Isaiah (Part 52): Rescue Revelation Means -2 (Ch 45)
In his Romance of Bible Chronology, Martin Anstey attempted to show that the Ptolemaic dating system was off by 80 years during the Neo-Babylonian-Persian time period. But do any scholars agree with him?
On page 24 of his The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, Phillip Mauro wrote that Ptolemy’s dates were based on “calculations or guesses made by Eratosthenes, and on certain vague floating traditions.” In his reference Bible, Scofield used Archbishop James Ussher’s dating system. However, it matched with Ptolemy’s dates in the Babylonian-Persian period where little chronological data is available in the Bible. However, after reading Anstey’s work, Scofield stated in his later book What Do the Prophets Say? (p.142): “Whatever confusion has existed at this point has been due to following the Ptolemaic instead of the biblical chronology, as Anstey [did] in his Romance of Bible Chronology.” G. Campbell Morgan also endorsed Anstey’s system. He actually wrote the preface for Anstey’s work.
Modern-day scholar Ernest L. Martin commented on the dating in a 1998 article entitled “Chronological Falsehoods”:
Anstey with great dexterity demonstrated that accepting Ptolemy in a dogmatic way was a very precarious and dangerous procedure. Adopting the opinions of this Egyptian astronomer (whose first business was that of being an astrologer) as being the sole authority for understanding the chronology of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods was seen by Anstey as a reckless endeavor. Anstey was right! Yet, the whole secular world of the scholars (and sadly, even those who held the Scriptures in esteem) went over to accept Ptolemy's opinions in an infallible sense. Very few even questioned the conclusions of this early astronomer/astrologer. And today, when you look at any historical work or encyclopedia concerning the dates of years within the Neo-Babylonian periods, you will see the opinions of Ptolemy in full evidence and with a rank of infallibility surrounding the dates he indicated.
Many Christian scholars who blindly insist on holding to Ptolemy’s dates must, then, reject Cyrus’s decree as that referenced in Daniel 9:25. They point to the specific wording of the Daniel text which reads, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks.” The decree, they argue, was to rebuild Jerusalem. However, the decree from Cyrus noted only rebuilding the temple (see Ezra 1:2-4). While it is true that the portion of the decree recorded for us in the Old Testament mentions only the temple, Josephus provides further insight in his Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, chapter 1, paragraph 3, in which quotes a letter from Cyrus referring to his decree: “I have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem, on the same place where it was before” [emphasis added].
Thus, Isaiah 44:28 states that God called Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and Josephus proves that the decree of Cyrus was to rebuild the city. Yet, biblical scholars continue to insist on holding to the dates of the astrologer Ptolemy whose basis was “vague, floating traditions” to argue against Cyrus’s decree as the one referenced in Daniel 9:25. Instead they suggest the letters for Nehemiah’s safe passage to Jerusalem and a letter to obtain lumber from Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:7-8) as the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
Another scholar, James B. Jordan, in a 1998 article for Biblical Horizons argues convincingly against Ptolemy and a few other questionable dating systems, showing that each is unreliable. He concludes, “The 20th century will go down as an era of tremendous error as regards the history and chronology of the ancient world. The consensus chronology [i.e., Ptolemy’s dates], used by secular scholars and Christian scholars alike, is built on fiction, creates huge problems with the history of every culture of the ancient world, and is collapsing today. Believing Christians can rejoice at this development, but students must be aware that many Bible Dictionary articles, Bible Encyclopedia articles, and Old Testament commentaries written in this century are replete with error wherever they discuss links between Bible history and the history of the ancient world.”
In Isaiah 45:1-8, God speaks directly to Cyrus. He tells him in verse 1 that gates will not be shut against him. This was true historically as Cyrus entered Babylon in the river bed under the outer wall and found the inner wall street gates all open. Verse 2 of chapter 45 speaks of bronze doors that would be shattered. Again, we have historical confirmation. Herodotus writes of Babylon, “There are 100 gates in the circuit of the wall, all of bronze with bronze uprights and linterls.”
Did Cyrus ever see this prophecy made about him two hundred years earlier? I think he probably did. Before we discuss that, we need to make a clarification. Daniel 5:30 concludes the overthrow of Babylon by stating, “…and Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of 62.” Daniel 6 goes on to speak of Darius the Mede ruling the kingdom. Some scholars have suggested that Darius was a coregent with Cyrus. However, we really have no historical record proving this. It is more likely that Darius is the Median name of Cyrus the Persian. Cyrus’s mother was Median. So it would appear that his familiar name was Darius while his Persian title name was Cyrus. Note the last verse of Daniel 6: “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” The “and” in that verse could be translated “even” giving the sense that this was one man with dual names.
Daniel 6 records this king as one who has a strong friendship with Daniel. In fact, verse 20 even suggests that Darius (Cyrus) may have believed in Daniel’s God. How could this come about? Returning to the night of the overthrow (Daniel chapter 5), we read of Daniel interpreting Belshazzar’s dream. In verse 29, in appreciation, Belshazzar makes Daniel “the third ruler in the kingdom.” Why third? Nabonidus, Belshazzar’s father, is king—out with his army at the time. Belshazzar the Prince is second ruler of the land. Thus, Daniel is made third ruler. Verse 30 tells us that Belshazzar is killed that night. Nabonidus is away from Babylon, but history tells us he is captured and killed shortly afterwards. Therefore, who is the highest ranking Babylonian official? It is Daniel who had been third in the land, now vaulted to first (among the Babylonians). It is most probable then that Daniel is in position to work with Cyrus for the smooth transfer of government to the Persians.
I believe Daniel pulled out the sacred scroll of Isaiah and showed Cyrus the specific prophecies concerning him. Cyrus must have been wide-eyed to read how God had, two hundred years earlier, spoken of the river bed drying up, the gates being open, the bronze doors shattering, and specifying Cyrus himself by name. It is no wonder that Cyrus immediately follows the text by decreeing that the Jews return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. In fact, we know from history that unlike the Babylonians and the Assyrians before them, the Persians changed conquering procedure by no longer relocating captured peoples.
There is, then, no strangeness to the Daniel 6 account of Darius’s friendship and seeming trust in God. Cyrus had seen God’s prophecy. How could he help but believe?
Isaiah 45:8 tells us that righteousness sprouts with the release of the Jews. How so? It begins the timetable set forth in Daniel 9:25 marching forward to Messiah the Prince! In the next two sections, 45:9-13 and 45:14-19, we read of God insisting that he will bring about his rescue. But in the last part of the chapter, 45:20-25, we read an even greater prophecy.
In what we have seen so far, we have always been aware of the immediate fulfillment of rescue prophecy for the Jews from Babylon. However, in 45:20-25, God turns his attention from the nation of Judah to address the world. He says to other nations, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,” and declares, “Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance” (45:22-23). In forthright fashion (no hidden metaphorical typology), God connects the rescue of Judah through Cyrus to the rescue of the world through Christ! This prophecy by Isaiah matches exactly to the timetable prophecy given to Daniel that we read of in Daniel 9:25—“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem [the rescue of Judah] until Messiah the Prince [the rescue of the world] will be seven weeks and 62 weeks.” And it was exactly so!