15. Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem,
16. together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem.
17. With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
18. You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God.
19. Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God.
20. And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you may have occasion to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.
21. Now I, King Artaxerxes, order all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you--
22. up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit.
23. Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and of his sons?
24. You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.
25. And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates--all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them.
26. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
4. 444 B.C. - Artaxerxes
On hearing the condition of Jerusalem (the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire), Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes, seeks his permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.). Nehemiah also gets permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and goes to Jerusalem with about an additional 42,000 Jewish exiles.
The Persians had just fought a war with the Greeks which was ended with the peace of Callias in 448 B.C. and Artaxerxes may have decided that it was better to have Jerusalem defended than leaving it undefended.
1. In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;
2. so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid,
3 . but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
4. The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
5. and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."
6. Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
7. I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?
8. And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
This is where the wickets get sticky; there is indeed some contention among Biblical scholars as to which decree the "70 Weeks" prophecy refers; there are basically four contenders (Cyrus - 536 B.C., Darius - 518 B.C., Artaxerxes - 458 B.C., and Artaxerxes - 445 B.C.). However before we go much farther, the unit of time is seven years; the Hebrew word used is "shabuwa" which means "sevened, i.e. a week (specifically, of years)". This is normally translated as "week" but here the term means "seven years". Hence when the prophecy says "one week" it means "seven years". Notice that in the New International Version the term is translated as "sevens" while in the American Standard Version the term is translated as "week". Also in the King James Version, the term is translated as "week". We make mentioned of this here to clear up any misunderstanding of the time frame involved. There have been a few ignorant critics who have contended that the prophecy could not possibly be true because Jerusalem was not rebuilt in sixty-nine weeks and it was "hundred of years" between the rebuilding of the Temple and the advent of Jesus Christ (basing this contention only on the reading of the King James Version).
Now back to the subject of which decree. The Decree of Darius in 518 B.C. can be immediately rejected as the decree referenced in Daniel's prophecy; this decree was merely a reaffirmation of a proceeding document (Cyrus in 536 B.C.). Also we can safely reject the Decree of Cyrus because it only gave permission for Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the Temple. There is no specific mention of the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and definitely no mention of refortification of the city. Daniel's prophecy makes specific mention of the rebuilding of city defenses (It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench). This can also be translated as "rebuilt with streets and a wall". This leaves us with either the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 458 B.C., or the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 445 B.C.
We will deal with one other contention before considering which one of the decrees of Artaxerxes should be used as the starting point for Daniel's "70 Weeks". There are a few scholars who state that none of the decrees we have discussed is the one referenced by Daniel's prophecy. This is a quote from a Michael P. Germano, "The incidental resettlement of the city by Jews constituted a de facto rebuilding of the city, an evolutionary process, extending over many decades. It began long before Artaxerxes issued his two decrees. The decrees in Ezra and Nehemiah either hindered or advanced the process but there is no clear and convincing evidence that any of the four decrees considered in this analysis commissioned the launch of the rebuilding of the city." Well the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem probably started as soon as Nebuchadnezzar's army disappeared over the horizon with the Jewish captives to be taken to Babylonia. A few people remained in Jerusalem even though the city was in ruins and just like the bombed out cities of post World War II, the people left in Jerusalem started rebuilding at least their personal residences as soon as the war was over. Also Daniel's prophecy states of the "decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem". The Hebrew term "shuwb" is used which has a meaning "with the idea of return to the starting point". In other words the command that will permit Jerusalem to return to its former glory which could not be done in an unwalled city. Indeed when we read Nehemiah Chapter 3, we get detailed descriptions of construction projects, who repairs what gates, and in Nehemiah Chapters 4,5, and 6 we can read about opposition to the work on Jerusalem's wall. Now Nehemiah seemed to be a man who could get things done, for in Nehemiah Chapter 6:
15. So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
16. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
Nehemiah seems to have accomplished more work on the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days than was done in the previous 90 years. Also we can see that completion of this construction project sparked a building boom in Jerusalem, for in Nehemiah Chapter 7 we read:
4. Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.
Then in Nehemiah Chapter 11 we read:
Nehemiah Chapter 11
1. Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns.
2. The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
3. These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem (now some Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants and descendants of Solomon's servants lived in the towns of Judah, each on his own property in the various towns,
4. while other people from both Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem): From the descendants of Judah: Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez;
5. and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Col-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, a descendant of Shelah.
6. The descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468 able men.
7. From the d