Is Ezra 7 a decree to rebuild
the Temple or the City?


Ancient decree by Artaxerxes the King of Persia
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[Actual decree taken from Ezra 7:12-26]



In an interview with aToday, SDA critic Dr. Desmond Ford makes the following assertion:

“The problem is that the Adventist case for 1844 asserts that the decree for rebuilding Jerusalem is predicated in Daniel 9:25 on the decree of Artaxerxes in Ezra 7. But Ezra 7 says nothing whatsoever about rebuilding Jerusalem! Nor does any other passage attribute the building of the city to Artaxerxes or to Ezra. The whole Adventist case for 1844 depends upon missing evidence!”

Apparently, since the Glacier View Debate, some doubts have risen within Adventist scholars in regards to this decree and its relation to Daniel 9. One of these scholars, a Mr. Gerhard Hasel says, "each of the four major schools of interpretation of 9:24-27 has certain weaknesses." Other Adventists have gone so far as to say that they can not find a decree for the rebuilding of the city in Ezra 7 at all! So we decided to take a close look at Ezra 7 for ourselves. We'll begin by...



Taking a look at the prophecy in question:


Daniel 9:25
(25) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the 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.

There are a couple of things we want you to notice about this prophecy.

First: "The streets shall be built again," meaning that the city will once again be restored. Verse 26 also says that the street will be “destroyed” implying that, before this destruction, it must once again be rebuilt.

Second: The “wall” will also be built up.

Third: The use of the word “restore” could imply that the temple will once again be rebuilt, but the decree, however, is to specifically restore “Jerusalem,” the city.


Adventists have long taught that the decree set forth by Artaxerxes king of Persia in Ezra 7 was the final decree for the rebuilding of the “city.” Yet is must be understood that there were other decree’s brought forth by Persian kings before which began the movement towards the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Yet none of these decrees called for the rebuilding of the city, rather each decree in the proceeding chapters dealt specifically with the rebuilding of the temple:

Decree to build the Temple:

Ezra 1:2
(2) Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

Temple building somehow delayed:

Ezra 3:6
(6) From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid.

Temple building continued and foundation layed:

Ezra 3:8-10
(8) Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem… and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD… And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.

The rebuilding ceased by order of the king:

Ezra 4:21-24
(21) Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me… Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Note: At one point Desmond Ford says that by chapter 7...

"... the city had already been rebuilt for decades."

Yet scripture referance is lacking. Besides, it was the temple that was finished before the decree of chapter 7 (Ezra 6:14), not the city. Although it seems like the Jews were trying to rebuild the city (Ezra 4:12), they were doing this without a decree. Thats why they were caused by the king to stop rebuilding (Ezra 4:21). The prophecy, however, calls for a "decree" to build the city, not the building of the city without a decree. Therefore, by the time King Artexerxes sent forth his decree in chapter 7, the city was not already "rebuilt for decades" as Dr. Desmond Ford claims.


Another decree by Cyrus the king to continue building the temple:

Ezra 6:3
(3) In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God (note: not concerning the "city") at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;

Now it is important to note that it was after these decree's that the temple was finished (Ezra 6:14-15). Our critic Desmond Ford charges that verse 14 shows that the decree by king Artexerxes is placed among the temple building decrees only, therefore his decree was also merely a temple rebuilding decree. However, when you begin reading chapter 7, just before Artexerxes decree was pronounced, the first verse reads, “Now after these things, in the reign of Artexerxes king of Persia…” The word “after” shows that the decree by Artexerxes came “after” the temple building decrees by those mentioned in chapter 6 verse 14, and "after" the temple was finished. Who therefore is the Artexerxes of verse 14? Dr. Ford forgot that there were “two” kings in Persia named Artexerxes... Artexerxes I and Artexerxes II. Actually, according to Strong's, there were "several" Artexerxes. First, notice the following image:



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[scanned photo of Chronological Table in the back of my bible]



Now when you look up the name Artexerxes in Strong’s Hebrew Definition, we get the following:

“Of foreign origin; Artachshasta (or Artaxerxes), a title (rather than name) of several Persian kings: - Artaxerxes.”

