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The 9th chapter of Daniyyél
by Prof. Mordochai ben-Tziyyon, Universitah Ha'ivrit, Y'rushalayim
Despite all the talk one hears from christians about "messiahs" or "the messiah", their so-called "bibles" in fact very rarely actually use the word messiah (and never refer to "THE messiah" with the definite article "the") − "King James's Per-Version" uses it precisely twice, once in each of two consecutive verses in the ninth chapter of Daniyyél. This is really rather surprising, considering that the original Hebrew text of the Scriptures uses the word מָשִֽׁיחַ (mashiyaḥ) a total of 39 times (34 times as a noun and 5 times as an adjective) and, in every case where it is a noun, the Pseudo-septuaginta uses the Greek word χριστος (khristos) and Jerome's Vulgatus uses the Latin word christus − i.e. a "christ" − to translate the Hebrew word. This includes all the eleven references in the book Sh'muel that refer explicitly to King Sha'ul (Sh'muel Alef 12:3, 12:5; 24:6 [twice], 24:10; 26:9, 26:11, 26:16 & 26:23; Sh'muel Beit 1:14 & 1:16), who was neither from the family nor even from the same tribe as King David. The fact is that all the "claims" christians make about "messiahs" are not based on anything that is written even in their "bibles", but rather on what they have been led to "believe" what is actually written "means".
Now, christians are very good at quoting single verses taken from the middle of much longer passages without paying any attention to context. They do this particularly in the ninth chapter of Daniyyél, reading verses 24, 25 and 26 in isolation and totally ignoring the remainder of the chapter. The "translation" of these verses that is given in "King James's Per-Version" is horribly garbled in any case, but these three verses would still be misleading when quoted out of context even were they to be translated accurately. In "King James's Per-Version" they stand as follows (see below for a more honest and accurate translation):
24. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
25. Know therefore and understand, [that] 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: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof [shall be] with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Obviously, "Messiah" (and verses 25 & 26 are the ONLY places in the entire King James's Per-Version where the word messiah is used) must refer to that man from Natzratwhom else could it be possibly be referring to? In their desperation to find a "prophecy" of Yoshka in this passage, christians resort to their usual deceitful methods of manipulative "interpretation", counting back 490 years (seventy "weeks of years") from the assumed date of his supposed execution in approximately 30CE and trying to match the result with one of the dates given in Ezra-N'ḥemyah − usually either the one given in Ezra 7:7-8 (the 7th year of "Artaḥ-shasta") or the one given in chapters 1-2 of N'ḥemyah (the 20th year of "Artaḥ-shasta"). But their calculations are fallacious and their conclusions are specious because they are being led along a road leading to a spurious "interpretation" by the combined effects of
(1) a misleading translation,Chapter 9 of Daniyyél opens with the words
(2) the incorrect assumption that the name אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא (Artaḥ-shast) in ch.7 of Ezra and ch.2 of N'ḥemyah refers to Artaxerxes I, and
(3) the standard christian practice of ignoring context.
בִּשְׁנַ֣ת אַחַ֗ת לְדָֽרְיָ֛וֶשׁ בֶּן־אֲחַשְׁוֵר֖וֹשׁ מִזֶּ֣רַע מָדָ֑י אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָמְלַ֔ךְ עַ֖ל מַלְכ֥וּת כַּשְׂדִּֽים׃ בִּשְׁנַ֤ת אַחַת֙ לְמָלְכ֔וֹ אֲנִי֙ דָּֽנִיֵּ֔אל בִּינֹ֖תִי בַּסְּפָרִ֑ים מִסְפַּ֣ר הַשָּׁנִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר הָיָ֤ה דְבַר־יְיָ֙ אֶל־יִרְמְיָ֣ה הַנָּבִ֔יא לְמַלֹּ֛אות לְחָרְב֥וֹת יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֖ם שִׁבְעִ֥ים שָׁנָֽה׃
It was the first year of Daryavesh son of Aḥashvérosh of Median descent, who was appointed king over the Chaldæan empire; in the first year of his reign I, Daniyyél, was reconsidering [what was written] in the Books about the number of years specified in Adonai's words that had come to the prophet Yirm'yah that seventy years of Y'rushalayim's ruin would be completed... (Daniyyél 9:1-2)
It is critically important for a meaningful understanding of what this chapter is all about to figure out when it was written, and why the eponymous writer felt that he needed to "reconsider" the words of Yirm'yahu's prophecy. The date he gives is precise enough, if only we can identify which of the Achæmenid kings he is calling "Daryavesh ben Aḥashvérosh".
