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Chapter 8: The Cleansing of Jerusalem

Chapter 8
The Cleaning of Jerusalem

 

Many people do not attempt to verify prophetic dates by known secular history, and consequently, prophecy is often misunderstood. For instance, in figuring the dates of Daniel's 70 weeks, they often start with the ending point (or what they believe it to be) and then work backwards to the beginning of the 70 weeks. In doing this, they fix the beginning of Daniel's 70 weeks arbitrarily without proving it from verifiable history.  

By this method, they take their understanding of prophecy and force it upon history. They think they are doing God a service by upholding the Word; but in reality, they are only upholding their understanding of the Word. Because of this, they end up attempting to rewrite history to fit their own understanding of the Word.

This method is a travesty, first because they confuse the Word with their personal understanding of it; and second, because history cannot be changed by your view of prophecy. History can only be changed by new data that is discovered.

The most honest method is to study history first, because history is nothing less than fulfilled prophecy. Once we know how and when events took place, then history itself verifies the true interpretation of the prophetic Word. It would be foolish to retain a view of prophecy that is plainly contradicted by verifiable history. Yet that is done more often than not these days.

After the captivity of Jerusalem, the prophets date their prophecies according to the years of the reigning Persian monarch. It is obvious that God fully intended that we use secular history in our understanding of prophecy, particularly Daniel's 70 weeks. Archeologists have unearthed enough evidence to establish the reigns of the Persian kings and can cross-check them with the dated events of other nations, each having its own calendar. For instance, historians can find events that are recorded in both the Persian and the Greek calendars. If the same event is dated by two calendars, then we know how those two calendars relate to each other, and all other events on those calendars may then be correlated.

Jerusalem's 70-Year Captivity

Prior to 612 B.C., the Assyrian Empire ruled supreme over that part of the world. Then Nebuchadnezzar led the province of Babylon in revolt, conquering Nineveh in 612 B.C. By 607 B.C. the war was over, and Babylon was suddenly a world power. Three years later, Babylon conquered Jerusalem in 604 B.C. At that time, they deported a few of the most intelligent youth of Jerusalem, including Daniel, to serve in the Babylonian court. In 597 B.C., Jerusalem's king Jehoiachin rebelled, and Nebuchadnezzar came to quell the revolt. He took king Jehoiachin into captivity and put him in a Babylonian dungeon, where he remained until Nebuchadnezzar died.

When Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive in 597 B.C., he also took the treasures of the Temple to Babylon (2 Kings 24:13). This was also when Ezekiel was deported, and thus his prophecies are dated according to the year of his own and Jehoiachin's captivity. The Babylonians replaced Jehoiachin with Zedekiah, who ruled for 11 years until the city was destroyed. Zedekiah revolted toward the end of his reign, thinking, I suppose, that God would save him and the city, rather than allow His Temple to be destroyed. He did not understand that God required repentance and obedience, and that God did not care about the physical Temple structure or the city of Jerusalem. God is looking for sons, not cities or temples.

The Babylonian Empire lasted just 70 years, from 607 to 537 B.C. The captivity of Jerusalem also lasted precisely 70 years, from 604 to 534 B.C. The Temple remained desolate from late summer of 586 to March of 515 B.C., which is just a few months past 70 years. So when Jeremiah prophesied a 70-year captivity of Jerusalem (Jer. 29:10), the prophecy had multiple fulfillments and even applied to the time that Babylon was a world power.

Babylon Conquered in 537 B.C.

In 537 B.C., the Babylonian Empire was conquered by a coalition between Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. (We shall prove this date shortly.) Darius took the city of Babylon (Dan. 5:31) and ruled it for about three years while Cyrus continued his conquests. Darius organized the kingdom into 120 provinces (Dan. 6:1), and during this three-year period Daniel was thrown into the lion's den (6:16). Finally, in 534 B.C., Cyrus returned to Babylon and began to rule it directly, while Darius went back to rule his own country of Media.