We're not designating which one of those "several" Artexerxes is the one of Ezra 4, but there is evidance suggesting that the one of chapter 4 and the one of chapter 7 are not the same individuals. Notice the attitude of the Artexerxes of chapter 4 as compared to that of the Artexerxes in chapter 7. The king in chapter 4 was quick to cease its rebuilding (Ezra 4:21-22) while the Artaxerxes of chapter 7 desired greatly to “beautify the temple” –Ezra 7:27. The fact that Artaxerxes desired to beautify the temple is also evidence that his decree of chapter 7 had nothing to do with the "building of the temple," for, how can you beautify a temple that is not already built? Thus we have two conclusive points so far:

Point A) The decree of chapter 7 comes "after" the temple is already finished.
Point B) The decree of chapter 7 is to "beautify" the temple, not to rebuild it.

How has Dr. Ford dealt with these points? To say that the decree of the Artexerxes of chapter 7 is the same as the preceding decrees to rebuild the temple is an impossibility.

If the decree were carefully read in chapter 7, one will notice the following few facts:

Fact #1: In verse 17 he mentions the “house of your God which is in Jerusalem,” thereby implying that the temple was already built in Jerusalem by the time he spoke these words, confirming the information we just gathered above.

Fact #2: His decree involves also forbidding any nation to impose any tax upon them –verse 25, showing that they are to now be an independent state, free from the custom of the other nations. They will no longer be under the law of another nation.

Fact #3: His decree calls also for the Jews to set up there own governors – verse 25. These leaders were to perform “judgments” and set forth laws for their own people.

Fact #4: Those who did no abide by the laws set forth by those Jewish governors were subject to imprisonment, confiscation of good, banishment or even death – verse 26.

So we have the king who is concerned with beautifying the temple (verse 27), and the “habitation” of the God of heaven which is Jerusalem – the city, but who is also concerned with the establishment of a government in that city. Are not the above 4 facts elements needed for rebuilding a city with its own government? It's quite clear that Artexerxes' concern was in the well-fair of not only the temple, but also the city. Now take a look at the following words placed right above Daniel's prophecy [match the colors]:

Ezra 9:9
"For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem."

Paralleled with:

Daniel 9:25-26
"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the 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. 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..."

We notice the following facts:

-the prophecy: “restore… Jerusalem… the sanctuary” Daniel 9:25-26
-the fulfillment: “to set up the house” Ezra 9:9

-the prophecy: “to build Jerusalem… the city... the streets” Daniel 9:25-26
-the fulfillment: “repair the desolations” Ezra 9:9

-the prophecy: “the street shall be built again, and the wall” Daniel 9:25
-the fulfillment: “and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem" Ezra 9:9

Ezra speaks about each decree in their proper order. First the temple gets rebuilt, followed by the repairing of the "desolations" and "a wall in Judah and Jerusalem." In light of Point A and Point B as listed above, we conclude that the only decree dealing specifically with the city was that of the Artexerxes decree of Ezra chapter 7. The decrees which came before dealt only with the temple.



Conclusion


Since the decrees of chapters 1 through 6 deal only with the temple, and since the temple was already finished by the time the decree of chapter 7 came around, it follows that the decree of chapter 7 is the one prophesied in Daniel 9:25. This decree is not a decree to rebuild the temple, but rather a decree to "beautify" the temple, and to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.

Oh, and what about that 457 BC date that our critics fight us so much on? Let history speak:

“The years of Artexerxes reign are among the most easily established dates of history. The Canon of Ptolemy, with its list of kings and astronomical observations, the Greek Olympiads, and allusions in Greek history to Persian affairs all combine to place the 7th year of Artexerxes at 457 BC.” -The prophecies of Daniel and the revelation, p208, Uriah Smith.

"Timeline of Persia: 538 BC - Cyrus II ruled Persia (ca 550-530 BC) and defeated Babylonian empire - Zerubbabel authorized to lead first group back to Israel to rebuild the temple (prophets: Haggai & Zechariah) 521 BC - Darius ruled Persia (521-486 BC) 479 BC - Xerxes I ruled Persia (486-465 BC) - Esther became his queen 457 BC - Artaxerxes I ruled Persia (464-424 BC) - Ezra authorized to lead group to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple 444 BC - Artaxerxes I ruling Persia - Nehemiah authorized to lead group to rebuild Jerusalem wall."
-Bible Referance Guild.com


For further study, see:

-Who is the little horn of Daniel 8?
-A Critique of Dr. Desmond Ford’s: Critique of the 2006 Sabbath School Lesson
-Did Antiochus IV Epiphanes wax "exceeding great"?