The history of the Persian Achæmenid period as recorded in the Scriptures is fragmented and obscure, and is impossible to decipher by reference to the Scriptural accounts alone. Even the "traditional" Hebrew chronology, preserved in the Talmuds and other ancient Hebrew writings such as the Midrashic history Séder Olam, doesn't help much because, being an orally-transmitted tradition, it sadly became somewhat garbled through telling and re-telling. However, thanks to Claudius Ptolemæus's Κανον Βασιλεον ("Canon of the Kings" or "Royal Canon") and the work of modern archæologists and secular historians, we do have a fair idea of what was actually happening during that period, and a reasonably reliable time-line.
The last of the Chaldæan kings of Babylonia was Nabu-Na'id (called "Nabonidus" in classical sources). A "Royal Diary" tablet in the British Museum collection − BM35382 − chronicles much of Nabonidus's 17-year reign (556-539BCE) and records that he was absent from Babylon campaigning in Arabia for the greater part of his reign, leaving his son Crown Prince Bel-sharra-utzur (the Biblical "Bel-shatzar") reigning as regent in his absence. Nabu-Na'id was deposed (and presumably executed) when the invading Persian king Kūrush (or "Cyrus the Great") captured Babylon in 539BCE.
The dynasty founded by Kūrush (Cyrus the Great) is referred to as the Achæmenid dynasty, this term being derived from Kūrush's great-great-grandfather Hakhamanish (7th century BCE), who is called "Achæmenes" in the Greek sources. There were ten Achæmenid kings---
The already difficult task of deciphering the obscure references to these kings in the Scriptural narrative, and of identifying which of them are being referred to, is not made any easier by the random manner in which the writers variously call them by different names. For example, the writer in Ezra 4:6 calls Cyrus's son Cambyses "Aḥashvérosh" (the same name as that used for the possibly fictitious king in the Ester story), and in the following verse he calls Darius I, Cambyses's successor, "Artaḥ-shast" (equivalent to the Persian Artakh-shathra, a title that was used by several of the Achæmenid kings), while elsewhere this same king is called Daryavesh, which is equivalent to the Persian Dārayavahu (Greek Δαρειος, "Darius").
So, back to chapter 9 of Daniyyél and the date he gives − "the first year of Daryavesh son of Aḥashvérosh of Median descent, who was appointed king over the Chaldæan empire". We know there were three Persian kings who are usually called by the name Daryavesh or "Darius" but "Aḥashvérosh" is very problemmatic. Other than in the Ester story and Daniyyél 9:1, this name is found only in Ezra 4:6, where the context suggests that it refers to Cyrus the Great's son, whose name was actually Cambyses or Kambutziya in Persian. But Darius I was not Cambyses's son; his father was a Persian noble called "Hystaspes" in Greek sources, about whom little or nothing is known. Darius I was, however, Cambyses's successor, and it is entirely possible that the writer of Daniyyél either just didn't know that he wasn't Cambyses's son and simply assumed that he was, or that he meant successor of "Aḥashvérosh" (Cambyses) when he wrote "ben aḥashvérosh". He does, after all, add two qualifying comments about this Daryavesh − (1) that he was of Median (rather than Persian) ancestry, and (2) that he had been "appointed king over the Chaldæan empire" (as opposed to having succeeded to it on the death of his father).
In any case, the Daniyyél writer certainly can't be referring to either Darius II or Darius III. For one thing, Darius II was not "appointed" king − when Artaxerxes I died in 424BCE, he had been succeeded by son his Xerxes II, who was assassinated just a few weeks later by his half-brother Sogdianus, who reigned for several months until Ochus, another son (illegitimate) of Artaxerxes I and half-brother of Xerxes II, killed him and usurped the throne for himself, reigning as "Darius II". The much later Darius III actually was "appointed" king: a eunuch called Bagoas, who had been behind the assassinations of both Artaxerxes III in 338BCE and his successor Arogos (or "Arses") two years later in 336BCE, was responsible for the restoration of Codomannus (who, being a great-nephew of Artaxerxes II and great-grandson of Darius II was thus the legitimate heir), to the throne: Codomannus reigned as "Darius III" until his defeat by the Macedonian king Alexander the Great in the late 330s BCE, which brought the Achæmenid dynasty to an end. It therefore follows that Daniyyél (who according to his first chapter was deported from Y'hudah in the early 6th century BCE) couldn't possibly have still been alive even in the time of Darius II, let alone in the time of Darius III.