Cyrus ruled a total of nine years, and after he died, he was succeeded by nine kings, who ruled until Alexander the Great of Greece conquered Persia in 331 B.C. The Persian Empire thus lasted 206 years. Their kings and the number of years they ruled are well known to both secular and biblical historians.

Persian King List

 

 

 

King

Years Reigned

B.C. Dates

Cyrus (Arsames)*

9 years

536-527

Cambyses (Hystaspes)*

8 years

529-522

Darius I

36 years

521-486

Xerxes I

21 years

485-465

Artaxerxes I

41 years

464-424

Darius II**

19 years

423-405

Artaxerxes II**

46 years

404-359

Ochus (Artaxerxes III)**

21 years

358-338

Arses

2 years

337-336

Darius III

5 years

335-331

 

* Note a 2-year co-regency here. Failure to note this has caused some historians to place the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C., with Cyrus first regnal year in 538 B.C.

** The existence of these three kings was disputed in the early 1900's. Their existence has since been proven, but some people are unaware of this and continue to put forth the original arguments.

I hope that you will be patient as we carefully establish these dates of history. This is extremely important if we ever hope to understand the prophecy of Daniel's 70 weeks. We must first establish the date of Babylon's fall. Second, we must establish the year of the Edict of Cyrus, which allowed Sheshbazzar (Zerubbabel) to return to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 1). These are our beginning points.

Then, we must pinpoint the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, when Ezra was sent to offer sacrifices at the rebuilt Temple (Ezra 7:7). This was done by authority of the edict of Artaxerxes I. This date is extremely vital to know, because at that time, Ezra performed the final rite of cleansing in Jerusalem, which allowed Daniel's 70 weeks to begin the countdown toward the work of Jesus on the Cross.

As we will see later in this chapter, the edict of Cyrus (534 B.C.) began a 76-year cycle of cleansing for Jerusalem, to bring the city from the Cursed Time of captivity into the Blessed Time of Daniel's 70 weeks (490 years).

An Incorrect View Proven Wrong

There are some writers from the early 1900's, such as Bullinger, Anstey, and Mauro, who denied the existence of three Persian kings: Darius II, Artaxerxes II, and Ochus (Artaxerxes II). The names of these kings are noted in the Persian King List on the previous page. The view of these early writers was that the names of these kings were really just titles, rather than true names, and that they simply referred to the same king. The result of this theory was that it chopped out over 80 years of Persian history. Since it is well known by Greek history that Persia fell in 331 B.C., this meant that king Cyrus conquered Jerusalem around 455-460 B.C., instead of 537 B.C.

This view was formulated by those who insisted that the edict of Cyrus was the event that began the countdown of Daniel's 70 weeks leading to the coming of the Messiah. But since Jesus' ministry occurred around 26-33 A.D. (depending on your view), this would require the edict of Cyrus to have been issued around 455-460 B.C. These authors attempted to resolve the issue by moving Cyrus' reign to a later point in history. But as we said earlier, this view was disproven later in a number of ways.

First, the Greek calendar was measured in Olympiads, which were four-year cycles. They held their "Olympic games" every four years on the Olympiad year. On their calendar, the famous battle of Salamis occurred in the first year of the 75th Olympiad. Records show it to have occurred during the Archonship (rule) of Kalliades, who ruled from July 480 to July 479 B.C.

But the battle of Salamis pitted the Greeks against the Persians during the reign of Xerxes I. So we know that Xerxes I ruled Persia in 480 B.C. Since Persia obviously had conquered Babylon by this time, it is apparent that Cyrus the Persian did not rule in 460 B.C. Cyrus ruled prior to the time of Xerxes I. And so the view that Persia conquered Babylon around 460 B.C. is obviously incorrect, since the Persian king Xerxes I fought the Greeks as early as 480 B.C.

