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A Survey of Messianic Prophecy
Page 3: The Birth of Jesus

One of the most fascinating prophecies about Jesus is made by the prophet Daniel, concerning the timeframe in which the Messiah would come.

"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress." (Daniel 9:25)

Daniel tells of a specific period of time - sixty-nine weeks (seven weeks and sixty-two weeks) - beginning from when the decree is issued to rebuild the city of Jerusalem preceding the coming of Jesus. I love this prophecy because it is not vague or figurative, but clear and precise.

The term weeks as used in this verse is the Hebrew word "shabua", meaning seven. It does not necessarily mean seven days as westerners think when they hear the word week; rather it means seven time periods - usually days or years. It is evident that Daniel is indicating years here by the context. Additionally, Daniel helps us understand his intent when he writes about seven days as he does in 10:2-3, by stating seven days. In 10:2-3, where he is obviously talking about seven-day periods, not seven-year periods (he didn't eat for three weeks), the Hebrew text says "yom shabua" (yom means day) rather than "shabua". How precise Daniel is.

So Daniel states that 483 years (69 x 7 = 483) from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem the Messiah will come. It is here that I will state that while virtually all scholars maintain that this prophecy was fulfilled with great precision many differ on how this prophecy was fulfilled. In order to provide a clear example of what I mean by saying how it was fulfilled, and to provide a somewhat objective view of the fulfillment, I have provided two examples of explanation.

The challenge in understanding this prophecy begins with the fact that there is more than one decree to rebuild Jerusalem. For example Nehemiah records the decree made by Artaxerxes in 444 BC,

"And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, 'Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.' Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, 'Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?' Then the king said to me, 'What would you request?' So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, 'If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it.' Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, 'How long will your journey be, and when will you return?' So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, 'If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.' And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me." (Nehemiah 2:1-8)

On the other hand, Ezra records the following decree by Cyrus, which took much later,

"Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.'" (Ezra 1:1-4)

Which decree then is the one Daniel is talking about? Which one is the beginning point of the 483 years preceding the Messiah? 444 BC or 583 BC? To make things a bit more complex there are also the decrees in Ezra 5:3ff. - the decree of Darius - and in Exra 7:11ff. - the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra.

H.W. Hoehner scrutinized the issue in his work Chronological Aspects in the Life of Christ. Hoehner indicates that the correct decree must have been the one mentioned in Nehemiah 2, as only that decree addresses the restoration of the city in addition to the rebuilding of the temple. Hoehner concludes that 483 years from that date, with each Jewish year being 360 days, terminates squarely in 33 AD, at the time of the cross. He goes into much more detail, but you get the idea.

In contrast, many hold the view that the decree to Ezra in 458 BC is correct. Jim McGuiggan, while not agreeing, explains succinctly,

The non-millennial and chronological view goes like this. The command to rebuild the city begins with 458 BC when Artaxerxes gives approval for Ezra to go to Jerusalem (see Ezra 7:1ff).

The text says (9:25) from that command until the Messiah is 69 weeks (sevens) which, according to this view, is equal to 483 years. Add 483 years to 458 BC and you get 25-26 AD. Interestingly enough, this is about the year that Jesus was baptized and received the anointing of the Spirit.

Regardless of which explanation one might subscribe to (and there are many other points of view not represented here) the prophecy is profound. A more thorough examination of this prophecy is beyond the scope of this document, but this is one of those cases where you can see that any of these renderings is close enough to demonstrate the evidence of divine origin. Let's not miss the forest for the trees. Daniel foretold the time of Jesus with incredible precision.

Along with this extraordinary passage about the timeframe of Christ's birth, there is prophecy about the place of His birth. Contrast the words of Micah with the records of Matthew,

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?'" (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Life of Jesus -->

McGuiggan, Jim. Daniel. Lubbock, Texas: Montex Publishing Company. p. 147.

 Article info: 
By: Bill Smith
This article is adapted from Bill's book Firmly Rooted. Click here to learn how to get a copy.
 This Series: 
1 Introduction
2 The Lineage of Jesus
3 The Birth of Jesus
4 The Life of Jesus
5 The Betrayal of Jesus
6 The Torture of Jesus
7 The Death of Jesus
8 The Resurrection of Jesus

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