We have succeeded in solving the first riddle of Daniyyél, ch.9 − identifying which king he is referring to in verse 1 (Darius I), and this provides an actual calendar date for the chapter (521BCE). Now let us look at what had happened that year which prompted him to "reconsider Yirm'yahu's prophecy". By that time, the prophecy itself had been very well-known for around a century.... it occurs in Yirm'yahu 29:10 and reads as follows:
כִּי־כֹה֙ אָמַ֣ר יְיָ֔ כִּ֠י לְפִ֞י מְלֹ֧את לְבָבֶ֛ל שִׁבְעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה אֶפְקֹ֣ד אֶתְכֶ֑ם וַֽהֲקִֽמֹתִ֤י עֲלֵיכֶם֙ אֶת־דְּבָרִ֣י הַטּ֔וֹב לְהָשִׁ֥יב אֶתְכֶ֖ם אֶל־הַמָּק֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃
For this is what Adonai has said: "After seventy years of Babylonia [or, 'for' Babylonia] have been completed, I will remember you and I will bring about for you My favourable promise [literally, 'My good word(s)'], to bring you back to this place."
But what had the prophet meant by "seventy years of Babylonia [or, 'for' Babylonia]"? This cryptic expression could mean any of several different things... it could be understood to mean
With the benefit of hindsight, we can see today that it had meant the last of these, because the Second Temple building was completed in Darius I's 6th year, i.e. 516BCE − exactly 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586BCE. Such is the way with prophecies: their true meanings and the manner of their fulfilment often can only be appreciated after the event. Nobody at the time realised what Yirm'yahu's words had meant, not even Daniyyél.
The Babylonian Talmud (Treatise M'gillah, folio 11b) claims that the Chaldæan and Persian kings were only too well aware of the "seventy years" prophecy and were all keeping a nervous eye on the calendar. This is not so far-fetched: it was, after all, less than 200 years since the entire Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers had been wiped out in a single night by Yisrael's God (see M'lachim Beit 18:13-19:35)... it was clearly definitely not a good idea to upset Him!
There is a striking parallel to this in Shmuel Alef 4:6-8....
וַיִּשְׁמְע֤וּ פְלִשְׁתִּים֙ אֶת־ק֣וֹל הַתְּרוּעָ֔ה וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מֶ֠ה ק֣וֹל הַתְּרוּעָ֧ה הַגְּדוֹלָ֛ה הַזֹּ֖את בְּמַֽחֲנֵ֣ה הָֽעִבְרִ֑ים וַיֵּ֣דְע֔וּ כִּ֚י אֲר֣וֹן יְיָ֔ בָּא אֶל־הַֽמַּֽחֲנֶֽה׃ וַיַּֽרְאוּ֙ הַפְּלִשְׁתִּ֔ים כִּ֣י אָֽמְר֔וּ בָּ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־הַֽמַּֽחֲנֶ֑ה וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ א֣וֹי לָ֔נוּ כִּ֣י לֹ֥א הָיְתָ֛ה כָּזֹ֖את אֶתְמ֥וֹל שִׁלְשֹֽׁם׃ א֣וֹי לָ֔נוּ מִ֣י יַצִּילֵ֔נוּ מִיַּ֛ד הָֽאֱלֹהִ֥ים הָֽאַדִּירִ֖ים הָאֵ֑לֶּה אֵ֧לֶּה הֵ֣ם הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים הַמַּכִּ֧ים אֶת־מִצְרַ֛יִם בְּכָל־מַכָּ֖ה בַּמִּדְבָּֽר׃
When the P'lishtim heard all the shouting, they said, "What is that loud shouting noise in the Ivrim's camp?" Then they realised that Adonai's Aron had been brought into the encampment. Then the P'lishtim became afraid because they said, "God has come into the camp!" so they cried out in terror, "We're done for! nothing like this has ever happened to us before; we've had it! Who can save us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the same gods that attacked the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in Egypt [and again] in the desert..."