Archeological findings in the 1930's put the final nail into the coffin of this incorrect theory. Collier's Encyclopedia, 1988 edition, Vol. 18, tells us about the excavation of the palaces of the Persian kings at Persepolis (in modern Iran). Under the heading "Persepolis" we read,

The ruins of the ancient city were extensively excavated by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in cooperation with the High Imperial Government of Iran. The excavations were directed by Ernst Herzfeld in 1931-1934, and by Erich F. Schmidt in 1935-1939.

Erich Schmidt, in his book, Persepolis I, page 224, tells us that they discovered an inscription on the wall of the palace of Artaxerxes III, which listed the three kings in question. (Compare the names on this inscription with the Persian King List.) We quote this inscription below, italicizing and underlining the names of these three kings for emphasis,

Says Artaxerxes (III) the great king, king of kings, king of countries, king of this earth; I am the son of Artaxerxes (II) the king; Artaxerxes was the son of Darius (II) the king; Darius was the son of Artaxerxes (I) the king; Artaxerxes was the son of Xerxes the king; Xerxes was the son of Darius (I) the king; Darius was the son of Hystaspes by name [i.e., Cambyses]. Hystaspes was the son of Arsames by name, the Achaemenid [i.e., Cyrus].

Thus, there is no question that these three kings did indeed exist. Their names are recorded in an inscription in the palace of Artaxerxes III, who himself was one of the disputed kings of Persia. Nonexistent kings are not in the habit of building palaces for themselves. These excavations at Persepolis also revealed the tombs of these disputed kings. In the same article on "Persepolis," Collier's Encyclopedia reads,

On the slopes of the mountain behind Persepolis are the rock-hewn tombs of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III, and the unfinished tomb of Darius III; while several miles north on the opposite side of the Pulwar in a vertical cliff are the similar tombs of Darius I, Xerxes, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. The latter place is now called Nakh-i-Rustam, or Pictures of Rustam.

The three kings emphasized by italics and underlines in the above quotations are thus positively proven to have existed, for their sepulchers are with us unto this day. No one builds sepulchers or palaces for non-existent kings. Any chronological work containing this error will place the edict of Cyrus around 455-460 B.C., the fall of Jerusalem around 525-530 B.C., and the fall of Samaria around 630 B.C. These dates are clearly incorrect, though some present-day writers of prophecy apparently are unaware of this fact. Once again, this shows the need for a proper study of history before attempting to write a chronology or to teach Bible prophecy.

Persian Kings Dated by Astronomy

In dating the reigns of the Persian kings, modern historians generally begin with the astronomical record set forth by Ptolemy, an Egyptian astronomer who lived about 2,000 years ago. He wrote that there had been an eclipse of the moon in the 20th year of Darius I, and another in the 31st year of his reign. Modern astronomers have pinpointed the date of the first eclipse as November 19, 502 B.C. and the second as April 25, 491 B.C.

Years of the Reign of King Darius I 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

521

 

519

 

517

 

515

 

513

 

511

 

509

 

507

 

505

 

503

 

501

 

499

 

497

 

495

 

493

 

491

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

 

BC

            Temple completed                         Lunar eclipse
Nov. 19, 502 B.C.
                    Lunar eclipse
April 25, 491 B.C.

 

Thus, the 20th year of Darius I was 502 B.C., the date of the first lunar eclipse. This means Darius' first year was 19 years earlier, or 521 B.C. This is important for those who study the Bible, because it was during Darius' second year (520 B.C.) that the biblical prophets Haggai and Zechariah began to prophesy. (See Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 1:1.) These prophets urged the people to continue work on the Temple (Ezra 4:24). The people did so, and thus, they finished the work in the sixth year of Darius on the third day of the month of Adar (Ezra 6:15).

The sixth year of Darius is reckoned from the spring of 516 to the spring of 515 B.C., since the Persian monarchs reckoned their regnal years from spring to spring. The third day of the month Adar that year fell on March 15, 515 B.C. (This was also 3380 years from Adam.)

