Study Notes

Nehemiah 2:7-8


Last Thursday night, we looked at the first half of Nehemiah chapter two. You might expect that we would continue on as usual, beginning with verse ten and completing the chapter. However, we are going to mix things up a bit for the sake of our biblical education and encouragement in the Lord.

You see, as we looked at this section of Scripture previously, we approached it applicationally, being exhorted to be men and women like Nehemiah - people who prayed, who volunteered, and who ministered using what little they had, trusting God for the rest. But we did not take the time to study it prophetically. So tonight, we're going to be backtracking a bit to re-examine verses seven and eight from another angle.

To refresh your memory, Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. When he heard a report about the terrible condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, he was greatly affected with sorrow. Then the king noticed this sadness on his face, which made Nehemiah terribly afraid - he could have been killed for such a breach of law.

But instead, the king asked him what was wrong and what he could do to help. Siezing the opportunity, Nehemiah asked if the king would send him to Judah to rebuild Jerusalem. The king was pleased to grant the request. This brings us to verses seven and eight:

Neh. 2:7-8 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.

2:7-8 A Prophetic Event

Nehemiah was officially sent to rebuild Jerusalem. With the decree of the king sending him to rebuild Jerusalem, royal letters allowing safe passage, state-sponsored material from the king's forest, and Persian army officers and horsemen escorting him, Nehemiah was officially the man to fulfill the royal decree.

I'm sure it occurred to Nehemiah that what he had requested and received was of a huge material magnitude. But I don't believe that he knew the prophetic significance of what had been done. I don't think he knew that 93 years prior, in 538BC, the angel Gabriel had given the prophet Daniel a message about this very decree.

Gabriel's Message To Daniel

In Daniel's day, Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins, having been decimated by King Nebuchadnezzar's army almost seventy years before. Daniel had been seeking the Lord in prayer and fasting when Gabriel was sent to Daniel with some revelation and instruction. He said,

Dan. 9:24-25 "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. 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."

The Countdown

Daniel and his people were told that they should know and discern that the issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem was going to start a countdown. A countdown to "Messiah the Prince." Just 93 years later, that countdown began when King Artaxerxes decreed that Nehemiah would go to Jerusalem to rebuild it! At that moment, the stopwatch began ticking, and Messiah the Prince would be appearing when it reached the end!


How long would the countdown be? It is based on weeks, with the Messiah appearing at the end of seven and sixty two weeks. Now, it is important for us to understand that the word "weeks" in the Hebrew language is a bit different that it is in English.

In English, there is only one interpretation of a week: seven days. But in Hebrew, it is any group of seven periods of time. In other words, there can be a week of minutes, hours, days, months, years, etc.

So the important thing to discern about Gabriel's message is what kind of weeks is he talking about? Fortunately, the Bible is very specific about this. We discover that the events of the seventieth week are given great detail elsewhere in the Bible. For example, the book of Revelation describes much of what will happen in that period of time, even dividing that week into two equal parts. So that final seven becomes two three and a halves. Those three and a halves, we are told specifically, are 42 months long (Rev 11:2; 13:5) and 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6). Thus, the three and a halves are 3 1/2 years, meaning that the weeks are seven years long.

Prophetic Years

If you multiplied the 42 months times two, you found it to be 7 years long. But if you multiplied the 1,260 days times two, something might have seemed a little fishy to you. By our calendar, seven years should be 2,556.75 days long. But your math produced a little less: 2,520 days. What's up with that? The key to understanding this is to know that prophecy in the Bible does not operate under our calendar of a 365.25 days year. Instead, it is based on the Babylonian calendar, which was 360 days long. It is important to factor that into your calculations, or they will always come up just a bit off.

Taking the 360-day year into consideration, you will see that 1,260 days is exactly 3 1/2 years.

The Math

Hopefully, you aren't lost yet. The prophecy says that from the issuing of the decree until Messiah the Prince will be 69 weeks of years, or 483 years. Based on the 360-day prophetic year, that makes 173,880 days.

We know that the decree was issued by Artaxerxes during the 20th year of his reign (Neh. 1:1; 2:1), which we know historically was 445 BC.

We also know that it was during the Hebrew month of Nee-SAWN (Neh. 2:1), which is the first month of their calendar. The 14th of Nee-SAWN is always Passover (Lev. 23:5; Num. 28:16; etc.), a few days before Easter each year. So it works out on our calendar as being in March or April.

We've narrowed the decree down to the month and year. The actual day is a bit clouded in history, surrounded by controversy, since Nehemiah does not tell us specifically.