This incident with the P'lishtim coincided with the death of Judge Éli ha-kohen (see Shmuel Alef 4:12-18), in 1052BCE. This was 424 years after the Exodus (1476BCE) − and yet the P'lishtim were obviously very well aware of what Yisrael's God had done to the Egyptians all those years before, and realised what they were now facing themselves. So it isn't at all hard to believe that the Chaldæan and Persian kings would have had a healthy (if grudging) respect for Yisrael's God less than two hundred years after He had wiped out an entire Assyrian army of nearly 200,000 men in a single night.
In 534BCE, however, everything changed. Crown Prince Belshazzar, reigning as regent in the absence of his father Nabonidus, had assumed that the "70 years" referred to Nebuchadnezzar's dynasty, and he knew that 70 years had now passed since Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne in 604BCE. So Yirm'yahu had been wrong after all! To celebrate this, "Belshazzar threw a lavish party for his one thousand dignitaries and he drank as much wine himself as all those one thousand [men]" (Daniyyél 5:1). Of course, he got very drunk, and made a fatal mistake − to demonstrate his new-found contempt for the Y'hudi God that he was no longer afraid of, he called for the sacred chalices that Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from God's Temple to be brought to his party so that all those present could drink from them and desecrate them (Daniyyél 5:2).
No Chaldæan king before that time had ever dared to do this. Nebuchadnezzar himself had treated the holy objects that he looted from the Temple in Y'rushalayim with the utmost respect (at least from his own point of view): he had put them in the temple of his own gods (see Daniyyél 1:2), an unprecedented show of respect for a conquered nation's deity (effectively acknowledging that the foreign deity was of equal status to his own gods).
So Belshazzar, and his dignitaries, and his queens, and his slave-wives, all sat drinking from the sacred Temple chalices and at the same time "praising their gold, silver, brass, iron, wood and stone idols" (Daniyyél 5:4), deliberately mocking Yisrael's God and insulting Him to His Face. God's response to this outrageous sacrilege was immediate---
בַּהּ־שַֽׁעֲתָ֗ה נְפַ֨קָה֙ אֶצְבְּעָן֙ דִּ֣י יַד־אֱנָ֔שׁ וְכָֽתְבָן֙ לָֽקֳבֵ֣ל נֶבְרַשְׁתָּ֔א עַל־גִּירָ֕א דִּֽי־כְתַ֥ל הֵֽיכְלָ֖א דִּ֣י מַלְכָּ֑א וּמַלְכָּ֣א חָזֵ֔ה פַּ֥ס יְדָ֖א דִּ֥י כָֽתְבָֽה׃ אֱדַ֤יִן מַלְכָּא֙ זִיוֹ֣הִי שְׁנ֔וֹהִי וְרַעְיֹנֹ֖הִי יְבַֽהֲלוּנֵּ֑הּ וְקִטְרֵ֤י חַרְצֵהּ֙ מִשְׁתָּרַ֔יִן וְאַ֨רְכֻבָּתֵ֔הּ דָּ֥א לְדָ֖א נָֽקְשָֽׁן׃
At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand emerged and began to write on the plaster of the king's palace wall, right in front of the lamp-stand: the king was staring at the hand as it wrote. Then the king's face went pale, because his thoughts terrified him; the orifices of his bowels opened, and his knees were knocking together. (Daniyyél 5:5-6)
Could there possibly be a more graphic description of a man scared out of his wits? Belshazzar, the acting-king of the Babylonian Empire, the most powerful man in the World, standing ashen-faced and trembling in front of his many honoured guests, his knees knocking together, so utterly petrified with fear that he quite literally lost control of his bowels. There is no corroboration from any secular historical source that any of this actually happened, but it sure makes a lovely story!
After Belshazzar had found out the hard way that the start of Yirm'yahu's "70 years" prophecy couldn't have been Nebuchadnezzar's accession to the throne in 604BCE, the next possible candidate was the beginning of the exile of the Y'hudim. Now Y'hoyachin was arrested, deported and imprisoned by Nebuchadnezzar in 597BCE, and 70 years from then bring us up to 527BCE, which it just so happens was the 3rd year of the reign of Cyrus's son and successor, Cambyses (reigned 529-522BCE), whom we noted earlier is to be identified with "Aḥashvérosh" in the Biblical Ester story. And, would you believe it, the Ester story relates that "when he felt secure on his throne... in the third year of his reign..." (1:2-3) he, too, threw a lavish party lasting six whole months (literally "180 days", Ester 1:4) for all the dignitaries and governors in his kingdom, which was followed by a further massive seven-day public celebration held in the palace gardens, to which all the residents of his capital city Shushan were invited. There is no explicit mention here of desecrating the Temple chalices, but Ester 1:7 does record that "the drinking was from golden cups, these cups being of a most unusual kind"... you can read into that whatever you like.