The Co-Regency of Cyrus and Cambyses

If you check the Persian King List, you will see that before Darius I, there were two Persian kings: Cyrus and Cambyses. Cyrus ruled nine years in all, and his son Cambyses ruled for eight years. However, their reigns overlapped by two years. We find this in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., Vol. 5, page 99, in an article written by Prof. Eduard Meyer. It states,

When Cyrus set out on his last expedition to the East, he associated Cambyses on the throne and numerous Babylonian tablets of this time are dated from the accession and the first year of Cambyses when Cyrus was "king of countries."

This is verified by J.M. Cook in his book, The Persian Empire, page 37, where he writes,

Cambyses seems to have been reinstated as king of Babylon in the spring of 530 B.C., presumably before Cyrus marched east. According to Herodotus he accompanied his father as far as the Jaxartes and was then sent home as regent and successor-designate. This might sound pointless; but there would be sense in Cyrus' exhibiting his heir to his distant subjects to convince them that they would not lack for a master after him.

Since Cyrus' last expedition began in 530, it means that Cambyses was a co-regent until Cyrus was killed three years later in a battle against Queen Tomyris, the "Iron Maiden" of the Massagetai. In Persian reckoning, 530 was Cambyses' accession year, and 529 would be considered the first year of his reign. (See the Persian King List.) Cyrus did not die until 527 B.C., but Cambyses first regnal year was 529 B.C., and his eighth year was 522. Cambyses died in the eighth year of his reign, which would be the accession year of Darius I. Thus, the first year of Darius was reckoned to be 521 B.C., which, as we said, is confirmed by astronomy.

Ancient historians such as Xenophon show Cyrus ruling Babylon for just seven years, while Ptolemy says he ruled nine years. These accounts are not contradictory. One includes the co-regency years, while the other does not.

Likewise, the Greek historian, Herodotus, says Cyrus had been a king for a total of 29 years, including the years in Persia, before he conquered Babylon. Yet Severus says he ruled 31 years. Once again, the 31 years includes the co-regency years, while the 29 years does not. Further, other ancient sources say Cambyses ruled only six years, instead of the accepted eight years. This seeming contradiction is easily accounted for when we see that Cambyses ruled for eight years, but as sole monarch for just six years.

With this, we turn to the biblical record.

The Biblical "First Year of Cyrus"

Cyrus conquered Babylon in 537 B.C. His first regnal year in Babylon, then, was 536 B.C., according to the Persian records. However, because Darius the Mede ruled and organized the kingdom on his behalf for the first three years, Cyrus did not actually rule Babylon in person until 534 B.C. Consequently, in the biblical record Ezra speaks of 534 B.C. as being "the first year of Cyrus" (Ezra 1:1), when he issued his edict allowing the Judahites to return to Jerusalem. It was actually the first year of Cyrus' direct rule.

We have already dealt with Cambyses (529-522 B.C.) and with Darius I, in whose reign are recorded two lunar eclipses. These eclipses positively fix his first regnal year as 521 B.C., and his final year as 486 B.C. After him came Xerxes I, whose war with the Greeks at the battle of Salamis is recorded in Greek histories as occurring in September of 480 B.C.

The Reign of Artaxerxes I

When Xerxes I died in 465, his son took the throne. Artaxerxes I reigned 41 years, dated by Persian reckoning as 464 (his first year) to 424 B.C., the 41st year of his reign. This king is important to us, because Ezra 7:7 tells us that in his seventh year (i.e., 458 B.C.) he issued a decree which sent Ezra to Jerusalem. It was this decree which initiated the start of Daniel's 70-week prophecy and the countdown toward the Messiah's work.

So history tells us that it was precisely 76 years from the edict, or decree, of Cyrus (534 B.C.) to the decree of Artaxerxes I (458 B.C.). It is absolutely crucial to any teacher of Bible prophecy that he know the year of the decree of Artaxerxes I. Let me stress again that these dates are fully verifiable by actual historical records, based upon precise astronomy. There is no guesswork here. These are the tools we have been given to work with. We must begin here with verifiable history and form our prophetic viewpoints with this date in mind.