The work that most people turn to was done by Sir Robert Anderson, who was the chief of the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) of Scotland Yard during the days of Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle. Anderson wrote several classic Christian books, including "The Coming Prince." As research for this book, he asked the Astronomer Royal of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Sir George Airy, for the date of the new moon in March, 445BC.

Based on the date returned to him by the astronomer, he decided to count the 173,880 days from the first of Nee-SAWN, which was March 14th, 445BC. This brought him to April 6th, 32AD, which was the Sunday before Passover that year.

Many of you know that this Sunday is called "Palm Sunday." Why?

Palm Sunday

The name Palm Sunday comes from the observance of the day when the multitudes...

John 12:12-13 ...heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and {began} to cry out, "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel."

Palm branches were spread in the road before Jesus, welcoming Him as the King of Israel. It is very significant that until that day, Jesus never allowed the crowds to hail Him as a king. You may remember that when Jesus fed the five thousand by multiplying the loaves and fishes, the crowd recognized that He was the One the Bible had promised.

John 6:15 Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

As a matter of fact, every time someone wanted to advertise Who He was, He would tell them to keep quiet. After cleansing the leper,

Mark 1:43-44 ...He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone"

When the demons were crying out, "You are the Son of God,"

Mark 3:12 ...He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.

And after Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,"

Mark 8:30 ...He warned them to tell no one about Him.

Every time someone wanted to proclaim who Jesus was, He said, "Don't tell anybody."

But on Palm Sunday, He allowed them - even encouraged them - to worship Him as King. Even His vehicle of entry proclaimed His right to the throne. He rode just as Zechariah's prophecy had said,

Zech. 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout {in triumph,} O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Now this infinitely interesting to me, because if Sir Robert Anderson was correct with his dates, it means that Jesus was welcomed as king into Jerusalem by the multitude on the very day that Gabriel promised "Messiah the Prince" would come to Jerusalem. And "Messiah the Prince," is the title of Israel's eternal King. "Maw-SHEE-akh Naw-GHEED" in Hebrew means "leader," or "ruler."

Dates Muddied

Now, in the interest of honesty and scholarship, I should let you know that the dates on all fronts are questioned. Anderson's assumption that the decree was issued on the first of Nee-SAWN has been attacked, but we know that he was within 30 days of accuracy. On the other hand, it has been disputed that Jesus' ride into Jerusalem was the Sunday before Passover not in 32AD, but in 33AD. Then, in the middle, there are a few days disputed regarding the calculation of the odd leap years and such. Even factoring all of these matters in, they all come within a year of each other, and I have no doubt that the 173,880 days finished exactly on the day Jesus entered Jerusalem.

The Time Of Their Visitation

But the very fact that these dates have not been exactly preserved in history is telling. You see, it demonstrates that the Jews were faithful to preserve the Word of the Lord, but not to obey it. Gabriel had said, "so you are to know and discern...," and Jesus held them accountable for this. On that Palm Sunday,

Luke 19:41-44 ...when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

They did not know, discern, calculate, or recognize the day of their visitation. They had rebelled against the command of God, and paid dearly for it. The countdown was stopped, and the 70th week is a seven year period that still remains in the future to be fulfilled.

The Seventieth Week

The seventy weeks - 490 years - had been decreed for "your people," Daniel's people, who are the Jews. This is no small detail, and should not be overlooked, because many people have fallen into bad Bible teaching because they missed this point. Now, with one week remaining, we see that when the 70th week does come to pass, many terrible things will happen.

But once they are over, many things will have been accomplished for Daniel's people. Gabriel said that there are six things to be accomplished for the Jews during the seventy weeks of years.

1) To finish the transgression. The word "transgression" means "rebellion." Throughout their history, God's people have been in rebellion against Him, but that will be finished by the end of the seventy weeks.

Rom. 11:26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB."

2) To make an end of sin. The sin of the Jews will also be completely done away with after this time period.

3) To make atonement for iniquity. We have seen this accomlished already - Jesus died on the cross, making atonement for the iniquity of all who will believe.

4) To bring in everlasting righteousness. These seventy weeks will also establish a kingdom of righteousness which will never end. Christ's rule and reign of righteousness will never cease.

5) To seal up vision and prophecy. All visions and prophecy will be sealed up - it will no longer be necessary after the seventy weeks. As we saw in the book of Zechariah (chapter 13), prophecy will be done away with.

6) To anoint the most holy place. God's holy temple will once again be established.

A final seven-year period awaits the Jews, Daniel's people. God has not finished with them, nor has He finished fulfilling prophecy. God is at work today, just as in the days of the events contained within the Bible. When King Artaxerxes commited the simple act of issuing the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, he had no idea of the prophetic significance that had. Today, as we watch world events unfolding, may we never lose sight of their significance in bringing about the final week of years on earth as we know it.

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