But let's get back to ch.9 of Daniyyél. It was the first year of Darius I's reign (521BCE) and already 76 years had passed since 597BCE when King Y'hoyachin was arrested, deposed and deported by Nebuchadnezzar − the event which marked the beginning of the Exile. Not only that, but the Y'hudim had suffered another setback in 521BCE − the "Samaritans" had succeeded in persuading the new king to halt the work of rebuilding the Temple (see Ezra 4:7-23). It was therefore obvious to Daniyyél that his (and everyone else's) original understanding of the prophet's words had been incorrect − which is why he "was reconsidering what was written in the Books about the number of years specified in Adonai's words that had come to the prophet Yirm'yah that 70 years of Y'rushalayim's ruin would be completed" (Daniyyél 9:2). He offers a long prayer (verses 4-19), confessing his own and all Yisrael's sins and begging God to have mercy on His nation, and then he says
וְע֛וֹד אֲנִ֥י מְדַבֵּ֖ר בַּתְּפִלָּ֑ה וְהָאִ֣ישׁ גַּבְרִיאֵ֡ל אֲשֶׁר֩ רָאִ֨יתִי בֶֽחָז֤וֹן בַּתְּחִלָּה֙ מֻעָ֣ף בִּיעָ֔ף נֹגֵ֣עַ אֵלַ֔י כְּעֵ֖ת מִנְחַת־עָֽרֶב׃
"While I was still busy praying, the man Gavriy'el, whom I had seen in a previous vision, came flying towards me and touched me − this was round about the time of the afternoon flour-offering." (Daniyyél 9:21)
The "previous vision", when he had seen the "man" Gavriy'el (who was really an "angel") before, can be found in Daniyyél 8:15-26. Chapter 9 then continues...
כב וַיָּ֖בֶן וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר עִמִּ֑י וַיֹּאמַ֕ר דָּנִיֵּ֕אל עַתָּ֥ה יָצָ֖אתִי לְהַשְׂכִּֽילְךָ֥ בִינָֽה׃
כג בִּתְחִלַּ֨ת תַּֽחֲנוּנֶ֜יךָ יָצָ֣א דָבָ֗ר וַֽאֲנִי֙ בָּ֣אתִי לְהַגִּ֔יד כִּ֥י חֲמוּד֖וֹת אָ֑תָּה וּבִין֙ בַּדָּבָ֔ר וְהָבֵ֖ן בַּמַּרְאֶֽה׃
כד שָֽׁבֻעִ֨ים שִׁבְעִ֜ים נֶחְתַּ֥ךְ עַֽל־עַמְּךָ֣ ׀ וְעַל־עִ֣יר קָדְשֶׁ֗ךָ לְכַלֵּ֨א הַפֶּ֜שַׁע וּלְהָתֵ֤ם חַטָּאת֙ וּלְכַפֵּ֣ר עָוֹ֔ן וּלְהָבִ֖יא צֶ֣דֶק עֹֽלָמִ֑ים וְלַחְתֹּם֙ חָז֣וֹן וְנָבִ֔יא וְלִמְשֹׁ֖חַ קֹ֥דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִֽׁים׃
כה וְתֵדַ֨ע וְתַשְׂכֵּ֜ל מִן־מֹצָ֣א דָבָ֗ר לְהָשִׁיב֙ וְלִבְנ֤וֹת יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֨ם֙ עַד־מָשִׁ֣יחַ נָגִ֔יד שָֽׁבֻעִ֖ים שִׁבְעָ֑ה וְשָֽׁבֻעִ֞ים שִׁשִּׁ֣ים וּשְׁנַ֗יִם תָּשׁוּב֙ וְנִבְנְתָה֙ רְח֣וֹב וְחָר֔וּץ וּבְצ֖וֹק הָעִתִּֽים׃
כו וְאַֽחֲרֵ֤י הַשָּֽׁבֻעִים֙ שִׁשִּׁ֣ים וּשְׁנַ֔יִם יִכָּרֵ֥ת מָשִׁ֖יחַ וְאֵ֣ין ל֑וֹ וְהָעִ֨יר וְהַקֹּ֜דֶשׁ יַ֠שְׁחִ֠ית עַ֣ם נָגִ֤יד הַבָּא֙ וְקִצּ֣וֹ בַשֶּׁ֔טֶף וְעַד֙ קֵ֣ץ מִלְחָמָ֔ה נֶֽחֱרֶ֖צֶת שֹֽׁמֵמֽוֹת׃
כז וְהִגְבִּ֥יר בְּרִ֛ית לָרַבִּ֖ים שָׁב֣וּעַ אֶחָ֑ד וַֽחֲצִ֨י הַשָּׁב֜וּעַ יַשְׁבִּ֣ית ׀ זֶ֣בַח וּמִנְחָ֗ה וְעַ֨ל כְּנַ֤ף שִׁקּוּצִים֙ מְשֹׁמֵ֔ם וְעַד־כָּלָה֙ וְנֶ֣חֱרָצָ֔ה תִּתַּ֖ךְ עַל־שֹׁמֵֽם׃
(22) ...he made me understand and spoke to me; he said, "Daniyyél, now I have come out to teach you how to understand.