But before we deal with Daniel's 70 weeks, let me say a few words about the meaning of the number 76 in biblical numerology. In understanding the meaning of this number, we can get an insight into God's purpose for waiting 76 years before starting the countdown of Daniel's 70 weeks. Because prophecy teachers have not understood the reason for this 76-year delay, they have remained puzzled and have lost a valuable insight into the mind of God in this matter.

The Law of Cleansing and the Number 76

Speaking nationally, when Babylon conquered Jerusalem, the nation "died." The edict of Cyrus, in effect, brought the nation back to life again in 534 B.C. That was a momentous event, not unlike a national Resurrection. However, the law of God yet demanded a period of cleansing before they could present themselves before God in national purity. In the law, those touching a dead body had to purified and were not reckoned clean until the beginning (evening) of the eighth day (Num. 19:19). In these circumstances, the man did not need to present himself before God at the Temple to receive a formal pronouncement of cleansing.

In dealing with the cleansing of the lepers, however, the law prescribed a seven-day cleansing period, and on the morning of the eighth day, the priest was to present the man before God at the door of the Tabernacle (Lev. 14:11). In other words, the man was presented before God after seven days and a half. Thus, we see that when a formal pronouncement of cleansing was needed, it was done the following morning of the eighth day.

Such was the case for Jerusalem. They had been "dead" in captivity. The edict of Cyrus, as it were, raised them from the dead. This is one reason Isaiah 45:1 calls Cyrus a type of Christ ("His anointed," or Messiah). Cyrus was called to raise the dead nation to life, even as Jesus is called to raise His people from the dead. Once raised, the people in Cyrus' day could return to the land of Canaan and begin the seven-day cycle of cleansing. But when applied nationally, this law appears to deal in decades, rather than in days. So Jerusalem had to await seven and a half decades (actually 76 years) before Ezra, the Aaronic priest, was sent to pronounce them clean.

Once we see how God required Judah to be cleansed according to the law, even sending a genuine Aaronic priest to pronounce the nation cleansed, we can see why Ezra's act was indeed the event that brought the nation into Blessed Time. God was fulfilling the law to the letter, and was treating the nation as though they had touched a dead body-in this case, their own bodies. The nation had been raised by Cyrus in 534 B.C., but the nation could not be presented before the priest and pronounced cleansed until 458 B.C. This is why Daniel's 70 weeks could not begin until Ezra's act.

Many prophecy teachers have put forth different theories about the beginning point of Daniel's 70 weeks. Some say it began with Cyrus; others say it began with Nehemiah in 445 B.C. But once we understand the law on which the beginning point was based, it is clear that it began with Ezra in 458 B.C. Unfortunately, not many theologians today study the law of God.

Cursed Time Plus 76 Years Equals Blessed Time

In order to move from Cursed Time (414-year cycles) to Blessed Time (490-year cycles), we must simply add 76 years. This is the factor of cleansing. In this way a nation on Cursed Time may be cleansed and brought into Blessed Time (414 + 76 = 490). To get from Highway 414 to Highway 490, one must go on Route 76.

This is why Daniel's 490 years (70 weeks of years) could not begin immediately with the edict of Cyrus. It took 76 years before the priest could come to pronounce the nation clean.

Matthew Cleansed the Genealogy of Jesus

One of the so-called "problem passages" of the Bible is found in Matthew's account of the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew says there were fourteen generations from king David to the Babylonian captivity. However, in Matthew 1:8 he skipped four names between Joram and Ozias. Matthew 1:8 says, "And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat began Joram; and Joram begat Ozias."

In reality, Joram begat Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25-26), who reigned just one year. Then Ahaziah was killed, and his mother Athaliah ruled for six years (2 Kings 11:1-3). Then Ahaziah's son Jehoash took the throne at the age of seven and ruled for 40 years (2 Kings 12:1). When he died, his son Amaziah ruled for another 29 years (2 Kings 14:2). Then he was killed by conspirators, and his son Azariah was crowned king (2 Kings 14:21). Elsewhere he is called Uzziah (2 Kings 15:13), and this is the "Ozias" of Matthew 1:8.

