. And besides all this, the fortifications of Jerusalem were again to enclose the sacred city. CRBJ 15.2

It is the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem that causes all this to take place. It has been generally believed that there were four of these commandments, and each of these has in turn been claimed as “the commandment” referred to by the angel. The four decrees in question are, 1. That of Cyrus, Ezra 1; 6; 2. That of Darius, Ezra 6; 3. That of the seventh year of Artaxerxes, Ezra 7; 4. That of Artaxerxes’ twentieth year. Nehemiah 2. But this so-called fourth decree turns out to be no decree at all. The sixth chapter of Daniel shows that a Persian decree is a written document, signed by the king. Verses 8-15. But Artaxerxes gave to Nehemiah no such document relating to Jerusalem. He gave him letters to the governors, that they should help him on the way, and one to Asaph, the keeper of the kings’ forest, to allow Nehemiah to cut down such timber as he pleased. But beyond this he had only verbal instructions in the matter; that is to say, the king told him what to do. And when Nehemiah reached Jerusalem and endeavored to encourage the Jews to action in rebuilding their city- he did not indeed produce and read the king’s decree, for he had nothing of that kind, but he did the best that lay in his power, he told them “the king’s words that he had spoken” unto him. Nehemiah 2:17, 18. It is certain therefore, 1. That no new decree was issued. 2. That Artaxerxes held that the decree already issued, granted all needed legal authority for this work which Nehemiah was sent to perform. 3. That there is, therefore, no fourth Persian decree relating to Jerusalem. CRBJ 15.3

We have, then, the edicts respectively of the first year of Cyrus, of the second year of Darius, and of the seventh year of Artaxerxes to which we may look for the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. The book of Ezra contains the record of all these acts, and, therefore, covers the entire field of inquiry. It will not be the object of this article to participate in the existing controversy relative to which of these kings is entitled to the honor of having issued “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” CRBJ 16.1

Evident it is that each did a part, and that no one of them is entitled to the credit of the entire act. Let us then do justice to each, and in so doing vindicate the truth. The following proposition appears to embody all the important facts in the case, and states with precision the doctrine of this article: CRBJ 17.1

The commandment of the God of Heaven for the restoration and building of Jerusalem, was clothed with the legal authority of the Persian empire and made the law or commandment of that empire by the successive edicts of three different monarchs, Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes. CRBJ 17.2

The following reasons in support of this proposition are certainly very decisive: CRBJ 17.3

1. No one of these edicts covers all the ground, and hence no one of them by itself constitutes the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. CRBJ 17.4

2. But these edicts taken collectively, contain all the legal authority needed for the accomplishment of the work. CRBJ 17.5

3. While each of the edicts constitutes a fragment only of the whole commandment, they give evidence in their character that they belong together. The first is the proper commencement of the whole thing; the second renews and enlarges that first act; the third renders the commandment complete. CRBJ 17.6

4. The whole is by the Spirit of inspiration designated. (1.) The commandment of the God of Israel. (2.) THE COMMANDMENT (singular) of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes. Ezra 6:14. CRBJ 17.7