(23) At the beginning of your prayers, a 'word' emerged and I have come to tell you about it, because you have desirable qualities. Now pay attention to the matter and you will begin to understand the vision.
(24) Seventy septets [of years] have been decreed on your people and the city of your Sanctuary [for you] to make an end of transgression, to atone for sin and to wipe away iniquity, to bring about universal justice, to confirm the visions and the prophets and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
(25) Know and understand this: from the emergence of the 'word' about returning and rebuilding Y'rushalayim until a 'messiah-ruler' [was] seven septets; and [for] 62 septets it will be restored and rebuilt [with] streets and a moat, but in turbulent times.
(26) And then, after those 62 septets, a 'messiah' will be cut off and will be no more, and the nation of the coming 'ruler' will destroy the city and Temple; but [that nation] will end in upheaval, and at the end of the war it will collapse in ruins;
(27) he will honour a treaty with the great ones [i.e. Yisrael] for one septet, but for half of that septet he will abolish the sacrifices and flour-offerings, and the mute sacrilege will be in the high [place] among all the [other] abominations, until destruction and anihilation overtake the mute one." (Daniyyél 9:22-27)
Note that the "seventy septets of years" are like God telling Yisrael "I am giving you 490 years to get your act together..." − pretty much like He gave Mankind 120 years to get their act together in the time of No'aḥ (see B'réshit 6:3). We were supposed
"to make an end of transgression, to atone for sin and to wipe away iniquity, to bring about universal justice, to confirm the visions and the prophets and to anoint the Most Holy Place"but we failed to do these things and so the King-Messiah did not come − and we were condemned to remain in exile until we succeed in doing them all.
This "Vision" is more of a Midrashic legend than anything else. It is entirely consistent with the "traditional" chronology of the Second Temple period that I mentioned at the start of this article, but bears little relation to historical reality. It is certainly true that Cyrus, the "messiah-ruler" that the prophet Y'shayahu referred to (Y'shayahu 45:1), took control of the Babylonian Empire (and hence also of the Y'hudi exiles) "seven septets" after the destruction of the First Temple... in round numbers, because it was actually only 47 years, two years short of the "seven septets", from 586BCE to 539BCE; but only in the mythological "traditional" chronology will you find sixty-two "septets" (434 years) from then until the destruction of the Second Temple − it was actually more than 600 years from 539BCE until 68CE.