The missing kings (and one queen usurper) are listed below, along with the stated number of the years that each of them reigned.

Matthew's Missing Monarchs

Ahaziah

2 Kings 8:26

1 year

Athaliah (queen)

2 Kings 11:1-3

6 years

Jehoash

2 Kings 12:1

40 years

Amaziah

2 Kings 14:2

29 years

 

TOTAL:

76 years

 

Matthew did not make a mistake here. God was deliberately blotting out those four names (three actual generations, plus the queen mother) from the registry of Judah's kings because of their wickedness and idolatry. This was done according to the law of Deuteronomy 29:20, where He threatened to blot out their names if they served other gods. Also applicable here is the law found in Exodus 20:5, which says that the sins of the people would be visited upon the third and fourth generations of those that hate Him.

What great sin was it that actually made God blot out the three or four names above? Well, the story begins with Joram and Athaliah, the parents of Ahaziah. Joram was a wicked king of Judah. During his reign, he commanded his sons to violate the Temple, for we read in 2 Chronicles 24:7,

7 For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim.

Because of this blasphemy, the city of Libnah revolted against Joram (2 Kings 8:22). Libnah was one of the cities of the Aaronic priests (Joshua 21:13). Obviously, they objected violently to Joram's desecration of Solomon's Temple. For Joram's blasphemy, God judged not only his wife (Athaliah), but his son, his grandson, and his great-grandson (listed above). All died violent deaths. These reigned a total of 76 years. This tells us that when God decided to cleanse the genealogy of Jesus, He blotted out these four rulers, who reigned a total of 76 years.

In this manner, God cleansed the genealogy and provided us with another good example of the meaning of the number 76. It is the number of cleansing.

Psalm 76: The Enemies of the Sanctuary

The Psalms, in ancient times, were divided into five sections and labeled as follows:

The Genesis Book

deals with Man,

Psalms 1-41

The Exodus Book

deals with Israel,

Psalms 42-72

The Leviticus Book

deals with the Sanctuary,

Psalms 73-89

The Numbers Book

deals with the Nations,

Psalms 90-106

The Deuteronomy Book

deals with the Word,

Psalms 107-150

 

From the list above, we can see that Psalm 76 is part of the Leviticus Book of Psalms, which deals with God's sanctuary, or Temple. Psalm 76 specifically deals with the destruction of the enemies of His sanctuary. It ends with the statement in verse 12, "He shall cut off the spirit of princes; He is terrible to the kings of the earth."

When Joram and his sons broke up the house of God, he made himself an enemy of the sanctuary. As a consequence, God "cut off the spirit of the princes." The sins of Joram were visited upon the third and fourth generation after him, and their names were blotted out from the Temple registry listing the true Israelites who were lawful inheritors of the covenant.

The registry in the Temple listing all true Israelites under the covenant was the earthly manifestation of the Book of Life, which is in the True Temple in heaven. All things associated with the Temple on earth have spiritual counterparts in the heavenly Temple. When an Israelite was brought to the Temple on the eighth day for circumcision, his name was recorded and his genealogy checked. If everything was in order, his name was put into the record listing him as one under the covenant. He was a citizen.

These records were destroyed by king Herod a few years before Jesus' birth, because Herod was half Edomite, and he was jealous of those who could prove their genealogy as true Judahites. (Fortunately, both Joseph and Mary had kept personal records of their genealogies, so that they could prove that Jesus was indeed a descendant of king David and was qualified to be the Messiah.) Herod's record burning, along with the destruction of the Temple and the Levitical priesthood, has given way to the true records in the Book of Life, the true Temples that God now inhabits, and a new priesthood of the Order of Melchizedek.

Belshazzar's Blasphemy

The night that Babylon fell to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5), king Belshazzar made a big mistake. He brought out the vessels of the Temple that had been taken from Jerusalem and used them to praise the gods of Babylon (Dan. 5:3-4). This was blasphemy, similar to that which Joram did. Belshazzar was, in effect, dedicating the Temple vessels to false gods.