The fallacy in the christian argument is that they mistranslate verse 25 (מִן מֹצָא דָבָר לְהָשִׁיב וְלִבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם, "from the emergence of the 'word' about returning and rebuilding Y'rushalayim") and ignore − or overlook − the obvious connection between that verse and verse 23 (בִּתְחִלַּת תַּחֲנוּנֶיךָ יָצָא דָבָר, "at the beginning of your prayers, a 'word' emerged"). Daniyyél specifically mentions in 6:11 (misnumbered verse 10 in christian "versions") that he prayed regularly three times every day (וְ֠דָֽנִיֵּ֠אל כְּדִ֨י יְדַ֜ע דִּֽי־רְשִׁ֤ים כְּתָבָא֙ עַ֣ל לְבַיְתֵ֔הּ וְכַוִּ֨ין פְּתִיחָ֥ן לֵהּ֙ בְּעִלִּיתֵ֔הּ נֶ֖גֶד יְרֽוּשְׁלֶ֑ם וְזִמְנִין֩ תְּלָתָ֨ה בְיוֹמָ֜א ה֣וּא ׀ בָּרֵ֣ךְ עַל־בִּרְכ֗וֹהִי וּמְצַלֵּ֤א וּמוֹדֵא֙ קֳדָ֣ם אֱלָהֵ֔הּ כָּל־קֳבֵל֙ דִּֽי־הֲוָ֣א עָבֵ֔ד מִן־קַדְמַ֖ת דְּנָֽה׃ "Now Daniyyél—as soon as he knew that a Writ had been issued—went up to his house where he had open windows in an upstairs room opposite Y'rushlem, and three times daily he knelt on his knees and prayed and gave thanks before his God, exactly as he had done before this"), so the expression "at the beginning of his prayers", read in context, can logically only refer to the time of the Temple's actual destruction back in 586BCE (65 years before chapter 9 was written). Can there be any doubt that he would have "begun praying" for the Temple to be rebuilt from the time it was actually destroyed? The "septets" are therefore to be reckoned from that year, but christians want the end of the "sixty-nine septets" (when "a 'messiah' will be cut off and will be no more") to coincide with a year round about 30CE, when that man from Natzrat is supposed to have been executed by the Roman authorities, so they have to employ their usual dishonest techniques of manipulative and selective "interpretation" in order to force a much later date for the start of their reckoning. They accomplish this by ignoring verse 23 altogether as well as the obvious connection between verses 23 and 25, and insisting that verse 25 says that the "septets" should be reckoned from the granting of permission "to return and rebuild Y'rushalayim" and this, they claim, refers to Ezra's return to Yisrael in the 7th year of "Artaḥ-shast" (Ezra 7:7-8) − despite there being no mention of a general "permission to return and rebuild Y'rushalayim" being granted at that time − and also by ignoring the more obvious candidates of (1) Cyrus's 1st year (when permission was granted for all the Y'hudim to return and rebuild the Temple) and (2) the 20th year of "Artaḥ-shast", when N'ḥemyah was granted personal permission to travel to Y'rushalayim to see the situation there for himself (see N'ḥemyah, chapters 1 and 2).
But even this only works if "Artaḥ-shast" in Ezra 7:7 is identified with Artaxerxes I, and yet the context of the narrative implies that Ezra arrived in Y'rushalayim soon after the rebuilding of the Temple was completed in Darius I's 6th year (Ezra 6:15), suggesting that "the 7th year of Artaḥ-shast" (Ezra 7:7) refers to the 7th of Darius I (515BCE) rather than the 7th of Artaxerxes I (458BCE), which was nearly 60 years later. Another example of how dishonest the "interpretation" methods adopted by christians are is the way they also conveniently ignore the prediction in v.25 of the appearance of a "messiah-ruler" (מָשִׁיחַ נָגִיד mashiyaḥ nagid) after only "seven septets".
So do any parts of Daniyyél's "prophecies" correspond to historical reality? I have already mentioned that a "messiah-ruler", i.e. Cyrus "the Great", actually did conquer Babylon after "seven septets" (counting from the destruction of the First Temple in 586BCE)... not exactly "seven septets", but close enough (it was actually only 47 years, which equates to seven septets in round numbers); but this had already happened and so Daniyyél's statement of it was not a "prophecy".
"Sixty-nine septets" after the destruction of the First Temple in 586BCE would have ended in about 103BCE − did anything happen in that year that ties in with Daniyyél's predictions? Well, yes... kind of − the last true Hasmonæan kohen-king, the obscure Arostobulus I (a son of Yoḥanan II "Hyrcanus", son of שִׁמְעוֹן הַתַּסִּי Shim'on ha-Tassi, brother of יְהוּדָה הַמַּכְבִּי Y'hudah ha-Machbi) died in 103BCE, but in truth identification of Aristobulus with Daniyyél's "messiah" who would "be cut off and be no more" is tenuous in the extreme and it is hardly likely that Daniyyél was composed this late or that his "messiah" who he says in 9:26 was to be "cut off" and to "be no more" was intended to refer to him.
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