This was the final sin that ensured the downfall of Babylon. It was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and it brought the hand of God into the realm of visibility as He wrote His righteous sentence upon the palace wall. Belshazzar died that very night.

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

The idea of blotting out people's names from the Book of Life is first mentioned in Exodus 32:32, but it also appears in Deuteronomy 29:20, Psalm 109:13, and Revelation 3:5. The examples of Joram and Belshazzar that we have already given shed light on Jesus' comment about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:22-32 reads, in part,

22 Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb; and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

Jesus' reply to this accusation is quite interesting in the light of our present study.

31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world [age], neither in the world [age] to come.

The Pharisees had attributed the works of Jesus to Beelzebub ("lord of the flies," the god of Ekron-2 Kings 1:2). This was, in effect, bestowing the dedicated things of the Temple to Baalim, and Jesus called it blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Like Temple vessels, His works were dedicated to God. He said that such sin would not be forgiven, either in this age (aion) or in the age to come. That is, they would not find forgiveness in this present age and would lose their inheritance in the First Resurrection. Further, they would not be forgiven in the age to come. Thus, they would not receive their inheritance in the Second (general) Resurrection either. He must await the final Creation Jubilee of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

The Pharisees were guilty of the same sin that had been attributed to Joram many years earlier. The penalty was therefore identical. The Pharisees who attributed the works of Jesus to Beelzebub were blotted out from the Book of Life and were no longer considered to be under God's covenant. While men may not have realized this-and some still do not-it was a fact in the eyes of God.

Ezra Cleanses the Priesthood

Ezra left Babylon on the first day of the first month (Ezra 7:9) in the spring of 458 B.C., under the decree of king Artaxerxes I. It was precisely 76 years after the edict of Cyrus first allowed Judah to return to Jerusalem. When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem a few months later, he presented the gifts of gold and silver to God at the Temple (Ezra 8:33). Then Ezra discovered that the priests had intermarried with foreigners (Ezra 9:1-2). And so Ezra cleansed the priesthood in chapters nine and ten. It took the rest of the year to complete this cleansing, for we read that they finished this cleansing on the first day of the first month, precisely one year after leaving Babylon.

This cleansed Jerusalem at the end of 76 years. It also marked the time when Daniel's 70 weeks (490 years) began. Jerusalem was finally back on Blessed Time. The time debt had been paid. The cleansing cycle was complete. Jerusalem was given a clean slate and put on Blessed Time. This simply meant that God would not reckon their account (i.e., foreclose on the nation's sin-debt) until 490 years had passed. The great day of reckoning came in the first month of the year 33 A.D., when God reckoned the debt, not only of Israel, but of the whole world at the Cross. (The spring of 458 B.C. plus 490 years comes to the spring of 33 A.D.)

This ends our discussion of the beginning of Daniel's 70 weeks. We now must go to the other end of this great cycle of Blessed Time and see how it actually played out in history. Once we have the foundational date of 458 B.C., we can check New Testament history and see what actually happened, rather than try to force a preconceived view upon the events surrounding the first work of the Messiah.

Jesus Christ was born at the end of 76 rest years from the Edict of Cyrus. A rest-year cycle is 7 years, and 7 x 76 = 532 years. From the Edict of Cyrus in 534 B.C. to the birth of Jesus in 2 B.C. is precisely 532 years, or 76 rest years. As we will see in our next chapter, Jesus was born in the early morning hours of the 77th rest-year cycle at the Feast of Trumpets, September 29, 2 B.C. Apparently, it was important to God that the nation of Judea undergo a cleansing cycle of 76 rest years before He would come to them in the person of Jesus Christ. No doubt many were impatient, not knowing the law of cleansing or how it should apply in this case. But the fact that Jesus was not born until the end of this cleansing cycle shows how important this law is to Him.